Writing, life, politics

Last Night’s Game

Towards the end of the weekly start-of-game discussion in which I try to remember what we were doing last time…

Me: [stumped] Sorry, why are we buying a load of cleaning equipment again?

TAFKAC: That’s you saying that, right, not your character? You’d better not be saying that in the shop. If you say that out loud I’ll kick you. And it will be a proper kick!

General Tangent: Yeah. The sort where you get to tick the box afterwards.

For those who’ve never played the game, Call of Cthulhu – along with its fellow Basic Roleplaying Sytem cousin Runequest – has an experience system in which your skills improve through use. Next to each skill on the character sheet is a little box; if at any point during a scenario you make a successful test when using that skill in a non-trivial situation, you can tick the box. At the end of the scenario, you can make a roll for each ticked skill to see if it’s improved.

While perhaps more realistic than D&D’s experience and level based system (“Dammit! I don’t think I know enough physics to get more than a grade B in my upcoming GCSE exam. Better go out and beat the shit out of a few homeless people so I can push for a grade A!”) it does have its flaws, such as the “Runequest Weapons Caddy” syndrome, in which combat participants switch weapons each time they score a successful hit, gradually working through the contents of their weapons bag.

And of course, you are prone to get sequences like:

Player: I’ll jump up onto the table, see if can I spot anything while listening for any unusual chatter, and then climb down. [Picks up dice]What happens? Should I roll?

GM: No. You don’t see anything, you don’t hear anything, everyone in the pub now thinks you’re a wanker, and the angry landlord gives you a rag to wipe off the mud you’ve left on his table.

Anyhow. He didn’t kick me. (And we were planning on forcing someone out of his house using some kind of chemical stink weapon, if you were wondering).


  1. kelvingreen

    Hang on, are you sure you’ve got that tickbox thing right? I’m fairly sure that you only get a tick for a special success or failure (ie, 01-05 or 96-00), not for any successful skill roll. That’s how I’ve always played it, anyway. Ticking every time you succeed sounds absurd!

    • Jonny Nexus

      No idea. But we only tick the first time in each scenario, so your skills don’t go up very fast.

  2. General Tangent

    when an investigator successfully uses a skill and the keeper says something like “You get a check,” then mark the box on the investigator sheet that is next to the skill. Roll for improvement when the keeper advises. Skills improve in 1D10-point increments. Improvement usually waits until the end of an adventure”

    CoC 5.6 rulebook p28.

  3. kelvingreen

    Yes, now I’ve looked, I see I’ve got “the Keeper may prompt” a player to tick the box, which to me seems to leave it pretty open to the GM to decide. Certainly, allowing a tick for every successful roll is supported by that “may” up there, but the opposite is also true.

  4. General Tangent

    I’ve been allowing a single check to a successful skill roll, with an Impaled roll allowing an additional mark.

    Interestingly enough, I consulted my other editions of the rule books and it goes back to 2nd edition. Alas, I don’t have a copy of first edition.

    The one other change is the amount by which a skill goes up by, in 2nd edition it is 1d6 but 5.6 and later increase the award to 1d10.

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