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"Edge of Darkness" going sandboxy, please advise

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#1 boulash

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Posted 30 June 2017 - 01:07 PM

Hi everyone.

 

(possible spoilers) I am currently running "Edge of Darkness" as an introduction scenario for players new to CoC.

 

For those who don't know the adventure, it's pretty straightforward: an old friend dies and with his last words begs the investigators to banish a creature he invoked many years before. This implies going to a farm the friend owned, finding a partial translation of "De Vermiis Mysteriis" describing the banishing ritual, and just banish the creature...

 

I've run this many times to great successes, but my actual group are actually reasonably experienced RPG players, and they just love fooling around. And that's the thing: to wet the appetite of new players, the scenario makes a lot of references to other stuff: Nophru-Ka, Mu, the Bloody Tongue, and although DVM isn't needed (only the partial translation), Miskatonic University is just around the corner.

So after 2 great sessions, the investigators want to steal the book from Dr. Armitage's vault, and they want to investigate the death of Wilbur Whateley. Going to the farm isn't very high on their priority list.

 

I used to be a pretty railroady GM and I want to improve, so this is probably the best thing that could happen to me, but I'd love some suggestions on how to proceed.

Some hooks I came up with:

- The Whateley affair was covered up and the feds are taking care of it. The PI player has an old friend in the Arkham police force who's going to try to get some reports. I was thinking of an "X-file" kind of set-up then: some feds know of the various threats and act on it, but many executives are actually servants of the Great Old Ones, so the old cop disappears and the investigators get hunted/marked for elimination, while occasionally getting help from the "good" feds.

- As a railroad device, Dr. Armitage might ask the players to actually proceed with the banishing thing, to prove to him that they mean business, before he can trust then and maybe let them have a peek at the forbidden books.

 

I'd like to keep the whole thing as open as possible, and I welcome any suggestion from the community, thanks in advance!


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#2 Harndon

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Posted 30 June 2017 - 03:03 PM

First point: Tying the authorities in is a good idea because it lets your player use his police connects. If it's set in the 1920s, remember, the feds are quite weak compared to today. A conspiracy of silence by local police officers, etc. makes more sense, and would be more limited in scope, which I think is often good: huge conspiracies have been done; a few low-level cops messing with paperwork to avoid unknowable horrors coming into the public eye is a bit more interesting. I can't find my copy of the Dunwich book, so I can't remember who the local cops are in that neck of the woods. 

Second point: That's hardly railroading, is it? It's an NPC saying "hey, do the quest before I give you the thing." Armitage has no reason to let random people into the restricted section. Railroading would be if you manipulate everything going on to ensure a preconceived outcome. The trick here is to find a way more subtle than Armitage saying "you have to join my secret monster-fighting club." 



#3 boulash

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Posted 30 June 2017 - 06:26 PM

Thanks a lot, that's already really helpful! I didn't realise the feds were weaker in the 20's, most of what I know about them comes from the Untouchables :) (I grew up in France and my history classes focused mostly on Europe when it came to the 20's, the US suddenly became interesting in 1929). You are absolutely right about the 2nd point not being railroady, because they can still refuse (it probably shows how wary I am of my own GM flaws).

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#4 Harndon

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Posted 30 June 2017 - 06:50 PM

A general theme is the US government getting more authority over the states as time has gone by. Prohibition was an area where the federal government had more power than average, because the 18th amendment was a national-level thing. An American lawyer friend of mine explained growing federal power in criminal law as having to do with increasingly creative interpretations of the federal power to regulate commerce between the states, but I don't think I fully understood him to be honest. 

 

Railroading is tricky. I find it is only a problem when the GM wants something particular to happen/not happen, or the scenario requires it. This is the final word on the subject as far as I'm concerned. Congratulations on working to give players more choice: I find that the times where I and my players have the least fun is when I'm running a published scenario that requires railroading. 



#5 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 30 June 2017 - 08:27 PM

1. Have your players read "The Dunwich Horror"?

 

2. If they want to track down the Whateley angle, can you just run the Dunwich campaign? 


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#6 boulash

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 08:57 AM

Hail to the king,

 

1. I think one has, but he's either not remembering it clearly or wonderfully avoiding the meta-gaming

2. Do you mean the "Return to Dunwich" adventure? I have it in my collection but I haven't played nor GMed nor read it, is it any good?


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#7 Harndon

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 02:48 PM

The Dunwich book, like the Innsmouth book, is labelled as an adventure but doubles as a guide. You could easily build a Dunwich campaign - lots of creepy small-town weirdness, lots of "hey looks like you missed the bus; where ya gonna sleep." I can't find my copy, and haven't been able to for years, but as I recall it could support a campaign with "power levels" ranging from "backwoods guy with a shotgun trying to kill ya" to "you are exploring the horrible alien underground temple."



#8 Gaffer

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 05:41 PM

Avoid the feds, as they have no possible jurisdiction over a case in which a trespasser was killed. They wouldn't deign to get involved. Harndon's idea about the local police covering up because the corpse is just too weird is much better.

Remember that Wilbur has no relatives that care much about him and they're all the way out in Dunwich. Easy to drop him into a pauper's grave and forget the whole thing. The PI's cop friend may stonewall him on this; he's probably already stonewalled all the local press.

Also, keep in mind that Dunwich is far outside the Arkham PD's jurisdiction. How long ago was Wilbur's death? if this is also after the 'Son of Yog-sooth Incident,' the question becomes: Do any of the local authorities (county or state) connect the two incidents and what do they THINK happened out in Dunwich?

As for Orne Library, what kind of privileges do any of the investigators have to be in there? Are any of them MU students or faculty? Most university libraries at this time operated on a 'closed stacks' system in which you wrote out your requested volumes and submitted the list to a librarian who retrieved them for you. Not even undergrads were allowed to just browse the stacks. The restricted volumes are probably kept in a locked room on an upper, 'staff only' floor in a room that only the librarians (not student assistants) can access. The REALLY restricted Mythos-type books may even be in a safe in the head librarian's office.

AND this is after Wilbur's stunt, so they may have increased their security set up.
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#9 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 06:56 PM

2. Do you mean the "Return to Dunwich" adventure? I have it in my collection but I haven't played nor GMed nor read it, is it any good?

 

I think it's really good, and has a great mix of supernatural stuff and just plain human terribleness. It's also one giant sandbox. 


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#10 Harndon

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 07:43 PM

Avoid the feds, as they have no possible jurisdiction over a case in which a trespasser was killed. They wouldn't deign to get involved. Harndon's idea about the local police covering up because the corpse is just too weird is much better.

Remember that Wilbur has no relatives that care much about him and they're all the way out in Dunwich. Easy to drop him into a pauper's grave and forget the whole thing. The PI's cop friend may stonewall him on this; he's probably already stonewalled all the local press.
 

 

Does OP have access to the Arkham book? The Arkham book basically has every block in the city having 3 Mythos threats (I exaggerate slightly). It makes sense there would be a couple guys at the PD, nothing official, nothing especially acknowledged, but when something weird happens, you kick it over to Fred and Bill. They'll make sure that people turned inside out or corpses missing their organs without any evidence of how those organs got out get categorized as "misadventure" and they'll talk to the reporters and make sure nothing upsetting ends up in the paper.



#11 boulash

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 08:31 PM

Thanks to all of you, this is all really inspiring.

 

I came up with the feds because of the Innsmouth raid, but I can probably turn it around, the info came from the old cop who "thought they were feds", so the individuals who "took over"/covered up might as well be cultists or whatever, helped by the corrupt police chief.

 

In my setting, the books are really safe at the moment, Dr. Armitage actually had the special room turned into a vault, walling the previous entrance and installing a massive vault door in his office (using the map from "Arkham Unveiled", it actually works).

 

I mentioned the incident with Wilbur only to provide some rationale for this as some player were suspecting Armitage. So a story got in some newspapers and one of the characters could remember that.

I kind of got caught off-guard with the whole thing so I had to improvise, but I re-read the short story, and the body actually dissolves before the medical examiner arrives.

I guess I'm gonna go with "the dogmaster had a glimpse of what happened and sold his story to a muckraking newspaper". So the story wasn't really accurate and kind of unsourced/unreliable. Does anybody know if there were any equivalent for "News of the World" in the 20s?

 

And I'll start preparing Return to Dunwich then :)


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#12 Gaffer

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Posted 02 July 2017 - 01:07 AM

Lots of newspapers, I'll go so far as to say most, published a lot of stuff with precious little verification, anything to fill space. This was especially true outside the major cities where they didn't have lots of people making lots of news every week.

Some stories were press agentry to keep someone's name in the paper when they were between engagements. Some of them were self-promotion, like a story about miraculous cures a couple of states over just before the tent revival or medicine show rolled into town. Some papers would make up stories that then got reprinted elsewhere, sometimes for years, and some of those were shaggy dog stories no one was expected to believe, but some people did. And over time the stories got added to and embellished and stretched out of shape.

Anything to sell newspapers and keep advertisers.
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#13 Harndon

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Posted 02 July 2017 - 01:51 PM

Lots of newspapers, I'll go so far as to say most, published a lot of stuff with precious little verification, anything to fill space. This was especially true outside the major cities where they didn't have lots of people making lots of news every week.

Some stories were press agentry to keep someone's name in the paper when they were between engagements. Some of them were self-promotion, like a story about miraculous cures a couple of states over just before the tent revival or medicine show rolled into town. Some papers would make up stories that then got reprinted elsewhere, sometimes for years, and some of those were shaggy dog stories no one was expected to believe, but some people did. And over time the stories got added to and embellished and stretched out of shape.

Anything to sell newspapers and keep advertisers.

 

Of course, everything is better now.

 

Related: a campaign where the characters were muckraking journalists could be a lot of fun. A 1920s version of Phenomen-X from DG: Countdown basically. Every adventure where the PCs got in over their head could just be written off as "we ran away, then made up a story about what was going on."



#14 boulash

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Posted 03 July 2017 - 09:05 AM

Of course, everything is better now.

 

(LOL)

 

I tried Channel Fear, which would be just that in the present, that was a lot of fun.


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#15 Ric

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 09:15 AM

The premise in Return to Dunwich is Armitage asking the investigators to go to Dunwich and see if anything else is going down. This could be the kind of reward - show me you are serious with the Merriweather business, and I bring you into my secrets. They get a peek at the book and then get to investigate Dunwich. Armitage, of course, plays cards close to his chest and does not tell them much either. 







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