Saturday Seed – 14 (Call of Cthulhu)

This seed is being planted for Call of Cthulhu. I prefer to run CoC in the ‘20s but this seed is for a 1990’s or modern era. Although the presentation of this story kernel is quite short, I think that this idea could easily grow into a full-fledged campaign if the villain catches the interest of the players.

The genesis of this seed is quite old and a distillation of many inspirations and concepts. It has been used in a few different forms and periods in my games, but first saw the light of day after I began working with my first scanner 20 years ago. The idea of scanning old documents unsurprisingly lead to the idea of scanning rare tomes, and what the effects of that might be. It popped into my head to present this seed this week because of a forum thread which addressed the effects of widespread, easy access to mythos lore, and what sort of mechanical choices to make in terms of the effect of that knowledge on researchers and readers. (link)

The seed:

At least one respected library, and all of the private collections with which the Investigators are associated and familiar, have recently received unsolicited promotional material discussing breakthroughs in fast, efficient, and safe non-destructive scanning of ancient documents and texts. These slick, professional mail-outs were followed up by extremely knowledgeable and professional sales calls, asking only to provide a demonstration of their products and services, and hinting that lucrative positions on their documentation and translation support staff might be available for the right candidate or candidates, skilled in ancient languages, and free to travel.

The representatives of the company, Saturn Technologies, PLC, request an opportunity to tour the collection, discuss the relative ages and materials of the items being preserved, and provide a demonstration of their scanning technique on similar items. Additional services include:

  • programmable, computer-assisted translation software
  • off-site, secure, password-accessible data storage of all scanned materials
  • 3D imaging with optional online hosting
  • optional online storefront to provide controlled access of specified materials to authorized researchers
  • user-annotated online locator of rare and significant artifacts and holdings
  • physical analysis of materials, condition, and age

The sales representatives are so knowledgeable, and so adept at connecting with people in the field of preservation, that a surprising number of normally unapproachable experts or curators of restricted collections have agreed to set up consultations or appointments to view the equipment in action, or discuss upgrading antiquated filing systems.

This in itself is not mysterious, and if Saturn Technologies were solely interested in providing these services, and creating a commercially viable network of rare tomes for international researchers, there might be nothing to investigate or get involved in… other than that, “Some things mankind was not meant to know.”

However, this is a Saturday Seed for Call of Cthulhu so… of course they are up to no good. The question of how evil, how deeply involved, and how skilled they are at their nefarious plots and plans, is up to you.

The Details:

I think it works best if the characters overhear mention of Saturn in conversation long before this plot is introduced. It might work to your benefit to have the investigators find them useful as a source of information on a case or two via their network of pay-per-view ancient documents with semi-accurate (but improving all the time thanks to input from users like you) translation.

From your point of view, Saturn can be quite similar to Occult Lodges of the past in the structure of its upper-management, and the front-line sales staff might honestly have nothing whatsoever to do with anything mysterious or sanity-shattering. In a nutshell, as must be painfully obvious by now, the company is only offering its services in order to gain access to material to which they would normally be denied. Ideally, they hope to collect the most complete database of occult secrets ever combined.

What is going on:

What I like about this seed is that it need not become occult at all. Investigators can choose a side and get involved based purely on professional ethics and/or interests. This allows you to add an element of paranoia to the game as they look for plots which are not there, or it allows you to develop the characters more deeply in terms of reputation, making contacts, and expanding their range of professional influence, which in turn allows you greater access to plots and story hooks.

If it does move into the realm of plots, cults, and things which go bump in the night, it is a refreshing change to encounter a corporate entity, firmly entrenched in the world of academia and modern investigative science. The investigation can end successfully with but a single layer of the company exposed, allowing you to bring the company back later for a second round, and subsequent rounds.

3 Responses to “Saturday Seed – 14 (Call of Cthulhu)”
  1. BF Wolfe says:

    For a true ironic twist, it could be the late 80’s and the company a startup called Google (remember their motto?) 🙂

  2. BF Wolfe says:

    sorry, late 90’s. got lost in a timewarp…

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