Conspiracy Reborn: Geoff Gillan’s “The Past Is Doomed”

Geoff Gillan should be familar to many fans of Call of Cthulhu. Although he didn’t write a huge volume of scenarios for the game, he *did* create (and partially write) one of the game’s all-time classic campaigns, Horror on the Orient Express. And the handful of scenario he did contribute to Chaosium books in the early 1990s (including scenarios in both Blood Brothers books, Fearful Passages and Tales of the Miskatonic Valley) were in equal parts intriguing and spell-binding … in a horrific kind of way. To be honest, I wish Geoff wrote more Cthulhu stuff.

[for a more detailed bibliography of Geoff Gillan’s gaming and fiction writing, check out his page on the Cthulhu Wiki]

But here’s the thing … he *did* write more for Call of Cthulhu, including a scenario called “The Past Is Doomed” which eventually got published in the Chaosium Digest. My understanding is that this was intended as Geoff’s contribution to a modern day scenario compendium which Chaosium planned but ultimately pulled the plug on.

Back when Geoff first put this out for free on the email digest, I thought it was kinda insane … but in a good way. You know, in a similar way that anything that Grant Morrison touches has a special kind of weird that makes your brain hurt, but somehow seems like underneath it all there’s something profoundly intelligent. That’s the sort of insane I’m talking about.

It’s really hard to say much about “The Past Is Doomed” without giving away some of its many-layered (and somewhat elusive) secrets. I can say that it’s set in Arkham, in the 1990s and it begins as an investigation into the disappearance of a well-known, if somewhat eccentric author. At its roots, it is a scenario which blends equal parts occult conspiracy with a curious obsession with the history of America in the 20th Century. Indeed, in Geoff’s intro he describes it providing some kind of thematic link between traditional 1920s Cthulhu and whatever Lovecraft’s haunted town of Arkham must have become in the modern era.

As I have been working my way through the highlights of the Cthulhu material published in the Chaosium Digest, Geoff’s scenario stood out as something very worthy of being turned into a glossy PDF. It contains so many bizarre, yet compelling ideas that it would be a shame for it to languish in text-only form in an email archive somewhere. But, unlike the other scenarios that I have released here on Cthulhu Reborn, the digest text of “The Past Is Doomed” represents more of a sketch of how the scenario might be — mainly because Geoff never really developed it too far before Chaosium’s project evaporated. I guess that I could have just re-published it in that form … but I figured it would be fairly easy to put a little flesh on the places where the scenario’s (rotting) skeleton was still showing, and put out something that is more representative of how Geoff’s adventure might have looked if it had been developed further.

Normally I shy awy from monkeying around with other people’s text … it tends to annoy the original authors no end. But, in this case, via some well-connected folks I was able to make contact with Geoff and talk to him about his original vision for “The Past Is Doomed” and how it might be augmented in a sympathetic way (i.e., a way I could monkey with the text that wouldn’t end up with Mr Gillan coming after me with an axe).

So that’s what I did … anybody who goes to the trouble to compare this PDF with the original Chaosium Digest version, will see that there has been a lot of text added by way of concrete handouts to get Investigators from plot point A to plot point B more tangibly. There has also been a level of additional exposition of some of the most elusive ideas, in an effort to make them a little more accessible without entirely spoiling the weird and otherworldly feel of the original.

One thing I talked quite a lot about with Geoff was whether it was a good idea to update “The Past Is Doomed” from a scenario set in the “now” of the 1990s (i.e., when it was written) to the “now” of … well, now. Eventually, we decided that the themes of the scenario worked a lot better in the pre-Millennial angst of the 1990s, so we left it there. I guess that makes it a kind of retro piece.


This is the largest project that I have released here on Cthulhu Reborn, both in terms of the number of pages of the PDF, the amount of handout material, and the complexity of the page layout. All up it spans to 48 pages — 32 pages of scenario text, a couple of covers and 14 pages of (mostly double-sided) handouts. There is a *lot* of artwork in this layout, both in terms of spot artwork and maps, but particularly in page textures. There are something like 14 different page textures that I designed, all of which you’ll probably only just notice as some faint subliminal in the background. All of this adds size … so if you want to grab this freebie, you will be up for downloading 40MB of PDF.

To give you an idea of what you’ll be getting if you download this PDF, here’s a montage of a few of the page-layouts:


The story elements of “The Past Is Doomed” include some mind-bending warping of the boundaries between historical era. That seemed to lend itself to some intriguing opportunities for making some unusual artwork via the joys of Photoshop.

Then there was the chance to make some page textures that thematically evoked the idea of time being warped somehow:


To download the PDF adaptation of Geoff Gillan’s The Past Is Doomed, click the link below:

  Download Geoff Gillan’s “The Past Is Doomed” (48 pages, 40MB)

As always with all content that I publish here on Cthulhu Reborn, this is provided as a copyrighted file but freely distributable under a Creative Commons license. That means basically, you can do whatever you want with this material … except make money out of it. In case it isn’t blindingly obvious, the copyright holder here is Geoff Gillan for the text and me for the layout.

On a personal note, I would really like to thank Geoff for being so open to my efforts to adapt his adventure via the addition of a considerable amount of text of my own writing. Thanks also to Andy Miller for his excellent work doing copy-editing for this book!

10 responses to “Conspiracy Reborn: Geoff Gillan’s “The Past Is Doomed”

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