First Thoughts on Pulp Cthulhu

Pulp Chtulhu was originally announced for "summer 2002" and was to have supported both d20 and BRP Call of Cthulhu, this supplement for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition is at last available, at least in electronic form. With a Mythos game appearing as a likelihood this autumn, I've been flipping through its electronic pages. I'm not yet ready to give it a full review, but I've had enough time to get some basic impressions.

As a supplement, Pulp Cthulhu provides a number of dials to decide just how pulpy one wants his or her game to be. Off the top of my head, the big differences seem to be:
  • Starting characters are far tougher, with more skills and better ability scores
  • PC and major NPC hit points are doubled (in pre-7e terms, hit points are the sum of Strength and Size, in 7e (Str+Siz)/5).
  • Characters have access to talents - typically giving a character a bonus die under certain circumstances (for those new to 7th edition, this means when making a percentile roll, you roll two dice for the tens digit and keep the more advantageous roll). By default, characters have two talents.
  • Luck can be used for many more purposes (avoiding damage, protecting sanity, etc.) and replenishes at a far greater rate.
  • Characters can have access to psychic powers.
As a result of all this and more, characters in Pulp Cthulhu are much, much tougher. They are more competent (due to having many more skill points), can take a lot more damage, and can use luck to protect them from the dangers of your typical Call of Cthulhu game. They're not superheroes, but Doc Savage might recognize them as kindred spirits.

This would seem to be most noticeable when confronting cultists and minor Mythos entities such as Deep Ones. A single bullet has nearly no chance to kill an unwounded investigator whereas in the regular game, a lucky shot from a pistol could kill most characters (it usually won't, but that risk cannot be ignored).

It is still Call of Cthulhu in many ways. While characters are much tougher when it comes to mortal foes, the likes of Cthulhu and company are still orders of magnitude tougher than the best Pulp PC. While characters have buffers from sanity damage, these buffers can be exhausted. I could see a campaign such as The Masks of Nyarlathotep being very well-suited for a Pulp Cthulhu game.

For myself, I'm debating whether or not to take the rules for a spin this fall. I'm far from a Lovecaft purist but I do feel the deadliness of even combat against mooks is one of the things I enjoy about Call of Cthulhu. Of course, we have also lost a number of PCs to such mundane threats, I am pleased that no PC is going kill Shub Niggurath with a well-placed pistol shot and magic still remains dangerous. More analysis required before I can make a final call...


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