My first Call of Cthulhu scenario – The Pharaoh’s Sacrifice – is doing well, having recently become a ’copper best seller’ on DriveThruRPG. As my debut scenario, it is close to my heart and I hope Keepers and players enjoy it and get a good few hours of creepy 1920s entertainment from it.
Even before I’d hit the publish button on it last month, I’d already started on the follow-up. The spark, structure and impetus provided by the Write Your First Adventure course from Storytelling Collective was in full flow, and I managed to keep a similar schedule and ended up writing, designing, testing and publishing A Red, Red Rose in a month.
I loved putting this one together. I bought the excellent Affinity Publisher so I could spend more time & effort on the scenario’s layout and design, and I also set myself the goal of writing a ’sandbox’ style investigation, where events happen around the investigators whether they are witness to them or not, and they have a number of ways they can discover, investigate and drive the scenario to one of its several conclusions.
I think I succeeded in that. A Red, Red Rose is kind of like a mini toolbox for Keepers wanting to run a scenario where things aren’t black & white. Where the investigators’ choice of who to trust, who to side with, what to believe and what to do is important. And where the possible conclusions range from victory at a cost, to being forever damned to live amongst the cursed.
The other thing I enjoyed was setting this one in the modern day. This provided a few interesting challenges during the plotting & design stage, not least the fact that – unlike in the 1920s – every 2020s investigator has the equivalent of a library in their pocket in the shape of their smartphone.
Rather than recoil from this, I leaned into it instead. Clues are hidden in blog posts, social media profiles, comments on videos and the like, and the ability to be able to contact anyone at any time is woven into the fabric of the plot.
It also allowed me to set the opening scene on one of Edinburgh’s trams, as a slight homage to Horror on the Orient Express.
And it allowed me to introduce aspects of the city’s local live music scene into the scenario, to the extent that the fictional band I created – Black Heart Dawn – almost felt to me as if they actually existed (though given they are all vampire thralls, I’m kinda glad they don’t.)
Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu 7E remains a fantastic system to write for, with its skills, sanity and dangerous magic & artefact use. It’s great at helping to evoke that ’in over our heads’ feeling I was aiming for with this scenario, where investigators can choose to fight back, but know that there’s every chance they will fail if the do so.
As with my schedule when I was putting the finishing touches to The Pharaoh’s Sacrifice, I’ve started writing my third scenario.
This is set in the 1920s again, and is the third in my planned The Edinburgh Files campaign, with 10 scenarios in total alternating between the 20rh and 21st centuries, linked to each other and culminating in one of those brain-melting time paradox things that I am equally excited and terrified to plot when it comes to that point.
But for now, newly sprung in September, please enjoy A Red, Red Rose.