Tabletop RPG Review: Call of Cthulhu Keeper Rulebook

It’s no secret, Call of Cthulhu is my favorite tabletop RPG.  If I had to pick one, this is it.  I’ve been playing it since the last 80s, I’ve been running it since the late 90s.  It’s the game I typically use to introduce people to the tabletop RPG hobby.  It’s my fall-back game when I’m not sure what I want to do but know I want to do something.  There have previously been 6 editions of this game and generally speaking I’ve found them to be slight adjustments and cosmetic changes.  With this 7th edition, Chaosium has done the most drastic update and change.  Even so, folks familiar with the game should have absolutely no trouble making the adjustment.

When the 7th edition came out, I remember seeing that it was split into two books and was very annoyed.  I have never liked the two or three book format for core roleplaying game products.  Yet for quite a while in the early 2000s, it seemed like all the new editions of games were coming out with game master books and player books as separate (often pricy hardcover) books.  Always budget conscious myself, but also always conscious of the need to attract new and young players to the hobby, this sort of paywall is always concerning.  Of course, these days there are more quick-start versions of games, sometimes available free as a PDF (for example, Call of Cthulhu has one).  All of that aside, it turns out my annoyance was unfounded in the first place.  The Keeper Rulebook is essentially the new Call of Cthulhu rulebook.  It’s all you actually need to get going as a player or a Keeper. Everything from character creation to combat to chase scenes to a couple scenarios is right here.  

I’m not going to argue that the $54.95 (USD) list price is cheap or that it’s going to be easy for a teenager to dish out, but at least that $54.95 gets you the whole game.  It’s also a gorgeous book with excellent full color art and good layout.  In no way do I think the book is overpriced.  And thanks to the Call of Cthulhu Starter Kit and the Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start book, there are options for the more budget challenged, making the game open to a much wider audience.

I’m sure others have covered some of the changes from previous editions to this one.  Most of it feels totally natural and logical.  I like that it dispenses with the old 3 to 18 stat range, simply going to using percentages for all of it.  Easy.  One of the mechanical additions I’m most interested in trying is the chase rules.  I’ll admit, I’ve never really done a lot with chases.  I mean, sure, I’ve had investigators flee from terrors, but I’ve never really played it out in any sort of mechanical way.  These rules seem like they’ve got real potential for ramping up some tension and giving the players a sense of danger.

The book is filled with helpful advice aimed at experienced and new Keepers alike.  That’s something I’ve been seeing and really loving with newer Chaosium material.  They seem to be putting in real effort to make their product practical and useful.  There’s plenty in the book about how to break it and make it your own, as well as hitting on some of the more popular or common variations (yes, it even hits on the structured pantheon-style organization of Mythos gods).  The two scenarios are interesting too.  One is likely to be action-heavy and potentially very bad for the investigators, while the other is more of a mood piece sandbox.  By having two wildly different scenarios, it is clear that your Call of Cthulhu game need not be just one thing.

Call of Cthulhu remains a great game, and with its 7th edition, I think it shines brighter than ever before.  I can’t wait to take this out for a spin.  I think I’m more excited about running Call of Cthulhu than I’ve ever been before, and that’s definitely saying something.

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