I'm running through "Strange Aeons" at the moment, and I'm contemplating the corruption rules. I get the impression that the AP wants the horror to come from without rather than within. In other words, if the players become creepy crawlies themselves, I fear it might undercut the tone of the game.
Does anyone out there have experience with corruption in Strange Aeons? Did it add to the game or detract from it?
My own view of Strange Aeons (and as GM of your own game you might portray it differently) is that the narrative itself is at tension between the genres of cosmic horror and fantasy adventure. The cosmic horror story is that of how Haserton Lowls brought doom upon himself and everyone who crossed his path along the way. The fantasy adventure story is how the PC's follow in Lowls' footsteps and set things right. The PC's aren't so much in a cosmic horror story as they're following in its wake. A true cosmic horror story shouldn't have heroes who show up in the final act to set things right, and by all rights their part in the story should have ended as catatonic victims locked away in Briarstone. This is stated explicitly by the Pallid Mask in book 6, and his confusion and inability to thwart them is a powerful irony.
From this perspective, I don't think corruptions would fit very well. The moment the PC's woke up Briarstone they stopped being the victims of cosmic horror and started becoming the protagonists who take control of their own fantasy adventure. Of course, that's just my reading of the campaign and I'm certain you could run things very differently if you so choose.
Hoo, that needed spoiler tags. If my players read this thread, it's gonna be a sad time.
You're right; I was reading this as a GM'ing thread, which requires spoilers to clarify key points, but I can definitely see how a player might click on this and enter it.
Too late to edit in spoiler tags now, unfortunately.
Flagged in case a kind moderator would like to add markup.
It may be worth keeping Corruptions in your back pocket as a tool for saving a character from death with a cost before the party can get reliable access to Raise spells; the story being told can be tricky to bring new/replacement PCs into, given the central mystery of shared amnesia and the reasons behind it, so having a means of keeping the party alive that still emphasizes the horror instead of feeling they're under the DM's protection could be most useful.
First, I use the corruption and horror rules. I'd recommend others use them for this AP as well. They dramatically increase tension and sense of theme, and I would not run Strange Aeons without them. Definite thumbs up from me on that part.
I would also suggest that only a single character be corrupted during the campaign, that they face extreme difficulty in removing it, and that the abasement should more likely corrupt the hapless character than they be saved from it. I use a deepening corruption to tempt a player with its increasing power (while less notably pointing out their decreasing likelihood of surviving it).
Remember that corruptions don't act fast, so a corrupted PC presents an ongoing threat to the others; they become a wholly evil NPC should it reach the final stage. This adds a layer of delicious paranoia and strain to the party, even as they face the myriad other lethal problems in the AP.
Second, I disagree with Dasrak's estimation of PCs being fantasy heroes "in the wake" of horror. Instead, they are deeply central to its horror from the very first second of the adventure. I insist on starting PCs without knowing their backstories or relationships to the key players, and let them explore and investigate bits through the first two chapters to uncover it. The resulting intrigue and mystery is like none other.
PCs wake in a mysterious cosmic horror and continue to be on the razor's edge of wondering when the next tragic reality will bubble up again. This includes corruptions and other horrific elements, if you include them, and this habit repeats until they confront the Mad Poet's "situation" in Chapter 3, Dreams of the Yellow King. At that point, they've moved beyond being just victims of Lowl's plots, having proved that they're determined to struggle through literal doom to turn the tables.
Chapter 4 continues this transition, and by Chapter 5, they are going full at the throat of the mind-scrambling evils instead of being unwitting victims to it as with the first 2 chapters. They still face serious risks after C3, of course, but the showdown at the Mad Poet is--in my opinion--the transformative high point in the story.
In all, the AP's arc sees PCs transform *from* direct casualties of their role in its cosmic horror into Dasrak's fantastical heroes who reside above it -- at least enough to stop ultimate doom happening for now.
In book one, after my players developed their characters, I secretly gave each of them a corruption. I revealed aspects of the corruption as they played through the adventure and tied it in to their missing backstory of the previous five years. It worked well, but I did slow down the progression, so they would not lost control of their PC as the adventure continued. They had fun discovering aspects of their characters that they did not know existed.
In book one, after my players developed their characters, I secretly gave each of them a corruption.
You ARE evil! I've found that even a single corrupted PC occupies a lot of attention and resources. I can't imagine inflicting them all! Not at once, in any case. All other things considered, I think that might dilute the horror and tragedy of it some, too, but I could totally imagine doing it the way you did for this AP.
I do play corruptions as increasingly dangerous and traumatic. A ghoul corrupted player, in one example, occasionally lost control (as ghoul corrupted individuals are prone to do) and unconsciously roamed the night feasting on innocent villagers in Thrushmoor. I took the corrupted player aside and revealed his character's suspicion of being involved in a couple murders before having joined the party, given the clues he had upon waking on some awkward, blood-covered mornings.
As the corrupted player was now in on it, and understood the value of the murderous mystery, he had tons of fun playing things out and getting his character into situations where he might succumb to the corruption undetected. (He was a rough but charming bard who used the excuse of local love interests to not stay with the party during the night. Sometimes this was true, sometimes not.)
It was a SHOCK when the party realized that the flesh devouring murderer around town was their friendly party member, and then their research revealed that he was corrupted with only a vanishing chance of being cured. And oh yeah, is everyone ready to get on a cramped river boat for a long voyage together?
This is good stuff.
For those using corruptions: Did the characters acquire the corruption prior to the campaign start or at some point during the campaign?
For each chapter, I assign one or two appropriate corruptions along with criteria describing how it might be inflicted. Then I turn the players loose and let things play out until someone ends up corrupted by something along the way. A few examples:
With In Search of Sanity ...
With the Thrushmoor Terror ...