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- Arkham [Trail of Cthulhu solo roleplaying and story creation]
Posted by : Frank Lee September 9, 2013
Welcome to Arkham, a solo campaign and story creation using Trail of Cthulhu. The idea behind this adventure is that it's set in a story-verse akin to an HBO series about Lovecraft's writing. Imagine a cross between Game of Thrones and Lost, but in Arkham, Massachusetts. The great thing about the Adventure Creator is that it's tools are completely expandable and adaptable, meaning you're free to use any story structure you want, including a TV script act structure! Much like a viewer tuning into a show for the first time, I have very little idea as to what the actual plot is, or who the characters will be. But I don't need to! Let's begin.
This adventure will start soon!
So I already have some ideas about what this will be about. It's a story that slowly involves an ever increasing group of characters who in are in Arkham, who must oppose or otherwise be entangled in the plot of an ancient warlock who plans to utilize his profane knowledge to take a large step into godhood.
I'm going to try and organize things into ten episode seasons, each using four acts like I covered in my post about using TV structure. This could of course turn into an overly long nightmare of a campaign if I plan on going several seasons and don't do something to manage the time. As such I'm going to be trying to emulate a television show's speed as well as structure. Scenes will occur quickly, I'm going to try and improvise rather than roll and consider the setups to scenes, and instead focus my story-creating energy on each act and what I want it to contain.
Let's get started making up some basic characters from the Trail of Cthulhu system. I'm going to try and keep the action and description more narrative, including in the character creation, though I will interject with information about the crunchy rules and such with little editor tags [Like this!]. So let's think up some characters and get their character sheets filled out.
I know the first character I want is a young woman, an out of towner who is Arkham for some extended stay. She'll be a nice viewpiece for the audience (that's me and you!), and perhaps the heart of the story as one of the main characters. Let's say she's 24, named Alice Cobbleton and we'll figure out her job and why she's in town.
Looking over the rules, I have a background in mind, Alice is the daughter of a well-to-do family and has been sent north to Arkham to help take care of her ailing grandmother, who none of the family thinks has very long, but may as well be comforted by the presence of a close granddaughter than just the company of some nurse. She doesn't have to work a job, but instead plans to provide some pleasant company and generally have a low-key few months in a city she doesn't think will have much to offer her.
Alice is not the type to join in the party of the roaring 20s, yet a part of her secretly wishes she could: the anonymous newspaper accounts of famous speakeasies, the people there, the wild times being had, she wishes she could write stuff like that. She's an amateur columnist, but she has a hard time finding anything truly worth writing about.
[Alice has the Dilettante career, and since she's an aspiring writer she's received a variety of related skills such as library use, art, and oral history. She's also a wily and resourceful protagonist and has received a variety of helpful skills for someone in her position such as assess honesty, sense trouble, and stealth. She has a 6 Stability (lowish), meaning situations can easily shock her, but an 11 Sanity (highish), meaning she has a deep inner reserve of strength and is able to withstand horror and stress over the long term.]
Now let's figure out some other important tropes of a Lovecraftian world that we just can't leave out. We'll have a private investigator, he'd work as the perfect foil for our young lady. We'll need Miskatonic University involved so we'll need a professor or two, maybe a grad student. There's no way I can't have a jazz club in town be involved, so why not make a jazz musician and a few NPC buddies. That won't be everything, but that's a pretty good start for now.
Our private investigator, Henry Moscinski, he's the tough as nails type. Knows a lot about the world of cops but would never work as one as he has a neurotic distaste for society's authority and means of control. Slightly more handsome than a Dashiell Hammett character, he's not the type to deeply question himself or how he lives his life. He'll handle terrible situations without stopping to think too deeply about them, which will provide him some small protection mentally.
[He's a pulp style P.I. He's good at beating people up, talking people over, and being moody in a masculine sort of way. He's only got a Sanity of 8 to start, he doesn't have a lot of pillars of mental strength to begin with, he isn't religious, isn't a patriot, and doesn't really have faith in anybody but those who show they possess moral character explicitly.]
For Miskatonic University, I'm sure the tale may eventually pull in a pile of NPCs, but we'll start with a PC professor and graduate assistant. They'll both be involved in the field of ancient languages and writings. Our professor, let's make him male, English, and around 60. The graduate student can be a woman, around 26.
Arthur Pennrose is 61, a professor of ancient languages, and is well versed in many of the mythological writings of early human history. He's generally going to be good at academic things like ancient languages and history and dealing with department chairs. His main drive will be Curiosity, he's not some out of control academic seeking ever higher plateaus of knowledge, rather curious and likely criminal events at Miskatonic will lead him into discovering more of the story.
Mildred Daly is his graduate assistant. She's getting close to receiving her PhD herself, maybe in another year or so. She knows basically what Dr. Pennrose knows, though her general skills include more athleticism and stealth, being young and still fit. Her main drive is that of a Follower.
The jazz musician character will be a sort of diamond in the rough type, he lives a fun life of playing jazz music in speakeasies, but he's surrounded by mundane people without much purpose. He, however, has the spark of adventure in him, which causes him to be quick to get himself involved where he doesn't belong. He's part of a jazz trio, so he's got two good friends and bandmates with him.
Let's name him Glen Harper, trumpet player, occasional singer, and leader of a jazz trio. Him and his friends Angelo and Bernard make enough to get by playing in the clubs around Arkham and some surrounding stops. Being up late at night at anti-authoritarian establishments can lead to spending time with trouble causing people. Glen's only 28, but from the way he acts if he told anyone he was 40 they'd believe it without question. His drive is Adventure.
That'll be enough to get the story started and we'll find the rest of the characters as we go. For now I think these characters will all provide different introduction points to the story, and we'll be able to bounce around between them until they eventually meet and become one unified PC group. Which should take a few episodes!
With all that said, let's move on to our pilot episode...