Good starting points for Cthulhu?
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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:39 pm 
 

Okay, I seem to be in a Chaosium phase right now. I'm completing my Stormbringer collection, filling in Different Worlds issues, organizing my Runequest stuff ... and now I'm ready to see what this Call of Cthulhu thing is all about.

I'm not sure why, being somewhat of a Lovecraft fan, but my knowledge of this system is weak. So I thought I'd get some input from my peers at The Acaeum.

Here's what I'd like to start with:

* An early edition of the game. Not necessarily the first edition, but one that still reflects that early '80s mindset that I love so much;

* A nice boxed adventure. I've heard that the Orient Express one is excellent; I'm sure there's others.

* Two or three supplements. Maybe a larger adventure, a book of scenarios, and a supplement of some sort. I see that there is a Cthulhu Companion and I generally like the other Chaosium companion products.

* Maybe one true collectible. Something in the $40 to $80 range ... I'm not looking to break the bank here. I have no bank to break, for one thing.

* Just as a general rule, I really start to lose interest in most gaming products at about 1990 or so. I own practically nothing from about 1990 to about 1997, so that's just a real dead era for me.

I would appreciate any comments or suggestions from our resident CoC fans. Thanks in advance.

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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:58 pm 
 

Well, Horror on the Orient express falls into both the collectible and the boxed adventure category, though it falls just outside your preferred range (1991).

There weren't many other adventures that came in a box: the first ed of Masks of Nyarlarthotep, the first Spawn of Azathoth.  There may be more (the 1st versions of Cthulhu by Gaslight and The Dreamlands came in boxes, but those are more settings than adventures.), but that's all that's immediately coming to mind.  As a side note: if you pick up a first ed. Masks then I also recommend getting Terror Australis, which contains the "missing" Australian chapter that was later added into the Complete Masks printings.

For rules, I'd suggest the 3rd ed. hardback that GW put out in the mid-80s.  It's essentially the same as the previous editions, but reorganized in one volume and with some wonderful colour illustrations.  Tends to be a bit cheaper than the boxes as well, and you don't have to worry about missing parts.  (Though there is that lovely Games Workshop binding quality to watch out for...)

For adventures, if you want something early then there's always Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, which was the first published campaign for the game.  Another I enjoy/would recommend is 1989's Great Old Ones -- a classic collection of scenarios, in my mind.


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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:09 pm 
 

Xaxaxe wrote:An early edition of the game. Not necessarily the first edition, but one that still reflects that early '80s mindset that I love so much;
..Cthulhu Companion and I generally like the other Chaosium companion products.


The 1st-3rd ed. box has a good illustration on the rules booklet, Cthulhu looking both menacing & goofy at once. The Designers Edition includes Shadows of Yog-Sothoth & was limited to 200 numbered copies, making it the premiere collectible item of the era.

Games Workshop's hardback [a common item, usually about $25] includes 3rd ed., the Companion, the 20s Sourcebook, & adds paintings. Undoubtably  the nicest version of the game.

The 4th ed. softcover has everything in the GW hardback, plus a foldout size comparison chart. It seems to symbolize the insurmountable looming nature of psychological complexes, plus the absurdity of trying to quantify an occult abstraction.


Last edited by sauromatian on Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  

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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:10 pm 
 

My recommendation would be to try to snag one of the early boxed sets.

The first edition was in a 2 inch thick box similar to the SPI/Avalon Hill board games.

The next few printings were in a 1 inch thick box.

The classic adventure that all long-term CoC fans have loved over the years is Masks of Nyarlathotep. It was originally released as a boxed set. Players that approach this campaign with a dungeon-crawl style will be subject to repeated TPK's.  :twisted:

Alternatively, Shadows of Yog-Sothoth was a fabulous campaign supplement that introduced players to major cults (The Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight) and the chance of meeting major mythos creatures.

Another angle for the game is Dreamlands supplement. Originally released in a boxed set, it has been reprinted in several versions.

Cthulhu by Gaslight was another early "setting" release, also as a boxed set.

Yog-sothoth.com has a list with writeups about Call of Cthulhu material. The link below just lists the Chaosium items. If you click on the Back to Search Form you can search for products from 14 other companies that have published material for Call of Cthulhu.

http://tinyurl.com/3dsdz4


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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:16 pm 
 

I would echo what has been said.  The GW hardbound ruleset is a nice and generally undervalued item.  Masks of Nyarlarthotep is THE classic Cthulhu scenario and the box set is well worth getting.  Arkham Unveiled (first edition in 1990 just hits your date cut-off), is a fantastic single campaign setting.

For ‘80s stylee fun, the early staple-bound adventure packs are well worth it; the Asylum, The Fungi from Yuggoth, Curse of the Chthonians, The Trail of Tsathogghua and Terror from the Stars.

A fun pre-Cthulhu buy is the Gateway Bestiary (1980), which although a runequest book has stats for the main beasties.

Theatre of the Mind Enterprises produced some good supplements in the early 80s.  Death in Dunwich, Pursuit to Kadath, The Arkham Evil, Glozel Est Authentique! And Whispers from the Abyss and Other Tales.

I also think that it is worth looking at some of the more modern stuff.  One of the great things about Call of Cthulhu is that really high quality supplements are still being produced.  :D  :D


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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:58 pm 
 

You didn't specify minis, but the list of Grenadier Call of Cthulhu minis is fairly short.

Grenadier released two boxed sets of CoC minis - Adventures (sic) and Creatures.  The box art is nothing exciting, but they are boxed sets.  I don't know anything about the blister-packed minis.

. . . http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~tpope/sol/grenadier/cthulhu.html

The boxed sets go for over $20, but I haven't tracked them recently.  It's not a bad price for such a specialized set of minis, if CoC is what you are now chasing.

If you decide to chase loose CoC minis, do not buy from eBay seller collectorfigs, as he is an infamous recaster.  He sells "white metal" recasts but does not advertise them as recasts.

  

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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:14 pm 
 

JohnGaunt wrote:If you decide to chase loose CoC minis, do not buy from eBay seller collectorfigs, as he is an infamous recaster.  He sells "white metal" recasts but does not advertise them as recasts.


ot  
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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:20 pm 
 

I'd pick up one of the box rule sets, or maybe the 4th edition rules. For supplements, you really can't go wrong with one of the "Lovecraft Country" themed supplements---Arkham Unveiled,Return to Dunwich, Kingsport, or Escape from Innsmouth. They stay pretty close to the source material and each one contains many game sessions worth of fun.

Any of the early module sets....Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, Fungi From Yuggoth, The Asylum, Curse of the Cthonians....are pretty good glimpses at what early play in CoC was like.....sometimes short, brutal and deadly!  Actualy, what Red Bus said is correct, some of the more recent scenario packs are much better than the older stuff due to this very element....advancing a story rather than just killing everyone off.

Masks of Nyarlathotep is a must. It's not only the best CoC supplement ever published, it's probably one of the best RPG supplements published for any genre ever.  It was probably the first ever RPG supplement to treat the players and game master as thinking adults, as the plotline is quite complex and intriguing, yet infinitely satisfying. If you finish this adventure, it's the same feeling as running the same character through the GDQ series or T1-4 and having them survive.

Some recent items that are quite good include Beyond the Mountains of Madness, which is a phone book length adventure well worth the effort. The Great Old Ones has some of the best scenarios for CoC I've ever read, although unfortunately I've never had a chance to run these.  I would actually give a thumbs down to Orient Express, which I feel is too padded and runs far afield, and a lot of the 3rd party stuff like TOME supplements and even Pagan stuff.  While quite good, I would aquaint myself with some more accessible material first.

Oh, and if you haven't yet, I would at least read a few Lovecraft stories (particularly The Call of Cthulhu, The Dunwich Horror, At the Mountains of Madness, and Shadow Over Innsmouth) to get a feel for what the game is trying to replicate. Unlike the over the top gore fests of Lovecraft inspired stuff like Re-animator and From Beyond, his fiction is very subtle in its menace and horror.

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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:29 pm 
 

JohnGaunt wrote:You didn't specify minis, but the list of Grenadier Call of Cthulhu minis is fairly short.


Grenadier did come out with a set called "Nightmares" which are basically Call of Cthulhu type figures (as opposed to the official "Call of Cthulhu" set), but there were 30 different blisters available(as opposed to 24 from the official set).  Most, if not all, were recast in Luminite after 1992, I think.  I have sold two Nightmare's blisters, "Vicious Vampires" for over $100.00 each about a year ago. 8O   The figure "Hell Beast" also sold for $20.00 to $30.00 each.


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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:26 pm 
 

As a long time HPL fan, thanks for a great thread. I've wanted to pick up an item or two of the best CoC has to offer.

Cheers!

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Post Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 11:07 pm 
 

I highly recommend the GW 3rd edition hardcover as well (I had one, sold it years ago to a friend's little brother, and then bought another sometime in the past few years).  It's great primer and prepares you for DMing (Keeping in CoC parlance) in the classic 1920s setting better than the early boxed sets, because it includes the 1920s sourcebook (which was a separate book at some point in the printing history).  

I'll heartily echo Masks:  it is, IMO, hands-down, the best rpg adventure ever written.  Period.  Any game.  Any genre.  Shadows of Yog-Sothoth also rocks.  

I'm a huge fan of the Pagan Publishing CoC materials:  there are some very-hard-to-find rarities that will cost you a pretty penny, but no so many that you can't find them all, eventually.  Probably.  Plus, from a game-play POV, the Pagan stuff is brilliant:  in the 1990s when Chaosium was coasting along and not doing anything much worth writing home to Saturn about, Pagan was publishing top-notch, cutting-edge sourcebooks, adventures, and campaigns, with vile and horrific artwork laced liberally throughout (Blair Reynolds is the man!).  

My favorite Pagan books/stuff are:  The Unspeakable Oath magazines (great articles and adventures, including "Grace Under Pressure," "In Medias Res," "God of the Mountain," "The Legacy" and plenty of others), Walker in the Wastes, Delta Green (and all associated books; the first collection of fiction is particularly good), Stark Raving Mad (a collection of retrospective essays done for the 10th anniversary of CoC's release), and all the great art Blair Reynolds contributed to the game (as well as later to Blue Planet's first edition from Biohazard Games, too!).  

For some near-complete listings of Pagan stuff, check out http://www.yog-sothoth.com/cocdbresults ... zineForm=0 and http://www.tccorp.com/pagan/pp_productlist.html (along with the Annotated TUOs at http://www.tccorp.com/pagan/pp_annotuo.html too!).

I liked both the Grenadier box sets and blister packs of CoC monsters, and a bunch were also done by RAFM or Ral Partha (I forget which, and I'm sure Chris can correct me); for those of you with copies of The Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier, most of the CoC figures were pictured therein, as well, IIRC.


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Post Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:30 am 
 

Have to say I prefer the separate 1920s Sourcebook, but this is probably a nostalgia thing. The cover alone takes me back every time. I'd choose the 2nd edition box (2301-X) because it mirrors the original format and can be had for pennies compared to a 1st edition.

Agree with comments on Pagan and wouldn't limit yourself to pre-90s or you'll miss some of the best material. Just creeping in to your criteria is Green and Pleasant Land, though might not appeal as much to non-Brits.

CoC can be an expensive business laden with frustration. I'm too afraid to total up what I've spent getting my own collection together.

  

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Post Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:19 pm 
 

grodog wrote:I'll heartily echo Masks:  it is, IMO, hands-down, the best rpg adventure ever written.  Period.  Any game.  Any genre.  Shadows of Yog-Sothoth also rocks.  

.


Hey Allan, when you met Larry awhile back, did you ask him for where he got the idea for this?  Was it a campaign he actually ran, or did he just write it up without ever having run it?  Was he ever concerned that the complicated/convoluted plot would confuse/turn off prospective players?  Man I'd love to pick his brain on this one. I would agree it is probably the best RPG campaign ever written, and I've run it once, and it played like an absolute dream.  

The main players and I (my brothers) still talk about things that happened in this campaign to this day.    We actually had five players (one was sporadic, he attended about every other session), who had two characters each.  Two of the players had never played CoC before, and one had NEVER PLAYED ANY RPG EVER!  I honestly think those two had the best time of anyone. I had even gone to the trouble to get "mood music" for all the chapters...African music for Kenya, Chinese music for Shang Hai, Egyptian music for Egypt, etc......and we played it in the background while we gamed, surprising how effective that was in getting us into the mood.  Lost about half the characters through the entire campaign, some of the deaths were pretty rough as the players had gotten really attached to the characters, but during and afterwords the players raved about the scenarios and overall plotline.  Can't recommend it enough!

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Post Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 3:20 pm 
 

megnelwil wrote:Agree with comments on Pagan and wouldn't limit yourself to pre-90s or you'll miss some of the best material. Just creeping in to your criteria is Green and Pleasant Land, though might not appeal as much to non-Brits.

CoC can be an expensive business laden with frustration. I'm too afraid to total up what I've spent getting my own collection together.


I'm pretty sure I have less Cthulhu stuff than you do, and even I don't want to total up my collection.  That stuff gets expensive.  (And one of these days I shall get my hands on Green and Pleasant Land.  The going price seems to be "1 bid more than whatever I bid", but I'm in no hurry.)

That all said, I also second what other people have said about extending your date range a little.  CoC's prime period continued on into the early 90s, and you'll miss some classics by skipping it.  Not to say it's all quality material (Goatswood or Cairo, anyone?), but it's definitely more hit than miss.


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Post Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 6:00 pm 
 

On ebay now,  
** expired eBay auction **
and  
** expired eBay auction **
, both still in reach - for now. But I'm betting you saw them already.

  


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Post Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:26 pm 
 

red_bus is quite an expert on all things Cthulhu so I've little to add other than a view that Masks of Nyarlathotep is the best gaming campaign of any genre I've played (GM was on top form throughout ... cheers red_bus).


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Post Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:13 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:Hey Allan, when you met Larry awhile back, did you ask him for where he got the idea for this?  Was it a campaign he actually ran, or did he just write it up without ever having run it?  Was he ever concerned that the complicated/convoluted plot would confuse/turn off prospective players?  Man I'd love to pick his brain on this one. I would agree it is probably the best RPG campaign ever written, and I've run it once, and it played like an absolute dream.  


I didn't, but I'm sure he'd be willing to do an interview for yog-sothoth.com if I asked.  I pinged Paul to see if he'd be interested (I can't imagine that he wouldn't be ;) :  thanks for the idea Mike!

Badmike wrote:I had even gone to the trouble to get "mood music" for all the chapters...African music for Kenya, Chinese music for Shang Hai, Egyptian music for Egypt, etc......


GMTA:  I have a CD of great, spooky Egyptian music that I bought while an undergrad at PSU well-over 20 years ago that I've never had the chance to use in play (yet!  One day I will definitely run Masks!).  

Badmike wrote:and we played it in the background while we gamed, surprising how effective that was in getting us into the mood.  Lost about half the characters through the entire campaign, some of the deaths were pretty rough as the players had gotten really attached to the characters, but during and afterwords the players raved about the scenarios and overall plotline.  Can't recommend it enough!


I'm glad to hear that it plays out as well as I thought it would (not that I really had any doubts, mind you---it's just that brilliant!).


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Post Posted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 10:47 am 
 

OK, with the link provided above, I see a 1st, 2nd and 'Complete' Edition of Masks. Sound correct? Is there a link to a page with better images of Masks?

The only thing on Ebay after a quick search was a card game by the same name.

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Post Posted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:47 am 
 

brute wrote:OK, with the link provided above, I see a 1st, 2nd and 'Complete' Edition of Masks. Sound correct? Is there a link to a page with better images of Masks?

The only thing on Ebay after a quick search was a card game by the same name.


IIRC, there is the original boxed set (still the coolest version), the 2nd print, large softcover book with the Australia chapter re-installed (left out of the box set due to space considerations), and the 3rd print softcover book, the most complete, with all of the above plus a few more related scenarios.  For completists, the 3rd print is the best becomes it has everything plus more, but the boxed set just has a certain charm, and has a separate booklet for every destination (although you have to get the Australia supplement for the Australian chapter).  

They REALLY should put out an anniversary edition of this in a new boxed set, with booklets for every chapter (including Australia this time), and all the extra scenarios included, plus interviews with the author etc.

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Post Posted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 12:19 pm 
 

There is an ongoing project at yog-sothoth.com to develop a companion volume for Masks of Nyarlathotep.
It sounds like an interesting project. As of January they were in the editing/proof-reading stage and the text was over the 100,000 word mark.

Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion


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