Friday, January 6, 2012

Call of Cthulhu RPG Edition Question

I was back on the West Coast for the holidays, visiting family and mainly staying at my parents' home in Washington State.  While there, my brother and I did a massive cleaning and reorganization of the old family game closet, and among the treasures unearthed was a semi-complete set of Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu RPG. It was actually purchased by my brother, but I am not sure if he ever played the game or not.  I am sorry to report that I never have.

My brother generously urged me to take the CoC RPG stuff back home with me, assuring me he has no interest in it at present.  I owe him thanks; what a score!

Some RPG'ing treasure recovered from my parents' place.  Originally my brother's, he gifted this stuff to me.

What I have all seems to be CoC Third Edition stuff, including:

- the "What's in this Box" booklet

Investigator's Book 

- Keeper's Book

- world map

- Keeper's screen

Looking at the description of the Third Edition boxed set here, I see that all I am missing is the box itself and the Sourcebook For The 1920s (which sounds awesome).

So my question for all you wise blogospherians is, is CoC Third Edition any good? Does Edition even matter much when it comes to CoC? Any edition-related comments and/or links to resources about CoC RPG you can give me will be greatly appreciated.


[UPDATE: Or does this preemptively answer my question?]


  1. I think it's a pretty kickass edition. The separate Investogator and Keeper manuals is very nice. And the rules haven't changed much since that edition, not enough to really matter as far as I can tell. My only complaint would be the soft covers are a little fragile without a box to protect them.

  2. "Does edition matter?"

    Short answer: no. Certainly nowhere near to the degree it does for D&D. CoC editions are more like textbook editions: small addenda, errata, certain structural changes, etc. Certainly by Third Edition I believe all the major changes had settled in (First Edition didn't include healing rules, if I'm remembering correctly).

    The 1920s Sourcebook is available online in PDF form on various filesharing sites. It's not too long, so you could easily print out a copy to add to your collection.

    Do yourself a favor and play Call of Cthulhu as soon as possible. If you need further encouragement, check out Beedo's recent post on why Cthulhu is unique among RPGs. Good beginner scenarios include "The Haunting", "Edge of Darkness" or "The Auction" - check out Chaosium's section on RPG Now/DriveThruRPG for PDF downloads.

  3. I own 4th, 5th, 5.1 hardback, 20th anniversary, and 6th editions of CoC. While the 20th anniversary edition is by far the prettiest of these, the 5th edition is far better organized than any of the others before or since. The Elric! edition of Stormbringer is also from the same era as CoC 5th edition, and has a similarly clean layout.

    All of these editions have transparently compatible mechanics and rules. Occasional fiddling with skill lists and weapons tables happen, but nothing you actually need to pay attention to unless you're a stickler.

    Mostly, though, things previously published in supplements get slowly rolled into the core book, as opposed to things in the core book being change in any significant way.

  4. I have copies of three different editions of the rules (3rd, 5th, and the 6th edition 25th anniversary hardcover). Of these, I have three copies of the 3rd edition - two GW hardcovers and one boxed set; it's my favorite edition of the three. The 5th and 6th edition rules are better laid out by far, and most notably contain a much larger selection of spells (most apparently collected from various supplements). But I still prefer the charm of the 3rd edition - especially the hardcover, which is essentially the books from the boxed set bound into one book. I think it's safe to say that there's no real right or wrong when it comes to picking an edition - it all comes down to personal taste, IMO.

    As for the Sourcebook: it's possible to play without it, but it adds a lot to the game. If you need a copy, I think I have a PDF of it somewhere around here. (I don't really think it's wrong to share a copy with someone who already owns the game - although I don't know how an IP lawyer would feel about it. :P)

  5. Wow, thanks for all the suggestions everyone.

    One further question: If I pick up the Third Edition Hardcover, would that include the material in the 1920s Sourcebook? If not, I might want to take Christopher B. up on his generous offer.

    In general, thanks for the encouragement and the suggestions for introductory scenarios. I think playing CoC is DEFINITELY in my future. . . .

  6. Yeah, the 3rd ed. hardcover includes all three books: Investigator's Book, Keeper's Book, and Sourcebook. (I think they're identical to the three individual books, sans covers; don't quote me on it though.) It also includes the Cthulhu Companion, and five or six pages of appendices. It's printed on nice, weighty, ivory-ish paper and is punctuated by several full-color glossy plates. It's a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, IMO. I won't promise that it'll knock your socks off, but I love mine.

  7. the 5th edition is far better organized than any of the others before or since. The Elric! edition of Stormbringer is also from the same era as CoC 5th edition, and has a similarly clean layout.

    This is correct. Chaosium's layout people were at the top of their game circa 1995.

    Call of Cthulhu has few differences between editions, but it's from the third edition onwards that it feels most coherent as a system.

    That said, the third edition I have is the Games Workshop hardback printing, so I don't know much about the US version.

    It's a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, IMO. I won't promise that it'll knock your socks off, but I love mine.

    Yes, GW really did know how to put together a nice looking rpg book back in the day.

  8. Thanks for the additional comments! (And Kelvin, I agree, I always loved my GW products too.)

    Sounds like the Third Edition (or possibly Fifth Edition) CoC hardcover will be winging its way to me as soon as I can afford it!

    Than the horror begins. . . .