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wcburns

How much non-mythos stuff is in your games?

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wcburns

This might be a bit of an odd question to ask about a game involving Cthulhu Mythos content, but do any keepers involve content of a mundane nature, and if so, how much?

 

When going from one gaming adventure to the next, I imagine that it's common that one simply says that a certain amount of time has gone by, assuming that the players have lived through the last adventure with their wits intact. This can allow your players to take a college course, read that moldering tome they found, seek therapy, etc. 

 

There is however the potential for single sessions and even whole scenarios set within regular reality. I know of at least one published scenario that seems supernatural at first but turns out to be relatively normal. Various character types, namely Police and Criminals, could have pretty interesting stories without bringing monsters and gods into the mix.

 

A keeper could also make things more open-ended, allowing players to look into leads that don't end up having anything to do with the Cthulhu Mythos, which makes sense given how obscure and little-known such material is supposed to be in-game.

 

It likely depends on how regular your games are, of course. While the monsters are what bring people to the table, I don't necessarily want to make it look like tentacles are spilling out of every hole in the ground. And perhaps, sometimes, the murder you're investigating turns out to be a regular crime disguised to be a cult sacrifice. And of course, it also allows the players to use their characters without as much of a high likelihood of them being physically or mentally destroyed (not that they know this while playing).

I'm curious what others do in this regard, particularly any keepers who run a regular weekly/monthly game.

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DeUniversumMysteriis

My group doesn't play very often but I'm planning on running a more "mundane" adventure indeed. I've found this potentially really fun scenario called "La Disparue de Pigalle" (The Missing Girl of Pigalle) from Saint Epondyle and will adapt it to our current campaign (The scenario takes place in France and our campaign is set in Massachusetts).

 

Basically it's about a man who snaped and kidnaped a prostitute the investigators know. The characters will have to find out who the abductor is and where the prostitue is held captive. There is nothing supernatural about the case (Except the fact that the culprit tried to use a love potion on his victim but it didn't work at all. I'll use this element as a way for the investigators to meet the guy who made and sold the potion. I'll use him in another adventure) and it's a race against time for the abductor will eventually kill the prostitute.

 

It's also a good opportunity for me to flesh out my campaign setting (The prostitute was working for a local mob boss which could have a more important role later in the campaign)

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mvincent

1) Since I run published scenarios: by default those are expected to have mythosy content... that's what we're here for. However, some (like BtMoM) might still contain a lot of non-mythosy portions.

2) Since I'm a simulationist GM: the PC's can do whatever they like. Sometimes this might involve mundane matters (and that's fine).

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Patterns

Our group been talking about how much fun a long-form campaign would be. Multiple cases, recurring characters, familiar neighbourhoods. More mundane events would definitely fit in perfectly.

 

I would still like to keep it line with that sense of Lovecraftian weirdness. Mundane in that sense would mean mysteries about architecture, art, bibliophilia, bloodlines or scary foreigners. The classic Call of Cthulhu reflex of throwing in tommy guns and gangsters feels just a bit unhelpful for me, personally.

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DAR

I am usually pretty happy to use mundane events in my CoC games. Sometimes that means 100% mundane (murder by the Mob rather than cult killing for example), sometimes that means non-Mythos monster like a werewolf or a ghost or a vampire. Generally it keeps the players on thier toes and keeps the sense that the Mythos is wierd and invariably deadly and dangerous far beyond "mundane" things.

 

That said I also like unsolvable mysteries - letting the players stumble over something obviously occult/Mythos in nature but not actively dangerous or "a problem" where there is no solution. It just... is...

 

That really tends to freak players out because they are trained to believe that there is always a solution, that there is always a threat, and that thier "job" is to find it and find it and deal with it.

 

Breaking that unspoken rule of CoC gaming can provide some of the creepiest games as they stumble around trying to make and unworkable "solution" work and just entangled in increasing layers of wierdness or simply find that leads and information trickle away... They spend the reast of the campaign trying to make everything else "solve" that old "problem" or wander around in paranoia waiting for "the thing they missed" to finally come home to roost - and it never does.

 

D. 

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wcburns

Good thoughts all around.

My first scenario planned is a one-shot set on a boat, thus is not as open ended (possibly a little railroad-ish, but that's a whole other topic). I'm starting to think about things to do with the characters afterward. There are a few specifically who I'll give a reason -beyond the planned exposure to mythos horrors- to look into matters of the occult and supernatural. 

As I imagine real life paranormal investigators experience, much if not all of what they investigate would turn out to be hoaxes, superstitions with plausible explanations, and plain old bunk. Most of these can and should be handwaved away between the played scenarios, but it might be interesting to play one out as you would a conventional CoC scenario.

 

I guess I like the idea of red herrings and subverting the expectations a bit, to prevent the players themselves from getting too used to cosmic horrors.
 

 

 

The classic Call of Cthulhu reflex of throwing in tommy guns and gangsters feels just a bit unhelpful for me, personally.

 

I can appreciate that. The thought of doing something Prohibition related, on either side of the law, has certainly crossed my mind. It's very easy to feel compelled to add some form of action, whether from monster or man, to a tabletop RPG session to keep things interesting. Fortunately, I don't currently have any gangsters or G-men in my player roster currently, so that can be at least partly avoided.
 

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DeUniversumMysteriis

My first scenario planned is a one-shot set on a boat, thus is not as open ended (possibly a little railroad-ish, but that's a whole other topic). I'm starting to think about things to do with the characters afterward. There a few specifically who I'll give a reason -beyond the planned exposure to mythos horrors- to look into matters of the occult and supernatural. 

 

For my campaign I kind of cheated about that part

 

The investigators don't know it yet but one of them has been chosen by the big bad guy who sends him nightmarish visions in his sleeps. The visions will become more frequent and worse during the course of the campaign and I expect the players to start looking for a solution.

 

 

As I imagine real life paranormal investigators experience, much if not all of what they investigate would turn out to be hoaxes, superstitions with plausible explanations, and plain old bunk. Most of these can and should be handwaved away between the played scenarios, but it might be interesting to play one out as you would a conventional CoC scenario.

 

Not exactly what you're looking for but You could turn this point upside down and make something that just screams Hoax a very real event for your campaign. In one adventure I wrote, one of the investigator (A journalist) was searching for clues about a "Thunderbird", legendary animal of Native American folklore. It was her plot hook. The group got distracted during the adventure but they could have discovered the remains of the creature... Who was actually a Byakhee.

 

I can appreciate that. The thought of doing something Prohibition related, on either side of the law, has certainly crossed my mind. It's very easy to feel compelled to add some form of action, whether from monster or man, to a tabletop RPG session to keep things interesting. Fortunately, I don't currently have any gangsters or G-men in my player roster currently, so that can be at least partly avoided.

 

Action, yes, and also some cannon-fodder. A bunch of heavy armed gangsters who gets torn apart could be a very effective way to tell the players they shouldn't try to fight a creature head-on.

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bayoubrigh

Knowing your players is the best guide to how much 'non-mythos' you can include. For the first sessions of novice player groups I try to keep the mythos minimized - but then increasing the amount as they play more. Often introductory adventures follow this path as well. For more experienced players my experience has been frustrating if they aren't finding mythos elements earlier.

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Eusebio

The mundane can work very well, in my experience. When you notice your players start to 'metagame' a bit (we're playing CoC, so the murder has to have an occult background!), it can sometimes be very useful to lay of the occult for a gamenight. I used to run a series of smaller CoC LARP events when I noticed this very effect in play, so I inserted an event with an occult red herring (a patient who thought the asylum was built on an ancient burial sight and he had to ward off the Wendigo), while the main plot was a group of insane family members that actually ran the asylum. 

 

Yes, there was insanity, yes there was horror, but it had nothing to do with the occult or Mythos.

 

Players fell for the trap/red herring , realized their mistakes too late and ended up all dying in several, gruesome ways. They loved it.

 

In fact, that's one of the reasons why I like the Mountains of Madness campaign so much: the first and larger part of the campaign can be run as a very mundane expedition, with hints of something at large here and there, but nothing really substantial. It gradually builds up, which eases the players into it (and into insanity).

 

But as always, it's about knowing your players and what they (are) like. 

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ReydeAmarillo

I wrote and ran a Jack the Ripper campaign with very few Mythos encounters. The vast majority of scenarios were based around investigating the murders and trying to track the murder. It could quite easily be rewritten as totally mundane.

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wharfedalehome

wcburns - I think that's a very good question. I actually prefer to focus my games on the real world, and introduce the Mythos almost as an afterthought...the horror! I know...

 

the way i see it is that you need to establish believability first and introduce the curious, the nasty and the downright terrible gradually on top of mundane things. However "mundane" can be interpretted in many ways. I like to  anchor that mundaness in the period (ie: 1920s generally). So rather than just the odd bull nose Morris, nippy maid or flat cap I like to bring in things like: the Russian Civil War, the dedication of the Cenotaph,  the Empire Exhibition, The Arcos raid, the Zinoviev letter, the General Strike and so forth. You could use similar Americano-centric (is that a word?) instead of British ones of course.  Sometimes I use them as significant plot lines, oftentimes just as wallpaper. Either way the idea is to say "you're in the 1920s now boys". I t helps let go and focus on this other world.


I also like to use music too...sometimes period music, but it can be a bit warbly (if original recordings) but like to introduce a scenario occasionally with Nick Cave's "red Right Hand"... You've all heard it -it's the signature tune to Peaky Blinders...and we all know what 1920s mayhem the Shelby's get involved in - lol.

 

In fact I could see a group of investigators as various members of the Shelby family. Maybe a bit short on analysis and a bit long on violence - but many Players pretty much are psychologically there already in my experience. They do like detailed and convoluted plots, so why not be Mythos inspired as well?

 

For anybody across the pond who's not seen Peaky Blinders. It's like the Sopranos but with attitude, oh and flat caps of course. If MBO, or whoever, screen it watch out for it, your CoC sessions are unlikely to be the same again afterwards.

 

I also like to use music too...sometimes period music, but it can be a bit warbly (if original recordings) but like to introduce a scenario occasionally with Nick Cave's "red Right Hand"... You've all heard it -it's the signature tune to Peaky Blinders...and we all know what 1920s mayhem the Shelby's get involved in - lol. In fact I could see a group of investigators as variois members Shelby tfamily

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eternalchampion

Wharfedalehome said almost everything for me too. Our games are usually in a contex that seems very realistic. We play usually single shots in various eras, but I prefer contemporary scenarios. Hence, the scenarios usually have strong elements of the social and political situation of the era and place. Especially inn “modern times†this gives the impression that the supernatural horror invades in what we consider familiar, which might not be perfect or even beautiful, but is what we have learned to consider normal.

 

The appearance of Mythos can have a complementary role, (to the evil that men do), or might just whip everything out.

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wcburns

Wharfedalehome: I just recently watched the three seasons (series I think they're called in the UK?) of Peaky Blinders that are available on Netflix here in Canada. I do very much look forward to the next one, whenever it comes out.

I like your ideas of adding local historical events. My story will initially take place in San Francisco (which I never been but read a couple California sourcebooks in preparation). 

 

There's some really cool history provided in terms of organized labour that I'm looking to flesh out with one of my characters, if it works out for them. It even mentions vigilance committees, a term familiar with those who've watched Peaky Blinders.

 

In any case, I'm still working out how I'm going to organize my games. I'll probably do full groups for "proper" scenarios, and maybe do occasional one-on-ones or smaller groups for more mundane things. Say if people are going to a fancy ball or event, wherein they get some random information or contacts, or spend some time performing their occupations / downtime.

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yronimoswhateley

A lot depends on the audience, the scenario, and on what you mean by "mythos stuff", I think.

 

For a sprawling home-made mythos campaign, I would imagine I would mix in a lot of ambiguously "mythos" stuff (things that are arguably mundane, but might have mythos overtones), ambiguously generic supernatural stuff (stuff that seems supernatural but could have a mundane explanation and/or mythos overtones), stuff using home-made or non-Lovecraft mythos, stuff using heavily personalized Lovecraft mythos, and more straightforward Lovecraft mythos; I use a similar mix for stand-alone scenarios.

 

For smaller campaigns, I would probably use less of a mix, picking a theme and sticking to it, with the amount of mythos stuff being tailored to what the group and I are interested in doing.

 

I almost never run longer campaigns and I've never run a published one, but if I were to use a published campaign as-is, it would probably run more toward mainstream, straightforward "generic mythos" content than I would be likely to use on my own.

 

And then, does home-brew content count as "mythos stuff"?  A home-brewed adaptation of August Derleth's unpopular version of the mythos?  A more traditional ghost story or detective story involving the mythos only indirectly?  A vampire or werewolf or other such "generic" horror story with the trappings of the mythos added to it?

 

I think different people would answer such questions differently, and those answers might well change over time, and, depending on who you ask, a "purist" might say that very little of a given campaign is "Tr00 kvlt mythos!", while someone else might argue that the same campaign is almost entirely "mythos" based on a less specific and narrow definition....

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wcburns

A lot depends on the audience, the scenario, and on what you mean by "mythos stuff", I think.

 

For the purposes of this thread, I suppose by 'mythos stuff', I'm referring to anything along the lines of alien entities / deities, human cultists and acolytes of the same, weird technology & artifacts, mind-shattering books from ages past. These can be taken from the direct works of HP Lovecraft, August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith etc, or homemade in the same sort of style. The sort of things that would cause your PCs to question existence itself, and cause sanity-losing events that perhaps a more classical monster like a vampire might not to the same extent.

 

To be fair, I have said mundane a bit, which could certainly just mean no horror, period.

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Eusebio

Mundane and horror are not mutually exclusive, in my opinion. A psychotic serial killer that stalks the players can certainly bring an element of horror, without having anything to do with the mythos. 

 

I do however agree with your definition of the mythos. All the rest (vampires, witches, ...) I would label the occult myself.

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DrMonster

I think the real world Ku Klux Klan would make a terrifying opponent for adventurers in any pulp era game. The organization is at the height of its power and influence in the mid 1920s. Unlike our current cartoon view of them, members don't wear robes most of the time, they have a whole shopping list of people they dislike (Catholics, Jews, Republicans, foreigners, northerners). Unlike typical Cthulhu cultists, the Klan has a large membership, political clout, and lots of funds to carry out its agenda. Klansmen may be capable of doing evil things but they aren't crazy, and they may be perfectly nice, reasonable folks until the adventurers cross them somehow. Worst of all, PCs don't know who they are -- they could be the grocery boy, the pastor, the beat cop or sheriff, that sweet little old lady who waves at them from her garden. Who can the heroes trust?

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wharfedalehome

I think DrMonster's right...the KKK would make a formidable opponent. Also there would be no reason not to add Mythos elements to their distorted beliefs if you wanted to keep it main stream (ie: mainstream CoC) although they're nasty enough in their own I guess. They are also living proof, if any were needed, of the existence of extreme cults and the power they can wield.

 

I actually think this has a wider application.. that of where the mundane and the Mythos meet. Just such wild and improbable places where the mundane is dramatic but believable, makes good crossovers into the fantastical we all so love.


On the subject of the mundane meeting the Mythos.... I've just started reading The Galapagos Affair by John Treherne. It deals with strange and nasty events amongst a group of European colonists in the 1930s on an island in the Galapagos Archipelago. I've not read it yet, so I've only a vague notion of the detail, but already it seems ripe with possibilities for introducing the Mythos into what is otherwise mundane, albeit extraordinary, events.

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wharfedalehome

Wharfedalehome: I just recently watched the three seasons (series I think they're called in the UK?) of Peaky Blinders that are available on Netflix here in Canada. I do very much look forward to the next one, whenever it comes out.

 

I like your ideas of adding local historical events. My story will initially take place in San Francisco (which I never been but read a couple California sourcebooks in preparation). 

 

There's some really cool history provided in terms of organized labour that I'm looking to flesh out with one of my characters, if it works out for them. It even mentions vigilance committees, a term familiar with those who've watched Peaky Blinders.

 

In any case, I'm still working out how I'm going to organize my games. I'll probably do full groups for "proper" scenarios, and maybe do occasional one-on-ones or smaller groups for more mundane things. Say if people are going to a fancy ball or event, wherein they get some random information or contacts, or spend some time performing their occupations / downtime.

 

WC - glad you're enjoying Peaky Blinders. They are rather cartoon like as characters and plots, but a rich source of gaming inspiration, even if not necessarily good drama. The Peakies fall foul of the New York Mafia in Series 4. I won't reveal the details of course...but somebody gets their clock cleaned as we say over here - lol.

 

I suggested originally, in a mad moment, that the Peakies might make an odd, but interesting, investigative team. However on consideration, how much better would they be as opponents. I'd rather face the KKK (game-wise I mean) than those nasty delinquents.

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DeUniversumMysteriis

I think the real world Ku Klux Klan would make a terrifying opponent for adventurers in any pulp era game. The organization is at the height of its power and influence in the mid 1920s. Unlike our current cartoon view of them, members don't wear robes most of the time, they have a whole shopping list of people they dislike (Catholics, Jews, Republicans, foreigners, northerners). Unlike typical Cthulhu cultists, the Klan has a large membership, political clout, and lots of funds to carry out its agenda. Klansmen may be capable of doing evil things but they aren't crazy, and they may be perfectly nice, reasonable folks until the adventurers cross them somehow. Worst of all, PCs don't know who they are -- they could be the grocery boy, the pastor, the beat cop or sheriff, that sweet little old lady who waves at them from her garden. Who can the heroes trust?

 

That sounds so interesting to play. oO

 

And you're limited to the Classic Era. Sure nowadays the Klan isn't as big as it used to be but it's still a thing.

 

And it's not impossible to connect it to some Mythos. Ladybug, Ladybug Fly Away Home from Jeff Moeller is an adventure about a christian cult with members that are your typical survivalists, right-wing extremists etc.. The Klan doesn't appear in the adventure but it could be namedrop easily.

 

And for the Mythos part...

 

 

The Cult worships an avatar of Nyarlathotep disguised as an Biblical Angel of Death.

 

 

WC - glad you're enjoying Peaky Blinders. They are rather cartoon like as characters and plots, but a rich source of gaming inspiration, even if not necessarily good drama. The Peakies fall foul of the New York Mafia in Series 4. I won't reveal the details of course...but somebody gets their clock cleaned as we say over here - lol.

 

I suggested originally, in a mad moment, that the Peakies might make an odd, but interesting, investigative team. However on consideration, how much better would they be as opponents. I'd rather face the KKK (game-wise I mean) than those nasty delinquents.

 

I don't know about the quality of the show but Peaky Blinders (And HBO's Boardwalk Empire) is an excellent source for illustrations. (I only use photos, at least for the character portraits)

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yronimoswhateley

I think the real world Ku Klux Klan would make a terrifying opponent for adventurers in any pulp era game. The organization is at the height of its power and influence in the mid 1920s. Unlike our current cartoon view of them, members don't wear robes most of the time, they have a whole shopping list of people they dislike (Catholics, Jews, Republicans, foreigners, northerners). Unlike typical Cthulhu cultists, the Klan has a large membership, political clout, and lots of funds to carry out its agenda. Klansmen may be capable of doing evil things but they aren't crazy, and they may be perfectly nice, reasonable folks until the adventurers cross them somehow. Worst of all, PCs don't know who they are -- they could be the grocery boy, the pastor, the beat cop or sheriff, that sweet little old lady who waves at them from her garden. Who can the heroes trust?

 

I'd never thought of it before, but the KKK might make for a terrifying and interesting addition to a campaign for those reasons; and, worst of all, in a fictional world where there really are alien or hybrid monsters disguised as humans, the KKK can even claim some "jerk has a point" points... after all, in the end, how many real differences are there in what the KKK claim to stand for and apparently believe they are doing, and what investigators normally do?

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wcburns

I honestly never considered the Klan, given my chosen location of San Francisco. I'm not sure what presence they had in the city, and the Chaosium sourcebook for the city doesn't specifically mention them.

 

There is Chinatown of course, though it was more insular, probably more to the Klan's liking. But if any form of mythos-based events end up affecting the city, it might be a good excuse for them to make an appearance as an additional concern for the investigators.

In any case, they could certainly be a good red herring, particularly if you have any PCs of colour in your group. What might seem like cultists stalking you might be klansmen.

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fluffy

I rather echo most of what's already been said in saying that the players' expectations of your adventure need to be met.

 

This however doesn't mean you pander to their whims, just that you as keeper should be aware of what your players' 'switches' are.

You will get a good deal of lead on this from your history with your players so having decided on your campaign you will tweak it to match their expectations.

You will get more info of their current appetites at character creation, this is where you observe the cries of, " but I need more points to make my character affective/believable/godlike".

Be charitable at your peril. You have to balance the risk with the assembled team against your threat. Mundane aspects create your filling, if you like, to the mythos sandwich, the carrying layer (bread) being the shared acceptance of the environment and rules.

 

The spice you use is your own recipe for hotting up the action, your creatures, cultists, mythos objects etc.

Mundane aspects are vital to retain players' grounding to the plot. I believe that researching the mundane is one of the delights of our hobby.

Well thats my twopennorth.

 

Good gaming.

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WinstonP

I'd never thought of it before, but the KKK might make for a terrifying and interesting addition to a campaign for those reasons; and, worst of all, in a fictional world where there really are alien or hybrid monsters disguised as humans, the KKK can even claim some "jerk has a point" points... after all, in the end, how many real differences are there in what the KKK claim to stand for and apparently believe they are doing, and what investigators normally do?

 

I strongly disagree. The KKK are white supremicists organization who believe in a fantasy of one human group being biologically superior to another and who use violence and intimidation to maintain (or hope to restore) a racist system of white political dominance. Mythos investigators know the truth of mankind’s utter valuelessness and impotence in the universe and who use violence to delay our extermination.

 

Cultists and Klansman both wear robes and deserve no quarter.

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Beyond14

I strongly disagree. The KKK are white supremicists organization who believe in a fantasy of one human group being biologically superior to another and who use violence and intimidation to maintain (or hope to restore) a racist system of white political dominance. Mythos investigators know the truth of mankind’s utter valuelessness and impotence in the universe and who use violence to delay our extermination.

 

Cultists and Klansman both wear robes and deserve no quarter.

 

But if Mythos investigators are convinced of the pointlessness of it all, why do they bother? What's the value in putting off human extinction if  humanity is utterly without value? I don't get it.

 

RE the Klan

 

I could see KKK types as non-Mythos foils, unexpected allies, or creepy cultists. They work for all these roles.

 

Non-Mythos foil= a mysterious 'cult' that is conducting strange nocturnal rituals and has kidnapped a sympathetic NPC turns out to be the local Klavern up to no good.

Pull off the mask, Scooby Doo style! 

This works well with political corruption cases.

 

 

Unexpected allies: The party has previously helped a local businessmen, sheriff, minister, or some other such person. He learns they are investigating some kind of criminal or occult matter involving ''dirty foreigners'' and ''coloreds", and has offered to help them in what small ways he can. Seems like a decent guy. (A bit prejudiced, but hey, it's the 20s! The investigators quite possibly share some of his feelings and attitudes. Or maybe not. )

Later, at some point when serious trouble has developed, Klansmen show up to aid the party. Need some cultists rounded up? We brought bloodhounds and shotguns. 

 

 

 Cultists: I'm sure someone on this forum has already suggested a Cthuga Klan variant. Or should that be Kthuga? ''Call down His holy fire, brothers! Burn the unclean!"

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