Posted on September 4, 2004 by Flames
Cthulhu Live is set in the universe of eldritch horror created by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Cthulhu Live is a theater-gaming experience of horror, action and suspense. The participants are both actors and audience. The game is a full evening’s worth of fun every time it is played.
LARP (Live Action Role Playing) offers players a chance to get into costume, test their acting skills and interact with many more characters than the standard tabletop game usually entails. Several different LARP games are available; Cthulhu Live remains one of the most widely played in several countries.
Cthulhu Live has grown in popularity, offering fans a chance to take their games to another level. Fans of the Cthulhu Mythos have a chance to act out their stories, face off against ancient terrors and their minions and generally experience gaming in a different way.
Cthulhu Live offers a simple system of mechanics that encourages drama and intrigue, instead of test after test to resolve every little action your character might attempt. Depending largely on a player’s wits and creativity to solve puzzles, Cthulhu Live has omitted Intelligence and Charisma from the mechanics (so you have act and think for your character instead of relying on statistics to win for you). The combination of abilities and skills, along with Sanity, Magic and Wound Points is easy to learn and fairly easy to keep track of and use. Players pit their character’s skills in a Test against a score set by the Keeper. The Keeper gives the player information regarding success or failure based on the outcome of the Test, never revealing the actual difficulty of the action to the player.
There are a ton of character templates offered in this book, pre-generated characters with suggestions for rounding out their skills and customizing them for individual players. These templates cover a variety of professions, ranging from Doctor to Mystic and Private Investigator. Many of them have notes on how to play these professions in the 1920s and greatly speed up character creation.
While the basic mechanics of Cthulhu Live are easy to learn and encourage acting over testing, the combat system leaves a lot to be desired. A complete stop of play is announced and players go through Combat Rounds (Declaration, Movement, Ranged Combat, Melee Combat and Resolution). This ensures less confusion and gives everyone a chance to act, but makes an otherwise dramatic scene slow and a bit boring for those characters only partially involved in the combat.
There is a short, but useful chapter on magic and psychic powers in a Cthulhu Live game. Once again, the book favors drama over mechanics (always good in a LARP) and stresses that players should act out the motivations of their characters. There is a nice warning about playing Cthulhu Live in a controlled setting…something about how shouting incantations in public might be a bad thing…
The chapter on creatures offers a ton of possible antagonists to engage the players in Cthulhu Live. This book also offers invaluable tips on how to create monsters using costuming, props and make-up. The theatrical information is well written and easy to follow. The Keeper and Staff can bring monsters to life and add depth to a game, not to mention make players wonder what horror waits for them around the next corner. Useful instructions on the application of make-up and props is included along with experiences from the author’s own Cthulhu Live games makes this one of the better chapters in the book.
There are basic suggestions for converting tabletop Call of Cthulhu characters to Cthulhu Live. This book also gives brief ides on how to use some of Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu supplements in a LARP setting.
Cthulhu Live 2nd Edition offers two pre-written adventures to finish out the book. Both have pre-generated characters, extensive notes on setting the stage, prop letters and handouts and lots of story potential. They both can be resolved in one night of playing, and have possibilities for continued playing in an ongoing game should the players wish to further their character’s adventures.
Reviewer: Matt M McElroy