Criminal Investigators?

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Barl0we
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Criminal Investigators?

Post by Barl0we » Mon Oct 08, 2012 6:41 pm

Hi there, fellow members of the Miskatonic University!

I recently started as a Keeper for a small group of my friends. Great fun was had!

However, my friends instantly decided that they were going to have criminal characters. Thus, our game became very pulpy (with a hint of horror).

I don't mind that they chose a criminal path, or that we ended up with a pulpy game; However, they *did* force me to improvise a lot.

Thus, my question(s) to you guys is this:

1. Are there any published scenarios that set the investigators as criminals?
2. Are there any published scenarios that allow for very violent keepers?

In the event that there aren't really any, I find myself in a situation where I'll have to write my own scenario for them. Which is possibly also ok, since I am currently on exchange in Liverpool, UK (I normally live in Copenhagen, Denmark). This means that I have until ~February 2013 to come up with something to use :)

Just a little background on our first session:

They came into situations where 2 out of 3 should've died several times, but in the spirit of having fun, I decided to let them live. This scenario for the next time we get to play, will almost definetely end up with one or more of them dead (since I won't necessarily deus ex their way out of reckless behavior :D).

Any help will be greatly appreciated :)

-Barl0we
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Re: Criminal Investigators?

Post by trevlix » Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:11 pm

Hmmm..the only one that comes to mind is In Media Res (spoiler at that link), but I don't think that is what you are looking for.

As for very violent Keepers, I think any one out there could be changed to that! :)
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Re: Criminal Investigators?

Post by Dr. Gerard » Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:18 pm

There's an excellent source book for Chicago and Marseilles out there, though I think it's out of print. Both sections of the book provide good scenarios set in the criminal underground of the 20s. Though I think the scenarios are largely meant for law-abiding PCs, I don't think it would be hard to run them for members of a competing crime family or mercenaries hired by someone in the underworld. The Marseilles portion has some really fun stuff about Corsican gangs, and the whole book is full of shady characters who get in over their heads. You could even tweak some of the details to turn it into heist-genre mayhem with various Mythos entities thrown in.

A bit of unsolicited advice: even for a pulp game, I would recommend asking the players to identify what their characters do care about in the world. Are they intensely loyal to a crime family? Are they trying to get out of debt with "one last score"? Are they sending the money to a sick aunt? Are they funding a political revolution in Central America? I think playing a bunch of purely selfish psychopaths in Call of Cthulhu wouldn't be terribly fun after a session or two. And it's kind of hard to horrify characters with no moral compass at all.

But that's just my two pence.
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Re: Criminal Investigators?

Post by KeeperMurph » Tue Oct 09, 2012 3:09 am

This post is a litte touchy on content since we are speaking about criminal characters and their habits. I don't think I can offend role-players but just to be sure, you have been warned.

For me, criminal characters are not that much of a problem. I do force those characters to give me some sort of connections that tether them to the real world as pennace for their potential criminal activity, however.

So let's say you want to play a character that is a stalking perv type of guy. OK let's not mince words, you're a rapist sexual offender. If you want to do that and the other players are OK with it, then fine. However, I am going to need some basic info from you, such as:
  • The name of your most favorite person ever
  • immediate family members
  • a brief description of your modus operani
  • and that one thing that makes you turn from mild-mannered dude next door into a Byahkee with a hard-on.
  • etc...
With that info I can typically make a player nervous, especially since this isn't stuff I would normally ask for. Then I take a look at the charcter sheet. If this guy has a Intelligence that is average or below he has most likely been arrested before. So now your character has been in jail, or is at least a person of interest to local authorities in the area that the game is taking place. I also use credit rating in this case to rate one or both of the following, ties to the criminal underworld, and sway in the criminal underworld. The higher the better.

The key here is to remind your characters that this is your game. They are just players in it. The first time that a criminal player performs a heionous act, you should shift the focus of the upcoming investigation to some member of their immediate family. Sound cruel? Yeah, it is, but you have to maintain control, and aplayer just committed a crime that will likely derail all of you hardwark and preparation. And with a criminal player you are going to have to drop to his level to get that point across. So instead of the sweet old lady down the road, who dabbled in the occult, disappearing; now the criminal player's mother has been found eviscerated and you simply transpose her name into your scenario. This will force the player to open his eyes and see that this is not a murder and mayhem game, and that he has no ultimate control over what happens. A lot of players will try to force a GM to do evil/criminal characters in an attempt to get away with anything. In that case you must remind them who is god, you the Keeper, and that there is shit in this game that can TPK, read Total Planet Kill, not Total Party Kill. A player's occupation has no bearing on whther the Mythos eats them up and shits them out on the side of the woods outside Arkham.

Also remember asking for that little thing that sets off a character? Well use that to your advantage and force a POW roll for them to resist the urge to go temporarily insane and commit their crime of choice. Yes temporarily insane. If they fail they have no control over their character, you do. You tell them what he has done. You have now removed the one reason this dude was hoping to play a criminal/evil character. Nine times out of ten this alone will put a character back in place. However, If he balks remind him that it was his choice to play the criminal. If he gripes about playing a criminal at that point give him the option of backing out and rolling a more normal character. But don't make it seem like you are punishing them for choosing the bad guys or they will never play with you again. They could still perform some rather unmoral acts outside of their modus operandi that a normal character would not be able to do, and that should be explained, but not abused.

You have to make it fun. Make an example of him early on to set the rules for how this is going to go down and then back off a little. With any luck you will have forced him into making some better choices and made him a better role-player. At the worst he gets so upset that he/she backs out of the group. In which case you probably lost a trouble maker, so no worries.

Oh, and the most violent scenario I can think of is actually No Man's Land, but it is actually set during WWI, so it might not count.

:fhtagn: :cthulhu1: :cthulhu2: :cthulhudance:

(I just needed to use those smilies for some reason.... carry on!)
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Re: Criminal Investigators?

Post by Keeper Dan » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:03 am

The book that Dr. Gerard is thinking of is King of Chicago. I agree with him that the main adventure in there can easily be worked into something where the PCs are members of the gang in the adventure, or maybe rivals.
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Re: Criminal Investigators?

Post by Barl0we » Tue Oct 16, 2012 8:09 pm

First off, thanks for the answers! :)

I'll check out In Medias Res (Thanks Trevlix :) ).Reading the summary, I really like the idea. I might actually use this :cthulhudance:
Dr. Gerard wrote:There's an excellent source book for Chicago and Marseilles out there, though I think it's out of print. Both sections of the book provide good scenarios set in the criminal underground of the 20s. Though I think the scenarios are largely meant for law-abiding PCs, I don't think it would be hard to run them for members of a competing crime family or mercenaries hired by someone in the underworld. The Marseilles portion has some really fun stuff about Corsican gangs, and the whole book is full of shady characters who get in over their heads. You could even tweak some of the details to turn it into heist-genre mayhem with various Mythos entities thrown in.
Thanks! I'll try to look it up :)
Dr. Gerard wrote: A bit of unsolicited advice: even for a pulp game, I would recommend asking the players to identify what their characters do care about in the world. Are they intensely loyal to a crime family? Are they trying to get out of debt with "one last score"? Are they sending the money to a sick aunt? Are they funding a political revolution in Central America? I think playing a bunch of purely selfish psychopaths in Call of Cthulhu wouldn't be terribly fun after a session or two. And it's kind of hard to horrify characters with no moral compass at all.

But that's just my two pence.
Well, there IS stuff they care about. It's 3 players; One is the heir to a Russian criminal kingpin, out to prove their worth to the family. The two others are goons. They have at least some family / friend ties (I left copies of their character sheets home in Denmark, and can't recall the specifics right now >_>).

One of the characters has an intense fear of animals, and I already used that (/evilgrin).
KeeperMurph wrote:This post is a litte touchy on content since we are speaking about criminal characters and their habits. I don't think I can offend role-players but just to be sure, you have been warned.

For me, criminal characters are not that much of a problem. I do force those characters to give me some sort of connections that tether them to the real world as pennace for their potential criminal activity, however.

So let's say you want to play a character that is a stalking perv type of guy. OK let's not mince words, you're a rapist sexual offender. If you want to do that and the other players are OK with it, then fine. However, I am going to need some basic info from you, such as:
  • The name of your most favorite person ever
  • immediate family members
  • a brief description of your modus operani
  • and that one thing that makes you turn from mild-mannered dude next door into a Byahkee with a hard-on.
  • etc...
Ah, nice stuff. To be honest, the players are bush league criminals...If you've ever seen Bugsy Malone, you'll know the type :P (Or maybe Bugsy Malone mixed with a healthy dose of A Clockwork Orange..They do have a violent streak).

I'll definetely have to find a way to read over their character sheets again, and maybe ask them to flesh out their characters with the suggestions you listed :)

The key here is to remind your characters that this is your game. They are just players in it. The first time that a criminal player performs a heionous act, you should shift the focus of the upcoming investigation to some member of their immediate family. Sound cruel? Yeah, it is, but you have to maintain control, and aplayer just committed a crime that will likely derail all of you hardwark and preparation. And with a criminal player you are going to have to drop to his level to get that point across. So instead of the sweet old lady down the road, who dabbled in the occult, disappearing; now the criminal player's mother has been found eviscerated and you simply transpose her name into your scenario. This will force the player to open his eyes and see that this is not a murder and mayhem game, and that he has no ultimate control over what happens. A lot of players will try to force a GM to do evil/criminal characters in an attempt to get away with anything. In that case you must remind them who is god, you the Keeper, and that there is shit in this game that can TPK, read Total Planet Kill, not Total Party Kill. A player's occupation has no bearing on whther the Mythos eats them up and shits them out on the side of the woods outside Arkham.
Ooh. Well I didn't want to punish my players overly much on our first game session. But shifting the focus of the next investigation to a member of their family is a great idea! I'll definetely have to have the next investigation start with something horrible happening to one or more family members of theirs :evil:
Also remember asking for that little thing that sets off a character? Well use that to your advantage and force a POW roll for them to resist the urge to go temporarily insane and commit their crime of choice.
Great idea! O_o I didn't even think of that.
You have to make it fun. Make an example of him early on to set the rules for how this is going to go down and then back off a little. With any luck you will have forced him into making some better choices and made him a better role-player. At the worst he gets so upset that he/she backs out of the group. In which case you probably lost a trouble maker, so no worries.
Oh, I don't think it'll come to losing a player. We've agreed that the object is to have fun, by playing the game. I just allowed them a bit more freedom on our first session, so we could get to grips with the game system in a relaxed way.
Oh, and the most violent scenario I can think of is actually No Man's Land, but it is actually set during WWI, so it might not count.

:fhtagn: :cthulhu1: :cthulhu2: :cthulhudance:

(I just needed to use those smilies for some reason.... carry on!)
I totally get you with those smilies :D
Keeper Dan wrote:The book that Dr. Gerard is thinking of is King of Chicago. I agree with him that the main adventure in there can easily be worked into something where the PCs are members of the gang in the adventure, or maybe rivals.
That looks great!

Thank you so much for the answers, guys :) lots of stuff for me to check out, so I can set up an investigation that suits the criminal investigators :fhtagn:
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Re: Criminal Investigators?

Post by Dr. Gerard » Tue Oct 16, 2012 9:49 pm

More than happy to help. Sounds like you've got a really fun campaign going.

Clockwork Orange meets Cthulhu? Yup, I'd play that. Horrorshow.
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Re: Criminal Investigators?

Post by KeeperMurph » Thu Oct 18, 2012 8:47 pm

Dr. Gerard wrote:More than happy to help. Sounds like you've got a really fun campaign going.

Clockwork Orange meets Cthulhu? Yup, I'd play that. Horrorshow.
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Re: Criminal Investigators?

Post by Eibon » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:35 pm

I know you've had good answers from Keepers Dan, Murph and Dr. Gerard, but as a keeper since 1984, I've run games in most situations, and although I've never had a long-term campaign with all the players being criminals, I've run games where some players are, and to be honest, in most games players are willing to break the law with little persuasion. The big question, however, is why are your people willing to indanger life and sanity to fight Cthulhu? If you beleive in law and order, that's a much easier question to answer.

There are very few published adventures designed for this type of group. I recall a few one-off adventures. There's one where the players are Cthulhu Cultists and a rival cult is trying to wipe you out in an Unspeakable Oath, which is close, and I've got a feeling that there was a rum-running adventure (in Adventures Unlimited, if I remember right), but generally, the private investigator model is far more common. There is also a Cthulhu Live book called Shades of Grey which has some adventures aimed at characters on the villainous side of that game, some of which might be usable (it also introduced a lovely idea, which has partly been taken up by subsiquest Cthulhu games -- Facade Points, which are like Sanity start at 100 and when you loose all your Sanity you start loosing Facade Points instead -- the more you loose, the less "together" and rational you appear to other people until you are a gibbering loon).

But all this doesn't mean you can't adapt existing adventures. For example, "Shadows of Yog-Sothoth" could be kicked-off with your gang regarding the Order of the Silver Twilight as muscling in on your territory and plans to drive them out of town. Adventures like "The Auction" or "Thoth's Dagger" can involve your players going to the auction to rob it, as a way in. "The Curse of Chaugnar-Faugn" might be that a cultist has hired the gangsters to steal the statue of Chaugnar-Faugn from the Museum and when they find the night-watchman murdered, they must expose the cult to clear their names.

Almost all adventures are capable of killing your players, if you are a very violent keeper. Curiously the Cthulhu Now adventures seem to be grim and seedy, in a way that most classic adventures are not. You're looking at a more Noir world than many games use.

Criminals still have families and obligations. They might own someone a favour who asks them to house sit at a dead uncle's house while the estate is being sorted out, or to escort an elderly mother across the country to attend the reading of a will. Not only does it lead to an adventure, but they have a dependent they need to look after too!

If you are going to write or own adventures (and for a campaign you probably will need to) then don't forget films books and television as sources for plots. A film like Fritz Lang's "M" could be perfect for you. In the film the underworld hunts down and puts on trial a child murderer because his crimes are attracting too much police attending to their turf and stopping them running their "normal" crime. Replace the child murderer with cultists getting victims for sacrifice, and you have a potential plot (although the outcome might be different). I once did a very good adventure base on three Doctor Who plots, "The Invasion", The Spearhead From Space" and "The Terror of the Zygons". For monsters I used Serpent People. They were being imported into London and had set up a base in the sewers. They ere kidnapping important people and replacing them with Serpent Men. They kept the kidnapped people alive so they can "steal" their memories and thus be convincing impersonators (thus allowing the players to rescue them). In time, once they controlled the government, they would take over. The story opened with a dying man being chased, running out into the traffic and warning the players that the country was in danger. Evidence on his body lead the players to the import company, and the tale unravelled from there.

One of the best "Sopranos" episodes involved two of Tony's gang taking a man unto the New Jersey Pine Barrens to execute him and just getting lost in the woods. Suppose they had stumbled on a cabin where something evil lurked, or the gave of an Indian sorcerer, or the site of a recent sacrifice? Or how about "The Malteese Falcon" plot, just replace Sam Spade and with a player. A woman approaches the gang, asking for help. The NPC who goes to help ends up dead and strange people start asking the players if they have a Mythos artifact which is beleived to be in the woman's possession.

Another thing to remember if your players are quick to become violent, is that the villains are mostly as sociopathic as your players (by the way, don't forget the SAN loss when the do really nasty things). Once, when I was running the Orient Express campagn, while the rest of the party were in the dinning car, a character sneaked off and broke into the cabin of a cultist to try and kill him. The cultist shrivelled him to a husk with the spell and hung the body up in the other player's cabin as a message not to mess with him (and leaving the players to dispose of the body). Also, my players were keen to shoot first when meeting cultists, so I had one cultist used his own death as the blood sacrifice that would let an Old One through! Remember they live in a world with laws. If they are too blatant they will get arrested (although the police do have to be a little rubbish, otherwise they would solve all the cases before the players do).

Then there is the "Terrible Old Man" type plot, where the players hole-up in an old man's house only to find that he's not as harmless as he looks. And of course, an adventure can come from nowhere. One of my favourite ploys is when the players are driving somewhere, the car breaks down, or someone runs into the road and is knocked down, or the way is blocked and they ned to take a detour. All of these can lead to adventures the characters have no direct connection to.

I'm not sure how the Clockwork Orange influence will work, particularly in a 1920s game? There are people who did go on killing sprees around this time, but the tended to get caught and that could well shorten your campaign. While taking them to an asylum and having them brainwashed (to fight Cthulhu?) would make for a plot, it would change the nature of the campaign from criminal gang to secret agents. There was a great TV series set during the Great Depression called Carnivale, which ran for two seasons, about a boy who could heal people who hides in a travelling carnival-show and a priest who might have been the devil, and how the two are fated to have a showdown. It's moody, sometimes grim and full of material which could be mined for Call of Cthulhu.

Lastly, I'd advise people not to try role playing a genuine psychopath. I tried this is a game of Traveller, to see if I could widen the scope of characters I was playing, and it quickly became unpleasent to play the character and put myself in that mindset. It's really a horrible place to be. Go for roughish criminals, they are much more fun!

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Re: Criminal Investigators?

Post by EddyPo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 6:28 pm

I haven't run this one yet but I loved reading it and I think it might be up your alley:

Dockside Dogs by Paul Fricker

http://www.rpgnow.com/product/102669/Do ... Cthulhu%29

Here's the teaser.

This was supposed to be a simple heist.

A group of well-dressed criminals arrive at a warehouse to rendezvous after pulling off an extraordinary crime. They know each other only by their pseudonyms - Mister Black, Mister Red, Mister Green, Mister Purple, Mister Beige, Mister Silver, Mister Grey.

The plan is simply to sit tight until midnight when someone will arrive to ferry them - and the loot - across the bay to make a final delivery to the boss. Sounds easy, right?

But things take a turn for the weird; strange things happen in and around the warehouse. Things which make the criminals doubt the allegiances of the compatriots, their own sanity, and ultimately the very nature of reality.

It is going to be a long wait for the ferryman.

Dockside Dogs is a one-shot scenario for Call of Cthulhu. Four to six players take on the roles of the well-dressed criminals, hoping against all odds that they will make it through the night.


BTW, proceeds from the sale of this scenario go to Cancer Research courtesy of the Relay for Life UK charity.

Cheers.
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