This is information for a hack of Grey Ranks. It allows you to tell lovecraftian stories of horror and love for teenagers in Innsmouth, the spooky fishing town which has a rather too intimate relationship with the Deep Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos.
Grey Ranks is an excellent, emotional, thought-provoking game about the child soldiers in the ill-fated Warsaw uprising in world war 2. You can read my review of it here. You need to purchase Grey Ranks in order to run Innsmouth Summer Camp, as I’m only providing the background information and changes which are necessary to re-skin the game as lovecraftian 20’s America rather than war-torn occupied Poland.
Why Grey Ranks?
There are a few reasons why I was inspired to produce a game using Grey Ranks as the underlying engine.
Firstly, the game blends together on one hand stories of resistance against horrible forces and increasingly terrible odds and on the other hand stories of teenage risk, love, uncertainty. That combination means that in any chapter your characters have to make hard decisions about whether they want to prioritise success in their personal life or in their joint mission against the threats surrounding them.
Secondly, the grid of Grey Ranks provides for a number of terrible outcomes for the players as well as providing appropriate thematic elements for the scenes in each chapter depending upon their position on the grid.
Thirdly, the mechanism for ‘things you hold most dear’ and the opportunity for you to invoke them and then after that for any player to threaten them and then destroy them (in order to re-roll with a better die!) adds to the horror of the situation.
The Basic Setting
The players to continue being 15, 16 or 17, but the situation is Innsmouth (an isolated New England fishing village which has secretly had unnatural relationships with Deep Ones for many years). So the threats are largely around the increasing pressure from hybrids and then deep ones, as more and more of the town turns against the teenagers and expects them to get with the plan in one way or another.
This is the early 1930’s. The town contains a mixture of outsiders (rare visitors to the town, who everyone knows as 'not from around here' and mistrusts), people who are not yet cultists and full on cultists. Behind closed doors and in the dark of the night are the monstrous hybrids and increasingly the presence of Deep Ones themselves. There is huge poverty at this time, during the Great Depression, and many children were forced out of their homes. Food was hard to come by, and in a fishing village the daily catch became more and more important. Perhaps it is no wonder that people turned more readily to the sea and its mysteries.
The characters are natives of Innsmouth and as teens their hormones are raging and their bodies are changing - it is a tough enough time of life anyway, but with the additional threat of traumatic things happening in your town and the possibility of terrible things happening in your own body. Things very unlike the lessons Miss Jones described in school. What runs in your family?
While Grey Ranks uses ‘Radio Lightning’ to set the scene for each chapter of the game, this game uses Campfire Talks. As the teenagers gather together and share their whispered rumours about what is happening in their town, themes arise at each session, and form the basis for the mission for each session.
Chapter 1 - Scary stories and histories
I know you’se all heard the stories at your grandpappies feet, about the olden days when the town was rich and the nets were always a-heavin with fish. Well, there are some as says that the fishermen are bringing in bigger and bigger catches at the moment. What’s their secret?
This is a chapter where you can introduce your characters, describing what you are like and the things you hold dear. It is an introductory mission, serving the same purpose as chapter 1 in Grey Ranks.
Chapter 2- Why is everyone going to the Masons now?
Funny how more and more people are going to the Masons Lodge nowadays. I bet there is a secret spy group who are meeting there. I bet we could sneak in round the back and find out what is going on if we really wanted to.
Chapter 3 - Lights and figures on the reef
I’ve heard it said that in the middle of the night there are lights out on the reef. Not fishing boat lights mind, but green lights dancing around. Some say dancing figures too. What could that be about?
Chapter 4 - Mrs Jones looks funny
We all know that Mrs Jones and her family are a funny old bunch, right weird looking. But recently they’ve closed up all their windows and don’t come out - least not in the daytime. What’s up with that? Do you think they have a secret inside?
Chapter 5 - the creepy hotel
Didja see that man come in on the old bus and go and stay at the hotel? It’s really odd seeing a stranger in town. I wonder if he is a newspaperman, come to do a story on our town and the strange goings on?
Chapter 6 - Children have started disappearing
Have you guys seen the Maple Street boys? Or Girl Scout Troop 7? It seems that there are fewer and fewer kids around the town now, and I don’t know where they are. They just stopped turning up or something. Do you think their parents are keeping them indoors or something?
Chapter 7 - the church is no longer our sanctuary
We’ve always been brought up to respect God and country, but something is downright screwy in this town. I keep hearing that the Methodist church ain’t being used for Gods work no more, but for something else entirely. You know what makes sense? If it were purified with fire, that’s what I think.
Chapter 8 - the harbour seethes at night
Night time here has always been bad, but right now there are not just lights out on the reef, but the harbour is right seething with activity at night. On top of that, I’m not seein’ so many children around at all. It isn’t right or natural, but we ought to know what is going on.
Chapter 9 - the sewers are our highway
All hell is kinda literally breaking loose. The cultists seem to be all around the town and we have lost contact with most of the other groups of children. I think the sewers are going to be our only way out of here.
Chapter 10 - Epilogue
Chapter Ten is not a full chapter—as in Chapter One, no dice are rolled. It's an opportunity to craft a future for your character, if there is to be any future at all. It's also a chance to discuss among yourselves the experience of play, highlight particularly fun and challenging moments, and share your thoughts on what transpired.
Everyone has a starting point on the grid. This gives them a dice which they can use in either their mission scene or their personal scene, and it indicates a list of setting elements which they can choose from when they are setting their scenes.
The corners of the grid are the danger zones, and will result in your character leaving the game as a result of Martyrdom, Nervous Breakdown, Suicidal Insanity or Awful Transmutation. The last of those is a new addition to the grid, replacing the Derangement corner from Grey Ranks. This is the point where the characters Innsmouth genes fully manifest and they leave the game as they transform into a deep one hybrid and embrace their watery destiny.
This is a version of The Grid with the new corner in place. It also follows the instructions on p64 of Grey Ranks rather than the Grid at the back of the book for indicating where you move when winning or losing personal scenes.
A minor rules change
For this variant of the game we found that the following rule made sense:
- when assigning a die to a mission scene, that scene should have a successful outcome if you provide a high dice (d8 or bigger) and an unsuccessful outcome if you provide a low dice (d6 or smaller). This is the reverse of the standard Grey Ranks rules for mission scenes on p65. You may choose to use the standard rules, but we found this way round worked better for us in this game.
There are a number of different levels of opposition which may crop up in the situation elements, and it is worth highlighting them here.
- Outsiders: These are visitors to the town, and are as likely as the teens to be hated and hunted down as things progress.
- Cultists: ordinary looking people who collaborate fully with the hybrids and deep ones. They may be doing it for profit or fear or the promise of immortality, but they are definitely on the side of the Deep Ones.
- Hybrids: These are people whose Deep One genes are expressing themselves now. They have the ‘Innsmouth look’ with bulging eyes, slack mouths and moist skin. They align themselves more closely with the Deep Ones than humanity.
- Deep Ones: These are inhuman creatures from the fathomless deeps, equally at home in the water as in the air. Fearsomely strong with needle sharp teeth and claws and a hunger for violence.
A1: d12, Martyrdom Corner
❖ Dozens of children have been rounded up at their elementary school and are being used as sacrifices.
❖ A deep one is ‘hunting outsiders’ by murdering and looting
❖ Tom Jones, a particularly brutal man is about to commit mass murder.
❖ Iago Sym, a delightful actor and cult informant
❖ Daniel Vollmann, vengeful surviving outsider from New York
❖ The formal garden, mansion district
❖ The square, in full view of the lodge
❖ A Constable landscape painting in a gilt frame, stolen from a private collection
❖ A valise containing a diary about FBI plans
❖ August Brown, head of the Methodist church
A2: d12, Approaching Martyrdom
❖ The sewers beneath Maple Street
❖ Frank and Mary, misguided parents
❖ The clock tower above the square in the center of town
❖ A pair of dusty hard candies in colourful wrappers
❖ An empty envelope, smelling of perfume
❖ Driving away the one you love, for their own good.
❖ There’s no barricade cutting off access to a part of town, but there needs to be— within the hour.
❖ A home-made gun, greasy and covered with tiny metal lathe shavings.
❖ The cellar of the police command post in Uptown.
❖ A beautiful midnight blue party dress with a note pinned to the hem.
A3: d10, Midway between Martyrdom and Nervous Breakdown
❖ A serious talk about love, patriotism, and family.
❖ Jane Beech, English teacher and probably cultist
❖ Joe’s, on Main Street, a popular restaurant that seems to feed half of Innsmouth for free.
❖ A rooftop above Wilson Square.
❖ Sheila Jones is in labour and needs to be brought to a hospital. She is wanted by the cultists.
❖ An informant, Kevin Smart, is on his way to alert the cultists of a planned operation.
❖ A criminal gang is robbing a neighbourhood business.
❖ Obsession with another person.
❖ A gold wedding ring.
A4: d8, Approaching Nervous Breakdown
❖ We have a secret now and forever.
❖ Amanda Fixler, an ambitious physician’s wife and ardent cultist.
❖ The Waterworks and Gasworks
❖ A field kitchen with nothing to cook.
❖ A dented tin of English marmalade.
❖ Men in an alleyway are grabbing children that try to reach the neighborhood’s last functioning water pump.
❖ A fourteen-year-old deaf boy, Joseph Austin, has lost his way in hostile territory.
❖ A children’s gang has sentenced your cousin to death as an informer for the cultists.
❖ A thick and ancient family album, stuffed with photographs and birth certificates.
❖ A church on Carcel Square.
A5: d8, Nervous Breakdown Corner
❖ Police are abandoning the cells, releasing dozens of criminals.
❖ Elements of the church cult group have fortified a building and are surrounded.
❖ Herbert Muller, nervous cultist who wishes he didn’t live in the town any more.
❖ A lost child named Eva.
❖ The wine cellar of Bella Vista, the restaurant, overlooking the harbour
❖ A couple of tents in the woods
❖ A crown of twisted bronze, with obscene figures carved on it.
❖ Strange lights out on the reef. Definitely don’t shoot at them.
❖ A gang of children has been cut off and is trapped in the sewers.
❖ A badly injured cultist, Horace Kuhn, is hiding in a ditch.
B1: d12, Approaching Martyrdom
❖ Our families don’t matter.
❖ Karl Wilkes, drunken cultist with something to prove
❖ A private garden near the telephone exchange
❖ Tattered fragments of a Girl Scout handbook.
❖ An abandoned animal, all skin and bones and sad, rheumy eyes, sits next to a freshly-dug garden grave.
❖ An explosion has trapped an old German man, Otto Braun, under a tram.
❖ A psychiatrist with two patients in tow, Dr. Constance Keller, is looking for a third before she evacuates.
❖ Doctor Smith’s Surgery, the only Innsmouth doctor that refuses to cooperate with the cultists
❖ A cultist meeting place on the outskirts of Innsmouth
❖ A brief and surreal moment of peace.
B2: d10, Toward Love and Enthusiasm
❖ Edmund, dashing camper and liar.
❖ A resourceful grandparent with a gift.
❖ My parents are ashamed.
❖ A notebook crammed with observations of cultist activity in the church over four years
❖ A best friend steps in.
❖ Why can’t we talk to each other?
❖ Central Bank in the town square, on family business
❖ The hospice on Maple Street
❖ Rags, empty wine bottles, and ten litres of gasoline.
❖ Lacy undergarments.
B3: d10, Signs of Love
❖ True friends—more than lovebirds.
❖ Our friends want us to be a couple
❖ Grandfather’s house.
❖ The schoolyard of Main Street School
❖ A root cellar containing a happy surprise.
❖ A lock of hair bound with twine.
❖ My friends hate her.
❖ Pranks and flirting.
❖ Some home-made moonshine in shampoo bottles, terrible tasting but potent.
❖ A chaste kiss, but an important one.
B4: d8, Toward Love and Exhaustion
❖ Kurt Brown, quiet sympathizer haunted by his past
❖ An apartment near the ruined warehouses at the far end of Maple Street
❖ Cultists in the fancy houses up on the hill
❖ A tightly-bound collection of love letters, soaking in the gutter.
❖ Everyone is interested in our business.
❖ Her parents’ bedroom.
❖ Charley, a wounded camper with a tale to tell
❖ Hearts unburdened, a passionate kiss—perhaps the last one ever.
❖ A solemn promise.
B5: d8, Approaching Nervous Breakdown
❖ Someone is lying, and she is believing.
❖ George Wilson, eager journalist from outside who thinks he can make a difference
❖ A warehouse adjacent to the Harbour
❖ The last words of a dead man, written on a wall.
❖ A marriage certificate, awaiting a single signature.
❖ A cultist teen, Marina Green, forced to gather intelligence, has been captured.
❖ The door left ajar to the supermarket store-room
❖ A group of men from the lodge on patrol
❖ An overturned trolleybus in the Main Street neighbourhood
❖ The death of a hero.
C1: d10, Midway Between Martyrdom and Derangement
❖ Jeremy Bialowski, irritating kid with important parents
❖ A railroad crossing outside the city.
❖ A butcher shop in the Mansion district, decorated with a prominent cultist emblem
❖ Badly forged papers
❖ Secret documents detailing meetings with deep ones as guests
❖ A car of nervous cultists has got lost in our part of town
❖ A bronze statue of George Washington is about to be pulled down
❖ A nice private attic hideout.
❖ The park where you first met, now covered in seaweed.
❖ A well-loved toy airplane.
C2: d10, Signs of Enthusiasm
❖ Everybody said we should get together.
❖ We can heal the rift between our families.
❖ My family needs me.
❖ The Main post office, awaiting a letter.
❖ The shady grounds of Marsh Manor
❖ A locked diary.
❖ Hearty sandwiches and fresh fruit.
❖ A supervised visit.
❖ Fortune telling beneath warm August skies.
❖ A flower shop in on Maple Street
C3: d8, The Center
❖ Finishing each other’s sentences.
❖ Old friends—now something more?
❖ The baseball ground on Babson street
❖ The sidewalk behind the harbour walls
❖ A hastily-written love note.
❖ A flamboyant bouquet of cheap flowers.
❖ The world can wait. We’re footloose and fancy-free!
❖ A well-used concert bassoon in a padded case.
❖ Stolen beer, still cold.
❖ Mutual attraction can’t be denied.
C4: d6, Signs of Exhaustion
❖ Uncertainty and insecurity.
❖ A rowing boat in the harbour with ominous splashing in the distance
❖ On federal street bridge beneath the moonlight
❖ A tiny box of chocolates.
❖ A pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.
❖ Mother, we’re young and need to have fun.
❖ Gardening with his grandparents.
❖ A stack of carefully collected records
❖ A pilgrimage medal awarded by Pope Pius XII, tarnished by daily handling.
❖ A stack of fake issues of Innsmouth newspapers
C5: d6, Midway Between Suicidal Depression and Nervous Breakdown
❖ Harry Bristol, optimistic businessman so fat he can hardly stand
❖ A brothel in the fish wholesale market neighbourhood
❖ The Innsmouth Newspaper printing plant
❖ A picnic basket with chocolate bars, salami, fresh fruit, wine, and a glass container full of laudanum.
❖ A cultist car with motorcycle escort.
❖ A house-to-house search is underway for something too big to hide and too important to abandon.
❖ Children who have gone over to the cultists
❖ Behind a barricade on Jerusalem avenue
❖ A torn up photograph.
❖ An American flag.
D1: d8, Approaching Awful Transmutation
❖ Janet Hughes, school nurse with a secret.
❖ A first aid kit, covered in mud.
❖ Overly moist skin
❖ A hastily-covered corpse.
❖ All the food tastes spoiled..
❖ Children are retreating past a barricade that must be held
❖ If the children and the outsiders don’t start cooperating, people are going to die tonight
❖ Mothers are calling out to their children to come join them for church
❖ The Gilman House Hotel - cultist only until this morning
❖ I can’t stand it when you touch me, but I can’t stand it when you don’t.
D2: d8, Toward Hate and Enthusiasm
❖ Anna Mousel, crippled beauty with a strange talent.
❖ A brother puts his foot down.
❖ An automobile bridge across the Manuxet river
❖ A ragged band of small children is learning how to fight
❖ Bulging eyes
❖ Father, she and I were made for each other!
❖ In the back of a truck driven by cultists
❖ At the wall of the Library Street slum, with a package
❖ A tearful farewell
❖ A shared acquaintance muddies the waters.
D3: d6, Signs of Hate
❖ It’s puppy love, nothing more.
❖ My parents disapprove.
❖ The Museum, in sad disrepair.
❖ A Marsh on the outskirts
❖ The cultists lodge, in town square
❖ A single, fragile gladiolus stem.
❖ A christening blanket.
❖ A drunken woman near the Under the Palm cafe on Green Street, begging for a few dollars “for her children.”
❖ Late for a funeral.
❖ A secret entrance to the cultists lodge
D4: d6, Toward Hate and Exhaustion
❖ Freddy Baron, inquisitive sheriff with a list
❖ Henry Gordon, reluctant hero and enthusiastic womaniser
❖ A Deep One-operated farm outside the city proper
❖ A clothing factory opposite the police barracks
❖ Home-distilled 190 proof “moonshine,” mixed with raspberry juice.
❖ Is he just an annoyance, or something more dangerous?
❖ A steamy make-out session.
❖ A coward shows his true colours.
❖ Eavesdropping and distrust.
❖ The ruins of your living room.
D5: d4, Approaching Suicidal Insanity
❖ Anna Stokes, zealous charity worker and morphine addict
❖ The Cemetery, many new children’s graves
❖ A list of child collaborators tucked in the frontispiece of a King James Bible
❖ A full mail bag dumped behind a tree
❖ Somebody is pregnant.
❖ The Deep Ones are trying to push through a residential neighborhood
❖ A terrified housewife is willing to pay any price for safe passage out of Innsmouth
❖ A freight train is running past the town
❖ The Methodist church on Town Square
❖ A vicious rival gambles everything.
E1: d8, Awful Transmutation Corner
❖ You could have sworn you recognized that boy. Outsiders are working for the cultists, carrying children down to the harbour. Some call them traitors
❖ Thaddeus Smart, rich coward with something to prove
❖ Jan Crookshank, camper bearing bad news
❖ Webbed fingers
❖ The sewers beneath the Town Hall
❖ A hidden room in the Mansion neighbourhood
❖ The old church on Maple Street
❖ A brand new carton of Lucky Strike cigarettes
❖ A rucksack stuffed with postcards from children who have been ‘taken home’ by boat
❖ People are being methodically rounded up and taken to the harbour at night by cultists
E2: d8, Approaching Awful Transmutation
❖ Godfrey Kessler, opera singer and cultist guard
❖ The medical clinic, in camper hands.
❖ A bucket of unsorted loose ammunition.
❖ The carved altar salvaged from the Methodist church
❖ We’re about to be killed, we cannot wait any longer.
❖ The cultists are moving in on the railroad station. Some outsiders from the railway are working there
❖ More like hopping than walking
❖ An ill-fitting school uniform
❖ Cultists meeting in a restaurant near the docks.on harbour side
E3: d6, Midway Between Awful Transmutation and Suicidal Insanity
❖ Alexander Kowalski, all around suspicious character
❖ A cigar box full of clippings and cast- offs from a print shop.
❖ John Stillman, the paymaster of a group of cultists, is making a hand-off .
❖ The Deep Ones are marching into Innsmouth. A vast throng of starving children precede them.
❖ A boat packed with reef-bound outsiders is stranded by the low tide
❖ A hole dug into the foundation of the paper mill
❖ The Chestnut Cafe, in the yard of the deaf and dumb institute
❖ A dog-eared pornographic magazine.
❖ A jewelled brooch of a cultist symbol.
❖ A school in the Jerusalem Avenue neighbourhood.
E4: d4, Approaching Suicidal Insanity
❖ Adam Lomicki, religious bully with a secret.
❖ Many children locked in the old bank building, near Maple Street
❖ A stylish black Ford sedan
❖ A crate of ammunition, missing but sought after.
❖ Making love.
❖ Cultists on every side have us pinned down
❖ An empty pistol
❖ A box full of anti-venereal disease medical supplies.
❖ Inside the newly liberated elementary school
❖ Treating the injured at the back of the old courthouse
E5: d4, Suicidal Insanity Corner
❖ The Deep Ones are coming ashore tonight
❖ A Deep One, hunting children like quail
❖ Bertha Millberg, a hysterical woman with a blood-chilling story.
❖ A shattered pump station on the river
❖ Karl Lower, either an escaped cultist with nowhere to turn - or a spy
❖ The telephone exchange
❖ The nun-staffed hospital of the Knights of Columbus, near Main street
❖ A cheap ceramic sculpture stuffed with pennies and jewellery
❖ A matched pair of simple white gold rings, bound with a lock of hair.
❖ An “abandoned” cultist truck, booby-trapped with thousands of pounds of explosives.
- Character Sheets
- Situation Elements
- Campfire Talks