A little over a decade ago I started writing Call of Cthulhu scenarios. I was part of the Chaosium Missionary Program, a group of authors putting together scenarios for Keepers to run as official Chaosium rounds at conventions around the world. I wrote The Unsung Saga for this program, which went on to become the first of three scenarios in my monograph, The Ravenar Sagas. Once ever few months they’d pick a winner, who got I think $100 Chaosium store credit, it might have been $50… It the money wasn’t the point, it still isn’t for the most part. It was writing and having your work evaluated. I won a few, and lost a few, usually to my rival Chad Bowser. Chad came out of the program to build a name in this industry, like me. We remain friends and I suspect quiet rivals.
After a while writing I wanted to write something more, something epic, spanning time and space, something beautiful and haunting and terrible. Something like -“Tatterdemalion”, an amazing Hastur scenario written by Richard Watts. So I came up with an idea about six souls trapped by fate, to find one another lifetime to lifetime, and to end up encountering different Avatars of Hastur, over and over again. It was a heroic, existential nightmare, where the characters started to remember their past lives once they saw the Yellow Sign. The three scenarios took place in Ancient Rome (when Cthulhu Invictus was still a monograph), The Dark Ages and the Far Future. This campaign became the monograph called “Ripples from Carcosa”.
So, I am just finishing up writing this all up, and I am reading Yog-Sothoth.com. I see a poster with a striking screen name… It turned out to be Richard Watts, one of my favorite scenario authors! I went fan-boy and wrote him, telling how awesome he was, how much I loved his work and that I just finished a Hastur campaign inspired by his scenario Tatterdemalion. He answered me back! He even asked to see the manuscript to maybe give me a few pointers before I sent it in. This was incredible! I quickly sent him the files.
A couple of days later he replied. He wrote four paragraphs telling me how great the campaign was and what he liked. Those four paragraphs were followed by four pages telling me everything that was wrong, every opportunity I missed and suggestions on how I could fix it. Not once did I feel criticized or belittled, his letter was written in the warmest most supportive tone. This man, this stranger, had given me a truly amazing gift, for no real reason. There is a Buddhist proverb – When the student is ready the master appears. I had found my mentor, my father in the art of writing and a man I would be forever grateful to.
I read and re-read the letter. I made the changes needed. I learned more about writing in that four page email than most people will learn in a college creative writing program. “Ripples from Carcosa” was well received by fans and critics, and I’ve been writing ever since.
Jump forward to 2013, I am working on new material for the re-release of Horror on the Orient Express. It’s a dream project for any Cthulhu nerd. I was asked to write one scenario, which became two scenarios, which then became two scenarios and the re-write for a third. The re-write turns out to be Repossession, written by none other than Richard Watts. Richard Watts, my mentor, the man that turned me from being a madman screaming in the wilderness into the cultists I am today. I agree to do it but only if Richard gave his blessings, which he did.
I spoke to Richard about it before I got started, and he said if I needed any help, advice or a sounding board to bounce ideas off of he’d be glad to help. I replied that I already figured out what I wanted to write, adding cheekily, “It’s sort of what I do Richard, I had a good teacher.” In a few short hours I’ll be running Repossession 2.0, by Richard Watts and Oscar Rios. I hope by the laughs, gasps and screams of my players I will know that I have done my master proud.
Mr. Watts, thank you for your guidance, kindness and faith in me. I remain your grateful student.