Saturday, March 16, 2013

The First Ripple

Many years ago I fell in love with the Call of Cthulhu RPG. I ran loads of publish scenarios, reading as many as I could get my hands on through E-bay and running what I considered the best ones. My friends and I were having a great time but two problems were beginning to take shape.
#1 – I was running out of good scenarios.
#2 – I never got to be an investigator.
I went to a local gaming event, called Recess, and discovered that someone was running a Call of Cthulhu game! I was thrilled. It was in the Gaslight Period, which I’d never ran or read, but at that point I’d play anything to be on the other side of the Keeper’s screen. So I signed up for it and got in. Soon, I was portraying an immigrant coal miner in 1880’s America. There were corrupt mine owners and union organizers fighting it out, and of course the Cthulhu Mythos lurking just beyond the veil. It was a wonderful game, everyone had a great time. We broke the scenario, meaning we went off script but the Keeper didn’t even break stride. He wrote new handouts on the fly and kept going. I was very impressed and that’s when it hit me…
“This is your scenario?” I asked, “You wrote this?”
He said yes and for me the world was never the same.
His name is Phredd Groves. He was just a guy, a role player, like me and he’d created something amazing. It wasn’t cheap or dumb, but well thought out and researched. The game was a political statement and history lesson, wrapped in the cosmic horror of the Cthulhu Mythos and creatures from other dimensions. This wasn’t a throw away art form, this was something more. It was something important, a game I’d likely never forget (and to this day I haven’t).

I became friends with that Keeper and within two weeks I was writing my own scenarios. First came The Case of Sally Carmichael, next I hand wrote a little scenario on three sheets of paper called The Hopeful (A scenario I’d later re-write, expand and publish with Miskatonic River Press). When I ran The Hopeful one of my players asked, “This was really good, which book did it come from?” I answered that I’d wrote it, and he was shocked. Inside something fell into place. Like that keeper I’d played with a few weeks ago, I could do this too.

Soon I was writing scenarios for the Chaosium Missionary Program. A few months later I was writing “Ripples from Carcosa”, my first monograph. I was fortunate enough that the Keeper who so inspired me was one of my play testers. His participation helped make that monograph even better.

Eventually my friend moved overseas and for several years lived in England, studying landscape archeology (What is it with Archeologists and Call of Cthulhu?). But then, a few months ago, he moved back to New York and we're playing Call of Cthulhu together again.  He's now back on my play test team and his investigators is traveling through Eastern Europe on the Orient Express.  His investigator just lost on eye in Bulgaria. 

I honestly don’t know if he’s aware of how deeply his one scenario affected the course of my life. I’m writing this to make sure that he does and to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart. I will never be able to repay that great gift he game me so many years ago.

 Phredd Groves, my dear friend.


  1. Good post. Nice to see what an influence one person can have.

  2. That's a really inspirational tale. I'm glad you had such a great experience.