Last weekend, Yog-Sothoth.com hosted an online convention called ConVocation (actually the virtual version of a games day they normally run face-to-face at this time of year in Yorkshire). We were happily able to make it to this event — since virtual plane flights are much cheaper than real-life ones 🙂
In all, there were four sessions at ConVocation that had some kind of Cthulhu Reborn affiliation.
On Friday night (actually Saturday morning for me here in Australia), I ran a 2-hour game of Convicts & Cthulhu, basically a slightly-abbreviated version of “Un-Fresh Off The Boat”. This is the introductory scenario that’s in the back of the core C&C book — which you can get from our downloads page or as a PWYW title (PDF or softcover) on DTRPG.
I have run this scenario numerous times at conventions around the world, but this online run of it was quite a lot more energetic than most. For starters, the party of six investigators (three convicts and three free settlers) decided to split into 3 groups almost immediately. This was to cover more ground in their search for a missing plague-carrying parson. This was all well and good but it made quite a task for me to switch between the three different groups and ensure everyone was still getting enough game time. I think it worked out ok, and the group did a very exhaustive job at finding clues — even heading off to investigate locations well beyond the written scenario. Eventually, though, they all came back together and made it to the site of the big and messy Mythos intrusion into the colony of New South Wales.
I won’t spoil the scenario for anyone who might still run it (or play in it) but there was a fairly explosive final scene … and for the first time all the investigators survived with their sanity intact. This was partially due to some incredibly bad rolling on my part (the dice were on the players’ side for sure) and also because the players burned a LOT of luck points. For some reason they were willing to sacrifice ANY amount of points to avoid finding out what effects some toxic slime might have on their investigators. Chickens.
The scenario run-through was also memorable because the group of six players (all Americans) had to content with my Australian accent. Generally it was fine, but there was one point when the group was entering a powder magazine when several of the players heard me describe the room as “filled with stacks of cannibals” (rather than “stacks of cannonballs”). Still, since it was a Lovecraftian game, I guess it easily *could* have been cannibals so I’m glad they asked for clarification.
There was a second Convicts & Cthulhu game run on Saturday Night by Matt Ruane. It was called “A Southern Seranade”. This was originally going to be our scenario for the (real face-to-face) GenCon 2020 following up on scenarios we’ve run there for the past couple of years. This year, things weren’t to be for GenCon, but ConVocation offered a great alternative venue to try out this new scenario in a 4-hour online slot.
Unfortunately I couldn’t play in this game, since the timezones were against me (I was sleep-deprived enough as it is). But by all reports it was a hugely-enjoyable session.
Also late on Saturday (it was a busy day) I ran a 4-hour session of Dateline: Lovecraft. This was a run-through of the entire “Smoke Green” scenario by Noah Lloyd we published as a tie-in/add-on a year or so back. Although the “Dateline: Lovecraft” core pack is a paid PDF product — or a deluxe physical prop+book if you want to order it direct from here on the blog — the scenario itself is free/PWYW. Check out this page for download links. If you like scenarios set in Jazz-Age Arkham, this scenario is a great adventure that could, with some substitutions, be played without the Dateline pack.
Prior to the game, I had sent copies of the massive Dateline: Lovecraft newspaper prop to each of the four players. I could almost hear their plaintive cries through the fibre-optic cables as they opened this dense wall of broadsheet newsprint with the knowledge that *somewhere* in its thousands of words sat a few articles or advertisements that would be relevant to the scenario we’d be playing. Of course I wasn’t so cruel as to make them read the whole thing — when the scenario began I pointed out three notable articles which related in some way or other to odd goings-on surrounding the Reinhart Tobacco Plant, a newly-built Arkham waterfront factory.
This game was extremely heavy on investigation, and the players once again were very thorough (and inventive) when it came to tracking down clues and exploiting their character backgrounds. Thankfully there were also some badly blown skill rolls along the way, which let me make some rather inconvenient trouble for a few of the characters … and I’m pretty sure that at the conclusion of the game, one of them probably would have had the Arkham P.D. on his trail. But despite all that, the four plucky investigators eventually tracked down some rather unexpected weirdness, freed an “innocent” victim of the cruel machinations, and wound up in a huge fight. With human antagonists, a non-human antagonist … and something that launched lightning-bolts. Needless to say the Reinhart Tobacco Plant won’t be opening its doors any time soon (and actually some of those doors might no longer be standing). Conveniently their earlier “good deed” paid off with an unlikely alien creature returning to assisting them when things got tough.
As anybody who’s read our Dateline: Lovecraft EXTRA scenarios would know, those adventures tend to be written so that there is a single set-up but three possible Mythos-related backstories/conclusions. So, even though I had already run “Smoke Green” once before, it was my first time running this particular variant option, so it was all a bit different to how I remembered it. Thankfully it still seemed to go pretty smoothly and things wrapped up after a satisfying big climactic episode. I was thankful to be able to pull it all together … even though it was getting REALLY late in my local timezone (the game wrapped up around 3AM my time).
@RogerBW, one of the players in the game was kind enough to make a recording of the 4.5 hour game, which you can download from here as a MP3.
The final Cthulhu Reborn session at ConVocation was a run of “Amber Waves” the scenario that is included in the Quickstart for APOCTHULHU. The Quickstart is available as a Pay-What-You-Want 73-page PDF title on DTRPG, and if you want to grab it for free just to see what APOCTHULHU is all about, we’d love you to do so. Of course if you choose to pay a small amount for it, we would be even more pleased :). If you’re keen enough to want the Quickstart as a softcover book, you can buy one via this DTRPG link.
The ConVocation session of “Amber Waves” was run by scenario author (and all-round ursine footwear lover) Chad Bowser. I was lucky enough to snag a spot as a player. Excitingly this was our official “online convention launch” for the APOCTHULHU game and also a beta test of the Roll20 character sheet that I have been tinkering with for APOCTHULHU.
The scenario went pretty well, by which I mean it was a hellish nightmare of Post-Apocalyptic proportions that shocked us all with the brutality of life in a world where Shub-Niggurath’s promise of global fecundity had left the human population in fear of being devoured by plant life. As survivors in this harsh alternate 1970s we had been given a simple task — to meet a scientist from another settlement who claimed to have made a discovery which could ease the terrifying stranglehold of the plants. Like every other “simple task” this one went south pretty much immediately, and placed us on a warpath with a rather nasty cult that not only venerated the animated vegetation but strung infected people up like scarecrows.
Ultimately with some diplomacy we were able to borrow some shotguns and undertake a bit of a stealthy commando mission to put paid to these horrible and insane individuals. While not everything went to plan, we eventually did manage to secure the object of our mission and escape in a stolen jeep … thanks largely to the bad guys fumbling a “throw grenade” roll and effectively blowing up themselves and most of their safehouse/compound in one fell swoop.
The good news is that the APOCTHULHU rules worked well for this kind of scenario, and except for a few minor gremlins the Roll20 sheet also behaved well, and actually made some of the dice rolling conventions of the game much easier to remember. The session also reinforced for me how deadly shotguns (and grenades) are in this system … so don’t dive into combat on a whim!
So that was our huge weekend of ConVocation — it was an absolute blast to play in so many diverse and interesting Lovecraftian-inspired roleplaying games. Huge thanks to the YSDC folks for organizing the event, but an even bigger thanks to the players who signed on to play in our games. Without exception, everyone who came to our sessions was an enthusiastic and accomplished roleplayer willing to dive into the story wholeheartedly. That makes all the difference when it comes to achieving a great game dynamic (which I hope we managed to do in our games) and a satisfying conclusion.
Strangely, in all three games that I was in zero investigator/survivor characters died and apart from some brief moments of temporary insanity everyone weathered the horrors fairly well. That’s pretty unusual for convention games — usually there’s at least a few casualties. Maybe the GM had decided to play nice for once … or maybe he was half asleep … 🙂