For the past two weeks or so, I and three others – Old 4 Eyes, Dungeonmum and Rich Hart from Gaming on the Precipice have been conducting an experiment.
We wanted to know if it was possible to run Call of Cthulhu by e-mail. Given that we live in different countries (and time zones), a live game was out of the question and at least two of us have had great trouble finding players in our locales. Pbem seemed to tick everyone’s boxes – in theory - but would it work in practice?
The experiment has, I am glad to say, been a resounding success. Complete with Chaosium’s Quick Start rules plus (in my case) a Fourth Edition rule book snaffled from ebay for a shockingly low price (woot!) we have been having a whale of a time. For me, it’s almost like having a group of friends sitting round the table with their dice, pencils and paper. To quote Dungeonmum
“This is my first PBEM, got to say what you lose in immediacy you gain in retention of information and the ability to prepare and roleplay properly. I think I'm enjoying the real world setting more than I would a fantasy one, feels like we're really travelling back in time!”
I’m the Keeper for this particular adventure (instigator’s privilege) and possibly more that might follow until the others in the group feel confident about taking up the mantle of Keeper themselves.
Call of Cthulhu is, to my mind, a game that cries out to be run by e-mail. It needs that slow and steady increase in tension and menace. It needs the feel of epistolary communication. It eschews the vulgarities of combat, the administration of which can so often slow a pbem game down.
In order to be able to craft and refine the playing experience, the Keeper needs that little bit more time to prepare, research, polish and finesse his game. In this particular game, I’ve been adding vintage pictures of scenes and characters to give it that period feel.
In terms of game mechanics, I also find that pbem works very well. Players can communicate with each other almost as easily as around a table, and if a player wants to keep discussion between themselves and the Keeper secret, an e-mail is a damn sight more discreet than passing a note or going into another room. Information is written down, readily to hand and speaking of information…
…I’ve also created a wiki on Obsidian Portal, where I am exploring the possibilities. It’s a very good game aid and an excellent resource (thanks to Chgowiz for steering me to it). I’m listing as much as I can in the wiki section so that any other member of the group who wants to run an adventure can refer back to stuff that’s happened previously and is therefore canon.
And I’m also delighted to say that the adventure has an official chronicler – yes, Dungeonmum is blogging up the experiences of her character in her own and most excellent style.
We hope to be able to expand the number of players for the next adventure, so I’ll be looking to recruit a couple more brave investigators who fancy probing the mysteries of the Old Ones and their evil doings.
Benbo, 3rd level Fighter/4th level Thief - he who dares.
Galzor, 4th level cleric - mysteriously disappeared along with the Third and his coffin.
Zanurax, 3rd level thief (recovering from being partly eaten by a lion and has now gone to join Merlin)
Olaf, 4th level dwarven fighter, now returning to his clan halls
Merlin, 3rd level thief (called away on the business of the Thieves' Guild)
Adthar, 4th level fighter - currently both an Ettin and a statue
Elador, nth level magic-user - called away on special assignments but will act as mentor and adviser to the team
Galadeus, 2nd level ranger - drowned and then eaten by a shark.....aaaaaand he's BACK! aaaaaaaaand he's dead again.
What I'm DMing for 6 new junior players
Old School Links to Wisdom
Give your d12...
...some Old School love
Call of Cthulhu - visit our wiki
That's what Old School means to me
"These rules are flexible and open to interpretation - designed not to cover all conceivable situations, but to allow good Referees and Players the freedom to create and play games of their own design."
from the Lulu download page for The White Box S&W from BHP
"This game is unlike chess in that the rules are not cut and dried. In many places, they are guidelines and suggested methods only. This is part of the attraction of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"
Over halfway to 90, I started playing AD&D when the Police were a cool band and Punk was wild. I am a father to a ten-year-old Junior Grognard and have now managed to establish a five-strong gaming group made up of him and four of his friends, ages ranging from 10 to 11. Solidly Old-School.
High fives and natural 20s to you all!