Monday, February 22, 2016

Call of Cthulhu update

Our Horror on the Orient Express had its third session this last weekend... and it was really, really interesting.  We spent the entire session in a "flashback scene" with characters that the GM gave us.  We started that about halfway through the second session, so we've now spent about as much time in our flashback in the 1890s as we have in our "normal" campaign with your normal characters in the 1920s.  To be honest, I'm enjoying the latter more than the former, and the "Blood Red Fez" side-story is a fascinating one that I think I like better than gather and assemble (or destroy) the various components of the MacGuffin quest that we're on the verge of starting with our normal characters.  Maybe the scenario just feels a little more tight and compelling; the main storyline seems to suffer a bit from reaching; I'm not quite sure why we're all doing this other than that the module requires it.

A handful of notes about our play:

  • Interacting with compelling NPCs is always one of my favorite parts of any good campaign.  And a GM that's willing to roll with what you're trying to do in this interactions rather than simply shut them down just because makes the game a lot of fun.  This may be part of the reason why I'm finding this flashback module within the module a lot of fun.
  • There comes a point in every session (at least with our group) where we get tired of careful pacing and talking, and something... rash happens which has the potential to turn the module on its head.  The recovery from the consequences of something rash is another one of my favorite parts of any session.  We've got some great stories from past campaigns about something that seemed really stupid, but which ended up being really awesome.  Added another notch to that particular belt this last weekend.
  • Some players struggle with the role-playing meta-concept of knowing things that your character doesn't know.  Getting a mental whammy "Jedi mind trick" pulled on you and having to accept that your character believes something that you as a player know to be untrue can be hard.  Even if it only lasts about an hour or so of real time before its sorted out.
  • Similarly, it can be hard to get your head around concepts that are separate from us in time and culture; even as some of them are coming back around again.  Watching too many spy movies can leave one with the assumption that there are resources and infrastructure to do things that in the 1890s you simply can not do (but nor can your opposition.)  Decades of multicultural indoctrination make the notion that Westerners traveling on the Orient Express would be wary of dealing with Turks, and could use that innate wariness to their advantage was another hard thing for our group to really wrap our heads around to some degree.  Most, even, of the authors working in the genre have a hard time getting this into their heads (I actually think our group was better at it than the authors would most likely have been.)
  • Some in the group drew (obvious) parallels between the blood red fezzes and the whispering, biting sword that was needed to get past undead DR in a dark fantasy game I ran in a Mk. II version of DARK•HERITAGE (we're now on Mk. IV, so it was significantly different.)  I do love the notion that "magic items" are, by default, cursed items from the perspective of reasonably normal people attempting to use them—that sword was necessary to fight a particular monster; but it also actively and aggressively attacked both the body and the sanity of anyone who used it.  I borrowed the concept of my sword from my friend "barsoomcore"'s past setting, but I've also had analogs of other cursed/magic items that I've borrowed, including "the Colt" from Supernatural and now... I can add the Blood Red Fez to my repertoire.  After changing it to some other kind of hat, no doubt.

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