Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/04/17/tabletop-review-call-of-cthulhu-quick-start-rules/
I love Call of Cthulhu. Along with Shadowrun and Vampire: The Masquerade, it’s made up my holy trinity of RPGS since I was a child. I moved away from tabletop gaming for a while, but over the past year, Call of Cthulhu has been on fire. Between the gorgeous 30th Anniversary Edition of the game and the recent remake of Cthulhu By Gaslight, which is easily the best Role-Playing Campaign Setting/supplement I’ve read in some time, my love for this system and its setting has been reignited. So when I was offered a review copy of the quick start rules, I jumped at the chance to see how Chaosium was going to try and reel in new players.
I’ll admit I was originally turned off and somewhat offended by the fact Chaosium was charging money for quick start rules. These are universally free as a way to bring new players into a game, so any money at all being charged for something that is normally FREE is not only a bit ass backwards but is probably going to be detrimental instead of inviting. I’ve said for a while now that Chaosium hasn’t adjusted very well to the digital age, charging more for PDFs than it should, especially compared to competitors, and this is a perfect example of their inability to adapt. The sheer fact they charge for quick start rules is almost enough for me to say, “Don’t buy it.” However, the quality of the product is so top notch that is eventually had me coming around to thinking, “Well, it IS only seventy-five cents…”
So what do you get with your quick start rules? Well, you get a black and white cover from 3rd Edition (The game is currently on 5.6, although they officially renamed it sixth edition a while back, even though nothing is different.), an introduction to the game system and Lovecraft’s writing in general, and then the basic rules for how to make an Investigator (player character). These rules cover attributes, skills and the like. The only thing missing are set professions. The character creation process only takes up two and a half pages and it gives you all a newcomer needs to make a character. It won’t be as refined as someone with the full core rulebook, but it’s meant to be quick and dirty, and so, it fulfills its goal nicely.
The next four pages are an amazingly concise set of the rules for the game system. Thankfully, CoC’s rules are light and straightforward to begin with, so this works rather easily. It also comes will a full Resistance Table and examples of gameplay. This section closes off with a set of books and films to help one get in the mood for a Call of Cthulhu game. The entire CoC core rulebook summed up in only nine pages? I never thought it possible, but this was incredibly well done.
The next seven pages are the adventure, “The Haunting.” This is a very common adventure, and generally the first or second that newcomers to Call of Cthulhu play. This alone is worth the cover price, as it’s always a fun adventure to play through, and I love that it has been retooled to have adventure hooks that lead to other Chaosium products. This way a new Call of Cthulhu Keeper (DM) can pick up one of those books and use the two for a campaign. Very cute. I especially love that you can run the adventure with just the quick start guide as it contains all the rules you will need, including spells and info on the Mythos tome within.
After a one page ad for the game, the quick start rules finish up with four pre-generated characters (two from the 1890s and two from the 1920s), and then a blank character sheet for players to print off and make their own. All in all, this is a wonderful product, but again, I can’t give it top marks simply because Chaosium is trying to charge for what is a free product in every other tabletop line, and that doesn’t sit well with me. If this was free, it’d be something I would be printing off and handing to anyone even remotely interested in RPGs. As it is, you have an extremely well done quick start rules set that no one is actually going to pay money for unless they don’t realize quick start rules sets are always free. Come one Chaosium… you’re better than that. Excellent quality, but it still feels somewhat slimy.