Lynne Hardy, Associate Editor for Call of Cthulhu and Line Editor for the Rivers of London RPG at Chaosium, has a new campaign setting coming, The Children of Fear for Call of Cthulhu. Over the years, I’ve spoken with Michael O’Brien at Chaosium about the HeroQuest trademark, his thoughts on the Alliance shutdown, the upcoming Rivers of London RPG, and more. With The Children of Fear, I get to discuss the project with the creator and associate editor to learn how much work goes into creating a 400+ page campaign setting.
EGG EMBRY (EGG): I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. At Chaosium, you wear several hats, but the first one I’d like to discuss is that of author of The Children of Fear. What can you share about the latest tome for Call of Cthulhu?
LYNNE HARDY (LYNNE): Set in 1923/24, it’s a large campaign spanning parts of China, Central Asia, Northern India, and Tibet. Although primarily written for Classic Call of Cthulhu, we’ve done what we did for Masks of Nyarlathotep and included Pulp Cthulhu stats blocks for major NPCs, along with suggestions on how to tweak the campaign if you’d prefer a more Indiana Jones-style game. It’s intended to be player-led, so they get to choose the path their investigators take through the story’s central core. We’ve also made it scalable in terms of the degree of Mythos content--ranging all the way from the Outer Gods down to a more low-key, occult-focused version; that way, the Keeper can tailor the campaign to their own group’s particular likes and dislikes.
EGG: What kind of twists should players expect? What can you reveal about the larger evil they’ll face?
LYNNE: It’s fun to keep the players and their investigators guessing so there are definitely some twists and turns, but I can’t really reveal too much about them or the larger evil the investigators face as it might spoil things. Let’s just say that it’s all to do with a terrifying individual known as the King of Fear and the schemes of his followers.
EGG: 416 pages stretching across 1920s Asia, what inspired this project?
LYNNE: Many things. Initially, research I’d done for a previous campaign but hadn’t used and a conversation with Jeff Richards at Gen Con in 2015. Delving into my old notes and doing more background reading so I could present a fleshed-out pitch to Chaosium actually led me away from what I thought the campaign might be. The research kept bringing up a couple of specific topics, including the places visited by the monk Xuanzang in his epic quest across the region (immortalized in Journey to the West), so I decided to stop fighting it and go where it was leading me. The Monkey TV show was huge in Britain when I was a child, so it was fun to learn more about the monk behind the legends and use his journey as the basis for the one the investigators will take.
EGG: With the 1920s Asia setting, what steps did Chaosium take to insure this book is culturally sensitive?
LYNNE: First, a lot of research, but that can only take you so far. From the outset, I was very mindful of cultural and religious sensitivities, and hopefully our work with a multicultural team of play testers and consultants during the various phases of development has helped us address that. Two ordained Vajrayana Buddhists offered their assistance after reading about the campaign on social media, and as the campaign features many elements of Tantric Buddhism, their feedback was much appreciated. They checked the manuscript for me and corrected me where I’d misunderstood a term or concept, so the material is as accurate and respectful as it can be.
EGG: That is excellent news and I appreciate you going the extra mile with that.
The cover states the book is by “Lynne Hardy and Friends”. I love that, it sounds like your band or a group of superheroes. In this case, who are the “Friends”?
LYNNE: Everyone who helped bring the finished book into the world: all the artists, cartographers, play testers, editors, and consultants, plus members of the Chaosium team. While I am its author, books like these rely on a host of incredibly talented people--in this case, from all across the world--often working completely behind the scenes. We couldn’t get everyone’s name on the front cover, but I wanted to acknowledge that without their hard work, The Children of Fear wouldn’t exist.
EGG: The Children of Fear was announced over four years ago and is just about to come out. As Associate Editor, Call of Cthulhu, was that a long development cycle? Are there any learning moments that you can share from this project?
LYNNE: It was a long one, yes! Book development is an odd thing--some books come through the pipeline quite quickly, others take longer for a whole variety of reasons. When I began The Children of Fear, I was a freelancer; financially, I couldn’t afford to devote all of my time to it, so it chugged along in between other writing and editing projects for various companies. I’d almost completed the first draft when Mike [Mason] asked me to work on Masks of Nyarlathotep. Chances like that tend to come along once in your career, and while I wanted to get my campaign finished, I knew I’d be missing an important opportunity if I turned Masks down, so Children went on hold. Masks took a couple of years to get right, and it took a little while to get back up to speed with Children after that and finish the raw document. Besides being checked by our Buddhist consultants, the campaign also went into playtesting with multiple groups to make sure it worked and their feedback from the various different stages of testing was then worked back into the text and additional material written where required. You also need a lot of art and maps for a book this big, and that all takes time to commission and approve. Then the book needed to be edited and proofed. Again, a large, complex campaign like this takes time to check and correct. In amongst all of that, I was taken on full-time by Chaosium as Associate Editor on Call of Cthulhu. We have many books in different stages of development and production for the line at any given time, so The Children of Fear had to slot into place with those others and wait its turn in the queue. As you can imagine, it’s also taken a while to lay it out and proof the pdf. Thanks to Nick [Nacario] and our artists and cartographers, it’s a lovely thing to look at. Hopefully people will get as much enjoyment from reading and playing it as they will looking at it. One of the main things I learned on this project was not to be stingy with the amount of art you need for a book like this. I was a tad over conservative in my original estimates, but it all turned out okay in the end! The other learning moment was that, after writing two of these massive campaigns on my own now, I don’t feel the need to do another one any time soon.
EGG: I laughed when I read that last bit! I can only imagine.
Keeping with your Associate Editor hat, what other projects are you guiding for Chaosium?
LYNNE: I’m currently editing A Time to Harvest, which was the Call of Cthulhu Organized Play campaign in 2016. It’s being updated and given all new artwork and maps ready for a full release. A new solo adventure, Alone Against the Tide, is just about to go into layout, and I have several other projects which haven’t been announced yet that I’m helping to develop, edit, and commission art and maps for.
EGG: Switching hats, you’re also the Line Editor, Rivers of London RPG, correct? I spoke to Michael O’Brien about that license when it was announced and, more recently, you spoke with Charles Dunwoody about the game. Are there any updates that you can share about the RPG?
LYNNE: I am! Several chapters of the book are pretty much complete and ready to go into editing. The rules are currently out for the first round of external playtesting and we’re getting some very useful feedback from our testers that’s helping us to refine the system so it best supports telling stories in Ben [Aaronovitch’s] wonderful world. I’m also about to start approaching artists and graphic designers so we can begin developing the book’s style and design.
EGG: Beyond Chaosium, you’re the designer of the ENnie-nominated steampunk RPG, Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks. Are you planning to revisit that game in the future?
LYNNE: I would dearly love to but, for the moment, Cthulhu and the Folly have me fully occupied. I had been about to start on a US and Canada sourcebook for the game, along with a small campaign, when I started working for Chaosium as a freelancer. As with all small, personal projects, if it comes down to working on that with no guarantee of financial return or taking on a job with a firm pay cheque at the end of it, the reality is you go for the one you know is going to pay you. I do still run Cogs at conventions, and it’s always a great deal of fun to do. So, you never know--one day…
EGG: Thank you for talking with me. For fans that want to pick up The Children of Fear and your other work Chaosium, where can they go?
LYNNE: The PDF for The Children of Fear will be released first on the Chaosium website; like our other games and supplements, it should also then be available on DriveThruRPG. The advantage of buying the pdf direct from us is that you then get the cost of it off the print version, should you decide to purchase that as well. Usually, print copies of our books arrive 2–3 months after their electronic release and will be available from our website and your Friendly Local Games Store.
The Children of Fear from Chaosium
“A Campaign Across Asia For The World’s Best Horror Game! A mysterious telegram plunges the investigators into an epic journey of intrigue and horror.”
Egg Embry is a freelance tabletop roleplaying game journalist writing for EN World, Knights of the Dinner Table, RPG News, d20 Radio, the Tessera Guild, the Open Gaming Network, the AetherCon Convention Magazine, GAMA’s Around the Table, and more. His areas of focus are RPG crowdfunding projects and RPG reviews as well as interviews with a range of gaming professionals from freelancers to CEOs. Beyond journalism, he dabbles in freelance writing and producing gaming zines for the roleplaying zine-aissance, including POWERED by the DREAMR, a Powered by the Apocalypse RPG zine about living out your dreams within other’s dreams.
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