Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Fane of St Toad

Ugh, a little help here.’ - Osric as he confronts the formless spawn.

In a hovel on the outskirts of a pig farm Mugwort, lay-priest and seer of Tsathoggua the demon toad, clutched his forehead and writhed in pain on the muddy floor. Rance, a fellow lay-priest, looked on with concern. ‘What do you see Mugwort?’

His companion struggled to answer through teeth clenched in pain. ‘I see the temple defiled. The shrine to the holy amphibious trinity, to St Toad himself has been breached by heathens.’

‘I see them set out on a forgotten path to the Fane. A half elf leads an armoured oaf and a Halfling wench. He holds a tattered map. It leads to the most sacred of sites. The place we had long thought lost they have found!’ Mugwort became excited and leapt to his feet. “We must go there at once!’

Rance placed a calming hand on Mugwort’s shoulder. ‘Calm yourself brother. It would take us many days to journey there, if indeed your vision would be enough to guide us. This group you mention reminds me of the Westwood Warriors. Tsathoggua knows them well for they have crossed him before. They slew our high priest many months ago. You will recall the massacre in the tunnels of Enlandrin. Odd though for they are missing their wizard. Tell me what else do you see?’

‘The intruders cross the threshold. They examine each thing in turn, the murals, altar and sacred font but they do so carefully for they are no fools. They regard the idols with cowed reverence for they know Tsathoggua’s power in this place. They can feel it. They are the flies in the house toads. The half elf is called by the darkness of an alcove. He trembles before the sacred idol of K’Tehe the Destroyer. Curiosity gets the better of him and he prods the formless spawn of Tsathoggua that lies dormant in an offering bowl. The ooze bubbles into life. They have awoken the guardian and will pay the price.’

‘That is the end of them. No one can stand before the fury of the formless spawn of Tsathoggua. A fitting end I say…’

‘Hold your celebrations for the vision continues. They battle in Tsathoggua’s sacred hall. Their steel does nothing. I see the formless spawn splitting and now there are two. The heathens realize their insignificance before such an implacable foe.  The bewildered look on their faces is a blessing from Tsathoggua. The half elf flees like a craven. The armoured oaf retreats to cower behind a pit. Like desperate fools they assault the spawn with furniture, they push at the sacred oozing forms with pews and altars. Woe! Oh great calamity! The spawn have been cast into the sacred pit, pushed in by the ludicrous failings of the heathens.’

‘All is not lost brother. The formless spawn will rise from the pit and finish them. They are not so easily defeated.’

“Cruel injustice! I see the heathens tearing down the Fane's great stone doors. They are using them to seal the pit. The formless spawn is trapped! They continue to search and touch nothing this time. They venture down the stairs. I see them walk the corridors. They have found the breeding chamber. They squirm uncomfortably. The murals and the divine ideas contained within revolt them. Their tiny minds cannot comprehend what they see. They seize the wicked toad idol. It toys with them as it speaks to their minds.’

Rance ventured hopefully ‘Tsathoggua can be most persuasive. Perhaps one of them will turn. The rewards for service are great and the wicked toad idol and its power to enslave with but a thought is a worthy prize.’

‘Alas their hearts are steeped in detestable virtue. They do not heed the relic’s entreaties. They move again now to the crypts. The armoured oaf approaches a coffin. He removes the lid and is suitably punished for disturbing the righteous rest of the dead. The blessed of Tsathoggua, half toad and half man, assail them. Mummified, they absorb the blows of their foes. They seem impervious to the arrows of the half elf. The Halfling’s feeble gods will not answer her desperate prayers here in the heart of Tsathoggua‘s temple. They know they are doomed yet still they battle on.’

‘About time they perished. I could not think of a more suitable ending than to be slain by the blessed of Tsathoggua.’

‘Woe brother Rance! I see the blessed torn asunder by the hated armoured oaf and a simple spear thrust from the half elf. We are undone. The Fane of St Toad lies undefended. The heathens retreat but will not be gone long.’ Mugwort shook his head clearing it of the vision. ‘We must gather our strength and head to the Fane at once. Our god has shown me the way. We will put an end to these blasphemers once and for all.’

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Continuity and the Cthulhu Campaign

Hint: African magic is never beneficial

How is a second batch of investigators meant to pick up the pieces from a failed investigation? The various conceits such as prior investigators leaving detailed notes always rang false to me. One option could be to play policemen investigating the disappearance of the prior investigators and then trying hard not to act on knowledge these fresh characters wouldn’t have. I must admit I find it hard not to meta-game in these situations. How do you keep sensible continuity vital to the believability of a clue laden Cthulhu story after a party wipe? Which leads me to a second thought.

Can you fail in a role-playing game? As people say character death and insanity in Cthulhu are expected and yet it’s still an odd feeling to have a character perish. My character in Cthulhu is probably dead and that’s OK. I suspect my next character will be a lot more paranoid and I’ll probably power game his stats as much as I can so that I pass those critical rolls. I have to wonder if you’re playing Cthulhu in the spirit of the game if you have martial arts, explosives and shotguns at 95%? Here’s what could well amount to Monty’s last tale:

Well this is a grim situation we find ourselves in. It seems the questionable folk of the Juju house were indeed cultists. I had suspected as much but chose the noble path of not giving in to racial stereotyping and this is the result it seems. Struck down by invisible Nubian warriors. In the dead of night the blighters are difficult to see. I would tell you of events from the start so that in the likely event that I am sacrificed to some nameless bloody tongued god you may pick up the pieces and continue the investigation. I trust you shall be more paranoid than I and shoot all those of colour on sight. This could of course become problematic should your investigations lead you to Kenya. Regardless here is what transpired before my present predicament.

Our first trip to Harlem was an unpleasant affair. Drunks abound in this ghetto. The Juju house sold African gewgaws of little consequence. Our enquiries of the old shop owner got us an introduction to Mokungo who we were to meet late that night. I noticed a key about the shop owner’s neck and ascertained that there was a basement beneath the shop. An inner voice told me to pull a gun on the owner but I resisted the temptation for such would be the actions of a mad man. Oh how I regret not acting on that instinct now.

It's ones duty to formulate an escape plan
We left the Juju house with little to show for our efforts except for the feeling that the African was hampering our investigations. Instead we turned our attention to Erica Carlysle, sister of the clearly doomed expedition leader Roger Carlyle. We got her attention by hinting that her brother was still alive. This got us our audience, where Erica told us of a Nubian princess who had bent Roger to her will. She also provided us with several texts that gave her the heebee jeebees. In addition she told us of Roger’s constant nightmares but not what they were about, as Roger would not tell anyone. Finally she signed a letter giving us access to his psychiatric records.

We had an 8 o’clock appointment with Mokungo and returned to the Juju house. Suspecting skulduggery we staked out the shop for a good 10 minutes. Seeing no one enter and deciding we had best see what was afoot we headed in. Mokungo was there as was Silas the storeowner. Not liking the situation I chose to remain at the door and watch the alley while Dr Raymond Howser approached the Africans and engaged them in a short conversation. I recall a panicked shriek from Dr Raymond just prior to being struck on the head by a metal object. We had fallen into a trap and it is most unlikely that we shall survive. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Call of Cthulhu is a nifty game

I didn’t play Cthulhu till I was out of high school. I’d been playing a number of ‘thespy’ White Wolf style games for a few years and got a kick out of the low power, ‘your doomed’ vibe the game gave off.

I dig playing the average Joe trapped in a terrible situation that gets progressively worse. The first character I played was an antique dealer who was thrown out of a window by malevolent forces, banished an evil spirit trapped in a roof space, sledgehammered a desiccated wizard to his second death before finally being consumed by a slime monster living in the walls of a mansion. In Gary’s current game I’m playing a detective with some incredibly low skills. I am amazed when I pass any sort of roll.

Which leads me to another point I really like about Cthulhu, the rules simplicity and transparency. With head butt 50% you can expect to land a blow with your bonce half the time. This coupled with the games rules light approach appeals to me. In the last three sessions I have rolled five or six times. The game has focussed on gathering clues, following up leads and asking pertinent questions.

In the last game we:

·       Learned the rumoured demise of the Carlyle expedition was greatly exaggerated.
·       The Carlyle expedition survivors want to open a gate to a madness inducing realm.
·       Cops are not always the enemy and may help you with useful information. Who knew? Rather than arrest us for fleeing the scene of a grisly murder the police helped us with additional information on a series of ritual killings before sending us on our way.
·       White folks in the 1920’s were awfully suspicious of Africans. No doubt they are up to no good with their voodoo witchcraft.
·       The Cult of the Bloody Tongue, based in a mountain hideout in Africa, are active worldwide. Surely they are guilty of killing my friend Elijah Jackson for getting too close to the shocking truth!

With just Roger and me playing we are going to have to be particularly cunning to come out of this alive. A trip to Harlem to see a Voodoo priest is on the cards. It’s a good thing we have back up characters.