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The Black Drop: Timing/chronology question (SPOILERS)


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#1 cscase

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 07:42 AM

I've been preparing to run The Black Drop, and find myself a bit puzzled about how best to approach a timing question. What follows will be as vague as possible, but spoilery nonetheless by necessity.

 

Spoiler

 

How have others handled this aspect of the story? Am I just sweating small stuff when I need to relax and just work it in as I go? Sometimes when running published material I over-analyze minor details that are in reality not that important, and perhaps that is what I'm doing here.

 

Any tips or thoughts?

 

Thanks!

 

 

 




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#2 Tony Williams

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 12:37 PM

I'm just about to run this in 3 hours time!

I'd say let them meet the Germans after the first night in the settlers' homesteads.

Do you play Trail of Cthulhu ? You may find these downloads useful...

The Condensed Rules for Trail of Cthulhu PDF - the rulebook as slim as it can go.

The Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF - a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game.


#3 tgaitskell

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 03:19 PM

I definitely agree with Tony.

Spoiler

Edited by tgaitskell, 31 December 2013 - 03:28 PM.


#4 fox01313

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 02:46 PM

Timing is always a tricky thing in games but with a scenario like this where it could be taken a few ways. It seems that in a case like this, if it's a bad thing to find people or clue #1b (in this act) then you could always do a smaller scouting team  (a few people hired by the Germans to confirm the general maps of the area, hire locals to help or locate supplies/routes) where this group would have a few details about their larger group but not enough to give the conclusions away.

 

As for revisiting an area, you could just put in a npc who either forgets something at the camp then doesn't come back, leading the players to maybe go back to find the npc as they have some gear they might need. Feel free to use other npcs either coming from certain spots (who found a torn journal page with partial clues) or hearing rumors of a spot & going there to hunt for illegal goods/booze/etc. The locals are always a nice source of spreading rumors and there's always going to be one or two curious ones to try to visit the foreigners at an expedition camp to try to steal from it, hire themselves to it for possible wealth (or getting paid to join them then get off the island), trade with the people or whatnot, get gossip to sell in town. As well as the npc in the expedition who is tired of being treated like a low-paid fool & wants to find escape in the town, escape or employment with the player characters or just rob the expedition. 


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#5 AdamAstonbury

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 07:25 PM

Been a while since I ran this one so my memory may not be 100% accurate on the details here (and I don't have the scenario to hand....)

 

Spoiler


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#6 Tony Williams

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 11:34 AM

After playing the adventure some useful advice for Keepers:

 

SPOILERS.....

SPOILERS.....

SPOILERS.....

 

There is an error in the PDF of the adventure:

 

The pre-gen character Maurice Lavalle has a character Claudette Petit named as his cousin as a pillar of sanity - it should say it is his aunt ( in our game, for a couple of hours, our player therefore thought he had an aunt AND cousin on the island as pillars of sanity until I worked out where the problem was ).

 

Other Keeper advice:

 

Overall I think the adventure is good but it could really do with an edit to make it much easier to assimilate for the Keeper.

 

Things that are not stated obviously enough but just sort of sneak up on the Keeper as they read the whole adventure:

 

1) Claudette Petit has a husband! This really is not stated at all but you have to work it out from the surnames of Claudette and a corpse!

He is Pierre Petit

At some point during the current shepherding run he broke off from the other 2 male ( cult ) shepherds to go to Mt Lyall ( probably to try to foil the cult ).

He was captured and thrown off the cliff where the adventurers should find his body once trekking.

Therefore if you have Leon and George come back and meet the adventurers in the homestead before "The Frenzy", Claudette should be worried as to why Pierre is not with them.

 

2) The De La Rues have a ridiculous amount of TNT on the ship but no reason is given in the adventure write-up.

When players discover this, one of the obvious questions of the De La Rues is "Why?"

Make sure you have some sort of excuse ready ( or tone down the amount of dynamite - the players can't carry much anyway once trekking, as they need to carry survival equipment ).

 

3) You absolutely must make yourself a Keeper-only map with the following marked on it:

Port Couvreux

Betsy Cove

The homesteaders' settlement quad

Cape Kersaint

The ruined German observatory

Mt Lyall ( and the Black God's shrine there )

Ulrich's tent

The Black Altar

Pierre Petit's body

The slaughtered sheep mess

The cave with the dessicated body

 

You can use the 2-piece black and white map in the PDF but stick the 2 pieces together ( they join left-right with the right piece a little higher ) and find/decide where all the above are on the map and mark them on. It is WAY too hard to free-form this sort of thing in play once the players want to know trekking distances and times etc.

Be prepared with strong knowledge of distances and trekking times.

 

Finally I had 3 players use 2 pre-gens each - this is pretty mind bending for the Keeper as each pre-gen has some sort of positive or negative relationship with other pre-gens.

If you also have three players and want to make sure each player has a relationship with both the other players then split the pre-gens into the following pairs:

Prof Lederman & Anita Desmarais ( have Anita married to Marc-David )

Marc-David Desmarais & Lt.Carlise Bullard

Maurice Lavalle & Dr Waechter.

Make sure you have some sort of diagram or aide-memoir on who hates/likes who.


Do you play Trail of Cthulhu ? You may find these downloads useful...

The Condensed Rules for Trail of Cthulhu PDF - the rulebook as slim as it can go.

The Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF - a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game.


#7 cscase

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 03:31 PM

Thanks all for the advice and tips!
 

Spoiler

 

And thanks for info, Tony, based on your experience. I can see where a consideration of the map and positional things is in order. Maybe that's a whole other topic, but it's something I've lately been trying to find the right balance in: Somewhere there's a happy medium, using maps to give everyone a sense of where they are without getting hung up on the exact grid coordinates of every little thing. It seems like often, players - especially players of Pathfinder or D&D - are accustomed to asking where exactly everything is on a map in relation to one another, because in more tactically-oriented games, such things are critical. But I hate spending game time agonizing over map coordinates when that level of detail is usually not especially helpful or relevant to the narrative.

 

Thanks again, all!  If anybody has further insight, it would be greatly valued.


Edited by cscase, 08 January 2014 - 03:32 PM.


#8 Tony Williams

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 04:50 PM

Spoilers...

 

Spoilers...

 

Spoilers...

 

I think the mapping issue is more of an issue in THE BLACK DROP than a usual looser "RPG map" since;

 

i) the players will already have a cartographic map of the island and will want you to point out where they are on it at any given time.

 

ii) there is an in-built time crunch due to the players having to get to Mt Lyall at the time of the Venus incident to stop the big bad ( hence they will want to know distances and approximate trekking times ).

 

 

-----

 

Things that happened in our game but might not apply to your game:

 

Once the players deciphered the German short-wave transmissions on route via the Austral, I had the Austral captain begin to act very nervous ( because any accident in the shipping lane would mean his boat would blow sky-high due to the TNT in the hold ). However the players took this to mean he knew something about the Black Drop Society that made him very afraid - not something I had anticipated, but great fun to watch. It also made them initially anti-Black Drop Society.

 

If using the pre-gens ask the players to note their feelings toward the other characters but keep them secret. With a little egging of the pudding on my part of passing notes to players, they all became rather paranoid about each other. Something I almost had to unpick once "The Frenzy" started so they would actually help each other survive.

 

I had Leone and Adele mention the black shard jewellery was "protection" ( but I didn't say against what - in my mind they thought it protection against anyone who was anti-The Black God ). The players latched onto the word "protection" and all wanted to have some shards on them at all times thus getting the stability problems ( hee - hee ). 


Edited by Tony Williams, 08 January 2014 - 04:50 PM.

Do you play Trail of Cthulhu ? You may find these downloads useful...

The Condensed Rules for Trail of Cthulhu PDF - the rulebook as slim as it can go.

The Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF - a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game.


#9 cscase

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 12:13 AM

Great fun!! Thanks again, Tony!  Tales of your game have me looking forward to running this all the more.



#10 Ramblurr

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Posted 19 October 2015 - 07:37 AM

So I'm running this game soon and during prep I've found a few inconsistencies, some already noted.

 

One minor issue is that the pregens all lack Occupations in their stats except for Anita. It's not very important, but as I'm introducing GUMSHOE / ToC to this group with this set of pregens, it's a noticeable oversight.



#11 Tony Williams

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Posted 19 October 2015 - 10:48 AM

The Occupations are in the "You are..." sections of the investigator pre-gens.

 

Prof Lederman = Professor

Dr Waechter = Doctor

Lt.Carlise Bullard = Military ( U.S. Army )

Anita = Author

 

Lavalle and Desmarais are both French government bureaucrats ( which don't tally with any particular occupation from the rulebook ) 


Do you play Trail of Cthulhu ? You may find these downloads useful...

The Condensed Rules for Trail of Cthulhu PDF - the rulebook as slim as it can go.

The Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF - a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game.


#12 Ramblurr

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Posted 19 October 2015 - 10:51 AM

Indeed, I picked the occupations based on their biographical information.

 

I made Lavalle an Antiquarian and Desmarais a Dilettante, not the best fit, but I wiggled 'em in.



#13 SpiderBobby

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 02:35 PM

I definitely agree with Tony.

Spoiler

 

Expanding the population makes a lot of sense, after a lot of low-powered purist Bookhounds games my players are after something a bit pulpy and sending a 6 man military squad to evacuate 3 families just seems bizarre.I think I'll borrow this idea if I may. 



#14 SpiderBobby

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 03:30 PM

I got this a it came very highly recommended but to be honest I'm finding that it comes off like a great concept that doesn't quite make a great game. Then again some things only really come alive in play and the setting is absolutely wonderful and very fully realised. So general questions/gripes (and I'm happy to be told with some of these that I'm being thick or missing the point):

 

The De La Rues, the TNT weirdness has already been mentioned (it seems to exist as nothing more than a scare for anyone having sex with Mrs De La Rue), but after that they arrive at the island and promptly vanish never to be seen again ? I assume they are off studying other cult sites/collecting crystals and acting as floating attackers for the players later on but I'd love to know what others did with them in their games.

 

The Black Drop say their plan is rubbish but my goodness it veers on the idiotic. Sailing to the far corners of the world is dangerous enough without surviving trekking the island and yet they only ever bring exactly the people the need so if anything goes wrong they are screwed. I fully expect my players to question that (I would), did other peoples players find it odd ? I understand that finding willing victims who believe them must be hard but surely they could bring a bigger boat with a few crewman who could become unwilling victims if need be (they might not want to use unwilling victims but if the world is at stake)? 

 

Murder. At first it seems like the priest needs to sacrifice before the god but then later it seems if TGotBS eats them that would count too or does the priest with his final act commit suicide. The god needs the 3 willing victims (6 rounds total) and the 'priest' (4 rounds) so if the priest. 

 

When the god appears investigators have to take a stability test but it doesn't say the Germans do...does the society's foreknowledge of what dwells here give them some protection ?

 

OK, hands up I don't really get the whole astronomical deal at all. The game mentions a 30 year cycle but the occulations/transits don't seem to come at exactly 30 year intervals so does the god rise on the first occulation/transit after 30 years of past (which could be several years later) ?

 

The god starts to stir after humans arrive in 1772 but why does it take until 1844 to attempt to try and escape (72 years later) and how do the Black Drop society find out what's going to happen (and become convinced this is true without witnessing it) and move to stop it. Again, my players are pretty dogged in trying to dig up origins and motivations which while often being impossible to understand for many characters in a cthulhu game doesn't seem an unfair line of enquiry here - TBDS are rational people with a plan ? Did your players wonder about this ? What did you say ?

 

The fact that, I think it's Adele, is quoting an obscure passage from a lost gospel the only sections of which were recorded in a Greek book (Panarion) strikes me as really odd, the players can identify with an appropriate spend but to what purpose other than to find it odd ?

 

Did you add any handouts/clues or change any, some of the ones that are available don't seem terribly helpful or interesting and then the Germans potentially info-dump everything into the players laps. 

 

Thanks for any help 


Edited by SpiderBobby, 25 August 2017 - 04:23 PM.


#15 Tony Williams

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 08:47 PM

It's been a while since I ran it but it went down very well in play ( it would have gone better without all the problems/errors with the PDF text mentioned above ).

 

It's essentially a railroad really but there are plenty of freaky scenes to upset the players.

 

Have some of the cult members survive "The Frenzy" so they can stalk the players to the mountain and add to the tension with periodic sneak attacks.

 

I had the youngest daughter act innocent during the frenzy so the players tried to "rescue" her by taking her with them to the mountain. She did her own sneak attack on them at an opportune time and they had to kill her.

 

I had the De La Rues found slaughtered as part of the bloody sheep sacrifice since I didn't know what to do with them after they disembarked and said goodbye to the players.

 

I didn't notice any astronomical discrepancies with the text but maybe I didn't read it closely enough - I'd suggest just altering the dates and times so it works.

 

The "real" reason the Germans don't bring enough people with them is because enough players have to decide to volunteer to sacrifice themselves at the end of the adventure. How you come up with an excuse for that is up to you. The Germans could have lost a lot of personnel due to a bad outbreak of disease caught on-route perhaps ?


Do you play Trail of Cthulhu ? You may find these downloads useful...

The Condensed Rules for Trail of Cthulhu PDF - the rulebook as slim as it can go.

The Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF - a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game.


#16 SpiderBobby

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 06:48 AM

Thanks, yeah I am a little worried about the railroad and am currently looking for a couple places that some small detours could be added.

 

The idea of The Black Drop having lost some people en route is good (should have thought of that myself !) and I'll definitely swipe that



#17 Tony Williams

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 09:42 AM

Some other thoughts - 

 

The French are evacuating 8 people off an island - two administrators seems ample for that task ( it's the settlers that have to pack and load their own belongings ) the players are only there to tell them what to do and fill out paperwork for them ( until "The Frenzy" starts! ). It's my recollection that the other 4 player characters are coming to the Kerguelens for their own purposes - not to help with the evacuation.

 

Some other suggestions - it definitely worked well for us to have the players spend 1 "normal" night in the settlement to get to know the women-folk of the colony ( the men are out at this time sacrificing sheep and chucking Pierre off the cliff ). The next day I had the Germans arrive and interact with the players - they then have plenty of local leads to explore:

Looking at the Black Altar

Finding the Missing German

Snooping around the colony buildings

 

In the evening have the 2 male cultists return without Pierre - Claudette ( and her player nephew ) should become worried.

Go to sleep -> "The Frenzy" breaks out -> have Claudette horribly murdered.

 

Take it from there...

 

P.S. Top tip: if you slaughter the De La Rues with the sheep like I did, have the sheep guts arranged in a circular ring on the ground with the mangled De La Rue bodies at opposite sides of the ring from each other. The players can either work it out for themselves or spend an Astronomy/Outdoorsman point to realise drawing a line between the two De La Rue corpses points directly to Mt. Lyall one way and the Black Altar the other way.


Edited by Tony Williams, 27 August 2017 - 09:56 AM.

Do you play Trail of Cthulhu ? You may find these downloads useful...

The Condensed Rules for Trail of Cthulhu PDF - the rulebook as slim as it can go.

The Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF - a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game.


#18 SpiderBobby

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 10:18 AM

I'm only planning 6 players as in the original game. I want to make most of them part of 'the team' as I'm just unconvinced by the idea of a ship trying to drag everyone off the (incredibly remote) islands letting sight-seers and academics tag along (what would academics actually learn in 2 weeks). A journalist on the other hand, documenting the abandoning of the island seems good. I thought I'd expand the settlers to maybe. As most of the players will be a bit handy I do plan to adjust the danger level accordingly. We've been playing Bookhounds for a while and I'm running this as a one off to let the players blow off a little shooty-stabby steam before we plunge back into purist bookhounds.

 

The timing you suggest sounds perfect to me...time to build some tension but not so much that it slows down

 

Loving the sheep slaughter ideas  creative sacrifice ideas are always 'fun'

 

Thanks for the suggestions


Edited by SpiderBobby, 27 August 2017 - 10:18 AM.