Friday, February 11, 2011

Cthulhu live: An Alternate Source

Last year during the winter, when I was just beginning the planning phases for my summer NERO season, I stumbled upon a trove of ancient knowledge. From the depths of the DrivethruRPG website, I found a collection of books, the Cthulhu Live core books. These books can be purchased as part of a bundle in .pdf format for a pittance on the internet, but the knowledge that they hold is practically priceless. The books were designed to run a live action game based in the Lovecraft mythos, but many of the concepts and stories are easily adapted to any game, every plot team should have a set.

My personal favorite part of these books is the suggestions for creating terror. The idea that a monster off scene can be as terrifying as a fully costumed monster on scene. This is often neglected in boffer larps, everyone feels like we should see all of the enemies. The terrifying monster from the deep was an idea that I borrowed last year for my largest plot line, everyone agreed that the idea of the bad guy was far more terrifying than the final battle. The set up for an off scene bad guy is as complicated as setting up an on scene one. The hints that are dropped by friends and foes in the campaign setting need to be vague enough to inspire imagination, but also specific enough to inspire fear. The Cthulhu books give some great examples of this in their adventures and in portions of the core book.

The Cthulhu books brought me to another revelation when it comes to running games. Losing can be as fun as winning if the plot is advanced appropriately. Everyone likes to leave a weekend of NERO feeling like a hero(Heh ryhme) but a loss somewhere in the course of a weekend can really build suspense for the final victory. The terrible foe seems far more terrifying oif he has defeated you before. The books bring up an excellent point though, it is important not to kill off too many of your heroes before the final confrontation. The losses that build suspense should be close fights with tactical retreats rather than decimations. This allows players to continue to feel motivated to succeed rather than feeling beaten down. Of course in Cthulhu the end game is insanity and death with a possible side of Hell but NERO has a more heroic vibe so you can generally allow victory at the end of the weekend.

The costuming section of the book is perfect for horror plot. Suggestions for making tentacles and slime, lighting suggestions and monster making, I used a great deal of this in my plot lines. Reading through this section in interesting but digging in and making the suggested projects is the real value. Hint, balloons covered in Vasoline are disgustingly terrifying.

Even if you never run a Cthulhu Live game, these books have value for almost any setting at any time. Look at the previews on DriveThruRPG and you will see what I mean.


  1. Tim can you provide a link to both the drivethruRPG and directly to the Cthulhu live section?