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Right now I am GMing a Call of Cthulhu campaign for my friends. There is one thing that both me and my players do not like - skill spamming.

In Call of Cthulhu to make your chars stronger/better you have to repeatedly use a skill because a successful use of that skill will allow the player to advance that skill and make it better.

The problem is that the game design kind of forces you to use different skills at any instance possible. My players are aware of that and do not like it, but are still spamming the skills because they get rewards - better skills > stronger chars > more successes ... That results in too much meta-gaming, low role play, use of the same skills etc.

How do I deal with this so that my players would be more encouraged to role-play rather than focusing on finding all the situations where they could just roll a die just to get a skill boost?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sardathrion I am fine with the verbiage removal, but some of the meaning was lost, because you changes successful to unsuccessful. I will change that. \$\endgroup\$ – Hardrada Apr 21 '17 at 12:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ This applies to any game based on Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying system. Playing RuneQuest (2ed) back in The Day, players in my group would carry around a bunch of different weapons just so they could use them once per combat and get a chance of a skill increase. \$\endgroup\$ – LAK May 24 '17 at 13:33
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As GM it is your job to determine if an action requires a roll to resolve it. If I remember well, older edition CoC rules actually stated that a successful check is not enough to earn an advancement: it has to be a situation that challanges the character. In later editions it is left up to the Keeper.

If they try to "force" rolls for easy tasks, you can

  1. Deny the roll altogether if the task is trivial to perform for the character or failure carries no consequence. Or make it carry one:

  2. Associate a cost with the attempt. Usually time and/or money, but you can be creative (eg. sanity roll on a failure).

    2,5. Treat "Trying to get better at X" as a separate intent. With this you will have more freedom in determinig the amount of time needed for a roll. For example if they go to a firing range to practice shooting, the do not "try to hit the target", which would give them dozens of rolls, but are "trying to get better at shooting" and you can give them a roll after an hour of practice, or more, as you deem appropriate.

  3. Let them roll, but deny the advancement. Jumping a low fence with athletics at 80 is hardly a thing that should let you advance. You are allowed to do this per 6e rules:

When an investigator successfully uses a skill in play, the keeper may prompt the player to check the box beside that skill on the investigator sheet. (CoC 6e, p.53, emphasis mine)

However in 7e:

When an investigator successfully uses a skill in play, the player should check the box beside that skill on the investigator sheet. (CoC 7e, p.94, emphasis mine)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thx for the comment @Szega. Yes, a successful check is not enough. You roll a 1d100 and try to get a lower score than the skill. If my Library Use skill is 50 and I get a 40, then it is a succes, but I do not advance my skill, But if you get a score ranging from 1 to 7 (depends on what rules the group uses), then you succeed and advance the skill. \$\endgroup\$ – Hardrada Apr 21 '17 at 12:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ About the point 1. and 2. 1. I do deny trivial tasks, but if a player is all the time in search mode for skill spaming oportunities then they will find them. I am kinda more looking for a new rule I could make or homebrewing the skill system of the game. 2. I have some rule-lawyers in my game and they like to play by the rules - the game states that if you get 1 - 7 (or whatever) then you get the advancement - they are right. @Szega \$\endgroup\$ – Hardrada Apr 21 '17 at 12:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hardrada If I remember well, advancement checks occur only at the end of the session / when the GM deems appropriate (have they changed this in the newer editions?). So succeeding twice, thrice, .. on the same skill in that timeframe does not affect advancement. You could give them fewer such opportunities (eg. only once every 2 sessions). Those playing "naturally" will not feel much of this. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Apr 21 '17 at 17:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ It does occur at the end of the session / when the GM deems appropriate. (no, they have not changed that). And that is why the spamming kind of happens. "Got to get those advancements before the milestone!" I could try just puting a limit on all of this. I might try and see how that works with the group. \$\endgroup\$ – Hardrada Apr 21 '17 at 17:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hardrada Could you give me an example of spamming? I would expect that doing practically random things would negatively effect success in the current scenario and discourage such behavior. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Apr 21 '17 at 17:38
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Remember that they should not get checks for trivial checks. It is up to you, the Keeper to determine when and why they should get checks. They can game the system, that's fine.

Long-time investigators (something sounds wrong here) tend to have a plethora of skills. That generally helps them while they investigate. So what if they have 95% spot hidden? I found it generally means they find the monster quicker and they face it unprepared... Dodge of 95% means nothing when you have two baddies trying to stab you (yes, that happened).

For example, in the Masks, one of my players decided to pick up a sword at some point as he found it easier to take through customs as a "curiosity". He started with 15/25 (I don't remember) and brought it up into the 70%, by making a few attacks against it. He kicked a lot of butt with it and while being a complete spam, the rest of the PCs took melee weapons: knives and clubs. This allowed the party to approach challenges differently.

Again, (and most important) you are the Keeper and you get to determine what is trivial and when to give a check (or not).

Focus on the horror these people face. Be merciless.

Oh yeah... no skill check can prevent major sanity loss...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I kinda don`t use sanity mechanics that much. But that could be a thing to try as well. Be more ruthless with the sanity checks. Then I will nont have to make any new rules, but just use the ones I got more. Thx, @JPChapleau ! \$\endgroup\$ – Hardrada Apr 21 '17 at 17:29
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Houserules. The current system incentivizes people to use lots and lots of skills, and to come up with excuses to use lots of skills. If you and your players don't like that incentive, change the system. Figure out what you want to incentivize, and base your checks on that.

Example: lets say you want to reward "good roleplay" (whatever that means for you personally), but you like the idea of learn-by-doing. - For each instance of "good roleplay", reward the player with one or more "development rolls". These may be kept until spent. - Still record checks as normal, but the players don't automatically roll against all of their checks at a rest point. Instead, they can spend development rolls, one at a time, to roll against their checked skills. If they gain skill, the check is removed, and all checks are cleared at the end of the rest point (though, as above, unspent development rolls are kept).

Results: Investigators aren't nearly as motivated to fit in random skill rolls. Investigators develop in a much more focused way (it's easier to develop already-high skills, and more expensive to develop random off-skills). Much less emphasis is put on skills checked, and much more on "good roleplaying" (whatever it is that that is for you), as development rolls are the real limiting resource.

Not saying this is what you should use exactly. As I said, it depends on what you want to incentivize, and the side effects you're willing to tolerate to get there. Something like this might do what you want it to, though.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Notably, this is approximately how the game formerly known as RuneQuest 6 does it. (CoC and RQ6 share a close common ancestor game in RQII.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 21 '17 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thx! I will try this out as well - changing what the advancement gets given for. \$\endgroup\$ – Hardrada Apr 21 '17 at 17:32
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I had a similar problem with Runequest, which has a similar skill and skill advancement system.

My solution was a house rule that limited the number of advancement checks for a particular session or section of the adventure. Essentially this is a very basic experience points system. Just pick a number that matches the advancement rate you and players are comfortable with (either based on sessions or achieving goals in the story). Then grant those xp to all characters - no need to make it complex or variable like systems that rely on xp entirely. As well as having the opportunity to advance a skill because you have checked it, you also have to spend an xp to get the roll. The xp could be saved up over multiple sessions, which helps for characters who use less skills overall.

To make it more easily accepted, I allowed, at my discretion, spending of two xp on the same skill - and two checks to advance - provided we recalled that the skill had been successful multiple times (or in a suitably dramatic way) - we did not officially check and track such skills, it was looser than that, but you could do so if you prefer a more codified approach. Any other extra benefits from spending these xp could make it more easily accepted.

I rate the experiment a success, because it reined in behaviour such as switching weapons mid-combat in order to advance multiple weapon types.

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