#RPGaDay2015 Day 20 - Favorite Horror RPG
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
"The Call of Cthulhu", H.P. Lovecraft
Call of Cthulhu, being my favorite RPG, easily
fits into this category as my favorite horror RPG as well.
The odd thing is I don't recall having played another horror RPG - I suppose playing Vampire: The Masquerade might count but it doesn't seem to be a horror RPG in the same way that Call of Cthulhu is - in that game the characters are the monsters. I've also played Eden Studios' Angel RPG but that's a bit more a monster hunting RPG than one of horror.
Before I talk about the feel of Call of Cthulhu, I'd like to take a look at its rules. There's been a major revision with the 7th edition, but in all honesty, a 1st edition adventure could still be used with conversion on the fly for 7th edition characters. A major revision for Call of Cthulhu is still fairly minor compared to most games. It's a nice simple system where a percentile based skill tells you your base chance of success. It's a game that, in all honesty, doesn't read all that impressively. Yet when you actually play it you find how well the system works.
What I think Call of Cthulhu does so well is it emphasized the characters fragility while not making them helpless. In my opinion the deadliness of Call of Cthulhu is exaggerated - I don't mean to say it is not a dangerous game - it most certainly is, and one unlucky shot can finish off your character and combat with an entity of the Mythos is incredibly dangerous. Yet people do participate in entire campaigns, so clearly not every session ends in a total party kill.
What I find a good Call of Cthulhu session has is tension. If you are extremely careful you have a good chance of success. But not a guaranteed chance. The game encourages you to exercise extreme caution - always seek cover, don't get into a fair fight. Only learn what magic and secrets you need in order to succeed.
I also find that despite the tension, Call of Cthulhu games have a ton of heroism built into them. You have these fragile mortals. Easily killed by means mundane and fantastic. Facing entities that can destroy your concept of reality. And destroy humanity. Ultimate victory seems very unlikely, with humanity existing in a dangerous and uncaring universe. Yet Investigators in a Call of Cthulhu game struggle to hold back the darkness just one more day.