Month: December 2014

Entry 39: Age of Cthulhu 1: Death in Luxor

The Age of Cthulhu series, by Goodman Games, is a well written and well-presented series, all but one of the volumes a single scenario in each volume (volume 5 has three smaller scenarios). They are fairly firmly set in location and time frame, and if you want to move them in time or space you will have to do some major tweaking. I will preface this by saying that I don’t care for all of the developments in the series, monster or location choices are sometimes problematic for me. Having said that, I will also say that even the episodes I have issues with are consistently well-written and well presented, this series is a winner, set generally in the ‘classic Lovecraftian’ era, with settings all over the globe.
The first volume is set in Luxor, Egypt, in a scenario that is a little ‘railroady’ for my taste, with a fairly linear plot but a nice ongoing mission. The players find themselves stumbling upon the aftermath of a bit of a massacre. A professor having lost sanity from his first encounter with the Mythos also had the misfortune to deduce his wife’s infidelity and in the maelstrom of emotions following he unleased a figurative, and somewhat literal hell, beginning a chain of events that the players must discern and struggle to derail before a major threat is unleashed. One group seems to be chasing the truth down in parallel with the investigators, but they are on their own agenda, and the investigators are, at best, useful tools to them. A cult is working against both, but at the same time, letting events flow to some extent, as long as their own agenda is not compromised as well. As a background, unless the players have been very careful, a corrupt police force is looking for the players.
Add to the mix assorted deep ones, at least one lesser monster that is easily a ‘tpk’ monster, and the final baddie which is one of the creatures I feel is a major catastrophe if ever unloosed, and you have an intense adventure with a threat looming overhead, even if not clearly understood until far into the game.
The players are not forced into any particular course of action, but as written a specific course of action will play out, with the players the only potential interruption of that flow. It ends up feeling like a strange mix of railroad and sandbox, but ultimately is a successful scenario, though a keeper may well need to be on his toes to keep the entire scenario from rolling over the players as events play out.
I do find most of the scenarios in this series to be similar in linearity and in strength of construction. Many unusual ideas are presented, and if a keeper can, they will be well served by these scenarios, even if the keeper doesn’t opt to use them directly.
The full series, as of this writing is presented below:
Volume 1: Death in Luxor
Volume 2: Madness in Londontown
Volume 3: Shadows of Leningrad
Volume 4: Horrors from Yuggoth
Volume 5: The Long Reach of Evil
Volume 6: A Dream of Japan
Volume 7: Timeless Sands of India
Volume 8: Starfall over the Plateau of Leng

Entry 38: Dead Light

My first visit back in a while, I will go over Dead Light, the first scenario released for Seventh Edition Call of Cthulhu. This scenario is a survival horror scenario set ro run over the course of an evening, and should be good for one session’s play. It is a sandbox adventure, leaving the Keeper to choose a lot of how the scenario plays out.
Set in a stretch of road outside of Arkham during a horrible storm, the players are hemmed in by the weather to a small area, where they stumble across human evil confronting a monster, with themselves and a few innocents caught up in the horror.
I won’t give away too much, but there is a plot for a robbery that gets out of hand, and of the two victims of the robbery, one of them had a secret that gets loosed, putting all present at risk. The horror is the Dead Light, an entity that is unique to the scenario, and its nature has an alien feel to it that I find wonderfully creepy in the middle of the setting. The workers and occupants of a diner, the surviving people of the robbery, perpetrator and victim, and the investigators find themselves prey of the Dead Light with chances to figure out what is going on, and to try to survive, and if possible, to thrive.
We are given a cast of npcs that have a good feel to them, flawed but with their own traits, they don’t feel like cardboard cutouts. There are virtues and flaws in them, some of which will clearly lead to their own demise if the player characters don’t take the upper hand. The Keeper is free to use some of the npcs as monster fodder, or allies to help the party fend off the creature.
The creature is presented in a way that makes it feel and present as something truly alien, though ultimately its behavior in this scenario boils down to ‘hungry monster on a rampage’, it is able to use bizarre tactics and inconstant behavior.
If I were to cite any flaw in this scenario as presented, it is that the important details of the Dead Light is printed in two separate areas of the scenario, and without copying to a spare monster sheet or the like, there could well need to be some page flipping in the middle of combat, when it occurs in this scenario.
When I ran this scenario, the players did not find an easy way to beat the creature, and the body count was pretty high. But by dawn, the creature was defeated, and the survivors, while battered, were essentially intact and it was viewed as a success.
I highly recommend this scenario, but a Keeper who is not comfortable with a sandbox structure may have some trouble with it.