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.

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3 comments

  1. More great reviews! If I can offer a suggestion, I always enjoy hearing who the author is too. Good reviews make me seek out their other work, as well as giving due credit. Keep up the good work!

  2. I agree with Mark’s suggestion to note the author; once I found a scenario writer whose work I really liked I sought out their other scenarios.

    You might also consider, when reviewing products that are in print or available on line, including a link to the product so interested readers can obtain a copy of their own. For example – http://www.chaosium.com/unseen-masters/.

    Finally, I would suggest adding images to the blog. WordPress allows you to add an image from a URL. You can link to images from the Yog-Sothoth.com wiki or other public sources.

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