Report: we played "Paper Chase" last night from the Starter Set. The scenario is intended as an introduction for both players and keeper, and is written to be played with one of each. I slightly modified the setting to allow, and justify, three players.
I used the full rules to build investigators, rather than using the pregens or 'quick build', because I wanted to give the players some agency over who they created and their specialisms - plus I reasoned that I could explain a little of what the characteristics and skills meant whilst they were rolling then up. I think that worked well, and I was surprised how quickly their stats led to them choosing professions (a cook who used to be in the army, a British socialite visiting the area and an American born mechanical engineer of Chinese heritage). These free choices led to their skills options which they enjoyed distributing their specialisms in. The mechanical engineer is an amateur magician, it turns out!
I explained to them that the Arnoldsburg Library hosted the monthly meetings (first Tuesday of the month) for the "Society for the Exploration of the Unexplained" and told them they had turned up to this month's meeting... But why weren't they in attendance last month? (Encouraging them to think a bit about why their character might not have been there). I'd decided that just the three of them were there, and as they'd not been there last month the weren't aware that this month's meeting was cancelled. Then I moved into the 'hook' of the scenario - Timothy entering and looking for help from the society with the mysterious robbery of some of his late uncle's books.
The scenario is quite simple, and not particularly dangerous for the investigators, so I'd gambled on them surviving this one - and being able to use the same investigators for the next one. Luckily, they did survive - despite one of them blundering in somewhat recklessly during the sole dangerous vignette. I'd deliberately had them leave the 'verbose' character traits and 'connections' from the back of their investigator sheets free - and I'm hoping to revisit that before the second scenario. There was definitely a more gung-ho investigator emerging, and one much more nervous and considered. I'll let them formalise this next time to make the 'role playing' more explicitly part of them choosing their investigator's actions. I was happy to let the player (rather than the character) guide the actions for this scenario though. (As beginners to RPGs I think baby steps might be needed).
We did end up using Zoom (we're already Zooming, and one of them is a bit resistant to trying too many new things at once), plus a web based dice roller for all the public D100 rolls - which I made them do often. I also was nudging then away from "can I roll?" to describe "what you want to do, and I'll decide if it's a roll". By the end, they'd got that.
I'd downloaded some nice handouts (diary entries, photo of a character) that I found online as "Paper Chase" actually only had one and I thought that sending them would 1. Break up the experience for the players and 2. Give me a chance to glance at my notes. The full Investigator's Book (not in the Starter Set) that I own provided me with a list of typical names from the period. These are essential when your players want to quiz other n.p.c.s, and you're ad-libbing people that the scenario didn't cover. If I had one criticism of the Starter Set for keepers (aside if the first scenario being a little handout light) is that it doesn't really warn you that this unscripted npc stuff can be the case - and having at least a few names to hand can be the difference between a character being seamlessly integrated or bring blindingly obviously not important. ("He says his name is ... Erm... Erm... Hang on....er John" is a particularly obvious way to spot an npc as being someone insignificant).
My players (as you'd hope) defied all rational logic, and took surprising decisions in where they went and what they tried - but only on a couple occasions did "Timothy" have to nudge them to try something other than creeping around his house. I don't think they felt railroaded though.
The unified skills and characteristics rolls make CoC 7e a doodle for new players to get how performing a "check" works, and the "hard" and "extreme" is also very easy to implement. I really like that, and it's ever so easy to explain as you go.
I was pleased my players encountered temporary madness through sanity loss, physical injury and opposed rolls which came up naturally within the scenario. Combat wasn't required (despite the gung-ho cook's efforts), so that'll come next time I think.
I ended the session with them rolling to see if their skills they successfully used were improved - which is intuitive and logical in it's operation.
All in all I'm very impressed with it. Looking forward to next time (hope my player are too!)