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Hi, all.

After playing a few games of CoC, I am trying my hand at writing some adventures. I really like the way they tend to focus on interesting plots, gathering horror and atmosphere rather than game mechanics. I just wondered if there was any good advice out there as I have little experience (I did write a small adventure which I think went OK but was not very adventurous in that it stuck pretty closely to stereotypical things). Any advice would be appreciated.

Regards,

Mark.

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Write what you know.
If you want to write about Carcosa, Hastur and The King in Yellow, you must seek out The Yellow Sign.

Start with the ending.
What happens if the Investigators do not foil the plot?
How do they stop the plot?
Who is the main protagonist that oppose them?
What minnions or obstacles are thrown in their path?
What allies, if any, can they bring to the work?
What clues will they need to find to put the puzzle together?
What is the investigators motive for engaging in the scenario

Asnwer those and you have a good skeleton for a scenario to work on.

 

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Good storytelling is more about why than what. So for me I start with the theme. In one sentence describe what the scenario is about, this is usually what inspired me to write it in the first place. It is not what the investigators will do, rather what is the take away experience. I then brain storm a bunch of scenes then critically ask does each one advance the theme. Ask why are the investigators here. And my favourite piece of advice, kill your darlings! No matter how much you love a scene, if it doesn't advance the plot, cut it from the adventure.

And Ejlertson is spot on, do loads of research - get lost on internet rabbit holes. The real world is far weirder than you think.

Edited by Psullie
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Ejertson has good advice there.

A C'thulhu scenario is essentially a detective novel with a horror theme.  

To enlarge on "Start with the ending", that doesn't mean figure out how you want it to end and work backwards, but something a bit different... 

Figure out the crime or event that draws the characters in (often the MacGuffin), then figure out all the steps it would take to get to that point and write them down, then figure out what clues these acts would leave.  The more obvious clues might be hidden, but even hiding the clues might leave traces for characters to find.  Obviously big stupid monsters don't hide clues, but clever enemies certainly do.  You need to manufacture a trail of evidence for your players to follow, and working backwards from the start conditions of the story is the best way to do this.  Some clues are physical, like "a distinct smell of acetone in the room", or "blue pus all over the cadaver", while others are documents, the ubiquitous and beloved "C'thulhu handouts".  Every clue needs to go some way towards telegraphing the identity and intentions of the bad guys, but it is up to the players to arrive at the answers.

Another thing to remember is the "ticking clock".  Bad guys have an agenda they are pursuing, and if they are not stopped, they will start collecting their objectives unopposed.  If the players dead-end and cry out for a hint, give it to them, but also remember to advance the enemy agenda as an equivalent "payment" for the hint.  The players need to get a sense that time is a resource they can ill afford to waste once the plot starts to move.  This helps to add dramatic tension to what is taking place and encourages them to complete your scenarios without dawdling or going off track.

Then there are the "loose ends".  In the process of fighting eldritch horrors, characters are often placed in legally ambiguous positions, and even outright commit crimes "for the good of humanity" to stop their enemies.  The players themselves leave evidence of these crimes and will need to "sanitize" their crime scene if they don't want to wind up in jail themselves.  Similarly, the bad guys will want revenge for any set-backs the characters cause, and will also be looking for evidence of whodunnit so they can send dimensional shamblers after them (they are the best assassination monsters btw as they cart their enemies off to a parallel dimension and they are never seen again).  Remember, the players may be congratulating themselves on a victory which is entirely premature if they don't actively get rid of an entire coven/cabal/clique of enemies.   Loose ends come back to haunt you.

 

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22 hours ago, Cheeslord said:

Hi, all.

After playing a few games of CoC, I am trying my hand at writing some adventures. I really like the way they tend to focus on interesting plots, gathering horror and atmosphere rather than game mechanics. I just wondered if there was any good advice out there as I have little experience (I did write a small adventure which I think went OK but was not very adventurous in that it stuck pretty closely to stereotypical things). Any advice would be appreciated.

You may find the Miskatonic Repository Additional Guidelines helpful (even though not writing for it):

https://support.drivethrurpg.com/hc/en-us/articles/115005848483-Miskatonic-Repository-Additional-Guidelines

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  • 2 weeks later...

Remember the uncanny valley.

Researchers trying to build convincing android robots discovered an interesting problem. When the robot looks nothing like a human, we accept it. When the robot looks and behaves exactly like a human, we accept it. But if there is something even slight wrong, a robot with jerky movements, or the wrong skin tone, or bumps which appear under the skin in the wrong places, we feel a sense of violent revulsion.

Stephen King is a master of this style of story. Many of his stories start with everything utterly normal, except just one small thing is wrong. That odd piece of metal sticking out of the ground in the Tommyknockers. The mist hanging across the lake which doesn't dissipate in the morning sunlight. People gaining feeble psychic abilities in a secret government experiment. A curio shop full of things you actually want. Everything else flows from that small initial flaw.

Uncanny_valley.png.4019d491956181c094a2bad4193dbf1e.png

Edited by EricW
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