Out of all the most popular tabletop RPGs out there for players to consider, I think Call of Cthulhu has one of the most infamous reputations. Players assume that it’s guaranteed your characters will die or that you’ll go insane.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across people asking if Call of Cthulhu is easy. I’ve normally heard it the other way around, so I thought I would discuss both perspectives in this post. We’ll get to the bottom of it and talk about how difficult the game actually is.
What is Call of Cthulhu?
If you’re coming here from a random Google search or something, I want to clarify which Call of Cthulhu I’m talking about. There are many iterations, and most people probably assume that you’re either talking about one of the video games or the original story by HP Lovecraft.
In this post, I’m specifically talking about the tabletop RPG by Chaosium. It is a game that you play with a group of friends in which one of them functions as a storyteller figure (called the Keeper) and the others are characters in the story.
Beginners can check out my post on where to start in Call of Cthulhu if they’re interested in learning more.
Is Call of Cthulhu Easy?
This is a difficult question to answer. I think, like all tabletop RPGs, it primarily depends on the person running the campaign.
Some Keepers are total hard asses. They might run extremely challenging campaigns that require players to have a whole roster of backup characters built on standby. Many players love difficult campaigns like this because it allows them to try out numerous different playstyles in their backup characters and it challenges their roleplaying skills.
On the other hand, other Keepers are way more lenient. They may try to avoid killing characters or, at the very least, give you chances to escape from dangerous situations a little more easily.
Still other Keepers are somewhere in between. These ones may not specifically try to preserve your characters, but they won’t go out of their way to harm them, either.
On average, I think Call of Cthulhu can be slightly more lethal than other tabletop RPGs. Unlike in Werewolf: the Apocalypse, it’s unlikely your characters will have regenerative abilities. You also probably won’t be able to resurrect them if they do die, which is a possibility in Dungeons & Dragons.
On top of that, you have the sanity factor to deal with. Not only can your characters physically die, but their minds can be utterly destroyed, rendering them unplayable. Most of the things you may fight in the game are likely to do this to you, since a lot of the monsters are insanity-inducing otherworldly beings.
As far as character creation goes, I think it’s fairly straightforward in Call of Cthulhu. If you’re a beginner, there’s even an ultra-easy quick fire method that can have you throwing together characters in mere minutes. You can learn more about it in our guide on how to make characters in Call of Cthulhu.
Other CoC FAQs
How do you become a good Call of Cthulhu player?
Call of Cthulhu is, for the most part, like other tabletop RPGs. The same skills that make you fun to play alongside in Dungeons and Dragons will generally make you fun to play alongside in Call of Cthulhu, too. So, let’s get into some of those things that will make you more desirable to have in the group.
First, I recommend getting into the lore behind Call of Cthulhu. That means reading some of HP Lovecraft’s most famous stories, which I provided links to in my Call of Cthulhu keeper guide. Honestly, you could easily get by if you don’t know absolutely everything Lovecraftian, but it’s worth diving into a few of the most well-known stories to get a grasp on the type of creatures and lore you may be encountering.
Second, brush up on your communication skills or, at the very least, be mindful of other players. Don’t constantly talk over your companions and when they’re in their own scenes, don’t try to tell them what to do unless they ask for your guidance. Too often, more knowledgeable or outgoing players will drown out those who are reserved in the group, trampling into their individual scenes or making it impossible to hear those players.
If you’re shy, you may need to work on developing a way to communicate what you want to do consistently. A good Keeper will stop to ask everyone what they think, singling out each player, but more exciting scenarios won’t often allow for time to do this. If necessary, you can come up with some kind of signal to indicate you need to speak next. Otherwise, if you’re playing online, there will usually be a chat you can type a message into, conveying your thoughts without even needing to talk out loud.
Third, be prepared for each session. It’s okay to have questions, especially if you’re a new player, but if you constantly have questions about every little thing that happens, you’ll hold up the session. If you’re finding yourself struggling with some things, try to read through the Core Rulebook in your spare time or ask if the Keeper might be willing to have a solo session with you to help you learn the ropes.
Perhaps most importantly, have fun. Tabletop RPGs are a welcome escape from reality, in which you get to step into the shoes of someone who is different from you in a fantastical situation. It’s not a competition. And if you start treating it like one by trying to kill the most monsters or solving all mysteries without giving other players the opportunity to provide their input, you’ll turn it into a frustrating experience for everyone involved.
Is Call of Cthulhu worth it?
I’ll take a look at one last question before I close this post out: is Call of Cthulhu worth playing?
My personal opinion is that virtually any tabletop RPG is “worth playing,” provided you have a good group of people. Remember, TTRPGs are cooperative games in general. They are usually about working together with your companions to face threats and resolve issues.
Because of this, I think most of the fun in a tabletop RPG comes from the people you’re playing with. I’ve played games that are known for being convoluted and complex with experienced, entertaining roleplayers and that turned said games into a blast. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve played games with amazing lore and a fun system with a group of people I didn’t feel comfortable with, and it totally ruined the experience.
That being said, there definitely are systems that aren’t as fleshed out, can be easily broken, or are complicated. I can say that Call of Cthulhu is not one of those systems. It’s fairly simple to pick up, and if you run into any questions along the way, there are plenty of resources out there to guide you.
At the end of the day, I wouldn’t necessarily say Call of Cthulhu is “easy,” but I don’t think it’s also much more difficult than most other tabletop RPGs. It has a kind of infamous reputation for killing players or driving their characters insane, and I believe that depends heavily on the person running the campaign.
I also think the game is worth giving a try, especially if you’re a horror fan like me. You can essentially “re-skin” any other tabletop system and give it a horror atmosphere but Call of Cthulhu is built for that right out of the gate.