Today we talk about Cthulhu Confidential. A nice little tabletop RPG from Pelgrane Press, makers of the Gumshoe RPG (which I have not read). Cthulhu Confidential is based off the aforementioned Gumshoe, but is a “One-2-One” system that is geared for one GM and one Player (go fig.). The genre is Noir/ cheap detective set in the 30’s – 40’s and the perquisite Mythos components. The book contains rules and 3 scenarios with pre-gens.
The rules are summed up on a Quick Reference page towards the back of the book, and a single page is all the summary you need. Characters have Investigative and General abilities. Investigative abilities allow you to gather clues just by being in the right place and right time, no roll required. If you don’t have the correct Investigative ability you can hit up a Source for info. You can also spend a resource called a “Push” that ups the result, giving you more info for instance. General abilities are used in tests to determine if you succeed. You have 1 or 2 dice (d6s) per ability. You roll one die at a time since you might succeed without rolling all your dice and then the unused die generates a Push. Challenges have 3 levels of outcome; Advance, Hold, and Setback. These determine the result’s effect on the plot. Advances give you Edges, Setbacks give you Problems. You can even accept an extra Problem to give you another die.
The game also uses ‘cards’, little slips of info that represent Edges and Problems. These are tailored to the scenes in the specific adventure and consist of such things as:
I’d print them on 3×5 cards, should work fine. You could print out those pages from the .pdf, cut them out and you are good to go.
The scenarios come with pregens, and they seem nicely tailored to their respective adventures. The prerequisite rules for character creation and advancement are included, but I’d go with the pregens for the given scenarios.
1: LA: The Fathomless Sleep – white male protagonist, notes on the pros and cons of changing this up in various ways.
2: NY: Fatal Frequencies – has a female pregen and info on running the sexism of the time.
3: DC: Capital Colour – has a black male pregen and info on running the racism of the time.
The detail on the prejudice of the time makes the exploration of themes interesting. I can see running games where there’s an undercurrent that the Cthulhu mythos is unimaginably horrific but sometimes regular people are the real monsters.
The game could be sort of rail-roady if playing though an adventure, but the scenarios leave a few things open and could branch out nicely. I feel the amount of prep to make this run smoothly prevents the sandbox nature I’m used to, but if clues revolve around a set of locations and characters then you should be able to come up with enough details.
The book has a nice section on creating and running mystery adventures. Tells you all about how to set up the games, clues, challenges and all that.
I’ll end by tapping into the Cthulhu side of things. I’m a Lovecraft Mythos fan and I found a lack of a bestiary a little off-putting. Well, more than a lack, if it ain’t in the scenarios it ain’t there. But since this is definitely a low crunch system it’s not too surprising. You don’t need stats for a creature that’s really there to advance the plot.