I’ve never managed to get into the Call of Cthulhu as a game. Last night this changed. The reason was the way in which the 40th Anniversary Boxed Set reprint of the original game is presented.
I backed the 7th Edition books several years ago via Kickstarter but haven’t so much as penetrated more than a superficial layer of the content. There are simply too many huge hardbacked books for me to find my way in.
When I opened the original boxed set, as reprinted for the 40th Anniversary, I found a very different offering. The collection of small staple-bound booklets is far more accessible.
The 96-page Call of Cthulhu rulebook (pictured above) is great! Two pages of introduction got me interested. I skipped the “Creating The Investigator” bit, but that is only about 3 pages. The core rules fit into 9 pages; Sanity is about 5 pages. You get the idea: it’s brief and clear.
Skipping to the Cthulhu Mythos section, I engaged with the background and ideas about the Gods much more readily than before. I didn’t feel overwhelmed and intimidated. It was in clear two-column text and simply written. The tone is friendly. It’s serious but not too serious.
Looking through the boxed set further, I discovered the 1920s setting is separate. This made understanding the rules mechanisms much easier because it wasn’t all jumbled up with the background. It also allowed me to mentally disconnect the 1920s (which doesn’t appeal too much) from my separately-owned Cthulhu By Gaslight supplement. In other words, this disconnection allows me to see what I need to read and use for play with other periods.
Putting aside all the other lovely supplements – a campaign and several books of adventures – I was drawn into the maps and handouts. I enjoyed the Keeper Screen and silhouette tokens. It’s a well-constructed set with more than enough material to draw me in. Yes, I thought, I feel I know how to begin with Cthulhu using this product.
Don’t misunderstand: I love the current Call of Cthulhu Starter Set. I have played with that a little and it’s great. My problem was in leaping into the deeper realms of the core books and myriad campaign tomes. They are too intimidating. Too threatening. Maybe that was the intention – this is horror, after all.
Yesterday, the old boxed set broke this down for me. Now I am entranced. I finally understand what everyone else seemed to already know. I finally got the joke.