Entry 35: Ripples from Carcosa (Part Two of the Hastur Mashup)

This scenario compilation/mini campaign was originally released as a Chaosium Monograph. It has recently been updated to 7th Edition rules and released as a full release, and is available at Chaosium’s web page and at DriveThrurpg’s web site, author credit given to Oscar Rios. Similarly to the Curse of the Yellow Sign series, this is a set of three scenarios, each independent of the others with different settings, and different player characters. Presented as one shots, they could in theory be used as launching points for other campaigns if you wished, particularly in that they use as their settings three of the setting environments for the Call of Cthulhu game, notably Invictus, Dark Ages, and the End Time (more on that later). Also like the Curse of the Yellow Sign series, they are tied into Hastur, the King in Yellow, and to at least some extent, the play “the King in Yellow”. There are some thematic differences between the two collections, however, that are worth a mention before I get into the specific scenarios.

First, unlike the other series, Ripples is closer to the ‘normal’ Call of Cthulhu scenario structure, with possible victories, with the villains being thwarted. Not easily, mind you, but possibly.

Second, these scenarios involve more direct action on the part of cults or individuals who worship Hastur, which are triggering the scenario’s events.

Third, there is a subtext involving reincarnation (of a sort) that is presented as an option to link these more directly, with player characters getting at least vague memories of the characters in earlier scenarios. This is something I have mixed feelings about, to be honest (though a similar theme comes up in another publisher’s ‘cross era’ scenario compilation, so it does bear some consideration. More on this later)

There are also sections regarding the Cult of Hastur in each of the settings, clearly helping set seeds for campaign inclusion.

There are other scenarios involving Hastur, most of which involves cults/cultists treating Hastur as any other greater entity, I am hoping to mention at least one more before I finish the Mashup, but that will wait for part three.

Now, on to the scenarios.

Scenario One: Adventus Regus

Set in the Invictus campaign setting, investigators are sent on a vacation (up to the keeper why) to a resort town frequented by artists. As is often the case in Call of Cthulhu, the timing is not optimal for a peaceful existence, as the players arrive just a day or so before the premiere of a new play by a writer who has been living in this resort for a while. The play, Adventus Regus is recognizable to players and readers as an embryonic form of “the King in Yellow” and the players have a limited chance to learn enough ahead of time to be able to try to minimize the aftermath of the play’s presentation.

This is a well presented scenario, with a nice Roman feel to it, and a climax that is very tough to beat, but is beatable. There is virtually no combat until the climax of the scenario (which is a good thing), and the combats in the climax of the game build in intensity, with a battle of an avatar of Hastur that can be either a cakewalk or a catastrophe fairly easily. I like this scenario, and it stands very good for a one shot, or as part of this set, and as part of the further discussion.

Scenario Two: Herald of the Yellow King

This scenario is set in the Dark Ages setting, ‘somewhere around the year 1080’, with the investigators as servants for a Norman lord in Britain. Cultural insensitivity lead to a good man giving up and making a pact with Hastur, and forces he once fought against become forces he serves, and he spreads “the King in Yellow” as a bardic tale, with ghastly consequences.

Players in this scenario are threading a line between madness and investigation themselves, and if all goes well, they have a chance to make things right for the world at large, but at a great cost. To be honest, I think this scenario is among the best of the type, with subjective reality and changes to the world at large as part of the final resolution.

There is more combat in the earlier parts of this scenario, but the developments are all logical (in context), and the story resolves more through dice-enhanced roleplaying than through a blind conflict (unless the players force the combat option, and usually this is a situation with only small chance for victory)

Scenario Three: Heir to Carcosa

This scenario is set in the End Time setting, with some revisions to the End Time setting itself, as well as some unusual revisions to Hastur mythology per se. The End Times scenario is one of a few future settings available as Monographs, along with Cthulhu Rising, and Once Men. The full background given for this scenario invents some modifications to the setting, modifications that could be made to the other two settings mentioned above if preferred.

For this scenario, a coalition of humans and elder things are living in scattered bases located through the asteroid belt, and interacting with mi go on a reluctant trading basis. A ship is encountered, not part of the coalition, and to protect the coalition’s existence (essentially in hiding from the rest of human civilization at this point) the party seeks out the ship, which appears to have been damaged. The truth behind the damage, and the truth behind the mission this ship had been on is even darker.

Again, we are dealing with a ship’s computer that has gone homicidal, this time on a ship that the player characters have to board, from exposure to secrets of Hastur’s…in this case, information that includes something that could well prove a sequel to “the King in Yellow.” Complicating this, this ship had been crewed by Hastur cultists, and the nature of their ship’s computer is something that will very likely be profoundly disturbing to the investigators when they uncover it. The cult, incidentally, while reduced in numbers, have not been completely eliminated at the beginning of the scenario, and the players will have some combat with human, and other than human, opponents as the scenario unfolds.

Part of the story involves gathering information and a confrontation with their adversary on ship in a virtual environment that lets them encounter the deepest secret of the ship’s computer. The profoundly creepy happy ending possible here will be pleasing and disturbing at the same time.

The greater threat becomes evident when information is uncovered that leads to a confrontation with a major villain and an avatar of Hastur, a climactic battle difficult to win but not unwinnable. I will say that this major villain involves fairly humanlike motivations for Hastur, and an issue of lineage, something I have always personally felt tended to lessen the various greater powers of the Mythos. Setting that aside, I still enjoy the overall setup.

A good and tough scenario, and the conclusion to it can wrap up the implied link of the other Ripples scenario, and can provide a link forward from the End Time setting to other settings, if desired. However, with a bit of work, the background setting for Cthulhu Rising could be used instead. Once men has stages, and this scenario could be inserted into portions of that setting if desired, again, with some work.

Some Ruminations on Curse and Ripples when examined together.

I am left with the question in mind on these two groups of scenarios and I think that an enterprising Keeper with a group who can handle a lot of potentially linked one shots may make a larger ‘mini campaign’ of sorts out of it. You could use either approach, the ‘every scenario separate’ of Curse, or the ‘the same people reincarnated in some matter to face the threat when it rises’ of Ripples. I personally tend to not favor the reincarnation aspect as much, because it implies a fixed fate, something I’ve always resisted, though it is acceptable in game context, I’m less likely to lean towards it.

But you can easily play these in sequence, Aventus Regum, Herald of the Yellow King, Digging for a Dead God, Calling the King, and then we come up on Heir to Carcosa and Archimedes 7 and another question to ponder.

One is inside the solar system, one is in deep space, so the sequenceing is ‘Heir’ then ‘Archimedes’…

But may a Keeper want to look at merging the two? The ‘hidden coalition’ aspect can be removed if necessary. The mechanism behind the computer in Heir can be used, with the mechanism of the computer from Archimedes pretending to be an ally even as it strikes against the players. It would take some work and some personalization, but I find the idea of blending these two scenarios is appealing.

Though admittedly, they’re good enough individually that they can both be run, just be ready for comparisons for the similarities. I would suggest that if you do, make the differences more dramatic, more disconcerting.

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One comment

  1. I mixed the Ripples from Carcosa scenarios at key points in Tatters of the King. The first scenario when the players escaped the house in Scotland, the second when they escaped the fire in Italy, and the third after the completion of the scenario in Tibet. These three scenarios were supposed to be shared dreams, and as we progressed my players slowly began to think about the possibility that reincarnation aw a part of it, without ever being sure ( and in the end it doesn’t matter, imho)

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