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Showing posts from 2018

Call of Cthulhu Actual Play - A Mythos Love Story

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Not all tales of the Mythos involve a world-shattering threat. Some are mysteries as to why people become someone they weren't previously. Sometimes this answer is more than the questioner can handle.

Inspired by the adventure capsule "People Change" from Chaosium's Escape from Innsmouth adventure.


Setting: Boston. Friday, August 14, 1914. A drizzly cool day.

Cast of Characters:

Investigators:Colin O'Connor: Civil engineer from Dunmore, Ireland. Employed as a civil engineer by the city of Boston.Lola Diaz Azar: Archaeologist hailing from Puerto Rico, born of a Puerto Rican mother and Middle Eastern father. Agent of the New England Watch and Ward Society, specializing in occult tomes.Nathaniel Quincy, MD, Captain, US Army (Ret.) Former army doctor, served in Nicaragua and the Philippines. Now working as a medical examiner for Essex County.NPCs:Jonathan Longstreet: Civil engineer. Widower. Working on building the Dorchester Subway. About 50 years old. Fought in Spani…

Turtledove's Timeline-191

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In the American Civil War, Confederate General Lee's Special Order 191 fell into Union hands, providing Union General McClellan with the location of the Army of Northern Virginia. This allowed for Union victory at the Battle of Antietam which provided President Lincoln with the proper conditions to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, making the Civil War a war against slavery. This prevented France and the United Kingdom from recognizing the Confederacy.

This is a common point of divergence in alternate history fiction. On its own, the rebelling states did not have a chance of victory if the Union chose to fight until victory. Their only real chances was to either convince the Union that victory was not worth fighting for or to secure foreign assistance. Harry Turtledove posited in this series that if the orders did not fall into Union hands, France and the UK would recognize the Confederacy, forcing an end to the Civil War.

The first novel in this series, How Few Remain, featur…

Fiction Review: 14

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This July I started a new job. Beyond the cool work, free food, and awesome headquarters, there's a ton of interesting social groups that meet physically and/or on Slack. One group I'm in is a reading group which has introduced me to fiction that is of interest to me but that I might not have otherwise read.

Earlier this year we read Peter Clines' 14. It is a book about a group of people in a very strange Las Angeles apartment building. The rent is very cheap but it's never advertised - people always hear about it via word of mouth. The apartments are weird and unique. One is always very cool - the same constant temperature, no matter what. Another has a kitchen where any light bulb is always extremely dim. Another has a layout where nothing is directly connected to a wall - power outlets are on the floor, kitchen counters are a few inches away from the walls, etc. And is is two stories tall for some reason.

Our main protagonist is Nate, a data entry temp (who has bee…

Ripping from the Headlines - Raiding Old Newspapers for Call of Cthulhu

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One of the challenges I found in setting a Call of Cthulhu campaign in Boston was in understanding what the city was really like around a century ago. Sometimes I find it easier to do things in a fictional city or in one I've never been in than as opposed to one some 25 miles away from me - a city I go to regularly and which is the cultural center of my area.

I've found raiding Boston Globe archives to have been an awesome exercise. Check out the following weather forecast from August 14, 1914.

So what's interesting to me? First, as someone who is obsessed with details, it's nice to have. To be honest, if an adventure would work better with different weather, I'd happily use the different weather and get it "wrong". A heatwave instead of the modest temperatures in this forecast wouldn't cause a game to self-destruct.
But what really got my attention was "The Temperature Yesterday at Thompson's Spa. Going through the archives of 1914 it seems …

Call of Cthulhu Actual Play - Ashes of the Feast

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The world doesn't know it yet, but the shots which will trigger the Great War have just been fired. In Boston, the Hub of the Universe, massive construction projects are underway, building the infrastructure which will serve the city for the rest of this century and beyond. However, that construction has unearthed a hidden evil...


Setting: Boston. Monday, June 29, 1914

Cast of Characters:

Colin O'Connor: Civil engineer from Dunmore, Ireland. Working on the Dorchester Tunnel.Lola Diaz Azar: Archaeologist hailing from Puerto Rico, born of a Puerto Rican mother and Middle Eastern father.Nathaniel Quincy, MD, Captain, US Army (Ret.) Former army doctor, served in Nicaragua and the Philippines.

The three investigators had assembled at a home in South Boston on Summer Street. With the Dorchester tunnel extension to the Cambridge Subway being built a number of homes were being moved. Under one of them the house movers had found a hidden chamber of horrors. The three had special skills.  …

SJWs, Alt-Right, and Fascists, Oh My! Real World Horrors in RPGs

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There's a lot of controversy going on with the latest incarnation of Vampire: The Masquerade. Apparently, in the new Camarilla book Vampires are posited as being behind the Chehen anti-gay purges - somehow related to hiding the true threat of Sharia law or something. To be honest, I found the editing of the text a little hard to follow.

White Wolf's owners, Paradox Interactive, has announced they are recalling a pair of books with such offending text as well as exercising greater control over White Wolf and no longer developing products in-house.

The backlash has ranged from "about time" to "they're not really taking responsibility" to "they are caving into social justice warriors".

I'm thinking a bit about what I would consider to be, at best, a horribly clumsy attempt at including real-world horrors into an RPG. At worst, it was an act of ill intent, trivializing the real suffering of LGBT people to push an agenda I find abhorrent. Trut…

1910s vs. 1920s United States in Call of Cthulhu - A Quick Overview

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The default era in the Call of Cthulhu RPG is the 1920s. The 1930s, a common era for pulp campaigns, is another well known era. I've kicked off a 1910s campaign. One of the things that I'm working on is making the period stand out differently. This is an incredibly brief, stream of consciousness capsule - any of these paragraphs could be an entire post - or book! This is a fairly US-centric blog post.

What are the important differences? Let's start off with the my starting year of 1914. Very quickly, immigration is going to drop off. The Great War helps bring about a drop-off, with European nations occupied with war. However, immigration laws in 1921 and 1924 will do even more of a job in slamming the door on immigration, specifically targeting "undesirable" immigrants such as Italians, Slavs, Poles, and Jews from Eastern Europe. It also reinforced bans on Asian immigration.

Politics are a bit different. The German, Ottoman, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian Empires…

Introducing Cthulhu Boston: 1914

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After mulling over a few options for gaming this autumn and winter, I'm kicking off a game set in Boston of 1914. The First World War has been in the news a lot lately, with today being the centennial of the armistice. I came across a quote by Lt. Colonel William Murray which struck me - "No more horrors. No more mud and misery. Just everlasting peace."

I don't plan on setting the bulk of the game in Europe. It is set in Boston. Here in the United States we sat out much of the war, joining it in spring of 1917 and not being in Europe in earnest until near the end of the conflict.

I've been looking through old newspapers - our game will be starting on June 29, 1914 - the day after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. It is noteworthy that while this was certainly seen as a major event, there was no clue that the spark which would ignite the world into war had just gone off. You see that in the papers over the next few days, with the story f…

Summary of my 1920s Call of Cthulhu Campaign

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Going over my notes I'm a little surprised to discover I've had a Call of Cthulhu campaign that's reached a decent length. It seemed reasonable for my own purposes to summarize and it might be of interest to others... The more recent adventures have writeups at this site, the older ones have rougher writeups I might post at some point.

No Man's Land Parts 1-2Setting: October 2-4, 1918; Argonne Forest Investigators:  Radford Brown, Jonathan Clark, Eli Cornish, Antonio Manzi, Fredrick Tardiff 
American soldiers vs. Illoigor
Under the BlackSetting: January 19-20, 1919; Boston and Arkham Investigators: Radford Brown, Jonathan Clark, Eli Cornish, Pietro Gorgonza, Antonio Manzi, Kirk Schroeder (RIP), Fredrick Tardiff
The Great Molasses Flood provides slays a cultist and unleashes out of control Dark Spawn.
The House on the EdgeSetting: March 21-24, 1919; Kingsport Investigators: Radford Brown (RIP), Eli Cornish, Pietro Gorgonza, Antonio Manzi, Fredrick Tardiff
A mystical h…

Banned in Boston and the Cthulhu Mythos

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While Boston has a modern reputation as a liberal bastion (though it pales next to its neighbor, the People's Republic of Cambridge), embedded in its history is a strong undercurrent of conservatism. One example of this is the crusade launched by Anthony Comstock and embraced the New England Watch and Ward Society. Under this regime, books, plays, films, music, etc. of objectionable moral character would be banned in Boston.

Some of the works banned in Boston include:

Leaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanThe Sun Also Rises by Ernest HemingwayOil! by Upton SinclairStrange Interlude by Eugene O'NeillStrange Fruit by Lillian SmithA Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway When I was a kid, the Howard Johnson's restaurant chain was still popular, though by the 1990s they were undergoing a rapid decline and the chain no longe exists today. However, its initial success is due to the Banned in Boston movement - in 1929 the play Strange Interlude being unable to be performed in Boston so it…