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Danharms

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Danharms

If, for the sake of argument, someone were to write a source for Call of Cthulhu players on Boston, what would you want to see in it?

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David_Conyers

Secrets Of Boston structured like Secrets of Kenya with lots of references to stories, lovecrafte and others, plus reference to gaming scenarios and 2-4 scenarios. Maybe a reprint from the one in The Great Old Ones

 

How's that?

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Chad Out of Space

A final definitive answer to the mystery of what caused the Boston Molasses Incident.

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dce

Because of the way the CoC game has developed, Boston is a kind of "default setting" for the game book ... so it definitely needs better description than it has received to date.

 

Personally, though, I've found the format followed for the U.S. City sourcebooks to be a little bland and uninspiring (apologies if any of the writers are out there). Boston definitely needs to be described in a rich and colourful way that evokes its unique history and the local "weird colour" that would make it a place for Cthulhu stories that is somehow different to everywhere else. Ironically, the only really good CoC setting material I remember reading about Boston so far is the excellent article about the Boston Police strike that appeared in one of the old issues of The Unspeakable Oath -- that was a perfect example of a piece of local colour that a Keeper could nicely weave into a story to make Boston feel different ...

 

Things that I (as an admitted non-American who hasn't had the privilege of visiting Boston) might find evocative of its "CoC-potential":

 

  • Weird and wonderful incidents in and around Boston (I guess pre-dating 1920s, although modern stories could benefit from anything)
  • Strange places ... perhaps more exotic and lesser-known that just what I might find by googling "Boston ghost tour" or whatever
  • Weird people
  • Some advice of information that might help me, as an utter newbie to Boston, try to get "in character" for a 1920s resident of the city, whether as a player or when presenting NPCs as a Keeper
  • What, if any, interaction Boston has with "Lovecraft Country" -- one thing that has sort of never to my mind been adequately tackled is how the real-world places and the Lovecraft-invented places "gel" together. Is Arkham just some kind of backwater that Bostonions think of as a hayseed world-unto-itself, or do people head up there on weekend drives to take in the local colour?

 

 

There are lots and lots of more standard things that such a book could also include ... like descriptions of libraries, or of asylums, etc ... but again I think that if there were scope to take a creative approach to these time-honoured sourcebook details (while still delivering the basics needed for players and keepers), that would be far preferable than just replicating what's gone before. But maybe that's just me :-)

 

I think perhaps Bostonian graveyards might be an interesting topic for a more expansive treatment, too.

 

Oh, and lots and LOTS of period photos -- Boston looked amazing in the 1920s; no (English language) sourcebook I've seen to date has made use of the wealth of public-domain sources of 1920s photos to best advantage IMHO.

 

Anyway ... just a handful of ideas. I'm sure others will have many more.

 

 

Dean (from Adelaide)

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Chad Out of Space

"A toast to dear old Boston, land of the bean and the cod.

Where the Lowells speak only to Cabots, and the Cabots speak only to God."

 

A look into these two families would yield some excellent NPCs, including the somewhat sinister president of Harvard and his oddball brother, the "Mars Canal" guy.

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WinstonP

Strange places ... perhaps more exotic and lesser-known that just what I might find by googling "Boston ghost tour" or whatever'

 

Having been on the Boston ghost tour I can tell you that the itinerary sticks very close to the Common and, oddly enough, keeps wandering into various touristy shops. Meh. Providence's tour is notably better.

 

 


I think perhaps Bostonian graveyards might be an interesting topic for a more expansive treatment, too.

 

As part of another project I've mapped them all out-

http://goo.gl/maps/UCohd

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Graeme_P

Something on what the "Big Dig" was really looking for?

 

...but seriously, you have to cover the universities and libraries. How to get access to the collections (realistic and playable versions), what's in said collections (real and not so real). Of course, you would need to find someone who might know about some of that stuff. Some sort of professional librarian, perhaps? :)

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Chad Out of Space

Yes, fully agree with need for a good, colorful section on the city's extensive research resources.

 

Since Boston is also such a key setting for gaming in the burgeoning Colonial era, I would love to see a section on its eighteenth and early 19th century development, with maps to show changes. The city's identity is so rooted in history, it's important to outline the layers on which it was built. Even if only gaming in the classic 20s era, a keeper would want to play with old maps and inserts about the oldest parts of town.

 

I'd also like to see a section on the city's olde worlde social structure. Boston society in the 20s would have a lot in common with the class-sensitive Gaslight era, at least more so than many other parts of the U.S.

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The_Tatterdemalion_King

Running a Boston 20s game right now, I've gradually built up a list of exactly that.

 

The Physical Place

• Landmarks, both touristy places and a listing of places with mysterious qualities or that will show up in common CoC plots. IIRC Back Bay alone has a haunted putatively Satanic hotel (the Charlesgate), a Spiritualist temple converted to a theatre (Exeter Street Theatre), and at least one gruesome murder house.

• Background noise and sample NPCs-on-the-street for each neighbourhood.

• Made-up or historically barely-recorded places like pawn shops, gun shops, dilapidated warehouses, and other common CoC sets.

• Sample floorplans and descriptions for when they break into aforementioned shops or warehouses.

 

The People

• Real People likely to be patrons, adversaries or high-level operators like Joseph P. Kennedy, Charles "King" Solomon, Danny Walsh, the Gustin Gang, Oliver Bridge Garrett, and the like. Include enough information to use them effectively in each role, as well as offer at least one gameable interpretation of each controversy, uncertainty or unpleasantness they were involved in—what really motivated Kennedy to lobotomize his daughter? Did Danny Walsh fake his murder, and why?

 

Lay out the relationships between the criminal gangs operating in Boston at the time, even if you have to make it up. My own secondhand researches hasn't given me a clear picture at all, so there should be ample space to create fights between them.

 

• Fictional People should cover not just Lovecraft's personalities like Pickman and West but fill them out with a cast of go-to, distinctly Bostonian versions of common CoC NPC types. The occult collector, local PIs, the noted Egyptologist, whoever's picked up Pickman's clientele...

 

Things

• Harvard and other institutions of learning: What being a student or a professor in the 20s entailed, what they'd be doing, what books do they have access to, which cafés are for nerds and which are for picking up chicks?

• Same goes for any government institutions characters may be with. Also, who was corrupt and who was clean in the municipal and state governments?

• Where and how do investigators get stuff in Boston? A car? A gun? A bomb? Enough dynamite to level a two-storey house? A bottle of whiskey? A tub of heroin? Which parts of the Charles River are best for dumping bodies?

• Religion and the prevalence of various forms thereof in Boston.

• Race in Boston. What ethnicities were present? How did Bostonian culture of the time express racism? Who was involved in fighting against it?

• Class in Boston. Who was making what? Who were the richest people? Who were the poorest? What was the labour rights situation, and who was leading the fight for each side? From a mechanical POV, how is Credit Rating expressed and how should it be roleplayed?

• Private investigating in Boston and Massachusetts: What were the laws? What technology was available?

 

History

• Boston events. Not just specific dates, but general movements in the history of Boston as well (especially involving the rising or lowering fashionability or population of various neighbourhoods.

• Historical maps. Make it obvious to people why ancient Ghoul tunnels are under the North End and not the Back Bay.

• Weird Things About Boston. Ghosts, forteana, or just generalized kookiness.

 

Events

• Real Events. If you were involving PCs in historical Boston events, how would they look as scenes from a scenario?

• Fictional Events. The same, but with events from Cthulhu-related fiction.

 

Conspiracies, Cults and Organizations

• At least one BPD conspiracy, big or small 'c,' who deal with Boston's teeming anthropophage population—for them, against them, or just to cover them up.

• More traditional ghoul cults, maybe more than one. They are Boston's totem monster in CoC.

• Witches or other traditional magical practices in Boston.

• A writeup of the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight as both a group for PCs to belong to, and a cult to investigate. Might require some fuzziness or outright changes from the SOYS presentation to make it fit a Boston-centric campaign better.

• The Chapel of Contemplaoh wait I guess you have that covered.

• The American Society for Psychical Research, and the 1925 split that created the Boston Society for Psychical Research. It's such an obvious group for PCs that care should be taken to give it the kind of sinister edge that DG or PISCES has, otherwise you'll end up with a bunch of parapsychological white hats. (Real life™ helps a lot in this regard here, of course).

 

Keeper's Resources

• Drag-and-drop (or 'mad lib' for the Luddites among us) scenario outlines, to easily construct scenarios using the modular pieces presented above. No doubt the

• Guidebook for setting scenarios in Boston. Where would Mr. Corbitt live?

• Building a sandbox game out of Boston. And, if the book contains scenarios, stitching those together either in a mini-campaign or in a way to run them concurrently.

 

Campaign frames for running entire campaigns just in Boston, especially 'mundane' ones which need more real-world background than the Van Helsing Foundation Occult Research Fund.

• Cops.

• Gangsters.

• Journalists.

• Gangbusters, using all three.

• A private investigation business (with a build-your-own in chargen element).

• The ASPR/BSPR.

• The HOST.

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Black-Seal-Editor

I'd try and cross HPL with a Twenties streetmap and a detailed guide to the city, liberally sprinkled with weird but real stories from Boston newspapers over the years and excerpts from biographies and great fiction that feature Boston in the twenties...

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Sir Wulf

A Boston guidebook should also include information about nearby towns featured in the writings of Lovecraft and his circle, especially Salem.

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dce

I like the suggestion about including material sourced from Boston Newspapers of the era -- I have spent many an hour trawling over pages of the 1920s Boston Globe. It's an excellent source of period colour.

 

In my dream world I can imagine a Boston Sourcebook including a nifty full-page newspaper handout which merges real news / advertisements of the era with scattered clues and dubious articles which could spin off into any number of scenarios (either in the book, of the reader's imagining, or ideally both).

 

 

Dean (avid reader of 90 year old newspapers)

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GBSteve

Sailors and whalers.

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The_Tatterdemalion_King

Another suggestion: lists of likely contacts for Bostonians, organized by profession, neighbourhood and Credit Rating.

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ShadowDenizen

FWIW, I actually live in the Boston area, and I think a "Secrets of Boston" sourcebook would be a really compelling read!

 

For contents, most of it has been mentioned above, but an overview of the public transit system, including period pictures, would be great. (We know Pickman painted pictures of a "Ghoul Invasion" from under the subway; what would the station have looked like at that time? And there was a GREAT adventure in an old White Wolf Magazine focused on one of the "Abandoned" subway stations.)

 

And, of course, we'd need some cool scenarios.

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Chad Out of Space
FWIW, I actually live in the Boston area, and I think a "Secrets of Boston" sourcebook would be a really compelling read!

 

For contents, most of it has been mentioned above, but an overview of the public transit system, including period pictures, would be great. (We know Pickman painted pictures of a "Ghoul Invasion" from under the subway; what would the station have looked like at that time? And there was a GREAT adventure in an old White Wolf Magazine focused on one of the "Abandoned" subway stations.)

 

And, of course, we'd need some cool scenarios.

 

Speaking of transportation, whatever happened to Charlie? Why did he never return? Did he leave a diary behind? Why are the police refusing to reopen the case ?!

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wombat1
Speaking of transportation, whatever happened to Charlie? Why did he never return? Did he leave a diary behind? Why are the police refusing to reopen the case ?!

 

Ha--good catch; I remember father playing that song occasionally when I was growing up:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VMSGrY-IlU

 

Poor old Charlie--began by being trapped on the subway because of a fare increase necessary to feed the Boston Democrats and the Irish mob during Mayor Curley's administration, and now about to suffer a grim and unpleasant fate.

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Chad Out of Space
Ha--good catch; I remember father playing that song occasionally when I was growing up:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VMSGrY-IlU

 

Poor old Charlie--began by being trapped on the subway because of a fare increase necessary to feed the Boston Democrats and the Irish mob during Mayor Curley's administration, and now about to suffer a grim and unpleasant fate.

 

Yes! And soooo ironically has now become the MTA mascot.

 

Charlie Card -- my ass.

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WinstonP

Sadly that song was written in 1949. So... Sorry Charlie? ;)

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wombat1
Sadly that song was written in 1949. So... Sorry Charlie? ;)

 

There may well be a scenario there somewhere. And for those looking to be both in bad taste and political, what if a character based on Mary Jo had the "Innsmouth taint" and swam away from the car rather than wait for a U.S. Senator to do something sensible for once and wake up a stranger to use their telephone?

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Chad Out of Space
Sadly that song was written in 1949. So... Sorry Charlie? ;)

 

Interesting. Interesting. It turns out that Charlie the Tuna, an obvious Deep One hybrid, became the spokesfish for StarKist in 1961, just 22 Years after the song was written.

 

Coincidence? Oh, I don't think so.

 

No. I. Do. Not.

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Necrothesp

Personally I'm a big fan of the comprehensive geographical style used in Secrets of Los Angeles, but with a bit more information on the city's infrastructure (policing, transport, law, medicine, research etc). What I don't like are forced 'adventure hooks' added everywhere, as seen in some sourcebooks. Give me the information and I can come up with those by myself. I have nothing against well-developed and integrated fictional additions (although I do like to know what is historical and what made up), but not something that just looks like it was shoehorned in because the writer thought he ought to come up with a Mythos hook.

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WinstonP

For those interested in Boston, I checked my list of New England scenarios and I find that these scenarios are set primarily in Boston:

“The Haunted House” - CoC rulebook

“The Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight” - Shadows of Yog-Sothoth

“The House on McKinley Boulevard” - Last Rites (Modern)

“One in Darkness” - The Great Old Ones

“They Sleep by Twilight” - Worlds of Cthulhu #5

“The Thing in the Well” - Day of the Beast

Did I miss anything? I know a few tangentially involve Boston (Return to Dunwich has an NPC researcher there, for example)..

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wombat1
Personally I'm a big fan of the comprehensive geographical style used in Secrets of Los Angeles, but with a bit more information on the city's infrastructure (policing, transport, law, medicine, research etc). What I don't like are forced 'adventure hooks' added everywhere, as seen in some sourcebooks. Give me the information and I can come up with those by myself. I have nothing against well-developed and integrated fictional additions (although I do like to know what is historical and what made up), but not something that just looks like it was shoehorned in because the writer thought he ought to come up with a Mythos hook.

 

I am not entirely certain I agree except insofar as the author always ought to mark that which is fictitious. I can use or not use ideas that are presented, but having an adventure hook is never a bad thing, as far as I can tell.

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