A Short Campaign set in 1920s Montreal
Recently I was lucky enough to spend an entire weekend playing Horror's Heart, an interesting little Call of Cthulhu campaign set in Montreal Canada, 1923. A 'mini' campaign as such it took about 15 hours to complete.
The premise of the campaign is fairly typical for Call of Cthulhu (CoC). An old friend of the Investigators, Father Phillip McBride, asks them to travel to Montreal and help him to investigate the history behind a body discover in his recently consecrated church. Of course not all is what it seems, especially once the oddity turns out to be a mummified corpse of, if McBride's guesses are correct, the patron saint of his new parish.
The ensuing action takes place over a game week, in which the Investigators discover a family of Canadian loup-garou (who, as our party quickly found out, differ quite a lot from the more traditional English were-creature), not one but two old world cults and the sudden (but not totally unexpected) disappearance of their host.
After completing this extended adventure one must say that it is a decent, if not all too distinctive CoC campaign. It certainly doesn't break any new ground for the genre, but it does present well-detailed mini campaign which achieves, I believe, most of which it sets out to. All in all a typical heart in the mouth (all puns intended) game of CoC.
The adventure, as written, is not without its holes and inconsistencies however. The main fault, in my opinion, arising from a back plot driven by two very different storylines. Now while both are interesting tales in their own right, the lesser plot (which involves the aforementioned loup-garou) has little to do with the main narrative. Sure there is a link, but it's a rather loose one. Fortunately, when preparing for the game, our Keeper identified this problem early on in his planning, and with a strengthening of this storyline in particular added a lot more significance to the mysteries within the plot.
It seemed to me that the importance placed on the assistance and information supplied by some of the NPCs was another weakness of the adventure. There are quite a number of them in the adventure, and for the most part they are all well defined, each with their specific roles. It is the sudden 'coincidental' appearances, however, that I had a problem with. Events including having a seemingly unstoppable ally appear suddenly out of the shadows when the party most needs it, or having a 'reformed' cult member contact the group only once the legitimate leads have started to dry up, smacks of bad script writing, at least in my book. Basically, while I am not against NPCs on the side of good, I really do expect the players should be given the right sort of leads/chance against their foes to allow them to dictate their own destinies.
My biggest complaint however is the 'expectations' of the story. The best example of this comes near the end of the adventure, when the leader of one of the cults requires an artefact the characters should already hold (okay I'll admit our party didn't, but that wasn't my character's fault and if he'd been there it wouldn't have been lost). As the book reads the cult is meant to gain the item by 'kidnapping' the Investigator who carries it and quote "â€¦after stripping them, drags him or her away". Now in my book this is a big 'No-No', no Investigator should be 'taken' without a fight. I admit that there are other ways in which the cult can take possession of the item, but to use these methods above feels like a bit like cheating players to me.
But enough of the nay-saying. Horror's Heart is, in general, a good campaign and conjures up some truly eerie moments. By far my favourite would be the discoveries the Investigators make upon their arrival in Montreal. The reasons and implications of the body in the basement are enough to make the most hardened Investigator scratch their head in wonder. Also, one must mention the Mythos entities that appear throughout the story, these creatures are at first weird or slightly amusing, but as the story develops and the Investigators learn more, point toward a most frightening implication.
The conclusion of the adventure also deserves mention, with a scene matching anything seen in 'The Masks of Nyarlathotep'. As it builds it delivers just the right amount of scripted action and Investigator choice that really sets Call of Cthulhu apart from all other Roleplaying games.
All in all Horror's Heart is a fairly action packed mini campaign, with enough combat and investigation to keep all types of player happy. From the first moments of the story the Investigators are being manipulated and if they don't tread carefully they can soon find themselves neck deep in danger. I'd recommend this campaign to almost any Keeper, especially one who has time to fix the plot holes I believe it contains. I would also readily suggest it be run in the 'All Weekender' format, which I was lucky enough to participate in. These full on, non-stop types of session really helped keep the action fresh in the minds of the players and their characters on edge for two days straight!