Catalogues of Cthulhu

One of the advantages of a game line which has lasted as long as Call of Cthulhu and has maintained an excellent level of backward compatibility (7th Edition may offer the largest change, but even then you can fit conversion guidelines onto one side of a business card) is that there is an enormous amount of source material to draw on, official or otherwise, with exciting new additions to your portfolio of tricks offered up in numerous adventures or supplements.

This is also handy for Chaosium as a publisher, because it puts them in a position to sell you convenience. All they need to do is draw together a bunch of different monsters or spells together from the massive pile of adventures they were introduced in and put them between two covers, and they produce a tool that’s both handy for those with massive Call of Cthulhu collections and who don’t want to go combing them for that one spell from one scenario they vaguely half-remember, and provides a whole bunch of material which would otherwise be inaccessible for those who don’t have the money, time, or inclination to acquire all the sources these collections draw on in the first place.

The new management clearly understand this, because one of their first major supplements for 7th Edition (aside from the various Kickstarter stretch goals) is a big book of spells – so now’s a good time to take a look at that, plus the monster book whose approach it draws on.

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Toon In Its Time

I was inspired by S. John Ross’s rather excellent recent post on the subject to take another look at Toon. The story behind the writing of Toon is rather famous but bears repeating: Jeff Dee was having a discussion with some fellow games industry buddies, including Greg Costikyan, about whether there were any genres of fiction which you couldn’t feasibly make into a tabletop RPG. Dee proposed that Looney Tunes-style cartoons would be impossible to translate into a game; a few years later, with a little help from Warren Spector, Costikyan would crack the problem, with the original edition of Toon emerging through Steve Jackson Games in 1984.

The original booklet didn’t even hit 70 pages; the most commonly-available version, though, is 1991’s Toon Deluxe Edition, which goes over 200 pages but remains a delightfully light and easy RPG. The Deluxe version incorporates the material from the supplements Toon Silly StuffSon of Toon, and Toon Strikes Again. For the most part, the supplemental material simply integrates a few additional optional rules into the core rules text, adds some useful improv resources like a random adventure generator and a collection of funny tables, and introduces the “Cartoon Series” concept (of which more later) – but for the most part, it just adds an enormous number of additional scenarios, so whilst the page count has gone up the core of the system remains delightfully simple and in one book you have both the core game and a remarkably deep well of support material.

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