May 1, 2016 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
Recently Chaosium announced their first “organized play” campaign for their revivified Cult of Chaos Keepers’ program: A Time to Harvest. Members of the the ‘Cult’ get a new chapter/scenario for the campaign each month. Of particular interest to Sentinel Hill press readers is that the campaign is partially set in Lovecraft Country with the investigators being Miskatonic University students and grad students, a first for Chaosium (unless you count the multi-part “Raid on Innsmouth” scenario from Escape from Innsmouth or the brief visit to Miskatonic University in A Resection of Time).
I dropped Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu line editor Mike Mason an email with a few questions about the campaign (plus a few other things) and he kindly offered up some addition information. My questions are in bold while his replies are in ‘quote’ format – I’ve left the British spellings intact 😉
If you have any follow-up questions, feel free to add them in the comments!
What is you ‘nutshell’ description of A Time to Harvest?
Students from Miskatonic University enter a dark web that stretches from Vermont to Arkham and beyond. Student folklorists and geologist must navigate both human and inhuman mysteries in a campaign where the fate of the world will be decided. Played over six chapters, the investigators encounter strange creatures, face false accusations, meet a revenge-fuelled millionaire, go beyond the Earth, and ultimately face horrors not of this world.
How did this project come together?
The campaign draws closely on one particular Lovecraft story – I won’t say which – spoilers! The guys handed in the work and it was waiting for a proper review and edit. Around the time I began to look at the manuscript, I was aware that Chaosium was looking to do a Call of Cthulhu campaign through an organised play programme. When I read the initial manuscript I could see that A Time To Harvest would fit the bill, so began working on the manuscript to adapt it for serialised play. This meant undertaking a standard edit, but also development and writing additional material to round out a few things to accommodate staggered and linear campaign play. Thus, by the end of the process, we had six part campaign, with each episode (scenario) building on the previous, but each part being self-contained.
Who are authors are involved? Where might I have seen them previously?
A Time To Harvest was conceived and written by Brian Sammons and Charles Zaglanis, with Glynn Owen Barrass joining the writing team a little later, and then further development and material written by myself.
Charles previously wrote some material that went into the two Keeper’s Companions (2000 and 2002), as well as fiction for a range of publishers.
Glynn wrote one of the scenarios in Chaosium’s forthcoming Doors to Darkness scenario anthology and is also known for his horror fiction. Glynn co-eited Chaosium’s Atomic Age Cthulhu fiction anthology.
Brian’s work is probably well known to long time Call of Cthulhu fans, with his scenarios appearing in numerous books over the years. Brian is also well known for his fiction and being a prolific anthology editor. Brian helped Chaosium put together Doors to Darkness and also has a scenario in that book.
This campaign is pitched particularly to new Keepers and players – what specifically makes this true?
Unlike Masks of Nyarlathotep and many other campaigns, A Time To Harvest follows a linear path – it must be played through in a particular order, which helps less experienced Keepers get to grips with the logistics and structure of running a larger and more complex campaign of linked scenarios. In addition, each scenario is self-contained with a start and an end – so Keepers have a lot of control to keep things on track (i.e. the players are not going to suddenly end up in the wrong place at the wrong time). It’s easier when you only have to concentrate on one scenario at a time, rather than a multi-point campaign – so A Time To Harvest is a lot less complex and more welcoming for newer Keepers. We’ve also added advice and tips around the campaign to help things along. As the campaign is being run through organised play, it also means that a lot of other Keepers are running it at the same time, so there’s a collective sharing of good practice (Chaosium has a secret forum set up for Keepers running the campaign) – so a lot of support for someone who is running a campaign for the first time.
Was there a particular reason to set the campaign in 1930?
As the campaign’s narrative builds on a particular Lovecraft story, the events of the campaign historically follow on, bringing the action to 1930. In fact, certain characters in the Lovecraft story appear in the campaign.
Without spoiling too much, are there any sources of inspiration, in Lovecraft or beyond, that Keeper’s running A Time to Harvest might look at for inspiration?
As portions of the campaign take place in Miskatonic University and Vermont, reading Lovecraft’s stories which feature these locations would be useful, most notably “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Shadow out of Time,” “The Whisperer in Darkness,” and “Herbert West-Reanimator.”
While you don’t need any other Call of Cthulhu books to play the campaign, other than the Call of Cthulhu Rulebook (7e), some Keepers might find having Chaosium’s Miskatonic University source book as a handy aid – although the pertinent information is contained in A Time To Harvest. Most of the action that takes place in Arkham actually happens within Miskatonic University, so the Arkham sourcebook isn’t needed but would help if Keepers want to broaden the scope of things in their games.
Is there any news regarding the Lovecraft Country series reprints?
I’ll be working on these books later this year, probably the Arkham book first, with a view to getting new editions out as soon as we can. We want to upgrade the layouts to full color, inject awesome new art, and adapt the text as necessary to 7e and adding a bit of new material where appropriate. We are also looking at an additional Lovecraft Country book along the lines of the Petersen Field Guide to Cthulhu Monsters, where the locations, the people, and secrets are highlighted alongside glorious art.
Is there any other Chaosium news you’d like to share?
After Doors to Darkness comes out, the next big book is Pulp Cthulhu – a rules supplement for action-packed and two-fisted style play, with tougher characters, weird science, psychic powers, and augmented insane skills. Pulp Cthulhu also comes with four scenarios showing different flavours of pulp style play. Play test feedback has been fantastic and I’m really looking forward to sharing this book finally with everyone.
How can people become involved with the campaign (or running games for Chaosium)?
Join the Cult of Chaos – just go to our website for details and the sign-up form. The Cult is all about running Call of Cthulhu and celebrating the game – whether online, in a gaming store, convention, or even with your home group. Currently we have over 1,000 Keepers around the world joined up and running Call of Cthulhu games in all manner of venues for new and old players alike.
More info here: http://www.chaosium.com/join-the-cult-of-chaos/
(I would add that Keeper’s interested in Vermont in the 1920s and 30s might want to take a look at Jeff Moeller’s The Primal State (part of Chaosium’s old monograph line), which is a collection of 6 connected scenarios set in Vermont in 1925-30, with a lot of great information about the Green Mountain state included.)