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[Call of Poolhu] Improvised Investigation

Started by Christoph Boeckle, September 23, 2005, 08:52:37 PM

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Christoph Boeckle


Taking a break from my Paladin 40k campaign with this one shot mastered by our long-time CoC GM. I talked about the Pool and he thought it could be fun to use this in addition to the sanity rules for running a quick game.

And it was just excellent.

The GM gave us the initial situation: a meteorite fell in the backland of Arkham and we where to investigate it. Fine.

At the beginning, it was quite slow, we were loosing time on silly points (is it true that most meteorites fall after midnight?). Finally, our investigators arrived at the countryside. One guy talked to a farmer, asking him if he had seen the falling object. The only information he gave us was that if we where interested in rocks, we should take a look at the one in the nearby forest.

So off we go, and suddenly the player of the archeologist grabs the dice stating as his goal "remember some information about a long lost tribe of native americans". And he does, taking a MoV and just makes up a whole piece of history about an ancient tribe that was very keen on astronomical observations, especially the coming and goings of comets, and how the witches of Salem actually drew part of their knowledge from secret findings related to that culture.
As soon as we arrived at the forest, I state to be "looking for a deeply burrowed megalithical construction". I succeed and take a MoV, narrating that the farmer's stone was actually the tip of one of those monoliths, and clearing away the plants and bushes we found a whole ring of them. Another player found runic inscriptions on some of them (thanks to a MoV), another realized that there where other similar sites forming a regular triangle on the map (yet a MoV) and finally we were going to be mixed up with a cult of deep ones using the center of the triangle as a place of worship to Dagon (happily, there was no Mythos purist at the table to point out the unlikeliness of such a thing).

Before that though, two characters raced back to town with the car, investigating in the archives and trying to find a man whose name had come up in a MoV as the author of some occult text.
At the archives, the player fails his roll "to find absolutely no evidence about these ceremonial megaliths", but the GM gives him information on secret society who was said to have built these circles nearly a hundred years earlier.
In the meantime, the other player learns on a failed roll that the author has been murdered a few weeks back in a most peculiar fashion (and as such could not "meet him").
The characters that stayed in the countryside developed some photographs taken during the day, and on a MoV, I have my character notice a cloaked character stepping out of one of those forests containing the mysterious stonehenges.

The GM put things a bit together and the two characters in the city found a murdered deep one in the home of an alcoholic who had revealed that his family had peculiar traditions (another MoV). They put two and two together and discovered something "fishy" was going to happen soon in the center of the stonehenge-triangle, so they came racing back.

Sure enough, during the night, the two characters in the countryside heard screams coming from each of the ceremonial circles in turn. They ran around half the night, only to find a freshly severed foot lying in the fields alongside a ceremonial dagger.

Next morning, as the two from the city are about to arrive, those who spent the night outside woke up rather late only to find a group of robed individuals chanting and dancing around the center of the triangle (this was part of a MoV inspired by what those in the city had found for evidence). My character went nuts (it wasn't his first San check in this session) and the GM rolls "hallucination" for the temporary madness. I described my character seeing a huge fish-like yet humanoid figure rising in the middle of a freshly formed pool, carrying a huge monolith on his shoulder.

From MoV to GM input everything gets stranger and stranger, and finally we had our party's car crash right into the center of the unholy ritual, where indeed a pool had formed and out of which a monolith was rising (GM input). The robed figures were deep ones.
Some characters attack the deep ones, but by now, their pools are empty and the rolls are getting unlucky. One is overwhelmed by the cultists, killed off and thrown into the pool, as my character (having lost even more San in the meantime) is climbing the monolith. The water started to boil, the PC atop the monolith screaming obscenities as I lost on a roll to "have the cultists surrender to the mighty fish-man whose prophet my character is". The GM got to narrate and he chose Dagon to appear from under the pond and swallow my PC whole!

The remaining two characters barely managed to run away, and we end the session at this point.

From my point of view, this was one of the most enjoyable Cthulhu session ever. It was silly and over the top as we like to play it, and we got to add tons of elements into the game. I really felt like contributing to the game, I was able to build upon input by the GM and the other players, which I find extremely cool. I don't know if this was really what people would call stepping up, but I appreciated the inventive input from the other participants and was quite delighted when others took the cues I seeded to take the game into a new direction.
Two players where a bit less active, one because he didn't really understand what he really could do, and the other because he failed the few rolls he initiated. Probably this would get better over the course of a few more games.

What I learned at the expense of my character's life was that taking too many MoVs meant having little dice for later on... but I was thrilled at the outcome nonetheless!
I think the GM was quite happy too, because he hadn't had the time to prep the game extensively and yet after a slow start, it became a quite intense race to find out what was happening (even though nobody had a clue and we just winged it as best as we could) before it was too late (of course, the sense of urgency was the direct result of our shared inputs and we could have slowed things down. we just didn't want to).

And most incredible of all, looking back at what happened, it looked like a reasonably credible investigation case (at least compared to the norm of our prepared games)!
Of course, players looking for a challenge in the investigation itself would have been disappointed, but we didn't really care much for that.

So, if I had to make a point: I'm looking forward to other such fast-paced and surprising investigations!

And I have a question: is it possible to discern a CA at work here? (maybe my feedback isn't detailed enough? or maybe it would take another few games of Call of Poolhu to tell?)
Basically, I'm trying to connect the theory with reality.

Thanks for reading, thanks to James West for the Pool!


Fascinating post. I am currently very interested in investigation style games which get to make their own clues or draw their own conclusions. Any chance of getting the GM's impressions from thsi game?

Christoph Boeckle

I'll drop him a line, but he's absent this weekend.

From what I saw, he was taking note of the MoVs so as to keep track of what happened and from time to time put a few things together, completed somebody's input with additional information later on, and ignored other aspects yet (we could have gone back to them, but streamlining the investigation in this way was probably a good thing to do to finish the play in one evening).
He never countered an input we had added through MoVs, so that was quite nice, and even on failures he gave interesting information, eg:
Player intent: "My character looks for evidence of Mr. Soandso to be involved in this cult"
GM: "Mr. Soandso was murdered at his appartment just three weeks ago..."
Player: "Allright... that's surely go to do with the case!"

As a matter of fact, we didn't get to understand the exact implications of the man in the case, since we had to finish the session, but it still felt convincing in regard with the other elements (and investigators never understand everything anyway).

Christoph Boeckle

I just read the rules again (we played off my memory of the text) and noticed that we did at least one thing wrong, possibly two:

- The GM could give a player from 0 to 3 dice, instead of 1 to 3. Playing it according to the text could have changed one or two outcomes.

- The rules say it's important to keep at least three of four dice for the pool after chargen. We actually kept at least 6 each. It also says that after a session, if someone has more than 9 dice in his pool he gets to keep all of them, and if he has less, he restores his pool to 9 dice.
Does that mean that characters become noticeably more powerful after the first session, or should we have started with 9+remainder of chargen dice?
Whatever the answer is, I think I'll use the second possibility for future games I master with the Pool, and play more agressively, so that the players need to take more MoVs.

Christoph Boeckle

Ok, I got the GM's feedback. English errors are mine:

Quote from: The GM
I loved it!
From my point of view, it was one of the best Call of Cthulhu games I ever mastered.

I hadn't prepared a lot of things scenario-wise, but actually I only had to launch a starting point, and everything followed.
It must be noted that the players used a lot of MoVs and I rarely had to cut down what they were saying (except when there was incoherence with the background or previous events). Another important thing is that we have been playing RPGs together for ages (especially CoC) and that we are quite "on the same frequency", so that certainly made things easier. Had we played with other people in another setting we might have had some clashes (translator's notes: see the Paladin 40k AP #3).

One player wasn't very active, that's a bit a pitty. I don't know if he enjoyed himself, but we'll talk about it next time before play.
Another player didn't realize immediately what he could do (he was afraid to disrupt my scenario). He caught up at the end, but wasn't very lucky on his rolls.

Finaly, my next CoC plays will use this system, because our group has a common approach towards play (getting eaten by a Mythos creature whilst turning insane) and the players often have excellent ideas!

The Sanity rules allowed us to introduce a few fits of madness that weren't quite controlled by the players (even though they were looking forward to it).

The players contributed a good deal of background to the story with their MoVs, which made the whole play seem more consistent.

The other day, I talked with the player who didn't do too much and he thinks he was inactive because it was just such an evening were he was low on energy, so I'm optimistic that he'll come up with more stuff next time.