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.

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