Missed Dues, Part 1: Scenario Construction – The Initial Spark

Thought I’d muse about how I tend to put Call of Cthulhu scenarios together.

Initially I have a basic idea, this could be a scene, a climatic event, a theme or setting – really it’s the spark that sets the creative process off. Often I think about the player characters as a starting point – the types of people they are, their spheres of knowledge and probably most importantly their usual day. The reason being that I tend to write one-shots as I find the ‘all bets are off’ mindset a useful one for Cthulhu games. I think of one-shots like a horror movie, where essentially every character is potentially expendable and the horror can be freed to run its course – with campaigns there is the requirement of continuation; you can’t necessarily end the world at the end of the scenario, yet with a one-shot you can. The story is focused down to just the events of the player characters concerned and there’s no need to worry about what is happening elsewhere – the scenario’d narrow focus thus helps to accentuate the horror and escalates to a natural climax.

With Missed Dues Id been thinking of a scenario where all the player characters were from criminal backgrounds. I liked the notion that this group of people who have to be self reliant and that they would be extremely unlikely to call the police or anyone else to get them out of trouble. In fact ‘trouble’ was what they could be all about, which for me sounded like a good recipe ingredient for a scenario.

I imagined that such player character’s are likely to mistrust others (even the other player characters in the group), which could add to the tension and creative opportunities for the players to have fun getting in to character whilst they sparked-off one another.

I really hadn’t thought much beyond that initial premise and I let the idea permeate for a few weeks, allowing me to begin to think through what would make these characters ‘work together’ and what could be a hard and horrific situation for them – what would make them scared. After all these guys would be criminals, perhaps familiar to violence, be acquainted with ┬áthe harsh realities of their profession. Thus what would scare them.

These were the basic, initial ideas that I was thinking about before I put finger to keyboard and started writing anything.

All you need is a spark and then give it some air to ignite.