Cthulhu Live 2nd Ed.
It might be a good idea, before reading this review, to go back and read Scott Lynch's review of 1st Edition Cthulhu Live (hereinafter CL1) before reading this one. It'll help you understand a little more about Cthulhu Live 2nd Edition (hereinafter CL2). This review will go through the new edition, mainly touching on those areas where changes have been made from CL1. Most of the changes are positive, and one - the new combat system - is really worthwhile.
CHARACTER CREATION This is pretty much the same as in CL1: players split 45 points between their four attributes, then purchase a number of skills based on their EDU. Most players will be using character templates, which come with most of the basic work already done and some discretionary points left to customize the character. CL2 adds several new ones, including templates like the Butler and the Stage Magician.
A few new skills have been added as well, and skills are now grouped into "skill categories," not that it really makes much of a difference. This system was very good and very quick to begin with. The new changes are a refinement, but not a radical one. In some cases, the number of skills has been cut. Combat skills are now pared down, with Small and Medium Missile Weapons condensed into Handgun. Not bad.
TEST RESOLUTION No changes here. All skills refer to a base attribute, typically either EDU or DEX, compared to a certain difficulty. If you have a skill, you can try to compare the attribute to the difficulty number. If you don't, you can try anyway, but the difficulty goes up. This is very straightforward stuff, and takes only moments to learn. A good deal of work on the part of the Keeper is called for, though.
The only significant change to any of the "core" rules is the addition of an optional "quick-and-dirty" Sanity loss system, which some groups may find useful.
COMBAT This is the one real flaw with CL1 not mentioned in Scott Lynch's reviews. I don't know if he's ever had the opportunity to actually try and play this game, but the combat system in CL1 is a complete clanger. It's slow, it's clumsy, and it wrecks the "diceless" appeal by making you carry around a pack of "combat cards," which you have to make anyway. Bad.
The new system collapses the combat cards into "tactical actions," essentially a codification of the only four things you were going to bother doing under the old rules anyway - concentrate solely on defense (recommended), concentrate solely on offense, divide your efforts, or run like hell (also recommended). The funny quirk of the CL1 system whereby two healthy investigators could punch each other to death in one combat round has also been axed. A great improvement, and possibly the most convincing argument in favor of buying CL2.
MONSTERS This is the real meat of the book for people like me, and it remains more or less unchanged from CL1, except that there's more! More is good in this case. New techniques for making monsters are suggested, along with stats and building suggestions for a few new creatures. Basically, this is the same great section from CL1 with a few extras thrown in.
GAME SUPPORT STAFF details the roles of the Keeper, the NPCs, and the Stage Manager. Interestingly, the rules now advocate pre-generated characters. Like the monster section, this looks like the application of further gaming experience to CL1.
SCRIPTS Two new scripts, "The Auction" and "The Magna of Illusion," are presented. I'm not sure how valuable scripts are for CL - all my scripts have been pretty custom-tailored to my own locations and players, but these ought to give you a pretty good idea of what a finished script might look like. I do wonder why "Plutonian" has been consistently rendered "Plutonium" throughout "The Auction."
VISUAL PRESENTATION The only area where CL2 is inferior to CL1. CL2's layout looks crowded, and the photographs aren't as nice, although I do suspect that they look a lot more like a game in progress than the ones in CL1 - they certainly look more like my games. The SAN loss conversion chart is fluffed, but you can figure it out. In general, CL1's simple, spare layout and wide margins made for easy photocopying. Photocopying CL2 pages would require me to bend the hell out of it. On the plus side, the rulebook now fits in an overcoat pocket or the small pocket of your backpack. Handy (although the complete CL2 rules probably fit on an index card anyway).
These things can't legitimately be included in a review of the book, but you ought to know them anyway: FFG looks like they intend to support CL with a number of supplements, and they maintain a gret website with props advice, contact information, texts, and scripts. Check it out - you can get there from the RPGnet front page. That's more support than Chaosium gave it, and very useful, too.
If you haven't got CL1, CL2 is the definitive new product. If you have CL1, CL2 is probably a good investment in any event. You get a lot for your money. CL2 loses some style points for its rather clunky graphic design, but cements its top ranking for substance.
Style: 3 (Average)