Entry 36: Tatterdemalian, Children of the Yellow Lake, and Tatters of the King(part Three of the Hastur Mashup)

I have isolated the scenarios in the Mashup from other scenarios dealing with Hastur because there is a common thread of them being tied more to the Yellow Sign, and the King in Yellow, that they have a feel for the mystery evoked by that. There are other scenarios involving Hastur, but the bulk of them deal with Hastur more as just a monster to be summoned or avoided, or occasionally about the Unspeakable Promise. Occasionally cultists, in various manifestations, but the Hastur Mashup is a bit different in feel from most of those. As I mentioned earlier, the scenario “Tell me, Have you Seen the Yellow Sign?” and the semi-sequel scenario “Asylum-Return of the Yellow Sign” fit into this mashup, but they have already been covered in earlier reviews. There is are two others that I can think of offhand that first into it, plus the campaign “Tatters of the King.” Before Tatters, however, let’s look at the others.

Tatterdemalion by Richard Watts and Penelope Love (additional text by Kevin A. Ross) is a scenario found in Fatal Experiments, an earlier Chaosium product still available in pdf format from DriveThruRPG, has at least a vague resemblance to parts of the first act of Tatters of the King, but there is enough difference that it is clear that the resemblance owes more to their common source material than anything else. In this case, a theatrical genius whose controversial career had taken a downturn leading to an emotional breakdown discovered the Play while in therapy, and his madness instead of resolving, deepened, along with enough cunning that he managed his release, and threw a party that combined revenge against his imagined oppressors, a performance of the play, and a transition of the mansion where the party occurs into Carcosa. Mystic energies and the mad party-thrower seeks his revenge and draws the surviving partygoers into the madness of Carcosa itself. While the first parts of this play are a good and chilling ride with a feel much like a blend of an old Vincent Price movie along with a slasher film whittling the cast down, the part dealing with Carcosa itself is a bit more ethereal and surreal, leading to a clash with Hastur on the throne that is very difficult, and in my opinion, not the strongest resolution in the various scenarios. In fact, the best resolution to the scenario involves stopping the play before completion, which may be hard to ‘justify to the normal world.’ Taken apart from the others, a good scenario, but compared to the others in the Mashup, I would say this is one to ‘mine’, to take things from to enhance other scenarios.

Children of the Yellow Lake by Carlos Orsi Martinho is a deadly scenario available free online at http://www.epberglund.com/RGttCM/nightscapes/NS08/ns8gam2.htm and the players find themselves in the Brazilian city of Manaus, in 1922. The Play is being prepared, tensions are rising, the local underworld is dealing in a new drug that is linked to Hastur’s influence, and the intelligentsia are at risk. I don’t want to spoil this one, but the cult may seem small in some senses, when you read the scenario at first. But the enemies are deadly, lurking in many places, and the levels of threat are hard to overstate. I like reading it but I’m not sure any group of players I’ve ever ran could get through it intact. But definitely worth the read.

Now, on to Tatters of the King, by Tim Wiseman, is available at Chaosium in print and pdf, and at DrivethruRPG in both formats as well. This is a relatively small campaign (in some senses), but a powerful one, and a party can definitely go through some extreme times with this one. A recent comment on an earlier part of the Hastur Mashup suggested taking the scenarios from Ripples from Carcosa and playing them as interlude/dream sequences (or…are they?) in the (for lack of a better term) calmer portions of this campaign, to give a suggestion of a malleable reality and questions of multiple lives. I do endorse this as much as my earlier suggestions, with the elements of the Mashup, reality can seem very subjective for the player characters.

This campaign opens with a performance of an adaptation of the play in London, with the attendant madness on a relatively smaller scale than we have tended to see in other presentations in the Mashup, but the play does close on opening night. And this is the prologue.

The actual campaign begins with at least one of the party being called in as consultant on the pending release hearings for a mentally disturbed man who has been institutionalized since the somewhat mysterious demise of two of his family members, for which he accepts responsibility, but can offer no explanation. Of course, being Call of Cthulhu, most things aren’t exactly what they seem, and there are some interesting misdirections and red herrings, with some truly nasty villains lurking in the wings.

There is a cult of Hastur about that is trying a complicated means of bringing Carcosa and Hastur both to earth, depending on that madman, and these efforts comprise the first full act of this campaign, in several parts. The players should also learn some hints of the backstory of the villains they deal with, and those hints will in turn lead to acts two and three of the campaign. The action in Act One moves from parts of the British countryside, to London, back and forth a bit, then to Scotland for its resolution, near the town of Cannich (yes, the Cannich from Shadows of Yog Sothoth. Admittedly, possibly with the need of some revision, or substitution of another town altogether if need be)

The version of Carcosa and its manifestation in this scenario is exotic and pleasantly creepy, and composes the climax of this act of the campaign. There are a few strong combat elements, but the bigger danger of player character loss comes from madness in act one, I think. Villains and unexpected allies lurk in the Carcosan shadows, and the party may have to deal with a manifestation of Hastur in a hard-to-beat battle that could very well end the campaign before you can get to the other acts, or at least create a need for a cast of replacement Investigators.

Act Two opens with a minor, primarily off scene character from Act One making an appearance in a London courtroom. An impulsive act of moderate violence and vandalism on his part caused his legal problem. The party is drawn to internal squabbles of a hotbed of cult activity over another entity, Shub Niggurath, and the players are called to help, essentially trying to help the more innocent or lesser of two evils. The party will interact with the ex-wife of one of the Hastur cultists mentioned in Act One, who was not present for all of that mayhem, and thus leads are given that steer the party into act three, if they survive a siege to protect the least hostile element from her competition. Having said that….Act two can actually be minimally dangerous if the party follows the lead of their best contact. If the party gets aggressive and charges into the potential fight, the fight gets deadly, and the party will be hard pressed to get through it intact.

Act Three begins its investigation phase with the party travelling to Milan. The investigation phase is not without some moderate risks and lethality, but the party finds leads that the party will follow to India, and then to Nepal, where the party catches up to the Hastur cultists they have been trailing. This leaves them in a confrontation with Tcho-Tcho tribesmen who are worshipping Chaugnar Faugn, and the scenario then leads to another dimension, an interpretation of Leng (Leng is, I have found, one of the extremely variable places in scenarios, but that suits, since it was never codified in any fiction, either). This leads to an eventual confrontation with Hastur itself which is not combat oriented, but leads to a very rough conclusion.

During this act, you will be interacting with several Hastur cultists, and dealing with major language and cultural barriers until you reach the final stages.

Having said this, this campaign has several brilliant aspects that bear discussion. It is firmly set in the era, and if a Keeper wants to run it in any other time frame, a lot of things have to be rethought, researched and reworked. The British legal system, the Italian government and culture, Indian culture, Nepalese and Tibetan borders and customs all are factors that interact with the flow of the game. Act two does a very nice job of giving a creepy feel very reminiscent of Campbell’s Severn Valley stories, even though if well-roleplayed it is the safest part of the campaign.

So there you go, the Hastur Mashup wraps with us having looked at eight more scenarios, one campaign in three acts, and a tip of the hat to the two scenarios that fit that were already examined.

Hm…Carcosa as a theme park?

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