Saturday Seed ~ 168 (Call of Cthulhu)

For those like me who backed the 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu out of love of the grand old game, and faith in the playtesters’ reports that not too much damage had been done to it in the slightly spurious quest to ‘update it for modern players,’ the past day has likely been spent reading over the freshly released Quick-Start Rules. I have been travelling and far from WiFi connections most of the time, but I was able to grab the rules when they were made available.

For the first time in a very long time we can say that an edition of Call of Cthulhu is not like the others.

The Seed
This week’s seed is rooted in the idea of the strangeness of familiar places after long absences, the speed at which unseen change can seem to occur, and the process of self-evaluation this can trigger and send questions tearing through the soft flesh of the vulnerable traveller.

Planting the Seed
This seed easily takes root for new and experienced Investigators. It might serve as an element at the beginning, the middle, or the end of a campaign. It ,might be the reason a set of characters begin to investigate strange and terrible things, it might be the reason for them to start losing their grip on certainty of their own sanity, or it might be their one last gasp before being consumed by the horrors of their short and miserable lives.

The seed can occur at any point when the group returns to their hometown. As such, the only real requirement is that they share a city in common where they have had a long period of residence. Alternately, this might be run as a solo game. It works in essentially any period.

The Details
Things have changed. While the group was away, shops have closed and possible been replaced by others. Neighbors have moved and new ones have possibly taken their places. The town seems both to be healthy and withering at the same time. In some ways, if the town were a vine, its newer tendrils thrive while its trunk seems to be rotting in patches.

People seem to be forgetting details about the characters, but still recognizing them – if slowly. Close friends have less to talk about and seem to to tune out what the investigators have to say about life. Friendship remains strong, but distance has followed the investigators home.

The streets are the same, but from time to time the memory of known locations (not regular haunts) gets foggy so that certain things are simply not where they were remembered to be. The closure of some places, and the opening of some others can compound this confusion.

Once this disconnection is made evident, and the group has begun to get involved in whatever brought them “home,” their deeper interactions with people will begin to heighten the growing sense of alienation. Much has happened to their former friends and colleagues…or is it that they are the different ones? Reactions to common courtesy seem off. Laughter at jokes seems strained. Invitations get delayed. Little by little over the first days back, the investigators will discover more and more reasons to feel like outsiders.

There should be a battle between the common concept of ‘you cannot not go home again’ and the sense that something strange is going on….

What’s going on
Keepers using this idea are focusing on implication and atmosphere to provide shades of experience for the players. Slowly spiralling out for the mundane truth that all life (as we understand it) is based in change, and winding up in the crazy concept that only you are unchanged and everything else has gotten strange.

The benefit of trying a seed like this is to give the group time and opportunity to explore the shallow end of madness, or oppositely, to lose their grip as they topple into its churning deep end. As an intro point it can provide insight into how dangerous and tenuous the hold on reality is. As a farewell to investigators who have seen too much, it is a kind way to say farewell, and show how much these characters have changed since they opened themselves to things they were not meant to know.


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