Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Campaigns I'll Probably Never Get to Run: Shanghai 1930 Part 2

We return once again to the vice-riddled city of Shanghai 1930, a Call of Cthulhu Campaign minus the Mythos.  Last time I laid the groundwork in terms of setting and the game system that would be used.  This time I plan to lay out some of the character archetypes, that would be appropriate to the campaign.  I also plan to cover some rules that I think would greatly benefit the campaign.  Without further ado let's get started.

Shanghai 1930 Occupations

One of the things that draws me to the Call of Cthulhu system for this campaign, is the myriad of Occupations that the players can choose from.  Volume 2 of the Investigator's Companion is a particularly good resource for this particular game.  As it has many of the occupations that I think would be interesting to see in such a campaign.  Occupations such as...

Native Chinese

Gangster, Shifty Account/Lawyer (Legitimate Business Face-man), Police Detective (French Concession Police or Shanghai Municipal Police), Smuggler/Pirate, Hitman, Bartender, Bookie, Small Business Owner, Political Boss, Company Officer/Executive, Thug

Refugees (White Russians, Central European Jews, German Entertainers  and closeted Homosexuals) 

Dilletante (former Russian Aristos), Military Officer (fleeing the Bolshevik purges), Student/Intern,  Cocktail Waitress, Hooker (former Russian nobility, working as high class call girls), Entertainer, Bartender, Rabbi, Russian Orthodox Priest (use Catholic Priest occupation), Jazz Musician, Legitimate Musician, Con Artist, Political Activist (White Russian emigres continuing the fight against the Bolsheviks while in exile, use the Communist/Radical occupation), Mercenary (Work for Chinese Warlords, Bodyguards to Gangsters or French Concession Special Riot Police), Antique Dealer

International Settlement 

Small Business Owner, Company Officer/Executive, Writer, Spy, Foreign Correspondent, Missionary (British, American Protestant or French Catholic), Editor (Local Foreign Language Paper), Dilettante (The Idle Rich of the Western World come to sample what he Paris of the East has to offer), Soldier/Marine (British Army, American Marines, Annamese French Colonial Troops, Italian Marines and Japanese Infantry), Police Detective (French Concession Police or Shanghai Municipal Police), Ambassador (Foreign Consul), Gambler, Con Artist, Hit Man, Gangster, Burglar, Film Star (Remember Charlie Chaplin is staying at the Cathay Hotel in Shanghai around this time)

Special Rules for Shanghai 1930


Since opium is a significant source of income and vice in Shanghai.  It only seemed fitting that I include rules for the consumption of it.  This was lifted from Call of Cthulhu Secrets of San Francisco. 
Duration: 1d3+1 hours.
Duration Effects: all Sanity checks with a +10 percentile chance of success.  The effects of any insanities that an investigator might be suffering are negated for the duration, and the investigator can ignore all CON rolls against pain. 
Duration Side Effects: immobility for 1d2 hours, constipation, and nausea.  Each time opium is smoke an investigator makes a Luck roll, a failure results in the loss of 1d2 hit points
Addiction: after 1d6 uses the investigator is addicted, needing to take the drug once a day.  Failure to do so results in agitation with all skills except Cthulhu Mythos reduced by half normal value.  If the investigator can stay off opium for 1d3+3 weeks, requiring a POW x3 roll per week to do so, his or her skill levels return to normal. 
Cthulhu Mythos: investigators have a chance equal to their current skill level of receiving frightening otherworldly visions costing 0/1d3 points of Sanity each time they smoke opium.


Gambling is also another big part of the atmosphere in 1930s Shanghai.  The Westerners & Japanese were fond of Roulette & Cards, while the Chinese primarily focused on mahjong, fan-tan and dice.  I'll have to keep looking for rules for the Chinese games.  Until then here are rules for Roulette, Poker and Blackjack lifted from Call of Cthulhu King of Chicago.
Blackjack: Player and dealer roll against their Luck scores each round until one fails--if both fail during the same round, ties go to the house.  The minimum bet is $10; it pays 2 to 1.
Roulette: The player's chance of winning is equal to his POW plus 1%.  The minimum bet is $10; it pays 5 to 1.
Poker: There are four players each game.  For every new hand, each player rolls against his Luck score each round until only one player is left--the winner, who takes the pot.  If all players are eliminated in the same round, the one with the highest Luck score wins.  The minimum bet is $10, but if no winner is declared after the first round, add $10 to the pot for each player who advances to the to the next round; this procedure continues until a winner is declared.

World War One Service (Also Russian Civil War)

Character Military service in the First World War is often overlooked in Call of Cthulhu.  I have tried since discovering the game, to find a way to remedy this.  After acquiring a copy of the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion, I think I finally have the answer I've been searching for.

The rules go something like this, for every year served (to a maximum of four) the character gains 15 skill points and loses 1d3 sanity points.  The skill points are distributed among one of the packages listed below.* This can be used to represent service in the Trenches of France for British and American characters.  It can also be used to represent service in the Russian Civil War for White Russian exiles.  A number of Chinese served in the British & French Chinese Labour Corps.  These rules can be used to simulate their experiences in the trenches or while working in Allied Munitions Factories.

Intelligence Officer: Bargain, Cartography, Climb, Credit Rating, Dodge, Handgun, Hide, Jump, Listen, Meteorology, Navigate, Other Language, Persuade, Psychology

Officer: Bargain, Climb, Credit Rating, Dodge, Handgun, Hide, Jump, Listen, Navigate, Persuade

Rifleman: Bayonet, Climb, Conceal, Dodge, Fast Talk, Hide, Jump, Listen, Machine Gun, Rifle, Sneak, Spot Hidden

Sapper (also Chinese Labour Corps): Climb, Conceal, Dodge, Electrical Repair, Explosives, Fast Talk, Operate Heavy Machinery, Jump, Mechanical Repair, Rifle

Munitions Worker (Chinese Labour Corps): Chemistry, Mechanical Repair, Operate Heavy Machinery, -1 Appearance

A Word on Languages

Linguistically the Shanghai 1930 campaign would be incredibly diverse.  Moreso than the standard Call of Cthulhu game where most of the characters speak the same language (i.e. English).  English will probably be the standard for American and British characters in the International Settlement.  In the French Concession it will likely be French, or Russian.  For many Russian ex-nobles French would be their first language with Russian being their second.  In fact many Russian women in Shanghai made their living teaching French to the children of upper-class Chinese.  Japanese will also be not be unheard in 1930s Shanghai, with a significant Japanese community residing in the International Settlement.  Complete with a garrison of Imperial Army soldiers.  In terms of Chinese Dialects, Mandarin is unlikely to be heard outside of a Courtroom or among the company of intellectuals.  Whereas Cantonese is primarily spoken in Hong Kong and by some businessmen in Shanghai.  The City and the surrounding country-side's dialect of Choice is Wu or "Shanghainese".  

Wrapping Things Up

Before I end this post I felt I should explain some things about what I have written so far.  These occupations are mostly meant to represent, the high-rollers of Shanghai.  If I were to sum up this campaign in a few words it would probably look something like this.  Boardwalk Empire in 1930s Shanghai.  The game would primarily deal with backroom deals between the various factions of the City.  Any conflict will most likely come from outside the city, in the form of outside forces.  Throwing a monkey wrench into an otherwise well-oiled machine.  This is a game where a lot of notes would be passed between the individual players and the GM.  The players would switch sides as it suited their character's ambitions.  I personally would encourage a wide variety of characters from all three of the factions.  Perhaps even going so far as to ask the players to make three different characters.  Meant to give the players something to do, when the action isn't centred around their initial character's sphere of influence.  So there it is Shanghai 1930, a campaign I'll probably never get to run.  What do you think?  Be sure to comment with any thoughts you may have.

*Note: Only some of the packages have been included from the MoNC, if other packages are wanted, you can find them there.