Cthulhu: BERG, also known as "Cthulhu: Quatermass"
Short Description: A fan-made setting inspired by apocalyptic and often paranoid 1950s and 1960s (and sometimes 1970s) UK science fiction / horror, such as Nigel Kneale's Quatermass serials and films, and John Wyndham's "cosy catastrophes" (Day of the Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos); this setting's name is derived from Kneale's British Experimental Rocket Group, the organization headed by Professor Quatermass in his investigations into intrusions from The Unknown.
Origin: Quatermass (1953 franchise)
- 1 Supporting Materials (if any)
- 2 Description
- 2.1 History/Background
- 2.2 Life in Setting
- 2.3 Concept: The Unknown
- 2.4 Organization: B.E.R.G.
- 2.5 Organization: U.N.I.T.
- 2.6 Organization: A.R.C.
- 2.7 Organization: The Carnacki Institute
- 2.8 Organization: Torchwood Institute
- 2.9 Organization: Doomwatch
- 2.10 Organization: The Laundry
- 2.11 Location: Flat Holm Hospital
- 2.12 Associated Mythos Elements
- 3 Notes
- 4 References
Supporting Materials (if any)
The setting in its original form can be generally characterized by a gritty, apocalyptic, and somewhat paranoid outlook on the world in relation to the UK: the universe is not a friendly place, and the darkness of outer space is a place concealing unnumbered horrors waiting to rain down from the night sky and erode the strength, authority, and order of British government and social institutions, with calm, self-disciplined British adventurers willing to answer the call to action being the only thing standing between day-to-day British life and apocalyptic invasions of the unknown and chaotic.
(TO DO - a background on the state of the British Empire in the Cold War era as an explanation for the gritty paranoia and fear of instability of this era would probably be appropriate here)
Life in Setting
Concept: The Unknown
The investigators represent elements of the British establishment tasked with maintaining order in the face of potential panic, disorder, and irresponsible handling of dangerous information in the face of The Unknown.
In this setting, The Unknown is perhaps most frequently represented by those callous, inhuman, inscrutable forces arrayed against the human race within the icy shadows of interplanetary and interstellar space. However, in addition to Outer Space, the forces of the Unknown can also be found lurking elsewhere outside and inside the Earth, including the unfathomed abysses of the deep seas, the unknown and unexplored depths of caverns within the Hollow Earth, invisible and hidden dimensions and places somewhere on the Other Side of barriers between the world we know and strange and alien corners of the universe that exist along side it, and sometimes even the relatively inaccessible, poorly-understood, and still-unexplored far-flung outer reaches of what remains of the British Empire where ancient superstitions and buried horrors of ancient histories meet the latest discoveries of science and technology just beyond the scope of British supervision.
The British Experimental Rocket Group - a perhaps ideal organization for linking PC investigators together with access to government scientific resources and experts, especially when involved in a secret British rocket program and intrusions from outer space; under the leadership of Professor Quatermass, BERG has been known to have a confrontational attitude toward military interference and tendency to resort to violence and force, though BERG can and often does set aside differences to cooperate with the military for the greater good. A fictional creation of author/screenwriter Nigel Kneale for the Quatermass serials.
The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, formerly ICMG (Intrusion Counter-Measures Group between 1940s and 1960s) - another ideal organization for linking PC investigators together with access to government military intelligence resources and experts, especially when involved in the intrusions of intelligent life-forms into British interests. A fictional creation of the 1970s incarnation of the Doctor Who serials.
The Anomaly Research Centre - another organization for linking PC investigators together with government academic/scientific resources and experts, especially involved in tracking bizarre time/space dimensional and energy anomalies in the Modern era. A fictional creation of the Primeval (2007 series).
Organization: The Carnacki Institute
The Carnacki Institute is a nominally private organization suitable for linking PC investigators together with academic, scientific, and occult resources and experts, especially those involved in tracking and investigating seemingly supernatural phenomena such as psychic abilities/experiences, apparent hauntings, cryptozoological sightings, and other such activity of a more paranormal nature than a strictly scientific one. The Carnacki Institute is partly funded and by extension partly and loosely controlled by the government, allowing the institute's resources to be deployed with plausible deniability to investigate cases that the British government might not want to be seen paying public attention to.
The setting is perhaps a little more optimistic than typical Call of Cthulhu, in that experienced and powerful "A Team" investigators are expected to routinely defeat powerful threats, and might routinely brag and make wise-cracks before defeating a monster-of-the-week. On the other hand, the setting sometimes implies a paranoid aspect in regards to the organization's leadership: investigators might be treated like sacrificial pawns in a game of cosmic chess played by callous and desperate Carnacki Institute leader amateurs against an eldritch-horror chess master accessing the game from beyond time and space; the organization might keep the investigators in the dark about exactly what sort of threat they are being sent to deal with, what the Institute really knows about it, and what role the investigators are really expected to play in studying it or defeating it it. Investigators are just as likely to find that they are over-qualified guinea pigs in a dangerous experiment as they are to find that they are exactly the confident, capable professional scientists and exterminators they believe themselves to be.
The Carnacki Institute is a fictional creation of Simon R. Green expanding on the universe created by English pulp writer William Hope Hodgson in his "Carnacki the Ghost-Finder" supernatural detective stories.
Organization: Torchwood Institute
(TO DO; the organization was introduced in Doctor Who, and then explored in more detail in its Torchwood spin-off.)
TO DO. Or, "Department for the Observation and Measurement of Scientific Work", a government agency which investigates the deadly dangers of unchecked scientific progress. Introduced in Doomwatch (1970 series).
Organization: The Laundry
(TO DO; the organization was introduced in the setting The Laundry (RPG), where the organization appears to deal with specifically Mythos-style threats.)
Location: Flat Holm Hospital
Flat Holm Hospital is a "mental health"/"hospice" palliative care facility on an isolated island off the coast of Wales where victims of exposure to the mind- and body-shattering effects of alien abomination are cared for in secrecy.
Flat Holm Hospital was introduced in the Doctor Who/Torchwood franchise.
Associated Mythos Elements
- Investigators Support Organizations:
- Flat Holm, an Island "mental health" facility where victims of exposure to alien abomination are cared for in secrecy
- Standard Plot-lines:
- Something (meteorite, satellite, spacecraft) falls out of the sky, bringing body-horror from outer space with it; the government races against time to contain and destroy the threat.
- An experimental rocket launched by BERG returns to Earth, and something is bizarrely wrong with the crew, instruments, rocket, or all three. The weirdness spreads and people die horribly while BERG races against time to find out what they are up against and then stop it.
- A series of strange events in a small farm village are the first clues that a secret alien invasion is already underway. The investigators are dispatched to observe, measure, and record the strange phenomena, until things seem to return to normal, but some new evidence reveals that their problems are just starting.
- A dangerous and sensitive piece of cutting-edge space/military/science/spy equipment falls to Earth in a remote and exotic location, and the investigators are racing against the Soviets - or possibly aliens - to retrieve it.
- A scientific experiment opens the door to something awful entering this world (from the Other Side, Hollow Earth, Outer Space, or elsewhere), and the investigators are deployed to contain the threat.
It might be useful for the keeper to set up some aggressive but generally good-natured competition and difference of opinion between government institutions over authority, jurisdiction, funding, technology, access to and control of information, philosophy, etc., though in all cases they should be willing compromise and to work together for the greater good after some appeal to reason and duty. For example:
- military organizations might have a reputation for resorting to mindless violence and aggression that they may (but sometimes may not) live up to with enthusiasm
- scientific organizations might take risks that other organizations might consider irresponsible in the name of obtaining more information, or taking a more cautious and thoughtful approach
In such cases, the investigators might be expected to provide some voice of reason and compromise where the competing styles and interests of various organizations are concerned.
The Pulp Cthulhu rules/sub-setting could perhaps be applied for a campaign flavored a bit more toward the less "gritty" and fatalistic 1970s Doctor Who serials, where the investigators are a bit more action-oriented and can expect a longer life expectancy and higher level of success when facing The Unknown.
- Doctor Who (1963 franchise)
- Doomwatch (1970 series)
- Quatermass (1953 franchise)
- The Quatermass Xperiment (AKA The Quatermass Experiment), (1955 film), (1953 serial)
- Quatermass II (AKA "The Enemy from Space") (1957 film), (1955 serial)
- Quatermass and the Pit (AKA Five Million Years to Earth), (1967 film), (1958 serial)
- Quatermass (AKA Quatermass IV or The Quatermass Conclusion) (1979 serial)
- The Quatermass Memoirs (1996 radio)
- The Quatermass Experiment (2005 serial reboot)
- similarly-themed films: