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I really enjoy the Call of Cthulhu. Actually, I’ll say that I love the genre, even if the mechanics aren’t perfect for it.

CthulhuFaceI was discussing running Call of Cthulhu the other day – specifically about the pacing of the game, and had a flashback to one of my favourite Call of Cthulhu games ever.

Pacing in most games can really be up to you – you can make it breakneck and intense, or slowly build up the tension through clue-hunting. This is especially true with simpler RPG systems (like Call of Cthulhu). Really, it depends on how you play out the scenes.

We had a game that had the clue-hunting scenes feel like a super-intense sequence from a TV show – not because of the Keeper, but because one of the players took “command” and had the team break into sub-teams and comb the town for intel. “Jerry, to the town hall, look for records” “Donna and Bates, head to the library and see what you can dig up” “Sammie and I will put some pressure on that Lawyer guy and see what he knows” “Fred, go get a drink and see what the locals know“. With the military-like precision that was so very different from how we usually play, the keeper stepped up and handed out the intel precisely and quickly with a few die rolls for each character, so it felt like a scene in a TV show where they split the screen into four mini-screens and everyone does their thing.

More typically, however, the clue-hunting is drawn out a bit, and gives you a chance to drop subtle clues and hints and weirdness into the mix also to enhance the creepiness. It all depends on how you want the game to run.

The fast-paced game? Yeah, it actually felt scarier to the players because we were in the deep end within an hour, and it felt like we were grossly unprepared, which made us all extra jumpy and freaked out. After the game though, the Keeper pointed out that we had all the same prep as our typical game speed, the same clues, and took the same precautions as his slower group did in the same adventure. The faster pace just made us feel off-balance.

Which was awesome as hell.

So don’t be afraid to try changing gears occasionally to shake up the game, sometimes it ends up being awesome. Otherwise you still learn something about how you game, and how you like to game.