Driven by circumstance, investigators often come together because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, forced to work together to survive and overcome the machinations of the Mythos. While the premise of random investigators thrown together works well for some ‘one-shot’ scenarios, it stretches believability for most campaigns. In a campaign, the investigators are required to work together for extended periods, and may be travelling around the world to seek out information or people, finding clues and fighting Mythos threats as they go.
The question of income is also an issue. How do investigators pay their bills if all their time is taken up combating the Mythos? Surely their professional life will suffer and any former employment could soon cease.
This is where investigator organizations come in. Investigator organizations provide players with a framework on which to construct meaningful, long-term groups. An organization can take any shape, and there is a wide spectrum of reasons as to why such groups might exist and what their ultimate purposes might be. The essential ingredient is that such a group gives players a concept in which they can create groups of investigators who have a reason to work and stay together to defeat the Mythos.
Players should take responsibility for designing a group concept. The Keeper should be able to supply an initial premise for the scenario or campaign you will be playing. Note down what the Keeper says and think about different organizations that your investigators could belong to.
Agree upon a group concept for your organization. An organization is any group that distributes tasks for a collective goal; in this case, tackling the diabolical plans of evil cults, combating unearthly monsters, and uncovering long-forgotten secrets. Discuss your ideas with the other players and the Keeper. If your ideas start to go a little off-track, the Keeper will advise you and probably suggest how you can adapt an idea to better fit with the scenario or campaign.
One organization might be small and close-knit, with membership granted only by invitation. Another might be quite expansive, with teams and departments working around the world. Whatever the size, such organizations will share a common agenda for secrecy. The threat of the Mythos and its agents is not a concept to be shared with the public at large.
Faced with such mind-bending truths, society could crumble as the public struggles to come to terms with their insignificance in the face of the Mythos’ cosmic reality of indifference. Better that such truths are keep hidden by those best able to stand up and defend humanity—cue the investigators!
Externally an organization may seem quite mundane and recruit members openly through some means that lack any connection with the Cthulhu Mythos. New members are subtly tested for various qualities of loyalty, determination, and potential. Those whom the society judge worthy are invited to become involved with higher levels of the organization and, step by step, are introduced to the inner workings and secrets of the group. Such organizations may appear to outsiders to be charitable, religious, new age, and so on. Essentially these are benign cults that seek to counter Mythos cults.
Each organization should have a purpose. In most cases this might simply be ‘to defend humanity’ or ‘to find out the truth behind all those stories from the Vermont hills’. Sometimes the purpose of an organization, such as ‘discover and collect historic artefacts of great significance’, might bring it into continued conflict with agents of the Mythos.
Other times an organization’s mission might be specific to the Mythos, such as ‘stop the cult of fish men from raising their drowned god’. One organization might know a lot about the Mythos, while another might know very little or nothing at all.
An organization not only bonds the investigators together, it also supplies you with a fresh stock of replacement investigators. Rather than having to contrive a reason for why your new investigator has shown up to replace the one that unfortunately died in last week’s game, the organization has simply sent in a replacement. Thus the new investigator can start the game ‘running’, and there is no need to think up an elaborate explanation for how the new investigator knows everyone or why they are allied with the group’s mission.
One approach is to generate a stable of investigators all of whom are members of the same organization. Players may start out with one investigator each, but some might create new investigators for subsequent adventures if specialists are required or when existing investigators require convalescence. Continuity and reincorporation of characters is a key element to building enjoyable stories.