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Old 09-03-2014, 05:15 PM   #1
MaddCow
 
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Default Madness Dossier in the 1920s

I started working on a Call of Cthluhu campaign set in the 1920s with a group of friends and family. However, after reading about and purchasing the Madness Dossier, I've decided to use that as the main backdrop (Among some other surprises down the line).

What I would like to know from you, the community, is what you would change (If anything) as the group would still like the campaign to be set in the 1920s to start off. I haven't run a MD (Madness Dossier) campaign yet, so I'm not sure how well balanced the character point totals (They see to suggest 300+ totals) and the enemy stat blocks are against 1920s technology. Those that have played this sort of campaign, anything that I should be aware of before getting started? What were the biggest hurdles, what did you find to be the most enjoyable?

For those that are familiar with it, I want to run it a bit like X-Com in that the group would need to choose between certain missions and mission types as a way of controlling the spread of memes, panic, and overall reality quakes in an effort to fight back. Naturally, being set in the 1920s limits travel time and other fast response times due to technology. Any thoughts on how best to handle that as well? Maybe they could have some sort of advanced warning system in place for where irrupters will pop up, or where tears in reality are forming, or even some way of detecting large concentrations of memetic activity. There are already some really wonderful ideas that I've got that happened around this time period that were never explained, so that will go a lot in helping cement the non-fictional portion of the campaign.

Last edited by MaddCow; 09-03-2014 at 05:29 PM.
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Old 09-04-2014, 09:28 AM   #2
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Default Re: Madness Dossier in the 1920s

Any advice or thoughts from those that have played Madness Dossier?
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Old 09-04-2014, 10:46 AM   #3
johndallman
 
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Default Re: Madness Dossier in the 1920s

As per Madness Dossier p21, the templates are for 350-point characters who are paying 99 points for the required Patron and languages, so they play a lot more like 250-point characters. The campaign I played in felt like that; we regularly found ourselves needing to use some skill which nobody had as a primary skill, and rolling against 11 or 12. We were using the Impulse Buys rules, which let you cope with failures at the cost of character points, and we needed to on occasion. Page 28 has modifications to the templates for less capable characters and a less powerful Project.

We were using 2010s technology pretty fully, with quite up-to-date weapons, armour, and surveillance gear, excellent communications with the Project, drone and satellite reconnaissance, and so on. The 1920s will impose a less technothriller atmosphere, and thus a slower pace of investigation. Characters won't have the same portable killing power, unless they want to start packing Browning Automatic Rifles, at about twice the weight of modern assault rifles, and they really can't have the same armour. So you'll need to be more restrained in the opposition you throw at your PCs.

Looking at what would be available in the 1920s, Project SANDMAN has not yet formed (it dates from 1943) unless you want to change that. By default, the Duncorne Foundation and the Special Assignments Office may or may not be aware of each other at this date, which suggests a plot thread of their mutual discovery. Basically none of the equipment from "Technological Crutches" on pages 45-50 will exist, and you can delete as much as you like from "Human Influence" on pages 38-45.

Looking at the templates, Golden Children won't exist yet. The absence of Brain Hacking means that there won't be any Wetware Hackers, and hence no Cheval. The other templates can exist, but will need some adaptation.
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Old 09-04-2014, 11:41 AM   #4
Phil Masters
 
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Default Re: Madness Dossier in the 1920s

This could be done, but it'll take a bit of work.

Holding tight to the canon timeline would certainly mean that the heroes would potentially have a tougher time of it; the two elements who eventually go to make up Project Sandman haven't actually met yet, while lower technology reduces the hitting power of weapons, the protective value of armour, and the speed of travel. Nor have the heroes' back-office techs invented much of the Project's weird arsenal yet, which invalidates not only a lot of the special equipment in the book, but also many of the special powers and whole chunks of most of the character templates.

You could move a whole load of tech back to an earlier introduction date, of course, but much of it just doesn't feel very 1920s. Implanted chips and brainwashing drugs are a very post-war style of paranoia. There's a limit to how often you can chant "your organisation has access to super-advanced technology".

Given that humanity survived that period unenslaved, though, the people fighting the Anunnakku must have won most of their fights - so presumably there weren't too many irruptors around. The lower speed and efficiency of communications will have helped, not only in that the Anunnakku couldn't spread their influence so easily, but also in that suppressing word of battles between human troops and weird monsters in out-of-the-way places would be more feasible. Even so, the Duncorne Foundation must have been quietly, hideously ruthless at times; in the absence of mind-control drugs and memory chips, you're all too often going to have to just kill inconvenient witnesses, or at least dope them up to the eyeballs and lock them in secure asylums.

More to follow...
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Old 09-04-2014, 12:08 PM   #5
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Default Re: Madness Dossier in the 1920s

If you aren't tweaking the timeline to bring the UK and US branches together twenty years early, I'd probably go for a Duncorne Foundation, British Empire-based campaign, rather than an American, SAO-based game. The Foundation has a fairly good idea what's going on, and a lot of colourful field agents scattered round the globe, while the SAO is mostly researching linguistics and group psychology, and is presumably getting a creeping, horrible feeling that somebody out there already knows about this stuff, and is better at it than them. The flavour text for chapter 1 suggests that there were Americans getting some more actively useful ideas, but they were pretty clueless overall, and took serious casualties accordingly.

But either way, I think you'll end up shifting the focus away from the clinical, professional mad science and efficient commando ops of modern day games to something more amateurish. The SAO are officially in the private sector; the Duncorne Foundation reeks of a very British gentleman-adventurer attitude. Both groups would mostly be about investigation, with only occasional desperate confrontations with scorpion-men, those involving lots of dynamite and some friendly fire NPC casualties. The primary opposition would perhaps be seemingly human cults, unknowingly providing the Anunnakku with ways to re-infiltrate human consciousness.

However, these shouldn't, mostly, be Lovecraft-style capering, decadent, non-European primitives. The Anunnakku are all about control and hierarchy; the cults they use as puppets in the 1920s could be terribly genteel, not at all primitive, and quite prepared to agree with the good chaps in the government about the white man's burden and the need for strong leadership. I wouldn't make the Anunnakku responsible for the Nazis, but the Nazis all too willingly moved towards Anunnakku modes of thought as they employed third-hand Anunnakku psychological methods. And those British Union of Fascists members and Silver Shirts who go in for seances in the evenings may sometimes find their ouija boards spelling out words dredged up from the depths of the human unconscious.

But that's maybe getting too far into the 1930s. In the '20s, everything is still to play for. There's new iconography everywhere, and some of it derives from the sort of stuff that the likes of Arthur Evans and Howard Carter keep getting into the papers. Keeping a lid on the deadly dangerous stuff, and sorting it out from the meaningless junk jewellery, is hard work.

More to follow...
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Old 09-04-2014, 12:27 PM   #6
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Default Re: Madness Dossier in the 1920s

I'd probably end up using Action templates with tweaks for the TL for characters (there've been Pyramid articles on the subject) much of the time, rather than the efficient Sandmen of the Madness Dossier book. Tough quasi-pulp heroes rather than commandos. However, a certain amount of merging should be possible, and I could even see bringing in some ideas about exotic powers - just with an improvisational, amateurish air to them. Your taishers wouldn't be the products of rogue KGB psychic experiments, they'd be semi-professional mediums who maybe tried a couple of fashionable drugs at parties and ended up seeing and knowing too damn much.

And you could even have chevals, too. But they wouldn't be carefully designed psychological constructs; they'd be actual voudoun or santeria believers, who broad-minded Duncorne researchers have identified as possessing the divine madness needed to resist alien mind control. And they'd come aboard, because if there's one bunch of people who know about resistance to alien slavers...

Hmm. So your party could consist of a great white hunter type with a facility for very exotic languages, a will of iron, and an H&H nitro express, an archaeologist who looks like Indiana Jones at first glance but more like a twitchy Lovecraft hero when you get to know him, a voudoun priestess, and a drug-addled former society medium...
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Old 09-04-2014, 01:03 PM   #7
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Default Re: Madness Dossier in the 1920s

Thanks for the input Phil. I was going for more of a British type setting anyway. I felt that there was enough with regards to that era that an early version of Sandman would be in operation. More like stretching out the legs and figuring out what most of the evidence is leading to with their digs and what not. I feel that there would be a lot more investigation in play then all out countering the assault from the other side.

With lack of weapons, I'm thinking of having a lot more human cultists/slaves be the main 'baddies' with the monsters being the Big Bad of each arc perhaps. Right now I've got of the 6 characters fleshed out. One is a British Officer who served in WWI. I'm tying his big foray into the unknown with a really cool bit of history that is unexplained. He has not been joined up with the foundation yet. He is still in the dark for most of what the 'real' campaign is about.

There is a character in history, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violet_Jessop, she survived the 3 largest sinkings of the early 1900s, including the Titanic. I'm going to include those as being parts of the other side trying to come through and they had to scuttle those ships for various reasons. One of the ships she survived was the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMHS_Britannic. According to the article, there was an 'unknown officer' who saved countless lives by being cool under pressure. The British Officer will be that man.

I'm thinking of tying Violet Jessop into the early foundations of what would become Project Sandman and she would recommend this player to the organization for his skills under stress.

The other player is going to be a singer who is able to command the 'power words' and is already a fledgling member of this organization. Basically a spell caster that instead of wands/fireballs she uses command words. The other 4 are still up in the air so far. I'm liking the ideas so far and am glad to hear about some possibilities with the limited tech and history of Sandman.

The advantage of having it done back in history, is that I have a large collection of 'unexplained' stories to work with. For instance, they'll be some of the earlier surveyers of the Tunguska event. One of the main expeditions happened in 1927 and that is right around the corner from where they willl be starting. I'm also tying in some pretty significant historical events like King Tut's tomb being found in 1922, as well as the Oxford Dictionary being released in 1928. I'm going to try and tie in a lot of suppression linguistics with that release that helps prevent further cultisms for a bit. Pretty cool stuff in store for them :) Just need to figure out more of the mechanics involved.
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Old 09-05-2014, 01:35 PM   #8
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Default Re: Madness Dossier in the 1920s

For those that have worked with this campaign, what kind of experience have you had with character's losing their mind due to what is going on. I.E. their sanity. Do you feel the system allows enough margin of error to allow some slips and dips, or do you find it quickly escalates and characters are prone to fits of madness before too long?
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Old 09-05-2014, 01:39 PM   #9
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Default Re: Madness Dossier in the 1920s

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaddCow View Post
For those that have worked with this campaign, what kind of experience have you had with character's losing their mind due to what is going on. I.E. their sanity. Do you feel the system allows enough margin of error to allow some slips and dips, or do you find it quickly escalates and characters are prone to fits of madness before too long?
The stress and derangement system is ultimately an injury system and has built-in rules for treatment. Make sure you use those.
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Old 09-05-2014, 02:37 PM   #10
MaddCow
 
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Default Re: Madness Dossier in the 1920s

Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
The stress and derangement system is ultimately an injury system and has built-in rules for treatment. Make sure you use those.
Are you referring to the stress portion where it wears off after a set amount of 'relaxation' time?
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