Wednesday, February 13, 2008

a handy tip for CoC keepers, and others

Once many years ago I did a survey of all my CoC modules. I went through every single effin' module I owned and tallied how many times each a roll for a specific skill was called for. I'm geeky that way sometimes. The top three skills by far were Spot Hidden, Library Use, and Read Latin, with Spot Hidden beating the other two by a good margin. More importantly, a fair number of those Spot Hidden rolls were scenario breakers. That is to say, if you didn't find the door leading to the ghoul catacombs (or whatever) the adventure was effectively over. Here's how that would work out in actual play, at least when I ran CoC:

Player: My Spot Hidden is 45%, I rolled a 63.
Keeper: Well you find the secret door that leads to the rest of the adventure anyway.
Player: Then why did I roll?
Keeper: Uh...

OR

Player: My Spot Hidden is 45%, I rolled a 63.
Keeper: You don't find anything.
Player: I guess that means I don't find the slobbering horror, so I move to South America and become a llama rancher.
Keeper: Your llama ranch is successful right up until the day when the stars are right and Azathoth destroys the material universe.

The easy way to overcome this issue is to think of an alternative to bland, everyday failure, an alternative that is, in fact, much, much worse.

Player: My Spot Hidden is 45%, I rolled a 63.
Keeper: Tough luck, kid. You find the secret door because three smelly ghouls open it from the other side.
Player: Aieee!
Keeper: Roll for san loss, sucker.

Note that this method works in any game that is awesome. The engineer aboard the Free Trader blow his roll to fix the engines? Start a build-up to overload. The superhero fail to track Professor Bloodlust back to his lair? Have him walk into an ambush set by the Professor's Atomo-apes.