Eternal Lies SPOILERS GMs ONLY
Posted 25 April 2014 - 04:38 PM
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Posted 25 April 2014 - 08:25 PM
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Posted 25 April 2014 - 10:14 PM
You can't count on that.
One of the odd things about the Los Angeles chapter is the assumption that the PCs won't be chatting with him. Is there a dilettante in the party? The man attends charity functions. Is your party paranoid and trigger happy? Trammel varies his route -- that, at least, is actually specified, and I think it was the only thing keeping the person with the amazing firearms skill from taking a rifle and waiting on a convenient rooftop to pop him one.
Oh, one thing that came up that I improvised -- after talking to the gardener, the group decided to talk to his priest. I decided that the man was clueful (in a human sense, not a mythos one) and could say that the gardener's mother was perhaps a tad too rigid, and maybe that rubbed off on her son who maybe externalized sinful thoughts (as it's not like the priest was going to believe in a living mouth in the ground, nor did the PCs want him to). This meant the group put together the clue about asceticism that is totally there, but very subtle. You can slant the priest in other ways, of course -- and your group might not even go to him.
Posted 26 April 2014 - 06:03 PM
Thanks, Lisa. i've been thinking about your answer to my question about the blandness of NPCs, and I do understand your line of thought. I wonder whether Tatters of the King didn't go the same way… and yet the NPCs felt extremely powerful, looking back. Maybe that kind of apparently bland character forces the Keeper to flesh out the characters more than I realised. yet the question of Job, and the ending, still remain unresolved, IMHO
Posted 27 April 2014 - 06:04 AM
Tatters is a different animal. All of the cultists have motivations that make sense. There aren't that many of them. They're all doing different things. They all actually do have strong personalities -- if they're not mere monsters, which one or two are. This is one of the strengths of Tatters.
Heck, one player who's reprising his PC from Tatters has finally decided who his PC's mistress is -- Hillary Quarrie. She made quite an impression on him.
In Eternal Lies, the motivations aren't necessarily as well defined. Why did Trammel get into this? Why did Brooks or Donovan? Why is Sirikhan continuing to worship a god she doesn't trust? What did Echevarria see in Job that he could use? Why do Job and Ayers like each other? Currently, one has to make these answers one's own, which is as much a feature as a bug -- most of the time.
Posted 29 April 2014 - 08:32 AM
As much a feature as a bug, you're spot on. I really loved the cultists in Tatters. And yes, Hillary does leave a strong impression. In my campaign, she "hit" on one of the major characters, supposedly homosexual, and they had a sex ritual, out in the one at night with the others in attendance, to counteract the attack by the Thing in the woods. Sex seemed a much better weapon against the Goat of a Thousand Young than wringing chicken's necks.
Posted 01 May 2014 - 06:57 PM
In the same way that prospective Keepers have enhanced the campaign with props, creating text that was missing ) i.e. the Henslowe letters, etc...), I wonder whether collectively we could not try to overcome one of the problems of LE, important NPCs whose psychology and motivations are very very unclear. Who would feel inclined to create and share his own TRAMMEL, DONOVAN or AYERS with other Keepers?
Posted 01 May 2014 - 09:50 PM
I think we also need to distinguish between flat-but-playable NPCs -- that is, someone who doesn't have a lot of personality, but who doesn't need it for a Keeper to be able to play the NPC -- and NPCs where one really feels in desperate need of more information.
My Trammel I'm happy to go on about after I've updated some handouts for the other thread. But, Trammel's in the first category. I don't really need more information about him than the book gave. Could I use it? Yah, sure, but... the lack of it is part of what helped me personalize Trammel (still a Source of Sanity for one of the investigators).
Ayers and Job are problematic because of how important their relationship is and how critical Job is.
Ayers is so important that he counts as 2 out of 3 to convince Job to condemn himself to hell, and we get NOTHING of that in either an interview with Job or in the files of Dr. Keaton.
Job was picked by Echevarria because of his mathematical obsession. Again, NOTHING of this from the interview or the files.
Sirikhan is on the border, but probably closer to the first case. I just got annoyed by "well, this is someone the PCs can't break, and she won't talk to them, and here's what she knows in case they somehow use a clever logic puzzle to trap her, but she's really too smart for that, and anyway, she won't talk". Coming on top of the obvious desire to get the PCs into her pits, and coming on top of Pramoj being deliberately left a cipher -- why? Because that's what the authors want -- it was a bit much.
And Pramoj -- okay, you need to Reassure him to get the cookie by making him believe you won't eat it. So, investigators, you were thinking of being honest with someone who's not a threat to you? Bah! That's not allowed here! I don't like it. That's why I allowed Reassurance plus "Look, we're destroying the Mouth to the best of our ability, with or without your help. We think that if you help us, we can do it the right way, and we don't expect you to be the one at ground zero when we do it. Don't you want to make sure this has the best chance of not backfiring?"
I'm also annoyed at the bit of Ethiopia where the ONLY way to find Ayers is to use Interrogate on one of the guardians. Really? We have to jump through that particular hoop, and only that hoop? Because it's fine if the Investigators come all this way, know they want to talk to Ayers, know Ayers is there, but, whoops, sorry, they're trying Flattery instead, supplemented with a trip to Dallol where, maybe, they lose the one person who had the Interrogation skill? No. I'm looking for backup plans, in case, for some strange reason, the investigators don't want to use Interrogate on an ally.
Okay, done venting. Will try to do a post on my take on the different personalities of the cultists.
Posted 02 May 2014 - 05:33 AM
My take on some of the NPCs in Eternal Lies:
Walter Winston was a paranoid guy, quite possibly not without reason. In my game, a player (who later dropped, sadly) and I came to realize that his PC, who was Winston's nurse / bodyguard, may have been his illegitimate daughter. She'd dealt with cultists who'd attacked Winston, even if she didn't know that's what they were.
He never wrote back to Henslowe. Self preservation? Fear that Henslowe was a cultist? To a certain degree, he's a fink -- but, then again, what would happen if he'd backed Henslowe up? And just what kind of better life did Winston have?
Mrs. Henslowe may have opinions about Walter Winston, as this is the guy her son's reaching out to, and he never lifts a finger to help.
There are two sets of players' aid cards out there. I used the first for Katherine Clark, which means that Katherine Clark in my game was Black. This says something about Douglas Henslowe -- reread his words about her. This Douglas, a man from Savannah, Georgia, accepts a Black woman as a comrade in arms. That's a fascinating character note.
My players chose not to tell anyone at Joy Grove that Walter Winston was dead. This meant Henslowe continued to write, though in a much happier state of mind, as they let him think Walter sent them. This concerned Dr. Keaton -- the man's a hypocrite and a control freak, but probably thinks he's an ethical man, just doing what he must to keep Edgar Job where Job can get help. I also had an interesting accident which made my Keaton even less admirable. He cited the Hippocratic Oath in his letter to Janet Winston-Rogers -- incorrectly! I'd wondered about that, but didn't bother to look it up. Basically, his letter to her sounded like "I cannot countenance head games with my patients", but really meant "If you want me to countenance that, I'll need you to make another large donation."
Edgar Job is a challenge and a problem because of how ill-defined he is, but I've been working on that, and I'll talk about him some other time, when I've my thoughts in order.
I think of Captain Walker as played by Christopher Walken, to get the serious bad ass factor in. But, he's not a cultist. He respects superior firepower coupled with money in my game, and he backed down in the face of that. He was also appalled that Pizner a) tried to beat up a sweet young thing without even trying to bribe her first, failed to beat her up, c) spilled the beans and lost his gun, and d) lied about it. Given that at that point, the cultists assumed the mobster investigator was in charge, he met with that investigator to apologize and pay the thousand that Pizner should have offered -- yes, they were at war; yes, the were totally lying to each other and pretending this was purely a matter of fitting Walker's operation into the mob -- but that didn't mean they needed to be uncivilized about it! The mobster turned the money down, but respected the gesture, and he and Walker agreed that it would go to a religious charity.
Of the cultists in Echevarria's circle:
Samson Trammel's the most religious one, I think. He's writing a holy book. He's not lying to his own cultists, as far as I can tell. My Trammel's got a complicated relationship with the investigators, but that's for another post.
Savitree Sirikhan is the smartest. She's like a woman I know -- a gamer, a scholar, absolutely brilliant -- if she were a) Siamese and completely insane and evil. The problem I have with Savitree is that the authors' instructions in playing her are "She tries to kill the PCs in her hunt, which you should totally try to do, but if they ever get the upper hand, she refuses to engage with them." Bleah.
My Savitree was targeting one of the investigators not for a hunt, but as the one who knew stuff. She had a little time to talk to him before his friends rescued him and captured her. At that point, I played her as willing to talk about certain things, to a point -- she had learned more in half an hour from that investigator than she'd learned in ten years, and the group had given her two leads. She might have been willing to agree to an alliance, but, understandably, no one was about to offer her one she considered acceptable. She very much wanted to know what was going on in the Yucatan and with Ayers in Ethiopia once she knew that these data points existed.
Oh yes -- she also knew exactly where to look and who the Liar was. She just thought she was wrong because she hadn't yet learned all of the conditions on the ground. But, she was actually correct in her theory. She worked it out.
Jonathan Brooks looked up to Trammel and got set up with everything he asked for in Mexico City. He fell in love and had a "marriage" by the Mouth of Mexico City. He's into mixing music and Nectar, but everything's falling apart on him, and Trammel's understandable disappointment with Brooks's lack of results combines with what Brooks learns. Brooks is turning on Trammel, and the sad thing is that it's not Trammel's fault. Trammel's wrong about who the Liar is, yes. Trammel is no Echevarria, yes. But, Trammel is telling the truth, as far as Trammel knows it.
Ramon Echevarria is charismatic and narcissistic, and that second needs to come out in play. Echevarria's dead, but other people can remember him, and talk or write about it in their libraries. This is a man who wanted to have Azathoth destroy the world so that he would either become a god or become the most important human because he was the one responsible for destroying the world.
He's got people eating out of his hand. And, he can't resist dropping hints and boasting. He drops the hint to Buchwald, because he knows that's utterly safe. Buchwald won't put it together and won't talk to anyone. George Ayers figures out something's going on, and I think Samson Trammel must have just been in the right place at the right time when Ayers confronted Echevarria, because, frankly, Samson Trammel, former real estate salesman? He's just not that smart when it comes to figuring out he's being manipulated. So, he and Ayers heard Ramon Echevarria's fall back lie about what they were worshiping.
And, after the **** hits the fan and folks pick themselves up? You'll note that Trammel tells Sirikhan what he's learned. He is honest with her and with Brooks. He is no Echevarria. He doesn't lie to his own. I love this about him. Trammel is honest in the service of the Liar. He is good to people he thinks are trying their best for him. But, and this is important, he doesn't love. At least, my Trammel doesn't love, except possibly his god. (My Trammel is currently seriously messed up and in love with his god, but that's for another post and might change in play.)
Montgomery Donovan's fairly straightforward. He found Trammel, got what he wanted, figured out what he needed to do to ensure his position, and then couldn't do it. He's mourning his wife and son, and desperately lying to himself and to any investigator who'll listen in a desperate attempt to save him self and abdicate responsibility. Not to save his son -- he does want to save Monty, yes, but his attempt to save his own skin and rewrite his personal history are getting in the way. Play this as complex as written and the investigators are quite likely to kill the man, which I consider reasonable. You can slant him as more sympathetic, willing to die if that will save Monty, but that's not how he's written as default.
George Ayers is the man who actually knows stuff. He's done enough research to call Echevarria on his crap -- and enough thereafter to suspect he was still being sold a lie. He found the right dig.
So, this is a man who cares about the truth, but still falls under Echevarria's sway. When he's in Ethiopia, he's sending stuff back to Echevarria because he is afraid Echevarria's cutting him off and he wants to prove he's useful. Note that he's not afraid that Echevarria will hurt or kill him. He's outside of Echevarria's reach. He is afraid to lose influence over Echevarria, to lose Echevarria's approval. This may or may not be personal -- it may just be that he wants to be part of the inner circle of the cult.
But why? I have absolutely no idea why George Ayers wanted to worship some weird god whose identity he didn't even know. Trammel? The sex, and then the power, and then, the faith. He's a true believer. Sirikhan? You know, as with Ayers, I'm not sure. It's less of an issue, though, because of her mix of sadomasochism and the new flavor of Nectar. But, I'd still like a better answer to "why did she decide to keep on worshipping that thing?" I have part of one. She made Daniel Lowman a promise. She seems to keep her promises, at least to her own. And she's got what my group called "an auditor" in the person of Pramoj. One of the investigators said, "Oh, I understand -- you're a scientist, aren't you?"
But Ayers? I see why he wants to know the truth. Why does he want belong to the cult? What is he, in particular, getting out of it?
And what causes the friendship between Ayers and Job? I totally don't understand this. I don't yet even have enough to make it up well enough to convince me.
One thing about Job is that Job wants attention and approval. Ayers probably gave that to him. But, why?
Let's even say they just hit it off. So, why is Ayers taking this guy to join his cult?
What is Ramon Echevarria seeing in Job? I'm guessing the strength and math obsession -- and, by the by, why did Job commit armed robbery anyway?
Now, I totally get what Job sees in Echevarria. Charismatic cult leader gives him drugs, sex, and the thing he craves most -- attention. Approval. Job will be eating out of his hand. I totally get why Job killed the man who killed Echevarria.
But, of course, Job and Ayers have both had a long time to think, and both now know Echevarria and his god were playing therm.
Is this helpful to folks?
On a completely different set of topics:
My group created two items. One is the Locksley Overcoat, with all of Martin Locksley's notes, in his own personal shorthand, sewn into it.
Another is Savitree's arm-with-minor-mouth in a box. There's actually a reason for this; Lillian wants to test whatever cure they find in Ethiopia for her comrade Vito, who is similarly afflicted, on the arm first, and has no idea of how much of a non-starter that is.
Lillian has pickled the arm, hoping that this will make the Mouth on it less likely to eat it. She's also feeding it, hoping the same. I think that if she's feeding it meat, it will eat the meat, not the arm, at least for the most part.
She's also gagging it as needed to keep it from drawing undue attention, as an arm in a box is hard to explain. Given it will bite through cloth, the player figures a rock shoved in the mouth and then cloth tied around the rock is the way to go.
This brings up the question of whether the Minor Mouths can eat rocks. I'm not sure they can -- what do you figure? My guess is that the Mouth
can shift out from under the rock over a period of time.
The pickled arm, Henslowe's journal, Trammel's Testament, and the Mouth-afflicted investigator all count as artifacts of the Liar for Tshombe's purposes. Does the Locksley Overcoat, which has the information the group gathered on the Liar prior to Bangkok? If so, is it something the Liar might make combust if not protected by a magic rock?
Now, the actual rock is with Henslowe's journal in a safety deposit box in Los Angeles. Trammel's book might be as well (I'm checking on this with the players). One of the things folks were searching for in Savitree's library is information on magic rocks like the one Henslowe had. What might there be there to be found?
Folks have found out a bit from the Ethiopia end already, but I want to either
a. give them something useful-but-not-campaign-breaking from Savitree's library or
b. say "you're not going to find anything on that topic, so I'm not charging and you can pick something else juicy to look for"
I'm not sure I want something that protects against the Liar's scrying to fall into their hands until they leave Ethiopia.
On the other hand, something with a stiff price... if they choose to create it, it drains resources, but has payoff in that they can vanish from Tshombe's visions and the Liar. And hey, Dallol Afar can still physically follow them. (How do you handle "I use my Stealth to evade people who know the desert better than I do in an EFFING DESERT where people can see folks for about a mile away"?)
What anti-scrying spells exist in CoC or ToC?
What kind of like-the-Henslowe-rock spell could one hand a group of PCs that won't be useless (they're paying for it), but won't be campaign breaking?
Posted 02 May 2014 - 07:45 AM
I can't say anything about the weird artefacts, SPECIALLY the arm-in-the-box-with rock-in-Mouth, ughhhhh.... But the character definitions and questions you write down echo mine, and point exactly to what bugs me with EL. For the first time in a long, long, long time I have found a new sprawling campaign.... and something is missing that is extremely important for it to work narratively. Not to go back to flogging a particular dead horse of mine but what is narrative in a movie or a book? there has always been this feud between those who believe action comes first, and those who believe character comes first. Well action comes from motivations which comes from character ( very roughly) so if you know intimately your characters the narrative will unfold smoothly... and if the characters are flawed, the action will stall or stretch disbelief too far. At the moment I don't even know if I can salvage EL as a workable campaign for my group, even with all thoe good things in it and all the outside work
Posted 02 May 2014 - 08:24 PM
Oh, I think it's totally runnable -- and there are a bunch of us currently running it. You need to decide your own spin on some things, yes. And there's the one big one to untangle.
So, first, do you want to run this? If so, start from the premise. Are you going with JWR recruiting the PCs? Do you want a different angle? There's a post about having all of the investigators being family members of Winston's old group, which could work well.
Once you have that, think about Edgar Job. Is he a mathematical genius? Yes, I know that the text says he isn't, but forget that. You need to decide what clues you want here. What makes him the focus? Also, consider what happens if the investigators try to kill Job. In my group, one thought about it, but specifically asked another to talk him out of it (in character), and she came up with a reason he hated, but understood. What do you want the Ayers-Job relationship to be like?
Less important questions involve the armed robberies and Echevarria, but you want to settle these now. This is because of the interview with Job and the files at Joy Grove.
Everything else can wait -- this covers you through Savannah, and you need this much before you look at the other things.
Posted 03 May 2014 - 02:26 PM
Thanks for the help, Lisa. I think as things stand I'll wait until Pelgrane release the new version of the ending, and hope they have found something good. As things stand, I fear spoiling something that might be great later. I waited years before embarking on BTMOM, I can wait a few months for EL...
Posted 05 May 2014 - 07:00 PM
Posted 05 May 2014 - 08:42 PM
To be clear: There are many reasons Job and Ayers could have hit it off. It would have been nice to have been given at least one.
Posted 08 May 2014 - 12:41 PM
Lisa, your account of your campaign on your blog is making me rethink my earlier misgivings.
Posted 08 May 2014 - 06:14 PM
Thanks for the reminder -- I've half a dozen more write ups to add there, and last night's to write up. (I may have to photograph one of the handouts, as one of the players annotated it in ink. It's one of our sillier efforts, I think...)
Posted 08 May 2014 - 06:23 PM
Basically, the biggest issue with any scenario of pretty much any game with a GM is going to be how well a novice GM can run it. EL can go a number of ways, and the extra subplot I added wasn't planned. Ideally what you want for EL -- and you need this for Our Ladies of Sorrow and you want it for Tatters of the King -- is a lot of player buy-in on the emotional level. The players can be cool as ice, but the PCs should be connected.
One of the things EL does is talk about really using Sources of Stability in a long campaign as more than just "Okay, so I talk to Source #2 and get some Stability back." You want those Sources to have names and personalities and to show up in different contexts. You want to look at how the investigators change over time, at what their activities cost them, emotionally.
To be fair, you don't have to do this. You can totally run a cerebral or pulpy shoot-em version. EL will support this, just like Tatters will. But, both encourage adding this dimension.
Posted 08 May 2014 - 06:47 PM
Did you do a write-up of yr Ladies of Sorrow campaign? I just played the two first scenarios and they had a haunting quality.
Also, I see that you unfortunately have had to contend with a rather high number of players having to leave the game for IRL reasons, pity. Thank God Martin Lilian and Joyce are still there at the time of writing, the interaction between those three is priceless: Bright Young Things meet Great Old Ones
Posted 08 May 2014 - 08:53 PM
I've not run OLoS, and until I read somewhere on this site about a run of it, I wasn't sure certain things would work in play. I'd consider running it now, but it's a somewhat different flavor of horror than I'm comfortable with.
Posted 09 May 2014 - 07:57 AM
I won't hijack a thread ( AGAIN) but reading your account of EL, I think you'd excel at OLOS. It has excellent NPCs, intriguing premises, the opportunity to evolve in an environment that seems very normal and yet is full of secrets and genuine scares ( first scenario)