Defending in Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

Having resumed playing Call of Cthulhu I thought I'd reflect a little bit on the rules changes in the 7th edition - specifically, related to defending. Previous editions of the game were always a little bit vague as to when you could defend. This post is a little bit wonky and probably of most interest to people considering the game.

I'll begin with a little bit of review of how dice rolling works in the 7th edition. In most situations you simply roll percentile dice, trying to roll equal to or below your skill or ability score. There are three types of success:

  • Normal - you roll equal to or lower than your score
  • Hard - you roll equal to or under half your score
  • Extreme - you roll equal to or under a fifth of your score
The game also introduces penalty or bonus dice. When you roll you might have one or more bonus or penalty dice. If you have a bonus die you roll three dice - two dice for your ten's digit and one die for your one's digit. You keep the lower of the two ten's digit dice. A penalty die is the opposite - you keep the higher of the two ten's digit dice.

The Keeper's Rulebook illustrates this nicely:

In the case of rolling a bonus die in Figure 1 above, the roll would be a 24. In the case of a penalty die, as seen in Figure 2, the roll is a 41. (I think they'd've been better off keeping the one's digit the same in both examples.)

So with these rules additions above previous editions, the 7th edition handles a number of things rather smoothly. For example, if you need to defend more than once in a round (i.e. opponents are ganging up on you) you begin adding penalty dice to your defense roll.

Similarly, when you defend, whoever gets a better success wins (i.e. normal, hard, or extreme). What about ties? In the case of a tie, if the defender is dodging the defender wins. On the other hand, instead of dodging a character can choose to fight back. In that case if the two characters get the same success levels the attacker wins. If the defender gets a higher success then he or she actually scores a hit against the attacker (a minor hit - a critical is not possible in such a case).

Maneuvers are handled in a similar manner - they are used to grapple, disarm, etc. When someone is performing a maneuver against you you can choose to dodge, you can fight back, or you can attempt your own maneuver. Successful maneuvers can cause characters to be disarmed, be pinned and therefore have penalty dice, etc. 

I did mess up a little in this week's game, allowing an evil sorcerer to attempt to dodge gunfire. Like previous versions of the game, you actually can't dodge such an attack, you can only dive for cover, which requires a dodge roll and uses your next action. If you succeed and get to cover your opponent gets a penalty die.

As I get more experience with the 7th edition I'm finding it is a nice improvement over previous versions. The new dice rolling mechanisms are smooth and don't really slow down play at all. They avoid turning the game into a wargame but they do add a nice amount of tactics to combat - which, like previous versions of the game, remains very dangerous. 

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