Month: May 2014

Plan 09 From Halloween (Spoilers)

I had originally planned on going into the Monographs with the first of the Halloween Horror series, and going from there. However, I have opted to go in a slightly different direction. The Chaosium Monographs are an interesting phenomenon, an opportunity for projects to get a somewhat limited release, allowing a wider audience to function as reviewer and test players. Some have become quite successful as monographs, and a few have advanced to a ‘full release’ which usually involves tighter editing, a bit of a rewrite, some expansion, artwork stepping up, and the like.

I will concede that I have had a ‘hit or miss’ run with the Monographs, but the hits are amazing peaks, and the misses are rarely deep trenches, more often valleys. And I have become a bit voracious, having gathered a good number of the Monographs and planning on continuing to gather them. I review this one first because it is the first Monograph I purchased, my introduction to them overall.

The Halloween Horror series are a contest that Chaosium has run, compilations of scenarios for the Call of Cthulhu game set on or around Halloween, generally released shortly before Halloween. The first, simply titled Halloween Horror contained three scenarios, but each volume since has had more. This one, the fifth in the (so far) ongoing series, stands out to me because it set the stage for me in how I would find things that filled the spectrum of gaming styles, and I readily admit that even the misses for me are well-written scenarios. Without further ado…

First Scenario: Flesh Festival

This scenario involves a travelling carnival that is an active albeit small cult, performing human sacrifices to their objects of worship, picking their victims from among other transients, lower social classes, people they generally think either won’t be missed or connected to the carnival.

This is a good and well-structured scenario, with villains that are a serious challenge without being an overwhelming one. A missing persons case, a few clues, a tight schedule to resolve the investigation. I can’t really go into depth on it because it’s not presented as a deep scenario, these villains should be confronted quickly and dealt with the same. It can be expanded on and these can be made more of an ongoing cast of bad guys, but there is a straightforward mystery to be solved and resolved if you wish it to be, making it a good scenario to drop into a campaign.

Like many of the scenarios, it can be shifted away from Halloween without suffering unduly, but it serves as a great scenario, and one of the few written scenarios I’ve ever encountered that can be dropped into a campaign with almost no alteration.

Second Scenario: You Are What You Eat

This scenario intrigues me on several layers, as depending on which options suggested are dropped into the play of this scenario (particularly if worked into campaign play), can make players walk out of it at the end with a feeling of moral compromise, even if they win completely.

Designed to be sprang on the party as a surprise between scenarios, even to the point of the party being on the road and pretty much tripping over it. A roadside café late at night, (suggested as a place the players may have encountered in one way or another in the past, including possibly using the owner’s home as a hideout in ‘less legal circumstances’ in the past.) the investigators stop in and find hints that there is more afoot than at first seems, a missing person in the diner who it turns out needs rescue from these people who had been something of an ally in the past.

They prove to be cultists and cannibals themselves, and the missing person is a combination of sacrifice and menu item. Minor followers are a potential complication but the game throws its biggest curve when the cultists prove to be victims themselves, having been ignorant of another force that had been feeding off of their sacrifices, other than the nightgaunts they had been worshipping. I have at least minor issues with this aspect, the coincidence of their site being where another force could exploit their efforts, though this can be rationalized to a point (ley lines, points of power, something along those general lines).

The destruction of a small cult, the monsters that they inadvertently awakened, the potential addition of an npc ally if the investigators rescue her in time, all make for a fun scenario. If you work it in the past, the investigators may feel like their moral compass has been compromised, particularly if they ate there in the past and now have to wonder what has been on the menu back then.

A fun scenario, may need a little tweaking to meet your personal tastes, but a good one to spring on players.

Third Scenario: Faculty Party

This is a surprisingly fun scenario in spite of being damn near impossible to survive as written. It involves a cultist exploiting a relationship to try to gain a position on the faculty at Miskatonic (sounds like at least some of the cults have figured out where some of the investigators are gaining knowledge if not members of their own ranks).

The scenario begins with the suicide of a faculty member at a halloween party in one of the buildings. The victim had been seduced and set up to become a snack for a Hound of Tindalos (a tricky creature in any scenario. ) The summoning of a shoggoth turns this into a deathdrap, and a party has to be careful and a little lucky to get through it in one piece.

I’ve made no secret of my feelings about the overuse of shoggoths in scenarios and with another one showing up here, I admit that when I’ve ran it, I’ve altered a lot of this scenario including the presence of shoggy. But the overall structure makes for a good roleplaying experience and I still keep this one in high regard.

Fourth Scenario: Return of the Magician

This one is a wonderful scenario, well written, a nice investigation, with a red herring that the players can easily let themselves get distracted by (and wind up a quarter of the world in the wrong direction in the process)

Half of the estate of a magician is to an extent up for grabs as a challenge had been presented to summon the spirit of said magician, and the widow is facing a challenger just shy of the deadline. She seeks the investigator’s help to try to debunk this challenger, a former assistant to the deceased magician.

Of course, in this game, not all is at it seems at first, and the actual assistant is living in relative seclusion in Morocco. There are secrets in the past, the death of the magician’s son, the reasons behind the magician’s own death, and the mysterious force behind the son’s death, which is behind the assistant’s imposter.

A mythos creature called ‘the worm that walks’ is the force behind the current situation, and it has settled on the widow as its current prey, being behind the son’s death some time before. The players have a very short time to unravel as many of the secrets as they can in order to understand what’s going on. The extent they learn these secrets of monsters, infidelity and suicide will impact their success or failure in this. If played ‘in period’ as written, the Morrocan sequence can be an entertaining diversion, which actually can give a lot of the scenario’s backstory, so I have to concede that calling it a red herring may be a misnomer, but the party can resolve the problem without going there.

I really like this scenario, and I’ve enjoyed running it twice so far, with it building up both times to a last minute showdown that challenged everyone.

Fifth Scenario: Halloween Nuit

This is the first flat out miss for my tastes, but it’s well done and it may suit other Keepers just fine. Treasures of an Egyptian mummy have been appropriated, and it animates itself and some allies to seek revenge and its missing items. This is occurring on a college campus and the mummy ends up crashing costume parties as it does its work.

We see a different side of Miskatonic University in this scenario, the excesses of collegiate youth innocent of the dangers lurking about. In effect, we have something of a mummy movie going on. I can’t really get into this one, and it isn’t the lack of a hard Mythos connection.

It’s a good scenario if you can get into the concept, and it has a bit of a feel of a “Blood Brothers” scenario (which I will elaborate on that distinction when I get to the first volume of those books), but ultimately with a monster wandering undetected in a costume party environment I was not able to buy into it enough to consider running this one.

Sixth Scenario: Must the Show Go on?

Another great scenario, this time dealing with Hastur and the Unspeakable Promise, with a stage magician having made the promise and hoping to cheat the Promise, with somewhat disastrous consequences.

This magician had become involved with a cult of Tcho-Tcho worshippers, who pushed this man’s sanity o the breaking point, and to teach him the Unspeakable Promise. Following through to some extent, he performs the last part of his ritual as a bit of his stage show, having set his assistant up to recite the last parts of the ritual and become the one receiving the price tag of the Promise.

Mayhem results, and the assistant gradually becomes an Unspeakable Possessor. The investigators eventually become part of what horror fans tend to refer to as a ‘bug hunt’ nowadays. The magician may be of some use, but his mind has gone and there is limited use of him in the time left.

And speaking of time, this is a scenario where delay has huge consequences as the Possessor grows more difficult to deal with over time. A very good scenario with a ticking clock, and a sense of urgency, even if it does end up as said bug hunt (and there’s nothing wrong with an occasional bug hunt in Call of Cthulhu).

Seventh Scenario: The Dead School

This Monograph concludes with this scenario, another that I consider a miss. It’s a one shot. The concept is well handled, and it’s a good read, it would be a good scenario for the type of Keeper and players who can relate to and enjoy it, just not my cup of tea.

The player characters are students who were subjected to a detention in an exclusive school, and miss a mass sacrifice of the students that was sprung on the student body by the Principal of the school, who led a small group to perform this horrific ritual in a bid for eternity, not knowing that the ritual was actually a trap.

The players end up in a realm of the dead and are given a small chance of finding their way back to the realm of the living by basically running a gauntlet of dead, making a tentative deal with the ruler of this realm, an avatar of Nyarlathotep named Baron Samedi (an extrapolation of the loa of voodoo by the same name). The pattern of events is fairly linear, the players pitted against the ‘survivors’ of the group who cast the spell, and the deal with Samedi is, as with most bargains with a Mythos entity, one sided and less of a bargain than it seems.

If everything goes right, the scenario ends with the survivors of the scenario to this point returned to life, but only as the sole survivors of the massacre and being surrounded by police with an implication that the survivors are the prime suspects in the slaughter.

I can accept a bleak ending in a scenario (in a one shot more readily than a campaign scenario), but while I acknowledge the skill of the writing of the scenario, it just doesn’t resonate for me personally. I have a fondness for Baron Samedi, so I found this scenario particularly frustrating.

Advertisements

Curse of the Chthonians (Spoilers)

This compilation of scenarios was one that I initially found a major mixed bag, though in retrospect, part of my problem with this was a reluctance when I first read it to alter published scenarios from their initial form. Four scenarios fill out this book, with a small article at the end elaborating on a concept that the fourth scenario uses.

Scenario One: Dark Carnival

This scenario involves a circus with a dark secret, a basic concept that has shown up in occasional films and stories, and a few scenarios over the years. Disappearances and a few deaths, one maiming and madness seem vaguely connected to an amusement park near Providence, Rhode Island. Investigation uncovers a more definite connection as they discover a cult whose members are the workers of this carnival, all or nearly all of them. There is a hint at the beginning that one of the “big bad” monsters that I feel constitutes overkill in scenarios is part of the final secrets of this scenario (This hint is a bit misleading, though the monster that will likely form the climax of the scenario is one I tend to consider a bit heavy for a party to face with any hope of survival.

To be honest, though, I suspect that getting to that monster may be a bigger challenge, this carnival is well populated and a party of investigators could find themselves confronting dozens of cultists, each a deadly opponent. To further complicate the situation, some innocents (or relatively innocents, rather) may be working at the park, including some rented space inside the park. There is a cluster of ghouls in subterranean caverns, and a Chthonian to be met as well (with at least hints of more of them lurking nearby). It is well presented, and a good read, but I have always feared that this one is a ‘party killer.’ A Keeper not wanting to put an entire party at risk would have to play this one very loose, or modify it heavily.

Scenario Two: The Curse of Chaugnar Faugn

This scenario is, in my opinion, the best in the book, with at least a few excellent elements for inclusion in a campaign, and one of the best role playing challenges a Keeper can throw at a player in the long run, if one of the options is played out.

It does lead the players more than a little, and keep them from knowing all that is going on around them for much of its duration, and calls for considerable care in running it properly, notably to keep the players from feeling that they are being herded through a course of events. A required story hook is a female NPC who is an ex-girlfriend of one of the investigators, with some tender feelings remaining between the two. Said ex calls in the investigators because of some concerns of hers over dreams she has been having and odd behavior on the part of her father, a noted archaeologist.

As indicated by the name, the Great Old One Chaugnar Faugn is involved in the story, believed by all to be a statue at the local museum. The father indicated above has been driven mad by the Great Old One and a curse placed on him that is tying him inevitably to the entity. While his behavior is erratic, there is little perceived reason to believe the professor has gone mad, and the connection to Chaugnar Faugn may be clear to the players, but should not be to the characters (ironically, in spite of a personal fondness for this Great Old One, it may be necessary to switch for another entity to come up with something less obvious or the Keeper may have to obscure the nature of the entity a bit (this latter is the course I would recommend.)

Death at the museum, the peculiar dreams on the part of the ex and the professor, lead to an apparent conclusion when an attack is made on the household by an apparent cultist riding a summoned flying creature, leading to a rather intense conflict, at the end of which the professor is briefly missing, found dead at the museum at the feet of the ‘statue.’

Another conflict leads to an apparent suspect for the investigators, and the resolution of this last conflict appears to wrap up the scenario. In fact, the scenario as written is really just getting warmed up and its deeper secrets just began to be put into play. The campaign resumes, and this scenario takes a pause of sorts, with the daughter an intermittent npc, but remaining part of the situation.

The spoilers go into high gear at this point.

The professor had been switching bodies with his daughter for a time, for greater and greater lengths of time, which was the source for her odd dreams, and the attack that left the professor dead was a ruse on his part, with the ex-girlfriend dying while in her father’s body, and the professor now in his daughter’s body, planning his final actions, a later body switch with one of the investigators, and his becoming a full thrall of Chaugnar Faugn, warping the stolen body into a barely human form in a certain time frame.

Along with the chance to bring an experimental device (supposedly designed by Tesla) into play as one of the investigators’ best chances of resolving this scenario, the scenario can wrap up with the players trying to get the investigator whose mind is residing in the ex-girlfriend’s body back into his own, of course that body will have ben in the process of being changed into aforementioned barely human form so if the conclusion is not arrived at quickly enough it may be simpler to try to adapt to a new way of life, somewhat literally.

The resolution, much like the course of the scenario, is a bit heavy handed and relies more than I would care for on things outside of the player’s control, but this is still a good ride to slip into a campaign. The device from Tesla’s legacy is a bit of a ‘deux ex machina’ touch, and this is, to me, the biggest weakness in the campaign. To be honest, I have been holding back on putting this into a campaign while I’ve been mulling over a way to make it more of a player controlled action. Otherwise a fabulous scenario.

Scenario Three: Thoth’s Dagger

This scenario is well-written, well-presented, but is also a bit problematic for me in some of its very important elements. At an auction, an antique dagger (An Egyptian magic item) is bid over, and subsequently stolen in the conclusion of the auction. Player characters become involved in the chase for the thief, and end up in possession of the dagger (and inherit its curse).

The possessor of the dagger is haunted by dreamlike visions that grow longer with each successive one, and the curse is revealed through research, the cursed person’s soul at risk, and a ritual needing to be performed in Egypt at a particular location being the only solution.

With a cultist hounding them from hiding if possible, the players are drawn to ruins in Egypt that are either unexplored or underexplored, and the party will find themselves ultimately in subterranean chambers, confronting Nyarlathotep himself in one of his more human guises.

The scenario resolves in a tough combat but the players do have the weapon in hand to make it more workable, even if still tough. Of course, after the combat, the ritual must still be performed, which will effectively destroy the dagger and the party may well have to fight their way out of their location, so it is open to interpretation if they won or not, even after defeating Nyarlathotep.

In spite of my comments about this being a well written scenario and well-paced, about the plusses I may have gone over, the ending is heavy, and that as written it leaves a potentially equally deadly fight ahead of them after the scenario’s written end.

There is another concern about this scenario for me. At least in part because of the ties between Nyarlathotep and ancient Egypt, CoC scenarios set in Egyptian ruins abound. Many of them are pretty much death traps, but not all, this is a tough one, a very tough one, and not the best written among them. It is a far cry from the worst, however, and worth some level of inclusion. I would possibly consider blending it with another scenario, and doing something to give the players some better feeling of hope on getting out of the situation at the end of the scenario.

Scenario Four: The City Without a Name

This scenario leads players on an expedition to the Nameless City, and while there are parts of this scenario I love, the hook and the pivotal portions of the conclusion are not among those parts.

Dreams that persist for investigators, when researched, lead said investigators to a scholar of the Kaballah, who starts the players on a path that leads ultimately to a quest to find the Nameless City itself.

The path to the city has some of the best elements in the scenario including a traitor in their midst, and the scenario built in such a way that said traitor can be any of several npcs the players will be interacting with. Inside the city, the players find themselves confronted by ghosts and the traitor’s plans to use them to feed hatchling chthonians in a vicious nursery.

The key to escaping this trap of a feeding ground lies in telepathic messages asking them for the numeric values of Kabbalah interpretations of the name Cthulhu. The fact that the Kaballah leads into and out of this scenario is problematic for me, and therefore I cannot ‘buy into’ the concept of this scenario at either its beginning or end. If you can, then this scenario may be worth a closer look.

However, even if I take this element out, there is a much better scenario (in my opinion) set in the Nameless City in the Chaosium product “House of R’lyeh” and I would likely use it. I will admit though, that I could enjoy using a large part of the middle of this one in other scenarios.

Final tally: one great one that leads the party around, two very good ones that need adaptation and careful Keeping to avoid being too deadly, and one I just couldn’t get into. It was still worth the money to me.

(Postscript: the addendum article in this is a quick summary of Gemmatria, the numerological component of Kabbalah studies. Again, this is a concept I have issues with, so I cannot personally recommend it in any way.)

Before the Fall (Spoilers)

This book is a collection of scenarios that link to the city of Innsmouth before the raid as described in Lovecraft’s story Shadow Over Innsmouth and the mini-campaign contained in Escape from Innsmouth. Four scenarios at least touch on the nature of this reclusive town and surrounding environs. This collection has its fans and its detractors, but in my opinion it has at least something to offer to anyone wanting to explore it.

Scenario One: Mary

I will admit that this one is my favorite in the bunch, in part because of things it isn’t. It isn’t high in danger to the player characters, it isn’t a story with a clear bad guy (though there really is only one person in the central cast who can be considered a good guy), though there is a villainous streak to the person at the center of the story.

A rogue Deep One living on money earned from gold stolen from Innsmouth and travelling is seeking to find a hybrid son she had left behind some time back, now living with foster parents, in his adulthood and ignorant of his lineage. An attempt to get information on him through a hired thug leaves the youth injured, said thug becoming a victim of the Deep One’s wrath.

The investigators have more than one way to get pulled into this scenario, and depending on their actions, they can get fairly deeply embroiled in things. Possible plotlines including the townsfolk of Innsmouth seeking to reclaim their lost child (and the loot she stole), a missing persons case from decades before with a new lead, all run the risk of pulling the party in.

The level of risk for the players is relatively low if they act with any level of caution, and there is a fair to good chance that the party, even though impacting the course of events may not get a handle on what is really going on until too late, if they ever find out what was happening.

The rogue Deep One, Mary and her planned reunion with her hybrid son is an element that the party may help or hinder, while the people of Innsmouth have a chance of muddying the waters as well. But the players could in theory get through this without even a single San roll, let alone actual danger to themselves. (not that most Keepers would let that happen, mind you).

Scenario Two: Old Acquaintance

This scenario has a bit of a linear feel, though the players do have an impact on the course of events. A veteran, a friend of at least one of the investigators, calls for help. When the players respond, they find that he has been disfigured from combat injuries, and there is a hint of deeper tragedies from his homecoming, though they do not relate to his current problem (in fact, while they seem viable characteriszation elements, his disfigurement and his other backstory elements that are hidden are pretty irrelevant to the scenario’s storyline.

A moment’s incaution led to him having to fear the wrath of the hybrids of Innsmouth, a traffic accident that left a hybrid child dead. It was inhuman enough that he did not fully grasp the depth of his transgression at first, but he has come to understand that he is being hunted.

The threat comes in a poisoning, and it is up to the players and some dice rolls to determine if the friend survives. Further investigation ensues, and during this, the players find themselves dealing with a few surly Innsmouth residents.

Again, as in the veteran’s injuries and backstory, we have elements that may not have any relevance to the players, a subplot that would be important…crucially important…to the npc’s but could very well not play out any differently. (the town has become aware of the investigators, and sets up some of its more ‘expendable’ populace as fall guys for the investigation) If you do take this subplot and choose to make it relevant, one may have to tweak some actions and behaviors on the part of npcs, to give a chance for the investigators to gain insight and possibly alter their actions.

Not really a bad scenario, but I felt it wasn’t the best written, it has hidden details that are easy to never surface, and some of them are limited in relevance to the storyline. Unless one wants to tie these elements into a larger campaign, before or after this scenario, this one may not be your best investment in time spent in Innsmouth.

Scenario Three: The Innsmouth Connection

I have heard comparisons between this scenario and a certain scenario for Dungeons and Dragons, First Edition. And I admit to similiarities, but only to a point I would say that they are incidental. There are other scenarios where resemblances seem far less coincidental, and I will point them out when they come up.

This one deals with an abandoned and rumored to be haunted manor near Falcon Point, a small town near Innsmouth. The investigation eventually reveals that the supposed haunting is a front for criminal activities, specifically smuggling (rumrunning since it’s set in the Prohibition era). (the haunted house used as cover is the comparison point to the scenario that I mentioned above) If left just at this, it would be a good scenario, a lot of fun, and hearken back to some of the ‘old dark house’ movies that both this one and the D and D scenario mentioned harken back to.

The manor does have a secret though, and in this, in my opinion, the scenario suffers. The last owner before the house became abandoned was a wizard and one of his last efforts lurks in the basement, a shoggoth that was summoned and left trapped in the basement. I think I mentioned somewhere that shoggoths are overused in published scenarios and sometimes seem to be placed a bit randomly. Difficult if not nearly impossible to beat, the threat of a shoggoth should be a major event towards the end of a campaign, let alone the actual presence of one.

If I put this one in a campaign, the secret will be either discarded or changed, something less catastrophic. So…a good scenario, but needs modification, in my opinion.

Scenario Four: The Occulted LIght

This scenario is not a bad one, but a bit puzzling in a sense or two, it can be a tough one to research, and very hard for the players to figure out who they should be allied with if anyone, by the end. My biggest issue with it, to be honest, is the fact that lighthouses are surprisingly common place settings in scenarios (I can think of four others immediately, from various published scenarios). This is not the strongest scenario in a lighthouse setting, so that puts it down a bit. The isolation on the coast of a lighthouse is important to this scenario, more important than it is in some of the others, so that elevates it a bit.

We have a currently abandoned lighthouse, with a history involving another Renegade Deep One (This one worshipping Hydra instead of Dagon), and a romance with a lighthouse keeper that led ultimately to madness, piracy, and the death of the mortal lighthouse keeper in a moment’s spite.

The people of Innsmouth had a quandary here, they are always cautious about attracting attention, but this Deep One, Sedna, is a priestess of one of their gods, and they were unwilling to censure her to the point that another of their kind would have warranted. So instead, she is bound to her place with a guardian of great power, a Star Spawn.

As the storylines have proven, the Deep One human combination is a fertile one, and there is a child from this union, raised ignorant of her heritage, but growing to suspect. She has access to some information, and while initially motivated with the temptation to seek out treasure, she is simultaneously the linchpin to the scenario and the story hook, most likely, as she will try to hire the investigators to help her get to the rock where her ‘treasure awaits.’

An island with a Star Spawn guardian, a Deep One priestess, a hybrid learning her heritage, definitely becomes a rock and a hard place situation for investigators, and it can quickly become a problem of how the investigators extricate themselves from the situation.

Star Spawn are another of the monsters I think are too tough to bring into normal play, but in this situation, it fits, and while it may be something of a surprise, it is a suitable one, a challenge, where the players are more interested in escape than fight, if they have a survival instinct. Odds may be against them, but there are chances on this one.

It is worth some thought to include in a campaign, but I think that one would have to place it in carefully and be ready to lose a few characters in this one.

Overall….

Four scenarios, some of them need tweaks to fit into campaigns, all should be considered, even if they need modification to be a good fit.

The Brockford House (Spoiler Alert)

This scenario was in the Second Edition of Call of Cthulhu, I admit I am unclear on if it was included in any other editions, credited as ‘with permission of Marc Hutchison’. This scenario involves the players being called in to investigate strange noises at night in a house newly acquired by a third party. The normal ‘is the house haunted’ investigation eventually uncovers hidden chambers, equally hidden secrets, and creatures that, putting it simply, remember the old ways.

The clock is ticking on this one, as the secret involves Deep Ones that are using caverns beneath the house and secret panels to visit the home, and eventually the investigators and the resident of the house will be taken by said Deep Ones unless the party can solve the mystery and remove the threat in time (or convince the resident to relocate).

It was written in the early days of Call of Cthulhu and it does have the ‘location driven’ maps though it does give suggestions of something of a timetable, a Keeper can make this one a very nice and confusing scenario by keeping the discovery of its secret harder or easier to find.

While it needs fleshing out, it can be a good one, if you stumble across this one anywhere. I will say I wouldn’t recommend going to the expense of finding a copy of the Second Edition book just for this, though, other scenarios as good and better can be found without too much trouble. But if you have access to it, it’s a nice one to keep in the repertoire, and a handy one to spring on a party with a little prep work.

At the World’s End (Spoiler alert)

At this point I make my first review of a scenario that I acquired online from a website. I intend to review as many of the scenarios in my possession as possible, and will acknowledge source and author when I can determine it, one way or the other. This is occasionally going to be complicated by how I acquired the scenarios, and if I do not include author, and anyone can inform me of said author, I will happily update accordingly. Source will be included as possible too.

Written by Dominic A. Covey (another review credits him as David A. Covey), this modern scenario is intriguing, and works very well as a one shot or as part of an ongoing campaign, though it may be a bit hard to fit into a campaign without a little twaking, I feel that proves true of most scenarios. (source note: I could have sworn I originally found this scenario at either Yog-Sothoth.com or at the Chaosium website’s free scenario section. I cannot find it in the current archives of the first, and the second website, as of this writing is under restructuring and the free section is currently unavailable, and it is unclear if it will return. Some evidence indicates I acquired it from the RPGArchive web site, which currently seems to be down as well.)

This scenario is set in Vermont, and begins with the investigators’ learning of the death of a family involved in ecology-related protests about a dam construction project. The death appears to have been a freak accident of sorts, involving an attack by an extreme number of spiders, and the behavior of said spiders seems more than a bit inconsistent with normal arachnid behavior.

Astute players will likely know the ultimate threat in this scenario long before it is uncovered, even if the player characters never quite figure that out, the scenario is flexible enough that it is possible for the scenario to be won without any clear or advanced knowledge of the Great Old One involved.

This is an interesting scenario to me because the way it is written, the human antagonists in the story have every chance of having no idea of what they are stirring up, or on the other hand, some of them could be very aware of the ultimate nature of their actions,

The dam project is the source of the problem, water being rerouted in the dam construction is no longer blocking the Great Old One Atlach-Nacha from its spinning, and it is growing in power, the spiders that it controls are becoming more numerous and more aggressive, and the humans in the area are in danger of facing a swarm of unnatural spiders in number and size.

The man behind the dam project is thinking of progress and disregarding the warnings about ecological impact as exaggerated and potentially irresponsible, and therefore will be quite surprised when confronted with the repercussions. (it is left up to the Keeper if the company behind the project has any clue about their possible actions, or if they misjudged the impact, or if it was deliberate.)

This scenario harkens back to several movies of various quality over the years of humans dealing with such a swarm. The party has an actual investigation to do, a gradually increasing but major threat, a chance to resolve it, even fairly far into the storyline.

I enjoy the way this scenario is set up, how it plays, the npcs feel real, the threat is valid, eventually overwhelming, and if this is put in a campaign, if the players fail, it will have a major impact on the campaign (a Keeper may localize the damage, but a good piece of Vermont at the least will be lost to humanity if the players don’t win.) This one ranks high in my personal books, though I admit I have not had an opportunity to play it yet. I do, however, admit that it will likely show up in a campaign coming up that already has a plotline involving New Hampshire, so a side trip is very likely.

The Cthulhu Companion (Spoilers)

The Cthulhu Companion was a book released with four scenarios and a few articles going into other aspects of the game, additions, errata, musings….it was an entertaining read, but since we already know my focus, let’s get to the reviews.

Scenario One: Paper Chase

The investigators are called to investigate what should normally be a minor issue, the theft of some relatively rare, but not particularly valuable books. The current owner of the books says they belonged to his uncle who has been missing for a year. Pulling the party into this investigation may be a little tricky, but it is a fun scenario, and if you can get investigators taking this case, it offers a somewhat unique experience. There are monsters, but if the party handles it right, there is no threat to be faced.

The missing uncle is one of the rare people who change into a ghoul, and he is a bookworm in ghouldom as much as he was in humanity. He ‘went back’ for some of his favorite books, has no hostile intent for anyone. The local ghouls are protective, but willing to humor their newest member.

However, if the party is aggressive, they will return hate for hate, so in the end, how it plays out depends entirely on the party. Nothing like instant karma.

Scenario Two: The Mystery of Loch Feinn

Another scenario set in Scotland, a paleontologist is murdered while doing research, which by his notes seems to be as much connected to archaeology as anything connected to his specialty. But, as is often the case in CoC, all is not how it at first seems.

A local clan with a thug mentality bemoans their history of loss of stature and power, and they have a long standing alliance with a Lloigor, manifesting as a reptilian creature haunting the lake. This is a good, but seriously deadly scenario, and when I first read it, I had some issues with this one. This is because of my long standing concerns about the Lloigor as a creature to encounter. Like the cthonians, Dark Young, and shoggoths, it is a great monster that is just so over the top dangerous that any encounter is nearly guaranteed to kill a large part of any adventuring group. This has left me with mixed feelings at best whenever they show up, particularly when their appearances seem at least somewhat arbitrary or incidental.

It really isn’t a bad scenario, and the Lloigor are handled fairly well in this one. Not really my favorite, strangely the Lloigor isn’t as bothersome to me as the feel for the clan allied with it. They feel a bit like a stereotype to me, though that was, I am sure, no one’s intent.

A nice mystery, a monster that may be too much, overall a good scenario that may need work.

Scenario Three: The Rescue

This one is a treat, a scenario that has the investigators trying to do exactly what the title says, rescue someone in danger. The Keeper and the party’s actions determine the ending of it, and a lot of the feel, as the party is called to save an endangered innocent.

As in most CoC scenarios, the threat is not natural, but in this case, the threat is not about the Mythos, but quite deadly nonetheless.

In a scenario that plays out as a twisted blend of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Howling, the party confronts a family of werewolves, who are seeking to use the girl who is currently in their clutches to augment their numbers, one way or the other.

A tough scenario, and if the Keeper puts a nasty twist on it, which is brought up by the scenario, one where even victory has a hollow ring to it.

Scenario Four: The Secret of Castronegro

Like the Warren, the bonus scenario in Shadows of Yog Sothoth, this one deals with the concept of a family that has degenerated through magic and inbreeding into a bestial subspecies. A nearly immortal wizard is at the center of the scenario but getting through the family to get to him may be even tougher than he will prove to be.

Missing people are the lead to the main hook presented. The town and the manor harbor people who keep secrets for the clan, as well as some who have clues without knowing it. Even those who want to be helpful may not be as helpful as they wanted, in the face of the fear of such a pervasive force.

I think this is a much stronger scenario than the Warren, with a better story. It may take some work to get a party ‘into it” but I would say this is a good ride if you like this particular concept of Lovecraft’s.

 

Overall, four scenarios I either have run and enjoyed, or would like to. At the very least, there is in these scenarios stuff worth mining.

Jumping Forward, 6th Edition Rulebook (Spoilers on two scenarios)

This is the first entry since I started getting feedback, and while I am taking it to heart, I will continue my general plan, though will modify to some extent. Trying to modify without significantly altering my authorial voice, I will still do my general style of review, since I’m mainly doing this from a Keeper perspective, but will also try to avoid ungainly paragraphs and will try to make some kind of bullet point system.
At the moment I do not still have in my possession more than the second edition rulebook and the sixt edition, as far as the rulebooks go. From what I remember and have been able to find online, the scenarios in the intervening rulebooks were either among the ones I’d already covered or are in other supplements I plan on getting to soon, and the two mentioned and reviewed here. The Haunting (originally Haunted House—was retitled after another scenario was out there with the same title), and the Madman were both in the rulebooks since first edition and were reviewed earlier. In the Fifth edition, as I recall, these two showed up, Edge of Madness, and Dead Man’s Stomp.
First Scenario, Edge of Darkness
This scenario is a good introductory, and it mentions even having the potential for characters who don’t know each other to meet, though it is a good lead in, the exact motivation for the players to follow the lead is a bit vague…(more in a moment)
A dying man calls the investigators together and makes a deathbed request (which as a potential complication irritates his family and potential heirs), to right something of a wrong. In a strange version of a tontine, the old man is the last of a group that summoned an evil in their youth, who could not dismiss it, but were able to contain it, in a way that depends on their lives to be able to sustain. Fearing the release of what they called up, he begs the investigators to put it down.
There is limited time with the old man, and limited information, the party goes to a property that the older group had rented when they summoned up said evil, and finds themselves confronted by a monster that is in the process of getting free, and does not want to be dismissed.
The scenario requires a minimum number of active characters, preferably player characters (four), and the players have a chore as they perform a lengthy dismissal ritual while the creature and animated dead that it uses try to disrupt it. A potential complication of one of the old man’s potential heirs stirring up the waters is brought up, a nice juxtaposition of the mundane and monstrous (similarly, it is mentioned that he could be a complication outside of the action of the scenario, which seems the more likely).
With the possible exception of a difficulty making the ‘hook’ work this is an excellent scenario. Motivating characters to get involved in any given scenario is always a challenge, and unless the Keeper tinkers with that part, it is very easy for the characters to walk away at the start and derail the entire scenario. Getting past this hurdle, the ride is worth it.
Scenario Two: Dead Man Stomp
This scenario is intriguing, and was designed to make itself very much a product of its setting, with the themes of racism in the 20’s, prohibition and gangster life back then, as it is currently understood forming the weave that the horror works its way though.
Strangely for a story where so much goes wrong so fast, from a player’s point of view, their ability to actively impact the course of events is not as strong as I would have liked it to be. Again, the motivating hook is not as strong as I’d like it. (more later)
The centerpiece of the story is a victim of sorts, a musician who has been pushed to the edge by the events of his life, and the Mythos enters his life in the form of an enchanted trumpet given by Nyarlathotep in one of his guises. The music from this broken man playing this trumpet, one particular song of note, calls the dead back to a semblance of life, driven to avenge their own demise.
This leads to a course of events that culminates in at least mild panic on the part of a local crime boss, and the scenario’s written conclusion is a horrid event as the horn is played during a Dixieland style funeral, the music affecting the deceased and the musician seeking the grave of his lost loved one, ignoring the other residents of the cemetery. The mayhem this would obviously lead to motivates the players at this point to try to stop the man, regardless of any sympathies they may have.
This is a good scenario to read, but unless you find a way to motivate the players, a hard one to keep on track. Forums have commented on the pacing in the first half of this scenario, something I have to agree with to a point. The big problem I find isn’t the opening scene…that is easy to have the characters deal with, but unless they know one of the principals or are hired to get involved, there is no automatic motivator for the players to keep poking into the situation. So on that front, like Edge of Darkness, it needs tweaking.
My only other complaint about it, if a complaint it is, is that it is linear, as written the players can’t change the outcome too much. So a Keeper has to stay on their toes and keep this from being evident…or think of other options.

Grace Under Pressure (Spoilers)

This entry is my first one dealing with a non-Chaosium release, this scenario first appeared in the pages of the Pagan Publishing magazine “The Unspeakable Oath”, and was released as the first of a series of scenarios from the magazine published in compilations, called “The Resurrected.” Volume One, Grace Under Pressure, is a single adventure in this one compilation, and has been regarded by most people I know who have encountered it as one of the best scenarios ever written. I am in that camp, it has a few traits that I often find irritating in other scenarios but the way these issues are handled in this scenario work for it rather than against it, I’ll go into that in a moment.

The plot is relatively simple and straightforward. The player characters in this one shot scenario (this one is almost impossible to work into an ongoing campaign but could in theory be used as a launch point for a new campaign. The player characters are the crew of a research vessel, a new deep sea submarine. This voyage is as much to test new technology as it is to explore, and this maiden voyage has the misfortune to be happening in the worst part of the Pacific Ocean. I know I put a spoiler warning at the top, but I must stress at this point, if you have any plans of playing this game, you should not read further, some very important aspects of the scenario structure are going to be discussed that could impact your ability to get the full experience as a player.

First thing to consider is that the core of the story is very linear in most of its aspects. The characters have certain things to do, and certain time frames that these things should be done, and certain events in the storyline are going to happen no matter what the player characters do. However, the key to this game playing right is to keep the players from ever feeling like this is the case. And the actions of the characters do count in some key ways, just not in others that they may think of. So here is another moment of Lessons for the Keeper. Some events in a scenario can be inevitable, for good or bad, but they should not feel inevitable to the players. The point of scenarios is for an interactive story, and yes, the GM in any game system guides the story, and even nudges it, but the players always have to have a choice in what happens, and if possible feel they have more choices than they do actually have. (This is important enough I plan to go into that a bit more in depth at the end of this post).

The players begin on the surface ship that is the support for the submarine, which isn’t geared yet for long distance travel (remember this is a trial run). The party descends low and begins several tests of the equipment and exploration. Spoilers begin with the next sentence. They are, by horrible mischance, very close to the sunken city of R’lyeh and as they explore the ocean bottom, they draw the attention of Deep Ones living there. This attention begins to manifest as some things go wrong with their initial equipment tests, which is actually the result of Deep Ones poking back at the equipment as it moves about. A seismic test to try to get a ‘feel for the terrain’ comes up with an anomaly, and the players are encouraged to explore this. At about the time they come to this conclusion, the Deep Ones begin sabotaging the submarine directly. The main submarine is damaged to a point where it cannot travel on the ocean floor, so the logical thing to do is to explore in a smaller vehicle aboard to determine the nature of the anomaly (so far the sabotage may seem odd, but not deliberate, or at least nothing that can be concretely assumed.

At this point, we have the party divided (and the players, knowing they’re playing CoC are likely getting nervous even if the characters aren’t yet), and things ramp up. A party of Deep Ones travels to the surface to disable (read: destroy) the surface vessel while another begins a somewhat more direct attack on the larger submarine (this part is still a bit subtle, but begins to escalate fairly quickly.) the smaller submarine find R’lyeh, and Deep Ones, and more, said Deep Ones call for help, summoning a Star Spawn (if you don’t’ know what that is, then I’m having to wonder why you’ve read the blog this far). The smaller submarine, if the players in it have any survival instinct at all, should start fleeing back to the larger submarine at this point.

The larger submarine, having heard the sinking of the surface ship, and depending on the communication link with the smaller sub, perhaps being aware that an unwelcoming committee is joining their current problems, should by now be trying to react to the growing attacks, unsure if their friends will make it back at all, let alone make it in time, and in mid combat, they have to face the distinct possibility that they may not be able to save the submarine, and have to see what they can do in order to try to survive at all.

Momentary aside. The surface ship will sink. This is part of the inevitable in this scenario. Another part of the scenario that is inevitable is that the larger submarine is also doomed. However, even if in a limited or potentially limited way, the party should ultimately focus on survival and this is where their actions have an impact. Can they save themselves? There are a few options for abandoning the submarine as the Deep Ones destroy it, but the invariably involve one extra concern, that the party is rising from the ocean’s floor in a pressurized environment that they can’t control. If they can be rescued, they are facing a lengthy decompression or nearly fatal damages from decompression sickness, but it’s still a victory. Thus, this is a linear story structure that if done right won’t feel linear, but the active play is a story of survival horror. Now it can be stated that the Deep Ones could very easily follow any attempt the players make to escape to the surface and thwart it (and a really nasty Keeper could definitely do so), it is generally assumed that the Deep Ones don’t consider going after them worth the trouble. They know the fragility of humans, and they know that the player characters, even if they do make it ‘home’ won’t be arriving with any proof.

It is a wonderful scenario, a joy to read, a joy to play on any side. Currently out of print, it is worth finding if you can, and a wonderful experience.

Now about the ‘inevitable’ part. In any scenario in any roleplaying game, some things have to happen for the story to begin, and while the player characters’ actions can influence the course of events, there can well be some events that will still happen regardless of the players’ actions, though optimally, said actions should be able to have some impact on them. In a horror game in particular, some events can and to some extent should be inevitable. But, and here is the important part, the part that Grace Under Pressure gets right better than most, it should never feel inevitable to the players.

If the players have to follow a certain course of action, then no other course should be available at all. Simplest and most obvious example, if there is a crossroads, and the storyline the GM has in mind requires the players to take the eastern path, and they came along the southern path to get to the crossroads, then you should only have an eastern path. Even if you make the western and/or northern pass dangerous and hostile, players may opt to take those courses of action. If the story depends on them going east, only let them go east. If it is just a matter of them going to a certain location, and they go in a different location, move the contents to the path they’re on, if possible. If someone has to die for the story to progress, don’t let the characters do anything that would make that death impossible. You can let them try to defend the victim, you can let them try to head off the death, but the victim will die, but the characters have to feel like their efforts, even in vain, mattered and helped. This can be tricky for a GM, but bottom line, never let the players feel like they are only passengers on the ride. Even if they can chose 90 per cent of the course of action, you can count on them remembering the feel of that 10 per cent where they had no choice. On the other hand, even if they can’t chose 90 per cent of the scenario but never get the feel that they had a lack of choice, they can enjoy the ride. But it should never be that high. The players should always have an impact on the story. Otherwise, just sit around the campfire and wait for your turn to tell the story you want to tell.

The Asylum and Other Tales (Spoiler Alert)

The first book of scenarios released by Chaosium, on the tail of the campaign outlined in the prior two entries, Shadows of Yog Sothoth, The Asylum and Other Tales presented seven scenarios, each dealing with events that have a tendency to show up in CoC campaigns.
As a momentary aside, the Scenarios in Shadows of Yog Sothoth were released under another title for a time, Cthulhu Classics, all of the scenarios except for People of the Monolith, and a few from some other sources. Similarly, the scenarios in this volume were released during this time frame under the title Cthulhu Classics, also along with a few scenarios from some other books.
My initial overall statement about this volume is positive, but I have to qualify it. Some scenarios I hold dear to my heart are in this volume, but at the time, much as in Shadows of Yog Sothoth, even though the initial playtesting groups and campaigns had some history, scenario design was still variable in quality, and some of the scenarios in this volume are among my least favorite of Chaosium’s releases.
Scenario One: The Auction
Auctions are at least occasional ways for exotic items to fall into the hands of investigators, and this collection starts with one that has a genuine Mythos artifact, and a very CoC interruption of the auction. There have been other scenarios written with auctions afterwards, and some of them manage to get close, but there is something special about this one, set in Vienna, when a prestigious auction house is invaded by a madman with ghoul allies who help him steal the artifact in question. An excellent scenario, a bit creepy in all the right ways, complicated when the artifact proves to have its own secrets, and hazards that far outstrip the trouble the investigators went through to recover it.
Scenario Two: The Madman
In the game, insanity for player characters occurs with fair frequency, and this scenario supplies an interesting window to turn such an incident into a new scenario, with the player developing a second personality , which is an evil cultist himself, and can easily prove to be one of the tougher villains in the campaign for various reasons. Not every group can handle this one, but it is an excellent concept and game idea and definitely would fall under the heading of a major ‘game changer’
Scenario Three: Black Devil Mountain
An inheritance is often used as a story hook, and this is one, a large mound on some recently inherited property. This is one of the flawed pieces, with a map driven adventure, creatures side by side with no rhyme or reason. There is at least one reasonably decent creature in this scenario, but it can be transported safely into another scenario as needed with good impact.
Scenario Four: The Asylum
The title piece stands out to me as one of the two best in this compilation in my opinion. As I said in scenario two, player characters often suffer from breakdowns of their sanity due to the nature of the game, and on more than a few occasions may have to spend some time undergoing institutionalization to get the help they need. In this case, the selection of the mental health center proves flawed as the doctor is himself simultaneously a monster and a cultist, allied with a group of backwoods cultists living nearby. The question comes up ‘how does an investigator with fragmented sanity convince his friends that he’s not just turning paranoid?” and becomes a challenge in game.
Unfortunately, this became the first in a trend in scenarios with doctors, particularly psychiatrists betraying trust and proving to be as dangerous as the monsters.
Scenario Five: The Mauretania
While not one of my own favorites, this is a very popular scenario, dealing with finding something to do to fill the time on those ocean cruises that often crop up in globe hopping CoC campaigns set in the 20’s. With a serial killer, cultists in the crew, a few ‘former investigators’ aboard, someone accidentally learning more about the Mythos than he can handle, topped off with a White Russian, his bodyguards, and a few fairly incompetent anarchist assassins, this scenario is actually a little too busy, for me. I have found that usually when this scenario gets used, only one or two of the elements mentioned above get put into play. I tend to assume that this is not only a good idea, it leaves the others in reserve for later voyages.
Scenario Six: Gate From the Past
The fondness of player characters in CoC for the Gate spell lead to the creation of this scenario, when gates end up getting ‘wires crossed’, and the investigators finding a gate bridging to the age of dinosaurs (literally), and travel going one direction or the other having Elder Things, Shoggoths, and a ceratosaurus complicating everything. Another appearance by shoggoths, and the trend of their (in my opinion) overuse continues. I will concede that it is a logical inclusion in this scenario, and this is definitely a scenario where the party has to think and try to avoid as much as possible, or be willing to ride out a ton of mayhem.
Scenario Seven: Westchester House
This scenario is nice and creepy, a haunted house story in which the plot element is one of the things that many Keepers have to be reminded to include in their campaigns, the red herring..the non Mythos story, and more..the non supernatural story…
Based at least loosely on the real life Winchester House, with a legitimate mystery story behind the scenario, a complicated story behind the story, a hidden/lost painting and people seeking it and/or other treasures, playing on superstitions and fears, this is a fun scenario if played right. The main thing, you don’t want to give it away too soon, let it play out.
(Side note: This scenario also eventually made its way into the Secrets of San Francisco volume, giving it some of the best longevity of any of the scenarios in this book)

Final note: from this point forward, my reviews will not be chronological, nor will I be restricting myself solely to Chaosium releases.

Shadows of Yog Sothoth, the first campaign (Spoiler Alert) Part Two

Scenario Five: The Worm that Walks
At this point, the party needs a rest, and is actually offered one. A benefactor offers them a refuge and help in their research at this point, and the party is given leads to some minor investigations or recreations. Strangely, each lead instead of help or rest or knowledge leads to danger, ranging from poisonings to attacks by madmen, to an attack by a shoggoth in mid seas, to the mysterious attack by a strange unknown creature. The players eventually figure out, hopefully sooner rather than later, that their benefactor is another enemy (in fact part of the conspiracy, and the secret behind him ties into another story of Lovecraft’s. Clues left behind at this point (as well as the possibility of leads to any items the party may have not found or lost) can be acquired here, or left here depending on how flexible the Keeper wants to be with the campaign as written. And clues here lead on to the next scenario, which brings us closer to the endgame…
Having said these vague things, I will say this one scenario is a brilliant bit of nastiness that can be dropped into almost any campaign, in some manner or another, and one of the few places that I think a shoggoth perfectly fits. The benefactor who isn’t a benefactor, and his secret is a nice thing to pull, though any player who is a big Lovecraft fan will see it coming unless you change things around a bit. (perhaps a serpent man with a consume likeness instead). His traps, the madman family who clearly call back to a certain family from a series of films set in Texas and encouraging a deliberate misuse of certain gas powered implements (if you move this scenario to modern times, it is clearly called for), the poisoned meal which exposes some of the characters to the attack by the scenario’s title creature, and the sea voyage with the shoggoth encounter is particularly deadly unless the Keeper sneaks in some kind of an escape for them (there is an option in the game to give a sneaky out on this if the party was given to pilfering their enemy’s toys). There are ways to deal with this but unless they have a Gate spell or the gate box, you will probably lose a few investigators in this part alone. And the rest of the scenario can have a high mortality rate too, it is not unreasonable to assume that you could easily wipe out the party unless the Keeper is being lenient or the party resourceful.
Scenario Six: The Watchers of Easter Island
The Investigators, following more clues, make it to Easter Island and find themselves dealing with the colonial government there (another thing to modify if you update it to modern), and the locals, who are dealing with some nastiness, and you find a real ally this time, as well as a last threat, which is predating on the locals for its own reasons. You also find out that you are now racing a bit of a pilgrimage of the cultists who have been a problem through the campaign so far, and in dealing with the local threat, you get your last weapons to help you in the coming battles, as well as the last pieces falling together to set the stage for the final conflict, on the cultist’s side as well as the Keeper’s.
To be honest, this is my least favorite scenario in the Shadows of Yog Sothoth campaign, the knowledge and aid you gain seems to be minimal and seems a bit heavy handed, the monsters in the scenario are dangerous enough but everything in this scenario is hard for me to be impressed by. Perhaps it is more because it isn’t as impressive as the scenarios on either side of it, perhaps because the help includes some momentary assistance from eagles guided by a shaman, perhaps because the help being actively provided at this point has a feel that negates the feel of the hard struggle against the darkness it tends to remind me of the debates about the Derleth impact on the Mythos, which I won’t go into here. But it stands as to me the weakest link in the chain, and I have personally decided that if I run this campaign again, I will be coming up with an alternative scenario for this slot. The important thing is that the party leave Easter Island to go to scenario seven in at least as good shape as they arrived, and know where they’re going.
Scenario Seven: The Rise of R’lyeh
The party is trying to catch up to the cult now, racing to the risen R’lyeh, with the cult leading The cult has been preparing for this moment since before the dawn of this campaign (plot hole here, there is no indication that the cult had any way of knowing in advance that R’lyeh would rise-worth pointing out that in the original story, R’lyeh’s rising was something that was pretty much an accident, out of schedule and unanticipated.) The party has gained knowledge and items to guide them to something that can lead to the sinking of the island before Cthulhu can be fully freed, though he will get a guest appearance in, that the party will have a chance to head him off, which combined with Cthulhu’s play habits will wipe out the cult in its current incarnation, and if the party can make it back to their boat in time, they can celebrate as they sail off into the sunset/sunrise and lick their wounds (and probably retire the surviving characters at the conclusion of the first campaign).
It is a much shorter scenario than one may want it to be, but it is a good wrap up to this particular campaign, though as I said, it does have a glaring plot hole that astute players may bring up. You also have momentary guest shots with some nasty other monsters, one of which will likely be a minimal appearance, the other of which will be a more direct hurdle to the players’ actions than Cthulhu himself will be, unless the party lets themselves get distracted. It is a good scenario, a good end to the campaign, and while the players always seem to enjoy it, I feel it is a bit of an anticlimax. The players effectively get to a switch to turn the whole thing off right when the bad guys are about to win.
In the end, this is the best investigators can normally achieve anyway, finding a way to shut down the plans without confrontation, but it also often has a feeling of ‘what the heck just happened’ as a lingering effect.
Final commentary on the campaign? It is worth playing, but a strong Keeper will want to tweak it throughout to make it fit his own gaming style and the players’ expectations. With that factored in, it stands as a classic on its own, in all of its incarnations.
Bonus Scenario One: People of the Monolith
This scenario is based on, and basically a sequel to, the Robert E. Howard story ‘The Black Stone’ and while a good read, if you pay attention to reading it, little if anything happens in the scenario. It is atmospheric though and an interesting piece to run characters through if they are not a team heavy on action. There is a more action oriented sequel to this scenario that was written by Michael C. LaBossiere called “Return to the Monolith” that is worth paying, and it is an extra perk to motivate using this scenario as the players (even if not the characters) can feel some strange nostalgia at revisiting the location.
Bonus Scenario 2: The Warren
This scenario is a mixed bag for me, but is a good read to a point. It has one of our first exposures in the game to an element from Lovecraft’s stories that doesn’t tend to show up often in CoC, the family that has isolated itself from the outside world and degenerated into a bestial life form (Example: The Lurking Fear). This is a good example of this type of creature, and different enough from its human origins that it would not be intuitive to a player encountering it. Having said that, this scenario does have its flaws.
It is largely location driven, more than event driven, like the dungeon modules that gaming on the whole was starting to move away from at the time this was written, and I’ve commented on that in an earlier entry. My other issue with this one deals with the most human appearing of the residents of the manor that is the setting for this scenario. He is an avatar of Y’golonac, who I happen to like as a Great Old One, but I think we have many scenarios with this entity showing up, and frankly, most of them are better suited to the nature of Y’golonac. A simple substitution can make this part acceptable, but it remains a passive scenario, and not one of the strongest.