Friday, July 24, 2015

Play Report and Review: Call of Cthulhu Cult of One

Last night I ran another Call of Cthulhu game at the Malted Meeple. Previously, I had run classic 20s era games, but this time I decided to run a modern game. Not only a modern game, but I wanted something where I could introduce the players to Delta Green. After some searching, I decided to run Cult of One by Brian Sammons and in the Chaosium Secrets book.

Note: Spoilers ahead!

Game Play

There were 6 players in my game - 5 of which had played in my previous Call of Cthulhu game at the Meeple; the last new to Call of Cthulhu. I guess I don't suck that much as a Keeper if they came back.

Cult of One is a modern day scenario dealing with a sorcerer that has fallen out of favor with Nyarlathotep and is cursed to age rapidly. After many bloody sacrifices, the big N gives him a spell called Apportion Ka which allows him to place his essence into his organs. He bribes a coroner to place his organs up for transplant, and they get placed into 4 individuals. When 2 of the 4 come together, the wizard regains his powers but won't be fully whole until all 4 are together. The catch? His original head/brain must remain intact.

Since this was an intro to Delta Green, I decided to forego the original hook and instead had each PC be from a federal agency brought together by the DHS to investigate a potential outbreak of an unknown disease in two transplant patients. The DHS agent bringing them together was an NPC I created who would eventually become their DG handler.

The PCs jumped right in and started the investigation at the hospital, immediately finding that both transplant patients had disappeared. One had walked off and the other, a 12 year old girl, evidently kidnapped by the first. After discovering that the organs came from the same donor, and all information in the hospital records on that donor had been erased by the hospital coroner, the chase was on to find out what happened and find the patients.

This led to the party splitting up - some going to the coroner's house, and others going to the organ bank to get more information on the donor and then to the donor's house. The group at the coroner's house found an undead coroner, a bath of sulfuric acid, and a partially dismembered corpse. The other found the journal of the wizard and details of the third transplant recipient.

After meeting back up (at Dennys!), the group went to the third recipient's the dark to a lake. After answering the door with a .357 pointed at the investigators, the third transplant recipient was tranq'd and the PCs started searching the cabin and surrounding area. Shortly thereafter, a Byakhee crashed through the door, while the other two transplant recipients (controlled by the wizard) were outside. Two PCs went temporarily insane, one almost died as the Byakhee threw him against the wall, and another went blind as he was hit with a spell. Two of the PCs were out back by the lake and decided to run/swim away.

In the end, the Byakhee grabbed the third recipient and flew away, escaping with the first two recipients. Shortly after, three black SUVs pulled up, and out stepped the DHS agent who brought them together. She explained she was part of an organization that investigated unusual matters like this. The PCs were invited to join. All but one agreed; the one that didn't was driven off and never seen from again.

I ran the scenario like I did to see if the players were interested in modern/Delta Green, and as a way to re-use characters from game to game. Since I only run games once a month there, running a campaign would be difficult. However, running something that is interconnected, like Delta Green investigations, is completely doable. The overwhelming answer was yes, they loved it.

Scenario Review

As for the scenario, its a winner in my book. It takes a unique approach to the cult/cultist villain, and runs with it very successfully. It has enough scenes to be able to run it in a single 4-hour session, and has enough weird/horror things in it to make it a good Cthulhu scenario. While I did have to modify it to fit my keeping style and the DG theme, those modifications were few.

There are some things I didn't like about the scenario, and either purposely changed or didn't use.
  • One of the player's handouts - a pencil rubbing - is very hard to read. I ended up recreating this on my own. (I suspect this was just something that didn't work in the printing process.)
  • At the wizards house/cabin, there is supposed to be a shed in the back that contains a mirror that allows the viewer to see visions of the Outer Gods. I left it out. Truthfully, it feels very out of place. I understand what it could be used for, I just didn't want to bother with it.
  • The end calls for a Hunting Horror to burst through the door. I ended up opting for a Byakhee, as the Hunting Horror felt like overkill. I also added a few lines to a clue about the third transplant recipient stating how "the winged servant shall be sent to helpe in his retrieval." Just to serve as a hint of what was to come.
One thing I'll point out too is that even with 6 investigators, 4 of whom were armed, the final scene can be very deadly. The sorcerer is allowed to use all of the MP from the recipients he controls (40+ MP), and has a POW of 95. This means that it is very unlikely that the PCs will be able to avoid any spells that are cast. Combined that with a Byakhee rampaging, and you have a recipe for insanity and death.

This isn't a bad thing; in fact, it makes a very good scene, especially for a one-shot. After the game was over, one of my players remarked how he didn't expect the last scene to be as brutal as it was...and he loved it!

Despite the minor issues with the scenario, I think Brian did an excellent job creating it and I highly recommend running it. My players had a great time, loved the plot and ending, and I would love to run it again. I don't think you can give higher compliments than that.

* One last thing, I noticed that the spell Grasp of Cthulhu is not included in 7th edition. Thats a shame, because its a great spell. Powerful, but offset by the number of MP it costs/minute.