If there’s one thing scarier than roving bands of sugar addled children clawing at your door for candy at all hours of the night, it’s when the elder gods come a-calling. This month’s featured campaign is Cthulhu Supremus Est by DM FrankSirmarco!
Obsidian Portal: How much of the campaign is original content developed by you and your players?
FrankSirmarco: I would say it’s a 60/40 split between published and original content. Since Cthulhu Supremus Est was my first foray into GMing, I wanted to concentrate on building mood and immersing the players in the game setting. And with nearly thirty years of fantastic published content by Chaosium and others at my disposal, I was able to pick and choose scenarios that would help me develop a cohesive campaign.
The original content has been created to bridge the gaps between scenarios and stimulate character development. One of the gripes about Call of Cthulhu is that it’s difficult to create believable motivations for your players to be investigating the Cthulhu mythos. However, I think the original content created for this campaign has been very organic and hasn’t forced a bunch of square pegs in to round holes.
Obsidian Portal: Where did you get all the great art, photos, and videos?
FrankSirmarco: My good friends Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Movie Maker. Google image search has been an invaluable tool for locating Jazz Age photos.
Obsidian Portal: Where do you get your inspiration for the story and the world?
FrankSirmarco: H.P. Lovecraft is a definite inspiration; the entire Call of Cthulhu game is inspired by his work, and while you can throw stones at his personal foibles, you can’t argue with his ability to create mood and spin a good yarn.
Film Noir is also a major inspiration. Movies like The Third Man, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, and Touch of Evil are great examples of the kind of world the players of Cthulhu Supremus Est inhabit.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all of the great people I’ve met on Obsidian Portal. The intro videos Gaaran and Duskreign created for their campaigns inspired me to create my campaign video. A suggestion from Arsheesh in the forums provided the inspiration for the overall look of my campaign. I spend way too much time on OP, and sit for hours randomly viewing campaigns for inspiration. There are a lot of exceptionally creative people on OP, so it drives me to match that level of creativity.
Obsidian Portal: How well do you know your players?
FrankSirmarco: Very well. I’ve known one of the players since the 1980s, and the others I’ve known since the mid-to-late 1990s. We started playing D&D 3.5 in 2005, and recently started the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rise of the Runelords.
At the end of 2009, I asked everyone if they’d be interested in trying Call of Cthulhu. The group was very kind to indulge me, and I now run a Cthulhu session once or twice every three months.
Obsidian Portal: What kinds of challenges are you faced with in your campaign setting?
FrankSirmarco: The shelf-life of a Call of Cthulhu investigator is short. The more the investigator learns about the mythos, the more unhinged they become. Even if the investigator is able to achieve the best-case scenario, victory comes at a price. One investigator has been retired so far, and another is becoming more and more unhinged every session, so it’s interesting to see how the group handles those sorts of losses.
From a GM perspective, it’s challenging to make the setting believable. While I love campaign settings like Greyhawk, Faerun, and Golarion, the Call of Cthulhu setting is firmly grounded on Earth, and the 1890s, 1920s, or modern day in particular. While there are fantastical elements to the things that happen in this setting, it’s still based on a world that we live in every day. Since I have no basis for what it was like to actually live in 1920s New York, I try to push myself to do as much research as I can to make it believable for the players.
Obsidian Portal: What aspects of your campaign are you really proud of?
FrankSirmarco: I’m proud of the NPCs; I use different accents and mannerisms for them, and try to add comic relief wherever possible. It’s one of the things the players compliment me on most often, and something that I feel helps immerse the players in the game.
I’m also proud of how often the players have achieved the best-case scenario in an investigation. When you take in to account that most of the players in our group come from fantasy-based roleplaying backgrounds, the fact that they’ve embraced the pen is mightier than the sword mentality of Call of Cthulhu is very impressive. Plus, they’re pretty smart – they know when to run.
Obsidian Portal: What have been the highlights of the campaign?
FrankSirmarco: For me, the group’s first run-in with an Elder God was a highlight – while beholding Tulzscha (The Green Flame), one of the investigators suffered a large sanity loss, and fell to the floor of the temple, comatose. The other investigators were able to get him out of the temple just as the roof was collapsing around them. It was a tense bit of role playing.
Also, I was able to trick the players in to thinking they were playing a Pathfinder module, when they were actually experiencing their first foray into the Dreamlands. I gave them each pre-generated Pathfinder characters that were based on their Cthulhu investigators, and as each of them died in the Dreamlands, they woke up from their nightmare in the Cthulhu campaign. It was quite effective.
Obsidian Portal: What future plans do you have for your campaign?
FrankSirmarco: There will definitely be forays in to Lovecraft country (Arkham, Kingsport, Dunwich, etc.), and hopefully a trip across the Atlantic at some point. But I don’t want to ruin any surprises…
FrankSirmarco, not only have you and your players begun piercing the veil of maddness that protects our world from the elder things in the universe, but in doing so, you’ve joined the dark pantheon that rules over Obsidian Portal. Welcome to glory! Our thanks go out to forum member arsheesh who tracked down this fantastic campaign and brought it to our attention.