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Review: My Little Sister Wants You To Suffer; Cth Britannica


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#1 Fright_Night

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 01:51 AM

Below is a review of the scenario My Little Sister Wants You To Suffer, by Paul Fricker, From Cthulhu Britannica (Cublicle Seven). This is described in the blurb as an 'end of days' scenario. I’m going to provide my general impressions, based on running it several times during a roleplaying convention, highlighting the stuff I really liked, mentioning the drawbacks, then give some tips that I suggest to make the game really pop.

Warning: This is an excellent scenario and this review contains many SPOILERS so if you think there’s any chance whatsoever that you might play this scenario, stop reading now.

SPOLIER WARNING!




So, I was casting around looking for a second scenario to run for the local roleplaying convention Kapcon XIX, held here in Wellington, New Zealand when I got my copy of Cthulhu Britannica delivered and stumbled across the scenario “My Little Sister Wants You To Suffer.”

When running Cthulhu for a 3 hour ‘con slot I like to have a game with only minor investigation elements, strong pre-generated characters to allow good player characterisation, and a healthy dose of action/tension. Little Sister delivers in all these areas.

In essence the characters are contestants in a sick, future reality TV show who are unaware of this circumsatnce having had their memories wiped and must endure dangerous cricumstances, Sci Fi cliches and a series of deliberate elements designed to heighten tension. Memories return slowly and revalations begin to occur which only serves to amp up the pressure. The scenario usually runs with high character tension, fast moving investigation and action scenes, which all builds to a final showdown between the contestants, and a final mad scramble for the 'escape pods'.

Okay, so amnesia scenarios aren’t completely original, but there is something very cool about the notion of a fake memory, which can be detected as such by the players. It is also a very strong way to start a 'con game.

The pre-generated characters are great. There are some nice tension elements. If I were to be very critical, I guess it might have been nice to see some other human frailties’ built into the characters (obsession/mental illness/attractions) but really I don’t think it’s needed as the pre-gen characters are a good, diverse bunch (although another ethnicity might have been cool). I briefly toyed with the idea of having one character be a wringer, who might know more about the setup, but not know about the final reveal but, again, I didn’t think it was needed.

Running Little Sister is a balancing act. You (as Keeper) must respect the rules of the setup, and provide clues that may allow the players to deduce what’s really going on, but ultimately you really don’t want them to figure it out. Being able to queue mutants to distract the characters worked every time for me, and I think only one player (out of the 21 I’ve run through it so far) figured it out before the end.

The challenges work nicely (physical/mental/teamwork), and the random items, and light combat with mutants, and gauntlet of pods add some really good tense action moments, without derailing the game into a combat fest.

The final escape pod scene is where the real hard work lies. This is where I want the simmering tensions to erupt, and the brutality of the characters faced with sudden death to shock the players. I had the players write their actions down on notes, so they didn’t know what each other might do, then would read these out in initiative order, so some focussed on trying to escape, while others, more calculating, tried to remove or grapple other characters before they could trigger the 'pod'.

I also decided that all 6 escape pods would appear to be functioning, but that only the last two pods activated would actually ‘work’ making for increasing tension as one after another fails (I usually had the illusion of a dice roll, but really decided that the crew in the control room were only going to have the last two pods triggered actually work). I also had the escape pods sever any PC appendage that was not fully in the pod and would give the desperate characters a percentage that they, or others, were inside the pod at any moment, meaning more then a few ‘ejected’ with a bloody souvenir from another contestant.

The genius of Little Sister is the final scene. It is also, by far the most challenging to run as Keeper. My experience of most Cthulhu ‘con scenarios is that there is an inevitable debriefing where the Keeper must reveal what is ‘really’ going on and other possible outcomes for the players. Little Sister does this all in character – which is truly fantastic. It means the Keeper can (with some justification) gloatingly reveal the clues they missed, or revel in their despair at a missed opportunity through the NPC host.

So, drawbacks:
Not many in my view. It seems that PC Michael and Jonathan’s statistics have been transposed. More detail and suggestions for play might have been appreciated, especially for the climax, which I found challenging to run immediately following the pod scramble.

There is the veil problem; if the players figure it out, then the Keeper must do some fast ad-libbing so some suggestions might have been nice – although it seems fairly unlikely that the characters will have the time.

Then there’s the criticism I’ve seen in other reviews, that the players might be a little miffed with the Keeper, or even disappointed. I suppose this might be a concern in some, serious, ongoing groups, but I really had no sad or unhappy faces after I finished running. In fact many people wanted to chat about it, wanted to get the details so they could run it at other ‘cons or even watch other groups progress.

My tips for running the game:
Here are a few suggestions for those of you with the time or inclination.
1. Secrecy – Before the game make sure you get the players to agree not to reveal the details to anyone who might play the game. In fact I went as far as to create some slightly misleading posters (featuring the little girl from the Ring as 'Little Sister').

2. Anti-Team – In the same talk, I caution players to question any impulse for team play unless they believe it is fitting for their characters. A lot of gamers, particularly in cthulhu, assume a team function when it's not necessarily justified by the character interactions - I asked them to question this urge. The characters are, after all, competing - the players just don't know it.

3. Props – In addition to the suggested memories in envelopes, I’d suggest making small cards with a picture of the ‘items’ in the equipment lockers to give the players. These stay in an envelope and only a character looking in the cabinet can open the envelope initially. I also made a section by section map to reveal as different doors were opened, complete with clue counters to keep track of respective character positions. This is important because the characters are not a team, and you do need to keep track of their relative locations.

4. Computer – Okay, so Little Sister is supposed to be a little girl, like the computer in Resident Evil – another nice sci-fi cliché to fuel suspicions. I actually used a laptop running excel and activated the text reading voice, then typed in as many possible responses and played them, cell by cell, in response to whatever the players asked. It worked really well, and added atmosphere to proceedings. Especially when they weren’t sure if the computer was actually talking to them when it first activated.

5. Climax – So, as I mentioned I think the hardest challenge for the Keeper is to move from running the tense, desperate rush to the escape pods and then shift to the studio. In playtests I found that I wasn’t doing an adequate job of description, and players were a little confused to begin with. So I wrote a script and stuck to it, making sure that their fragmentary memories of transition to the set was described, a cheesy host and countdown before live studio audience, along with generating some names for the ‘prize winners’ and taking notes of proceedings to narrate the slow motion replays. I also found a picture of a kind looking hobo to reveal that the 'mutant' the characters had killed had just been some destitute guy. Finally I prepared canned applause and canned laughter to really give the feel of a studio audience.

It's a top notch scenario, perfectly constructed to convention play.


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#2 Tigger_MK4

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 09:57 AM

Played in this at concrete cow a few years back, thoroughly enjoyed it.
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#3 nickedwardscru

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Posted 30 January 2010 - 06:30 PM

4. Computer – Okay, so Little Sister is supposed to be a little girl, like the computer in Resident Evil – another nice sci-fi cliché to fuel suspicions. I actually used a laptop running excel and activated the text reading voice, then typed in as many possible responses and played them, cell by cell, in response to whatever the players asked. It worked really well, and added atmosphere to proceedings. Especially when they weren’t sure if the computer was actually talking to them when it first activated.

.


This sounds useful (for this and other scenarios): how do you use this on Exel?

#4 Fright_Night

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Posted 31 January 2010 - 03:21 AM

This sounds useful (for this and other scenarios): how do you use this on Exel?


I remembered it used to be a function so googled text to speech. Links below on how to enable this function.

MS Office 2002
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/288986

MS Office 2007
http://office.micros...23271033.aspx#1

#5 GHill

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Posted 19 February 2010 - 04:55 PM

I'm interrested to hear what makes this a specifically "British" scenario?

#6 PaulFricker

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Posted 19 February 2010 - 06:50 PM

I'm interrested to hear what makes this a specifically "British" scenario?


Hi - interesting question. The answer is I'm English (I wrote it), and it's set in Britain. It could however easily be set elsewhere in the world with very little effort. I don't know if that makes it specifically British, but that's the best answer I have for you.

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