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15 May 2023 20:35 #339335 by Shellhead
Desperation sounds like a cross between Fiasco and The Quiet Year. I'm intrigued.
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15 May 2023 23:23 #339336 by dysjunct
Thematically, I think that’s right on, although it doesn’t have the black humor of Fiasco or the hopefulness of the Quiet Year. It’s bleak, bleak, bleak.

Mechanically it’s not as freeform as either. The cards dictate what will happen, although Speak Your Truth gives a lot of flexibility to add more.

I should mention that the game gives a lot of safety tools. Potentially challenging topics are listed in each scenario’s rulebook. E.g. if you don’t want to deal with harm to animals, take out cards X, Y, and Z.

I was also glad to see the rulebook state that if you have to remove so many cards that you have eight or less in any category, then this isn’t the game for you.
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29 May 2023 19:51 #339484 by Shellhead
I thought my Call of Cthulhu campaign was off to great start, with perfect attendance all through the prologue adventure. We even recruited a couple of new players who were going to start the main campaign with us last night. Sadly, only one player showed up. One of the new recruits is apparently a flake who was curious about role-playing but only had one experience with D&D many years ago. The other new player got cold feet or possibly better plans for the weekend.

The couple didn't show because they hosted a big birthday party the night before and stayed up all night. Which shouldn't have mattered for a 6 PM game, but that kind of partying can be exhausting once you hit your 40s. I was at their party, and it was decent, maybe 40 people there at the peak. I left at 1:30 PM while a couple of people were attempting to dance to Eurovision finalists. For some reason, a many of my goth friends are unable to leave a party before sunrise, even as they get older, even when the party naturally dies down by 2 or 3 AM. Anyway, the one player and I played Camp Grizzly instead.
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28 Aug 2023 10:23 #340346 by Shellhead
The Call of Cthulhu campaign continues. Last night was fun and easy for me, as I mostly sat back and watched the players wrestle for a couple of hours with an ethical dilemma. I will hit a few highlights so you can see how the ethical dilemma arose:

*Players did a prologue adventure in 1921 with a likeable NPC, an African-American author of several non-fiction books about cults.
*In 1925, they were going to reunite with their NPC friend in New York City, as he needed help with a new investigation, but they found him murdered in his hotel room.
*The murder fit the profile of a serial killer, but there was already an African-American man sitting on death row for those crimes. This new murder should have exonerated him, but the racist police weren't ready to connect the dots.
*After much legwork, the player characters discover the existence of a cult that probably committed the murders, and was also probably connected to a few dozen missing persons in Harlem.
*The player characters raided the cult headquarters during a major ritual. Our heroes didn't have enough ammo to handle the crowd of cultists, so they fled.
*The player characters returned later, overcame some challenges, and looted some cult stuff, including a box containing various jewelry, lockets, and watches, some of which could likely be connected to various missing persons and/or murder victims.

The dilemma: the contents of that box might be sufficient evidence to exonerate the innocent man on death row, but it would require at least one of the player characters to tell the police how they obtained the box and also to testify against the proprietor of the property where the cult ritual was taking place.

My players agonized over this decision. If they did nothing, an innocent man would be executed soon. If they went to the police, it would likely delay or even derail their investigation into a global conspiracy behind the death of their friend. And the publicity might make them easy targets for cult reprisals. They even talked about having one player sacrifice their character by going to the police (and then starting a new character), but all four of them were already persons of interest in the unsolved homicide of their friend. So the rest of the group might need to leave town abruptly, even though they still had one major lead to investigate. One player wasn't present because he sprained his ankle last week, so the group actually called him during the session last night to get his input, and that speaker phone call lasted more than an hour. Finally, they decided to keep quiet. And bring the box to some friends of the man on death row, in hopes that they could get the stuff back to the families of the victims.
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24 Sep 2023 17:16 #340619 by ChristopherMD
I bought Pirate Borg on a whim. Its great. Twice the page count of Mork Borg and with the same style. Takes place in a Dark Carribbean where the undeads' ashes sell as a powerful drug. Also has the most random tables I've seen outside of an OSR book. The two-page spread where you roll-up a random island to discover is probably my favorite. Hope to actually play this one someday.
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25 Sep 2023 11:45 #340623 by Shellhead
Call of Cthulhu campaign continues, but we are short a player. One of our players sprained his ankle a month ago, and isn't planning on showing up again for another two months because he is being super-cautious. By contrast, another player actually sprained his ankle back in May, and he continued to show up anyway, even before he was fully recovered. So we are rolling with three reliable players, but I feel like four or maybe five players is the sweet spot for this game, due to the occasional attrition due to either sanity loss or deadly combat. The missing player is a serious history buff, so the group could really use him. I have tried to recruit other players, but so far without success.

All three active characters are currently researching occult tomes in their downtime, but one player got obsessed with his tome and started clocking 16 hour days of research, at a possible cost in both health and sanity. He was already close to finished, so he only lost two points of sanity in those final days. For his effort, he lost a few more sanity points and failed to learn the only spell in the book. The spell allowed the caster to turn a corpse into a zombie but required the caster to take a chomp out of his own arm and spit some of that flesh into the corpse's mouth. The whole party then lost some enthusiasm for tomes and magic, which is ultimately good for the game because active investigation is usually more interesting than reading tomes.

This last session featured no combat, but the players enjoyed some interactions with NPCs and also gaining some new clues and leads to discuss. I enjoyed role-playing a greedy old woman, an uptight British police investigator, and an artist lost in dreams and drugs.
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25 Sep 2023 12:08 #340626 by Cranberries
My therapist (who is a grad student, but supervised) says I am engaged in transference and wearing multiple masks that inhibit the therapy process. I thought those masks were my actual personality, and why are we drawing upon Freud in the 21st century?

I have purchased some RPGs lately: Starforged (based on the apocalypse engine) and Thousand Year Old Vampire, which I found on sale, fortuitously. I also purchased the Atomic Robo game.
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08 Oct 2023 17:20 - 08 Oct 2023 17:29 #340716 by dysjunct
First session of PUBLIC ACCESS, GM (me) plus 3p, over VOIP.

This is a horror investigation RPG, set in 2004. The premise is that all the PCs spent time as kids in the town of Deep Lake, New Mexico during the 80s. There was this weird public access TV station on channel 94, "TV Odyssey." PCs grow up and move away. Over time, they vaguely recall TV Odyssey and exactly how bizarre it was. They try searching for it, but apparently it vanished in 1994. And not just went off the air -- one day in 1994, the building just wasn't there anymore. They find a web forum where other people are discussing it. Joining the forum, they learn that no one who lives in Deep Lake remembers the station; if pressed then they all think it burned down in a fire. Some forum members have gone to Deep Lake, but the site of the station has no signs of a fire. The only evidence that the station ever existed are "Odyssey tapes," old VHS tapes rumored to still exist. Forum members who claim to have a tape or two report some very weird qualities about them -- attempts to copy them result in the copy only ever playing a blank blue screen. Same with digitizing them -- the MPG or other video format only ever plays a blank blue screen. And, even with an original, if you try to watch it during the day? Blank blue screen.

The PCs decide to rent a house in Deep Lake for the summer, and see if they can get to the bottom of it.

The dramatis personae are:
  • Crystal, goth girl who works at Blockbuster.
  • Matthew, wannabe journalist, current pizza delivery guy.
  • Nathan, IT installation guy, wannabe filmmaker.

PCs have been spinning their wheels in Deep Lake for a few weeks. One day they wake up and find that someone has left an Odyssey tape on their front porch. No sign who did it. It's titled "Happy Jack 06 Duress Signal? Pure-White Pretext?". They pop it in the VCR player just to see if the rumors about daytime viewing are true -- yep, blank screen.

Knock on the door. Young man introduces himself as Casey Wilcox; he's heard that they are poking around Deep Lake, looking into weird stuff. He doesn't know anything about TV Odyssey, but there's something else they might be interested in. He had a friend whose entire family disappeared in 1994. One day they were living a normal life in town, the next day no one was there. No sign, no notes. Could they look into it?

PCs drive to the house, start poking around. House has no power but somehow the VCR is on, blinking 12:00. They poke around and find some odd things. The coffee table has a sequence of numbers carved into it. In the master bathroom, the pill bottles in the medicine cabinet are in perfect alphabetical order, and are all empty. There's photos of the son and daughter all over the house -- apparently very devoted parents -- but one single picture in the master bedroom has a third child who looks like a sibling. There is no other evidence of this child.

A neighbor notices activity in the abandoned house, calls the sheriff. The sheriff shows up, determines that the PCs are harmless. Tells them he'll look the other way as long as they don't cause trouble for him. But they need to move on for right now so that the busybody neighbor is mollified.

They go home, wait until nightfall, pop the tape in again. It's not a blank blue screen any longer. It's an episode of Happy Jack the Lumberjack and Friends. Happy Jack is a crude puppet with a flannel shirt and a plastic axe taped to his hand. He's trying to console a weeping human girl. In the background, inexplicably, are a series of meat hooks. The girl confesses that her parents don't love her anymore because she wouldn't eat her vegetables. Happy Jack is appalled, and simulates chopping another puppet, Sylvester the Squirrel, into pieces with his axe. "That's what you can do, kids!" says Happy Jack. The screen goes black, but just before the tape shuts off, there's an audio snippet of the girl speaking. "Eat your vegetables, or kill your parents," she whispers.



Systemwise this is a hack of Brindlewood Bay, which is based in PBTA but with a unique system for investigations. Unlike Call of Cthulhu or other traditional investigation games, there's no canonical answer to the mystery. A scenario is a double-sided printout, with lists of characters, locations, and clues. Then there's a central question, with a rating for the complexity of the mystery (4, 6, or 8). There's a roll the player can make when they're trying to investigate ("Meddling"); on a success they get a clue. Once the players have found clues equal to half the Complexity, they can try to solve the mystery. They have to theorize about what happened, incorporating as many clues as they can. Then they roll 2d6, minus the Complexity, plus the number of clues they successfully incorporate into their theory. If they get 7+, then their theory is correct and the mystery is solved.

There's also lots of opportunities to share the creative load while personalizing the game. E.g. the room description for the master bedroom is: "Teal and mauve decor with seaside motifs. Queen size bed with brass frame. The faint smell of Estee Lauder perfume. What here makes you think that Hugh and Cheri were focused more on their children than themselves?"". With the question being one that the GM poses to a player. (The one I asked said that the walls were covered with pictures of the kids.)

The character creation is really great -- each PC chooses a few things that "take them back," nostalgic touchpoints from their childhood. They can get a small benefit if they spend a scene reminiscing with another PC about that thing. There's a big list, but you can also make up your own. My players chose:
  • Duck Tales (oo-ooo)
  • Artax in the Swamp of Sadness
  • The Konami Code
  • Friday the 13th: The Series
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme

(and a few more)

So far the game is fun. Low prep, great theme -- Candle Cove is the obvious touchpoint, but there's lots of other shoutouts to creepypasta, urban legends, and so on.

The overarching campaign frame is eventually discovering what happened to TV Odyssey, and confronting whatever caused it. Like the individual scenarios, there's no one answer. I'll have to make it up over the course of the campaign, but there's lots of guidance on how to do this, and how to incorporate the PCs' choices into making it seem inevitable and obvious.

To follow on with the discussion about safety tools from last month, we are using an online campaign keeper -- a fan-made google sheets document with tabs for just about everything. One tab is for safety tools. Went fine. A player choose to allow suicide-related content be vaguely described, but not explicitly. Another chose the same for harm to animals, and another for sexual assault. Totally painless and it's also a permission structure to push hard on other themes -- it's a horror game after all.

5/5, strongly recommended. Available on Drive-Thru for now, only in PDF. Kickstarter allegedly coming next year.
Last edit: 08 Oct 2023 17:29 by dysjunct.
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22 Oct 2023 15:15 - 23 Oct 2023 11:01 #340821 by dysjunct
Session #2 of my VOIP mini-campaign for this game of urban legend creepypasta.

We start with the “Dawn Phase,” a short housekeeping phase where we award XP. XP is based on questions on the character sheets. One of them is fixed — “Did the Latchkeys solve a mystery?” — but they can choose two based on the player’s interest. They are things like “Did you share a good memory from your childhood?”, “Did you go out of your way to reconnect with Deep Lake?”, etc. For every question you answer “yes” to, you get an XP. Six XP gets you an advance — +1 to a stat, or a small special ability like the ability to introduce a fact about a scene.

We had actually done the Dawn Phase at the end of the last session, but I wanted to revisit it as a way to recap and to give the players another chance to change their XP questions if they wanted. There were a few changes, then we transitioned to the “Day Phase.”

The Day Phase is one of the main phases of the game, and most closely resembles traditional play. With one exception — at the beginning of the Day Phase, if there’s fewer than three active mysteries, the Keeper introduces a new one.

Built upon a mountain mining settlement just outside of town, Starlight Kingdom was supposed to be the destination that put Deep Lake on the map—at least that was the hope of Paul Greco, the eccentric philanthropist who founded the bizarre amusement park. Both a religious man and paranormal enthusiast, he believed that alien encounters were all divine visitations. He hoped, with the creation of this dazzling amusement park, to “inspire visitors with the glory of heaven on earth.” The scope of the park was ambitious, with millions supposedly poured into early construction from anonymous donors—but the park never opened. After reports of “internal disputes,” Starlight Kingdom was abruptly shut down and fenced off, just months before its planned opening. Rumors persisted about continued work on the park, but none proved fruitful, and Mr. Greco was never seen again. The promised Starlight Kingdom slowly crumbled over the years.

In recent weeks, strange lights have begun to appear within the park at night. Visible just past the highway, they pulse and swarm in odd colors and patterns. Residents of Deep Lake who have seen the lights all seem to recall visiting Starlight Kingdom years ago, even though the park never opened. “Maybe they finally fixed it up again,” they say. But you know this simply isn’t true. As children growing up in a small town, you were over the moon at the prospect of having your own amusement park just down the road, and devastated when it failed to open.


The PCs choose to leave the amusement park alone for now, and go back to the house on Escondido Street and attempt to solve the mystery of why the Rappaport family disappeared.

Dramatis personae:

* Matthew Schroeder, rebel rich kid who wants to go into journalism instead of the boring family finance business.
* Crystal Oakes, emo girl, Blockbuster clerk, budding filmmaker.
* Nathan Fonteneau, IT guy, Triforce t-shirt.

Previously they’d investigated and found three clues:

* Many family photos, but one (and only one) showed a third child.
* A sequences of numbers carved into an end table in the living room.
* An immaculately-organized medicine cabinet, all bottles empty.

They drove over to the neighborhood in Matthew’s 1997 Saturn, parking a couple blocks away to avoid attracting the attention of the nosy HOA lady. Sneaking into the back yard, they see that the swimming pool is almost empty except for a slick of mucky water. Faded outdoor furniture surrounds the pool, box planters are overturned and there’s a croquet set on the lawn, abandoned mid-game.

Nathan starts sifting through the spilled potting soil while the others poke around the rest of the backyard. A croquet ball suddenly and silently starts floating upwards, then moves towards the back of Nathan’s head, accelerating dramatically! Crystal grabs a croquet mallet and manages to hit it out of midair just in time. It slams against the backyard fence with a resounding thwack. The groups warily exchanges glances and decides to go inside.

Matthew jimmies the lock on the sliding glass door and they enter the kitchen. There’s a door leading to the basement. Matthew notices something strange in the microwave — a book. It’s another clue:

* A copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. There’s a name in child’s handwriting inside the front cover, “Elliot Rappaport.” Inside the back cover is a drawing of a crying eye. The book has clearly been heated in the microwave — the pages are warped.

Matthew and Crystal decide to check out the kids’ rooms while Nathan goes downstairs. Crystal goes into Abigail’s room. It’s a typical mid-90s girl’s room — pink everywhere, Power Ranger bedsheets, the weird strawberry scent that is infused into plastic toys. Under the bed there’s something strange:

* A photo album titled “Summer Camp ’93.” It’s completely empty inside except for the last page, which has several polaroids of empty hospital beds.

Matthew searches Elliot’s room. Ninja Turtle bedsheets, a poster of Bill Nye on the wall. Matthew remembers watching Bill Nye as a kid. He hears his name whispered from behind the closet door. Gingerly stepping towards it, he places his ear up against it to hear better. Silence, but the closet door is preternaturally cold. Matthew leaves to let the others know.

In the basement, Nathan finds an artificial Christmas tree and several stacks of UPS boxes. He looks through the boxes but doesn’t find anything — but he notices there’s something drawn in chalk on the floor beneath the boxes. He moves the boxes and sees:

* A hopscotch diagram, the “10” space has been replaced with a crying eye, the same one in the back of the book.

The door to the basement slams shut in a sudden gust of wind. Nathan pulls out his Motorola RAZR and starts snapping pictures, using the flash as a makeshift light. He gets an overwhelming sense of … something in the basement with him. Panicking, he moves quicker towards the foot of the stairs….

Back in the living room, Matthew sees a notepad by a phone. There’s nothing on the top page, but he tries the old trick of lightly shading over it.

* There’s a phone number with a name, “Father MacGregor.”

He calls Crystal and Nathan to the living room to show them what he found. Crystal comes in from the bedroom. Where’s Nathan? They last saw him in the kitchen. Matthew opens the door to the basement. He takes the first step onto the staircase when all the steak knives from the butcher block suddenly levitate and whip towards his back. There’s a flash of a dozen knives sinking hilt deep into him … but no, Crystal saves the day again by slamming the basement door shut just in time. The knives slam into the door, protruding through the other side but leaving Matthew unharmed.

* This was Matthew failing a roll to notice the knives and dying due to the wounds. His player decided to “turn a key,” which is a mechanic that lets you narrate something and then retroactively change a failure to a success. But there’s only so many keys you can check off on your character sheet; run out of keys and the character is dead, retired, or lost. Matthew remembered the first time he discovered TV Odyssey.

Crystal opens the door. She and Matthew look down the stairs. Nathan is sitting on the ground at their foot, rocking back and forth and compulsively pressing the camera button on his phone, though the battery died a while ago. Matthew coaxes Nathan up the stairs. Crystal and Nathan reminisce about watching Duck Tales as kids and Nathan slowly comes back to himself.

They decide that this is a good time to leave the house and return to their rental.

We start the “Dusk Phase,” an interstitial phase where there’s some mechanical housekeeping, and then the players decide what they want to do during the Night Phase. They can either watch an Odyssey tape or investigate a mystery. The characters haven’t found any other Odyssey tapes, so they decided to look into the amusement park.

But there’s one other thing they can do during the Dusk Phase, which is attempt to solve a mystery. The players talked out all the clues and formulated a theory of the case. They decided that the child who appeared in only one of the photos must have been a sibling who was possessed or disturbed or ill or … something. He was memory-holed by the family. They first tried to medicate him (the pill bottles) and then tried to institutionalize him (the photo album with the hospital beds). But he kept escaping and calling the house, from a series of random numbers (the numbers carved into the end table). When he showed up at the house, he kept drawing this weird symbol, which must have been some occult connection to a spirit or astral realm (the crying eyes). He was trying to either travel their, or bring something across, just like how there’s other worlds in fiction (the book). In desperation the family called an exorcist (the priest’s phone number) but the exorcism backfired — instead of banishing whatever was inside the son back across the other side, it banished the entire family back across the other side.

The PCs rolled to see if their theory was correct. They failed — but on the “Answer a Question” move, if all PCs turn a Key, they can change a failure into a success like the individual moves. They decided to do this, so their theory was correct.

We ended the session there. This week is the Night Phase and the creepy amusement park.
Last edit: 23 Oct 2023 11:01 by dysjunct.
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17 Dec 2023 15:35 - 17 Dec 2023 15:36 #341318 by dysjunct
Been slacking on updates to the campaign, so I don't remember a lot of details.

Session 3: PCs drove out to the site of the old amusement park. Along the way they stopped at the hippie juice bar kind of thing. Ran into a band, "Psychic Narwhal Messiah," who was on their way to the amusement park to film a video. The proprietor, Crystal Starseed, was a New Age crystals and juice cleanse type of gal who was very fun to play. This scene took up a lot of time but didn't advance the plot very much.

Getting to the park, it was pretty run down. They explored a little bit, finding an old Airstream trailer with a bunch of clues in it. The band filmed their video. Nathan scaled a half-constructed attraction, "The Ark," to get a view of the area. There's a crop circle, a roller coaster, and then some weird anomalous place that looked different to each PC.

Session 4: New player joined, his PC, "Bill Burke," is a burnout from the forums who rolled up in his Iroc. Joined the rest of the group at the amusement park, then they poked around a little more and called it a night. The next day they learned of a new mystery:

Greetings, Travelers
The house on Rodenbecker Street was visited by Leona Calvillo and a sheriff's deputy; they said they were looking for Mrs. Calvillo's daughter, Amelia. The Rodenbecker Street house used to be the Calvillo home, before they were priced out of the neighborhood, and they thought she might be there.

Amelia Calvillo snuck out the night before and is now missing; the only clue of her whereabouts is a photocopied flier found on her bed: line art of an elf on a mushroom and the text, ""Greetings, Travelers,"" alongside a local phone number. On the back, a handwritten note: today's date and ""TURN UNDEAD."" The police don't think it's relevant, but the flier reminds you of something....

Back in the '80s, at the height of the Satanic Panic, some teenagers were obsessed with a roleplaying game called Serpents & Sepulchers. They would set up underground S&S games, using fliers similar to the one found on Amelia's bed to advertise: call the number and you'd get a location and a date. You'd meet in a drafty warehouse, or a vacant storefront, or a half-constructed house and play all night. Serpents & Sepulchers felt secret, sexy, and rebellious. These teens called themselves the Black Leaf Circle, and the rumor then was that they knew how to perform real magic.

The secret S&S games came to a halt when Bastian Dare went missing. Police waved "Greeeting, Travelers" fliers on the nightly news asking for help, curfews were put in place, and the subculture died out. Bastian was never found.


The group decided to go out to the site of the old drag strip (not in the scenario, but Bill had seen the anomalous building as the pro shop from the strip where he used to hang out as a kid. They found a few more clues, then went back home and watched an Odyssey Tape, "My Collection." This featured home videos from an elderly woman, whose face is never seen, as she goes through various thrift and antique store finds. With each brief episode, the finds get more and more bizarre and unsettling, and the woman's voice and gait are clearly breaking down as she shuffles through her house, corridors made of storage boxes until she finally gets to the center of her basement, where the PCs could briefly make out an obsidian statue of a man, blood continuously running over it, but somehow not pooling at the base. The camera is dropped and then the tape stops.

Session 5: Just Matt and Crystal in attendance for this. They decided to look into the missing teen roleplayer. They went downtown to a copy shop to see if there was evidence of the fliers being made there (they were). Then they went to a head shop, bought a water pipe, and spoke to some teens hanging out back. Turns out they were also S&S players. Gathered a few more clues and then went back to their vacation rental.

If they don't resolve the haunted house (from the very first mystery) soon, then it's going to start attracting NPCs to itself.

Overall the campaign is still fun and going great. I think 3 players (plus GM) is the sweet spot, but it handles 2 and 4 just fine. Excellent game.
Last edit: 17 Dec 2023 15:36 by dysjunct.
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15 Jan 2024 16:36 #341546 by Shellhead
Got to enjoy a very special moment during a Call of Cthulhu session last night... a roleplayer's first dead character.

The party is up against a cult with an international operation. The first time the players figured out the time and place for a cult ritual, they crashed the party with guns, only to find out that they were outnumbered more than 10:1. And some of the cultists even had guns. They managed to escape and survive mainly because they surprised the cult and also retreated almost immediately.

They recently figured out the time and place for another cult ritual, this time in a different country from the first one. Instead of just showing up and getting into a fight against hopeless odds, they planned to just spy on the cult ritual and take some pictures, including some license plates. But they didn't actually know the location, just the place where the cult would pick up a bunch of members for a truck ride to the ritual location. They successfully followed the truck from a distance, but the truck eventually pulled up at the gate of a large estate about three hours' drive out into a rural area.

At first, the players contemplated just parking some distance away and out of sight of the gatehouse, and walking around the wall until they could find a secluded spot to climb over. But it was a marshy area, and they were worried about getting stuck in the mud. Instead, they decided to ram the gatehouse to disable the guard and use his keys to open the gate. They actually had the foresight to weld some sheets of metal on their vehicle for some light armor the previous day. Unfortunately, the gatehouse was sturdier than they expected, and there were four additional guards bracketing the gate because there was a major cult ritual happening that night.

Because it was supposed to be a recon mission, only one player character brought a knife, and nobody brought a gun. However, the chemist made several white phosphorus grenades. He knew in advance of the mission that the grenades had a bigger blast radius than his weak character could throw a grenade, but he planned on using cover. The fourth player character wasn't there because that player canceled on short notice. Anyway, they rammed the gatehouse at 35 mph but didn't eliminate the guard. As they jumped out to subdue the guard, they were confronted by the four guards who were not in the gatehouse, and two of the guards were both large and strong. All the guards had flashlights and were armed with spiked clubs. Several combat rounds and two white phosphorus grenades later, all the guards were dead. The chemist was still conscious, with one hit point. The pilot was unconscious and the psychiatrist was dead. The chemist managed to revive the pilot with some first aid, and they drove off with the body of the psychiatrist.

The player of the psychiatrist had never role-played before this campaign, so she took it hard. She whined a bit about things that her character had been looking forward to doing, and I made a few joking remarks about her demise. For example, one of the other players was describing what his character was doing to clean up the car upholstery, because the psychiatrist was inside the car when she got beaten to death by a club through the window (or where there was a window before the first grenade blast). I cheerfully pointed out that there wasn't that much blood, but there were some spattered gray matter. Now she is making a character who is the vengeful younger sister of the decease character.

In honor of the deceased character, I will use a three-hole punch on her dead character sheet and put her in my Book of the Dead ring binder full of player characters that died or went completely insane in past Call of Cthulhu campaigns. Some of the earliest entries date back to the late '80s.
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12 Feb 2024 15:15 #341769 by Shellhead
My Call of Cthulhu campaign continues to entertain our group. The players include: a very experienced rpg player who is new to Call of Cthulhu, an experienced DM who has also played a fair amount of Call of Cthulhu, a guy who played some D&D many years ago and not much since, and a woman who has no prior rpg experience.

Two weeks ago, the inexperienced player showed up with a replacement for her dead character: a con artist. The group wanted to re-visit the UK headquarters of the cult they are battling, and got the con artist to trick an npc gang into doing a home invasion to create a big distraction at the front gate while the player characters rush in via the back way. However, the gang encountered minimal resistance at the front gate, while the player characters crouched in the shrubbery for nearly an hour while arguing about how to proceed. So the gang drove up, and the players continued to hide while the gang looted the house, including stealing a very valuable golden and magical headdress belonging to the leader of the UK chapter of the cult.

In last night's session, the players had just over 48 hours until the next scheduled cult ritual, so they debated two possible courses of action, which I could summarize as the direct approach and the indirect approach. The direct approach was to return to the cult hideout that very night, and scour the place for clues, then return on the night of the cult ritual and fly overhead while bombarding the cult and their headquarters with white phosphorus. The indirect approach would also start with another raid on the headquarters, but skip the bombing in favor of having the con artist infiltrate the cult. They knew that a certain small local business was owned by a woman who they believed was a cult member, so they sent the con artist and an innocent npc (a cook employed by a wealthy player character) to the shop. The cook would act clueless about buying some spices and the con artist would act super helpful in a way that caused the cook to buy a lot of spices. Then the con artist would try to persuade the shop owner to hire her.

However, there were some weaknesses in the plan. The shop owner had already met the other player characters in the course of their investigations, so they all avoided the shop and trusted the con artist to handle the situation. The con artist made some good rolls, but the shop owner was more interested in her as a potential sacrifice for the upcoming ritual, especially after establishing that the con artist was supposedly new in town, new to the UK in general, and didn't have any local friends or family. And the cook messed up her exit by overplaying her part. The business owner brought the con artist back into her office, where her muscular assistant helped her chloroform the con artist and capture her.

When the con artist didn't come home right away and the cook told them that everything went great, the other player characters just assumed that she was hired on the spot and working a full shift, Many hours later, they realized that she might have been captured or killed. They went to the shop that night and found clues indicating that the con artist had been abducted, plus a clue that they will find useful when they get to Egypt. But the shop owner, the con artist, and the assistant were all gone. Now the group has less than 24 hours to plan and execute a rescue of the con artist before she will presumably be sacrificed in an occult ritual. Based on previous reconnaissance, they expect that there will be at least 20 cultists at the ritual.

The two inexperienced players reacted very strongly to this turn of events. The former D&D player was horrified and full of regret that they had unintentionally served up his girlfriend's new character as a possible sacrifice with very little time to save her. The new player was appalled that she might lose her second character so quickly, especially since she wrote a three-page backstory for her character and brought us all copies. But she was also excited by the cliffhanger ending and was anxious to see what would happen next session. I was very pleased by the emotional reactions, and happy that the slow infiltration would be replaced by a faster and more exciting (possibly even explosive) finale.

One reason the players debated about the direct versus indirect approach is that they recently learned that they might need to stop this cult before a specific calendar date. Now they might have the actual date, which is in January. And they might feel complacent because they are only expecting to go to Egypt and Kenya after they leave London. But they have a few clues pointing towards China and Australia, though they have apparently forgotten about them. Meanwhile, it is currently early June in the campaign. 7 months to cover four more locations is probably cutting it too close.
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12 Feb 2024 19:32 #341770 by dysjunct
PUBLIC ACCESS is now on hold due to scheduling issues. New game, on a new night, is its parent game, BRINDLEWOOD BAY.

It is still an investigation game with no set answers to the mysteries. The theme of this one, though, is little old ladies solving murder mysteries in a quaint seaside New England town. There is an optional campaign frame that slowly comes to the fore: there is a cult secretly operating in town, trying to raise a thing from the ocean depths off the bay. So basically, "Cthulhu, She Wrote."

We're two sessions. Session one was character generation and the first mystery.

Dramatis Personae:
* Maxine Phillips, retired doctor. Style: Up In Pumps. Cozy hobby: scrapbooking.
* Betty-Marie Beauchemin, retired Peace Corps worker. Style: Dorothy Zbornak. Cozy hobby: pottery.
* Amanda Allred, retired lawyer. Style: Martha's Vineyard. Cozy hobby: antiquing.

They're all widowed or otherwise single, and belong to a book club, "The Murder Mavens," where they read mystery books and occasionally get involved in solving local crimes, much to the annoyance of the sheriff.

The game opened with their book club wrapping up, and through the door comes the sheriff. The body of a vacationing financier, Albert Krause, has been fished from the bay. His family says he got drunk and fell over the side of their yacht, but something feels off to the sheriff. The body is on ice at the local fish market, and the yacht is still anchored offshore. But if evidence of foul play isn't turned up soon, the body will be shipped to Boston and the yacht will follow. Can the Mavens look into things?

During the night, they go to the fish market and pick the lock. Examining the body, they find a waterlogged envelope in the inside jacket pocket. It has paperwork for removing someone from a will.

They take a small motorboat out to the yacht to offer condolences to the widow on behalf of the community. The family seems strangely detached, but invite the Mavens to tea the next day. Returning to shore, they continue their investigations and find out that there's evidence of an affair, of false paternity, of lying about the time of the patriarch's death.

Deciding they have enough clues, they meet for breakfast and hash out their theory of the case -- that the widow had a long-running affair, one of the kids was not the patriarch's, and he discovered it and was going to file for divorce -- the pre-nup cutting her off in case of infidelity -- and write the illegitimate child out of the will. She pushed him over the edge in cold and rough seas, turning up the volume on the yacht sound system so no one could hear his cries for help.

Their theory wove together all the clues they'd found, giving them a better-than-even chance of it being correct. They rolled -- and it was!

They confronted the widow at afternoon tea, having tipping off the sheriff to follow in his police boat. The widow was arrested and the Mavens solved another case!


Overall the game worked just as well as Public Access. Possibly better, as it doesn't have multiple cases going on simultaneously -- one murder and done, very consciously modeled after a TV show.

Episode #2 is Sunday -- "The Great Brindlewood Bakeoff"!
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29 Feb 2024 11:40 #341871 by dysjunct
After missing a few weeks due to illness and scheduling, last Sunday night we finally began session #2:


The most famous cooking reality show in the world, The Jolly Good Bake-Off, is filming in Brindlewood Bay! The Mavens (i.e. the PCs) enter and make it through the preliminary rounds, to the final. It is the three of them, plus two other contestants.

They start things off with a pie-making contest. The presenters, Sue and Timothy, roam around the set, mugging for the cameras and joking with the contestants. Finally time is up and in come the judges -- the posh and elegant Jane Leaf, and the famously strict Paul Riviera. Maxine accidentally grabbed the salt instead of the sugar, and her pie is a disaster. Amanda's has the dreaded soggy bottom. But Betty-Marie's blackberry pie is a triumph and she earns the coveted handshake from Paul!

The producer, Heath, calls for a break. The stars -- the presenters and the judges -- go back to their trailers. The contestants mill around. As it's a competition, security is tight. Guards don't let anyone in or out. The Mavens mingle. One of the contestants, Scott, is a returning contestant. He was a complete drama queen on his episode several seasons ago, but it was good for ratings. The other, Melanie, had a family bake shop that went out of business when Paul Riviera open up a chain location in Brindlewood Bay. There's Donna, Paul's bleached-blonde trophy wife in leopard-print leggings and too much makeup. Buck, the cameraman, is charming and the only American on staff. The Mavens flirt with him a bit, and mingle with the others as they come and go to refresh themselves before the cameras start rolling again.

Suddenly, a scream! Donna staggers out of a trailer. "Paul! He's dead!" Maxine, a retired doctor, grabs her medical bag and bluffs her way into the trailer. Paul Riviera has his hands tied behind his back, face covered with flour. He is well and truly dead.

Everyone mills about nervously. The police are called, and long-suffering Sheriff Dalrymple shows up. He asks the Mavens to look into the murder. Due to security, it could only have been someone on set. But who?


Ended it there. A short session with few dice rolls. One of the players was an hour late; apparently her landlord cornered her and started asking her a bunch of questions about D&D. Happens to the best of us.

Still very fun though; the flavor and theme is really just top-notch.
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29 Feb 2024 22:48 #341875 by bendgar
I just was talking with my wife about this game and I wanted to pop over here and thank you (dysjunct) for posting these sessions of Brindlewood and Public Access. I would never have heard of these without you and they are right in my wheelhouse. I have been watching the designer run some Public Access on YouTube and that really helped me understand the system.

Thank you.
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