Continuing with RPG Impact. The sixth RPG that had a big impact on me was Call of Cthulhu. When I was first told about the game, I was confused as to what all the fuss was about; although I was still a kid. I’d read horror stories, I’d run horror sessions of D&D and WFRP, well, what I thought was horror; the usual stuff: windy isolated locations, abandoned places, ghosts, spiders. Later I played and ran a lot of Cyberpunk and Vampire; I appreciated tragedy, personal horror, and the beast within that cannot be ignored.
I first played Call of Cthulhu (CoC) at 18 and it had a big impact upon me, because I played it wrong.
I don’t enjoy phrasing it that way, after all we can play RPGs in all manners of ways, but obviously there are ways to play something wrong; granted most of them are childish tantrums. Since the mid-90s, I’ve been open to different play styles. Whilst I still have my preferences, I am willing to play things I’m not keen on, to compromise with a group, etc. All part of growing up. When I play/run a game, I strive to play the genre and intent of the game, appreciating both players’ and characters’ goals. This has served me particularly well at conventions, or games clubs, because playing with strangers is always a big gamble. All of this came about partly because of my first CoC session and a lesson in role-playing.
I was playing a one-on-one session with someone who didn’t particularly like to run games. I had nagged them into running something. I rolled up a character, the Keeper laid out the scenario and of note I had an old character that was very rich. The character had purchased a bargain property, the plan was to renovate and flip it for profit, however, the workforce was refusing to complete the work, so my character went to inspect things. Several odd but low-key incidents occurred; eventually the foreman left, my character was left alone in a strange big house. They couldn’t find anything of note. Another strange and frightening incident occurred, so the character ran out of the house. My character tried to arrange for someone to investigate the house, using their vast wealth. The Keeper got frustrated, said time passed, that no one answered the call. I got frustrated and said that since my character could afford it, they’d write it off as a loss. We hit an impasse, neither of us seeing a way to realign our differences. The Keeper called an end to the game, I didn’t argue, nor did I present a workaround.
We didn’t fall out over the game, but sadly it reinforced my friend’s opinion that running games sucked. That night I relived the game events and came to some conclusions about how we could have played differently, I appreciated that the Keeper had likely become frustrated with me earlier, that I was playing CoC without keeping the genre and game goals in mind; yes I was playing a character, but I was not playing an investigator. At the time I’d mostly been GMing, I wanted to be a player, to explore someone else’s story; a particularly unhelpful approach for a one-on-one. Plus, nagging someone to do something they don’t like was the origin of this whole mess; obvious in hindsight.
Later that week I chatted with several players about why they loved CoC. We discussed the issues of IC and OOC goals, how these sorts of games were not so straightforward regarding the alignment of player and character goals. They also explained more about Chaosium, because despite having a lot RPG experiences, in many different systems, it was a company I had barely looked at.
My friends loaned me copies of Call of Cthulhu and Pendragon 🙂 It changed my opinion from: “Chaosium, maybe I should finally try one of their games.” To “Chaosium, there is something extra special about them.”