Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Call of Cthulhu: The Great War

Partially at the insistence of Mr. Slusser (and partly due to my sentiment that I've been waiting until his children were old enough that they could entertain themselves so we could play a horror RPG again as we did Back In The Day), I've started to run a Call of Cthulhu play-by-post game. The aforementioned Mr. Slusser has quite familiarized himself with Lovecraft's work recently, and for the longest time I've wanted to attempt to run a full CoC campaign. Whether this is a lofty or misguided desire remains to be seen, considering the infamous mortality rate of CoC Investigators, but I've long has a document on my hard drive putting published and amateur CoC adventures I own into chronological order. I've also got notes on their respective geographical locations and people/circumstances that said scenarios use to hook the PCs with. CoC scenarios are also well-known for MacGuffins like "You have a distant uncle who..." or "An old school chum writes..." so I thought it would be a good idea, were I to run a campaign, to have a listing of them all in order to more easily fit them into his character's background.

The other thing I've long wanted to do is begin the campaign with what must have been an event looming large (psychologically, if nothing else) in many 1920s Investigators' backgrounds: World War I. I long ago purchased the tournament scenario No Man's Land, which takes place in the Ardennes Forest in 1918. As it happens, I tried to run it - suggested props and all - for Slusser's bachelor party. We only got about a third of the way through the scenario, and because I insisted on keeping the windows open to let in the cold (as the scenario also suggests), he ended up with a sore throat. But I think we had some fun.

...and yes, I am a huge nerd, thank you for asking. I had the silly notion that a night of gaming with the groomsmen would be more representative of our bachelorhood than a night of uncomfortably avoiding each others' eyes as a San Bernardino stripper offered lapdances in a voice ragged from nicotine, with a grand finale of drunken vomiting in the parking lot at 3am.

Anyway. Despite the scenario's faults (and there are a few), I thought No Man's Land would be a great introduction to a campaign. So now I'm getting my chance. He's also agreed to use one of the pre-gen characters from the scenario, which I've tweaked in spots to better accommodate the aforementioned scenario hooks, relatives, etc. Since one of NML's more glaring faults is, ahem, the artwork (which, apologies to the artist, is the worst illustrative work I've ever seen in any RPG product), I've taken the liberty of re-drawing the characters. That part has also proven to be lots of fun for me.

We talked about possible methods to play this game. Since Skype's been totally unreliable lately (delivering messages hours after they were posted, not informing each other when we're both online, etc.) and using it would require some schedule juggling, we opted for play-by-post. Despite using some fine sites for gaming in the past (Roleplay Online, Rondak's Portal), we thought that Google Docs would work well enough.

We've only just begun, but so far it's done a nice job. The newest iteration allows you to post comments in Post-It Note format off the right side of the document, highlighting the part of the text you're specifically commenting on. So I have text and pictures/illustrations either posted in the body of the text or linked to from these Comments. I can also post requests for dice rolls and rules discussions there. And, of course, when you share a document with your player(s), it lets you know when someone's updated the document (that is, posted their turn) by boldfacing the doc title on your Google Docs main page (it can also send you an email).

Where Google Docs is currently failing me is in regards to posting images. It used to allow you to wrap the text around your images, like one usually sees in books. However, in the latest version, this feature seems to have been removed for the most part. Now the picture you want to post has to sit on one line of text, meaning big, gaping blank spots. I don't understand how anyone at Google would think this was an improvement.

So now we're off, beginning in a foxhole on the Western Front in early October, 1918. We'll see how far our burgeoning Investigator gets!


Michael Slusser said...

You were very, very right in choosing roleplaying over strippers. Especially San Bernardino strippers, I imagine.

I try not to imagine, actually.

That game is still one of my favorite roleplaying memories, despite it being the direct cause of being sick on my wedding day. The props and camaraderie were excellent, and (though I was too tired to recall the specifics of the adventure, which turns out to be good), I well remember being pretty scared by the material and sunk deeply into the game.

Good times. And now we're back at them! Huzzah!

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