Sometimes there are Roleplaying games that just seem perfect for what they are. Not a perfect system, but perfect enough to compliment the background and setting for the game.
Call of Cthulhu from Chaosium is one of those games. It celebrated its 30th birthday last year. Yup, its 30 years old and still going strong. Not only is the whole background world, one created by Howard Philip Lovecraft from about 1919 on to about 1936. He died from cancer in 1937.
The Cthulhu Mythos that HP Lovecraft created is a strange mixture of nihilistic magical science fiction. A fantasy/horror/science fiction mashup of epic proportions. Malevolent deity-like creatures from space worshipped as gods or demons by twisted cultists, and no matter what the heroes or heroines do, the human race plod onwards with a doom filled inevitability that will mean humanities extinction. Cheery stuff, eh?
In roleplaying terms, this provides huge scope for players and Games Masters, or in Call of Cthulhu Keepers, to play with and explore. A horror roleplaying game based on the atmosphere of natural human fear of the unknown and unknowable, yet driven forward by an intense curiosity convinced that THEY will not go mad or disappear. Background, atmosphere, context. Anything else is window dressing.
The system used by Chaosium to help convey the different ages of Cthulhu is a percentile based system called Basic Role Playing System (first published as a stand alone system in 1980). The BRP was notable for being the first role-playing game system to introduce a full skill system to characters regardless of their profession (or 'class'). This style of play is an incredibly important mechanism for Call of Cthulhu which is heavily reliant on characters driven by their skills - sometimes the better the skill you had the worse off you would end up, for instance having a high Cthulhu Mythos skill is incredibly bad for your sanity.
While most of the Cthulhu Mythos is based in the periods 1890s and the 1920s there has also been opportunities to run modern day characters in an almost X-Filesesque or Aliens manner.
To celebrate 30 years Chaosium published a special anniversary edition, which I was able to get my wee hands on. And a beautiful piece of roleplaying history it is too.
You can play Call of Cthulhu throughout the ages right through to modern day and Chaosium provides a lot of support as do third party companies and enthusiasts, so you will never be stuck for a hook, scenario or campaign goal for your players.
Definitely worth a look if you have never thought of having a go before. You can also pick a few volumes of Lovecraft's short stories to get you in the mood for a reasonable price.
I hope you enjoy Call of Cthulhu as much as I have.
Stay sane. Stay away from corners............