Which Roleplaying Game Should You Choose: Dungeons & Dragons vs Call of Cthulhu

If you’re like me and find yourself thinking constantly about roleplaying games and fantasy immersion, then you may find yourself at a crossroads. Which one do I invest in?

Today I’ll be deciding between my two favorite games that I commonly play—or at least try to play on a regular basis: Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) or Call of Cthulhu (CoC).  

High Fantasy vs. Cosmic Horror

Let’s start off with what appeals to you, high fantasy or cosmic horror. There are of course a variety of styles for both games, but for now, let’s stick to their roots.

DnD is a high fantasy setting: wizards, bards and paladins. This involves everything you would expect, from running through the woods to avoid an owlbear, to storming the castle to rescue a friend captured by a lich. Magic is around every corner with a sense of wonder. Essentially, everything you expect out of a great fantasy novel or movie.

Now CoC is a cosmic horror involving ancient unworldly beings, scandalous mysteries, and characters that are as strong as the paper they’re written on. Usually starting in a very normal and comfortable setting in the 1920s. Slowly it develops into this madness forming right before your eyes. By the time you realize something is wrong it’s usually too late to do anything about it.

Based on these two settings, the first question you should ask yourself when choosing to play is “which world would I rather immerse myself in?” 

Combat vs Roleplay

Now that we’ve thought about the world we’d like to explore, it’s time to think about playstyle.

DnD provides a great mix of combat encounters with opportunities for roleplay gold. This is made possible via a 20 sided die (d20) along with point modifiers against a set number to determine the outcome.

CoC on the other hand is roleplay heavy with light combat that may sometimes be nonexistent. CoC gameplay system revolves around rolling the percentile die (two d10s). This allows for a roll to land anywhere in a 1 to 100 range to determine if your action or skill passes or fails.

In short, DnD can be a combat strat type game while CoC can sometimes feel more like a detective adventure.   

Power vs Realism

Finally, let’s explore how the character feels. What is more fun for you?

If the idea that the character you’re playing is powerful (meaning unnaturally gifted or can take a beating as well as dish one out) is appealing to you, then Dungeons is the game for you. The whole vibe of the game is that you are a fated adventurer going on an epic quest.

If you want to edge closer to realism for your character for immersion purposes, however, then Call of Cthulhu is the game for you. When you make a CoC character you really get the vibe this person could be walking the street or living next door to me right now. A couple of punches or falling out of a car can easily land you in the hospital, if not kill you outright. The skill check system really shines here because it just feels like a real person trying to accomplish any task. There’s always a chance to fail no matter who you are. 

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, my personal preference is CoC because I really enjoy feeling like an actual person. For me, that helps immensely with my roleplay.

While playing I know that my actions, if misguided, can lead to certain death and that really drives the horror portion of the game. Combine this with a dark atmosphere and some decent storytelling, and you have all the pieces you need to actually jump out of your seat in fear when the monster reveals itself.

Ultimately, it’s up to you which game you’d like to play, and honestly why not both? But if you have to pick up one today, I’d seriously recommend Call of Cthulhu as the superior option.

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