Fall 2016 Gaming Thoughts - Cthulhu Strikes Back?

“The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them. They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen.”

- HP Lovecraft

Ghostbusters continues to be a fun campaign for us - it works especially well given we've had a number of sessions where just 2 players plus me have been able to make it of late, with real world issues often causing us to be missing 3 players (our group is currently 5 plus me).

Icons was a reasonably fun game, working better than most superhero games I've done but I don't think I've found my "one true superhero game" as yet. Earlier I reflected on BRP being a system that works rather well for me so I might at some point repurpose the campaign material I developed for Superworld from Chaosium (which apparently was the game that George RR Martin was playing that led to the creation of the Wild Cards series).

I've been thinking about a setting that I can call my own. I'm enjoying Ghostbusters and I've definitely not worried all that much about "canon" Ghostbusters material. A nice thing about Icons was developing my own superhero universe. This doesn't mean I want to avoid any premade setting, but I do want to stay clear of any that have a large metaplot, extreme detail, or major characters who can rival the PCs in purpose.

That's led to me thinking about Call of Cthulhu. It's been about two years since I've last played a game making direct use of the Cthulhu Mythos. Yes, it is an already established "setting" so to speak, but I view the Mythos as more of a genre than a setting. There are so many different interpretations of the Mythos, so many authors who have put their spin on it, that is is pretty safe to play a Call of Cthulhu game of your own. There's a few lenses I'm contemplating...

First, there is a campaign that we put on hold, in late 1919. The characters had just survived an expedition to Greenland and uncovered evidence of lost Hyperborea. I'd made a decision that I would feel free to violate Lovecraft's stories, making the assumption that Lovecraft was an unreliable narrator. This would allow our investigators to take the place of luminaries such as Randolph Carter and Henry Armitage. I might take advantage of the passage of time and bump the campaign to 1921, allowing the characters to be a bit more settled in their post-Great War lives. Advantages to this include a ton of already existing adventures and Chaosium's organized play materials. Very handy for someone whose fall semester will be starting in about two weeks.

There's also the possibility of going pulpy with Pulp Cthulhu. This would necessitate new characters, as the previous campaign has already been established to be very deadly, with a number of fatalities and one character slowly slipping towards madness. I've only skimmed Pulp Cthulhu so I'll need to give it a more thorough read. I will say that it is a very well put together tome and I give Chaosium a ton of credit getting the damn thing published - it was originally to be a 2002 or 2003 release! I was fairly certain it would never make it our the door.

I've been incredibly impressed by the Delta Green Agent's Handbook. It is the player's rulebook for Delta Green, with the main Delta Green RPG due out, if my memory is correct, towards the end of this year. It's definitely playable as-is, with the caveat that much of the official secrets of Delta Green will be found in the full rulebook. This has me somewhat torn - there's a lot of adventures already published in PDF, probably enough to keep me going until the official main game comes out and Arc Dream has a pretty flexible interpretation of canon in any case (see for example Directives from A-Cell 107: Firing the Canon). I'm also slowly working my through the novel Through a Glass Darkly which I'm told tells how the Delta Green organization regains its official, albeit black ops, status. What I really like about the game is it oozes atmosphere - I really felt the effects battling the Mythos would have on your personal and professional lives and the rules reflect it.

Finally as a bit of a joke I mentioned the the players the possibility of doing "Cthulhu in Space". I was surprised when the idea met with a lot of approval, so I'm giving some thought as to how I could pull this off as a campaign, especially one that does not require a ton of work for me. I'm not certain I could pull this off right now, but I'm having some fun poking around - I'd been in a bit of a science fiction kick of late, binging through The Expanse, rewatching Alien, etc. I might not go all-out Mythos with such an option but rather allow them to serve as an inspiration. I really like the setting in the Hero Games Alien Wars setting, covering a Terra that is beginning to lose control of its many colonies while at the same time finding itself at war with aliens (exactly what it says on the tin). I might actually go with a Traveller game with my own frontier setting, covering the early years of humanity's expansion into space and running into a number of lost bioweapons, alien artifacts, etc. while facing pressure from megacorporations back home which effectively control the government and the suggestion of unfriendly alien governments in the neighborhood. Again, not quite the Cthulhu Mythos, but something I could likely pull off (as opposed to fully integrating the Mythos, which I suspect would be more than I could handle at this time). Fate is actually nudging me a little bit, telling me that it would be a great way to dynamically build the setting with my players, so that's also an option I'm considering.

Regardless, we still need to finish off Ghost Toasties in our next game session (writeup for part 1 forthcoming) and in two weeks I start my 4th class towards my master's degree in strategic analytics. Looks like a lot of math this time around...

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