Tickler: RPG – choosing the scenario

Having decided to run a TTRPG using the Call of the Cthulhu system, more questions arise:

  • Which edition of the system? Does it matter?
  • How many students will potentially play?
  • What is their English level?
  • How will materials need to be modified to fit their level?
  • How long do we have to play? Can it be done in one session or will two (or more) sessions be needed?
  • What materials/technology will I need to run the game.

Regarding which edition of the system, as this is an introductory game focusing more on the discussion aspect rather than detailed game mechanics, the only consideration for which edition to use is how already prepared materials rely on a particular mechanic. At its core, CoC is about investigating clues, mysterious groups, occult happenings, incredibly powerful beings, and the very real potential to lose your mind. These themes are present across all editions, so I will be using the 6th Edition of CoC, as that is what I have on hand.

Ideally, the game would have 4-5 students, perhaps with another teacher assisting their group or herding them if they get a bit stuck. If there is no extra teacher, I can potentially run a non-player character (NPC) that the characters of the players happen to know. In TTRPGs, there are two styles of characters. The first are Player Characters (PCs), ie, the roles that the people in the room take on. The second are, unsurprisingly Non-Player Characters (NPCs), who are usually controlled by the person running the game. These NPCs can be benevolent, ambivalent, or downright dangerous.

Initially the game will be advertised to 3rd and 4th year students, with an option for higher level 2nd year students. The goal is certainly not to exclude players who want to play, but a certain level of English will be needed, even with Japanese students being able to support each other.

CoC games very often utilise a lot of physical material. Players are often given items such as printed newspaper clippings, diary entries, memos etc. In addition, it’s possible to use media such as audio clips. While often a plethora of material has been made by users on the internet, they are naturally intended for native speakers. As such, the English will often need massaging to help move the game along more smoothly.

That is not to say the materials should be “dumbed down”, but a careful eye should be run over them to identify areas of potential confusion. Regardless, it is very likely that students will come across words that they have not encountered before, and apart from identifying any such words or concepts before playing, I will be looking at a system for students and I to quickly check any vocabulary they don’t know and make a note for later follow-up.

Given that most one-shot games can take several hours even for native speakers, I imagine that the game will take at least two sessions of 2-2.5 hours. I will need to planning for parts of the story that can form a naturally cliff-hanger for the players, making them want to return for the finale.

In terms of materials, students will only need to provide a pen, paper, and their iPads (for checking vocabulary, looking up photos of items and places they don’t know etc). In an effort to keep the game streamlined, I will be making simplified versions of the standard player character sheets, with some Japanese translations provided. The standard character sheets are quite information dense and confusing, so simplified versions will hopefully be less off-putting. I will also be using atmospheric music, sounds effects and hopefully lighting!