Or, "Cthulhu By Cameralight"
The idea is this, /tg/: a game in which the players are the owners, operators, staff etc of a small Hollywood studio during the end of the silent film era and the beginning of the talkies. With the rise of the Vitaphone and the Hays Code around their necks, the studio has to scout talent, scripts, locations and try to turn a profit on nickel shows.
Essentially, this isn't so much a campaign as a framework to hang any number of scenarios from. Why are you out in the middle of nowhere? Because you're shooting a talkie and need to convince that old snaggle-toothed man to let you shoot his house. Why are you grabbing that relic? Because we happen to need one of this shot and it's just lying around. Why are we poring over old and dusty tomes? Because we need some material for the next screenplay...
What scenarios do you think could arise from this framework? Assume that your typical party is probably going to be field team that actually go out and "make film" - so, directors, actors, set techs, lighting guys, screenwriters for on-set edits, producers to be incredibly corrupt and shitty.
An idea I'd had:
>an indie film maker has approached your studio with a reel he says was inspired by Moby Dick and asking for distribution through your studio, but vanishes leaving the reel with you. Soon after, a private detective asks after "the man from Innsmouth", claiming to be hired by Edison and chasing him for not paying Edison's legal fees for using film-making processes on the East Coast. While the film initially appears to be a strange, but spectacular story of a small fishing crew, delving into its backstory reveals that - well, you can fill in the gaps.
The studio has recently produced a piece based on the journals of a scientist returned from a trip to Australia and dealing with his experience of "lost time". Since showing that movie, certain members of the studio staff have started to act strangely, as if their fine motor skills are severely degraded, and speak with strange accents. When the topic of the film comes up they quiver and say "it didn't happen like that".
...shit, OP, that's a sweet idea. Possibly better subtitled "Cthulhu By Limelight", but still, badass.
Quite a lot of scenarios that you could spin off from that. You could present a situation the way "Shadow of the Vampire" portrayed the making of "Nosferatu", where a studio making a horror movie finds their lead actor is more authentic than they knew. Set pieces for a cowboy flick could turn out to be authentic artifacts from a debased tribe that worshipped the Old Ones, complete with curses. Or hell, you could just go the easy route and say some damn fool is trying to film The King In Yellow.
Plenty of chances for other factors in early Tinseltown to complicate the investigators lives too. Organized crime, unrest among the migrant laborers who prop up the economy of 20th century California, drug use among the cast and crew, all can give them shit to deal with. Plenty of avenues to take here.
Kudos for the idea, OP. Will steal.
I thought Limelight at first but I think that's theatre, not movies. I guess they might have used limelight in early cinema, but I'm not sure.
But yeah, LA being on the Pacific coast means Cthulhu shit is totally obvious, it's on the seaside so you have the chance for Deep Ones, it's desert so you've got the chance for another Yithian city.
There's plenty of intro points to the scenario. Like, you're in the middle of filming when one of your lighting guys hears a strange sound and suddenly is yanked off the rigging.
Or you can do a haunted house scenario because the director decided to shoot in an actual haunted house..
I think that's kind of obvious, so how I would do that is have it be like a rival studio's ongoing project that all the buzz is about. Like, they have to deal with trying to promote their film while everyone's raving about The King In Yellow and then a few sessions down the line the King In Yellow releases and shit gets BAD in Hollywood.
>I thought Limelight at first but I think that's theatre, not movies.
It is, but it still has a connotation with the movies among casuals, who are most people. I figure that's good enough.
I'm not sure exactly how long you could squeeze onto a reel - a lot of that depends on when the film was made, of course, and the type of film used to record - but I certainly would GM fiat it as being a two-reeler. The first appears to be this lavish period drama, which is why there's all this hype over it. Make it out to be like the 1925 version of Ben Hur.
The SECOND reel is where it turns into fucking Human Centipede or something.
About the making of the second reel: I'm reminded of the Monty Python sketch about the funniest joke in the world: the Brits were only able to translate into German in small bits, because knowing the entire thing was fatal.
So maybe the filming of the second reel was cursed with mishaps and one or two deaths, but nothing supernatural (so first phase of investigation is unsettling but mundane). It's in the editing booth where the bad juju really started.
That could work, I think. I'm currently thinking about how on the main MGM players died super-young but had this reputation as a golden boy who made all the right decisions - the right screenplays, the right cast etc - so I'm wondering if maybe this is like his one fuck-up, he ends up backing a literal nightmare.
The other thing I forgot to mention about this set-up is the way it caters for one-shots. Basically, the idea is that if we ever have an adventure we want to play but can't twist to fit the framework, or we just want to play in a different system for a bit - we play it AS IF it's the movie by the studio the CoC guys run.
I like this thread. It could go places. Here, take this as a token of my interest.
Depending on how you feel about Trail/Gumshoe, you might want to look at Bookhounds of London and reskin some of how that works, where the idea is that one player or a major NPC owns a bookstore and the rest of the party are involved in the trade in some other way. Parallels quite nicely with this - one guy's the producer, another is the studio manager, another is the director etc.