Month: August 2014

Author’s Credits

It has been pointed out that I overlooked the authors of some of the scenarios, and I am taking this opportunity to rectify that as well as I can.

Entry 3 First Edition Rulebook,

3 scenarios – exact authorship unstated

 

Entry 4 Shadows of Yog Sothoth

multiple authors listed, no scenario given specific authorship

 

Entry 6 The Asylum and Other Tales

The Auction-Randy McCall

The Madman-Mark Harmon

Black Devil Mountain-David A Hargrave

The Asylum-Randy McCall

The Mauretania-M. B. Willner

Gate from the Past-John Scott Clegg

Westchester House-Elizabeth A Woolcott

 

Entry 7 Grace Under Pressure

Jeff Barber, John Tynes

 

Entry 8 Sixth Edition Rulebook

Specific authors for the scenarios not named

 

Entry 9 cthulhu companion

PaperCchase-John Sullivan

Mystery of Loch Feinn-Glenn Rahman

The Rescue-Lynn Willis

The Secret of Castronegro-Mark Pettigrew, Sandy Petersen

 

Entry 10 At the End of the World

Dominic A Covey/David A Covey

 

Entry 11 Second Edition Rulebook-Brockford House

Marc Hutchinson

 

Entry 12 Before the Fall

Mary-Mike Lay

Old Acquaintance-Ralph Dula

The Innsmouth Connection-Gary Sumpter

The Occulted Light-Lucya Szachnowski,Gary O’Connell

 

Entry 13 Curse of the Chthonians

Dark carnival-David A Hargrave

The Curse of Chaugnar Faugn-Bill Barton

Thoth’s Dagger-William Hamblin

The City Without a Name-William Hamblin

 

Entry 14 Plan 09 From Halloween

Flesh Festival-Victor M Aguirre

You Are What You Eat-Jason Lindsey

The faculty Party-Jon Hook

Return of the Magician-Simon Yee

Halloween Nuit-Oscar Rios

Must the Show go on?-Jason Williams

The Dead School-Paul Hebron

 

Entry 16 Blood Brothers 1 and 2

Vol 1

Uncle Timothy’s Will-Keith Herber

Oath of Blood,-Sam Shirley

Nemesis Strikes!- Kevin A Ross

The Land That Time Ignored-Gregory Detweiler, John B Monroe

The Mummy’s Bride-John Scott Glegg, John B Monroe

The Dollmaker-Geoff Gillan

Ancient Midget Nazi Shamans-Barbara Manui, Chris Adams

Honeymoon in Hell-Marcus L Rowland

Dead on Arrival-John B Monroe

The Swarming-Tony Hickie, John B Monroe

Spawn of the deep Michael Szymanski

Trick or Treat-Scott Aniolowski

Horror Planet-Fred Behrendt

Vol 2

Nightmare in Silence-Geoff Gillan

Chateau of Blood-Penelope Love

An Alien Kicked Sand in my Face-Kathy Ho, Lynn Willis

Alive and Kicking-Mark Grundy

El Tigre, y la Priamede de Destruccion-Marcus Rowland, Lynn Willis

The Evil Gun-Kevin A Ross, Lynn Wllis

Dead on Arrival 2-John B Monroe, Lynn Willis

Carnival Knowledge-Scott David Aniolowski

Simply Red-Richard Watts

 

Entry 17 Out of the Vault

Within You Without You-John Tynes

The Travesty-Chris Klepac

The House on Stratford Lane-John H Crowe, III

The Beast in the Abbey-Kevin A Ross

The Lambton Worm-Steve Hatherly

Blood on the Tracks-J Todd Kingrea

Dark Harvest-Kevin A Ross

What Goes Around Comes Around-Jeff Moeller

All Good Children-Chris Klepac

In Media Res-John Tynes

 

Entry 18 Twilight Memoirs

All three by Clint Krause

 

Entry 20 Great Old Ones

The Spawn-Harry Cleaver

Still Waters-L N Isynwill, Doug Lyons

Tell me Have you Seen the Yellow Sign-Kevin A Ross

One in Darkness-Doug Lyons, L.N.Isynwill

The Pale God-Kevin A Ross

Bad Moon Rising-Marcus L Rowland

 

Entry 21 Tales of the Crescent City

Tell me Have you seen the Yellow Sign (Still by Kevin Ross)

Bloodlines-Michael Hurst

Needles-Daniel Harms

The Quickening Spiral-Stuart Boon

Song and Dance-Oscar Rios

Five Lights at the Crossroads-Jeff Moeller

Asylum-Return of the Yellow Sign-Kevin Ross

 

Entry 22 Mansions of Madness

Mr Corbitt-Michael DeWolfe

The Plantation-Wesley Martin

The Crack’d and Crook’d Manse-Mark Morrison

The Sanatorium-Keith Herber

Mansion of Madness-Fred Behrendt

The Old Damned House-Penny Love, Liam Routt

 

Entry 23 the Wrong

Michael LaBossiere

 

Entry 24 This Old Haunted House One and Two, Big Book of Cults, Casting Call of Cthulhu

Big Book of Cults, ben counter

Others by R J Christensen

 

Entry 25 King of Scabs

Matt Sanborn

 

Entry 26 He Who Laughs Last

Dave Sokolowski

 

Entry 27 Cthulhu Now

City in the Sea-G. W. Thoams, Lynn Willis

Dreams Dark and Deadly-Michael Szymanski

Killer out of Space-William A Burton

Evil Stars-Keith Herber

 

Entry 28 the Stars are Right

Love’s Lonely Children-Richard Watts

Nemo Solus Sapit-John Tynes

This Fire Shall Kill-Andre Bishop

The Professionals-Fred Behrendt

Fractal Gods Steve Hatherley

The Gates of Delerium-Gary Sumpter

The Music of the Spheres-Kevin A Ross

Darkest Calling-David Conyers

The Source and the End-William Jones

 

Entry 29 At Your Door

In this book, each scenario has multiple authors listed, it is unclear if there may be single authors with a few editing to link into the campaign or each was a collaboration,

 

Entry 30, The Terror and Machine Tractor Station Kharkov 37

Terror-Troy C Wilhelmson

Mahine Tractor Station Kharkov-37 Bret Kramer

 

Entry 31 Unseen Masters

Wild Hunt-Bruce Ballon

The Truth Shall Set you Free-Bruce Ballon

Coming of Age Bruce Ballon

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Unseen Masters (some spoilers)

Available from Chaosium in hardcover and pdf, and at Drivethrurpg.com in pdf format. This compilation of three scenarios from 2001 and 2008 presents three very unusual and extreme scenarios.

This volume is a bit uneven to me, to a point, but I will go over this and why it feels uneven to me, and I do admit that part of my issues are subjective.

The First scenario, The Wild Hunt

This is a direct sequel to the Frank Belknap Long story “the Hounds of Tindalos.” Set in modern times, we have a character involved in the events of the story getting involved with an aftermath, that led the character to become something of a hybrid of human and the Hounds of Tindalos. After decades of transition, this character is back in our world, lurking in a hidden lair, and trying to build a crystalline key to form a portal to Tindalos. Having a vampiric nature itself, and a monstrous mindset, it is stalking for victims and prepare its own agenda.

I like this scenario a lot, even though I have issues as well. First it brings forward one of my stronger feelings about the Hounds of Tindalos, that ‘hound’ is a term describing attitude more than biology, a predator/seeker. I’ve seen a few drawings of the Hounds that reflect this, but more often than not, they do look canine, where I feel that they should be no more easy to apply to terrestrial biology than any other of the more removed Lovecraftian entities.

Where I have issues with this is actually an element that can be almost completely ignored in the scenario’s presentation…where it actually makes the Hounds more mysterious and less ‘defined’, it also brings up more of the nature of Tindalos as a place, and other types of entities of there, in other words giving it more definition. In my presentation of this scenario I would likely leave the villain’s goal as something clear and relatable (making the key to open the portal) but leaving the definition of what is on the other side of it less defined.

There is a feel of a valid mystery here, with some nice red herrings, an actual chance to sort out the resolution, and a major climax to try to thwart, which gives you a few opportunities for some nice roleplaying, win or lose.

Second Scenario: And the Truth Shall Set You Free.

This scenario was a problem for me on first read. It is nearly impossible to present as anything but a one shot, unless it is a starter for a campaign, and if it is, you are left with a very unusual campaign framework to work with. it’s almost impossible to talk about this scenario without going into major spoilers, but I will say this much, the scenario hinges largely on an interesting interpretation of the Knights Templar, and an exploration into the concept of subjective reality.

I tend to read scenarios with an eye to either ‘how do they fit into an existing campaign’ or ‘how does this work as a one shot’, and this scenario is a tough fit for either. It begs to be part of a bigger picture instead of a one shot, so it stands as an introduction to a larger campaign if you take the idea and run with it. Fitting it into an already existing campaign would be a major challenge and a risk to the continuity of the game.

The Third Scenario, Coming of Age

This scenario is a great major thematic element to a campaign, and can be worked as a thread throughout several scenarios towards the conclusion of a campaign. Again, we are in serious spoiler territory here, in fact, I really can’t go into it without touching on some spoilers. I will, however, bring up a few ideas I have to keep that from being too evident to players, items brought up in the scenario, with my own additions to it.

We have seen many movies where the supposed greatest innocence in the world…children…are sources of great evil. This ranges from the classic ‘The Bad Seed’ to the Omen series, to….well, you get the idea. This movie does this in a gradual way, and if run well, it is woven into the campaign so well that even when the players start to see the figurative train coming, they will be hard pressed to get off the tracks, and harder pressed to save the endangered child, if that’s even possible.

Making the child a relative of one of the investigators, they have a vested interest in the well-being of the child, and a growing feeling of helplessness as it unfolds. The child is exposed to a corrupting influence, and the party is largely distracted from the beginning of his corruption by other events that overshadow it and misdirect the players’ investigations.

There are elements from other elements of Lovecraft and ‘Chaosium Canon’ in the story, though some of them will be hard to identify, and others will be quite visible to well-read fans of these. The Shining Trapezohedron from the Lovecraft story “Haunter of the Dark’ makes its appearance. Similarly, NWI makes a return from its appearances in the ‘Fungi from Yuggoth/Day of the Beast/Curse of Cthulhu’ campaign as well as the ‘At Your Door’ campaign; as does Nitocris the ghoul queen (she is mentioned in a few Mythos stories from way back and makes an entrance into the Chaosium Canon in ‘Masks of Nyarlathotep’)

There is room for this scenario to really mess with players, on many levels, including the fact that it can be played out in parts in the background of other scenarios until the events get strong enough that they take over the story line. The level of wickedness this can inflict on a party is amazing, and a truly evil player can use this scenario to seriously complicate the players’ lives.

I think this is a great scenario, and very likely to become a major theme over the part of the campaign it plays out in. I think it works best if it plays out in parts, over time, bracketed by other adventures. There is the possibility to work the active elements of this scenario into other scenarios as one of the background driving forces (come on, if you have read any of the connecting material mentioned above, you know who we’re talking about) can often be linked to other existing scenarios and campaigns.

I feel that all three are worth a read, but Wild Hunt and Coming of Age are wonderful scenarios that can make a campaign a very complex and thrilling ride.

Back in the U.S.S.R, The Terror, and Machine Tractor Station Kharkov-37 (some spoilers)

This time around, I’m reviewing two Monographs, both set in the Soviet Union, set in a country and era that most of us only know indirectly at best. These monographs both tried to capture at least the perception of the Soviet Republic, and in my opinion, both succeeded admirably, and used that setting as part of the horror roleplaying opportunities.

First, The Terror, (the volume itself only titles itself Terror, but it is catalogued as “the Terror”) is available in pdf format both from Chaosium and DriveThruRPG.com. It is a one shot, set in Stalin’s Moscow in 1932. The player characters are coerced into trying to resolve a mysterious murder, and clear evidence that the crime is being covered up. A mystery that links back to the 1908 Tunguska explosion and gives a wonderfully wicked story, with the culture almost as big a threat as the monsters lurking in the background. This is very much a one shot scenario, with its ending a grim reminder of the realities of Soviet life at that time, but still potentially a surprise. Worth recommending, but not a campaign scenario by any means.

Second, Machine Tractor Station Kharkov-37, available in print and pdf from Chaosium, and in pdf from DriveThruRPG.com, is another scenario set in March of 1933. Also presented as a one shot, this scenario has, while part of the same cultural chaos as its starting point, less of a feeling of the Soviet culture in its overall structure (though it does creep in as the story progresses). The investigators are Soviet military, sent to investigate the silence from the title location, a farming collective, after some relatively unusual developments. In a slight spoiler, we are looking at a variation on Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” on a larger scale, and the party finds themselves the prey of a truly alien menace. The fact that they are all acting under orders that are somewhat contradictory and secret orders that play them against each other complicates the thing in a truly Soviet twist. This scenario can take a long time to play out if you want, it definitely shouldn’t be overly rushed for full impact.

Two wonderful scenarios, nearly impossible to fit into campaign play without some phenomenal reworking, even if you leave them in the era and locations. I also find that you can make them fit into campaign play if you are willing to do a lot of rewriting, though you will be either losing a lot of the ‘Soviet paranoia’ that makes these two scenarios work as well as they do (unless you’re willing to play an extremely cynical interpretation of modern life with governments a lot more totalitarian in hidden levels than we perceive)

I love the 80’s and 90’s Part Three: At Your Door (Intermittent Spoilers)

To preface this one, this campaign for Call of Cthulhu is currently out of print and only available from collectors through the various means, Amazon, ebay, and any shops where gaming collectables may have a copy or two tucked away.

I wrap up the current ‘nostalgia’ riff with this full campaign for the game that was released in 1990. This campaign has a bit of a tarnished reputation and I have to concede that at least some of it is deserved. I will, however, also state that there are gems to be found here, and I will break down the good, the bad, the mixed, and I will go over what I feel can be brought out of this campaign.

Like the other ‘modern’ scenarios from this time frame, it feels strangely dated in a way that the scenarios set in the ‘Classic Lovecraft’ decades doesn’t. Also like the other ‘modern’ scenarios, it can be updated with some effort, and in my opinion, there is quite a bit that can be brought forward, though I will concede large parts of this campaign would end up unrecognizable with the work I would tend to perform on it at this time.

Quick overview, the scenario is brought into a conflict between a rabid conservation organization, and a biotechnical company that is gaining access to secrets that are purely from the Mythos. As the story progresses, the party finds themselves digging deeply into secrets on both sides, and eventually find themselves caught in a crossfire as the two organizations that have resolved their differences to a point, and the party has become largely superfluous. En route, they find themselves at odds with a few nasty predatorial monsters, a victim of inhuman experimentation who is rapidly becoming a monster as well, and a natural disaster that proves to not be so natural. The scenario is largely set in the fictitious city of Samson, California, which connects it to the scenario “Nemo Solus Sapit” from “The Stars are Right”

Opening Scenario: Full Wilderness

A missing scientist who was turning whistleblower is one of the things that pulls the investigators into the campaign, hired by an organization devoted to ecological awareness, named Full Wilderness. The fact that this organization has a deeper agenda is something that may not come out in the course of play, but it is present to be uncovered, and the simple fact that from the beginning, the player’s employer is not a simple heroic force forms part of the backdrop, even if this only comes as a shocking revelation further down the road.

In the process of the initial assignments for Full Wildernes, the party gains clues on the missing man, and a bizarre creature, believed to be the result of unethical (if not illegal) experimentation by a biotechnical/chemical firm is to be escorted from one location to another. This transportation is interfered with by a biker gang (who may or may not be discovered to be the gang “God’s Lost Children”, a callback to the rock band of the same name from “the Evil Stars” scenario in Cthulhu Now. What the creature turns out to be may not be uncovered by the investigators, though experienced players may decipher its nature and origin.

Assorted clues in the scenario lead the players on the trail of the missing scientist, and one of the first logical steps is a farm that the scientist rented briefly. This leads directly to the next scenario.

This scenario is not in and of itself bad, but it is setting the stage, and to be honest a Keeper can use most of this information to go in a lot of other directions,

Second Scenario: Landscrapes.

A scenario that was imported into the campaign, tweaked to fit into it, and based in part of the writings of T. E. D. Klein, this is the most self-contained of the campaign and also my favorite single scenario in it. Tracking down the rented farm leads the party first to the owner, a rather unsavory sort with secrets of his own, and a bit of madness about him. We have a ‘mad scientist on a budget’ who has a current project, and left a project behind him, which proved a major problem to our missing scientist target.

How much of the landowner’s present situation the players get involved in is open for the Keeper to play with or not, and is to me fairly irrelevant to the rest of the scenario, let alone the campaign, but could be amusing to bring in or at least to leave a taunting unknown.

The farm leaves us a few more clues for our missing scientist’s trail, but presents a mystery of its own. The landowner’s abandoned project is a monster that has infested the farm itself, the local flora and fauna, as well as at least one human victim, become an ongoing concern and threat for the party to deal with.

The monster here is creative, creepy, and the players find themselves quickly involved in a struggle for survival and containment of this potential threat. As I’ve said, I like this scenario a lot, and frankly have very little trouble with the idea of minimal tweaking it and incorporating it into any campaign.

There is one minor element I find a bit annoying, but this is hardly the first place it’s happened, and to be honest, I don’t always have a problem with it. Acting as a background character, one of our favorite ‘Big nasty guys’, Nyarlathotep (one of the ones most likely to act on human affairs in an indirect but still actively interested role), has coordinated the now missing scientist to rent this particular property, using an alias and basically being unreachable. He also used an anagram of Nyarlathotep for this appearance. I tend to find the anagrams a bit annoying with one exception, the saxophonist “the Royal Pant”, who actually does show up later in this campaign. The Royal Pant is the one anagram manifestation I find okay, I find it being done more often makes it not only less effective, but a bit irritating, and predictable (“oh, a mysterious person whose name is a bit nonsensical with an n, a y, and two t’s?’ I hear the players mutter. “wonder who that could be?’)

Third Scenario: Dawn Biozyme

The mysterious biotech company that the whistleblower was gathering information on is the focus of this scenario, and this scenario covers the party’s investigation of the company and its secrets. The primary villain of the piece is a man named Dr. Finley, who has no idea of the dark nature of the secret he is working with. Summoning Shub Niggurath, but only perceiving it as an extradimensional entity that has excretions with properties he sees as having immense value and potential.

Leaving the magic vs. physics discussion aside, Finley has no real belief in the magic side of it, and the fact that they may be related in a way is of no interest to him. His wife, however, has become quite enthralled with the Tcho Tcho culture, which brings up a point I will cover shortly.

This scenario is something of a framework, with a tough security, a vague set of goals, but it does cover the bulk of the likely range of player actions, with high risks in most of them, but considerable information uncovered.

I have to admit I’m somewhat indifferent to most of this scenario, though if you wish to play the campaign as written, it is a major point to deal with and a logical source of information and action.

This is the first part of the Tcho Tcho involvement in this campaign, and has been criticized by some for making a somewhat racist presentation, comparing the Tcho Tchos as refugees to the Vietnamese and Cambodian refugee influx of the Seventies and Eighties. While at first glance, this is a valid comparison, this actually forms a good foundation for the Tcho Tchos in ‘western civilization’ as a campaign element.

The Tcho Tcho are not fully human, this is established, and their culture lessens that connection. While there is in the “Lovecraft canon” a placement of the Tcho Tchos in the Plateau of Leng, which is presumed by most to be located in the Dreamlands, there are also places where the Tcho Tcho have made incursions into various locations, and taking on some of the characteristics of the humans of the regions they are expanding into (Spawn of Azathoth as a prime example). So, having extrapolated that, is it unreasonable to postulate that the Tcho Tcho, seeing the way that refugees from the Southeastern Asian region were welcomed (even if not wholeheartedly) in the West, opted to present themselves in the same manner, and while knowing they would not find any warmer welcome if they were honest about what they were, using their insular culture to try to protect their secrets while they spread their presence among an unsuspecting populace? (Apologies for the convoluted sentence). If you cannot accept this postulate, then the politically incorrect accusation stands with some merit.

Scenario Four: No Pain, No Gain.

Usually, when people deride this campaign, this becomes the focal point of the criticism, and justly so, for the most part. Can it be salvaged? Possibly, but to be honest, I am unsure if it is worth the trouble for the most part, though we do have an interesting ‘creature’ in this one.

Clues from the missing scientist and from Dawn Biozyme can lead to another person who has dropped off the map, so to speak, another person who worked at Dawn Biozyme, then vanished. Researching into this woman’s story reveals an interest in bodybuilding, and her changing into something other than human gradually, first playing into her avocation of bodybuilding, until she changed to a point where she was unable to continue competing as a bodybuilder. The fact that she was trying a substance that makes steroids seem like caffeine supplements (and its ultimate source), brings us into CoC territory, particularly when the party finds her, sequestered in a cave where she has grown into a full scale giantess, with additional limbs on the verge of sprouting.

As written the party becomes captives of her and her similarly altered pet, a dog that is now larger than a dog and capable of speech, and the time scale of the campaign goes askew as the party has to endure prolonged captivity with this entity, something that is herself equal parts victim and monster, and who in her madness will try to keep the players her captives in accord with her conflicting emotions and thoughts.

The idea of the players being kept for a prolonged period has an appeal, forcing players to drop the mentality of ‘hit and run’ scenario play. Jenny (the giantess) is an interesting creature, and a complex character, but I am, even now, unsure if this is the best presentation for her as a villain/victim. The dog seriously doesn’t help matters, and the scenario creeps into territory where it is hard to take seriously if not impossible.

The lead in to finding her was good, Jenny is an interesting monster, but in the end, this scenario is more of a ‘pass’ than ‘play’ in my book.

Scenario Five: Where a God Shall Tread

There are a few ways for players to end up in this campaign, but most of them are a bit tenuous, and this scenario, while pivotal, is hard to tie in directly if left as written. Set in Toronto, the party finds themselves caught between a serial killer who is a shape shifting Mythos monster, and the enigmatic Mr. Shiny (who is himself inspired by the wonderful Michael Shea story ‘Fat Face’), the players find themselves in a deadly game of corporate sabotage, a ‘frozen’ Great Old One (RhanTegoth) in a museum as a bit of a backdrop,, and the recurrence of the Tcho Tcho elements. This scenario has many places and means for the party to trip themselves up, but also means to start putting the pieces together of the campaign’s themse.

Having said that, the scenario is still a bit disjointed, and some of it seems unnecessary to the campaign as such. The addition of the serial killer, and his secret is at least a bit unneeded, however well it is put into the campaign. The relocation to Toronto seems equally arbitrary, there is no solid reason for the campaign to have relocated to another city, except to distance the players from the support network they may have established up to this point, and to allow for the players’ employer (Full Wilderness) to have made its bizarre peace with Dawn Biozyme, and the forces behind it.

Toronto as the specific location seems equally arbitrary but is acceptable.

Up to this point, I have avoided mentioning one of the other critiques thrown at this campaign, in part because it seems rare for any campaign not to have this to a point, usually referred to as ‘creature of the week’. The addition of monsters, and seeking to add new and different monsters each time the setting changes. Now, almost every campaign will do this, and sometimes it is hard to not make the transition feel or look arbitrary. It takes work to avoid this feeling, and At Your Door is not as good at this work as many campaigns. Part of the reason I bring this up at this point is that the critique has some validity, and this scenario intensified the feeling. The scenarios often link together tenuously, leaving a disjointed feeling to the campaign, and in this scenario it starts to come to a head. But it goes over the top with the conclusion, which is a problem, because the last scenario also has a lot of the best potential in the campaign.

Scenario Six: After the Big One

What can you say about a scenario that begins with a massive earthquake, and throws the party into trying to cope with the aftermath, particularly when the scenario’s developments brings all the other matters of the campaign to a head?

Returning to Samson just in time to be caught up in the quake, the party finds themselves trying to simply survive among the less than adequate emergency responses and communicate with their employers, most likely unknowing that their employers are no longer allies. Gradually learning that the earthquake was no accident, and caused by entities far removed from humanity, finding surviving villains from various parts of the campaign up to this point, and uncovering a conspiracy to use the survivors of the quake and the wreckage left behind as a refuge for Rhan Tegoth (they have plans to fully revive that entity by this point), the players have to try to head off a climactic meeting that boils down to a huge battleground if the meeting is allowed to happen, and preventing it from happening is at best problematic.

I have commented, in this blog and the Keeper’s blog, that certain monsters kind of put me at arm’s length when they show up in a scenario because of their extreme difficulty in being beaten, that they should almost never be presented in a combat situation. This scenario has three different types of this kind of creature, notably Chthonians, shoggoths, and Dark Young. Two (and a half) of these kind showing up in that climactic meeting, along with human cultists. This is, to me, overkill, flat out, and a party has to be almost preternaturally ahead of the ‘game’ to be able to get through this intact.

The intermittent presence of The Royal Pant in this section I find intriguing, as his presence here is less as a foil than as Lear’s Fool to the villains of the piece, content to let the players act as a fly in the ointment, accentuating his known tendency to be contemptuous of his Masters’ goals and schemes, even as he advances them.

The final battle is a bit much however it is played out, to my taste, and is at best problematic.

However, there are aspects of the ‘life in the ruined city’ section of the campaign that I find quite good.

The missing scientist from the beginning of the campaign is finally found, but ultimately the trail that led to him proves far more significant than he himself, by this point. Some of the potential allies for the players are a mixed bag, and at least one organization strikes me as bit nonsensical, but not in a way that I have to cite as useless, just something I would tweak if I were to try to run this one again.

I ran this campaign pretty much as written back in the early 90’s, and I did everything in my power to get the players informed enough to try to circumvent the final conflict. While there were survivors, I can’t say that they won that final scenario, though.

So…ultimately, there are some great elements to pull out of the campaign, and incorporate into your own, at least one scenario viable on its own, a few very nice villains, a good idea setting or two… I can’t say this was the high point of Chaosium’s run, and I often have suspected that the reaction to this one was one of the reasons that Chaosium didn’t do more with modern scenarios at that point in their history.

I love the 80’s and 90’s Part Two: The Stars are Right (some Spoilers)

This scenario compilation from 1992 was re-released in 2004 with a little new content, and I will be reviewing the current version. I will say a few things upfront. First, some of the scenarios have dated a little bit in the time since their initial publication, but they can be updated with minimal work. Second, while a few of these scenarios I am a bit indifferent to, this compilation has a few of my favorite scenarios of the entire game.

First Scenario: Love’s Lonely Children

This is a grim scenario, and while it is a good scenario to play through, it’s hard to say you’ve won at any given point. The players, and one npc are the ones at risk. We learn about the scenario after the death of a teenage girl, and her sad life was only complicated by the Mythos, which led to her death. This is sobering when you realize that this scenario is built from concepts that border on depressing clichés. Heroin addiction, prostitution, child abuse, the punk rock scene of the eighties and nineties all form the backdrop to this (and a sobering moment when, somewhat like the characters in Spider Robinson’s stories, you have to ask yourself ‘when did we let these things become clichés?’) The girl’s father has found Y’golonac, and the girl paid the price. There is a mystery to solve, there is a foe to fight, but as written, there is one npc at risk, and the party, unless the party ‘brings in help’. The level of overall threat is low, and the challenge high. But if you do beat the villain, you have a feeling that you’ve left the world a brighter place, even in a bleak world. I put this one as a plus, but it is a bleak one, and not to everyone’s tastes.

Second scenario: Nemo Solus Sapit

This scenario is good for all that it is. It brings up a recurring theme in Call of Cthulhu scenarios, specifically psychiatrists who have uncovered some level of dark and forbidden knowledge and ultimately become a new evil themselves. In this case, a patient who succumbed to madness while researching the Mythos taught his doctor things that led to the doctor becoming powerful, mad, and evil. Azathoth makes a brief appearance in the backstory, and if the party doesn’t solve and beat this one before the scenario reaches its conclusion, can reappear during the course of play, and the consequences should be avoided (naturally). Missing people, spells that confuse identities to a point, and abuse of power form the backdrop to this story. Not one of my favorites but very playable, and my issues with it are more just personal taste than anything else. A minor comment at this point. This scenario is largely set just outside the fictional city of Samson, California, the city which is largely the setting for the At Your Door campaign, which will be the third part of the ‘I love the 80’s and 90’s’ sequence.

Third Scenario: This Fire Shall Kill

This is one of my all-time favorites, and one of the few scenarios that deal with a cult to Cthugha that feels fresh and frightening. We do have another ‘abuse of power’ issue here, but the novelty of a team of firemen as cultists to a fire entity makes for a complicated and intense scenario. The scenario is set in San Francisco with a climax in the Bank of America building. A strong scenario, I can’t cite any weaknesses in this scenario, I enjoy it, and how it plays out.

Fourth Scenario: The Professionals

In spite of a pretty nice monster, this is not one of the high points of this compilation, the players get involved in an investigation into secrets surrounding a political campaign. One of the candidates hires the investigators to look into the background of the other. The fact that the other candidate is a shapeshifting monster wearing the form of a B-movie actress makes it strange. The scene is complicated by both candidates’ dark pasts, a group of terrorists with a peculiar agenda, and a rogue scientist with stolen technology and an obsession with the actress and a need to find her secrets. To be honest, this scenario is very linear, and this is one of its biggest flaws. Ultimately, there is little for the players to do other than be a witness to most of the action in the scenario, and they have little impact on what happens. Ironically it still has a sweet climax, and as I said a pretty nice monster, so I see this less as a scenario than a mine, a source to grab things to import into other circumstances.

Fifth Scenario: Fractal Gods

A good, albeit bizarre scenario (okay, I realize in Call of Cthulhu calling a scenario bizarre is a bit redundant, but bear with me). This scenario is more than a bit dated, dealing with fractal art, and with some computer technology and file distribution methods that are a bit ‘behind the times’, but a good scenario regardless. A computer user reading ancient journals learns of concepts that when he converts them to computer structures, uses fractal concepts to open a gateway, and allowing an entity access to our world, to our detriment. Using means of spreading files under misleading presentation, others are tricked into starting the program on their own computers, giving more power to the entity in question, who seeks to return home, but also is spreading its own kind on our world.

This scenario gets a bit convoluted in some senses, and I’m not too sure I completely buy into the fractal entities, but I can’t cite it as significantly more improbable than many other things that have manifested in the game. I leave this one in the plus column, but if I were to try to run it nowadays I may tweak it a lot, in addition to updating it.

Sixth Scenario: The Gates of Delirium

Here we have another psychiatrist gone crazy scenario, using his patients as guinea pigs, as he seeks to summon Daoloth, using chemical therapies that are pushing patients further into madness, and altering the reality around them. This is a good and weird scenario, and by the end of it the players have a good chance of questioning reality. Not my favorite, but given a choice between this one and Nemo Solus Sapit, I would pick this one.

Seventh Scenario: The Music of the Spheres

This one uses radio telescopes and a spread of madness to bring a very intense scenario involving insanity raging across a small town, destruction of object, and altering the wildlife. Even though communication is a problem, but ultimately the players’ best allies may not be humans in solving this one. A tough scenario, and quite possibly a campaign ender if things don’t go well, and very likely a campaign altering one if you put it into campaign play. The price of listening to some of the entities of the Mythos is high, and this town risks paying it if the players can’t stop it. I like this one and recommend it, but the stakes are high.

Eighth Scenario: Darkest Calling

This scenario is the first of two new scenarios for the 2004 edition, and is one of my favorites of all time. A bizarre death in the desert, and the realization that it is the second in what seems to be a sequence of deaths, the investigators are drawn into a dark story. We aren’t dealing with a Great Old One, or the end of the world, but we are dealing with a nasty type of monster, and an incredible storyline, as we are confronted with moral ambiguity on a level that we rarely see in a scenario. When murder is your best option, the more the players know, the more they have to make a difficult choice.

Ninth Scenario: The Source and the End

A small town in Colorado becomes the setting for this scenario, a place where evil runs rampant as spawn of Ubbo-Sathla are called forth and run rampant. A retired FBI agent, tracking down one last case, finds more than he bargained for, and the players are called in just a little too late to stop things from starting to go to a figurative hell. The players are the vanguard of an attempt to contain the evil, and another tough scenario wraps up this collection. A good one, but another one that is going to leave the campaign shaken if not broken by the end of it. A good time to roll up new characters.

Available in hard copy from Chaosium, and in pdf from Chaosium and DriveThruRpg.com

An Apology, new rules, and I love the 80 (and 90’s)’s part i (Cthulhu Now, some spoilers)

First the apology.  I have had a few messages indicating some displeasure that i reviewed a scenario that is not at this time readily available without resorting to torrents, which is something I do not endorse.  I wish to apologize for that, though i did get it in good faith when i acquired it, and would hope others could do the same.  SO i will from this point forward to this set of rules.  For free scenarios, that have been released for no purchase to own, i will double check that they are, at the time i review them, available somewhere online and indicate where.  For scenarios that were for purchase and available only in pdf, i will make sure that they are currently available in pdf in some location.  For scenarios that were available for purchase in print i will announce if they are available in print or pdf to the best of my knowledge at the time of the review.  For items that were available only in print and never available in pdf (to my ability to determine). I will indicate as much, whether or not they are currently in print.  The reason i will review non pdf print items that are not in print is simple, there are collectors wiling to sell through collectable venues, including ebay.  While i would always hope to find a way to assure the original author and/or rightsholder to get their appropriate royalties, if the book is no longer in print, this is not an option.  i do hope to only review items that are legitimately available (taking the buying from collectors option as a legitimate option)

In 1987, Cthulhu Now was released, giving updated setting and rules to play the game in a contemporary setting.  this concept has been extrapolated on with subsequent editions of the game and other supplements but this was one of the early developments into reaching out into other eras for the game.  Included in the game were four scenarios set in the time frame, the late eighties, and so the modern era Call of Cthulhu was ‘born’.

First Scenario: The City in the Sea

This scenario owes most of its existence to Lovecraft’s story “the Temple” than anything else, expanding some of the concepts there as the mysterious statuette from that story makes a repeat performance, and we are given more information.  the statuette as lure, the submerged temple and the surrounding ruins all return, the dolphin escort, this is familiar territory, but we do get a bit more, and unlike the arrogant narrator of the story, the players do have a chance to survive and even win in this scenario.

The entity behind the statuette is given a name here, and the players risk becoming snared by the entity’s pull through the statuette.  an expedition takes the investigators to a submerged city and a test of theories about the existence of the lost nation of Atlantis.

To be honest, this scenario never did much for me, though i can’t really fault it.  For what it is, it is a viable scenario, just one that didn’t appeal to me personally.  the level of risk seems more removed, except for the statue’s pull drawing the investigators in, and while there is some level of threat from it, it doesn’t seem to be an earth shaking scenario in any sense, nor a particularly significant event in the player characters’ lives, so i tend to give this one a pass.

Second Scenario: Dreams Dark and Deadly

This is a scenario i like, a challenge, and deadly, involving dream research, a deep one hybrid in  Colorado, and more monsters than you can shake a stick at (and given Colorado forests, no shortage of sticks).  We have one of the aspects of big C himself, Cthulhu, working with the dreaming minds of some of the patients at this research facility, and through the advanced technology in the research, the staff itself.  Manifestations of an assortment of mythos oriented creatures can complicate the picture as needed, and people keeping secrets, in some cases even from themselves keep things going as the agenda of the hybrid and Cthulhu push things towards a potentially catastrophic conclusion.

the risks grow as the scenario progresses, and if the party can’t solve it in time, a somewhat corporeal incarnation of Cthulhu arrives, ruining everyone’s fun.  This is one of the few places where Cthulhu can show up and not be a complete game imbalancer, let alone a campaign ender.  but if the players haven’t stopped the scenario by that point, the player characters are in dire straits.

With some very unlikely allies, and a very difficult path to get all the clues, this scenario has a good chance of being played out without everything being uncovered, but still chances of making a good game out of it.

Scenario Three: The Killer Out of Space

I have to admit this is my favorite scenario of the four, and while it is a bit dated, can be worked with to make it even more contemporary. hitching a ride on the space shuttle, the infamous Colour Out of Space forces a detour, a crash landing in Kansas, and slips into the shadows before authorities can reach the landing/crash site.

the side effects of the Colour’s presence quickly lead to a martial law quarantine of the area, and exactly where the players fit into it is well written and presented.  There are chances for the players to survive and win this scenario, but they will have to struggle against the military almost as much as against the Colour.

A need to update the scenario to match the current limitations of the space program is a small hurdle in this scenario, which is ultimately very playable and very intense.

Scenario Four: The Evil Stars

This is a good scenario, but a bit ‘easy’ in its setup.  The threats are viable, the scenario challenging, but a rock band being evil cultists plays a bit into anxieties that gamers have been struggling against as far back as the parental anxieties over Dungeons and Dragons.

An interesting extrapolation on the summoning spell for Hastur makes this one a bit tougher to solve, but not unworkably so.  the band and their servants are a reasonable challenge, and the threat, as i said, is vialbe, and grows as the scenario continues.

a minor side note; i did comment at one point in the Keeper’s blog about the ‘Chaosium Canon’, and this brings up that, as the band, ‘God’s Lost Children’ are referenced in the “At Your Door’ campaign, and have shown up, indirectly, in at least one later scenario that i found online.

Ultimately, this isn’t a scenario i would highly recommend, but one i would have no problem endorsing as viable.

So, final tally, out of four scenarios, two i like a lot, and two that i may not really want to play, but won’t speak ill of, so a positive.

and in keeping with the stated rules, this book is available for purchase at DriveThruRpg, though out of print for hard copy.