More Suspense, Less Punching - Revisiting Call of Cthulhu Scenario Creation


I'm finishing prepping the adventure to resume our old Call of Cthulhu game. One of my exercises was to take a bit of a machete to it, removing mandatory combat encounters and dialing up the suspense. In many games, a handy technique to get the action moving is to throw a bunch of ninjas in. In most games for the Cthulhu Mythos, that's a dangerous undertaking - a bunch of ninjas have a good chance in killing the characters. Unless of course you are going for a Pulp Cthulhu sort of game. In which case throw in the ninjas. Or Nazis. No one ever need feel guilty about punching a Nazi.

What has helped me get back into the frame of mind has been some Lovecraftian reading as well as going through some inspirational material. I love the cover to the GDW/Chaosium 3rd edition Call of Cthulhu rules - the investigators exploring a mysterious keep, looking more like regular people than hardened adventurers. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward had been on my "need to read" pile to years and I finally got around to reading it recently - the manner in which Ward's doctor, Willett, learns what happened to Ward and learns the necessary magic to triumph, at great mental cost to himself. Indeed, the name of the characters, investigators, gives an idea as to the adventure structure. Similarly, The Shadow Over Innsmouth shows some high intensity action with the narrator making a daring escape from his hotel and avoiding pursuit afterwards - but no actual fighting.

This isn't to say I view combat an impossibility - but Call of Cthulhu makes it something not to be done casually, with characters being quite mortal. Avoiding combat is usually safer...

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