Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cult of Chaos Write-Up: Darkness Prevails

Last night I ran my first Call of Cthulhu game of Running GAGG XX, an adventure based on the
adventure "The Dead Light" in the book TERRORS FROM BEYOND, though heavily rewritten - the setting moved from the Orkneys to northern Maine and the Ny'ghan Grii aliens that provide the main threat replaced with a Hound of Tindalos.  Two player characters, a pair of police officers, were added to bring the Investigator total up to 6.  Of the players, two I'd run Cthulhu games for at past Running GAGGs, one had taken part in the very first Cthulhu campaign I'd run almost ten years ago, and two had never played Call of Cthulhu before - one of them having actively avoided Call of Cthulhu for years from the mistaken assumption that it was a game of no-win scenarios.  The sixth player was new to me, but was familiar with Call of Cthulhu.

The set-up for the scenario was that an isolated lighthouse had been dark the previous two nights, and so a relief keeper, two police, and a team of three sailors from the lighthouse tender landed to investigate and relight the lamp, against a backdrop of a growing storm.

The first half of the scenario, the exploring of the empty lighthouse, went pretty well - since I'd replaced the Ny'ghan grii with a Hound of Tindalos, the method of killing changed, so now there were bodies to find, a failed SAN check on the sight of one of them almost took out the entire party - one of the policemen had a Bout of Madness, panicked and fled down the stairs, almost bowling over the other five investigators in the process.

I gave the Hound a pair of mantis-like forelimbs, and described many of the injuries on the bodies as looking like they'd been slashed with heavy blades, smeared with a strange glowing blue slime.  I also played up legends of the island being haunted to try and give the players a bit of a red herring and suggest vengeful ghostly sailors, a la John Carpenter's THE FOG.

The players did a pretty good picking up on clues throughout the lighthouse - the Time Pellets, the notes of the professor who'd accidentally summoned the Hound - but they missed the most vital one: a letter in the bag carried by the relief keeper, explaining how the Hound could be banished.  He put the bag down in his room in the lighthouse as soon as he could and forgot about it, and afterwards told us, "I thought the reference to mail on the character sheet was just flavor text."

So when the Hound emerged and began stalking the party, they really weren't in any shape to try and fight it off - it grinned at them, if an entity that looks like a Cubist painting of a shark, mantis and wolf rolled into one can grin, when they blasted it in the face from point-blank range with a shotgun without effect.  The investigators escaped, though not without injury and nearly dying of hypothermia, as the Hound was in no hurry to pursue them - it knew it could follow them at its leisure.

The two police manage to convince their superiors via the wireless radio on the lighthouse tender that there's a dangerous maniac on the island and they'll need backup with heavy firepower to deal with him.  As the lighthouse tender is returning to port, the relief keeper decides he needs to return to the island and ensure the light stays lit.  He steals the dinghy and rows himself back to the lighthouse.  When the Hound starts following him through the lighthouse, he gets the idea of throwing oil on the grated iron stairs and setting the stairs on fire to dissuade the creature.  Unfortunately, he makes his fiery last stand in the room where the tanks of lamp oil are stored.  The oil fumes are ignited by his efforts and everyone else on the tender discover he abandoned ship and returned to the island when they hear the roar of flame and see orange flickerings from the lighthouse.  They then saw the Cherenkov glow of the Hound walk out of the fire...

We ended the adventure there because we were starting to get close to the time limit, and my players had other events to get to, either to play in or to run.  We did get to discuss a little bit about what people (since pretty much everyone in the room was an accomplished Game Master of one form or another) thought worked and what they thought didn't work.

I think if I were to run this adventure again, I might make a little bullet-pointed list of goals for each character, and put "deliver the other keepers' mail" on the list for the relief keeper to draw attention to the fact that they are carrying mail for the guy who's been getting occult info by mail, without putting too fine a point upon it.  I'll also be sure to call for an INT roll if they still aren't getting it - I didn't this time because he was so quick to divest himself of the bag and with six players all going on full cylinders, often having multiple in-character conversations at once, it was a little tricky for me to get a word in at times, and with some of the players having voices as large as their personalities, I know I sometimes had trouble hearing two of the quieter players when they spoke up.

Maybe in the future I'll bring something small but eye-catching, like a stress ball or even a plush Cthulhu doll, and have that be the speaking token - the person holding it can speak up and everyone else needs to bring it down a notch and listen.  At least for six-player games like this one.

I also need to find a way to remind myself to make sure players are making sanity rolls every time they see a monster, not just the first time - one glimpse of the Hound of Tindalos is not enough to desensitize one to it, ESPECIALLY the way I was rolling for sanity loss! Guess who learned the hard way that the d20 in their new set of clear blue dice is unbalanced and comes up almost exclusive "1"?
Regardless, everyone had a good time, especially the two players new to Call of Cthulhu.  Tonight I've got a modern day scenario that's entirely my own design, with two homicide detectives and six CSI as the player-characters.

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