Mentioned earlier, there are several campaigns for Call of Cthulhu that have been written whole and published as a unit. The first of these, Shadows of Yog Sothoth, laid the groundwork for many to follow. Chaosium followed with several other campaigns released as single volumes, Fungi From Yuggoth, Masks of Nyarlathotep, Spawn of Azathoth, and The Great Old Ones (this was actually a collection of scenarios with suggestions on how to link them into a campaign without it being part of the scenario structure automatically). Other campaigns released later include Horror’s Heart, Coming Full Circle Walker in the Waste, Horror on the Orient Express, Ripples from Carcosa, Tatters of the King, some of these from Chaosium, some from other publishers.
all of these have in common that they were written at the same time and linked together, sometimes in a very tight connectivity, on occasion in a loose stucture.
Potential problems of scenario structure are evident in all of these to some extent, with one notable exception, Masks of Nyarlathotep. i will mention the problems in following sections and will go into examples of those problems and how Masks avoids them.
One of the first issues with any Call of Cthulhu game, particularly campaign play, is the motivation. Why are the characters involved in the story, what got them involved in the first part and why do they feel motivated to pursue the further developments of the campaign? Shadows of Yog Sothoth, the first campaign, did show this weakness a little bit, in that its first scenario, “The Hermetic Order of Silver Twilight” is very vague on explaining why the characters are getting involved. a few clues hidden in the recesses of the locations of this scenario gives vague hints about a few of the later scenarios, but the motivation to follow up on these clues is vague as well as the clues not being intuitively located.
In Masks, however, the campaign begins with a slight bit of railroading to start the story, but the characters are thrown into the story almost immediately and unless they act very timidly in the initial actions, the party finds themselves confronted with violence and threats that leave them with a mystery involving the death of a party cared for by at least one of the players. clues may be in limited locations but clearly point the party in multiple directions. And unlike many campaigns, the party is not guided to any single of the other locations in any given order…there is a logical progression of locations to seek out, but it is the party’s choice.
mentioned above, the links between scenarios in a campaign are not always clear or the motivations strong enough to nudge the party in their direction. going back to Shadows of Yog Sothoth for a moment, the clues that lead to the third section, found in the first and second, are somewhat vague and lead from the United States to Scotland. to be honest, i have found almost nothing in the first three scenarios that lead to the fourth scenario, and the item in the fourth scenario to be acquired and used in the campaign’s progression is ill defined, easily overlooked. (in a counter to this, the fifth scenario seeks out the players, and this scenario is one of the more amazing scenarios written for Call of Cthulhu and a good blueprint for similar events in any campaign.)
In Masks, certain pieces of information are acquired almost immediately that point to three different locations for the campaign, and others that hint towards two others, a few of the clues don’t make immediate sense, but they do point towards later developments. following the more logical course of locations will allow all of the prior clues make more sense and there are clues in each location that point at least a bit towards the other locations. two of the locations would not be logical places to seek out immediately, and the clues leading there and from there are a bit more vague, but in the long run this is a good thing as the last two locations are better settings for whichever one turns out to be the campaign’s climax.
Campaigns usually involve a fair bit of travel, and it is fairly easy to kind of get an ‘indiana jones’ feel from them because of that. case in point…Shadows of Yog Sothoth starts in Boston, including sections in New York, Scotland, the desert near Hollywood California, Easter Island, and a certain island in the Pacific i won’t name because just identifying it constitutes a spoiler. Fungi from Yuggoth begins in Arkham (as memory serves, it could have been set in Boston), leading to Romania, the deserts of Egypt, Peru, San Francisco, and back to Cairo, Egypt. Masks does have this tendency too, starting in New York City, then London, Cairo, the Kenyan wilderness, the Australian Outback, and Shanghai. the other campaigns generally have similar travels in how they are set up..the exceptions to that being Horror’s Heart and Coming Full Circle, both of these staying in one geographic area for the most part. I suspect there are various reasons for this, but in the long run, this is something that a Keeper has to consider when looking at these scenarios. It is rare for a full campaign to not include some travel, and for some of that travel to be extensive.
the biggest problem with pre written campaigns is that it begs the question of where the new ‘replacement’ characters come from, the players who die or go mad or retire have to be replaced. players travelling to exotic and possibly dangerous locations may find new characters in short supply locally, and if a replacement character is brought from their point of origin, how that character finds their way tot he party’s location becomes an additional potential problem.
Granted, this problem is a potential problem with any campaign, pre written or not, when replacements have to be brought in and the party is not near their point of origin.