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The following are some notes on running a Call of Cthulhu campaign with Savage Worlds. Specifically, they'll be used in conjunction with the conversions of
Shadows of Yog Sothoth
Masks of Nyarlothotep
which will (hopefully) be posted here in the not too distant future. Much of this was compiled from a thread over at the PEG/GWG board, so I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the discussion.
While some CoC skills have obvious parallels to SW skills, others aren't quite so clear. So here are a few guidelines for some of the more commonly requested skill rolls in the published CoC adventures. Bargain and Fast Talk should use Streetwise. Persuasion covers Debate and Oratory. Camoflage, Hide, and Sneak fall under Stealth. Notice is used for Spot Hidden and Listen. Most Psychology rolls can be handled with a Notice roll at -2, since it involves more subtle observations. For penalties, a good rule of thumb is to have a -1 for every -10%.
Languages are a very important aspect of CoC. Investigators will sometimes have to engage in globetrotting, and its handy to be able to speak the local lingo instead of having to rely on a hired guide. Also most tomes were written by foreigners who were rarely considerate enough to record their works in English. Though translations are sometimes available, they're usually of poor quality and garble some of the original information. As well as his native tongue, an Investigator can speak, read, and write an additional language for every step of Smarts he possesses.
The human psyche isn't all that well-equipped for comprehending the horrors of the Mythos. To reflect this, we have the Sanity trait and Sanity Points. Unlike other traits, Sanity is not purchased in the normal manner nor can you increase it during a level up. Unless you take the appropriate Edge or Hindrance (see below), everyone starts with a Sanity of d10. Starting Sanity Points are equal to two plus one-half Spirit. This base number is goes up whenever a level up is used to increase Spirit. A -1 is applied to this base for every step of the Cthulhu Mythos skill (which also cannot be raised with a level up) the character has. Investigators with the Doubting Thomas Hindrance get a +2 to their base Sanity Points. However, the Guts penalty is applied to Sanity rolls (Sanity essentially replaces Guts, so any Edges or Hindrances which modify Guts rolls modify Sanity rolls instead) and all Sanity Point losses are doubled. Due to the harsh nature of the Mythos, the Sanity trait does not get to use a Wild Die.
There are three instances in which Sanity rolls are required: Being confronted with a Mythos being, performing a ritual, and reading a tome containing Mythos knowledge. When any of these occur, make a Sanity roll and apply the appropriate modifiers if applicable. For the confrontation of beings, success means the investigator is Shaken (a raise is necessary to avoid a Shaken result). Failure means the loss of a Sanity Point as well. For performing rituals, success results in the loss of a Sanity point and becomes Shaken (a raise means the character is just Shaken). Failure means the loss of two Sanity Points. Reading a tome does not result in a Shaken result. However, loss of Sanity Points is unavoidable (whether or not the character has successfully comprehended the information contained within), losing one on a success and two on a failure. Should the Sanity die come up as one or less after modifiers are applied (regardless of the Wild Die result), an extra Sanity Point is lost. Should your investigator have the misfortune to roll a natural one, the Sanity trait drops a step as well. When Sanity Points reach zero, they reset at their base value. However, this also causes the Sanity trait to drop a step. If Sanity Points reach zero when the Sanity trait is d4, the investigator becomes permanently insane and is now unusable as a player character. The following table lists the modifiers to Sanity rolls when confronting Mythos beings.
Other God or Great Old One
Elder God or Outer God
Cultists are permanently insane and will not have a Sanity trait or Sanity Points listed. Because of this, all cultists are treated as having the Fearless ability (when you have to answer to the likes of the Great Old Ones and the Outer Gods, your typical band of Investigators aren't too frightening).
Everytime your Investigator's Sanity drops a step, he picks up a Delusional or Phobia Hindrance (whichever seems more appropriate). The Hindrance in question should be somehow related to whatever caused the drop in Sanity in a roundabout way (players and GMs, be creative). If the drop in Sanity was caused by Sanity Points reaching zero, it results in a minor Hindrance. If it was due to rolling a natural one, then it's a major Hindrance.
The only way Sanity Points can be recovered is by accomplishing certain tasks during the adventure which hinder the Mythos. Such tasks can include thwarting a cult's fiendish plot or defeating a Mythos being. These can award one to four Sanity Points, the amount dependent on what was done and the GM's discretion. Such Sanity awards go to everyone who participates in the particular action. If Sanity Points are already at their base amount when receiving a Sanity award, they restart from one while bumping the Sanity trait up a step. However, this may not happen if the Sanity trait is already at its starting value.
Phobias and Delusions caused by Sanity loss can only be cured by psychoanalysis. At the end of a month of therapy, the analyst makes a Knowledge (Psychoanalysis) roll. A raise is necessary to cure a minor Hindrance while a major Hindrance only goes away with two raises. Should the analyst make a successful roll which merely didn't have enough raises, another month of treatment is necessary but the next roll gets a +1 modifier. As long as successful rolls are made, such modifiers are cumulative. If the roll should come up as snake eyes at some point however, the unfortunate patient loses a Sanity Point and that particular quack may never successfully attempt to treat the patient again.
Use the ritual system found on pp. 65-67 of Shark Bytes 1.2. For the most part, CoC spells have some equivalent among SW powers (as an example, Brew Space Mead would be Environmental Protection). The are no modifiers to the Sanity roll unless you use the Voorish Sign (see below). As for spells of the Summon/Bind/Call/Contact variety, use the below table to determine any modifiers to the Knowledge (Rituals) roll. Such rituals take ten minutes (though Binding rituals are usually done "Quick & Dirty"). The following table lists the modifiers to the Knowledge (Rituals) roll for each type of being.
Lesser Servitor Race
Lesser Independent Race
Greater Servitor Race
Greater Independent Race
Other God or Great Old One
Elder God or Outer God
Tomes serve two purposes: Gaining the Cthulhu Mythos skill as well as increasing it and providing a source of rituals. There are three classifications: Minor, major, and infamous. The classification determines how comprehensive the tome is as well as the modifier for the Sanity roll from reading it and the maximum amount of Sanity which can be lost (all are shown in the table below). Since many tomes are in some heathen foreign lingo, it'll be necessary to actually know the language it's written in. For every month studying the tome, make a Smarts roll. Since tomes are typically of great age, they're rarely in mint condition. If the tome being read is in particularly bad shape, the GM may rule that a penalty be applied to the Smarts roll. If successful, the Investigator will learn to perform one ritual described within and an additional one for every raise. Increasing your Cthulhu Mythos skill requires a number of raises equal to the number of steps of Cthulhu Mythos the investigator possesses minus the comprehensiveness modifier of the tome. If the investigator doesn't possess the Cthulhu Mythos skill, a basic success is all that's need to get the initial d4. Failure to generate enough raises means another month of study is required. Each successful Smarts roll which merely failed to generate sufficient raises provides a +1 modifier which accumulates. Rereading after successfully comprehending the text does not require a Sanity roll. Failing the Smarts roll means the investigator must spend another month studying the tome and does not get a modifier. Each attempt will require a Sanity roll. Should the Smarts roll come up snake eyes, the text is too much for the Investigator to comprehend and he may not attempt to study it again until he has used a level up to increase his Smarts. He still must make a Sanity roll as he still got the gist of it. Tomes can only be studied for a certain amount of time dependent on its classification. If by that time the investigator has failed to gain sufficient raises on the Smarts roll, that particular tome just doesn't have anything to add to his Cthulhu Mythos skill.
Below are the classifications of tomes listed in the Call of Cthulhu rulebook (Fourth Edition).
Minor Tomes: Nameless Cults (Golden Goblin Edition), The Golden Bough, Witch-Cult in Western Europe, Azathoth and Others, People of the Monolith, Sussex Manuscript, Ponape Scripture, Zanthu Tablets, Prodigies in the New-England Canaan, True Magick, Monstres and Their Kynde, Cthulhu in the Necronomicon.
Major Tomes: Necronomicon (English translation), Cultes des Goules, De Vermiis Mysteriis, Nameless Cults (Bridewell Edition), Liber Ivonis (all translations), Pnakotic Manuscripts, Book of Dzyan, Cthaat Aquadingen, Eltdown Shards, Celaeno Fragments, Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan, Gharne Fragments.
Infamous Tomes: Al Azif, Necronomicon (Greek and Latin translations), Unausprechlichen Kulten, R'lyeh Text, Revalations of Glaaki.
Linguist (Background Edge)
Requirements: Novice, Smarts d8+
Your Investigator has a knack for comprehending unknown languages in both written and spoken form. As well as starting out with two additional languages, the Investigator can pick up the basics of a speaking a new language after listening to it for a few hours on a sucessful Smarts roll. At the GM's discretion, a bonus may be applied if it's similar to a language the Investigator already knows (if he knows Spanish, then Italian won't be too much trouble since they're both derived from Latin). On the other side of the coin, a completely unfamiliar language might warrant a penalty (an Investigator who doesn't know any Asiatic tongues might have some trouble with Mandarin). If this Edge is used to decipher a tome in an unfamiliar tongue, a -2 is automatically applied to the Smarts roll, as the authors of these works rarely had much use for spelling or grammar.
Sound Mind (Background Edge)
Requirements: Novice, Spirit d6+
Your Investigator's mind is better able to cope with the knowledge of the Mythos than most. Your starting Sanity is d12.
Requirements: Seasoned, Knowledge (Rituals) d8+, tome with description
The Voorish Sign is a complicated hand gesture which can assist in the success of a ritual. Assuming the hands are free, a +2 is applied to the Knowledge (Rituals) roll. However, using the Voorish Sign also places a strain on the user's mental state. A -2 is applied to the Sanity roll for the ritual performed.
Fragile Mind (major)
Your Investigator crumples far more easily than others when exposed to the Mythos. Your starting Sanity is d8.
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