Monday, 15 March 2010

Actual Play - Call of Cthulu

Things are busy round here, so updates will be slow for a bit; it took me a day and a half to write this entry. But anyway. Now that the wife and I are settled back in blighty, I decided to set about finding a new group. Last Saturday I met up with some guys (and a girl) in a dimly lit rented basement in an incongruously flash location in Liverpool's business district, and we played Call of Cthulu for five hours. And fun was had. The players reasurringly filled the gamer stereotype of being overweight, dressed in hoodies, and of pallid, sunken-eyed complexion, but they more than compensated by filling the other gamer stereotype of being friendly, intelligent and funny.

They're an older bunch who've clearly been playing together for years, which has its advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is that they're obviously used to a certain style of episodic play; at one point near the start it was made clear to me that "this case is closed and we're moving on to the next one now" even though I kind of wanted to investigate what I thought were loose ends. The advantage is that everybody knows what they're doing and it's a well oiled machine.

It was also interesting to observe from an outsider's perspective what the "average" British gaming group is like nowadays (seeing as I've been away from the scene for 7 years or more). Obviously this wasn't a representative sample, but it was notable that:
  • D&D dominates online debate, but this group (and the circle of connected groups, about 40 players total) rarely if ever play it. They seemed to like Basic D&D best. Yet another blow struck for BECMI.
  • Though they were a very trad group, they'd heard of Dogs in the Vineyard and liked the idea of it.
  • They thought Shadowrun was "crap", which I'm inclined to agree with even if I've played it an inordinate ammount.
  • They had no interest in blogs or websites to do with RPGs.
  • Judging from the campaigns they've been playing recently, they seem living proof that the games that were popular back in the day (Traveller, 2300 AD, Twilight 2000, Space 1889, Call of Cthulu) are still being played regularly and in pretty large numbers.

I'm not sure what this tells us, if anything, but there you have it.


  1. I have had two gaming "careers", one in secondary school and the first year of university, and the second over the past couple of years. That first stint matched up quite well with the description of your new group. We played D&D a handful of times, liked BECMI best, but even then didn't play it much. We played lots of Call of Cthulhu, because it's ace, and played lots of Shadowrun too, but all secretly knew it was arse.

    The gaming community I'm mixed up with now likes D&D far too much for my liking, with countless games running in the various groups, and I've somehow stumbled into two campaigns, although both are on hiatus and we're playing Pendragon and Rogue Trader (WFRP with spaceships) instead. The switch from a culture of "let's play whatever I can find in my brother's old rpg collection in the loft" to one of "I don't want to play that because it's not D&D" has come as something of a shock to me.

  2. I personally find your experience and notations very interesting.

    By no mean would I be able to use the rather eclectic groups I currently play with as examples of what is typical but I have gone from the groups I played with prior to 2007 and the groups I've played with post 2010. In the middle I rarely got to play much.

    My groups before 2010 were older, with most members generally between 30 and 42 years old. Some younger members were included with the youngest being about 24. There were approximately as many female players as male in my mainstay group. All other factors were very mixed and atypical. We almost never played any form of D&D. A mix of history fanatics, Comic Book Fanboys, Sci-Fi Enthusiests and Anime/Manga Otaku, our main games were TFOS, Mekton, Star Trek, Star Wars, Traveller, Champions, Mutants & Masterminds and occasionally the odd "Let's try this!" game - Shadowrun, Changeling: The Dreaming, indie games and homebrews.

    My current groups feature younger players, fewer female players (2 groups have none, one group has as many guys as gals)and few of the players have played more than 5 different rules systems ever. D&D is (or was) a major game among 2 of the three groups.

    So are we seeing that older group were more exposed to different games? Seems that way.

  3. "The players reasurringly filled the gamer stereotype of being overweight, dressed in hoodies, and of pallid, sunken-eyed complexion,"

    Gamer stereotype...or British stereotype?