Initial game set-up is inspired to the opening of the Call of Cthulhu novel by HPL.
A City on the Pacific coast of the US, 1949. Abel Gammell, head waiter at the Sun Palace Hotel, dies after a short illness. His testament leaves all he had to two of his co-workers at the Sun Palace, the heroes of this story:
Bessie, lead singer of the hotel band (and amateur boxer) Carlos, accountant (previously student at a seminary)
Both start the game with Insight (aka Insanity) = 1. This is the only stat in Cthulhu Dark.
Among the scarce possessions of Abel, there is a large box full of diaries and notes, going back to when Abel lived in Germany, before the war. Some of the notes are in Hebrew, but most of the diaries are in English. The last pages show that Abel was troubled by the discovery of some kind of secret society, or cult, well rooted in the City. In particular, he suspected this organization to be responsible for the death of one of his few friends, David Bukowski. David disappeared a few months earlier and Abel was sure he was killed.
As Bessie and Carlos don’t know yet, this cult is at the service of inhuman entities. Following the card-based NSAABH system, the heroes will investigate this mysterious cult trying to discover:
Who is the leader of the cult
SPADES: 1.A Politician; 2.A Clergyman or woman; 3.An Artist; 4.The Owner of the Sun Palace Hotel; 5.A Professor
What is their main meeting place
CLUBS: 1.A Mountain Lake; 2.A Graveyard; 3:A Mansion; 4.A Warehouse; 5.The Sun Palace Hotel; 6.A Church
What is the inhuman horror they serve
DIAMONDS: 1.Cthulhu; 2.Fthaggua; 3.The Deep Ones; 4.The Mi-Go
As can be seen, I slightly modified the number of cards in each group with respect to the 5,5,5 standard. I do not want to have too many options for mythos creatures, so I only use four cards for them, adding a sixth option to the “place” suit. The total still is unchanged: 15 cards; no particular adjustment to NSAABH is required.
Previous events: Amara of Whitebridge, her cousin Quinn and the crossbowman Delos have a quarrel with the overseer Lestara. The heroes leave Whitebridge and reach Stoneford, where they meet the healer’s son Kaivan. Stoneford is occupied by the Makari, a mysterious invading army. The party joins a successful counter attack against the Makari: the leader is the friendly Lago of Redhall – it’s love at first sight with Amara. The heroes return to Whitebridge and free Lestara who had been imprisoned the Makari. Lago and Quinn fall in the fight. Amara reaches Redhall where the overseer Maya, mother of Lago, asks her to travel south in search of the twin sorceresses Varena and Purena: they are authorities among the Broken and their help is necessary to re-conquer Whitebridge. During the journey, Amara and Delos help a Broken girl, Kodra, who is leading the Makari prisoner Alith to her community: Kodra and Amara forge a bond and Kodra accepts to travel with Amara and Delos. The party is ambushed by trolls: Delos is killed, Kodra and Alith disappear while Amara is left unconscious on the battlefield.
Place Whitebrige – a riverside village
NW Haven (near the center of the Ironlands)
Martial Focus – BRAWLER Secure an Advantage by engaging in close-quarters brawling.
Ritual – AUGUR Summon a murder of crows and ask a single question.
Path – HERBALIST Heal people using herbal remedies.
Deshi (Amara’s father) [oracle: stingy and manipulative forager]
Lestara (Whitebridge overseer) [oracle: generous and powerful healer]
Quinn (Amara’s cousin) strong and dumb warrior
Lago – an attractive and friendly warrior from Redhall
Maya – Redhall overseer
Kodra – a Broken girl
Zura – a warrior from Whitebridge who wants to replace Lestara as overseer
Kaivan – the son of the Stoneford healer
Lona – Lago’s sister, another Redhall prominent warrior
Varena and Purena – twin sorceresses
Temir and Flint – Redhall allies killed by Harrow Beasts
Alith – Kodra’s Makari prisoner
Background Vow: – Extreme. When Amara’s father Deshi was overseer, he started a feud with the nearby Stoneford community (another village on the same river, twenty miles NE of Whitebridge). Amara intends to mend the conflict started by her father. Progress: 0.5
Dangerous Vow (reconquer Whitebridge) Progress:2
Dangerous Vow. Let Lestara be overseer for the next seven years. Progress:4
Formidable Journey to find Varena and Purena: Progress 6
Amara summons the crows and asks them where Kodra is.
Challenge:5,1 Action:4+1(Wits) Weak Hit
[Location Oracle: Inaccessible Woods]
The response is difficult to interpret, maybe it means that Kodra is inside the wood where Amara and her allies were ambushed by trolls; most likely it just means that Amara cannot hope to make it through the woods alone. The Aida river should not be far West: Amara decides to head in that direction.
Undertake a Journey – Challenge:2,2 Action:2+1(Wits)=3 Strong Hit (Formidable journey progress: 7)
[Location Oracle: small ruin]
Amara finds the traces of an ancient road running along the Northern border of the forest. The road leads to a ruined bridge.
[I interpret the Matches as a particularly favourable progress in the journey] The river flows slow to the South. The next day, she builds a raft and proceeds down the river.
Undertake a Journey – Challenge:1,6 Action:1+1=2=3 Weak Hit (Journey progress:8; Supplies -1, now at 2)
Her attempts at fishing are profitless, she has to consume some of the small food she has with her. But moving along the water is fast and apparently safe.
[Oracle: Mountain Lair]
Amara can see in the distance a blue profile: the Broken Mountain were the sorceresses Varena and Purena are said to live. When the mountain is directly at her left, she directs the raft to the shore.
Early next morning she walks towards the mountain and starts climbing along a steep path. Undertake a Journey – Challenge:3,1 Action:5+1 Strong Hit (+1 Momentum = 3) (Journey:9)
Amara meets a Broken girl: Nanda. Amara tells her that she is looking for the sorceresses and Nanda offers to lead her to their hut.
Reach your destination – Challenge:3,5 Journey:9 Strong Hit (+2 Momentum=5)
The twins are much younger than Amara expected: or at least they look so. They welcome her and ask her to tell them of her journey in the most detailed way. They seem puzzled by the episode of Kodra and her Makari prisoner.
Nanda, who also attends the meeting, is a friend of Kodra. Nanda says she had a dream about Kodra, in which she asked to stop the invasion of Havens. They all agree that an alliance against the Makari is necessary. [I also mark +2 progress on the Dangerous vow to free Whitebridge from the Makari]
Sojourn – Challenge:2,7 Action:3+3(Heart)=6 Weak Hit (+2 Health=5)
Amara is welcome to stay with the twins. They help cure her wounds with herbs and she fully recovers.
Current situation: Health:5 Spirit:4 Supply:2 Momentum:5
Extreme Background Vow: (alliance with Stoneford) Progress:0.5
Dangerous Vow (have Lestara oversee for the next years) Progress:4
Dangerous Vow (reconquer Whitebridge) Progress:4
Sophia Brandt recently posted a link to a nice, little story-telling game: To the Temple of Doom! The rules are only 2 pages and very inspiring. I decided to give the game a try. This first session was preparation: character creation and a draft of the challenge.
I defined these three settings that seemed interesting to me:
1. Middle-East around 1900
2. Central Europe soon after WW2
3. The Baltic Sea – 2017
I rolled the second one: Central Europe soon after WW2
The Ancient Evil
[in the game, one should define in advance a number of tracts of the Ancient Evil. I only defined three, that I will handle as “rumors”. Each of them has a 50% probability of being replaced something different]
What is the most terrifying aspect about me? Game Master Apprentice cards (GMA): Blind, stinking drunk
Those who breath my stench must blindly obey me forever. They are completely demented, with no will of their own.
What is the source of my power? GMA: meet impending relative
My telepathic link with my siblings on other planets.
What is my greatest weakness? GMA: deviate distant parent
My father is now so remote that we need a powerful radio system to keep in contact. If that link should be broken, I would immediately be destroyed.
I rolled these characters, who all work at the Kornatonic University.
Heroic:2 Booksmart:3 Streetwise:1
Speciality: Gems and Metals
Artifact: a Viking amulet found in a ship burial in the North Sea.
During the war, Cora secretly opposed the pro-nazi collaborationist regime, helping the resistance and spying for the allies. Now she is one of the most respected professor at the Kornatonic.
Heroic:3 Booksmart:1 Streetwise:2
Speciality: Secret Signs / Symbols
During the war, Milena fought with the resistance. She helped decipher a complex code of the nazists.
Heroic:1 Booksmart:2 Streetwise:3
During the war, Isaak was in the USA. He was expelled because of his communist sympathies. When he arrived at the Kornatonic, he had a brief affair with Milena.
[I decided to give the character an extra stat point: 6 instead of 5. But only Cora has an artifact ]
This building, located near the village of Prevelberg, about ten miles from the Kornatonic.
Cora has heard rumors of people disappearing near this building. Someone also speaks of poisonous gases. The building is supposed to have been a military radio-plant. For some reason, it was not destroyed by the massive bombings during the war. It is now abandoned.
Cora asks her younger colleagues to come with her to the building. They will all wear gas-masks, just in case.
The worlds of the Wild Blue float in a sky of breathable gases circling a small, cold star. … The heavier gases [known as the Lower Depths] form a dense layer of fog below the “sky” of the Wild Blue.
Trying to imaging the exact meaning of these sentences I came up with a few possibilities:
A. The breathable gases form a sphere encircled by a “shell” of heavier gases (darker in my sketches). You go “down” whenever you move away from the central star. You go “up” when you move towards the star.
B. The breathable gases surround the orbital plane of the worlds of the Wild Blue. If you move perpendicularly away from the orbital plane, you go “down” towards the heavier gases (so two opposite directions are both “down”). You go “up” when you move toward the orbital plane of the Wild Blue worlds.
C. The breathable gases surround the orbital plane of the worlds and extend in one of the two directions perpendicular to it. If you move in the opposite direction, you go “down”. Thinking in terms of the directions on the Earth, one could say that moving North you go up through the breathable gases, while moving South you go down. The Wild Blue is made of two hemispheres: an upper (Northern) one made of breathable gases and a lower (Southern) one made of heavier gases. You go “up” when you move North from the orbital plane.
I think that the idea I prefer is C, which is also the weirdest in physical terms. It possibly has some implications on the structure of the worlds too, since each world will have a Northern hemisphere facing the breathable gases and a Southern hemisphere facing the heavier gases. I guess that the quality of the air and the color of the sky could be different in different places of a planet.
January 24th 1958: The cold war is raging on the Earth. On Mars, the war is not so cold. The NATO and the Soviet Union confront each other to gain control of the Red Planet. The two armies are fighting also in Martian city M17, with Sergeant Ratti leading a squad that escorts the anthropologist Petri in his search for Martian relics. Prof. Antjanov leads the opposing soviet squad.
Ratti is back in command of the Italian / NATO league. The four guys go searching for Martian artifact in an unexplored villa. Of course, they meet with Antjanov & C, who had exactly the same idea. In the center of the courtyard, there is a circular well at whose bottom something very interesting can be found.
The Nato squad enters from the Southern door, while the Soviets enter from the North.
Antjanov moves to the Western corner of the room to pick up a Martian artifact. Ratti goes straight to the courtyard, while Petri investigates the content of the Southern room.
Ratti reaches the border of the circular well, dodging all the shots of the Russians. Petri collects a minor plot point.
Ratti climbs down the well and is lucky enough to immediately find the major plot point: a Martian Iron shield.
Golkin fails his first attempt at digging out a Martian artifact in the North-East corner of the courtyard. Berzenko shoots Petri down. Antjanov tries to reach the well to stop Ratti, but slips on the acid that covers the center of the courtyard.
In the last two turns, Ratti has to face the combined attacks of Antjanov, Berzenko and Olenev. He is hit twice, but he does not go down and manages to take the Martian shield home. Campano collects a minor plot point and knocks out Golkin.
A very enjoyable game, with the result uncertain until the end. One more shot, and Ratti would have dropped the Martian Shield.
1) Using standard axonometry (e.g. isonometry). In this case, I place meeples flat on the map. I think they look reasonably good. Vehicles or other items could be added using axonometric counters or tiles, but these tiles would be facing in specific directions. Meeples are great because they are quite generic and can fit in any position. Of course, what one gains in flexibility is lost in detail. If ones tries to use this kind of drawing with 3d objects, making the meeples stand or adding plastic soldiers or model vehicles, the result is a weird distortion of the buildings:
2) The other possibility I am considering is moving to perspective. Often in perspective vertical lines are drawn as parallel, while other lines converge to the focal point. In this case, it is necessary to have the vertical lines converge towards the camera, so that they result vertical in the picture. I decided to keep all horizontal lines unchanged: one can simply draw a 2d map with only the horizontal lines, and then add the vertical lines, making them converge appropriately.
In this case, 3d models fit reasonably well. But things are harder to draw and the distortion you get in “play view” (see the image on the left above) is unpleasant.
January 21st 1958: The cold war is raging on the Earth. On Mars, the war is not so cold. The NATO and the Soviet Union confront each other to gain control of the Red Planet. The two armies are fighting also in Martian city M17, with Sergeant Ratti leading a squad that escorts the anthropologist Petri in his search for Martian relics. Prof. Antjanov leads the opposing soviet squad.
Antjanov is trying to remove a bronze plate applied at the basis of a Martian stele. Ratti and his team will not let him put his hands on this unique Martian relic.
Campano and Verdi move forward. Verdi takes cover and then runs through the building on the right. Campano manages to Knock Out both Antjnov’s sidekick Berzenko and another soviet soldier. Petri enters a building on the left, attracted by another interesting Martian relic: he is pursued by a soviet, that Ratti tries to stop.
Antjanov keeps working on the bronze plate. He successfully replies to the Italian attacks. Verdi goes down. Ratti is delayed by the fight with the soviet soldier and Petri takes a lot of time to dig the Martian carved stone from the deep niche in which it is buried.
Finally Antjanov manages to detach the bronze plate. Petri gets hold of the other Martian artifact. Ratti gets rid of the soviet soldier and joins Campano in shooting Antjanov, but the Russian professor wounds both the attackers and leaves the scene as a winner.
My next session will be a “Martian building crawl” inside building b7, near the central octagonal square. I want to experiment with axonometric projections, to see if I can easily integrate a game map with my watercolor sketches.
Here are a rough sketch of the ground floor and the axonometric drawing of the whole building.