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[OSSR]In Soviet Russia, Cthulhu Eats You
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Joined: 02 Apr 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Stalin named himself "Man of Steel" and people were like, "yeah, that makes sense."

Having a crush on Stalin was practically de rigeur during the 30s and 40s.

Chaosium rules are made of unicorn pubic hair and cancer. --AncientH
When you talk, all I can hear is "DunningKruger" over and over again like you were a god damn Pokemon. --Frank
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Serious Badass

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
If the Keeper was following the suggestion in Cold Harvest where this was part of an NKVD campaign, Elena and her boyfriend would probably be on their way to a work camp in Siberia and executed on the way there, job well done and pass the vodka.

Why do I get the feeling this is a good way to handle literally every Russian CoC adventure ever, whether part of an NKVD campaign or not?

Hell, what happens if all the PCs become Meteor Things?

Honestly, once I became a meteor thing (which, I probably would... you've run games with me playing, you know it), I'd probably just go and infect everyone else. Then we would take some meteorite, pulverize it, and dust a notebook with it before handing our notes to our NKVD contact. Because obviously, you don't keep this thing a secret, you spread the word like the word was legs and you're a horny amish girl on Rumspriga.
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.

Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.

FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

DrPraetor wrote:
Stalin named himself "Man of Steel" and people were like, "yeah, that makes sense."

It really does make sense. Taking industry-themed pseudonims was just a thing bolsheviks did. Like Molotov. And we don't know the truth about Lenin, but one of the theories is that he named himself after a mining camp.
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Ancient History
Invincible Overlord

Joined: 18 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Fearful Passages (1992) is a compilation of nine different scenarios that are completely unrelated except that they involve travel or transportation in some fashion. ("Travel broadens the mind; horror unravels it.")


Fearful Passages has been prepared using the skills
list from the 5th edition of Call of Cthulhu, which differs
slightly from previous editions.

New Skills   Old Skills
Art               Sing
Biology         Botany, Zoology
Conceal          Camouflage
Locksmith         Pick Pocket
Martial Arts         New
Medicine            Diagnose Disease, Treat Disease, Treat Poison
Natural History   Botany, Zoology
Navigate           Make Maps
Other Language        R/W Language
Own Language          R/W English
Persuade                  Debate, Oratory
Physics                 New

Anyway, "Sleigh Ride" takes place in Siberia, 1926. Dr. Broephyle E. Chance - there is approximately zero chance my players would not address him as "Dr. Bro" - whom the players know <somehow> and meet <somewhere> (seriously, the writers do not give a shit about the small details).

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

Dr. Bro is hunting abominable snowmen. I'm not going to re-hash my argument about mi-go vs. yetis, but here we are. He wants people to come along, has some evidence to prove he isn't already out of SAN, and his plan boils down to:

"We'll shoot a specimen and bring it back!"

PCs are expected to come along. Library Use rolls are allowed to read up on abominable snowmen and Siberia - and I will credit the scenario with this, it has done more research on period Siberia than the others combined. The PCs are expected to set sail from San Francisco to Yokohama, Japan - along the way, they get to rifle through Dr. Bro's cabin, where the fun parts are that he is apparently planning to take a living specimen back with him, and there is $4,000 in gold hidden in the toes of his snowboots - and then on to Vladivostok, where they pass through customs and are assigned the standard OGPU tail. Because Russia.

Well, this is how I would run it.

They take a short hop on the Trans-Siberian Railway, then they're in Siberia!...and on a sledge, where the PCs can roleplay staring at a horse's ass for hours on end. No difficult feat for my players, they're used to seeing me talk already.

The PCs then endure a sledging accident, a blizzard, an old Siberian wise-woman...not the sexy type, unless you're into GILFs...bandits, and other fun, until they enter a Yakut village. The Yakuts have a deal with the abominable snowmen, who dwell in an underground cavern: food and periodic human sacrifices in exchange for protection. What the Yakuts don't know is that the hairy ape-men are using the human sacrifices to keep their god happy. And along come the PCs...

Dr. Bro, sadly, does not survive his first encounter with an abominable snowman. PCs might be forgiven for just shooting the fucking thing, or saying to hell with it and leaving at that point. Doesn't really matter, because they get arrested as soon as they head back to the village. Then the rest of the abominable snowmen attack, and the PCs are supposed to be dragged into the Caverns of Angara.

Aside: Getting captured is sadly mandatory for way too many CoC adventures, by which I mean any of them. If your plot requires the PCs to fuck up that badly...well, I'm not saying it won't happen just by using the skill system as written, but it shouldn't be mandatory, dammit.

A female yeti comes out to decide who is going to be sacrifice...

This is seriously three steps away from a monster girlfriend comedy. The death of Dr. Bro can just be part of the meet-cute. Seriously, I wonder what the seduction roll for that would be?

...and the PCs (and other captives) are marched single file (in descending order of age, so oldest first) into the maw of an adult Cthonian.

If the PCs are lucky and/or have a magic talisman given them by the GILF wise woman, they can escape! Otherwise, they're Cthonian chow. Thanks for playing. If they do escape, they have to then escape Russia, which could be...more difficult.

Gameplay Perspective: This is, despite everything, yet another version of "go somewhere cold and bleak in Russia and meet something horrible." The only difference this time is that the PCs are apparently volunteering. It's very railroady, and the conclusion is particularly unsatisfying as it primarily relies on a deus ex machina to deal with the Cthonian - one which required two deus ex machinas just to get the PCs close enough to meet it! Also, they aren't exactly doing a lot of investigating here. Go to where the abominable snowmen are, meet abominable snowmen. Not that fucking difficult.

Russian Perspective: Actually one of the better-presented scenarios, although apparently a few of the finer details might be incorrect. At least you don't have to deal with any fucking tractors.

Mythos Perspective: I don't know why the Cthonian is eating people. I don't know why the Yakut think the abominable snowmen are helpful, except maybe they eat fewer people if they're appeased. I kind of dearly wish there was some Mythos source in this adventure that would give some hint or perspective on any of this Siberian ape-men, Cthonian. That's it.

Obvious Gaps: I still say seducing the Yeti Priestess is the real way to win this scenario. Start your own Jermyn Clan! Granted, you might have to check for SAN loss every morning when you wake up and see what's sleeping next to you, but it'll be worth it. The ghost of Dr. Bro compels you!
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Last edited by Ancient History on Thu Mar 16, 2017 10:03 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2017 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
I still say seducing the Yeti Priestess is the real way to win this scenario.
"Now that we've determined that up to π angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine the specific number (or fraction) of angels dancing?"
"What if angels from another pin engage them in melee combat?"
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1st Level

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Sleigh Ride seemed to me to be more of a pulp adventure than a horror one. I have an irrational fondness for it, probably because despite being a lot shorter than the other USSR adventures it packs in much more action, and isn't so relentlessly bleak.
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Ancient History
Invincible Overlord

Joined: 18 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2017 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I don't know what I've got left that's Russia-centric in my pile of Cthulhu-stuff, so this might be it except for the wrap-up. Delta Green: Countdown (1999) is basically a collection of threats for Delta Green, and includes a thirty-page chapter devoted to the GRU SV-8.

Like Achtung! Cthulhu or The Laundry, Delta Green is a third-party spinoff game, sort of X-Files meets the Cthulhu Mythos. There's a government conspiracy to suppress the Mythos, and you're part of it, Agent. This is, by itself, a fairly decent approach to a contemporary Mythos game - it helps to explain why you can't find R'lyeh with GoogleMaps, and it spins directly off the government raid on Innsmouth in Lovecraft's "The Shadow over Innsmouth." It works. Except when it doesn't.

Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie Spetsialni Viedotstvo 8 is the Russian counterpart of Delta Green; for those that remember the GPU/OGPU/NKVD argument that you ran across before, those are all successor agencies to the Cheka, or the (sometimes not so secret) agency concerned with state security, policing the Russian people, hunting out counterrevolutionaries (and I guess, just revolutionaries at some point), etc. The GRU, by contrast, was concerned with foreign intelligence and affairs. So if the NKVD were the FBI, the GRU were the CIA. (More or less; it gets complicated because the Cheka and successor organizations had some foreign intelligence assets as well, and the GRU is part of the military kind of like the British Military Intelligence agencies, and the Spetsnaz were originally GRU...fuck it, too much minutiae, read up on it on wikipedia). The two branches of intelligence services have typically been rivals (you caught a glimpse at that in Guide to the Eastern Front).

Anyway, the GRU got involved with the Mythos during the Russian Civil War; an outbreak of cannibalism turned out to be ghouls, and had to be put down. From there the rabbit hole got deeper and darker...kinda like that Templar cave they just found. This was followed up by some more encounters, and in 1928 they found the lost library of Ivan the Terrible, complete with a Greek translation of the Necronomicon (this is, as was mentioned previously, riffing directly off of Secrets of the Kremlin, since Delta Green is basically the home campaign for the main writers). The GRU caught wind of the whole thing and founded a secret group - SV-8 - to keep tabs as to whether or not Comrade Stalin was still fiddling with the Necronomicon. The NKVD, meanwhile, became host to Stalin's occult research division.

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" Russian-style

Which worked out great until Stalin purged the GRU and Red Army in 1937.

The GRU rebuilt to deal with the Nazis, and SV-8 was reactivated to counter the Nazi's occult interests, principally the Anhnenerbe.

I'm not going to go over all the history, but let me put it this way: this is kind of the occult/Mythos history of Russia you always wanted, right down to a split during WWII where some of the younger ghouls stopped worshipping Nyogtha and Mordiggian and began worshiping Stalin as the Great Provider. It doesn't hit every beat or operation - how could it? But assuming you have a relatively small (SV-8 in 1940 was supposed to be ~100 members) but long-lived organization, you get some high points: the three-way conflict between SV-8, Delta Green, and the NKVD-affiliated Smersh to destroy/deny/loot (respectively) Nazi occult resources and personnel, the SV-8 investigation into the Roswell incident, and Delta Green's Operation SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS aimed against Soviet Mythos-based life-extension research - but ran into Spetsnaz, were captured and interrogated by the GRU, who promptly re-armed them and sent them back on their mission (score one for interagency rivalry!)

Yadda yadda, more Cold War stuff, spy games, breakup of the USSR - like I said, it's all fun stuff. Better, or at least more coherent, than anything Chaosium ever produced. There's also a catalogue of the SV-8's "Mythos & Occult Library" - New Mythos tomes, basically - and stats and bios for a bunch of SV-8 NPCs. Buried in the appendices are basic rules for creating relevant player characters.

The following chapter is sort-of-related, as it details the Skoptsi: "the modern remnant of an ancient Shub-Niggurath cult from the Caucasus Mountains of Asia." However, they were almost exterminated by the Bolsheviks and live in the United States now, so not much of a Russian connection. (Also, apparently they like to aim the "Wither Limb" spell at the penis on male victims. Ooohkay.)

Gameplay Perspective: This is a pretty solid chapter. It doesn't give you a lot in the way of active threats to combat, but it foes give much-needed history and background for maybe creating and playing Russian Mythos scenarios.

Russian Perspective: Also pretty good. Much less bleakfest than most of the others, but that's because the main focus is on inter-agency rivalry and occult spy games.

Mythos Perspective: A little lacking. Delta Green likes to play cutesy with some of its Mythos threats (like the Germans getting their hands on the formula for Re-Animation serum, or trying to contact the Deep Ones), calling a rabbit a smerp and all that.

It's not that this can't work - the Laundry series can go entire novels without calling a Cthonian a Cthonian and it works - and putting the pieces together is part of the fun with these RPGs, but it remains that there's just not a lot of Mythos threats relative to the size of Russia.

I mean, keep in mind that in the Miskatonic Valley alone, just in Lovecraft's stories, you had the Whateley Cult; Keziah Mason and the Witch House; the Thing on the Doorstep; a Colour from Out of Space; a Re-Animator; and a Deep One colony, etc. Go a little farther and you have Richard Upton Pickman and his ghouls, and the Church of the Starry Wisdom. The point being, that's about as much Mythos activity in eastern Massachusetts just in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft as there is in the entire Soviet Union according to this book. You really feel like maybe we need a Russian counterpart to Lovecraft Country.

Obvious Gaps: The Skoptsi highlight one of the major issues with the GRU SV-8 as conceived: you're still getting a very skewed, partial view of Russia in the Mythos. There's just not enough cults, not enough threats, not enough...anything. Granted, the focus is on the GRU and its NKVD rivals as the main "players" in the Russian occult scene, but that just leaves...a lot to be desired. Centuries of possible cult activities, artifacts, alien crash sites, Cthonians, running across Deep One fossils...anything. It's a solid chapter, but that's all it is: a chapter. You could do...and kind of want...a whole book to do it justice.

Anyway, I'll do a hunt for any more obvious Russian references and if not, then tomorrow is the sum-up/closing thoughts post.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Okay, I can't say for certain there aren't any more Russian Mythos scenarios, but I'm not finding them immediately in my pile of Mythos RPG books, so...let's sum up.

Like a lot of things with Call of Cthulhu, it's not that there isn't material, but it's...spread out. A lot of the individual bits and pieces are very compelling. Not much of it actually goes together in any sort of fashion. With its multiple third-party products, CoC is like multiple parallel worlds that cross over occasionally at key points, but otherwise diverge and aren't always reconcilable.

The material dealing with Russia itself, in characterizing the nation and making it a playable period setting, is actually quite minimal. Only Guide to the Eastern Front really puts any serious effort into it. The scenarios go out of their way to make sure your characters have enough freedom of agency to actually investigate things, but that's about the limit to how far they'll go before hamming it up with starving peasants and secret police. You don't stand in bread lines as investigators.

If the Mythos were more carefully constructed in the Russian setting, I think it would make up for it. Both Delta Green and Achtung! Cthulhu at least made a game try at this, although I think they fell short of actually making a consistent Mythos setting out of the disparate elements - and to be fair, Call of Cthulhu hasn't done them any real favors in that regard. CoC's approach to cults is generally sporadic and independent; you don't quite get the splinters, split-offs, derivatives, and revivals in any sort of organize or comprehensive way. Again, a comparison to the SCP-wiki comes to mind, with organizations like the Church of the Broken God and the Sarkic Cults...these are groups with their own scriptures, languages, mythologies. Some of it ties together, and some of it is odd-man-out. There's room for anomalies, spin-offs, even poseurs. In CoC, it's just not that well-thought-out....or interesting.

Part of that is the source material; the Cthulhu Mythos is a big, sprawling shared universe, and none of the original authors wrote shit about Russia. Most of them had their own little corners of it and were happy with spinning the occasional connective thread between Hyboria and Arkham, Averoigne and Carcosa.

So you're left with...I don't know what. A lot of pieces to pick through. If you wanted to, you could probably spin a campaign together with the CoC Russian material. It would be a heartbreaker, since you're ignoring the bits you don't like and adopting the bits you do like, and that's fair. CoC is built for heartbreakers. That is what they expect you to do.

I still think a smaller scale might have been the ticket here. If there was a corner of Russia where these things happened, an analogue to Lovecraft Country or the Severn Valley. A place where members of the Old Religion kept to themselves in secluded villages, and there was a small Soviet science city, and a meteorite strike that happened about the same time as Tunguska but never got the press. Where the shades of dead Cossacks wander through cemeteries older than the Tsars, and history is re-written by edict of superiors in Moscow. These things did not happen, comrade...

...but again, that would demand a level of foresight, of imagination and planning, which is just alien to CoC. It is what it is.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:

Seriously, we're going full John Carpenter already?

The amount of meta ignorance here from the original authors is truly impressive.

See, The Thing From Another World, in it's 1951 glory, was quite fucking literally an allegory for fighting against communist infiltrators. The Thing literally was Communism and commie sympathizers.

A lazy fucker with zero imagination could come up with a whole campaign about stopping the communist infiltrators from eating Communism out from the inside, one infiltrator at a time. There could be some real meta awareness, not to mention a red scare (or mythos scare) in the middle of a truly paranoid socio-political environment such as Stalinist Russia would be nuts and fun in an over the top sort of way.

Then again, that's basically Dark Heresy from Warhammer 40k.
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