Terrible New World: Life in the Post-Pandemic Carnival

Cover of “APOCTHULHU: Terrible New Worlds”

A week or so ago, we released the PDF version of our new APOCTHULHU supplement, “Terrible New Worlds”. So far we have been delighted with how well this has been selling — evidently a lot of people are eager to sink their teeth into some brand new settings and adventures with a Post-Apocalyptic Lovecraftian flavor.

We’ve already shared a bit of sneak peek here on the blog into one of the four mini-campaigns that are collected together in this book. Now let’s take a look at another. Christopher Smith Adair is a pretty well known name in the Lovecraftian RPG writing circle — he has written a great deal of amazing stuff for Chaosium and its Call of Cthulhu licensees. When we approached him back in late 2017 to pitch an adventure for APOCTHULHU, we were delighted to receive his highly-original, quirky, and thoroughly brilliant version of the Post-Apocalypse.

His adventure, titled “Hold the Flood” is set in a version of the late 21st century, in which the world is recovering from a terrible and deadly pandemic, 50 years past. Back in 2017 when we were first talking about this it seemed an intriguing hypothetical game setting. Obviously in more recent times real-world events have crept up on us, making this particular kind of “Apocalypse” seem strangely resonant — although, to be perfectly honest, that’s an unhappy accident than anything else. It’s a coincidence that created a minor headache as we put together the published version of the book: obviously Christopher’s world is a fictional construct, but we also don’t want to present a Pandemic-based Apocalypse in terms that current readers might find disrespectful of real-world circumstances (which we are all personally navigating still). We hope we’ve navigated these difficult waters.

Hold the Flood – Splash Page

The thing that sets Christopher’s vision of the post-Pandemic world apart from others isn’t really the common tropes of survival and fear of a resurgence of the “Gray Plague”. Yes, those are concerns … but the tone of the setting and the campaign revolves around something far more hopeful and quirky: A troupe of circus freaks who have taken on the task of travelling from survivor settlement to survivor settlement, bringing much needed entertainment.

The player characters in this campaign are all performers in this larger-than-life troupe of carnies — Professor Mysterioso’s carnival. They travel by colorful mule-drawn wagons, visiting communities for a few days at a time before moving on to the next on their circuit. Communities relish a visit from Professor Mysterioso’s … even if each settlement might only host the carnival for a few nights every year or two. Such is their legendary status.

But when the circus troupe suddenly all become mysteriously ill shortly after departing their most-recent stop — a township called Astor — people begin to worry. Has the terrible “Gray Plague” re-emerged? Was there something or someone in that community that was the origin for the outbreak? Perhaps someone there knows the secret to rapidly containing it?

As the few among the crew not to have succumbed to the disease, it falls to the Survivors to save the carnival.

Disease has a face. Art courtesy of the ever-amazing Anna Helena Szymborska

“Hold The Flood” is a fantastic campaign that will keep most gaming groups — especially those who can embrace its slightly surreal or expressionist flavor. It’s kind of like “Cabinet of Dr Caligari” meets “Terry Nation’s Survivors” … and if anybody out there can mentally fuse those cultural references, I will be impressed. Unlike many Post-Apocalyptic scenarios, this one has quite an investigative vibe — there is a mystery to be solved in the town of Astor, and the carnival folks must find answers to avoid the terrible plague outbreak which threatens their friends and colleagues. It’s a race against time … and one in which surprises abound which cast doubt on many things the survivors in this Post-Pandemic world thought they knew.

“Hold The Flood” is a 52-page setting and campaign available RIGHT NOW in PDF form as part of our “Terrible New Worlds” anthology — if it seems like the kind of thing that your gaming group might like, definitely check out the product page for more info!

More sneak previews of the mini-campaigns in “Terrible New Worlds” to follow …

One response to “Terrible New World: Life in the Post-Pandemic Carnival

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