When I asked Pookie to update the list of English-language European Call of Cthulhu scenarios for the “Continent of Horrors” essay in Horror on the Orient Express, I was looking forwards to hearing about dozens of new adventures that I had missed in my years in the wilderness.
Pookie did his job with flair and diligence, and recently turned in the revised manuscript. Alas, my imagined dozens did not appear. In fact, excluding our campaign, we ended up with less than 20 European scenarios in total for the 30-year life of the game and many of those are now out of print. Has anyone out there played a T.O.M.E. scenario lately?Instead, good ol’ Lovecraft Country remains the firm favourite for writers (and, I presume, players), with so many scenarios now set in Arkham that frankly, if I lived there, I would goddam move.
Looking back, this makes me even prouder of what we managed with Horror on the Orient Express, which alone seems to contain nearly one-third of all English-language scenarios ever set in Europe. This is made slightly more odd by the fact that it is mostly written by Australians; but then, as a culture we are often looking somewhere else. You get a good view when you’re living at the end of the world.
Eddie Izzard has a line where he says “I’m from Europe, where the history comes from”. You could just as well say that Europe is where the horror comes from.
Vampires and werewolves slaughtered their way across that blood-soaked continent centuries before they all got stylists and agents and underage paramours, and Elizabeth Bathory and Vlad the Impaler did not start their dark exploits in New England. The tales of Guy de Maupassant and Hoffman, the novel Der Golem and the films Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari; these are all European nightmares. Fulci and Argento and Bava were serious about their cinematic horror, and Del Toro is at his best in the Spanish settings of The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.European editions of Cthulhu have been supplemented with new scenarios set in those countries, but I’m not aware of any of these ever having been translated back into English. It’s our loss, really; furthermore, the Spanish and French editions of the game are beautiful.
Once you step away from the 1920s period though, the European setting opens up. Naturally, Cthulhu Invictus and Cthulhu Dark Ages are all about European history, and there are excellent scenarios and campaigns for both. That was a direct inspiration for us to use those settings to reveal the dark history of the artifact at the heart of Horror on the Orient Express, and we were fortunate to snag Oscar Rios, the foremost scenario writer for Invictus. Both scenarios are now completed and I’m looking forwards to running them over the next few weekends.
After the 1920s, Europe has its darkest hour. Our campaign is set in 1923, just as the Deutschmark is at its lowest ebb. (As P.F. informed me in an email, German hyperinflation had reached a point where they stopped printing serial numbers on the currency because they were not worth forging.) The seeds were sown then for the worst horrors of all: the Second World War and the final solution.
It’s hard to think of anything more evil than real-world Nazism, but Modiphius are giving it a crack by adding in the Mythos with their Call of Cthulhu setting Achtung Cthulhu, which is now on Kickstarter. This looks to be a tentacle-stepping thrill ride of pulpy goodness; I always figured Hitler must have had some Deep One blood in him. The first campaign Zero Point by Sarah Newton is out in PDF and it’s great. Part One: Three Kings is set in Czechoslovakia, Part Two: Heroes of the Sea is in Dunkirk, and the upcoming Part Three: Code of Honour promises to bring us Istanbul in 1941 (“city of spies, intrigue and adventure!”)
The printed versions are coming, so get on the backing wagon. Perhaps after their trials on the Orient Express, your 1923 investigators (or their sons and daughters) can take up the fight against the Mythos once again when the dark and Stuka-filled skies of 1939 roll around.
It seems like European Cthulhu gaming is finally kicking into gear. Achtung!