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Bubo
November 17th, 2013, 02:02
The campaign that I am currently tormenting my players with is set in the Modern age at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts. My players are using characters who are embarking on their college career. In order to properly reflect their college life, I have modified the character creation rules, introduced a class tracking system, and written a custom page for the character sheet in Fantasy Grounds. To help stimulate conversation, I am posting these changes below.

Bubo
November 17th, 2013, 02:09
Setting:
This campaign will start in the fall of 1998 at Miskatonic University in the fictional Lovecraft Country in Massachusetts. A map of Lovecraft Country can be found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/46/Lovecraft_Country.svg although there are other styles of maps available if you google Lovecraft Country.

All characters are new freshman. The 1998 Fall Semester is 8/10 to 12/11 with the Thanksgiving week starting on 11/23. The 1999 Spring Semester is 1/25 to 6/4, with Spring Break week starting on 3/8.

Keep in mind that major events will still happen on schedule (Exxon will still buy Mobil on 12/1/98). However, you may not act on this knowledge (such as buying Exxon/Mobil stock in October of 98). Also, you may not publicly usurp any major events, such as having your character found the Amazon business or making suggestions to Jeff Bezos (although that does not rule out behind the scenes involvement, such as defeating the Yithians operating behind the scenes at Enron by anonymously revealing the Enron Scandal to reporters).

To simplify things, items not listed in the price list (found in Resources in Fantasy Grounds) will use today's prices for equivalent quality items. The item must be available in most stores in the year of gameplay to be bought (no Hybrid electric vehicles at the dealership or Android tablets at Best Buy in 1998).

The Arkham Now rulebook is a little vague on what and where national chains are available in town. Unless the Arkham Now book states a specific location, I will auto-magically make all national chains available in town fit in the northwest corner of the intersection of West Church St and Boundary St. This location is approximately 1 block from the West border of campus, so it is easy walking distance. For now, the national chains available are Wal-Mart, Sears, Best Buy, Palais Royal, Academy, McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Denny's, Red Lobster, and Steak and Ale.

Knock-offs may be ordered from overseas, but there is a chance equal to the discount that the item will not be delivered, and a chance equal to twice the discount that the item will be non-functional.
Example: A Hong Kong imported pool cue is 20% cheaper than US prices. There is a 20% chance that the pool cue will never be delivered, and a 40% chance that pool cue arrives with non-repairable warping.

Attribute Rolling:
Character creation uses the rules from the book, with the following changes:

2D6+9 (2 six-sided) Do this 1 time.
This is for EDU (Education)
The average score for the person on the street is 15-17

Character Age:
Characters will be between 17 and 19 years of age.

Income:
Roll 1D10 (1 ten-sided) and follow this chart:
Miskatonic University Student - Monthly Stipend:

1= $40, 2= $50, 3= $60, 4= $80, 5= $100, 6= $120, 7= $140, 8= $160, 9= $180, 10= $200
The student also has belongings and other assets of value equal to ten times the monthly stipend.

The monthly stipend, tuition, books, lab fees (including computer lab fees), dorm room rent, and an on campus meal plan are provided to the student as long as the student maintains a GPA higher than 3.0 in classes as a full time student every semester.

Players will share double dorm rooms on the same floor in a co-ed dorm facility.

Each student starts with the following. These starting items are not deducted from the starting asset amount:

Basic class supplies
A modest wardrobe
Choose either a basic laptop computer or a poor condition used car from the 1980's.
OS is included with the laptop but all other software must be paid for from assets.
Non-car options may be requested, but are traded against the working condition
of the vehicle. i.e. a sports car would require $4000 in repairs to be operational

Example: A student who has a $120 per month stipend has $1,200 in assets, basic class supplies, modest wardrobe, and a laptop. The laptop has Windows 98 on it, but the student must buy Microsoft Office out of assets.

Major:
Choose a major for your student. Undecided is an option at the start of Freshman year. You may elect to change your major at the start of each semester during your freshman and sophomore years. Skill points already invested will not change if you change majors. Penalties will apply if you change your major during your junior or later years.

The Major will determine the class schedule that the student needs to obtain their degree. Google a class schedule from any college for the selected Major to determine what classes to take per semester. Failure to create your own class schedule will result in the Keeper building a schedule for you, with classes inconveniently scattered all over each day (as happens to any student who waits till the last minute to select classes).

Skills:
Career skill points are your EDU x5. As a Freshman, these points may be invested anywhere except Cthulhu Mythos. At least 1 point each must be invested in the skills related to the classes taken during your first year.
Personal Interest skill points are your INT x10. These are for any skill on the sheet except Cthulhu Mythos. (Cthulhu Mythos is only gained through play)

Bubo
November 17th, 2013, 02:09
GPA:
Students must be full time (5+ classes per semester) to maintain the funding described above. For simplicity, all classes are 3 credit hours. Grades are updated at the end of every Month. Grades are based on Attendance and Study, modified by Intelligence. The system is:

Necessary Attendance = 3 hours x 18 x number of classes
Necessary Study = 6 hours x 18 x number of classes
Student Effort (Yes, this formula allows for students to make up short weeks by working longer during other weeks) = ((Actual Attendance + Actual Study) / (Necessary Attendance + Necessary Study)) * 100

GPA is determined by rolling percentile dice against Student Effort + INT stat. A success is a 4.0, and the GPA is reduced by 0.2 for every point you fail the roll. A GPA greater than 4.0 may not be earned.
Example: Student Effort is 30 and INT is 12. A 4.0 is 42 or lower. If the roll is 46, then the GPA is 3.2. If the roll is 54 then the GPA is 2.8. If the roll is 69 then the GPA is 0.0.

Skill Gain:
Successful skill gain through use will only earn 1d4 points, instead of 1d10. This change applies until the student finishes their bachelor degree.
Classes allow for bonus skill points to be earned. At the end of every semester, the student earns ((EDU x Semester GPA) / 2) skill points (round up), but these skill points can only be applied to skills related to classes taken. In addition, the student earns EDU x 1 skill points that may be applied to any skill (1 point per semester may be invested in Cthulhu Mythos, with appropriate sanity loss). Over the course of 4 years of college, this means that the student will earn more than the normal starting skill points if they maintain a 4.0 GPA.

Bubo
November 17th, 2013, 02:40
Allow me to explain some of the changes that I made:

When working with a college setting that requires a heavy time investment for classes and classwork, it is important that dates be set for the start and end of each semester, as well as the week long holiday for each semester. The end of the semester both provides a deadline for resolving current story-arcs as well as provides an opportunity for unrestricted non-school activities. The week holiday provides an opportunity to really dive into the more esoteric aspects of the story-arcs, and provides an opportunity for characters to make and break detailed plans. Unmentioned is the fact that there will be mini-"expeditions" during the winter and summer breaks that will be offered via story hooks to the players.

My choices for prices on non-book items, the location of chain stores, and overseas orders were made purely to provide timely resolution of these queries (plus one of my players has ordered cheap knock-offs extensively since the early 1990's, and I know he will make an argument for cheaper goods if I don't lay down the rules). While there is a little fourth wall breaking here, my players have accepted this inconsistency in the name of expedience.

In the character creation section, I actually listed the steps with my changes in line. I am uncertain if reposting the full character creation rules would be a copyright violation, so I only included my changes.

I opted to guarantee a higher EDU value for my players with the justification that the character must have managed to gain acceptance to Miskatonic University, a fairly prestigious school.

I spent a great deal of time working with the Income and starting assets section. In an earlier incarnation of this campaign, I attempted to use the normal income table from the character creation rules, and it resulted in students that were never concerned with money. When I spent my time in College, I know that a great deal of my non-study time revolved around money worries. It did not feel right to not reflect this aspect of student life, and after playing around with a great many Excel spreadsheets this table was the result. As the same time, I don't want my players to feel like all of their time is consumed with chasing a dollar. To that end, I included the basic necessities of life with the stipulation that they keep their grades up. This ensure that they never worry about starving, and keeps classes a pertinent part of their characters life (negating the risk of classes being ignored for the mysteries of the unknown, at least not until their later college years).

The choice between a vehicle or a laptop is a tricky proposition for a college student. A vehicle provides mobility that may prove crucial during the campaign, but a laptop allows for computing without being chained down to the college computer lab. Mobile internet and wifi is still fairly rare in the time period that I chose, so the laptop is more limited than most players realize at first. In my opinion, the correct choice is for 1-2 players in the campaign to take laptops, while the rest take vehicles.

I expect the largest concern raised is going to be in regards to skill point availability, especially in light of the skill gain system I have instituted. It will be pointed out sooner than later that I have reduced the career skill points but left intact the personal interest skill points. While someone may be able to build a better system than I used here, my main concern was that I was running out of time before the start of my campaign and reducing both sets of skill points resulted in characters that really were too weak to even get started in Call of Cthulhu.

To begin with, the reason that I have chosen to not enforce career skill points being used in career skills only is because I feel that the focus represented by this skill pool really takes place in college. As recent high school graduates starting college, I feel that the characters have a more eclectic collection of skills from their high school years. The smart player will still use the majority of their career skill points in career skills, but I feel that it is justified if they stray outside of their narrow career definitions with this reduced pool.

Personal interest skill points were originally reduced alongside the career skill points, but the end result was a character that really had too little skill to do anything. After some last minute consideration, I chose to provide the full personal interest skill point pool. My justification is that, again as high school students, they pursued a large variety of different interests in their youth. However, once they enter college life they will find that they have little time to develop these non-career interests. As such, it makes a little more sense to provide this entire pool to them at the front instead of the end of their college life.

With these changes to the starting skill points, I spent some time considering how skill gains take place during the characters college years. My concern is that a player will max out a career skill before graduating without having to take any classes in that skill. To make this possibility less likely, I have reduced the normal skill award on successful skill use to 1d4 instead of 1d10.

In regards to college graduates ending up with more skill points than a normal Call of Cthulhu investigator, I have decided to justify this with the fact that these students are getting early exposure to the Mythos.

With the GPA and class bonus skills, I wanted to ensure that classes really have an impact on the character. As such, I tied the Monthly Stipend income to the GPA value of classes that the student is taking. I spent some time reviewing "recommended schedules" and "recommended study time" for college students before selecting the numbers that I did. At the same time, I decided that the characters really need some freedom to investigate the story arcs without risking their GPA. I opted for a system that allows characters to make up "busy weeks" by over studying on "slow weeks". In my opinion, this keeps classes pertinent while allowing enough flexibility that the player does not feel tied down by classes.

Bubo
November 17th, 2013, 02:55
The final piece to this modification is the Class tab added to the character sheet. I freely admit that this is trial-and-error copy/paste editing of the existing character sheets, and I am hoping that someone can improve on the hack job here.

I have attached both the V2 and V3 files here. The V2 features a class definition section via pop-up window that I flagrantly stole from the Spell section of the character sheet. I was preparing to adjust it to more class appropriate fields when my group decided that they wanted to use the V3 Alpha/Beta client. After the change, I found that the V2 sheet no longer worked. I rebuilt it using the V3 format, but I am still trying to understand how a new window is generated in the V3 system. My early attempt is located in the record_class.xml file.

Bubo
November 17th, 2013, 03:26
One of the challenges that I have faced over the last couple of months is the lack of good maps for use in RPGs set in a college campus. Even the Arkham Now resourcebook and the Miskatonic University resourcebook fail to provide decent maps. The best that I could find is the map of Arkham, Massachusetts by Gus DiZerega. Every resourcebook that I have reviewed from Chaosium that includes "maps" of Arkham simply contain subsets of the DiZerega map with markup added to it. Unfortunately, the style of the DiZerega map both reflects Arkham of the 1920's and provides an angle of view that just does not translate well to building a grid ready map for a VTT.

Of course, I have yet to find a VTT ready map for any kind of college building.

What I have found is that the Henning Ludvigsen map of Arkham used in the Arkham Horror Boardgame (http://www.henningludvigsen.com/) provides a view of Arkham that feels more modern, and is top-down so it translates well to VTT gridded maps. Personally, I feel that the building placement reflects heavy use of pre-made sprites (which saddens me because I love the Arkham Horror Boardgame), but the map is better than nothing when seeking an alternative to the Gus DiZerega map. After considering the Henning Ludvigsen map, I have decided to rebuild the DiZerega map for both top-down view, and then for a Modern representation of Arkham. I am uncertain of how DiZerega's copyright would apply to my derivative work (plus I'm a lousy artist), so I will likely only use this map for personal use.

As for college buildings, while I have not found any maps offered for RPG or VTT use, I have found a decent number of floorplans of college dormitories and classrooms. I am currently using the floorplans of Chitwood Hall (http://housing.ttu.edu/images/halls/chitwoodweymouth/hallfloorplanw.png"Weymouth Hall[/url] and [url="http://housing.ttu.edu/images/halls/chitwoodweymouth/hallfloorplanc.png) offered from the Weymouth/Chitwood Complex homepage (http://housing.ttu.edu/halls/chitwoodweymouth) as a basis to create Herber Hall on the Miskatonic University campus. Again, since this is a derivative of the original, I am unsure of copyright status and will only use this for my personal use.

For the Miskatonic Exhibit Museum, I was lucky enough to find the floorplan of the Estate of James Deering (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_SiTBOIutkzw/THeodGnzweI/AAAAAAAAAtI/_Yohh_iERgw/s1600/Viz002.jpg) that I was able to manipulate into a museum floorplan. The nice bit about this floorplan is that some of the papergrain has been captured in this image, allowing for a real authentic feeling if you keep the grain in place. Again, since this is a derivative of the original, I am unsure of copyright status and will only use this for my personal use.

I am currently adapting the Orne Library floorplans provided in the Miskatonic University resourcebook. I am actually making a full VTT detailed plan for this one, which is taking more time than I originally estimated (and may require that I rebuild it again due detail lost in some of the furniture placement at the current scale). The hard part, that I have not begun tackling yet, will be building the North and South wing added in the Modern Miskatonic University. Fortunately, the Arkham Now book specifies that these are ugly modern additions, so I should be able to use simply "shoebox" office maps for this.

Bubo
November 17th, 2013, 03:52
The other challenge that I have found in preparing this scenario is the number of NPCs that the player's should encounter over the course of the campaign. There are residents, RAs, the RF, and guests at the dormitory. There are students, TAs, and Professors in class. There are administrative personnel and just sundry encounters on the campus. I admit that I was ill prepared during the first incarnation of this campaign when a piece of slapstick concerning a female detective punching campus security in the face turned into a character interest in the detective. With the vow that I would not be that ill prepared again, I started the herculean task of generating hundreds of "real" NPCs. Fortunately, I happened to come across Ashe's Guide to RPG Personality / Backgrounds (http://rpg.ashami.com/) which has proven priceless in generating NPCs. I ended up building an Excel sheet that generated the appropriate values for me at the press of a button (again, derivative work, but this time I've submitted the Excel sheet to Ashe to publish if they want to, as well as a request to code a module for Fantasy Grounds to offer the Guide in game). I heartily recommend Ashe's guide if you need to bulk generate NPCs.

cscase
November 19th, 2013, 16:17
Nice work, Bubo!

Have you seen the Madness at Miskatonic mini-campaign? It's not exactly what you are doing and I don't think it's set in the modern era, but if you haven't yet looked at it, it might be worth a look-over to see if there are any ideas you might want to jack for your own campaign:
http://rpgplotter.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/madness-at-miskatonic-updated/