Class of Cthulhu is a setting for Call of Cthulhu designed around running the game as college students. Its structure makes heavy use of the Miskatonic University source book, and is designed to cover students from incoming freshman to young working adults. A given campaign is intended to take players from first year incoming, wide eyed, freshman, and gradually move them along as a band of friends. Eventually setting them up to become proper paranormal detective on their own.
To envision the structure, imagine the Harry Potter movies. Harmonie and her friends meet up, and solve mysteries while juggling class, dances and general school life. The game has an overarching plot, that should thread most, but maybe not all, the semesters adventures together. Some more directly than others.
Before we get into a Call of Cthulhu game, there are a lot of things that need to be modified for a modern audience. Some I would point to Chaosium to fix in a potential 8th edition, and others I’d point to Lovecraft and the stories themselves. While writing for everyone, I can’t assume everyone does the same thing I do (which includes rewriting like 90% of the game). The GM will need to adapt the guide below to fit their game as they would any newly purchased CoC supplement.
How to Play
A Class of Cthulhu game starts by making characters as normal for a Miskatonic U game. Gameplay is divided into discrete sections called Semesters, Years, and Breaks. Students should also keep in mind their grades, so they are not held back or expelled, and the game has a defined end date. Graduation.
Players should pick a course of study, and are expected to enroll in at least one social club, organization, or athletics team. Regular attendance to meetings and activities is expected. At the start of each semester, the students should build a class schedule. Smart students will pair with their peers, but some social club schedules won’t allow for perfect matches. And some esoteric or high level classes are only offered when they are offered. Passing classes is the primary way for skill advancement, and picking easy classes is a good way to fall behind. The actual day by day of a semester should be done at a high level, only focusing on specific notable events. EX: Homecoming dance, “The Big Game”, or a theatrical production the party has decided to attend. Alternatively, if players want to roleplay some significant moment’s outside of a standard day by day. The GM may want to build a random “what happens to my PC this semester” chart and roll on it for each semester for each student, or some portion of students.
|Result||What Happens to my PC this Semester|
|0-9||You have made a new friend. The GM will create a new contact for you. Detail their personality and traits to the GM, include how you met.|
|20-29||Item misplaced or stolen. (you can potentially get it back, but one random significant item is missing)|
|30-39||Overslept and missed a class. (roll to see if it impacts your grade)|
|40-49||New hobby (you gain +10% in a skill that you have no training in)|
|60-69||Fight! You and a random NPC, or collection of NPCs have gotten into a scrape.|
|70-79||Unexpected windfall (increase lifestyle by one step this semester at no cost)|
|80-89||Cheating. You are implicated in a cheating scandal. (50/50 true or false.)|
|90-94||Great Deal (you can buy a random artifact or alien device from someone who has no idea its purpose, provided your credit is at least 50. Upon examination, 25% chance its real)|
|95-98||Death in the family. (d6. 1-3 cousin, 4-5 immediate family, 6 parent)|
|99-100||Visions from an Elder God (1d4 SAN and can attempt to learn random GM determined spell)|
During the Semester, students are mostly focused on passing classes. This is essentially the level up period of many other RPGs, spread out over a few months. Mixed in though, is the requirement for study for most esoteric spells, items and abilities. To unlock them also requires study, and may even require skipping a class now and again to make progress. A student how wishes to unlock these powers, will have to split time as though it were a class. (Defined in Miskatonic U pg 146)
Each semester should have one or two small mysteries tied into it. These small mysteries are usually contained within the campus, or town, and should last about a week. These shorter arcs should be used to set up the summer and winter break quests, which are the big ones. For example, the students discover the new swim team all stars are actually frog-men. Unfortunately, it looks like Coach Marsh is heading back to Innsmouth to scout some more after talking with their old coach. He is taking undergrads with him, and is letting them count it as a 100 level School of Physical Education class. Make sure you sign up, or you will be up to your eyes in frog-folk. Ideally, the GM will provide enough of these short arcs that the players will have choices for where to send students in later breaks. Picking one should mean the others advance.
Because of their shorter durations, semester arcs don’t give a risk of failing a class. A student may need to skip a single meeting of Math 305 (Advanced Triangles). If they do, they can make a check as though using the alternate grade roll system on page 136. If they pass, no impact. If they fail, they take a cumulative 1% penalty to the benefit they would gain for that class this semester (although you won’t ever get worse than where you started). At some point, a student may want to drop a class, and take extra classes to make sure they graduate on time.
Each break, summer or winter, the students should have a few options for extra credit classes. Any of them should count as a 100 level class in the appropriate field, but the important thing, is that any of them should tie into a larger threat, take the students away from campus, say a far away swamp, and be dangerous if left alone. I would personally find a way to work in the various CoC modules here.
Class of Cthulhu ends when the players have all completed their 4 year degree. From here, you should have some robust, hardy, mystery solvers. Maybe they choose to retire, and get away from the school and back to normalcy. Maybe they stay in town, and try to prevent the constant new threats from the school. Or maybe they put their heads together, and form a society that protects the world from these threats.