JP On Gaming

Friday, May 11, 2012

Call Of Cthulhu: Dark Trenches in the works

Recently, I have got to see the movie "Passchendaele" about the battle of the same name. This movie is VERY hard-hitting about the First World War. I strongly recommend to anyone interested in learning about the war. The images and the mud-filled horror. To add to my own interest and really inspire me, I've been watching the WWI in Colour series on the Military Channel.

With the centennial of the First World War coming up in two years, this I've been inspired.


I wanted to write something set during the First World War. That period, to me, is perfect for Call of Cthulhu. First, the whole thing, research. I started reading about the war. So much to do. So many offensives. So many "firsts".

From a gaming side, Chaosium came up with a great product called "No Man's Land" that includes a number of GREAT appendices including offensives random charts, stats of gas attacks, Sanity. This book is so great that just these appendices make this book worth the cover price. I would not have to come up with the full spectrum of the rules. Also, NO WWI ZOMBIES. Yes they are great, but I didn't want to repeat anything from No Man's Land, or from the Call Of Cthulhu: The Wasted Lands game. So that was out.

To help me decide where and when to set the game up, I did a mental checklist.

What do people think of when they think of the First World War. And I tried to focus on stereotypes. - Gas attacks
- Trenches and stalemate
- German with spiked helmet (pickelhaube)
- Barb wire
- The Russian Revolution (rise of Lenin)
- Hell in the Mud

With those first details, this ruled out the eastern front. If you don't know: the Eastern Front was a very mobile battlefield with large offensives where large tracts of lands were exchanged.

The Western Front it was going to be!

When to set it took me a bit more time, and more fuzzy logic had to be used. I'll spare you all the details, but I ended up deciding on the second Battle of Ypres. During that battle, the Germans used gas shells for the first time in large quantity. Although both sides had used gas before, those were small "test shots" that achieved little. However, this time, the Germans managed to break the Allied lines but they failed to capitalize on it because their own soldiers were -rightfully- afraid of the effect of gas.

No Man's Land, set in 1918 uses Americans as its base. I wanted to be a little wider and use a regiment that I could re-use if need be. Looking at paintings of the battle, I came across Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) regiment (which is still active today). The regiment's "Originals" were decimated at the battle. Enough. I was hooked. I was also quite intrigued by the name. Princess Patricia was the daughter of the Governor of Canada at the time.

So now I had a time, a place, a group of actors, villains (the Germans), and a tie-in to the Mythos (no I will not spoil it here). Now came the time to put everything together with a few cool artifices and tools to make the game unique.

Since this is not going to be an on-going campaign (expect a lot of death and mad ravings by the end), I had some leeway. First off, I plan to have a basic character sheet (which I may post here later) with characters's skills and attributes. From there, I plan to have two random hand outs. Both of which will add some details to the character. For example (and those are not likely to make the final cut), one PC maybe have have some college medical training, giving him a bonus to his Medicine skill. Another may have had an affair with the Captain's wife, giving him some stealth bonuses, etc. The basic sheet + 2 mini handouts should provide a more complete background for the character, making him more than "a farm boy, a professor and an accountant stand in a trench".

I plan to run this event locally at two distinct game days: The City-Wide Game Event on the 19-20th of May (I'll run it at 5pm at Gamer's Haven and I'll be running NeoExodus' "Encounter at Ramat Bridge" at Petrie's at 2pm). Then I'll be running it at the charity event on June 2nd at Total Escape Games in north Denver.

I'll keep you posted on the advancement of this task. I plan to have a few WWI minis to post here soon (from Over the Wire games), and some writing developments.

Stay tuned


PS: BTW, if you are a member of the PPCLI and you read this, thanks for your service and please accept this work as an homage to the regiment and its distinguished history.


  1. I was just thinking that Paschendale would make a great game setting. I have'nt seen them movie, but I love the Maiden song. That has to count for something, right??

  2. I find that such powerful images and wartime location/ elements make for a great backdrop.
    You can see some of the movie's battle scenes as a fan made video on youtube: