Saturday, February 28, 2015

Playing It Safe

A few weeks prior to the second or third Origins I ran games at, I was having a conversation with some folks in the chatroom. Talk eventually led to the convention and the games I was running. As I described them, someone mentioned they were impressed I was running 8 different scenarios at the con. That shocked me, as I hadn't realized I was doing that. What shocked me more, was that 6 of those 8 were brand new scenarios, some of which had not yet been run by me.

Looking back, I realize I wasn't playing it safe. I was pushing myself as a Keeper and, in my opinion, I was rewarded for doing so. My skills as a GM grew. This directly led to my players in those, and subsequent, games enjoying themselves more. After all, this is why I GM - so I and everyone at my table has fun.

Its no secret that I got burned out of gaming. This was primarily due to running too many games at Origins and not having time to enjoy myself as I wanted to. Over the last several years my return to GM'ing has started up again. I've run games at Origins again the last two years, but as I examine my gaming life recently I find I am disappointed. I've been playing it safe.

How? By running games that I know well and not pushing myself. In the last few years, I've been running the same games at Origins. Yes, I run these scenarios because I love them, but I am also familiar with them - they are comfortable. I need to fix that.

The same goes with Call of Cthulhu. I love this RPG. Its my #1 game, and probably always will be. But there are other games and systems I want to run, and have not because I'm not as familiar with them. This will change.*

This year at Origins I am running four games. Three of them are Call of Cthulhu games; two of which I have run many times in the past. However, they will be different.
  • I am running the Crack'd & Crook'd Manse. This is my all-time favorite published scenario and I have run it at least a dozen times. Yes, this is the least changed thing I will be doing. However, I will be converting it to 7th Edition, so there is some nuances that will make this different for me.
  • I am running my Call of Cthulhu scenario Devil's Cave. I've run this multiple times in the past. However, I'm changing it up. While the plot is basically the same, I'm expanding out certain points in it to make it more. This is my exercise as a GM to stretch myself with existing material and make it better.
  • The last Call of Cthulhu scenario I'm running is a new one called Paradise Falls. I am taking a risk with this one, as it will essentially be a sandbox for the PCs to play in for 4 hours. I admit I was having a rough time until I saw something that Ed Gibbs posted on the CoC Google+ group.

    In this scenario, I am planning on giving the PCs backgrounds they can choose from, and those backgrounds will be integrated into plot that they can interact with. This is a big risk on my part, but I am willing to take it as I think it will work out well. I'm really looking forward to this game, and if things go well, I will be releasing it on this site.
Finally, I will be running a game of The End of the World from Fantasy Flight Games. I'm a big fan of the simple system it uses, as well as the apocalyptic genre. I don't know if I will be using a Zombie Apocalypse or Wrath of the Gods type plot yet, and probably won't until close to the con.

These may seem like I'm playing it safe, but to me I'm taking risks with these. I'm changing existing scenarios that I know already run well, I'm running a game where I will have very little control in the overall aspects, and I'm running a new system that I am not completely familiar with.

I could crash and burn with all of these, but I'm willing to take the chance. I'm excited to go on this ride. Hopefully, it will turn out well; I think it will. Even if it doesn't, I'll at least have tried and thats my goal here.

* Yes, I ran a game of The Menace from Beyond last year. I look at this as the start of my awakening to try new things.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: Secrets of Tibet

Note: My review of Secrets of Tibet was originally posted on on January 27, 2015.

Chaosium’s “Secrets of” series of sourcebooks give Keepers an opportunity to expand their games outside of Lovecraft Country and into other locales around the world. Sometimes these places are closer to home, such as with Secrets of New York, and sometimes they are in exotic locations, such as in Secrets of Kenya. The newest “Secrets of” sourcebook, Secrets of Tibet, takes Keepers and players on a journey to dark and mysterious Tibet.

Secrets of Tibet was written by Jason Williams and published by Chaosium in 2013. At 161 pages long, this softcover book contains multiple pieces of black and white interior art by Caleb Cleveland and Lee Simpson that fit well into the the Tibetan motif. The cover is a striking painting by Cleveland of Tibetan monks summoning an eldritch being from a body of water.



The first three chapters of the sourcebook describe the religion, history, geography, and culture of the plateaued country north of the Himalayan mountain range. These chapters contain a plethora of information for the Keeper, including a timeline of major events (both real and fictional), sample Tibetan occupations for players, Tibetan gods and creatures, and information on Buddhism, the Dhali Lama, and Bön – a sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

The last three chapters cover notable NPCs that could be useful or interesting to have PCs meet, the different issues that come from traveling to and within Tibet, and a description of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Finally, the book ends with three short scenarios (descriptions below are vague to prevent spoilers):
  • Dreaming of the River of Night finds the PCs on a mission to find gold in the Tibetan plateaus, and takes them much farther.
  • Company Town has the PCs looking for a missing merchant in the remote villages of Tibet.
  • The PCs help the Tibetan government investigate a suspicious Nepalese diplomat in O’ Sleeper! Arise!.
Secrets of Tibet is the first sourcebook to use the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition rules. However, since it came out almost a year before the official rules were published, a summary and conversion from previous editions is included at the end of the book.



It is obvious from reading the book that Jason Williams is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about Tibet’s geography, culture, and history. This shows throughout the book in the immense amount of information it contains. These facts are welcomed as they help remove some of the mystery surrounding Tibet; something that most Keepers will find helpful. Secrets of Tibet is worth the purchase price for this information alone and I would recommend it solely for that.

However, the book is not without its flaws. First, the only map of Tibet in the the book is a black and white physical map that, with the shading from the mountains, makes it useless. A simpler map that was easier to read would have been preferable.

Second, while the book contains an abundance of information on Tibet, there is very little actual information relating it to the Mythos. There are Mythos tie-ins to Tibet in various chapters, but they feel few and far between. The chapter entitled “Tibetan Gods and Monsters” does connect the Cthulhu Mythos into Tibetan religion and folklore, but it is disappointingly short. Given the amount of information on Tibet within the book, I would have liked to see more on the author’s perspective on how to tie the Mythos in, or additional hints about eldritch things lurking in the mountainous shadows.

Finally, the three scenarios in the book feel rushed and shortened. Each scenario has its own unique charm to it, but as I read through them I felt that, as a Keeper, I would need to add more to make them usable in a game.



While there are some issues in the book, it is still worth purchasing. The abundance of information on Tibet outweighs any flaws it has, as Keepers can still take that information and twist it to their own devious ends. I still would have liked to see the book extended to include more information on the Cthulhu Mythos in Tibet or expanded scenarios, but in the end, this is a sourcebook worthy of any collection.



Worth purchasing.

  • An abundance of information on Tibet.
  • Excellent art.
  • Three scenarios.
  • Map of Tibet is useless.
  • Would have liked to see more Mythos content.
  • Scenarios need fleshed out just a little more.