This Thursday I begin my new Call of Cthulhu campaign.
I’ve run Cthulhu games before but with a more adventurous slant, more along the lines of Indiana Jones than anything else. In fact, one of the players in an old CoC game had a character called ‘Idaho Smith’. You can draw your own conclusions from that, but they were fantastic games.
I only ran a couple of truly scary games, one on a train across Europe with werewolves on board, and another had players searching for an almost-dead Hunting Horror in an abandoned village on the moors. They were intense investigation-driven games, even though they did have the adventure element involved. Coming from a background of very long and involved Star Wars and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaigns I can’t help but stick some adventure and conflict in there.
So how to approach this new campaign? Well, I still want my adventure elements, more the dark threat of Spielberg’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ than the over-the-top adventure of Sommer’s ‘The Mummy’. I’ll have my investigations and searches, but the arrival of some low hit point cultists can’t hurt. I’ll only have the players pause for thought when they come up against mythos creatures.
I’ll be a stickler for the sanity rules – that’s the core of a CoC game, after all – and I’ll make sure the players are aware that anything horrific, or even just a bit scary, is cause for a check.
I used to be a GM screen overlord so that I could keep rolls secret and have more control over the game, but I’ve realised over the last few years that rolling in the open is so much more satisfying. I have been accused of arbitrarily killing player characters with rolls behind the screen (which is actually true in one instance, but that was more a case of a mercy killing than anything else) so I avoid that with open rolls. As long as the challenges are surmountable and I don’t throw unfair threats at the players then any outcome is acceptable. Maybe not so much with the mythos creatures, but they know what to expect in this game.
As far as music is concerned, I’ve found some great themes of a very dark and mysterious quality on the movie soundtracks of ‘The Mummy’ and ‘Master and Commander: The far Side of the World’. I really wanted to use my friend James Semple’s music he composed for the ‘Trail of Cthulhu’ roleplaying game, but with a house move coming up its sadly packed away somewhere – for the record, I can highly recommend this soundtrack. My obvious choice, of course, was the Indiana Jones movies, but the themes are so recognisable that it would no doubt pull the players out of the game and encourage ‘trust me’ quotes and fist fights. I wouldn’t mind if there were Nazis involved, because there’s all levels of right in punching Nazis in the face, but sadly there’s none in my game. Maybe next time.
All that really remains is to see how my players react; I can make all kinds of attempts at atmosphere and mood but it really depends on the involvement of my players, if they get into the darkness of it all or if they approach it more light-hearted. That remains to be seen. To give them a sense of time it’s set in 1933, two months after King Kong has hit the picture house and people are all excited for the wonder, adventure and monsters of the far-off places of the world.
I’m really looking forward to this game.