GM Hands of Fate wrote:
Many of the adventures published for CoC do not delve overmuch into character development. EDIT: For a one-shot, if you are the Keeper for a group that is new to CoC, I highly recommend one or more of the short scenarios presented in the basic rules set, especially the Horror in the Attic (which I used). If they can handle that, they can probably handle Call of Cthulhu.
At GenCon / this August a new, improved Horror on the Orient Express will be released. There are a ton of props [a medallion, passports, miniatures, a soundtrack, and more] that should also be available for the HotOE as well.
HotOE - for character development - depends on the players not going 'combat munchkin' and the Keeper recognizing that the investigators really need to get through all the way to the end if at all possible. Going full 'combat munchkin' tends to make Keepers ... remorseless. ;) Having said that, the irony is that for a RP-intensive group, HotOE can really go the distance. There are dozens of NPCs to interact with without swinging a fist/firing a shot. There are a gob of ways to potentially develop one's investigators ... before they die hideously / are driven insane/ both. (SAN loss in some ways is too incremental ... but that may be the PF GM in me.) In a way, the intent here is to get attached before the fit hits the shan, making the pain and suffering all the worse.
The availability of a plethora of replacement investigators through passengers boarding and disembarking from the train along its route, even from among the crew, makes new PCs easy to introduce... yet hard to integrate as only the investigators from the beginning will appreciate the full story. I would suggest any replacement investigators be introduced by way of "your relative's stuff showed up via courier/post - part of your relative's estate demands that you continue his/her task" or somesuch.
Having respectable combat capability is a must, one could do very well with investing INT points into dodge, martial arts, punch, a melee weapon and an easily concealed handgun (such as the M1918 or even better the 'Broomhandle' Mauser). Use the combination of EDU + Occupation to collect decent language skills and - cooperating with the rest of the players - the 'usual suspects' of social/investigative skills.
HotOE would definitely reward a chargen session with the Keeper supplying the basics necessary for the creation of successful investigators.
I look forward to my other group getting to play the updated HotOE late this year or more likely / perhaps sometime next year.
GM Hands of Fate wrote:
The setup here was to transcribe the provided passengers and crew/staff of the train into investigators for the players to use and have abused. None of the "real" investigators were harmed, on purpose. The players loved it I think.
Call of Cthulhu is a very easy game to make characters for, it is quick to play, and a very welcome change of pace from the more rules-intensive games (such as Pathfinder).
It is a lot of fun if no one takes it too seriously, as investigators often meet horrible fates, go insane or get eaten while simultaneously gibbering from an ill-timed uncovery of a cosmic truth.
The players early on came to grips with BRP's fundamentally lethal combat system.
The original HotOE is a hallmark campaign. The upcoming version to be released this August at GenCon should be a substantial improvement. That is what I intend to GM for the 'Sunday crew' at such time as the desire is to take a break from Pathfinder.
If you have the chance to get the HotOE v2 in August, I highly recommend it.
May you gack 26 PCs in a single session if you do!
All told there were 36 supplemental investigators provided by Yours Truly, for a maximum possible body count of 41 investigators (not counting the cats). 26 bought the farm and another 4 are scarred for life.
3/4ths casualties with an 87% fatality rate is pretty commendable.
P.S.: The transformed train, minus the caboose with 15 of the 16 survivors, roared into Constantinople's major train station, drove several thousand people mad and made an utter shambles of the place before the life force of all those slain aboard the train finally ebbed, returning the bound entity whence it came.
I think we now know a possible cause for certain fundamentalist groups' ... at least, in this setting.
Setting 1920s Call of Cthulhu
Unlike the standard obit posts, this one will be organized by cause of death.
Flesh creeper asphyxiation
Jumped off the train while it was moving at full speed with a flesh creeper latched onto their faces
Put own face through a glass window with a flesh creeper latched on, only to die by asphyxiation anyway
Knifed and/or beaten do death by cultist mini-onions of the BBEG
BBEG's trusty .38 revolver
Friendly fire isn't
BBEG's 'Mass Shriveling' spell
Total PC Deaths 26 plus 2 Siamese attack cats
26 investigators bought the farm in the blood-drenched finale to this version of the notorious Horror on the Orient Express.
Rene Clement, senior engineer - death by flesh creeper and a .38.
Lorenzo Berce, ambitious waiter - death by flesh creeper
Paul DeGuerre, chef de cuisine - almost escaped the train after cutting a cultist's throat from ear to ear with a surgically-sharp kitchen knife, evaded grappling by 2 other cultists and a fourth cultist's botched attempt to drag him back through the window by his feet. The BBEG shoved the barrel of his trusty .38 up the chef's kiester and ventilating him with 2 bullets.
Humphrey Endelry, insurance agent - stabbed and beaten to death by cultists.
The following were all slurped dry of all vital fluids and organs by way of the BBEG's [mass shriveling [/i] spell:
BBEG put down via impaling shots by .30-30 rifle, 2 elephant guns and a 30-round clip from a Chicago Typewriter.
The maimed survivors included the previous investigators, a Checa agent, a White Russian counter-revolutionary, a British spy, a Romanov princess (she can get a new lover easily enough) and a few other passengers.
Honorable Mention to Jean Renout, pastry chef, who survived both face glompag by face creeper and the 5d6 fall from the train (with half of his hit points! ).
Grue in the Attic wrote:
mmmmmm ... cerebellummmm .... *drools*
As things stand, Agent J and Calamity Anne are having a Very Important Thing happen fairly early tomorrow morning in the form of the aforementioned home inspection. If all goes well for them, they'll be settling in to their new digs not long after the March 2013 game session. Or the weekend before, you never quite know with these matters.
Whilst this prevents the ensuing Horror on the Orient Express foolishness, mayhem and violence, the upside is that the entire gang - or almost the entire gang - online and ready to rampage for 16th March 2013. I am hoping that we can wrap up the campaign entire on that auspicious date (the day before Saint Patty's Day 2013). We will see.
Hopefully I can pull off a dose of GM Awesomesauce. Only 4 weeks to go ...
All, We're next up to play this coming Saturday, Feb. 16.
We may not. Agent J and Calamity Anne got the approval letter for the home that they're buying. Timing may require that they do a home inspection and meet one or more contractors there on the 16th. I have yet to get confirmation one way or the other just yet.
Deranged PETA Protester wrote:
Your stomachs are graveyards for the innocent dead!!
It gives me great comfort knowing that I am filling Heaven with souls with each meal.
Now, how 'bout you meander a little closer with that bucket of innocent fossilized soul byproduct you like tossing onto people wearing real fur garments ... don't mind the drool.
A thought just occurred: were you expecting to GM Carrion Crown or be a player?
P.H. Dungeon wrote:
As long as everyone's having fun, though it does make it a little difficult to maintain any real sense of horror. However, I've always found it really hard to do horror well in rpgs. I've never been able to do it- so much potty humour in my group. Running a more pulpy style of Cthulhu game generally works better (at least that's how my Cthulhu games have always gone), unless you've got a group of players that can really help maintain the horror mood and rp it in their characters. This would never happen with my group; there's just way too many jokes being cracked all the time.
Best I hope for is that the revelations of what the nefarious antagonists have been up to - or such things as creative mutilations - make a lasting impression on one or more of the players. Several of the group loves the investigative aspects of Call of Cthulhu. I think that when a group gets to a certain threshold the desire to blow things up/shoot them with really big bullets/hack things into chunky salsa and loot the corpses comes to a boil, necessitating some good old fashioned foolishness, mayhem and violence.
Once that 'need' has been sated, then the investigations and horrible mind-rending, sanity-shattering goodies can slither out of the woodwork once more.
HotOE has been exceptionally good at leaving "WTF?!?!" impressions on many of the players in terms of the messed up stuff that the antagonists have perpetrated. It's not as good at letting the investigators get some stress-relieving mayhem and violence unleashed before the next monstrous situation comes up. I'm hoping that the revised version coming out in August will address that situation. If not, I fully intend to modify it for the next time it is run. (Hopefully for my primary Pathfinder group when they're ready for a real change of pace!)
Late February 1923, Sofia, Bulgaria
Our intrepid band of investigators acquire more reinforcements. Calamity Anne (Missus J - from 2 sessions previous), Criminal / Lunatic #6 (KGM - new investigator) and Ronnie McDogmeat (Agent S - new investigator) join Agent J's mentally mangled Chicago Typewriter toting investigator.
Unbeknownst to our erstwhile investigators, a lone cultist had infiltrated the crew of the Orient Express determined to acquire a head. Catching Ronnie McDogmeat unawares in one of the roomier lavatories aboard the train, he slapped a chokehold on him with one arm, temporarily thwarting pansy screams for help.
Ronnie's right eye and socket however, was not so fortunate as Cultist #47 has a 90% skill with a surgical-grade hooked knife - which said cultist promptly used to carve that beautiful blue eye clean out of the socket, optic nerve and all. Thoroughly traumatized, Ronnie wasn't in much shape to go after the psychotic nutjob that just took his eye.
However, Number 6 is packing a loaded elephant gun in his trenchcoat. Combined with Calamity Anne's longarm they proceeded to blow away the cultist before he absconded with McDogmeat's lovely blue eye.
In Sofia proper our investigators made their way to hopefully acquire the last piece of the Simulacrum in peace from the university. As they were accompanying the English Professor with the Self Propelled Plot Device Guy, they entered the room wherein the Head had until a few minutes before resided.
Therein a horrid sight greeted them. Three men were felled - one had been messily decapitated, blood still spurting from the stump. The second had been bludgeoned to death, his skull decidedly resembling a watermelon in a Gallagher show, whilst the third had succumbed to a thorough melon clubbing but still breathed and lived.
Being ever enterprising Men of Action, they blew their checks to notice what Calamity Anne noticed right away: a car speeding away. At the distance they were firing the odds were very poor of hitting, but a lucky bullet from Agent J nicked the radiator after ricocheting about the engine compartment. The boys promptly left Calamity Anne behind, commandeering another car and attempting to catch them.
Sadly, Plot Contrivance thwarted catching the minions before they got to where the Really Cool and Gruesome Scene was set to greet them.
Agent J, Number 6 and McDogmeat disembarked from the car after hiding it out of sight of the cave mouth. Descending several hundred yards into the cave, it opened into a cave heated by a hot spring. DOZENS of men in various dress - a mixture of dress suits and classical Cultist Robe were strewn about the cavern in an indiscriminate poutpurri of heads, appendages, torsos and viscera. In the middle of the cavern an impossible pyramids of skulls (on the bottom) and heads (towards the flat top) loomed above. Not skipping a beat, Number 6 I believe ascended to the top of the pyramid of noggins to discover a gold altar with a very spiffy pillow that showed the indentation of having held the Head of the Sedefkar Simulacrum upon it.
Sadly the one investigator having taken the Track skill was Calamity Anne, who was at the university-museum settling things in order for the Sofian authorities.
Nonetheless, our sorry bunch of merry misogynists managed to track blood from amidst the grue and gristle to an opening barely big enough for the Head to have passed through, let alone whatever it was that slaughtered more than two dozen magically educated men - all of whom had various dead body bits grafted onto them from other dead men - in a matter of moments. Agent J going on memory peered out the hole and saw a clear view of where they had parked the car. Which was driving off!
The trio of troublemakers beat a hasty-ish retreat back out of the cave, jury-rigged a repair to the radiator of the cultistmobile that was still outside of the cave mouth, washed all the gwilch off of their galoshes and sped off after the heinous villain.
At a fork - the left branch leading back to the university-museum, the straight branch continuing back to the city a few miles off - they found the investigatormobile abandoned on the side of the road.
In the snow on the roof they noticed a head-shaped indentation ... and odd prints about that indentation. Wisely electing to finally retrieve Calamity Anne from the clutches off the NPCs, they did so and returned to the abandoned vehicle. She was able to determine, along with McDogmeat's EYE for detail, that a giant bat apparently made off with the Head.
Trailing oversized bat guano droppings through town, the investigators quickly determined that the bat-that-can-drive-a-car-and-fit-through-really-small-holes was aboard the Orient Express currently waiting to depart. It was about 3 a.m. local time at this point, so Calamity Anne and Number 6 ascended to the roof while Agent J and McDogmeat went aboard the train. They worked from the first fourgon car to the rear of the train. Things didn't get interesting until they entered the rear fourgon car just before the caboose.
In the midsdt of the fourgon car there is a general purpose sliding door with a window permitting one to view outside. The door is sized enough to permit fairly large loads onto and off of the car. Although they didn't notice what was peering in, Agent J was the unfortunate recipient of a Gaze from a CoC Vampire - one that's even nastier than the 'generic' one in the rulebook. Sadly, at a quick read at least, CoC vampires do not appear to have any form of armor or immunity to mundane weapon damage.
Agent J's mind was dominated by Comte Fenalik, Really Really Old Vampire. Agent J strode forward and flung open the loading door in question. McDogmeat saw, Calamity Anne and Number 6 heard, the door opening. With the highest DEX, Fenalik went first, snatching Agent J from inside the car and preparing to disembowel him. Agent J failed to thwart the 'charm' of the vampire. Number 6 - held by the belt by Calamity Anne so that the recoil of firing the elephant gun didn't fling him from the snow-covered roof of the car - fired a shot that Fenalik handily dodged and straight up missed with his second shot. At 3d6+4 damage, very few creatures want anything to do with getting shot by a .600 Express round. McDogmeat, packing Number 6's trusty Luger, blew Fenalik into a cloud of mist with two shots.
Amazingly, everyone flubbed their Spot Hidden checks attempting to figure out where Fenalik's gaseous form had gotten off to. Once they clambered into the fourgon car, closed the door and resumed searching, they found Fenalik's coffin beneath the crew lounge couch - Fenalik having replaced the main support of the 8-foot-long couch with his coffin and some respectable work in the art of containment fabrication. That the crew was fond of using fresh flowers in this compartment aided Fenalik's hiding place considerably.
Continuing to largely botch their Spot Hidden and Listen checks, the investigators very nearly got jumped on again by Fenalik. Number 6 beat Fenalik's Sneak roll by ONE percentile point. This was a Very Good Thing, as Fenalik was padding up the hallway from their rear in TIGER form, intending to ambush these pukes that had so conveniently collected the other five pieces of the Simulacrum for him.
Number 6 dodged Fenalik-Tiger's bite while the Fenalik-Tiger's claws very nearly destroyed his elephant gun. As with many things involving violence and large calibre munitions, close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades. Number 6 proceeded to miss with his first shot (having a really high Dodge is nice) but thoroughly impale Fenalik with his second shot. The 34 points of damage turned Fenalik's head into a canoe, his headless body flopping in the hallway as it transformed back to humanoid form.
Successfull Occult rolls were made and they dragged his coffin and corpse out of the train, staked the torso, retrieved the Head from the coffin, burned the corpse and coffin in a firepit and scattered the ashes along the nearby river.
The investigators finally deciphered the scroll and learned the Ritual of Cleansing. They performed this ritual on Agent J, which stripped the geas of the Medallion of Ithaqua - as well as the accompanying imperviousness to cold and wind. Agent J seemed relieved anyway.
Next stop: Constantinople.
The Horror on the Orient Express is 1 or 2 sessions away from its conclusion. Stay tuned for the horror and carnage to unfold in February!
Chaosium did a kickstarter to reprint, expand and add tons o' props to the 2013 edition of Horror on the Orient Express due out this coming August. If you didn't snag yourself a copy of HotOE through the kickstarter, nab one come August. The new version is expanded across history to tell the tale entire.
The nice thing about it is they make clear that the investigators that start are unlikely to see it through to the end. ^_____^