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Running Blackwater Creek - advice, adjustments?

Jazz Age

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#1 dulcamara


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Posted 10 October 2017 - 06:30 PM

I'm planning to run this scenario in the next couple weeks, just wanted to hear from folks who've tried it.


In some ways as-written it's pretty open ended, especially because the scenario presents two completely different adventure hooks & investigator types. Our current group is more on the academic side of things so they'll be heading out there to investigate Professor Rhoade's disappearance.


Any thoughts on how to keep things fairly focused and keep the narrative running along at a good clip?


Were you satisfied with how the Mother's Gift mechanics worked as written, or did you change anything up there? Seems that it might be hard for any investigators to emerge from the scenario without being tainted, probably heavily so. Since we'll be using ongoing characters I'm a little leery of inflicting that on all survivors, and having it be one of the main focuses of their stories going forward.


As always I'm considering whether some additional handouts & investigation backstory would add some depth to the scenario.


Any other advice is welcome too. Thanks in advance.

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#2 Lupine1927



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Posted 14 October 2017 - 03:14 AM

Hi again! :)


So, like I said, I haven't run this yet, but I plan to do so in about a week, and I can tell you what I'm planning at least. I'm a brand new Keeper, though, so please bear with me.


Glad to hear you're using the MU angle. It certainly seems like the strongest starting point to me for the scenario, mostly because I think it would be really easy to connect players to Roades and get them to care about trying to find him.


I haven't fiddled with any scenario mechanics, though (mostly because I'm still trying to learn them), but like I said before I'm probably going to tone down the Mother's Gift for the PCs, possibly by having it cap out at Stage 2 or something, so they can't really go truly nuts with it. Since your players are going to be part of an ongoing campaign, I totally agree with you that you probably don't want them to get infected and then have to deal with that for an entire campaign.


As for the handouts, I have made a few changes. Since one of my PCs is going to be a folklorist and I have an academic background in anthropology, I was planning to make some extra legends surrounding the Black Earth People for him to find in the library. Specifically, I've decided they saw Shub as a variation on the Great Horned Serpent, which is a powerful and terrifying healing entity in a number of Native American legends. Since the Black Earth People already have connections to snakes, it seemed like an easy thing to add. So, I've found a legend about a woman marrying a Great Horned Serpent, and I plan to rewrite it to reflect how local native tribes saw the Black Earth People, but couched in metaphor and such (though a careful reading will later lead to clues about the powers of folks like Ben Carmody).


Mostly, though, I've spent the past two weeks making an extremely detailed prop of Roades' field journal. I bought a small brown leather notebook and I've filled it with journal entries, drawings of artifacts he's found during his digs, comments on his students and Abigail, a map of the cave (to which I added drawings of petroglyphs to that depict a strange figure giving birth to a snake), and much more, including Roades' descent into madness after Abigail gets eaten by Shub. Once I've finished writing it, I plan to get it wet and dirty, throw some fake ketchup on it, then dry it out and give it to the players if they either find Roades' camp or find Roades in the basement. Then they can have all the fun of attempting to decipher my awful cursive and also find clues to what's really going on! ;)


What kind of additional handouts or backstory additions were you considering for your game?

Edited by Lupine1927, 14 October 2017 - 03:15 AM.

#3 dulcamara


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Posted 14 October 2017 - 11:00 PM

That's awesome! When I ran Edge of Darkness last year and was asking for advice, there was one Keeper who did a similar full-length journal for Rupert Merriweather. Those things wind up being little works of art in their own way, I love how CoC encourages these projects.


I'm always a little leery about the length of handouts given to my players, even some of the published scenario handouts I worry they break up the momentum when players have to stop & read a few pages of text. So I try to divide them into a larger amount of shorter tidbits. It's kind of a fun effect that way because it really gives the impression of accumulating clues. Journals like the one you're doing are sort of along that line too, in that each entry can be its own discrete clue - wish I had the time for something like that.


My campaign last left off in Nov 1924, so the chronology is a little off - we're going to fast forward to Sept 1925 and say the investigators agreed to meet that following year, then do a quick run-thru of what each character's been up to in the meantime. So I'll have some handouts & backstory worked out there. I have some old-school telegram & newspaper templates for that.


For example, one of our characters is a German aesthete of noble lineage - in the last scenario he inherited a manuscript of unsettling German forest folktales with grotesque engravings. In his research during the hiatus he'll discover some references to The Black Goat of the Wood & maybe legend or two about a demented fertility cult in the forested area where the manuscript originated from. This will serve as an intro to Shub and then some of the stuff in Blackwater Creek will seem eerily familiar (like you say, maybe also some hints toward the control of vermin & such).


One of our investigators is connected to the Arkham criminal world, so he'll be sent to check out the bootlegging operation as sort of a side errand. I want that to still be secondary to the search for Rhoades (i.e. that character won't be sent to actually claim control of the distillery), but at least give them some idea who the Carmodys are when/if they encounter them.


I'm going to rewrite some of the accounts of Cade's Rest and the Siacook (sp?), again maybe breaking up those handouts into a few pieces.


There will be a couple planned encounters on the way to BWC just to set the tone.


Other than the Mother's Gift mechanics (which Scott convinced me to leave intact) I wasn't committed to making any major changes. Hence asking here, I guess! I felt like the advice I'd gotten for EoD (which was my first CoC Keeping) was super helpful and directly led to me adjusting the clues for better story flow. So hopefully someone else will chime in. I'll definitely give a recap/report after our first session and thereafter.


The one other issue is that our group might be a little large to start - 6ish players. I'm going to go with that even if it's not my preference, with the assumption that scheduling conflicts will probably claim a couple of those. But if we *do* have that many investigators I'll increase some of the hazards, plus make a point of them being a very noticeable group.


There's the potential for quite a bit of gunfighting (Carmodys and sheriff both), which I have mixed feelings about. At the same time, the isolation & hostility of the town is sort of a character in its own right so that danger is pretty apt.

#4 Gaffer


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Posted 15 October 2017 - 03:21 PM

Awesome stuff, Lupine. But I must recommend using real ketchup, the fake stuff never turns out right. ;p

...In his research during the hiatus he'll discover some references to The Black Goat of the Wood & maybe legend or two about a demented fertility cult in the forested area where the manuscript originated from.
There's the potential for quite a bit of gunfighting (Carmodys and sheriff both), which I have mixed feelings about. At the same time, the isolation & hostility of the town is sort of a character in its own right so that danger is pretty apt.

I suggest his researches make clear that said cult was thoroughly obliterated, lest the group suddenly decamp for the Schwarzwald or wherever.
"Two in the head, you know he's dead." <heh-heh>

#5 WinstonP


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Posted 15 October 2017 - 04:21 PM

It's tangential to the scenario but I used Blackwater Creek as an example on my methods for developing pseudo-historical cemeteries for my long-in-development Graveyards of Lovecraft Country on my Patreon page. Currently backers only in afraid.



My blogs - Tomes in Progress (personal); Sentinel Hill Press (The Arkham Gazette and more)
Sentinel Hill Press on G+; Facebook; Twitter; Patreon

#6 Enerod


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Posted 15 October 2017 - 05:43 PM

Just several things that came to my mind about this scenario :


- Think about the role of the sheriff, mostly on his reaction : you might try to play him differently according to what the players are doing (for example, when I've runned it, he followed, with other villagers, the PC's when they went to the cave, and waited at the entrance). Same goes with the Carmody : they don't want to be disturbed and to draw attention to them (also, the henchmen at the Carmody's farm can also become interesting characters : they've been her long enough to be aware that some crazy stuff is happening, but not long enough to be completely corrupted, so they might join the players, don't use them only as meatshield for the Carmody).


- Think also on how you want the village to be : does everyone is more or less siding with the sheriff or not ? 


- Players might have their attention drawn to the wood, even after the first encounter so you might also think about more stuff that might be found there



- You definitely shouldn't increase the hazards, the scenario is already quite deadly and balanced for a group of 6 investigators : there are many small encounters that are already able to kill an unsuspicious investigator 



- You might want to flesh out the "nice encounters", like the guy at the general store or the good farmers : having more legends surrounding the place that can be discussed, and also more stuff about the Rhoades expedition 

#7 Fabio



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Posted 16 January 2018 - 07:20 AM

Hi fellow Keepers,
I'm running Blackwater Creek this Saturday from a gangster/Bootleggers perspective (my players usual play traditional CoC characters) & was after:
a) any advice
b) did you hand out the map that was included in the scenario ?
Any help would be much appreciated. I have watched Seth Skorkowsky's entertaining video. 
Thank you.

#8 ScottDorward


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Posted 17 January 2018 - 02:06 PM

I've never handed out the map to the players. The area is remote and obscure enough that the investigators are unlikely to find many details ahead of time. The map in the scenario also contains some locations that most locals won't even know about.


My usual approach is just to describe the area to the players during the game and maybe produce a rough sketch map of major points of interest if they ask.

#9 Lupine1927



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Posted 18 January 2018 - 12:16 AM

To answer your questions:


a) For running the bootleggers, I suggest following the advice of others on this forum and add an extra goal for your bootleggers: getting a detailed recipe for the Carmody's booze. Doing so forces the PCs to do some investigating, something my bootlegger PCs weren't otherwise inclined to do. As for how forthcoming Damien is with the recipe, well...there are a LOT of ways to lead PCs to their deaths out there, especially when you're telepathically connected to something like Brendan. When I ran the first leg of the bootlegger side of things, I had Damien take them to the creek, where he tried to ditch them there in the hopes they would die, since they didn't successfully convince him they weren't planning to kill them. We have another session yet to see how that pans out.


B) I didn't give the bootleggers any kind of map at all, especially since I chose to withhold more details from them, such as the Carmody name (again, I wanted them to investigate more). However, when I did the professor side of things, I had one of Rhoades' former students sketch a vague map, and the PCs filled it in with more stuff as they found it. If you do give them any kind of map, I'd do something vague, like maybe the river, the bridge, the town and the wood, and let them fill in their own details. My players enjoyed getting to do that, anyway.


My only real suggestion for the bootlegger side of things is to try to give them lots of reasons to stick in town for a while, beyond just the possibility of a massive fire-fight. I don't know if you're using the pregenerated characters or if your players made their own PCs, but if any of them have another connection to the town or anyone in it, that's all the better. McBride telling them to go, while useful, isn't always the strongest motive to stick around town once scary stuff starts to go down.

#10 Fabio



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Posted 19 January 2018 - 06:31 AM

Thank you Scott & Lupine1927. Points taken on board.


My players seem to mix it up with 2 pre gens ( 1 of which comes from Blackwater Creek) & the other 2 rolled up. That's where my dilemma is about the map, because one of them comes from there.


More of a reason/ extra goal, I will implement.


Thank you again & much appreciated advice.

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