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A Modern Day Epic Campaign From Chaosium


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An interesting question that was prompted by a recent FB post — why, in its 40 year history, has Chaosium never published an epic modern day campaign?

I mean,  it’s on the record that the game’s author plays exclusively modern setting Cthulhu games, which makes it all the more noteworthy by its absence.

My only explanation is that the ‘modern’ setting, by its very nature, becomes anachronistic, a 20’s game is preserved in amber. Maybe that’s something that Chaosium have always considered.

Regardless, it is worthy to note.

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The obvious answer is that 1920s sells. Arkham Now is still overstocked many years after release and H.P. Lovecraft's Arkham goes for collector prices. I think that if we actually looked at the sales records, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a vast difference in sales numbers. Game companies are, after all, businesses. 

That said, I'm all for development of product that gamers want. Maybe sales of modern scenarios on MR will make a case for an A-list release?

Edited by klecser
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1 hour ago, klecser said:

Arkham Now is still overstocked many years after release and H.P. Lovecraft's Arkham goes for collector prices.

How does Arkham now compare to other modern products?  I wouldn't expect Lovecraft's core setting vs a modern extrapolation of it to be very telling when it came to Twenties vs modern in general.

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Just now, SunlessNick said:

How does Arkham now compare to other modern products?  I wouldn't expect Lovecraft's core setting vs a modern extrapolation of it to be very telling when it came to Twenties vs modern in general.

Great question. There are certainly differences between layout. So, I guess it comes down to whether or not Chaosium feels compelled to take a financial chance on a large modern campaign? Maybe something is in the works already and we just don't know about it? We have Petersen's Abominations, but those scenarios aren't connected.

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Pulling off a long epic campaign in a current setting is hard to do well.
Research, playtesting and printing time means that once its in players hands, the mentioned things in the campaign can be be overcome by events and will feel dated or even silly. 
Another issue is that it can easily be controversial to include different current or near current events and/or people still around. 
All of these things are easier to avoid in a 1920 setting.

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I've read that Cthulhu Now was one of the game's best-selling supplements. Any truth to that? 

I would suggest the popularity of Delta Green shows there is an appetite for modern adventures. I haven't dived into it yet, but the new Impossible Landscapes sounds epic, on par with the best that has been written for the Classic era. What I would personally like to see are expanded editions of Unseen Masters and Goatswood and Less Pleasant Places, but perhaps relocating them to the 1960's or 1970's, evoking the horrors of those times. 

 

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Modern (from the 80s onwards) would be my favorite campaign setting for big campaigns. I only buy others because there are no modern ones. If they were available and I had to choose, I'd choose modern. I dislike the 20s and can't relate to it. The 30s I can relate to a bit more, but that's only because I think of Indiana Jones. Modern I can relate to.

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On 3/10/2021 at 6:23 PM, Dr_Zarnak said:

Goatswood and Less Pleasant Places, but perhaps relocating them to the 1960's or 1970's, evoking the horrors of those times. 

This is a great idea.  Make it contemporary to when Ramsey Campbell wrote most of his mythos fiction.

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On 3/10/2021 at 1:45 AM, Mike M said:

Chaosium has published modern campaigns, the most notable was At Your Door

Never heard of this one and it does not seem to exist on Chaosiums website.

Where can I find it?

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I find it humorous that my copy of "Cthulhu Now" is 30+ years old.  There are no iPods, let alone iPhones.  At least when you go to the library there are computer catalogues and photocopiers though.  As to mobile phones, yes, yuppies have them in their cars I hear.

On a related note, remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer?  How many Buffy plots would be unworkable in an age of mobile phones?  The answer is of course "plenty".

As to horror, well, the question of whether Sadako from Ringu made the transition from VHS to CD to Windows Media emerges?  I know people who no longer own a VHS player and you cannot find a betamax player for love or money these days.  Imagine if Sadako had gone beta? LOL.

Contemporary horror is often set in places without cell towers or with bad reception, as the whole "just call the police" response is strong in players.  I actually know of people who get jumpy when they have less than 2 bars on their phone (even though there is no system for what the bars mean at all between phone companies) and get spooked and uneasy when they lose phone reception.

Modern Horror is not the same as it was.

 

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9 minutes ago, Darius West said:

Contemporary horror is often set in places without cell towers or with bad reception, as the whole "just call the police" response is strong in players.  I actually know of people who get jumpy when they have less than 2 bars on their phone (even though there is no system for what the bars mean at all between phone companies) and get spooked and uneasy when they lose phone reception.

Modern Horror is not the same as it was.

 

Yes, having to go to remote places with no mobile reception is one thing to do this, but not everything can be solved by calling the police. The police doesn't believe in occult  things, so if you insist you might end up in a cell or an asylum. Maybe the government is involved, so that's why you don't call them, etc.

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14 hours ago, stadi said:

Modern (from the 80s onwards) would be my favorite campaign setting for big campaigns. I only buy others because there are no modern ones. If they were available and I had to choose, I'd choose modern. I dislike the 20s and can't relate to it. The 30s I can relate to a bit more, but that's only because I think of Indiana Jones. Modern I can relate to.

Since when was 40 years ago modern? 😉  The tools are there to run modern stuff. I actualy do run a modern Cthulhu adjacent game (rather more Dresden/Rivers of London inspired) set in 2019 (just pre pandemic). Part of the reason you dont need so much background material to run in this period is :- Google. Its just there man. I set mine around my local area of Cornwall as a)I know it like the back of my hand and b)all but one of my players dont and c)Arthur and Celtic legend make great source material.  So when I describe a location to my players :- They go street view it. When I describe a restaurant they go look at its website. And so on. All you need are the core rules and google and your good to go 🙂    

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I set most of my "modern" games in the late 70s to early 80s.  Modern enough to have gear and gadgets. But before most of the small portable electronics we are accustomed to now.  Distance communication relied on landlines, radios and letters.   Video recorders were large and bulky. 

 

All in all perfect for the genre.

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13 hours ago, Spence said:

Never heard of this one and it does not seem to exist on Chaosiums website.

Where can I find it?

It is out of print and you’d have to find a copy on eBay or another secondary retailer. 

Uttati Asfet (set in 1991) is available on DriveThru - https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/1656/Utatti-Asfet

A Resction of Time (a two part short modern campaign) is likewise there https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/1656/Utatti-Asfet

Finally, Unseen Masters (it won a Stoker award!) is there too: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/82500/Unseen-Masters

Edited by SentinelHillPress
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4 hours ago, Thaz said:

Since when was 40 years ago modern? 😉  The tools are there to run modern stuff. I actualy do run a modern Cthulhu adjacent game (rather more Dresden/Rivers of London inspired) set in 2019 (just pre pandemic). Part of the reason you dont need so much background material to run in this period is :- Google. Its just there man. I set mine around my local area of Cornwall as a)I know it like the back of my hand and b)all but one of my players dont and c)Arthur and Celtic legend make great source material.  So when I describe a location to my players :- They go street view it. When I describe a restaurant they go look at its website. And so on. All you need are the core rules and google and your good to go 🙂    

I almost exclusively run published adventures / campaigns (and I only back / buy new RPGs is they come with big campaigns), I'm not interested in writing them myself.

The 80s is definitely more modern than the 20s 🙂 And as I was born in the 80s, I can relate at least from stories. And also don't forget Stranger Things and a lot of other TV shows with an 80s setting the last couple of years. And then all the movies / shows I watched as a kid are also if not from the 80s, then from the 90s.

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58 minutes ago, stadi said:



The 80s is definitely more modern than the 20s 🙂 And as I was born in the 80s, I can relate at least from stories. And also don't forget Stranger Things and a lot of other TV shows with an 80s setting the last couple of years...

Happy to cater to your nostalgia:)

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/220315/The-Dare

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1 hour ago, stadi said:

I almost exclusively run published adventures / campaigns (and I only back / buy new RPGs is they come with big campaigns), I'm not interested in writing them myself.

That's fair. I mean I earn a sizeable chunk of my income from writing these things myself. But also when I am running a lot of games _I don't have time to write everything myself_

One of the ways forward for those wanting to run Modern(ish) CoC is to look at Delta Green, The Laundry Files (excellent) or the forthcoming Rivers of London games. These really help you. Its not that there isnt any modern CoC so much as there is SO much they split off to form their own game systems.

I'm running a Rivers of London adjacent game myself currently and it might even make it's way to the Miskatonic or Chaosium shelves in the future. 

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There is also taking a 1920s adventure and just running it in the time period you want. Pretty much all of the Mansions of Madness scenarios can be tracked into the modern day with minimal effort. 

 

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22 minutes ago, Mike M said:

There is also taking a 1920s adventure and just running it in the time period you want. Pretty much all of the Mansions of Madness scenarios can be tracked into the modern day with minimal effort. 

 

I'm glad you brought this up Mike. I've noticed that there is this common perception in the hobby (not saying it is anyone here per se) that officially published-products are/should be immutable. I'd call it an "attenuation to canonism." I've met a lot of role-players who think that altering published products is inappropriate or even sacrilegious. I understand that some people prefer to do zero alterations to adventures and that the argument is "I don't have time." But I also don't fully buy even that argument. Any good GM needs to adapt anything to their group and adapt it in situ when running it. I don't know of a single published adventure or campaign, even when I'm attempting to run it "by the book," that I haven't had to do some alteration for. I think adapting some 1920s scenarios to Modern is probably easier than some believe.

Edited by klecser
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I also use materials from other horror RPGs.  Pelgrane's Trail of Cthulhu (and Esoterrorists, Fear Itself, Fall of Delta Green, etc.).

After a while switching materials between CoC and ToC has become almost routine.

Also don't forget the repository on DriveThruRPG.  Lots of usable materials there. 

Not a horror based product, but the old Hudson City product from Hero Games is one of the best modern city (80s/90s) rpg city books ever printed.  It also has a high resolution street map for $5.  I can safely say it is probably the only modern city rpg product in existence that has an actual usable map.  A few years ago I did an edit where I removed the interstates and added rail lines so I could use the map for 30s games.

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Check out the Lovecraft Investigations podcasts on BBC Sounds. Updated takes on classic Lovecraft tales (with additional conspiracy theories) which would be perfectly runnable as adventures straight out of the notebook.

The podcasts themselves aren't perfect, but are very entertaining!

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Yep, Delta Green is my go-to game for modern horror, although they tend to have many different scenarios, and not really big campaigns like Chaosium. Of course, the recent release of Impossible Landscapes invalidates this statement 😉

As for the OP's question, my guess is that "historical" settings (1920s/1930s) are more popular because (1) they're the "default" setting for Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, and (2) they don't get ridiculously outdated after a few years like Cthulhu Now did. So if you need to update a campaign to be run 10 years later, you might as well update a campaign to be run 100 years later...

By the way, for those who prefer to stick to the 80s/90s to avoid the internet/cell-phones/etc., I've got a few tips:

  • Approach these gadgets the same way as you approach weapons. Your investigators want to get Tommygun and some sticks of dynamite? Big whoopdidoo, it won't change much when faced with a Spawn of Shub-Niggurath. Give it to them! Let them blow themselves up or get in trouble! It's all fine, it doesn't "ruin" the adventure, it makes it more exciting.
  • In the case of internet, it can give the players information similar to some journal found under someone's pillow or something: roll for SAN and lose a point! It's really freaky! Also: there's a LOT on the internet, and unless the roll is really good, there will be a LOT of irrelevant or misleading information to sift through. Do the investigators have 3 weeks to spare to do that? I bet not. So time to get off the computer and do some good ol' detective work.
  • For cell-phones, it's all good too. Are the players really going to split the party and text each other? Probably not (don't split the party! 🙂 ). So who are they gonna call? Some family or friend NPC? Sure, but are they going to get there in time to save them from the Deep Ones? And even if they do show up in time, do they go insane, get horribly injured, get captured, get killed? Did the players just "ruin" one of the only good friends they still had to remain sane? (see also: Delta Green's "Bonds" system to recover SAN). If they call the cops, are the cops going to believe them? If it's not an emergency, are they going to send somebody only in a day or two? If it's an emergency, are the on-duty cops going go insane/get killed/etc? What can these cops do with their guns that the investigators can't do with their own guns? Did the investigators just used cops as meat shields and got them killed? Roll for SAN! And get called in for further questioning! Your game just got more interesting.
  • What about cell-phone movies and pictures? Well, it's a fake obviously. Duh. Have you seen this latest deep-fake technology stuff? Did you see the guy who redid the special FX from that two-years-old movie in his bedroom, and it looks better than what Hollywood spent millions on? Etc... Also: nice way to attract the attention of the bad people who _do_ know it's not a fake! Find your home vandalized and husband missing. Roll for SAN! Your game just got more interesting.
  • Sooner or later, you'll run into a dead-end. When in doubt: add some conspiracy elements! It happens with every storyline that lasts long enough. The mayor is in on it (Buffy). The government has a secret organization dealing with these things (Delta Green). The Facebook algorithm eats your pictures somehow because Mark Zuckerberg is a Grand Priest of Nyarlathotep (that would explain things!). Whatever you can't deal with, in the end, it's a conspiracy! Your game just got more interesting. Roll for SAN.

I hope this helps!

Edited by lordabdul
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2 hours ago, Mike M said:

There is also taking a 1920s adventure and just running it in the time period you want. Pretty much all of the Mansions of Madness scenarios can be tracked into the modern day with minimal effort. 

I think we need to make a difference between one-shots and big campaigns. You are absolutely right, you probably won't lose anything if you convert a 20s haunted house scenario to modern. But you'll also not win anything. A great modern example that I've run is Lynne Hardy's Scritch Scratch. The main story would probably work in any time period, but the (modern) pre-gens she created and how they interact with the location, the story and each other, are what makes the story so interesting. You wouldn't get this by moving a 20s one-shot to the present automatically.

Big campaigns like Masks of Nyarlathotep or The Children of Fear are different. Moving them to the present might work (at least Masks), but what makes these campaigns so special is the huge amount of background information, some of that time-period dependent. Also travel would be different, maybe even NPC or player backgrounds and motivations. So this would be a lot of work to get the same level that has been done for the original premise. Writing a campaign from scratch and considering the modern time-period while doing so would create a completely different experience.

Don't get me wrong, my intention with these kind of posts is not to complain, but to show that there an interest (at least from my side).

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