Sunday, February 12, 2017

Play Report: Pulp Cthulhu Campaign Session 1 (Part 2)

In my last post, we left our brave pulp adventurers recovering from an attack by the Nazi Thule Society which ended up with the Sun Fragment, an ancient piece of a larger tablet that could summon Cthugha, stolen. The rest of the pieces were lost to history, but a scroll within the Library of Alexandria might contain clues to their locations. With a "gate" opened up to the hiding place of the Library deep under the Mediterranean, our fearless group strode forward.

They found themselves in a dark cavern, the ceiling too high to see. Water could be heard dripping from the ceiling and the smell of salt water in the air. At the opposite end of the cave they could make out a large, marble building with grand columns, jutting out of the rock. However, what assaulted their senses was the smell of burned paper and flesh, and the numerous charred bodies scattered on the ground and up the steps to the library. Even after all these centuries, the corpses still looked fresh.

The PCs made their way into the library and began searching. Unfortunately, many of the scrolls had been lost to time and humidity, falling apart on their hands. The only clue they had been given was that "the all seeing eye would guide them". This proved useful when they realized that above each door was an Egyptian Hieroglyph - and one of them was the Eye of Horus!

This room was different as, instead of the back being lined with shelves, there was a statue of Horus holding a staff. This room was also noticeably colder than the rest of the library. The staff was pulled and the statue slid to the side, revealing a small room with a raised platform in the middle, a number of blocks on it.

Two PCs strode forward and very quickly they heard an audible *click*! The statue slammed back into place and water started to pour out from underneath the platform.

Completed Eye of Horus Puzzle
This is where I had the most fun as a Keeper. Before the game, I had taken an image of the Eye of Horus, cut it up into 16 squares, and numbered the backs. During the game, I shuffled up the blocks, handed them to the PCs, and told them they had 3 minutes to put it back together. I then started a timer. Every 30-45 seconds, I had one of the PCs make an Idea roll. Depending on how well they succeeded, they could turn over a number of squares to look at their number.

The PCs on the outside weren't totally useless. In another room was a carving of the eye - if they pressed it (which they did), the timer would stop for 30 seconds.

This went amazingly well. The PCs finished the puzzle with 10 seconds to spare! The water immediately receded, the statue opened back up, and a second door in the trap room opened revealing a long passageway - at the end of which was the scroll they were after, hovering in air over a pedestal.

This new room was exceedingly colder - so much so that the PCs were shivering and could see their breath. On either side of the pedestal were two braziers, small fires burning. One PC could have sworn the fires were following their movement as they crept forward. They reached up and felt intense cold surrounding the scroll, which burned their hand as they grabbed it.

Immediately, the cold of the room disappeared. For a second, everything seemed fine - but then three things happened. First, the flames in the braziers shot up to the ceiling and them combined into a huge, fire creature. Second, all of the charred bodies in the Library began to move and animate. Third, the entire cavern began to shake and cave in.

This is where one PC - the same PC who had the scroll, went temporarily insane. He rolled that he went psychoanalytically blind from the fire creature, so another player had to (quickly) guide him out.

The rest was a mad dash out of the library, dodging falling stone, fighting fire zombies, and trying to avoid the huge creature behind them. As they got near the spot where they had to re-open the gate, the earth shook and a crack in the ground opened up...with zombies and the fire creature at their back, they had to get across. Some of them were able to jump, and they threw back a rope for the others, who barely made it across.

The gate was opened and, just as they were all diving in, the fire creature threw a huge fireball at them. Luck rolls were called for. Two of the people failed and I described the fireball heading towards them as they dove into the gate to safety on the other side....when I called the game for the night.

You have to end on a cliffhanger!

Pulp Cthulhu Thoughts

This was my first game of Pulp Cthulhu and, while there are minor changes to the rules, I think overall it fits smoothly into the pulp genre. Since this was our intro game to the campaign, and Pulp Cthulhu, I didn't want to throw in too much of the new, so I didn't use things like insane traits or psychic powers. However, those will definitely be in upcoming games.

The only issue I have, and this is really my own issue, is that I am trying to find a good way to fuse and balance the investigative aspects of a normal Call of Cthulhu game with the pulp action you would expect. I have some ideas, and the scenarios in the back of the book give me some great ideas.

Chaosium did just release the PDF version of their own pulp campaign, The Two-Headed Serpent. However, I'm avoiding this on purpose as I don't want any of the ideas from there to seep into my campaign. It does look amazing though and I look forward to reading it once I'm done with mine.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Play Report: Pulp Cthulhu Campaign Session 1

This past week I ran the first game of a Pulp Cthulhu campaign that I'm running at the Malted Meeple and it went amazingly well. I had advertised the game in multiple places, and it paid off as I had 7 people show up to play in the game - the largest table that I've run in years. Two of the players had never played Call of Cthulhu before, and for one this was their first RPG ever.

This is my play report of the game. Its probably going to be long. :)

Character Creation 

For the first hour we did character creation. The character creation process for Pulp Cthulhu is pretty straightforward and doesn't deviate much from the 7th edition character creation process. Since Pulp Cthulhu is a more action-oriented game, the characters get better stats, higher skills, and more HP.

In Pulp Cthulhu, there are two additional things the PCs get: an archetype and talents. The archetype is different from their occupation, and describes the PC's look on life. Some example archetypes are adventurer, hard boiled, and rogue. The archetype gives them more skill points in specific skills, and a core characteristic in which they get to roll (1d6+13)*5.

Talents are special skills or abilities the Pulp character has. Talents are broken up into four categories: physical, mental, combat, and miscellaneous. These are used to give the PC just a little more of an edge to make them just a little better.

In the end, we had 2 author-explorers, 3 criminals, and 2 detectives. Not super balanced, but as a group they ended up doing well.

Play Report - The Initiation Ceremony

The game started with the PCs being invited to a mansion on the outskirts of Arkham to join a secret society called the Order of the Hawk. Each arrived and were led to a magnificent ballroom where they met a number of the members, including the Order's leader, a gruff British officer named Major Rupert Ellis; his daughter, Marilyn; and the Order's resident "researcher", Professor Arthur Emery.

After being led to a secret ceremonial room encircled by men in robes, Major Ellis explained that the Order was hundreds of years old and worked to prevent evil from succeeding in the world. All of the PCs had exemplified themselves somehow and were being invited to join.

As an example of what they protect, the Major showed them the Sun Fragment, a circular obsidian fragment engraved with the black circle, an ancient occult symbol. The Major explained that this fragment had been entrusted to the Order many years ago to protect it from those who would wish to use it to do evil. As if on cue, explosions, gun fire, and screaming could be heard from the mansion above.

The door was flung open and in walked a Nazi Thule Society officer, Colonel Hariman Muller, followed by a man in occult robes. The men around the room threw off their robes, revealing themselves to be Nazi soldiers holding machine guns. Colonel Mueller, wanted the Sun Fragment. The Major refused, and soon a gunfight ensued.

Unfortunately for the PCs, the man in occult robes began to chant and soon transformed into a Formless Spawn. Unfortunately for the PCs, again, they only had guns which proved ineffective. Fortunately, Prof. Muller was there with his experimental lightening gun that seemed to hurt the creature. As the melee was winding down, the group saw the Colonel leaving with the fragment.

A car chase then occurred, with the PCs tailing the Colonel. It ended with the PCs shooting out the tires of the Colonel's car, it flipping through the air, and landing on the banks of the Miskatonic River. Unfortunately, a boat was waiting on the edge of the river for the Colonel who sped away, victory in hand.

The PCs met up again and - with the help of an ancient Greek paper found in the Colonel's car, and a captured Nazi soldier who mocked them before biting on a suicide-tooth - learned that the Sun Fragment was the center piece of a tablet that was broken up thousands of years ago by unknown ancients. The fragments were scattered around the world, as if they were joined together the tablet could be used to call down Cthugha to rain fire and destruction on any location.

No one knew where the fragments were at. However, a scroll within the Library of Alexandria gave hints as to where the fragments were located at. The paper stated that while most of the Library had been destroyed, ancient protectors had transported a portion of it to a cave beneath the Mediterranean Sea to protect it from Cthugha cultists that wanted the scroll. With the location in the paper, Prof. Emery was convinced he could use his new "gate" technology to transport them there. (It was perfectly safe - all of the monkeys had came back fine, just only losing a little hair.)

To allow them to return, the professor gave them a sphere, which they could throw at the location the gate appeared at to reopen it. However, they could only use it once.

The PCs were reluctant, but Major Ellis begged them to go. They were part of the Order now, and most of the other members were injured or dead. If Col. Mueller were to get his hands on the fragments, the devastation would be immense. The PCs agreed to go, and before they knew it, they were stepping through the gate to the hidden Library of Alexandria.

This was only the first half of our game, but this post is getting long. In my next post, I'll detail their exciting adventure at the Library, and how I freaked two players out by giving them 3 minutes to survive in my trap of watery doom!