The Trail of Cthluhu Corebook says to pitch your game as X meets Y so that potential players will get a sense of what your game is like. I decided that as an organizer (known in-game as a Keeper) my game will aim to capture the tragic character arcs of Penny Dreadful with the open world reality-simulating "normal" of Second Life. The goal of this game is to explore your character (known in-game as an Investigator) and the environment in a space where you have the freedom to be as unashamedly cautious or reckless as you can conceive. We will build this story together.
I have always been drawn to the work of H.P. Lovecraft because he managed to conjure such bizarre atmospheres in his writing. As I studied science in school, as I ponder the world, as I live my life: there has always been space for the types of unsettling questions which plagued the minds' of his characters. During one of my winter breaks from graduate school, I purchased the Masks of Nyarlathotep and read the exciting adventure outlined for the Call of Cthulhu game system. The expansive and deadly world steeped in the Mythos seemed like something I wanted to contribute to. However, I had reservations about the reliance on cultural stereotypes to create atmosphere and on stats-based dice rolls to progression of the story. I had heard about a more investigation focused rules system (GUMSHOE), so I headed to the Merril Collection at the Lillian H. Smith Library to read some of the Corebook for Trail of Cthulhu.
Kenneth Hite's introduction in that book opens with a wonderfully written reason why Trail of Cthluhu exists. That small sequence of paragraphs, set my fleshy gears into a slow and determined torque. Before I left to return for Chicago I stopped by the downtown Hairy Tarantula to buy myself a copy. I resolved to try to use this investigation focused system to tell horror stories I could morally support. I aspire to create a foreboding imaginary space where players can roleplay their Investigators' unique falls while progressing via their wits through various levels of oppressive power and ignorance. I believe the potentially most powerful aspects of such a space are: to provide the freedom to make "impractical" decisions and follow through on the consequences. To listen to the imagined fears of others and vocalize their imagined solutions, no matter their "triviality". To visualize actions we might be uncomfortable with, and through that process come to a better understanding on how to plan meaningful action in our (sometimes) unbalanced lives.
I will be running Purist campaigns as the Keeper for 4 or fewer players and their Investigators. Campaigns will be 3-4 sessions long with each session with at least 3 hours of gameplay. Purist refers to a thematic orientation of the plot towards philosophical horror. In my case, this will not preclude an exciting firefight or interpersonal drama, but rather indicate that both those actions will carry with it a heavy cost (in Health and Stability respectively). I will focus the story on the terrible consequences of revealing Mythos truth and the personal costs for the Investigators. Motivations (known in-game as Drives) will play a large role in moving the plot and I will work with each player to finalize the Drive of their Investigator. The world will react as realistically as I can imagine it and I encourage players to tread carefully. Prioritize survival, but as this is a horror game you will have to venture out on a limb to progress the investigation!
Our game will start in the city of Toronto and will involve minimal intercontinental travel. I will try and involve players with the creation of the hook (the reason why their Investigator is where they are and involved with the plot). Cities will be a critical resource and location for investigations. Campaigns will be set in the present day and two new abilities will be added to govern the knowledge of computers and their use. As Trail of Cthulhu was written for a 1930's setting, please imagine appropriate updates to the occupational abilities and run them by the Keeper as you build your Investigator. Games will require that Investigators have working knowledge of the English language. I encourage players to think about how their Investigator has come to Toronto. Are they a long time local? Did they move for work? Did they move come as a refugee? There will be an attempt to replicate the forces of the law so make sure that you're ready to go of the grid if you have (or want) to engage in illegal activities.
The following are restrictions to consider when building your Investigators:
Each person can be assumed to know how to use a computer, but they are not necessarily going to be able to get the information or functions they want from it. Keep in mind that often computers are only the medium in which we interface with knowledge and people, therefore other Investigative abilities may be better suited than computer related abilities for your Investigator. Interpersonal skills can be used to get information from people over IRC or social media. Academic skills can be used to interpret or execute information dug up from databases. For other use cases of the computer, the following abilities (1 Investigative, 1 General) will be added to the game to reflect the use of this powerful modern tool:
The story section for the site will be for cross campaign communication. If you are enjoying the gameplay with your Investigator, please consider writing an in-character letter to an NPC, Pillar of Stability or other PC. I would recommend the format of an email or perhaps a blog post. Send me the material and I will post it here along with other documents which belong to the world and the ongoing intrusions of the Mythos. Don't hesitate to contact me if you want to contribute something and are not currently engaged in a campaign. There undoubtedly will be a place for your twisted imagination to deposit its sticky eggs into this fledgling digital corpse.
As you can probably guess, this section will take some time to get off the ground. I am hopeful it will grow into a special record of the meaningful acts committed for reasons entirely human in the face of indifferent forces.
As you may have gleaned from the game section of the site: I would like to play Trail of Cthulhu as an organizer/ Dungeon Master (known in-game as a Keeper). Campaigns will be 3-4 sessions long with each session with at least 3 hours of gameplay. Sessions will run in my home with up to 4 players and their characters (known in-game as Investigators). I hope the "mini campaigns" to be fun and challenging, collaborative story-telling experiences with a blend of gameplay and opportunities for socializing. I will try to keep the narrative going over the course of many mini campaigns with players and/or Investigators freely dropping out and joining as required.
I hope to run these for as long as I have the fortitude. If you like your Investigator and they survive: you can play them again. If you didn't like your Instigator or they didn't survive: you can make a new one. And of course, if the experience wasn't your cup of tea I hope to see you again in some other capacity
My first contact with you as a player will involve setting you up with the materials to build your Investigator, setting your boundaries, and determining some common interests/goals. Upon reaching a group of players who have made their Investigator, I will facilitate the scheduling of the sessions. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. (I hope, wish me luck! Please feel free to provide criticism, recommendations or praise for this project.)
If the voices in your head tell you that playing this game is a good idea, contact me RIGHT NOW by email with "mythos" in the subject line to schedule your game!