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Pulpcraft

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About this blog

I've told my players we are doing a low magic Fate Core pulp game set in the 1920s, and inspired by Indiana Jones and The Mummy trilogy. What we are actually doing is playing through the new version Masks of Nyarlathotep with most of optional pulp encounters, but they don't need to know that yet.

 

You can find out more about how I'm using Fate to run a classic Call of Cthulhu scenario, look here. If you want to start with the first episode: Escape from Dragon Island, that's here, although the proper start is with the character creation session.

Entries in this blog

Episode 08 (New York) - The Will and the Ambush

In which the players hear the last will and testament of their good friend Jackson Elias. Also, the cult tries to kill them and Declan gets slapped by his Ex.   Reminder: My players don't entirely know they are playing through Masks of Nyarlathotep. As far as they know, this is a 1920s Pulp themed Fate Core game. This article does contain spoilers for the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep.   Cast of Player Characters This Episode *Lin Ru-Shi - A Hong Kong street urchin that grew up to be a martial artist thief. Lord Declan MacManus - A minor Irish Lord and Great War pilot turned smuggler. Lives on his flying boat and has a way with the ladies. Salim Dali - A negotiator, translator, expedition assistant extraordinaire. Abdul “Abe” Tepema - An Englishman of color, born in Egypt, he has a little knowledge of the old magic, and is a skilled detective. Sebastian Sullivan - An amateur student of the arcane, driven from Arkham and currently operating as a less than-impressive detective. The player of Lin Ru-Shi wasn't able to attend so I worked with the player to describe what happened to her while the rest of the players were doing their thing, and then used those details to feed into the session everyone else was involved in.   Last Time... When we last left our cast of globetrotting explorers, they had attended Jackson Elias's funeral, raided a secret cult ritual chamber, and even done a bit of investigation. Having read Jackson's notes, seen his passport, and read the copy of Africa's Dark Sects they had taken from the chamber under the Ju Ju House, they now had some idea that there was an international conspiracy invovling a cult of the bloody tongue, and that they were somehow linked to Larkin, or at least his tattoo.   Sidelining Lin Ru-Shi As I mentioned before, Ru-Shi's player wasn't able attend the game so I worked with them the day before the session with the rest of the players and ran Ru-Shi through her own personal adventure.   Since Detective Robson was blackmailed into finding someone else to take the fall for the Harlem murders (by Salim pretending to a Federal Agent) he decided to to use one of the foreigners hanging around the new ritual chamber crime scene, and being a corrupt cop, turned to his criminal contacts to find one of them.  The Italian mob, as you may recall, had mistaken Ru-Shi for a yakuza scout. (Yes, they mistook her for Japanese, it was that bad of a roll.) They knew where she was staying, and that she didn't enter the country in anyway that left a record.   Ru-Shi woke up as the cops were bashing in her hotel door and gracefully dived out the window onto the fire escape, where a police officer was waiting with a sap. When she woke she was in the Harlem Police station. A detective interrogated her, letting her know they found a box of jewelry associated with Harlem murder victims, and several missing people from Harlem, in her room. Very convenient as it was so much better than the evidence they were planning to plant in her room. What the detective wanted was Silas and his boss Mukunga, but unless they could find him she'd have to take the fall instead. Disappointed she didn't know where they were, and after letting slip details about the criminal organization they now realized was a cult, he had her thrown in lock-up downstairs.   Ru-Shi of course arranged for a prison break before the night was over and escaped over the rooftops while the police were busy trying to round up all the other criminals. She then used clues the detective let slip to track down a cult hideout, a flop house above the speakeasy "Fat Maybell's" and managed to stumble into a cult ceremony. She escapes thanks to her martial arts skills, but not without suffering a pranga (African machete) blow to the body on her way out.   Detectives and Nightmares Both Abe and Sebastian are detective characters so when their players weren't able to attend the previous session, we decided they were off running down details on members of the Carlyle Expedition when most of the previous session happened (although we decided their characters had been there for the funeral.) I had each of them roll to turn up details on an expedition member of their choice and then handed them handouts on Ms. Masters and Sir Penhew.   I also took the opportunity to hit Abe with another nightmare. He had been having them ever since Peru, and typically involved a hooded figure trapped in a gold cage trying in vain to whisper, he assumed, to him.  Now, the room the cage was in was clearly an underground space where the angles were wrong. 4 walls and 5 corners. The gilded Peruvian cage was in one corner, but something dark was unseen in each of the others.   Message From Beyond the Grave Declan's cousin the detective got a hold of Declan in the morning to let him know that Ru-Shi had been arrested, and then escaped custody the night before, and that as her known accomplices, the Harlem cops would likely be looking for them.  They were advised to stay away from Harlem.  Instead they went shopping for disguises and then headed to the Jackson's Lawyer's office to hear Jackson's will read.  They noticed an unmarked police car down the street keeping an eye on the building and managed to wedge a potato into the tailpipe without being caught, then proceeded into the building disguised and in separate groups without the police catching on.   Jackson turned out to have made a small fortune off his haul from Peru, and he left roughly half of it to his publishing house to encourage them to keep printing books on the occult, particularly those debunking it. The other half was used to make a trust to help fund further investigations along his most recently lines of research. He also included a personal letter, written recently, imploring his good friends to take up the cause that he assumed was likely the cause of his death. The fund contained the modern equivalent of a quarter million dollars, but the lawyer was quick to point out he was in charge of the fund and would require documentation and receipts suitable for IRS investigation he was positive a rich black man's estate would would draw.  The players agreed that they were interested in learning more about the cult and whatever secret plot Jackson had started to uncover. Some from vengeance, some from curiosity, and some from greed.   As the players left the building they were attacked by the cult, who had clearly also been watching the lawyer's office. They attempted to the run the players down with a stolen truck, and then had a half dozen cultists, one with a Tommy gun, pour of the truck to try and finish the group off. It was a brutal fight in the snow, and Abe was actually lit on fire, but eventually they downed 4 of the cultist and sent the other two running off. The players also somewhat regretted disabling the police car as it prevented the detectives from being much help.  The PC did manage to get away before the cops could arrest any of them. The wrecked truck burning in the snowbank was a good distraction. It also let them steal the detectives' unmarked car.   Declan's Ex The players decided to follow up a different lead that also gave them an excuse to get out of the city for a while and visited the Carlyle mansion north of the city.  As it turns out, Declan and Erica had some history, going back to around the time she had a run in with a mob boss and ended up with Joe Corey in her employ.  She actually let the players into the mansion purely so she could slap Declan across the face for leaving her without even phone call or letter. Eventually the group managed to talk Erica into listening to them about some kind of conspiracy involving her Brother's death. They managed to avoid telling her anything too outlandish, and she disbelieved a lot of what they said anyway, but eventually she admitted that Roger had been into some strange occult things in the time before he left for his expedition.  This led into a conversation about his strange books, and Erica agreed to let the group see the books, but to not let them out of her house.   The players ended up staying for a couple of days, basically living in the mansion's library, taking notes on several strange occult books that had been in Roger's safe. Most of the books were of a generic occult nature but one book described an Englishman that had taken up worship of an Egyptian sorcerer known as the Pharaoh of Darkness. Another book described an Egyptian sorceress queen. Both details caught Abe's attention, considering he was originally alive in the time period between those to entities. (Note: Reminder that Abe is a mummy but neither the other characters nor the players at the table know that.)   While most of the party studied the texts and wrote notes as quickly as possible, Declan proceeded to make an ass out of himself trying to prove his worth in Erica's eyes by besting Joe. He lost a fist fight and resorted to a competition more his strength: drinking. He was ultimately successful in out drinking the large man, but Erica didn't seem interested.   Having collected what information they could, and realizing that Erica had gotten bored of watching Joe punch Declan in the face on a semi-regular schedule, the group headed out of the mansion and back into town, ditching their stolen police car at a train station.   Next Time: Darkness and Monsters   Art Credit: Page 129 from Masks of Nyarlathotep, Handout.

Episode 07 (New York) - The Ju Ju House

In which the players face a dark chamber of supernatural horrors and attend a funeral.   Reminder: My players don't entirely know they are playing through Masks of Nyarlathotep. As far as they know, this is a 1920s Pulp themed Fate Core game. This article does contain spoilers for the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep.   Cast of Player Characters This Episode Lin Ru-Shi - A Hong Kong street urchin that grew up to be a martial artist thief. Lord Declan MacManus - A minor Irish Lord and Great War pilot turned smuggler. Lives on his flying boat and has a way with the ladies. Salim Dali - A negotiator, translator, expedition assistant extraordinaire.   The players of Abdul “Abe” Tepema and Sebastian Sullivan were not present, so we decided that after last session the two "detective" characters decided to go off and do some research.   Last Time... When we last left our cast of globetrotting explorers, they had come to New York at the request for Jackson Elias, and arrived just in time to find his cultist murders standing over his corpse. They began investigating what Jackson had gotten himself into on his recent globetrotting. Clearly a cult, possibly associated with Larkin from the Peru adventures, had decided to kill him because he knew too much. Among the local leads the players met with shady importer/exporter Emerson, who helped them track down the Ju Ju House.   Hello Shop Keep The players head to the Ju Ju House, an Africana shop in Harlem, to talk with the owner Silas, a name found on a business card on Jackson's body, and the man Emerson indicated wasn't entirely in his right mind. Before walking down an alleyway into the Ju Ju Shop, they scouted the block, a set of apartments with ground floor shop fronts, creating a possible escape route through an out of business pawnshop, and chatting up a local rare occult bookstore owner.   Having learned what they could, they walked into Silas's shop and came face to face with what turned out to be a little old African man. Initially confused by the clear foreigners in his shop, he first tried to sell them some African trinkets, but as they started asking more pointed questions he decided they weren't customers and his entire demeanor changed. He demanded they leave his shop, and when they failed to comply, he began yelling to his neighbors that strange foreigners were assaulting him.  So Salim knocked him the hell out.   The players began searching the shop for clues, but sounds from outside made it clear the neighbors in the apartments above were concerned about Silas's yelling, so Salim strode out of the shop yelling as he had just lost a nasty bout of bargaining with Silas.  This stopped the neighbors in their windows from coming down to investigate, but they continued to watch the alleyway from their windows.   They left Silas knocked out behind the counter and searched the room, discovering a lock box containing the shop cash and Silas's bloody tongue headband.  Declan started searching behind the counter, noticing what might be a hatch in the floor under a rug, but found Silas was starting to come around and so chocked him unconscious... and then some.  The rest of the group, realizing he was dying, dragged him out to get him help, which caused the neighbors hanging out their windows to realize something terrible was happening.  A mob formed, and things got interesting. Salim and the rest of the group tried to keep the situation under control, including bundling Silas into a cab to the hospital, but Ru-Shi used the distraction to slip back into the shop and picked the lock on the floor hatch. Under the hatch was a set of stairs that looked carved out of the foundations in an odd way.   The PCs decided to come back later that night, knowing Silas wouldn't be there, and the neighbors would be asleep.   Down in a Hole Around 3am, the group returned to the store, and Ru-Shi picked the lock on the door and the hidden hatch.  They found a set of stairs going down into darkness. The steps and tunnel had been carved out of the foundations, the ground, and into the bedrock by thousands of fist sized striated gashes. They thought it was fingers, of claws given the concrete material, but on close inspection they realized the passage had be carved out by thousands upon thousands of bites with distinctly human looking teeth. The bites were not all the same either, indicating multiple people(?) had carved the passage intentionally through oral means.   At the end of the stairs was a short hallway, also chewed from the bedrock, ending in a solid if ordinary wood door. Unlocked.  In the chewed out room beyond they found what was clearly a ritual chamber, guarded by disemboweled zombies with their mouths sewn shut. Also a large stone lid on a deeper hole.  They dispatched the zombies and looted the room, discovering occult paraphernalia, a book stolen from Harvard that Jackson had apparently been trying to track down, and a lock box full of jewelry trophies from various cult sacrifices.   Then they used the winch to raise the stone block lid off a dark hole where the thing that had carved the room was kept. A being composed entirely human faces, it screamed and gibbered wordlessly, threatening to drive all that heard it mad.  Wisely the group kept the lid no more than a few inches off the ground, and dispatched the thing by pouring all the lantern oil and booze they could into the hole and then lighting it on fire. The screams as it burned were not pleasant, but they remained long enough to ensure it would burn to death without escaping being leaving.   They then called Declan's 2nd cousin the detective, waking him now at nearly 5am, and had him get the police over to investigate. They attempted to interact with the cops, but found the Harlem police were not especially welcoming of their input on the situation. Several of the cops were disturbed by the discovered a hole with dozens of human skulls in it.   Impersonating a Federal Officer Concerned that the Harlem police were too corrupt to release the obviously innocent man, Hilton Adams, from death row where he was to be executed for the crimes the cult had committed, Salim called the Harlem police and managed to impersonate a federal agent enough to not only get Captain Robson on the phone, but to essentially black mail the captain by implying "the feds" knew he had framed Hilton and that the cultist angle on a larger federal case was now being damaged by his willingness arrest an innocent man. He was strongly encouraged to find a more appropriate candidate before the full extent of his off-the-book enterprises was revealed.   Funerals and Reading Time Later that afternoon the group attended the funeral of their friend Jackson Elias, meeting several that were friends and coworkers of Jackson. A few of these people they had already met in person or over the phone, and in a few cases lied to, but they managed to maneuver their way through the conversations safely.   Among the people they met was Jackson's lawyer who told them to show up at his office in a couple of days for the official reading of Mr. Elias's will. He indicated that Jackson will specifically referenced them.  They also met Jackson's publisher, who informed them that she had Jackson's notes on his latest book, as he commonly mailed his notebooks back to the office while off globetrotting.  She invited them to swing by on Monday to take a look at them, but was instead talked into going into the office directly after the Funeral so they could get the notes, and a stiff drink from her office bottle of decent scotch, and get the notes immediately.   The PC spent the next few days reading through the notes and the book on African Cults, learning more about what Jackson had been looking into, and the cult they had now clearly angered.   Next Time: The Cult Strikes Back, and so does Declan's Ex!   Art Credit: Page 161 of the new 7th edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep

Episode 06 (New York) - Blood and Ice

In which the players respond to a request for help from their good friend.   Reminder: My players don't entirely know they are playing through Masks of Nyarlathotep. As far as they know, this is a 1920s Pulp themed Fate Core game. This article does contain spoilers for the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep.   Cast of Player Characters This Episode Lin Ru-Shi - A Hong Kong street urchin that grew up to be a thief. Lord Declan MacManus - A minor Irish Lord and Great War pilot turned smuggler. Lives on his flying boat and has a way with the ladies. Abdul “Abe” Tepema - An Englishman of color, born in Egypt, he has a little knowledge of the old magic, and is a skilled detective. Sebastian Sullivan - An amateur student of the arcane, driven from Arkham and currently operating as a less than-impressive detective.   The players of Doc and Salim weren't able to attend so we decided their characters were delayed by the nasty winter weather. The player of Sebastian was running late and joined in mid session, which we also ruled was due to a weather related delay.   Last Time... When we last left our cast of globetrotting explorers, they had defeated the threat in Peru, but some questions still remained. Where did Larkin come from? What was possessing him? What did his strange tattoo mean? That was early 1924, and they dropped Jackson Elias off in New York to work on his new book.   A few months later he sent them each a letter indicating his intention to travel abroad seeking answers about Larkin. It wasn't until 6 months later, just into the start of January 1925, that the players receive an urgent telegram asking them to meet him in New York: HAVE INFORMATION CONCERNING CARLYLE EXPEDITION STOP NEED RELIABLE INVESTIGATIVE TEAM STOP MEET JANUARY 15 NEW YORK STOP CONTACT KENSINGTON OF PROSPERO HOUSE KL3106 STOP JACKSON ELIAS   Winter Is Coming Here Historically, January 1925 was particularly harsh in New York, with Manhattan having some serious problems in early January. With several of my players running late for game night, I used this as an excuse to explain why some characters were arriving late.  The players that arrived mostly on time got to make a few rolls and make some advantages that late players wouldn't.   Declan was the first to arrive in New York, landing is plane in a semi-ice in dock on an unspecified river. I offered the player of Declan a compel on Declan's womanizing ways to say that last time he was in town he had wooed and abandoned a wealthy woman with the last name Carlyle, and he agreed, so now his character is an ex-fling of Erica, which I'm sure will be fun to roleplay later.  Next we activated his "Friend in Every Port" stunt. I offered him a few options as friends he knows from his last trip to New York: A mob enforcer named Joe, a Police Detective named Poole, or Shaddy importer named Emerson. I made it clear theses were NPCs in the adventure and therefore more likely to be useful plot wise, but also offered him the option inventing his own character to work into the story. He choose Detective Poole, and we decided that Poole is his second cousin, on his mother's side, and that on a previous trip to New York, Poole even tipped him off on a dock raid. Basically, Poole takes his job as a Homicide detective very seriously, but he's not going to get bent out of shape about a little smuggling by family. Declan spent his first night in New York drinking at a speakeasy prefered and protected by the local police, and catching up with his second cousin. He also unloaded some illicit cargo, a crate of good London Gin, Irish whiskey, and Scotch.   Lin Ru-Shi was the second to arrive in town, not long after Declan. She immediately tried to make some contacts in the local underworld, but bungled the attempt which was turned into a compel on her habbit of p***ing the wrong people off. After her first night in New York, she had the local Italian Mob looking to kill her as warning to the Yakuza. She tried to explain she's not even Japanese, but that wasn't clear to the mobsters she upset. (Note: In retrospect I probably should have had her upset an African American gang in Harlem so I could better tie it into the bootlegging arm of the Bloody Tongue via Fat Maybelly's Speakeasy.)   Abe arrived in town on January 15th and was able to hook up with the rest of the group that afternoon without really any time to interact with New York first.  Recalling that the character had vomited into the pyramid in Peru before it has been sealed, I decided that was enough for the trapped god inside to start reaching out to him. I described to the player how Abe had been experiencing a recurring dream about being inside a pyramid with a indistinct figure trapped in a gold cage. The figure, concealed in rags and a hood, keeps trying to whisper to him, but is blocked the gold bars of the cage. I described the cage as looking somewhat like the gold binding spell under the pyramid in Peru. I also described the stone room has having Egyptian styling, not Peruvian.   New York is a Hell of a Town
The players arrive at Jackson's hotel at the appointed time, having gotten the location and time from the nice lady on the phone at Prospero House Publishing. They went up to his hotel room on the 4th floor and knocked. When there was no response their first instinct was to pick the lock (notably not to listen), which Abe pulled off rather well.  As soon as they opened the door, "Jimmy" the culst was already swinging a Pranga at his head. As the resulting fight moved into hotel room, they discovered Jackson Elias, gutted and clearly dead, on the bed, and another cultist carving a symbol into his forehead while a third was going through his bags.   The resulting fight included gunshots and improvised weapons. They killed two of the mooks, but the large Jimmy they knocked out cold. They also saw a getaway car take off down the alleyway. Everyone but Declan dragged Jimmy up the icy fire escape into an unoccupied 6th floor room to interrogate him.  Declan waited for the police, to arrive and asked the first officer on the scene for Detective Poole.   Note: I had been worried one of them would have tried to show up early or meet Jackson the day before, etc, something they kind of did in Peru, but thankfully they all went about their own business instead. One of the players actually commented later that he had assumed Jackson would be their designated quest giver for much the campaign and therefore did even consider arriving early this time. They really hadn't thought their good friend Jackson was in danger, and even tried to invoke character aspects as a way to arrive early enough to save him, which I of course refused.   Gathering Clues At first the players tried to intimidate Jimmy with turning him over to the cops, but he didn't by the implied idea that they might let him go free if he talked. The interrogation then took an odd turn, with Abe pretending to be a cultist from a rival cult and intimidating Jimmy with the threat of implantation with a parasite in his ear if he didn't talk. They players rolled surprisingly well on that check. Jimmy didn't exactly talk at that point, but he did accidentally let some clues slip, like his boss's name. Eventually the players knocked him back out, made sure to check all his pockets for anything he was carrying, finding several clues, and dumped him down the fire escape ladder for the cops to find.  They then headed out the front door of the hotel before the cops had a reason to notice them.   At this point Sebastian arrived, running late for the meeting, and his friends swept him up at the front desk before he could draw any attention from the police.   Meanwhile, Declan was taken down to the police station and eventually interviewed by his cousin Detective Poole. He kept his friends out of the description of events but otherwise told it as it happened. Poole took down the official statement, then took Declan asside to tell him about a few clues and oddities, including the fact that this was now the 9th murder in 2 years that involved the strange symbol carved in the victim, and especially that Hilton Adams was already on death row for the previous 8.  He was then released.   The players gathered at the cop-bar/speakeasy in a booth to tell Sebastian what had happened and look over their clues.  The players literally made yarn board out of the clues, linking clues with locations and people. I was delighted, although with several key clues still missing, they were also floundering around without a clear idea of what was going on.   They eventually decided to focus on the local (American) clues. They went back to their hotels and got some sleep, then met up the next day to start running down leads.  Abe gathered news paper clippings on the Carlyle Expedition, and Sebastian tried to get a hold of contacts at Miskatonic University to ask about their visiting Australian professor, Doctor Cowles, but found he was (still) on the Miskatonic University blacklist. (A self-compel on his own background in Arkharm). He followed that up by calling a Harvard librarian to ask about what book Jackson Elias had been looking for, but this time he pretended to be a minor assistant from Prospero House Press asking on behalf of Jackson Elias, and was able to get some more information through lies. Notably, he didn't mention that Jackson Elias was dead, so when the librarian finds out, she may be deeply concerned the killers caller her under pretense. Something she may report to the police and which might circle back to the PCs eventually.   Eventually the player went and visited Emerson Imports where they managed to learn about the Ju Ju House. They also read the news paper, finding a story about Jackson Elias's death and a Funereal planned for the next day. The players dutifully added their new clues: the Ju Ju House and the Reporter to their clue board.   That was the point where we paused the session.   Next Time: The Funeral and More Investigation  

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

Converting New York to Fate

Later this week I will be running the sixth session/episode of my "secret" Pulp-Fate conversion of the new 7th edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep. That means that just as I did for the Peru chapter, I need to convert the content of the chapter to Fate rules, however I've tweaked some concept about how I'm doing things, particularly cults, since then.   Location Aspects and Language Like any primary location in Masks, New York will get its own set of aspects on the expedition sheet: Location Concept, Trouble, and Hidden Issue.   Location Concept: The Roar of the 1920s New York Manhattan in 1925 should be the perfect place to show off the Jazz Age/Prohibition setting. Flappers, gangsters, speakeasies, etc.   Location Trouble: Short Snowy Days and Long Cold Nights New York in January 1925 is actually one of the coldest on record with high snowfall and even a blizzard. That seems like far too interesting a historical detail not to include, and a potentially interesting location detail. Tracks or blood in the snow, people hidden behind bulky clothing and scarves, slipping, snowfall making vision difficult, the obviousnous of someone "lurking" in nasty weather, etc.   Location Hidden Issue: Evil Is Afoot The New York chapter is when the players first get to discover that their is a world wide occult conspiracy, hopefully finding clues pointing to several continents. It's also a setting where the local cult is up to no good, having bribed the police, framed an innocent man, and undertaking illegal activities including ritual kidnapping and murder.   Language: English Although several languages can be heard in New York depending on which burrow or neighborhood you are in, the common language is still English, and there aren't too many locations in this chapter with other languages would be important. All of my players know English so I won't be offering a compel on it for this location.   The New York Branch of the Bloody Tongue I will be depicting the cult using the Bronze Rule meathod I talked about here. The cult itself is treated like a character, with all its members using the larger cult stats, and some special members getting extra features.   The New York branch of the cult of the Bloody Tongue was setup some 8 years ago to support M'weru in locating patsies for Nyarlathotep's plans, a search that resulted in the Caryle Expedition, and the departure of M'weru from New York and of the New York branch from the larger plans of Nyarlathotep. Mukunga M’Dari has been left in charge of this branch of the cult, and he seeks to grow it in size and power, as cult leaders are wont to do. His method is largely through gaining wealth through criminal smuggling, and then using the drugs and money to gain recruits and buy influence with corrupt police. Note that Captain Robson isn't a member of the cult. He thinks he's being bribed by smugglers, not crazed cultists. The two listed leaders for the cult are M'Dari and N'Kwane. M'Dari as the cult leader, master of rituals, and potent combatant will get his own character stats, but N'Kwane makes a useful front man to aid the cult in keeping itself secret so I will be depicting him as a VIC. There are three more named cultists in the chapter: the three that attacked Jackson. I've decided to make one of them a combat related VIC, an eager killer for the cult who is leading the lesser cultists on this mission. (He'll have a leather headband instead of a cloth one). Lastly, I'm turning the pack of zombified humans into a single horrific VIC. Skill wise I'm giving the New York cult a step down on the pyramid. For skills the specialty is violence, which actually gets them in trouble enough that they have to use their wealth to keep the local police captain on retainer. For a third skill I'm giving them Scrutiny, as they were able to track down Jackson Elias. It might seem odd to give them a Faith of +0, but as a new cult of mostly new recruits from the dregs of society, they aren't likely as faithful or as knowledgeable as cults that have seen an avatar of their god summoned over the mountain of The Black Wind. As near as I can tell, none of the cultists know magic or perform rites beyond the M'Dari. The book also describes the cult having about 30 cultists, so I've set the cultist track to 30.   Concept: Worshipers of the Bloody Tongue Drawn From The Dregs Of High and Low Society Instinct: Solve Problems With Panga and Blood Turf: We Run the Harlem Underworld Objective: Expand In Influence, Wealth, and Power Ratings: +2 Violence +1 Scrutiny, Wealth +0 Authority, Fear, Faith, Subterfuge Stunts: Face In The Crowd: Gain a +2 to Defend with Subterfuge when attempting to blend into the crowd. Cultists: [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] VICs: Name: Silas N'Kwane Aspect: Little Old African Shop Keeper Condition Track: [2 Out] Stunt: Front Man - Gain a +2 to Defend with Subterfuge when concealing cult activities as shop business. Name: Jomo "Jimmy" Jepleting Aspect: Big Man With A Big Knife Condition Track: [2 - Upset/Angry] [2 - Weakened/Injured] [2 - Out] Stunt: Panga Expert - Gain a +2 to attack with Violence when using a large bladed weapon. Name: Ciimba Guardians Aspect: Pack of Zombified Human Victims Trouble: No Mind of Their Own Condition Track: [2- Reduced In Number] [2- Out] Stunt: Horrific Visage - When seen for the first time, make a free +2 Horror (2 Madness) attack.   Mukunga M’Dari The leader of the local chapter of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, M'Dari is a threat on many levels. He is physically dangerous, mystically capable, and cunning enough to have bought the protection of the local police force. I expect that when the players face off against him he will be using ceremonial claws, surrounded by cultists, and backed up by zombies. In other words, I'm going to teat him as a Boss level foe as per the Fate Adversary Toolkit. However, there is a possibility that the players will meet him before they fully know what is going on the with the cult, so I need to make sure his public facing High Concept and Trouble aren't explicitly cult related. The rest of this aspect can be initially hidden from the player as needed. Of course, if they meet him under the Ju-Ju Shop, dressed in a lion's hide with metal claws, performing a sacrifice to the monster in the pit, very little will still be hidden.   Aspects High Concept: Muscular African Dock Worker Trouble: Aggressive and Petty Hidden Aspect: Violent Leader of a Bloody Cult Hidden Aspect: As Dangerous As A Rapid Lion Hidden Aspect: My Friend The Corrupt Police Captain Skills +5 Fight, Provoke +4 Physique, Deceive, Notice +3 Lore, Occult, Contacts, Athletics +2 Empathy, Investigate, Will, Stealth, Shoot +1 Burglary, Crafts, Drive, Rapport, Resources Stunts: Dread Clutch of Nyogtha: You have memorized a very rare quick casting spell that can potentially kill a target in seconds. As an action you cast a ritual invovling making a disturbing clawing formation with one hand, and squeezing it closed like you are crushing the target's heart. The target must be present and they must know they are being targeted or the spell has no effect. Use Occult to make an attack for mental stress, which the target Defends against with Will. This spell is known to inflict chest pains, heart arrhythmia, and cardiac arrest. Shroud of Fear: When a cult member invokes your Violent Leader of a Bloody Cult aspect to resist interrogation, they get a +3 bonus instead of a +2 bonus. By Rote: You know the following rituals by heart and do not need a book to cast them: Awaken Ciimba Slave, Contact God of the Bloody Tongue, and Lesser Doom of the Devoured Moon. Stress Track: [1] [2] [3] [4] Consequence Slots: [2 - Mild] [4 - Moderate]   The Monster in the Pit The Chakota, as described in MoN, is a a deadly monster, but it's also not particularly mobile. As long as the players stay out of the pit, the most they have to deal with is the sanity draining noise. I was tempted to write it up as a Hazard using the Fate Adversary Toolkit rules, and not really even treat it as a full creature. However, I imagined the cult loosing control of it during a ritual the players interrupt, and it getting out of the pit, and now I've decided to make it a Threat, as per the Adversary Toolkit. Aspects: High Concept: Elephant Sized Worm Made Entirely of Screaming Human Faces Trouble: Bound By Magic Skills: +4 Physique +3 Provoke, Fight Stunts: Terrifying Form: When someone sees your for the first time, make a free Horror +4 (Madness 2) Attack. Screams of Madness: Spend a Fate Point and make a single Provoke Attack dealing Mental Stress against all sane targets that can hear you. Immune to Conventional Weapons: Add a Fate Point to the Expedition Pool to make the Chakota automatically succeed on all defense rolls against attacks from conventional weapons for the rest of the scene. Vulnerable to Fire (Defends at +0, no immunity) Stress: [1] [2] [3] [4] Consequences: [2 Mild Physical]   The Harlem Police The cult isn't the only organization the players may have to deal with in New York. The Harlem police captain is in corrupt and paid off by the cult, but isn't actually part of the cult. I'm going to try depicting him and the corrupt officers he has at his disposal using bronze rules like those for the cult. In this case, I plan on making the Captain himself a VIC instead of a full NPC. The Police operate largely on Authority backed by violence, but as a team of detectives they are also capable of investigating, trailing, and searching. As an organization, they seek wealth for its own sake and are unwilling to spend money when authority or violence will work just as well. Only Robson is named in the book, I think there should be a pair of officers that act as Robson's trusted agents for various purposes. The police's actions described in the book are mostly geared towards violence, blackmail, and framed crimes, so that's what the VICs focus on. I figure captain Robson probably has over a dozen officers of various ranks he can generally call on if the players do something that requires mass response (like attacking a police station) but typically a small squad is all they will deal with. The players are unlikely to take out the entire police precinct, but they might remove Robson and his corrupt agents, leaving a less problematic but still somewhat corrupt precinct behind.   Concept: Corrupt Harlem Police Instinct: Arrest The Troublemakers Turf: Keeping Harlem Safe Objective: All About the Money Ratings: +2 Authority +1 Violence, Scrutiny +0 Fear, Wealth, Faith, Subterfuge Stunts: Hiding Behind The Badge: Gain a +2 to Defend with Authority when using official status as police officers. Members: [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] VICs: Name: Captain Robson Aspect: Captain of the Harlem Police Precinct Hidden Aspect: No Idea What the Cult Is Doing Condition Track: [2- Upset/Angry] [2 Out] Stunt: Once a Detective - Gain a +2 on Create Advantage with Scrutiny when digging up shady details on a target. Name: Detective Harris Aspect: Robson's Pet Detective Condition Track: [2 - Weakened/Injured] [2 - Out] Stunt: Crime Scene Engineer - Gain +2 on Create Advantage with Subterfuge when staging a crime scene. Name: Sergent Callahan Aspect: Robson's Right Hand Man Condition Track: [2 - Upset/Angry] [2 - Weakened/Injured] [2 - Out] Stunt: Crime Scene Engineer - Use Authority to make Physical Attacks when "working someone over" as a police officer.   Other NPCs Everyone else the players meet should only need an aspect or two, and can be considered to have a +2 in anything related to their non-trouble aspects, and a +0 in everything else.   Lieutenant Martin Poole High Concept: Dogged Heavyset Veteran Homicide Detective Trouble: Seen the Worst NYC Has To Offer Hidden Aspect: Suspects Adams Is Innocent   Joanna Kensington High Concept: Editor/Owner of Prospero House Publishing Trouble: "Don't Tell Me Where a Woman's Place Is" Aspect: Good Friend of Jackson Elias NOTE: In the book, the character is a male but I'm choosing to swap the gender for reasons of representation.   Carlton Ramsey High Concept: African American Lawyer Trouble: Nervous By Default Aspect: Good Friend of Jackson Elias   Erica Carlyle High Concept: Young Millionaire Businesswoman Trouble: Most Eligible Woman in Town Hidden Aspect: Really Did Love Her Brother For All His Faults   Joe Corey High Concept: Erica Carlyle's Trusted Bodyguard Trouble: Carries Himself Like the Ex-Mob Enforcer He Is   Bradly Grey High Concept: Lawyer and Counselor to The Carlyles Trouble: More Concerned with Appearance than Morals   Miriam Atwright High Concept: Harvard University Reference Librarian Trouble: More comfortable with the written word than people Aspect: Good Friend of Jackson Elias Hidden Aspect: Degree in Anthropology   Professor Anthony Dimsdale Cowles High Concept: Cheerful Australian Professor of Anthropology Trouble: Just Keeps Talking Aspect: Penchant For Ghost Tales   Ewa Seaward Cowles High Concept: Beautiful and Protective Daughter of Professor Cowles Trouble: More Suitors Than She Can Shake A Stick At   Arthur Emerson High Concept: Shady Importer/Exporter Trouble: Plausible Deniability Requires Not Knowing   Dr. Mordecai Lemming High Concept: Self Styled Expert on the Occult Trouble: Living Off the Dwindling Family Fortune   Rebecca Shosenburg High Concept: Persistent Junior Crime Reporter for the New York Times Trouble: Exasperated By Bold Faced Lies Hidden Aspect: Thinks Robson Framed Adams   Hilton Adams High Concept: "An Innocent Man" Trouble: African American On Death Row For The Harlem Murders Hidden Aspect: Harlem Protector Hidden Aspect: Harlem Hellfighter   Millie Adams High Concept: Desperate To Clear Her Husband Trouble: Nearly Given Up Hope   I'm actually going to skip all of Hilton's friends. When/If we get to that point I plan on covering the lot of them as a former Harlem Hellfighters now being blackmailed/threatened by Robson after they helped Adams investigate the murders, but I don't actually plan on introducing or interviewing each of them individually so I don't need aspects for all of them.   Art Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_Pitcairn_autogiro_flies_over_Manhattan_Island_(c._1931).jpg

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

Episode 05 (Peru) - The Thing In The Pyramid

In which the players take Larkin to the Pyramid.   Reminder: My players don't entirely know they are playing through Masks of Nyarlathotep. As far as they know, this is a 1920s Pulp themed Fate Core game. This article does contain spoilers for the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep.   Cast of Player Characters This Episode Lin Ru-Shi - A Hong Kong street urchin that grew up to be a thief. Lord Declan MacManus - A minor Irish Lord and Great War pilot turned smuggler. Lives on his flying boat and has a way with the ladies. Abdul “Abe” Tepema - An Englishman of color, born in Egypt, he has a little knowledge of the old magic, and is a skilled detective. Salim Dali - A negotiator, translator, expedition assistant extraordinaire. Doctor Bhisaj - Great War ambulance driver that recently completed medical training in London. A bit too trusting for his own good.   The player of Sebastian was not able to attend, so his character was essentially ignored as we weren't able to come up with a good excuse for him to not be present.   The group is also accompanied by the NPCs of Jackson Elias and a reluctant Professor Sanchez.   Last Time... When we last left our cast of globetrotting explorers, they had learned more about myths of the pyramid and the Kharisiri, and decided that Larkin was a victim that the monsters were attempting to prepare as a vessel for the dark god in the pyramid. In particular, they thought his situation was similar to that of the author the journal from the museum, only his mind had been altered with magic somewhat. Their plan was to rush to the pyramid, a three day journey by footpath, and slot the gold fragment back into the "spell worked in gold" before Mendoza an his fellow monsters could catch up with them.   The players made arrangements to leave on an expedition the next morning, so almost everyone spent the night in a local hotel. Declan slept on his plane. The players made no moves to observe or secure Larkin, so I determined that he cast a spell that night to make everyone more greedy for the gold in the pyramid. The spell was limited to those present in the hotel at 3am, when the spell was cast. That night, everyone dreamed of gold in the pyramid and what they could with that kind of wealth, and then awoke with a strong sense of greed (and a magical aspect placed on them) except for Declan, is is conveniently naturally greedy. My players were good about accepting this aspect and effect while assuming their characters either wouldn't immediately notice or want to share the thoughts of greed.   They gathered up their supplies, mules, and hired bearers and headed out of town on foot. After an hour or two it became clear that Larkin was not healthy enough for a three day march, so they had him ride a mule, and divided that animal's supplies among the others and the bearers.  At the end of the first day's march through the mountains they made camp on a flat area at the upward slope, unconcerned about the steep drop off at the down-hill side of the road. They took turns keeping watch around the fire all night, and an hour or two past midnight Declan, on watch, heard a noise from the slopes above the camp. He casually and quietly tried to wake the rest of the team, successfully getting Lin Ru-Shi awake but causing a bit of a ruckus getting Salim up.  At that point, everyone was awake, but the source of the noise up the hill had stopped.  Most of the group went about making a distraction at the fire, while Ru-Shi snuck up the slope and got the drop on a Kharisiri in rags lurking up the hill. She knocked it down the slope, with it landing near the fire. In the light it was clear that it was a feral kharisiri conquistador, making it one of the original monsters but also somehow not as alert or intelligent as the other Kharisiri they had encountered thus far. In the ensuing fight, the creature was burned in the fire and lost an arm before it attempted to flee. It was shot in back as it ran, but fell down the cliffs so the body could not be found and fully dismembered. It was, however, now missing an arm. No one slept much after that (and I had them roll to resist the hardships of long marching at altitude with interrupted sleep. Using fate rules, I treated this as a flat attack they they resisted with Physique, and which inflicted mental stress.)   On second day of travel, they came over a ridge and found a man hunched over a child. Ru-Shi, who has a thing about children, and Declan, who thinks himself a monster slayer, both charged the man, assuming him to be a Kharisiri caught feeding. They would later learn he was actually the boy's father who had found his son half-dead, and in turn thought the whiteman charging him was the monster responsible. It took Salim with some well rolled negotiation skill to stop the fight from going lethal, in the end only a donkey was injured. Doc provided some incredibly well rolled medical care to the boy, likely saving his life.
The expedition spend the night at the family's farm with the bearers setting up tents in the yard and several of the players getting to at least sleep inside. The players asked the man and his wife about the blighted valley and the pyramid and heard that the place is considered cursed. When they find out the group is carrying gold from the pyramid, they demand it be removed from their house. Ru-Shi, still feeling very greedy, decided to sleep with it in the barn. Declan, being white, was also not especially welcome in the house. Ru-Shi woke up in the early hours before dawn to find Larking with eyes like the night sky ("They're full of stars!") casting some kind of spell, and knocks him out with the gold bar she'd been sleeping with. Realizing that several members of the group were greedier than normal and Larkin was now most likely the cause, they figure out how to wipe the magic out by replacing it with new spells. They spend the morning casting spells on each other (mostly Salim's negotiation enhancing meal ritual cast over breakfast) to clear the greedy magic away (this is a feature of the magic system in my game: only one spell at a time per target.) They also debate what to do with Larkin, who is clearly more than an empty vessel. They decide they can't just kill him, and the farm family indicates that he will not be permitted to live if he is left on their property. (Note: I had everyone that didn't sleep inside make another roll to deal with the harshness of the expedition.)   They tie Larkin up with ropes and toss him over a mule, and head on towards the pyramid. The expedition bearers, hired in Puno, refuse to go on further and instead promise to remain camped out at the farm for the next three days before they declare the group dead. The group heads out without them, a little chagrined at the confidence the bearers have that they won't be returning, but taking all the mules, and Larkin, with them. No one seems to question that Larkin isn't putting up a fight.   In the late afternoon of the third day the group comes over a high mountain ridge and looks down on the pyramid in the wasted valley. They arrive in time to see two Kharisiri feeding the father by discouraging fat into a crack on the top of the pyramid, and then observe the two monsters climb down a hole in the ground.   The spend another hour coming around the side path on the valley and approach the pyramid and the wall around the grounds in the safest path. They decide not to trust the entry archway and instead a few of them climb the wall. Looking around, they openly discus their plan to locate the tunnels and repair the wards, which results in the fragment of the dark god inside Larkin to give up on his subtle plan of hoping they would loot the gold on their own. He takes full possession of Larkin, which at this point is such a weak vessel that the party can visibly see his body dying while the thing talks through him. God-Larkin has no issue breaking the ropes that bind him and turns to the players and mocks them while the stars shine through where his eyes should be. He offers them a more direct deal: take as much gold as they can haul away from the pyramid, and he will let them live to spend it. He will keep all his little children away from them, otherwise they can all die, and he will simply have to start over with new volunteers. Declan is not entirely untempted by the idea, and banters with the god for while, learning that the god has plans for within the next year or so (my timeline is altered from the main book, with Peru set in early 1924), and that he has many names and worshipers all over the globe. While this conversation takes place, Doc loads up four syringes with all the remaining heroine, more than enough to kill a man, and gives it to Lin Ru-Shi. She makes an impressive leaping attack, plunging a pair of syringes into each side of Larkin's neck, and driving the plungers home to inject what should be a lethal dose or raw drug directly into system. That god-larking's reaction is to giggle instead of dying outright frightens the group, but also encourages Declan to use a slug-loaded shotgun to finish the job, taking God-Larkin's head clean off.   The players burn waht's left of Larkin's body. They also burn out the charnel hole they had seen the kharisiri crawl down, using up all their lantern oil and alcohol to get it burning. A few of the characters attempt to look down through the crack on the top of the pyramid. Salim is too overwhelmed by the stench, but Abe manages to get a look, but not before vomiting into the crack. The view of the swarming fat-worms is not pleasant, but he mostly holds it together. They briefly consider ways of killing the mass through the crack, but the best they can come up with is fire, and they have now used all their flammable materials on the charnel hole. They decide to stick with the gold-spell-repair plan.   While the tunnel of corpses and bones burns, The group takes turns at watch that night. They actually setup camp over the ridge but keep track of it from the high point, trusting the fire to keep the Kharisiri trapped, if not dead. I didn't tell the players it, but as GM I figured the smoke was sufficient to kill the two Kharisiri, but that they regenerated back after the fire burned out.   The next day, the players descend into the now smokey tunnels under the pyramid. Inside they fight the Kharisiri in creepy dark tunnels, where the monsters lung at them from side passages in the dark. Having dispatched the monsters, they debated looting a chamber full of gold trinkets of various ages, and eventually managed to patch the gold spell, although not without issues involving a pool of rancid fat and worm-monsters. One of the "maggots" burrowed into a cut on a PC, and Doc had to surgically remove it.   Once the gold was fitted back into the pyramid base, all the maggots left in the fat-pool popped in a disgusting manner, and the crack through which they were leaking closed shut. When the characters got back onto the surface, they arrived in time to watch several Kharisiri, called by Larkin, drop dead on the road. In particular, Mendoza's body shrivvles and dies as age catches up with it, while the younger kharisiri seem to sicken and die like they are hollowed out.

Declan and Jackson Ellias advocated for taking some of the non-spell gold, and Abe actually pocketed some while no one noticed, but most of the rest of the group wasn't comfortable with taking gold which might be cursed. That left Jackson and Declan with large shares to strap to the mules.

They returned to Puno, and then flew back down to Lima. Jackson Elias thanked them for their help and said he would have to edit a lot of the supernatural out of his next book, afterall, no one would believe him if he used the whole truth. He also expressed an interest in learning more about Larkin, as it looked very much like Larkin's arrival in the area is what caused the Kharisiri to become more organized and expanded their numbers. God-Larkin's rants about more names and cults also intrigued Jackson.   Next Time: The Roar of the 1925 New York!   Art Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ushnu_o_Piramide_Inca_-_Vilcashuaman,_Ayacucho.jpg

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

Episode 04 (Peru) - Warm Welcome in Puno

In which the players become the first aircraft to visit Puno, and meet with an expert in local folk lore.   Reminder: My players don't entirely know they are playing through Masks of Nyarlathotep. As far as they know, this is a 1920s Pulp themed Fate Core game. This article does contain spoilers for the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep.   Cast of Player Characters This Episode Lin Ru-Shi - A Hong Kong street urchin that grew up to be a thief. Lord Declan MacManus - A minor Irish Lord and Great War pilot turned smuggler. Lives on his flying boat and has a way with the ladies. Sebastian Sullivan - An amateur student of the arcane, driven from Arkham and currently operating as a less than-impressive detective. Abdul “Abe” Tepema - An Englishman of color, born in Egypt, he has a little knowledge of the old magic, and is a skilled detective.   The group is also accompanied by Jackson Elias and a reluctant Professor Sanchez.   Last Time... When we last left our cast of globetrotting explorers, they had realized their monstrous assailants in Lima weren't so much dead, as undead, and decided they should get out of town quickly. Before leaving on a midnight plane, Lin kidnapped Larkin, thanks to him being too high on heroine to notice or care. The rest of the group was unsure about this, as it isn't at all clear how Larkin is involved with the lamprey mouthed fat-eating vampires.   Their plan was to fly to down the coast to La Camina, fuel up, and then travel east over the mountains to Puno on Lake Titicaca. From there, they would follow the directions left in the old journal to the pyramid. They hoped to get there before the monsters could catch up.  They suspect that if they replace the gold fragment the conquistadors removed, it might somehow help?   Sidelining Some Characters The players of Salim the negotiator and Doctor Bhisaj were once again unable to attend. For the parts on the aircraft I assumed they were asleep after their respective ordeals with the police and hospital. Once in Puno, it was assumed they went off to prepare for the expedition: buying supplies, mules, etc.   In The Night Air As they fly south along the coast, the players debate what to tell Larkin when he wakes up. They eventually settle on a plan of deception via half-truths. They were attacked by monsters, they've chose to head for the pyramid early to both escape the monsters and maybe there first, they wanted to check on Larkin before leaving and found him unable to protect himself, and decided it was better not to leave him alone. Mendoza wasn't in his room and they didn't know where to find him, etc.  Basically they imply they rescued him instead of kidnapping him, and that he was too high to remember it or frankly to be left unsecured, hence he was tied up and hidden (not at all trapped) in a cargo crate.

The players utterly failed their Empathy checks to detect Larkin's emotional state, so as far as they know, he doesn't suspect anything, and finds the stories of lamprey headed monsters incredulous. They did notice his odd reaction to being asked about his tattoo, that he seems to forget he has one across his chest unless he is actively looking at it, and that some force comes over him after he sees it that responds on his behalf, and does remember being asked about it before.   Having read the Final Confessions of Gaspar Figueroa, the players think Larkin may be in a spot similar to Gaspar. Both were sick and Larkin shows signs of mental influence not unlike the dreams and messages the Father of Maggots wrote he experienced. Their working theory is that Gaspar was intended to be a host for the Dark God itself, and that the Kharisiri have been preparing Larkin for the same purpose. They worry that bringing Larkin to the pyramid might be a mistake, but at this point they largely view him as a victim, although they don't fully trust him either, as he is clearly being mentally and physically influenced.

Along the way Jackson Elias also came up with an idea to divert farther south to the port city of Ilo before heading inland towards Lake Titicaca. That way they could do a fly over where the pyramid should be. The trade off is that the flight over the mountains would be more difficult. Declan, as pilot, eventually decided to risk it, and the players did successfully locate the pyramid from the air.  It's location made it hard to do a low-fly over, but they did get close enough to view it from the air, and Sebastian rolled well on notice, spotting the crack in the top.  The fly-over also helped confirm that there wasn't any sign of it being occupied, although the active trails into and out of it implied frequent enough visitors.   With no large enough bodies of water to land in, let alone one with a dock to fuel up at, the players continued on to Puno, with plans to reach the pyramid on foot.

Warm Welcome in Puno The players discovered they were the first ever aircraft to reach Puno when they landed at the docks on Lake Titicaca and the crowds rushed down the streets to the docks to see them and their aircraft.  Declan used the opportunity to impress the local chief of police, securing an office to help watch the airplane while they were in town.

Salim and Doc headed off to secure supplies for the expedition. Sebastian and Lin kept track of Larkin near the plane. Jackson, Dr. Sanchez, Abe, and Declan headed off to meet Nayra, Jackson's folklore friend that turned him onto the Kharisiri in the first place.  They found her small home up on the hill locked, and her neighbors saying she was in hiding. They broke into her little home and found it had been searched. As near as they could tell, she had gone into hiding within a week of the last time she talked with Jackson Elias. They players eventually tracked down a friend of a friend that was willing to take them to her by boat, although he had to be convinced to let the white characters go with him.  They players present failed to notice anyone watching them.   After being rowed out to one of the floating reed hut clusters on the lake, they players were able to meet with Nayra, whom was staying with her grand-nephew. Nayra explained that a white man, probably another Kharisiri had started following her around after she told Jackson about Mendoza She became more concerned when he started meeting with disturbing looking locals. After going into hiding, she heard from friends that people had been asking after her around the docks too. The players informed her that they had encountered a Kharisiri that wasn't a white European man, and eventually established that the Kharisiri had clearly been recruiting in recent years. Declan in particular became concerned about the local police chief he had so easily befriended. Could they trust anyone in Puno?  Abe even felt compelled to step out of the hut to look over the fishermen for any sign of transformation.

The rest of the players brought up the journal of Gaspar Figueroa, and discovered that Nayra knew a story about the cursed pyramid.  Essentially that long ago a dark god fell into the lake, and a local hero had tricked the hungry god into climbing into a hole. He then trapped the god under a large stone and instructed the people to building a pyramid atop it with a spell "worked in gold" to contain the evil of the dark god.

It was a this point that Abe noticed that a nearby fishing boat seemed to be empty. One of the fishermen said that he could have sworn the boat had three people on it a minute ago.  Then the Kharisiri attacked.  Because not all the PCs had chosen to visit Nayra, I ended up handing control of Jackson Elias to player running Sebastian, and I gave control of Nayra and the Fishermen to the player that normally plays Lin. I'd like to think that handing the players Jackson's character sheet helped them trust and like him more. It certainly didn't hurt, and the player seemed to enjoy using his skeptic stunt, for example.

The fight between Hernando and his three local (nameless) Kharisiri converts and the PCs with their fishermen allies when well. The players were more afraid of the undead nature of the foes than their poor roles justified. Having a lamprey mouthed monster attach itself to your neck will freak you out even if it doesn't inflict much damage before being run through with fishing spears by 5 frightened locals. This time the players dismembered Kharisiri they killed. On the body of Hernando they discovered a telegram from Mendoza in Lima saying that they had fled Lima by air, and that they had taken Larkin. The wording around Larkin was short and vague enough not to imply if he was friend of victim. They hoped Nayra could confirm if there were anymore Kharisiri in town, but given that 3 of the 4 they just killed appeared to be locals, converted sometime in the last 5 years, she was sadly unable to tell.  According to the journal, besides Hernando (now dismembered) and Mendoza (back in Lima), there should be at least two more Conquistador fat-vampires around somewhere, and who knew how many new vampires.   Next Episode: Into the Highlands

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

A Few Occult Tome Booklets

As I mentioned in a previous post, my pulp Fate Core version of Masks of Nyarlathotep includes special handout/extras to represent occult tomes. I thought it might be helpful to give a few examples. PDF versions of the tomes should be attached.   Book - Starting - Burned Dee Necronomicon.pdf The burned John Dee translation of the the Necronomicon is the starting book for one of my players. If you recall, my players don't know they are in a CoC inspired game, so it was very amusing to me when one of the players wanted to be an Arkham occult scholar. To play up the Cthulhu references I offered him a Necronomicon for his starting book, and he eagerly accepted. To keep it from being too nuts, I gave him a John Dee translation that was so fire damaged it's lucky he got any content out of it. Two of the player's three starting spell made perfect sense for the Necronomicon but the third, an unlocking spell, felt odd, so I decided it was added in by whoever hand-copied the work. As the starting book of a PC, it was handed over unsealed.   Book - Iceland - Ouroboros Bible.pdf The Ouroboros Bible is part of the pulpy intro adventure I ran. It was the first sealed tome handout the players came across, and it amused them greatly, but was mostly just backstory for the island. Long term, it might be handy for the "Serpent in Soho" side mission in London,  but it won't be more than a collection of potentially useful snake spells until then. One of my players has already illegally acquired a poisonous snake in Peru in order to cast spells from this book.   Book - Peru - Gaspar.pdf The Peru/Gaspar book is my version of the journal of Gaspar Figueroa from the new Peru chapter of Masks. Most of the content in it is from Masks, although I did add one extra spell "Uncounted Lesser Children of the Father" and the ritual descriptions for both spells are my own, intentionally unpleasant, ideas. I don't really expect the player to cast the "speak with father of maggot" spell, but a cloud of biting insects might be something they see value in. Some of the content I directly spelled out in the booklet was hidden in details in the new versions of Masks, including the list of Conquistadors that went to the temple, and that Gaspar shot Mendoza in the face and thought him dead. My players, having already met and shot Mendoza in the head, found that detail especially enlightening.   My plan is to make a booklet for each occult tome in Masks. I've got booklets for the New York books already made, and I've made simple drafts for the London books too.

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

Pulpcraft Rules - Part 4: Cults!

This is Part 4 in a series of posts discussing the rules I'm using to run Masks of Nyarlathotep as a Fate Pulp game (without telling my players they are in a CoC scenario.) Part 1 covered the basics. Part 2 covered the Expedition Sheet. Part 3 was about the magic, monsters, and sanity rules. Today I'm talking about cults. Before I go any further, I want to point out that this an a somewhat experimental section of my Fate conversion of Masks. I'm still working on it, trying it, and have only implemented some parts of it recently at the start of Peru. In fact, I've recently been adjusting my thinking on this concept after seeing some things that Shadows of the Century is doing. (As a Fate Core kickstarter I recently got an early draft of Shadows.)   If there are any other Fate hackers reading this, I'd welcome some input.   The Bronze Rule Cults are a primary theme in Masks. Each location in the scenario has its own cult or a mostly self contained branch of a larger cult. Most of the foes the players will face are cultists and the larger plot is about stopping the cultists, not killing a god. These cults have their own signature weapons, their own local objectives, their own operating methods, their own rituals, etc.  In many ways, the cults are almost characters in their own right, and in Fate, that means they are a good candidate for The Bronze Rule, also known as the Fate Fractal.  The concept in Fate is that just about anything can be represented with some portion of the rules used for Player Characters: Aspects, Skills, Stunts, Stress, Consequences, etc. With access to the larger world of Fate mechanics, it's also possible to work with Approaches or other mechanics that might normally be used for characters in other Fate system games.   The concept here, or at least the current draft I'm toying with, is treating each location's cult as a larger character that covers all the nameless cultists and some of the named minor cultists. The cult has its own aspects, skills (technically more like approaches), stunts, and consequences. Instead of normal stress tracks they have collections of 0 point boxes representing nameless cultists. Named semi-important members of the cult have a couple of "personal" features to add to the cult's basic skills/aspects/etc but are themselves also a way of he cult absorbing stress too, making them little consequences+stunt+aspect "extras" that apply to the cult character instead of being unique characters on their own. I call them "Very Important Cultists" or VICs. This is a pulp game after all.   In my current theory, Cult Leaders are still their own characters. They are unique and important enough to justify having a full sheet of features of their own, although I have been wavering on this theory, especially when it comes to cults where the leader isn't the main character.   Cult Character Most of a Cult's character features: their aspects, skills, and stunts, are doing double duty. They operate on and bridge the gap between two scales: the individual scale of specific characters and the larger organizational scale on which cults, crime syndicates, police departments, and other organizations operate at. On a larger scale, the features apply to the cult as an organization. On a smaller scale, they can be used by any individual member of the cult. Because they are linked, actions against individual cultists can have an impact on the larger cult and likewise actions against the larger cult can impact the individual cultists.   Aspects Cult aspects are usually all hidden aspects. Cults are secret by default. The players won't see or have access to any of them until they are discovered or revealed.   You'll also notice that the example aspects I'm giving are intentionally double edged. As an NPC being run by the GM, the Cult is not compelled. The double edged nature of the aspects is intended to give hooks for players to make invokes to aid themselves.   A cult has a High Concept, which typically describes both the nature of the common cultists and the god they follow. For example, "Worshipers of the Bloody Tongue Drawn From The Dregs Of High and Low Society" fits the New York branch of the Bloody Tongue.   Each Cult has an Instinct, an aspect describing the kind of activities or actions they are prone to fall back on or default to when it isn't clear what else should be done. This concept is borrowed from the Fate Toolkit where it was intended for monsters, but I think it's apt here. This aspect somewhat similar to a Trouble for the organization as a whole, in that it maybe a predictable and/or revealing activity. For the New York branch of the Bloody Tongue, their tendency to "Solve Problems With Panga and Blood" has attracted unwanted attention to the point that they had to frame someone for murder, and even that they ruin by doing another cult killing, making the man they framed look less guilty. The trade-off, or lure for the GM, is that an Instinct Aspect provides a +3 when invoked, which helps make it the obvious choice to drive activities. My plan is to generally make the Instinct aspect somewhat in conflict with the Objective aspect. For example, the Kharisiri of Peru are driven to feed as an instinct, but to complete the objective of freeing their god, they will need to restrain themselves from feeding on or in front of the patsies Larkin has recruited.   Each Cult has a Turf aspect which describes the location they are most potent and least concealed. If the PCs are looking for the cult, they are more likely to find it in the home turf, but that also means the cult can invoke that aspect to attack the players more easily there. For the New York branch of the Bloody Tongue it might be "We Run the Harlem Underworld."   Each cult also has an Objective, a goal they are currently trying to accomplish, be it resurrecting a mummy queen, building a rocket, looting an ancient city, etc. The Objective is intentionally the short term goal of the group. All the cults in Masks are attempting to open the great gate, but each has a smaller part in that plan, and in many cases there are several steps to get there. A cult's objectives might change as they succeed, or fail, at their current Objective. As GM I may update this aspect on each Minor Milestone depending on what has transpired.  For example, if the Egyptian branch of the Black Pharaoh may be trying to "Acquire the Girdle of Nitocris," but if they succeeded in a session, then at the minor milestone I may replace that objective with "Resurrect Nitocris." If they succeed in that, the new Objective is likely to "Amass Sacrifices for the Great Rite" and eventually "Open the Great Gate."   Skills (Methods) In the last session I ran, I used the standard skill list for the cults, but my experiences with it in Peru chapter thus far makes me think it's not a great fit. The cult as an organization feels a little odd using a skill list intended for individuals, and I didn't feel comfortable with the skill choices I made. I intend to replace the skill list with a cult themed list of Methods that will work somewhat like Fate Accelerated Approaches. Right now I have 7 methods:   Authority Authority is how a cult uses it's own people, and especially those recruited from positions of power, to improve its lot and hinder it's foes. A good example of this in Masks in the London branch of the Black Pharaoh cult, where it's connections and standing with the Penhew Foundation give it some protection and options that cults in other regions don't benefit from.  Edward Gavigan would have little trouble getting minor incidents against himself or the foundation turned into severe legal issues. Authority is primarily used to Overcome issues and Create Advantages. It can also be used to defend against some kinds of actions. Attempt to get the police to investigate the Penhew Foundation would be difficult thanks to the Authority the cult can wield through it.   Faith Faith represents how ardent and loyal the individual cultists are to their dark god. In some ways it's a good stand in for the Cultist's own will, and in other ways it can be used for casting rituals, or more likely to aid the Cult Leader in casting rituals. A good example of this in Masks is the Peru cult, where the individual Kharisiri are literally bits of a Dark God implanted into people and subservient to other fraction of a dark god possessing Larkin. The cult may lack rituals to cast, but it would be very difficult to turn a Kharisiri on their "master." Faith is the go to skill for mental defense for cultists. In it's capacity to help with ritual casting, or even just whipping cultists into a frenzy, it can also be used to Create Advantage.   Fear Fear represents a cult's ability to inspire terror. It includes the cultivation of a sinister reputation and well as making more direct acts of intimidation. A good example of this in Masks in the Egyptian cult  of the Black Pharaoh which is known to the locals, but about which they fear to talk. As a Method, Fear is a very flexible tool for cultist. It can obviously be used to make attacks and create advantages, but it can also be used overcome social obstacles and even to defend. The local may know rather a lot about the Egyptian Cult of the Black Pharoah, but you'd have to overcome the cult's Fear to get them to talk about it. Likewise the cult might use intimidation to get the locals to report on what the players are up to.   Scrutiny Scrutiny represents a cult's ability to watch, observe, notice, investigate, detect, patrol, or sense motive.  This can be on both a larger scale, such as hearing rumors, or on a smaller scale, such as noticing the man in the white robe is actually an investigator trying to sneak into the ritual chamber via disguise. Scrutiny is used to overcome when looking for things, and defense when someone else is attempting to put something past the cult.   Subterfuge Subterfuge is Stealth, Burglary, and Deceive on an organizational level. It also includes operating front businesses like the Ju Ju House in New York, Plantation in Egypt, or Penhew Foundation in London. It includes planting evidence, covering up crimes, disposing of bodies, and literally hiding. Subterfuge is typically used to either defend, to keep things hidden, or create advantage, to hide things in the first place.   Violence Each of the cults in Masks are brutal and violent, frequently killing for fun, religious reasons, and to deal with foes. When it comes to acts of assault or murder, that's the Violence method. It's also the skill individual cultists use when they attempt to kill someone. Violence is generally about making physical attacks, but it's also the defense method when cultists attempt to avoid attacks.   Wealth The last method available to cultist is to throw money at things.  Bribe officials, buy supplies, hire drivers, etc. In Masks, the wealth of the Gavigan provides the cult with the Misr house where they can perpitrate their terrible rituals in the open yet free from observation.  In the New York section, it allows the cult to have the Harlem police in their pocket. Wealth is generally used to create advantage or overcome difficulties.   I haven't play-tested this yet, but theoretically a cult should have a peak Method of +3, two more methods of +2, and three methods of +1. That leaves a single method at +0, which for most of the cults I expect to be Authority. Smaller or weaker cults might have a peak skill of +2 and only two secondary methods of +1. Weaker cults, like New York, might have a peak skill of only +2, with only a pair of +1 skills to back it up. Powerful cults use various particular named cultists to gain higher ratings for various purposes. This is because the ratings of the cult are also the general ratings used by individual nameless cultists. to really be interesting or potent in any regards, a named character should be involved. More on that under "VICs" down this page.   Stunts Cults should have at least 1, and possibly as many as 3, stunts. These stunts are cult wide abilities or features, if an ability or affinity doesn't really apply to 90% of the cultists it's probably better attached to a VIC.   The Kharisiri Regeneration ability in the Peru chapter is a good example of a mechanical feature that applies to that entire cult.   Consequences Cults also get two consequences, a 2 point Mild and 4 point Moderate, but these are like the Expedition Consequences PCs have on their shared Expedition sheet. They should generally apply to the entire cult, and can not be used for injuries or other traumas on individual cultists.  Concepts like “wanted by the police”, “abandoned our headquarter”, “no longer feared by the locals”, “lost our cache of weapons”, or even “exposed to the public” might be good fits. Essentially, they are used to reduce the impact of broad special actions that might otherwise inflict massive harm on a cult and/or to specify institutional harm players might have inflicted on the organization, especially when operating on a zoomed out scale. When the Players are making direct personal action against the cult these consequences are less likely to be useful, and that's intentional. Individual cultists should be Taken Out, and especially big rolls absorbed through VICs. Cult Consequences are treated and cleared in the same way and scale as Expedition Consequences. Mild consequences are cleared if Overcome in game or automatically on a Minor Milestone. On a Minor Milestone, a Treated Moderate Cult Consequence automatically clears. Untreated Consequences remain unchanged. On a Significant Milestone, an untreated Moderate Cult Consequence automatically becomes Treated, although without being actively overcome it's nature does not mitigate much.   Also, like the Expedition Consequences, these can be used for Success at Cost by the GM.  A Cult that rolls poorly on a Wealth roll to bribe the cops may succeed at cost but now be "Strapped for Cash" as a Minor Consequence.   Stress / Members Cults don't have traditional stress tracks. They have cultists. A cult without members doesn't exist, and so any real attack on a cult reduces the number of cultists it has. For the purposes of a pulpy game like the one I'm running, most members of a cult are nameless npcs. They are generic cultists that use the Cult's features for their actions. When present in a scene they are handled as one or more mobs of nameless npcs. Taking out an entire cult means dealing with all the cultist.   Nameless cultists are represented with individual 0 point boxes. On the Cult "character sheet" there is actually an individual box for every cultist in the cult. A successful attack on a cult, or more precisely a mob of nameless cultists, typically takes out a single cultist by marking off one box. On a Success with Style on an attack, you can take out two instead of one. Players that have an aspect in play as permission can make more potent attacks against mobs of cults, such as using explosives or a Tommy Gun to take a number of cultists equal to shifts of success on an attack roll, up to an entire mob. Some situations might even be more potent than that, such as using a squad of police to attack a cult ceremony. In such a situation, an attack via the cops might take out (kill or arrest) one cultist for each shift up to the number of cultists committed to the ceremony.   Cults commit members in the form of people assigned to a task (scene). Sending three cultists to murder an author means committing three boxes to that scene. The GM should draw a rectangel around three boxes at the start of a scene so it's clear that only three cultist are present. If things go poorly, the cult might loose all 3 member in that scene, but it also limits their exposure to just those 3 members. Unless it’s a large scale unholy rite, a cult is actually unlikely to have all their cultists in one spot at one time.  A scene full of cultists could be a real danger to PCs, but it could also lead to extremely nasty loses for the cult if the PCs are able deal with it. Of course the GM can always concede for the cult as well. If the players intend to eliminate a cult entirely, they will have to actually track down every member of the cult and take them out.  This can be a substantially undertaking without help from local authorities. In many cases PCs may be better off aiming to merely stop the cults objectives and take out some or all of it's key members: the VICs.   Typically cultists committed to a scene should be tracked in mobs of 2-5, with each mob getting one action in the scene. On that Mob's turn they can all move and take actions as a group. When they all work together to accomplish the same goal, such as attacking a single target, they can benefit from the team up rules, where each NPC past the first provides a +1 bonus to the roll. A Mob of 5 an thus gain a +4 on top of their Method. This can make a group of weak cultist dangerous when they all work together.  Alternatively, they can instead take one action but apply the roll to multiple targets, up to the number of cultists in the mob. For example, a Mob of 3 could make one attack roll, but apply that full attack roll (without teamwork bonus) to up to three targets.   Mobs of cultist that are in the same zone can automatically merge or split. That means a mob of 2 could use their move to enter the same zone as a mob of 3, and merge with that group to become a mob of 5 (with a hefty +4 teamwork bonus). If both mobs hadn't taken an action yet, they could now do so.   Cultists are not like stress tracks in another key way: they don't' clear automatically at the end of a scene. With enough time, a cult can “heal” lost cultists through recruiting new members. This can be done through  a Faith roll as it involved indoctrinating new members into the worship of their particular dark god. With time to recruit and indoctrinate, roll Faith vs a number representing how hard it is to find potential cultists, or 2 by default. For each shift over that target number, clear one box of cultists. Alternatively, if several cultists were "taken out" through arrest, a successful prison break could be a way to "heal" stress boxes.   Typically I wouldn't worry about rules for increasing a cult's size beyond it's starting value. Set a cult's membership based on a combination of what makes sense and how difficult you want to make things for the players. Only increase that value if it makes sense in the narrative and you want to increase the danger of the cult. This is probably only an option if the players have returned to a location where they left a cult intact and allowed the cult to complete their objectives.   Very Important Cultists (VIC's) VICs straddle the line between separate named NPCs and the nameless minions that generally make up a cult. In Fate Adversary Toolkit lingo, they are more similar to Threats and Hitters that Filler.  Mechanically they are a form of Extra, a Fate term for something with special mechanics. A VIC simultaneously acts as aspect, consequence, and and stunt. Narrative wise they also feed into the Fate concept of putting faces on things that are important. If the cult has potent abilities or features, it is generally more interesting to give those features a face, a character, to represent them. Like Nameless Cultist, they are committed to scenes but doing so also risks them being lost. It also make sure that cult fights aren't constant streams of nameless minions without at least some interesting characters or challenges thrown in.   In a zoomed in scene, like a fight, VICs get their own actions separate from the mobs of nameless cultists.  A Fight Scene with 15 (3x Mobs of 5) Cultists and two VICs would provide the GM with 5 characters worth of actions to pit against the PCs.  Like any other member of the Cult, the VIC uses the cult's aspects and methods, although their own aspects and stunts might alter these.   A good example from the New York chapter is Silas, the owner of the Ju Ju House. Silas and his store enhance the local cult of the Bloody Tongue's ability to conceal their actions, but Silas himself isn't especially influential or powerful. He's important to the cult, but probably not worth stating up as a separate NPC on his own. Silas is your basic VIC. He has a name, a simple aspect, a stunt, and a small amount of potential stress value: Name: Silas N'Kwane Aspect: Little Old African Shop Keeper Condition Track: [2 Out] Stunt: Front Man - Gain a +2 to Defend with Subterfuge when concealing cult activities as shop business. Silas's involvement in Cult activities gives them a potent +4 on defense rolls to conceal their real activities instead of the +2 that the cult's base rating provides. To get this bonus, Silas must be present and able to use shop business as cover.  Considering where the cult's hideout is located and that they do a lot of shipping under the shop's name, that's going to be a common bonus. Silas, however, is not a big help in a fight. He provides no bonus over the cult's basic rating, and any hit will take him out. Although he is intended to hinder players from learning about the cult if directly questioned thanks to his stunt, he isn't intended to be someone they interact with often so he's probably fine with a single aspect.   Name for a VIC can either be their actual name, or even a simple nickname or descriptor. Actual names are worth working out if the player will likley interact with a VIC in a social setting, but for combat only VICs, names aren't likely to come up.   Aspect: VICs get something like a High Concept, but it doesn't need to be especially complex of layred. Stick with simple and descriptive. For VICs players will interact with socially, especially those they may not immediately know are cultist, this is the aspect they will use conceal their real nature. Silas, for example, will pretend to be a simple, frail, shopkeeper though he technically has all the secret aspects of the New York cult, those aren't going to be visible to the players without doing some digging. For VICs you want the players interacting with for a while without suspecting them, such as Mendoza in the Peru chapter, it may be worth giving the character multiple aspects, but in most cases one is sufficient. Basically give them as many aspects is necessary, which is typically one.   Condition Track: Each VIC is also a potential way for the the larger Cult to absorb stress, albeit at that cult's expense. By default a Vic that gets taken out absorbs 2 points of stress. Especially important or tough VICs might have a larger condition track. For example, a "Threat" style VIC might have: [2 - Upset/Angry] [2 - Weakened/Injured] [2 - Doomed] [2 - Out]. Such a VIC could potentially absorb up to 6 stress and stay active (if hindered), or 8 stress and be taken out. In zoomed out scenes, when an attack is directed against the Cult as a whole, VICs can be sacrificed to absorb stress this way. For example, if the Players manage to get the New York police to crack down on the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, Silas could easily get swept up in a raid. In a zoomed in fight scene, VICs are more vulnerable and can be directly targeted for attack like any other NPC foe. If successfully attacked they are forced to use their condition track to absorb stress directed at them. The condition track counts as aspects when marked. Angry, Injured, or Doomed can be invoked by PCs, and they do get the free invoke on those conditions when they inflict them. Those conditions last as long as the GM thinks is reasonable. Theoretically Upset/Angry should clear on a Minor Milestone, Weakened/Injured should be cleared on a Significant Milestone, and Doomed only on a Major Milestone, but detailed tracking and rolling of treatments may not be worth the effort to a GM.   Stunt: Each VIC provides a stunt to the Cult, but to get the benefits of that stunt the VIC must be committed to a scene. This also means a VIC that is taken out no longer provides their stunt at all. Normal stunt rules still apply. Most stunts still provide a +2 to an action with a method under specified circumstances. An especially important VIC might have multiple stunts that apply to them, but at a certain point it might be worth simply making them their own character instead of a VIC. The Average VIC should provide 1 stunt, while 2 stunt VICs aren't too odd, especially if one stunt is a simple +2 to a skill and the second stunt is something more situational.   Example Cults At this point, early in the Masks storyline, I'm most familiar with the Peru and New York chapters so I'll try rendering those as Cult Characters.   Peru Chapter Cult The "Cult" of the Peru chapter is a pack of supernatural beings that are in some ways fragments of their dark god. The cult leader is ostensibly Larkin, who is himself possessed with a fragment of a different incarnation of that same being. At the point the story starts, most of the cultists are recent "converts" with the original Conquistador Kharisiri serving as good candidates for VIC status.  I've designed this cult to be frightening but not especially dangerous. They are small in number but durable, in that they don't stay dead. As literal fragments of a dark god that were awakened by the partial avatar of another mask of that god, it would be difficult to turn one of them on the larger cult, so I made Faith their highest skill. As they are the Peruvian equivalent of Boogeymen, I made Fear their higher skills. They also have a good sized collection of gold wealth and are actively trying to use wealth to fund and expedition to free their god, so Wealth is also at +2. On the other hand, they have generally avoided large population centers so they likely don't have any real authority, so I made that their weakest skill. According to the journal, there are 4 original Conquistadors that became Kharisiri, and only three of them have been awakened by Larkin, with one still being a feral.  For VICs features, I gave Mendoza a lot of aspects because he may be around the players for a while. Pedro they may meet along the way in the highlands so I've given him some extra details and a stunt that may make him dangerous if the players trust him. Hernando I've designed to help keep track of and follow the players instead of socially interacting with them, and will be the Kharisiri that leads an attack on the reed huts when the players (probably) visit Nayra in Puno. I'm intentionally not making the feral Kharisiri a VIC or even a member of the cult. He is not "in" on the cultist plans or organization. Concept: Transformed Kharisiri Spawn of the Father of Maggots Instinct: Driven By The Father's Hunger Turf: Our Kind Have Stalked The Highlands For Centuries Objective: Aid Larkin In Freeing The Father Ratings +3 Faith +2 Fear, Wealth +1 Subterfuge, Violence, Scrutiny +0 Authority Stunts: Kharisiri Regeneration: The GM can pay 1 fate point to the Expedition Pool between scenes to clear the marked off Cultist boxes from this scene and clear the right most condition tack box representing physical harm on all VICs, regardless of which were in the scene. This power does not work any cultists or VICs who were dismembered, cremated, or otherwise thoroughly destroyed. Kharisiri Feeding Form: When you take an action to transform into your true form, you may make a single free Fear mental Attack that applies against everyone nearby that hasn’t seen a Kharisiri true form before. Stunt: Lamprey Bite - When you succeed with style on a Violence attack in your true form and choose to reduce the result by one to gain a boost, you gain a full situation aspect "Attached" with a free invocation instead. Cultists [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] VICs: Name: Luis de Mendoza Aspect:  Larkin’s Loyal Guard Dog Aspect (Trouble): Big on Leering, Short on Conversation Aspect: Funny Eating Habits (Hidden) Aspect: Surprisingly Tough (Hidden) Condition Track: [2 - Upset/Angry] [2 - Weakened/Injured] [2 - Out] Stunt: Conquistador - Gain a +2 to Attack with Violence using a sword Name: Pedro de Velasco Aspect: European Traveler Aspect (Trouble): Gold Fever Condition Track: [2 - Upset/Angry] [2 - Out] Stunt: Ambush Predator - Gain a +2 to Attack with Subterfuge if your target is alone and does not expect the attack. Name: Hernando Ruiz Aspect: Sharp Eyed European Man Aspect (Trouble): Gold Fever Condition Track: [2 - Upset/Angry] [2 - Out] Stunt: Eyes & Ears of the Cult - Gain a +2 to Overcome with Scrutiny when looking for enemies of the cult.   New York Branch of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue The New York branch of the cult of the Bloody Tongue was setup some 8 years ago to support M'weru in locating patsies for Nyarlathotep's plans, a search that resulted in the Caryle Expedition, and with that success the New York branch features very little in the larger plans. Mukunga M’Dari has been left in charge of this branch of the cult, and he seeks to grow it in size and power. His method is largely through gaining wealth through criminal smuggling, and then using the drugs and money to gain recruits and buy influence with corrupt police. Note that Captain Robson isn't a member of the cult. He thinks he's being bribed by smugglers, not crazed cultists. The two listed leaders for the cult are M'Dari and N'Kwane. M'Dari as the cult leader, master of rituals, and potent combatant will get his own character sheet, but N'Kwane makes a useful front man to aid the cult in keeping itself secret. There are three more named cultists in the chapter: the three that attacked Jackson. I've decided to make one of them a combat related VIC, an eager killer for the cult who is leading the lesser cultists on this mission. (He'll have a leather headband instead of a cloth one). Skill wise I'm giving the New York cult a step down on the pyramid. For skills the specialty is violence, which actually gets them in trouble enough that they have to use their wealth to keep the local police captain on retainer. For a third skill I'm giving them Scrutiny, as they were able to track down Jackson Elias. It might seem odd to give them a Faith of +0, but as a new cult of new recruits from the dregs of society, they aren't likely as faithful or as knowledgeable as cults that have seen an avatar of their god summoned over the mountain of The Black Wind. As near as I can tell, none of the cultists know magic or perform rites beyond the M'Dari. The book also describes the cult having about 30 cultists, so I've set the cultist track to 30. Concept: Worshipers of the Bloody Tongue Drawn From The Dregs Of High and Low Society Instinct: Solve Problems With Panga and Blood Turf: We Run the Harlem Underworld Objective: Expand In Influence, Wealth, and Power Ratings +2 Violence +1 Scrutiny, Wealth +0 Authority, Fear, Faith, Subterfuge Stunts: Face In The Crowd: Gain a +2 to with Subterfuge when attempting to blend into the crowd. Cultists [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] | [0] [0] [0] [0] [0] VICs: Name: Silas N'Kwane Aspect: Little Old African Shop Keeper Condition Track: [2 Out] Stunt: Front Man - Gain a +2 to Defend with Subterfuge when concealing cult activities as shop business. Name: Jomo "Jimmy" Jepleting Aspect: Big Man With A Big Knife Condition Track: [2 - Upset/Angry] [2 - Weakened/Injured] [2 - Out] Stunt: Panga Expert - Gain a +2 to attack with Violence when using a large bladed weapon.

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

Episode 03 (Peru) - 24 Hours in Lima

In which the players start to figure out what's going on, and generally dislike what they learn.   Reminder: My players don't entirely know they are playing through Masks of Nyarlathotep. As far as they know, this is a 1920s Pulp themed Fate Core game. This article does contain spoilers for the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep.   Cast of Player Characters This Episode Lin Ru-Shi - A Hong Kong street urchin that grew up to be a thief. Lord Declan MacManus - A minor Irish Lord and Great War pilot turned smuggler. Lives on his flying boat and has a way with the ladies. Sebastian Sullivan - An amateur student of the arcane, driven from Arkham and currently operating as a less than-impressive detective. Abdul “Abe” Tepema - An Englishman of color, born in Egypt, he has a little knowledge of the old magic, and is a skilled detective.   Last Time... When we last left our cast of globetrotting explorers, they were in the basement of the University Museum of Archeology standing over the body of a dead man (well fat-sucking vampire but he looks like a man) and the attempting to keep a young woman alive. They had knocked over almost a third of the shelves of priceless artifacts, and several guns shots had been fired.  They had the journal of a conquistador, a large gold artifact, and an old sword. Their airplane, down at the docks, was stocked with illicit cargo, they had an appointment for later that day to pickup a smuggled poisonous snake. They were also expecting to hear back from the local crime lord to whom they had turned over an unconscious woman/fat-sucking vampire the previous day.   Their plan, until the vampire fight in the basement, had been to send Declan and Dr. Sanchez ahead to Puno in the airplane. Then Dr. Sanchez go lead a new expedition to the pyramid while the players worked to slow down Larkin's expedition. The goal for half the group was to protect the archeological value of the pyramid from looting by Larkin. The other half of the group was interested in cutting Larkin, whom they didn't trust, out of the score and getting more loot for themselves.   Sidelining Some Players Two players weren't able to attend this session so I used the situation the players were in when last session ended as a way to temporarily sideline the characters of Doctor Bhisaj and Salim Dali.   Jackson Elias, as an African American man looking at a dead white man, a bleeding out white girl, and a host of (to Peruvian authorities) foreigners, half of which are brown skinned, realizes this is not going to go well when authorities arrive.  As a pair of security guards come running in he immediately turns to them and in an authoritative voice (in clear spanish) yells: "You, go call an ambulance! You, call call the police!"  He then turns back to the rest of the group as the guards run back upstairs and says "We probably don't want to be standing over the body when the authorities arrive."   Unfortunately, Doctor Bhisaj points out that the constant pressure he is applying to the half-dead student is the only thing keeping her alive.  Salim Dali volunteers to stay behind with the doctor to explain things to the police.  The rest the party, including a Professor Sanchez that is dangerously close to throwing up and/or passing out, retires back to the Professor's office with the gold artifact and journal.   Later, the players would see the ambulance crew, along with Doctor Bhisaj, transport the still barely alive student to an ambulance and head off toward the hospital. That was followed by Salim Dali being hauled out by the police in handcuffs, and the medical examiner hauling away Mendoza's corpse.   Plans for the Day The plan to travel with Larkin while sending Snachez ahead no longer looks safe, especially to professor Sanchez, but the players can't agree on a new plan. The players decide they need to know more about what's going on before picking between Plan B: ditching Larkin now and heading to the pyramid on their own, or Plan C to continue to string Larkin along despite Mendoza "disappearing."  Abe decides to stay at the University with Jackson Elias and Professor Sanchez to dig through the journal and try to find the Pyramid's location. Jackson also thinks they should talk with his folklore friend once they get to Puno to see if they can learn more about the pyramid and the Kharisiri.   Declan and Sebastian head out for their noon meeting with "Lefty" the smuggler to pick up their snake.  Sebastian that goes out and does some shopping and ritual casting to set himself up with a warded amulet for the next few days. Declan heads to his plane and begins tweaking the engines for the high-altitude crossing over the Andes.  Lin breaks into Mendoza's hotel room, despite it being broad daylight, and tries to subtly search it but comes up empty. (GM Note: The player of Lin rolled poorly on Investigating the room and decided that meant she was being to careful to not leave any evidence of being there to do a through search. In retrospect I should have offered the player Success at Cost to search the room but not be able to make it look untouched. As it stands the players missed finding The Gold Mirror.)   Having come up empty, Lin decides to go check in with her new friends in the local criminal underworld to see if they have learned anything from the kharisiri woman they handed over the night before.  Lin doesn't even make it into the bar they use a front when she sees the crime boss, apparently unconscious with burns on his face, being carried out of the building by his own crew. The crew see Lin, and demands at Gun Point (IE: I compelled her "Gets In Over Her Head" aspect) that she help the boss, because if the boss dies, she and her friends die too.  The entire pack of Peruvian gangsters and Lin end up heading back to the Professor Sanchez's office in the Museum where, thanks to another compel on "Comidically Bad Timing" to unsplit the party, the rest of the party has also just arrived to check in on Abe, Sanchez, and Jackson.  They lay their incoherent and clearly pained boss out on the desk, and a gun totting thug leans against the inside of the closed door while Henchman #1 demands at gunpoint they fix the boss from whatever that weird woman did to him.  He pulls open his boss's shirt to reveal the burns run in a trail up his arm, across his chest, up his neck to his mouth.  Also, that a strange bulge is moving around under his skin on his stomach. Dr. Sanchez throws up at the sight of it. The rest of the party wishes Doctor Bhisaj wasn't at the hospital.   The thugs explained that they had left their boss to work over the woman in the basement of their hideout, (Reminder: She use to be the girlfriend of one the crew but had killed her boyfriend in a horrific manner a couple years back, and they had been looking for her ever since for some payback.) At some point they heard her laughing maniacally and came in to find her still tied to the chair, but their boss writhing in agony on the floor in front of her with a chemical burn on his face. Henchman #1 put both barrels of a shot gun into her chest while she was still laughing, and then decided to come looking for Lin and her friends and found her right out the front door.   Emergency Surgery Using a bottle of pisco, a thug's switchblade, a sewing kit, and chutzpah, the not-at-all-doctors Sebastian and Abe attempt to cut the weird moving lump out of Lima underworld boss. Before attempting the emergency surgery, they managed to get 5 of his crew to put away their guns to "help" by holding their boss's limbs & head and sticking a folded up leather belt in his mouth.  That left only Henchman #1 and the guy at the door "free," and Lin & Declan maneuvered into positions to deal with them should things go badly.   Thankfully Sebastian and Abe made an excellent medical roll and managed to safely remove the disgusting squirming slug-thing from the gang-boss's torso.  When it hissed at them they tossed it into the (vomit filled) waste bin.  I then rapidly squirmed out of the bin and across the floor at a nearby thug.  Lin stabbed it through with the switchblade, pinning it to the floor. Or at least that was the idea, but the disgusting little thing was slowly pulling itself through the knife while screening a high pitched sqeel. So they smashed it with a chair until it was a disgusting little puddle.   Abe finished stitching up a distinctly less pained seeming crime lord, and his goons, swearing off academic institutions as too effin scary, took their boss away to "somewhere less dangerous."   Vampire Autopsy Following the discovery the the worm-thing, the players had an entire new round of questions. Was the worm controlling the vampire? Was it the vampire and it jumped hosts? If so, why was the woman still laughing even after the worm was out? Larkin had looked sweaty and sickly, kind of like the crime boss, did that mean Larkin was in the process of transforming into a vampire? They decided the best course of action was to autopsy the vampire. They also decided it wasn't safe to sleep in the rooms Larkin and crew had bought them or stay in Sanchez's office. Abe, Jackson, and Sanchez moved to University Library to continue studying the journal. Sebastion went with them but used the time to cast a ritual out of the snake bible he got in episode one, which he was able to to do now that he had his smuggled poisonous snake. Lin and Declan went back to gangster to examine the woman vampire's body... and discovered she was gone!  Clearly she had been dead, and clearly that didn't stop her from climbing out the window while the gangster dragged their boss to the University for emergency surgery.   The group met back up at the library, and Abe revealed what they had learned from the journal: Mendoza was part of a team of conquistadors that traveled to a pyramid and looted a chunk of gold from it. Most of them transformed into monsters that night as they slept, and Mendoza had been shot in the face before. The pyramid seemed to contain some "Father of Maggots" that spoke to the only non-transofrmed survivor of the expedition as he lay dying of fever in a church (where he recorded the journal and died). The transformation into monsters seemed rapid, taking only hours, meaning that probably wasn't what was going on with Larkin. The survivor that wrote the journal regretted taking the gold from the temple, apparently believing doing so is what had released the evil. Freaking out that Mendoza was actually centuries old and had apparently been shot in the head before without it killing him, Lin and Sebastian broke into the morgue that night and discovered his body was missing.   According to the journal, and to the folklore Jackson Elias had been studying, the Kharisiri where probably the conquistadors that damaged the pyramid's golden wards, but that didn't explain how a woman the local crime boss knew from childhood had become one of them, and it didn't explain what was going on with Larkin. Was he one too? Was he linked to the pyramid somehow? Was he a patsy in this? Was his sickness supernatural or normal?   They decided Lin should go talk to him that night while the rest of them packed up the plane and prepared to get away from Lima before the two resurrected Kharisiri they'd angered found them.  They wanted to feel him out a bit, see if he had detected anything about Mendoza, and maybe assure him they would be on the trucks the day after tomorrow. They were sending Lin because she was the only one of them skilled at lying.   When Lin arrived and knocked on his door that night, no one answered.  Curious, she picked the lock and went inside, only to discover he was lying on the bed incredibly high on heroine. Lin decided this was an opportunity to get some questions answered and poured him into a cab and brought him to the rest of the group at the airplane.   Plan A, B, C, D, E, F Declan was not happy about Larkin being on his plane, but allowed it because Lin assured him that there was more than enough heroine left to keep him out for a while longer, and they could tie him up securely. In tying him up, they discovered a large, disturbing, and somehow infected tattoo on his chest that they couldn't identify.  There was a drawn out discussion on if Larkin should (or even could) be killed, if they should leave him behind or take him with them. Should they just flee the country or should they try to deal with the pyramid? Should Sebastian try using his dream controlling spell to try and learn more about the pyramid and/or Larkin? (GM Note: I hadn't thought about that kind of use for Sebastian's Dream Forge spell, but it might have been   The plan they eventually settled on was leaving for Puno that morning, basically immediately, in the plane as a group, and to take a very secured Larkin with them.  (It was assumed that they were scooping up Salim and the Doc on their way out of town too.)  Once in Puno they would try to get some more information from Jackson's folklore contact, and then, maybe, head to the pyramid to try and repair the magic there with the gold.  Along the way they would try to figure out what the deal was with Larkin.   Next Episode: Warm Welcome in Puno   Art Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boca_de_lamprea.1_-_Aquarium_Finisterrae.JPG  

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

Pulpcraft Rules - Part 3: Magic, Monsters, and Madness

Part 3 in a series of posts discussing the rules I'm using to run Masks of Nyarlathotep as a Fate Pulp game (without telling my players they are in a CoC scenario.) Part 1 covered the basics. Part 2 covered the Expedition Sheet. This post is about the magic, monsters, and sanity rules.  Let me warn you up front that these are not intended to be a direct port of Call of Cthulhu's magic, sanity, or monsters. This is a Fate game based The Mummy and Indiana Jones. The PCs are active, competent, extraordinary individuals, not traditional Lovecraftian Investigators.   Magic The magic rules are based on a combination of options from the Fate Toolkit. On the surface they are based on the Subtle Art magic rules. Spells are generally 30 minute long rituals that are supernatural versions of Create Advantage, with effects subtle enough they can easily be explained away by a half-competent skeptic. The example I gave my players is that no wizard can throw a lighting bolt, but with the right 30 minute ritual you could probably get existing dark clouds to generate a natural looking lighting strike at a particular target by inflicting a "Lighting Rod" aspect on them.   The first major difference I made to the system compared to the one in the toolkit was to rename the associated skill from Magic to Occult. Occult in this case is taken from the word's original Latin root: Hidden or Secret. Ranks in Occult imply talent at following rituals and getting the subtle force of real magic to work. Essentially the skill covers only manipulating the hidden supernatural powers of the world through ritual. Without ranks in lore, it doesn't imply any understanding of magical theory or supernatural creature knowledge. Besides spell-casting it could be used to read over a spell to see if it look valid or maybe get an idea what it could do.  As noted in Part 1, access to the Occult skill requires an aspect as permission, and players started with a number of known spells equal to their rank in Occult.   The spells themselves are somewhat predefined in that their targets and effects are built into their rituals, although they can get some variables through the use of linked or symbolic objects. For example, to curse a person they either need to be present, you need some part of them such as hair or blood, or you need a symbolic object to represent them such as their full name written on a bit of paper or doll made to look as much like them as possible. Some spells might specify only one way they work (you need to make a voodoo doll with a strand of their hair in it, then stab it with a needle with your own blood on it) while others might be a bit more open ended (such as a weather manipulating spell where different symbolic objects stand in for different kinds of weather.)  Another example might be a dream sending spell, where you can control what the target dreams about through symbolic objects. Bones or grave dirt to dream of death, or a lock of hair from a secondary target to have them dream to that person.   If successfully cast, a ritual creates an magically backed aspect on the target. That might not seem potent, but aspects like "In Love With The Corrupt Police Captain's Wife" can be very effective at derailing someone, and possibly getting them killed. The aspects usually last for 3 days on a success, or week on a success with style. Being magic, the spells are able to do things that players wouldn't reasonably be able to do normally. Change the weather, speak through dreams, contact the dead, send a snake to bite a target, etc.   The spells can not be resisted, but they can be difficult to cast. Each variable, linked object, or symbolic object increases the complexity. A simple spell with no variables that is cast on someone present, like a spell the ritual caster uses on themselves, is only a Difficulty of 1. A complex spell to send nightmares of a variable kind to a distant target might be a Difficulty of 7. If it can target multiple people, it might go as high as 10 depending on the size of the group being targeted. Some spells are made easier by having them use an object to deliver the effect. A love potion that effects the drinker is easier than a ritual to try influence the person remotely via their name or even their lock of hair. The downside is you have to get them to drink the potion.   This spell system is also used to model other supernatural powers appropriate to the 1920s setting: seances, mentalists, hypnosis, etc. I've expanded on the possible effect list from the Fate Toolkit just a little bit, especially with regards to messing dreams, reading minds, and communicating with spirits. In someways this is less subtle that the magic system in the toolkit, but still substantially less flashy than magic in your average urban fantasy setting.   The spells themselves are described as rituals with just enough details to make it clear what kind of acts and paraphernalia are involved. I've also given many of them a slightly darker twist where I could. For example, here is the Skeleton Key spell one of the players started with: Skeleton Key, Difficult 1: This ritual involves arranging a set of 13 pure metal keys in detailed patterns atop matching enochian symbols for opening & access drawn in the caster’s own blood. The set of keys are then placed onto a silver ring are empowered to open the next lock the first of them are entered into. (Places an “Unlocked” aspect on that lock, then all keys become magically inert. The keys must be used within three days, or seven on success with style. The keys may be re-used on future castings but may only have one active casting on them at a time.) Or here is a spell that commands a snake, which the players found in an occult tome on Dragon Island during episode 1: Beg Favor of the Serpent God’s Children, Difficulty 3-7: Using a special drum to play a precise arrhythmic tune, and chanting with lips anointed with the blood of a small mammal, you beg a single present serpent to undertake one task for you indicated with symbolic link objects. Several example objects, including a dagger with a victim’s name on it for assassination, are given in the text. (Place a short simple aspect on the reptile as a command for the next three days, or one week on success with style. The animal will carry it out with surprising but distinctly inhuman cunning. It's abilities are still limited by it's physical form.)   It's generally expected that the caster will need to have a guide to the ritual present in order to cast them. This would typically be the occult tome where the spell is recorded.  For the cost of a stunt, a character can have up to 3 rituals memorized, allowing them to cast them without a written guide. This stunt allow characters whose magic theme isn't ritual based to still function. Hypnotists would actually have a small number of hypnosis themed rituals for compelling or remembering, but they probably don't need a book on the topic open in front of them to use them and may have actually developed them on their own.   Mythos Magic & Doom Points While most magic works using this Subtle Art system, some of it is secretly different. In particular any Mythos related magic that is... less than subtle, uses slightly different magic based on the Voidcallers system from the Fate Toolkit. On it's surface these spells look like any other: 30 minute rituals that carry a difficulty rating. If you meet or exceed the rating with an Occult roll, you get the effect. Except in this case, the effect might be the summoning of a Hunting Horror. Definitely not subtle.   It's also not that easy. Beating the know difficulty makes the spell work, but there is also a second hidden, higher, difficulty and for each point of shift that misses the target by, I the GM get a Doom Point. I can spend doom points to make the effect of the spell, such as the summoned monster twisting its summoner's commands.   Combat Curses While most magic is ritual based, there are some faster and more direct spells.  These are also based the Subtle Art rules from the Fate Toolkit. Combat Curses each cost 1 stunt to properly learn. "Evil Eye" and "Killing Curse" are both examples. A Combat Curse is still a ritual, but it is very short and direct. For example the Killing Curse requires making hostile gestures at a target, and the target must be aware you are doing it.   Unlike normal rituals, combat curses are directly resisted by the target's Will. The Killing Curse for example is essentially an Attack with Occult which the target can Defend against with Will. The Attack inflicts Mental stress, and can result in fatal heart attacks or strokes. Variations on the Killing Curse will show up regularly among head cultists.   One of the stunts I presented to the players covered more generic psychic powers using this the combat curse system: Psychic Power Choose two of the following spells: Compel, Clumsiness, Distract, Empath (you are the subject), Love (no subject), or Rage (no subject). You have memorized a simple, quick to cast, versions of these spells. With a gesture or repeated mantra (choose trapping when the power is selected), and intense concentration, you can target someone present with either of the chosen spells. Unlike normal spells, the target Defends with Will. The effect lasts only 3 minutes, or an hour on success with style. You may take this stunt up to three times, choosing two new spell effects each time.   Occult Tomes As noted several times already, magic spells are typically rituals cast from occult tomes. Books of magic are a fairly common trope in the pulp stories I based this game on, such as the Book of the Dead in The Mummy (1999 film version), and are of course a key theme in Lovecraft's works as well. In Fate terminology, I'm treating the books as Extras. They are more complicated than simple aspects and often contain special rules or mechanics.   I've actually been putting a lot of effort into making Occult Tomes handouts for the game. Essentially little booklets made by folding a sheet of cover stock in half with details printed on the inside and outside of the booklet. When the booklets are first encountered, they are taped shut so only the front and back are visible. The front has the book's name and physical descriptions both inside and out. The back lists the book's language, simple skimming details, rules for how long it will take to read/translate, and a place to record who has read the book.  The first time a PC reads the book, I let that player open the booklet. Inside one page is devoted to a synopsis of the book and the other contains game mechanics, like spell details or relevant aspects. Also, typically, a Horror & Madness check for the reader. Between the Appendix of the new version of The Masks of Nyarlathotep and the details in the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion, I've got plenty of information for padding out the contents of the booklets with thematic details. I especially appreciate how the new edition of Masks explicitly includes connections to the larger plot in nearly every tome.   Reading a book is, in some ways, a Create an Advantage roll with Lore. The book has a reading difficulty and a time in hours it will take to read. It might also have some language modifiers that make the reading more difficult if the reader doesn't read the listed language. Theoretically anyone can read a Latin Tome if they have a Latin translation guide to work with, but it's harder. Success means you read it in the listed time. If you roll well, subtract your shifts of success from the number of hours it will take to read. Success at cost means increasing the reading time by that many hours. Once a book has been ready by someone, they add their name to list on the back of the booklet, along with getting a free invoke of the book or any one of it's content aspects (if it has any).   The players already have 3 such booklets, including the starting book of one PC (A fire damaged John Dee Translation of the Necronomicon,  very limited in intact details) and the two books they've already found since the game started, the players have really enjoyed the booklet props. They do take a surprising amount of work to make so I've been trying to get well ahead on their creation. I have booklets through New York already and have been working on London.   Monsters I plan on handling monsters within the setting using a variety of tricks from the Fate Core book, Fate Toolkit, Fate Adversary Toolkit, Fate Horror Toolkit, and a touch of rules from Atomic Robo. The Fate Adversary Toolkit will be my starting point when it comes to stating out monster aspects, skills, stunts, stress, etc. It's basic advice is to determine what kind of roll the monster is supposed to play in a conflict, and build the creature to fulfill that purpose. Hitters, Threats, Bosses, etc. In many cases, special mechanics beyond just aspects, skills, and stunts aren't needed to bring a monster to life in Fate rules. Creatures like Hunting Horrors are terrifying and dangerous, but not mechanically complicated.   Some monsters, however, do need some special mechanics to work properly. For example, the Kharisiri of the Peru Chapter can regenerate, even coming back from death. There are a few Fate tools I intend to use for these tricky abilities.   First, any special ability beyond the power level of a stunt will costs me, the GM, a Fate Point to activate. This Fate Point is paid to the players' Expedition Pool (See Part 2 for details on the expedition pool), meaning it's a point the players can use. For example, every time I have a Kharisiri resurrect in the Peru Chapter, I will need to pay a Fate Point to the Expedition Pool. Another common power is one that lets me make an attack and apply its full value against all the characters in a zone instead of splitting shifts among targets, such as the terrifying roar of the "dragon" in episode 1. It was a Provoke Attack, but by spending a fate point I was able to make it against every character present.   For some abilities that would come up multiple times a scene, rather than pay a Fate Point for every use, I can pay a Fate point for the scene but balance the power out with a Weakness. For example the dinosaur "Dragon" in my Icelandic opening episode was Immune to Normal Weapons, but Weak to Fire. I paid 1 Fate Point at the start of the scene to have the "Dragon" not take stress from gunfire no mater how many times he was shot. He was just too big and tough.   When it comes to over the top powers, like super strength or immunity, I'm using the Atomic Robo definitions of these powers. Technically that dragon is "Absolutely Immune to Normal Weapons." Absolute abilities in Atomic Robo mean that the character doesn't roll. They instead automatically succeed at the Defense or Overcome action as defined by the ability. The powers, however, are always very defined in scope. Immune to Normal Weapons means swords, hand guns, rifles, etc. It doesn't mean elephant gun, exploding hydrogen tank, or nercomantic spell. For those the immune creature must still defend with skill rolls like anyone else. Likewise a character can be "Absolutely Stronger A Person" but that doesn't mean they can smash through doors designed to stop vehicles. It also means they don't get to use their Absolute feature against other foes of similar strength.   I'm also using the Atomic Robo definition of Weakness.  When defending against a weakness, a character rolls at skill +0. A Dinosaur that is Weak against fire rolls +0 to defend against fire regardless of any conceivably appropriate skill ranks.   Sanity and Madness I'm not actually adding much to the system to deal with Madness and Sanity. For the most part I intend to handle this with making Mental Attacks against PCs when they encounter horrific sights, creatures, or knowledge. The attacks will be resisted with Will and inflict Mental Stress, possibly causing Mental Trauma themed Consequences, or even Taking Out a character through madness or terror induced heart attack. This mental attack I'm calling Horror. If the player fails to defend against it, they take mental stress equal to the shifts they missed by, plus a "Madness" rating, if present. In this way, "Madness" is sort of a Weapon rating for Horror. This is the only Weapon rating mechanic I'm actually using in the game, and there is no armor mechanic. Mental attacks can hurt in this game, and I specifically didn't warn my players about it at character creation. Example: Young Indiana Jones is running along a circus train trying to avoid the tomb robbers chasing him. He makers a bad overcome roll when trying to crawl through the reptile car, and lands in a tank full of snakes which manage to wriggle and squirm into all of his clothes, mouth, etc. The GM rolls a Horror attack against Indy, and gets a high number. Indy's player rolls badly and doesn't have the Fate Points to reroll. Indy ends up taking 10 points of mental stress!  In order to avoid being Taken Out, Indy's player is forced to take an Extreme Consequence and rewrite one of their character aspects to become "Snakes, Why Did It Have To Be Snakes." Indy is going to be afraid of snakes for a long time.   Many things in the game have Horror & Madness rating, although I am using them more sparingly then sanity checks come up in a real CoC game. Monsters, grisly murder scenes, even the contents of occult tomes can have them. As a narrative game system, Fate doesn't require that there be a consistent definition of what Horror 1 vs 3 means, or when Madness 2 is more appropriate than Madness 4.  I do however have a rough guide for books and monsters. Horror generally describes the disgusting or terrifying "face value" of something. Books that describe murder or cannibalism inflict Horror.  Madness represents how much something makes you question the nature of reality. Murder and Cannibalism are horrifying, but they aren't going to break your understanding of the universe like discovering the dead can walk or watching winged snakes made of darkness fly out of a hole in reality. It's possibly to have something with a high Horror and no Madness (like the dead bodies in a zeppelin crash), or something with a low Horror and high Madness (like the contents of many occult tomes). Somethings are both, like reading a fully intact copy of the Necronomicon or seeing the God of the Bloody Tongue materialize over the Mountain of the Black Wind.   I think this system will work perfectly well for the purposes of my pulp game, but I will admit it doesn't replicate the downward spiral of madness and knowledge that the CoC rules system does such a good job of replicating. You can use it if you'd like, but be aware it's not properly Lovecraftian.   Next Time: Cults! Cults! Cults!

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

Pulpcraft Rules - Part 2: The Expedition Sheet

Part 2 in a series of posts discussing the rules I'm using to run Masks of Nyarlathotep as a Fate Pulp game. Part 1: Basics covered the objective of the rules, which variation of Fate is involved, character creation, and languages.  In particular I pointed out that with the exception of the Occult skill, character creation was essentially Fate Core rules.  There are, however, some game rules in place that do effect characters. Most of those exist on what I have named the Expedition Sheet.   An Expedition of Player Characters The expedition sheet is a handy location to track where the PCs are, and any group wide issues or details, including Milestones. It's a physical sheet I handed over to the players during the first episode and in some ways is like a character sheet for the group a a whole.  The idea is similar to Tesladyne in Atomic Robo.  At the table this is a 1 sheet tool, complete with rule synopses I set out at the start of each session, and make sure is updated at the end of each session.   Location Details The first use of the Expedition Sheet is to track where the players are. As a game of globetrotting adventurers, visiting diverse and sometimes exotic location is a big part of the game. Each location is defined by 2-3 aspects.  Every location gets a Location Concept aspect to define it's outward theme, and a Location Trouble aspect to define a current location wide issue that everyone is aware of.  For example, New York might have the concept The Roar of 20s Manhattan, to help play up the concept of the Roaring 20s as a theme for the location. It being January 1925, with had a particularly harsh set of winter storms, the location trouble might be Short Snowy Days and Long Cold Nights. Between those two aspects, it's easy to get a feel for the place. They also present a lot of potential for compels and invokes. Snow Banks, rum runners, speakeasies, blizzards, flappers, jazz clubs, etc.   Some, but not all, locations also get a Hidden Issue aspect. This aspect is initially concealed from the players and ties into the theme of larger Masks campaign, typically describing the general activities of the local Cult. For example, the Peru chapter has An Ancient Evil Stirs as it's hidden theme, describing the activities of Larkin to "awaken" the Kharisiri and his plot free the avatar in the pyramid. These hidden issues integrate well with the general plot Masks, which are also tied to locations. This helps reinforce the global nature of campaign, so I've integrated it into the milestone advancement system in Fate Core. The Hidden Issue being resolved essentially completes a location (IE: stopping the cult in a given location) and is how Significant (possibly Major) Milestones are triggered.  Short side treks don't use the Hidden Issue, for example there was no hidden issue in my Icelandic first episode.   As I mentioned in Part 1, local languages are handled through compels on the location aspect, so it's also convenient to list the local languages on the expedition sheet near the Location Concept. This isn't an aspect so much as a simple reminder.   Milestone Tracking With the local Hidden Issue Aspect being tied to milestones, and the expedition sheet being a shared resource for the players, it's also a convenient location to track Milestones. This actually just three simple boxes on the sheet to track the number of Minor, Significant, and Major Milestones the group has earned. I also list the mechanics associated with each Milestone as a reminder.   Expedition Fate Pool Expedition Fate Points is a mechanic intended to help the players feel like a group. It's a mechanic taken from the Fate Horror Toolkit where it is called "Communal Fate Pool" (page 24). On it's surface, it provides an extra set of Fate Points for the players to use, but which are only useful for teamwork. That makes it helpful for reinforcing the team as a group. It's also a useful GM tool because it's a location I can pay out Fate Points to when doing things that impact the entire group more than direct individuals, like activating monster powers. The rules also make it clear that players that self-compel in a way that impact the entire group earn a fate point for themselves as well as one into the pool.   On the Expedition sheet there is location where these rules are recapped, and spot to record the number of points in the pool from last session.   Expedition Consequences This concept is borrowed and modified from Atomic Robo. These additional Consequence slots are shared by the entire group and when taken they also apply to everyone in the group. As such, they can only be taken when the consequence listed is applicable to the group as a whole. This means physical or mental trauma are less likely to apply. They can otherwise be used like normal consequences to absorb stress or be taken as a result of Success at Cost.   Expedition Consequences take longer to clear than personal consequences and can conceivable follow a character from port to port if not dealt with. Example: The players are traveling through the desert in search of a lost pyramid when they are attacked by raiders. Dr. Moe, the two-fisted archeologist, is shot for 5 stress. She decides to use the Expedition's Mild Consequence Slot to absorb 2 points of that stress, describing how the team's water bags in her backpack stop several of the bullets but leaving the group with almost no water remaining. She marks the Consequence and writes in "Desperately in Need of Water." As a mild expedition consequence it will clear when the group manages to find more water or when at the Minor Milestone. Mild 2 Mild Expedition Consequences typically describe some local infamy or shortage of a key situational resource that could be replaced with effort. The characters will find life more difficult with this consequence in place but are unlikely to be attacked outright over it. Clears if Overcome in game or automatically on a Minor Milestone. Examples: Wanted for Questioning, Under Suspicion, Bad Press, Desperately in Need of Water (in the Desert)   Moderate 4 Moderate Expedition Consequences typically describe an ongoing threat to the party that will regularly get them accosted, force them to take actions they'd prefer not to, or otherwise cause them harm and hardship. If Overcome in-game this Consequence is considered Treated, becoming rewritten into a mitigated version of itself. Example: Wanted for Arrest might be mitigated by providing evidence the group weren't responsible of the crimes. The consequence becomes Under Suspicion, as the police are still aware of and don't trust the group. On a Minor Milestone, a Treated Moderate Expedition Consequence automatically clears. Untreated Consequences remain unchanged. On a Significant Milestone, an untreated Moderate Expedition Consequence automatically becomes Treated, although without being actively overcome it's nature does not mitigate much. For example Wanted For Arrest would become Old Warrants to signify that that the police may not be actively seeking you, but you could still get arrested. Examples: Wanted for Arrest or Owe Money to the Wrong Kind of People   To be honest, I somewhat  expect these consequences to get use  more for Success at Cost than players absorbing stress from more traditional sources, but I won't put it past my players to find ways to use them.  I actually missed a good opportunity to use them during Episode 1 when a player took a big mental hit from a "dragon" roar, which he could have offloaded to the crowd of zepplin survivors they were trying to keep alive.   Heroic Sacrifice Like the basis of the Expedition Fate Pool, this is from the Horror Toolkit, this is a special kind of Concession where you explicitly say your character won't survive, but you can achieve something impressive immediately. Like a standard Concession, the player must choose to do this while they haven’t been taken out and before the dice hit the table on the current action. When a character performs a Heroic Sacrifice, they will die. There is not avoiding this. However the player gets to describe the circumstances of their death in as much detail as they like, adding reasonable story details as needed to achieve one of the following as part of their glorious demise: Take out a mob of nameless NPCs. Take out a Supporting NPC. Force a primary Named NPC to take a severe consequence. If that NPC has already taken a severe consequence, they take an extreme one instead. If they have already taken an extreme, they are instead taken out. If the group agrees, immediately end an ongoing conflict. This is a form of group concession and means the players don’t fulfill their objectives for the conflict, but the sacrifice allows them to escape without further ill effects. All PCs receive fate points for the concession as normal. If it makes sense, the dying PC immediately overcomes a single obstacle without a roll, regardless of he opposition against them. When a player choose to heroically sacrifice their character, they retain their Fate Points, including those gained through conceding, which they may use to invoke their Legacy Aspect to aid the rolls of their surviving compatriots. These left over fate points are lost when they introduce a new character.   Nothing specific about Heroic Sacrifices are tracked on the Expedition Sheet, but it does serve as a handy spot to keep the rules for it at the table.   Legacy Aspects Another tool from the Horror Toolkit, this allows players to still have some influence at the table between when a character dies and when they are able to introduce a new character. After a player character dies, and when the survivors have had a chance to catch their breath and commiserate, the players may choose a Legacy Aspect to represent the inspiring memory of the fallen character. This aspect starts with one free invoke. Each player may only have one active Legacy aspect at any given time: the most recently deceased character’s Legacy aspect. If a player starts a session without a character, they get two free invokes on the Legacy aspect of their most recent character.   Despite not having a living character in play, players may still invoke their Legacy aspect to aid or influence their friends through their memory.  Also, this being a pulp game, I'm not going to rule out some ghostly assistance. This is also a setting with seance rules, but it is conceivable that the players may actually talk to their dead compatriots too.   Next Time: Magic, Monsters, and Madness

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HidingFromMyPlayers

Pulpcraft Rules - Part 1: Basics

I got a request to go into some extra details on how I'm running this version of Masks of Nyarlathotep in Fate, so I figured I try to write up a multi-part set of posts on the topic. This first post will cover some basics, and then I can go into greater detail in the next few parts.   What I'm calling Pulpcraft on in these blog posts I'm calling Tales of Adventure and Mystery to my players. As far as they are aware this is a Fate Core game set in a pulpy low-magic version of the 1920s. Something inspired by the Indiana Jones movies and the Mummy Trilogy. They haven't been warned they are actually playing the new version of the infamous Masks of Nyarlathotep.   I, and about half my players, have been playing Fate based games off and on for a several years. The other half of my players are new to Fate but have some experience in RPGs in general. I'm not sure if any of them have ever played CoC, but I know a few of them have played systems with horror/madness mechanics. A few of us played Eclipse Phase for a while,  for example.
Fate rules can be fairly modular and allow for a lot of customization. For this game I decided to try and leave the Player Characters more or less at Fate Core standards, but I am doing a lot of things on setting and GM side of the rules. Overall I'm using mostly Fate Core but with extra bits and pieces of rules from the Fate Toolkit, Fate Adversary Toolkit, Fate Horror Toolkit, Dresden Files Accelerated, and Atomic Robo. Changes to the system generally cluster around magic, monsters, horror/madness, occult tomes, languages,  some player teamwork stuff, and some experimental bronze rule fractal foes stuff.   Pulp Cthulhu, Not Call of Cthulhu Before I go any further, I should probably specify that I'm using Fate to run a game where the players are active, competent, globetrotting, adventurers. This is not intended to be a Fate Horror or Fate Cthulhu rule set. If anything it would probably do well in place of Pulp Cthulhu for something like The Two Headed Serpent, but please don't try using this for more classic CoC mysteries that are  horror filled and local. That's not the objective.   Player Characters and Character Creation Player Characters are using Standard Fate Core rules including the Phase Trio from character creation. The only change to the rules is the addition of another skill: Occult. Occult covers the use of magic in the setting. It's very specific to casting spells, not understanding theories of magic, or identifying supernatural monsters. That's all still Lore.  I'll cover magic in greater detail later, but for the purposes of character creation it's important to know the following: This system is defined as magic but covers general 1920s supernatural powers including being a medium for spirits or having mentalist powers, etc. You need to have a Character Aspect to justify and define your access to magic. Magic is typically an advanced form of Create Advantage that takes 30 minutes to cast from a book. Targets don't get to resist but there are  several other factors on how difficult the target number is on a ritual, etc. Much of it involves linked or symbolic objects. It's essentially a toolkit for building spells, and the spells are very spicific. The more variables a spell has, the more widely useful it can be but also the harder it is to cast. There are stunts that alter some of this. Combat spells are single turn mini-rituals that a target gets to resist. The Killing Curse stunt actually inflicts mental stress on the target via attack. These are the rare exceptions to the rule. Players start with a number of rituals equal to their starting Occult skill but will have to locate all new spells through play. Players that don't start with Occult don't start with spells.   Advancement I have altered the advancement rules somewhat. It still uses Milestones, but the Significant (and by extention Major) Milestones are now triggered by details on the "Expedition Sheet," which I will cover in greater detail later.  While this trigger is a little bit different, the results are the same. Minor Milestones still happen at the end of most sessions.   Languages Of particular note to a game of globetrotting adventurers that often need to cast rituals from ancient occult tomes is the treatment of language.  Languages are mostly handled using Compels and Invokes. I assume everyone speaks a native language and English. For some character that's the same thing.  All other languages are handled through Compels and Invokes.   Modern languages are handled through a Compel on a location aspect. If the players travel to Paris, I offer a compel to anyone that doesn't already speak French to not speak the language well enough to communicate. Everyone can either take the fate point and have trouble talking, or refuse the Compel by paying a Fate Point, and they now speak at least basic conversational French. This rule also applies to letters written in common languages or meeting someone that speaks a common language even if it isn't the local language: A compel on the reliant aspect (for the object or person) to not be able to read it or speak to them. If you encounter a book written in Spanish while in France, I would offer a compel on the book to not speak Spanish.   Obscure and Dead languages are handled differently. To be able to read Sumerian, a character must invoke an aspect explaining how they know that language. This still costs a Fate Point. An Archeologist character will have an easier time finding a way to speak Sumerian than a Chicago Gangster, and that's intentional. If you don't speak/read a language you can still use Lore to try and and translate it, but doing so typically requires access to books for translating, and takes time.   There is a spot on everyone's character sheet where they can record languages they know. If you previously defined yourself as speaking Spanish on a trip to Peru, you can later read a book in Spanish without issue. We are intentionally not tracking what languages aren't spoken by a character. If you didn't speak Spanish when you went to Peru, you can still change that later when visiting Barcelona.   There are stunts that can alter the above. The Polyglot stunt, for example, lets you refuse a living language based compel without paying a Fate point. You can always still accept the compel if you want the Fate point, but it doesn't cost you anything to decide you do speak the local language. One of my players has this stunt and is picking up languages quickly, but several of the players without it are still picking up languages at a fast clip. Note that the Polyglot stunt does not help with obscure languages because those don't use the Compel based mechanic.   Initiative Cards This blog post edited on 10/2/2018 to add this section on Initiative. One significant change to Fate Core I am using is an entirely different Initiative system: The Elective Action Order, AKA: Balsera-Style, Marvel, or Popcorn Initiative.  Under my implementation of the system, the GM determines who goes first in a scene based on whatever makes sense at the time. Once that player has had their turn, they choose another character to go next from among everyone that hasn't had a turn yet. Eventually, the last character takes their turn, and they can pick another character to go next from among everyone else.  This system has proved rather easy to use at the table thanks to the use of flip-able initiative cards. I ordered  two sets of cards a while back and have found them a great investment.   My own twist on the system is the ability to spend Fate Points to invoke aspect to steal the initiative. If it's someone else's turn, and you haven't had your turn yet, you can make a Hostile Invocation on a relevant aspect to  steal the turn. The Fate Point you spend to do this goes to the player who's initiative you've just stolen, but until after the end of the scene (as usual for Hostile Invocations.)  This doesn't negate their turn, it simply delays it until someone actively picks them to go next again.   This system allows for interesting combos, where one or more characters will setup advantages for another character going after them. It also adds a little metagame trick to it where whoever goes last gets to pick who goes next, so if the PCs all decide they go first, any surviving bad guys get to effectively have two turns in a row before the PCs go next.   I've been using this system for a couple of years and it's proven fast and fun, but it does impact any stunts that normally modify intiative.   Next Time: The Expedition Sheet

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HidingFromMyPlayers

Episode 02 (Peru) - Peruvian Expedition

In which an old friend from Episode 1 invites the player characters to help him with his current project.   Reminder: My players don't entirely know they are playing through Masks of Nyarlathotep. As far as they know, this is a 1920s Pulp themed Fate Core game. This article does contain spoilers for the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep.   At the end of last session, one of my players thought the name "Jackson Elias" sounded familiar. At the start of this session he announced to the group that he did some research and the character was from Lovecraft's works. I'm not sure he actually figured out what's happening and is  lying to preserve the surprise, if he slipped up in his research and didn't realize the character was from CoC games, or if he did find Masks but the Iceland and Peru content doesn't fit the classic use of a white Jackson Elias so he figured I was just using the name as a reference (as I do.)  Whatever the situation, I'm happy he didn't ruin the surprise for the rest of the table. I'm still able to play off the Lovecraftian hints and bits in the game as my own enjoyment of the mythos content, and catering the player that actively made an Arkham Scholar.   Anyways, this is the start of the Peru Prologue chapter from the newest edition of Masks. As written, it is supposed to serve as an intro to Jackson Elias and take place in 1921. My players have already met Jackson in July 1923, and I'm setting this in 1924. I've talked about this in forum posts, but moving this adventure to 1924 (still in March) works with very few changes to the timeline. By the end of this adventure, Jackson will be interested in learning more about Agustus Larkin, and Larkin being from Kenya it makes sense for Jackson to go there after a little research. As written, Jackson is supposed to be wandering all of Africa for many months, but I think this actually fits the timeline and Jackson's investigative skills better.   Cast of Player Characters Salim Dali - A negotiator, translator, expedition assistant extraordinaire. Lin Ru-Shi - A Hong Kong street urchin that grew up to be a thief. Lord Declan MacManus - A minor Irish Lord and Great War pilot turned smuggler. Lives on his flying boat and has a way with the ladies. Sebastian Sullivan - An amateur student of the arcane, driven from Arkham and currently operating as a less than-impressive detective. Abdul “Abe” Tepema - An Englishman of color, born in Egypt, he has a little knowledge of the old magic, and is a skilled detective. Doctor Bhisaj - Great War ambulance driver that recently completed medical training in London. A bit too trusting for his own good.   Keeping In Contact Since helping to rescue the players from Dragon Island in Episode 1, Jackson has been exchanging letters with the PCs. He ended up heading back to Iceland trying to find the island again so he could meet the tribe, see the snake tomb, and write it all up, but after spending nearly a week looking for it by boat and then even hiring a plane to a do a flyby, he was unable to locate it again. Neither he nor the players are aware that the island is unstuck in time and is only around every 10th day. He wouldn't believe it if he was told so either. He eventually shelved that book idea and headed to South America to follow up on some leads he had left over from researching The Smoking Heart years earlier.  In February the players each get a telegram from their friend Jackson: NEED HELP ON EXPEDITION STOP ... PLEASE ACCEPT LARKINS OFFER STOP  ... CALL ME JESSE HUGHES STOP ... BRING GIN AND LUCKY STAR TOBACCO STOP - JACKSON ELIAS Within a week they then get a letter from Agutus Larkin inviting them to join an expedition in Peru to seek a lost pyramid full of gold artifacts. He asks them to telegram him if they are interested as he is hoping to get his expedition going in March, before the summer ends (Summer in the southern hemisphere). When they do he replies with: THANK YOU FOR JOINING EXPEDITION STOP ... PLEASE JOIN ME IN LIMA STOP... HAVE BOOKED YOU ROOM AT HOTEL MAURY STOP ... MEET 18 MARCH 7PM AT BAR CORDANO STOP ... JIRON ANCASH 202 DISTRIOTO DE LIMA STOP -AGUSTUS LARKIN Most of the players got together and rode in Declan's flying boat down, arriving together a few hours early on March 18th.  While they flew, Sebastian the Arkham Scholar told the players what he had learned from the "snake bible" the picked up on the island. The book content was very short on Mythos lore, but Sebastian has the "I'm not saying it's the old ones... but it's the old ones" character aspect, so he interpreted it that way.  I enjoyed that because my descriptions of Loki in the hand-out were meant to hint at Nyarlathotep.   Lima Arriving in Lima, the players got a couple of hours to do highlight their characters. Declan and Sebastian tracked down a poisonous snake from a smuggler (because the spells in the Snake Bible mostly require one), and Declan also picked up a shipment of not-overly-defined illicit cargo (the joys of fate means we can later declare this as drugs, guns, explosives or anything else illicit as needed.) The thief got the lay of the land as far as criminal enterprises go, and Salim  scouted out the restaurant so he could get an good read on their potential new employers.  Eventually the meal proper started and everyone (except Dr. Bhisaj, whose player was running late so the character was too) got to do the entire social interaction thing more or less as written in the book. It went well, with the player developing all kinds of interesting ideas about what they were getting into.  They were especially shocked that Larkin had been so open about knowing the location of a pyramid full of gold, and was foolish enough to wander around with gold artifacts. That Mendoza was clearly his bodyguard made sense after that revelation as he clearly looked like a killer to them, and noted that he did not eat much and leered at Jackson for most of the meal. They were incredulous that Larkin was offering equal shares in the expedition to all that joined, and noted that he played up the gold to greedier PCs and the Culture to the PCs more interested in that angle. I really enjoyed their theory that Larkin, who is clearly unhealthy, was trying to lure people up to the pyramid so he could sacrifice them to regain his health.   After the meal they met with Jackson Elias, and Doctor Bhisaj showed up, who clued them in on his "fat-vampire stories are actually evidence of a death cult going back to the conquistadors" theory. He had to admit he didn't know how Larkin or the Pyramid actually fit in with his cult theory. With this new knowledge the players formulated a hypothesis of their own that Mendoza was trying or had recruited Larkin to his cause. The players agreed to meet up with Jackson the next day at the University to talk with his archeologist friend. It now being well into the night, the players headed out in various directions. A few of them tracked Larkin and Mendoza back to their hotel and charmed a maid to give them details on the two. Mendoza's apparent lack of sleep, Larkin's messy room and foul smelling sheets, etc. It was all suspicious but it didn't answer any questions.

Declan, the pilot, went out carousing with the local ladies and tried to take one home... so of course I made her a Kharisiri that was trying to implant him. A fight broke out and the rest of the party came to his rescue in his hotel room. They managed to knock the Kharisiri out, which left them with a problem: what to do with her.  A few good rolls later they managed to turn her over to a local gangster who's lieutenant she had fed on at some point earlier.   Now realizing they were dealing with real Kharisiri, they went to the meeting at the museum the next day with new concern.   Horror in the Museum All of the player join Jackson at the museum where he introduces them to his friend Professor Sanchez of the University's  Archeology department. The players briefly attempt to explain somewhat of what they encountered the night before to Jackson, but he insists that monsters aren't real and that Declan must have had his drink spiked. The characters quickly move on to expedition business. Dr. Sanchez explains that Larkin has rebuffed his attempts to join the expedition and that he expects Larkin is intending to simply loot the pyramid of its riches and sell them to collectors around the world.  Sanchez and Jackson were already considering a plan to get to the pyramid first and stake a claim to secure it in advance of Larkin's arrival.  The players, some hoping to help preserve Peruvian culture for the citizens of Peru and some simply interested in cutting out Larkin from the deal, agree to help.  The make a plan for Dr. Sanchez to fly out the next day in Declan's plane; a daring crossing of the mountains that will give Dr. Sanchez over half a week's head start on Larkin's trucks.   The trick, however, is that only Larkin knows the location of the pyramid.  Dr. Sanchez says he and his undergrad assistant have been researching a lead on that mater. They found a journal dating back to the time of Pizarro that might help. His assistant has been researching it, and in fast should be joining them any minute now. She was digging around in the basement stacks for an artifact mentioned in the journal.   My player immediately assumed she was already dead, but most of them rushed down anyway.  Declan remained behind to try and discus more about the gold in the pyramid. I planned on the players finding her corpse, still warm, but one of them invoked the character aspect "Right Place, Right Time" so I allowed them to come upon Mendoza still feeding on her. A fight, of course broke out. After the initial gunshot, even Declan came running. It was a fairly chaotic fight with probalby a third of the shelves of antiques knocked over, but after taking a few nasty blows I tried to get Mendoza out. My players put an end to that with a well worded "create advantage roll" bluffing that they had taken Larkin prisoner and invoking Mendoza's "Larkin's Guard Dog" aspect. It worked, and he came rushing back demanding to know where Larkin was is formal Spanish and waving around a sword that to the players' eyes may or may not have come from the museum's collection.  Salim started negotiating with him, but that end as soon as Declan shot him in the head. The player was thrilled to get to use the "Boring Conversation Anyway" stunt that gives him a bonus to ending a conversation with gunfire.

The Doc was able to stabilize Dr. Sanchez's assistant, although she needs to get to a hospital ASAP, and the group was able to show Jackson and Sanchez the strange lamprey like mouth on Mendoza, although it was starting to retract back to a human looking mouth as he lay dying.   I ended the session there, so the players will need to figure out how to handle a bleeding young woman, a man with his brains blown out, and a shocking amount of damage to museum artifacts immediately at the start of next session, because the racket they just made has the attention of the security guards, and the police are likely to follow.   Next Episode: 24 Hours in Lima   Art Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Máscara_Lambayeque2.JPG

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HidingFromMyPlayers

Converting Peru to Fate

Later this week I will be running the second session/episode of my "secret" Pulp-Fate Conversion of Masks of Nyarlathotep. This session will be the first to use content from the (new) MoN Book, which means converting existing content instead of inventing new.  Mostly I'm using basic Fate Core rules, with some ideas from the Fate Adversary and Fate Horror Toolkits.  I'm not going to go into too much detail, but here are some broad concepts that other might find interesting or helpful:
  Converting Peru
In my Fate conversion, the players have a shared "Expedition Sheet" that is integrated into the campaign structure in a few ways. One of those ways is that it is used to track Location Aspects.  There are three such aspect: Location Concept, Location Trouble, and (an optional) Location Secret. The Location Concept is a general theme for the location. Trouble is an obvious difficulty that effects almost everyone present (for example: harsh weather), and the Secret is an initially hidden aspect defining the theme of the cult activity in the area. Resolving the secret triggers a Significant (or Major) Milestone. The general plan for my Masks conversion is to give every major location in the game (Peru, New York, London, Egypt, Kenya, Shanghai, and Australia) all three aspects. Any minor locations would have only the first two aspects (for example, my intro adventure: Escape from Dragon Island).   Location Concept: Extremes of Climate and Terrain The Peru Chapter features modern coastal Lima, highlands traditional Puno complete with potential floating homes, an expedition into the actual highlands, and a pyramid on a dead plateau. There are several climates, and potential altitude sickness. MoN spends some time talking about and making these a feature of the Peru chapter, so I'm making it the primary location aspect for Peru.   Location Trouble: Unequal Modernization Another point the chapter makes is that Lima is a modern city with a modern set of European style utilities and trollies. Despite this, some of the hotels still don't have phones.  The rest of the country is less European including a lack of train lines to Puno. Remember that trains are the 1920s standard for overland travel. Puno is described has more traditional with fewer European comforts. The expedition into the highlands is an on-foot affair into the wilds. This diversity of experience and access to European style comforts makes for a easy common trouble to hit players with on easy compels, particularly in Puno and the expedition beyond.   Location Secret: The Ancient Evil Stirs Once players get access to the journal of Gaspar, or the notes thereof, it will be clear that The Father of Maggots is up to something, and this aspect will be revealed. To "win" Peru and get a significant milestone, they will need to deal with that evil.  The wording here is intentionally a bit vague, and will fit well with the similar aspects planned for other locations in MoN.  It's also a useful aspect for me to invoke or compel when suddenly Peruvian fat vampires strike at the players unexpectedly.   Languages Upon arrival in Peru at the start of the session, I will offer all the players a compel to not speak Spanish. Anyone that accepts it will have trouble communicating, especially outside Lima. Those that pay a fate point to refuse (or in one character's case, uses his Stunt to refuse for free) will know Spanish. This is how I plan to use living language difficulties. Note that if any of the players were from a country that speaks Spanish natively, they wouldn't be offered the compel to start with. None of my players fit that category for Spanish.   Quechua and Aymara are a different story.  These are, globally speaking, rarer languages. I will require anyone wanting to speak them to invoke a relevant aspect explaining how they know the language. Even that might not be needed because the languages aren't a big factor in the story. Aymara shows up because it is spoken by Nayra, although she speaks Spanish also, so I'm not sure I'll need to use it. Quechua doesn't really feature in the storyline at all beyond a slang term for a graverobber.   Kharasiri The Peruvian fate vampires are generally very human like in most features. They have two specific power that I think require some mechanical features: Transformation and Regeneration. Everything else works with basic skills and actions. Each Kharasiri gets a transformation power that allows them to change as an action. This is essentially lets them Create Advantage to make a "Human Lamprey" aspect on themselves complete with Free Invoke.  Moreover, when they transform they get to make a free Provoke attack (inflicting mental stress) against anyone that hasn't seen a Kharasiri in true form yet. Regeneration is a stunt that lets me as the GM spend a fate point (from my pool into the player's shared Expedition pool) to bring any given dead Kharasiri back to life between scenes, unless they are dismembered/burned/etc. More generally they automatically overcome (heal but not fully remove) any physical consequences (injuries) between scenes.   Other Kharasiri features, like attaching to someone, draining them, or implanting a larva in them, is all handled by normal attack and create advantage mechanics, along with some basic stunts. Larkin & Nyarlathotep Converting Nyarlathotep's possession of Larkin is actually fairly easy because he is weak host for such a powerful being. Larkin's Fate stats are mostly built around being Larkin, including a Lies Upon Lies stunt. However, he also has a special stunt that is the kind of thing you only get to use as a GM: Possessed: For the cost of a GM Fate point paid to the Expedition Pool, Larking can become directly possessed by Nyarlthotp. His High Concept becomes “Weak Shell for a Dark God” and he gains the “God” skill at +5. The God skill can be used in place of Lore, Occult, Provoke, and Will.   Concealing The Truth About Larkin and Mendoza These two character are introduced to the players as humans, and the players are supposed to work out their inhuman truths. In addition to just strait up gaining new aspects when transformed/possessed, I'm going to use a pair of tricks to make this work, both from the Fate Core: First, hidden aspects. Not all of their aspects will be immediately apparent when players meet them. They will need to overcome with relevant skills to uncover the missing aspects.  Second, these aspects will not be "undead conquistador" but instead aspects that imply something without saying it outright. Players may not understand it all until it becomes obvious. The trick is to develop character aspects you could invoke for supernatural effects without saying them outright. This works especially well when mixed in with aspects that are just straight up character traits. Larkin High Concept: Charismatic Expedition Leader Trouble: Clearly Not As Healthy As He Pretends To Be The chapter makes it clear Larkin doesn't look healthy, so I decided this didn't need to be secret. Well-Travelled British Dilettante of Some Means * Intuition and A Plan, In That Order (Secret) This one covers the subtle influence of a dark god on his mind. * Always Looking to the Future (Secret) This covers not only Larkin's push towards how great things will be when they get to the gold artifacts in the pyramid, but also his dislike/inability to talk or even clearly remember his past. Mendoza High Concept: Larkin’s Loyal Guard Dog Trouble: Big On Leering, Short On Conversation (Doesn’t speak English) * Funny Eating Habits (Secret) Mendoza doesn't show much interest in his food at the restaurant where they meet him. Later it will become clear what he really eats. * Surprisingly Tough (Secret) This seems straightforward but it's also connected to his regeneration. When they later read he was shot in the face by Gaspar, it will be a surprise. * Doesn’t Trust “Jesse” or his friends (Secret)   Creative Commons Art Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LacSibinacocha_Perou.jpg

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HidingFromMyPlayers

Episode 01 (Iceland) - Escape from Dragon Island

In which the player character come together to overcome adversity and in the most pulp into adventure I could come up.   Reminder: I've told my players we are running a 1920s pulp game using Fate Core rules with some fairly subtle magic. They don't yet know this is the start of Mask of Nyarlathotep or even a CoC inspired setting.   This is a recap of the first episode I ran for them last Thursday.  My previous post talked about the characters they created using the Fate Core phase trio. Unfortunately the player of the unnamed gangster dropped out of the game, and the player of Doctor Bhisaj wasn't able to make it for this game.  I won't recap the character creation session too much, but as a reminder, one player is secretly playing an ancient mummy, although he looks human enough. Another player is playing an Arkham scholar, which is extra fun considering the players don't yet know this is a CoC scenario.   Cast of Player Characters Salim Dali - A negotiator, translator, expedition assistant extraordinaire. Lin Ru-Shi - A Hong Kong street urchin that grew up to be a thief. Lord Declan MacManus - A minor Irish Lord and Great War pilot turned smuggler. Lives on his flying boat and has a way with the ladies. Sebastian Sullivan - An amateur student of the arcane, driven from Arkham and currently operating as a less than-impressive detective. Abdul “Abe” Tepema - An Englishman of color, born in Egypt, he has a little knowledge of the old magic, and is a skilled detective.   HMS Airship R99 July 1923 - Great Brittan has just completed a shakedown London to New York trip of their new R99 airship, a converted war zeppelin Britain demanded from Germany. It's part of the Burney scheme to link the distant parts of the Empire. Each player has booked passage, stolen a ticket, or in one case shipped themselves as cargo. Initially the players prepare for some ship based intrigue. The thief steals the porter's keys. The occult scholar activated his magic keys with a ritual in his room. The negotiator starts making business contacts with the wealthy and powerful of London. The pilot attempts to avoid the young blonde woman's father and brother, etc. They barely notice when the captain ship veers north to try and avoid a storm in the Atlantic. They defiantly notice that night when I placed a "She's Breaking Apart!" aspect into play. The mummy character pulled himself out of the crate when the weather got nasty enough and attempted to cast a weather calming spell, but I compelled the new aspect before he could spend the 30 minutes on the spell, and broke the ship in half. The front half of the ship burst into flames from a lighting strike, while the back half, with the players and most passengers in the less lethal back half. They landed in water, which they were surprised to find both warm and an unsalted.   Dreki Eyja When dawn came they found themselves in shrouded in fog standing atop an improvised raft on a warm lake. They couldn't see shore, but they could hear tropical birds and see the smoldering glow of the front half of the ship that was still burning (a clear sign it wasn't on the water.)  Reaching shore they discover a beach of stones leading up to a primeval forest full of birds and plants they don't recognize. I then hand them their team Expedition Sheet and give the Location Aspect as "Island that Time Forgot." They looked for survivors in the wreckage (one player did poorly and had to deal with mental stress from the corpses,  and ended up taking some consequences) and did manage to save a couple of people. The thief wrangled up the children, some now orphans, and the mummy (who of course just looks like a Englishman of color) managed to find the wireless set, damaged, but functional. Over the radio, he finds a drunk Norwegian sailor singing shanties. A nice test of the language system, most of the players accept a compel to not speak the language, but one player pays the fate point to refuse and another has a stunt that make is free for them to speak living languages (he can still accept the compel for a fate point if he wants.)  Eventually they get a hold of a sober American (the sailor calls him the passenger) on the ship and learn some interesting facts: The airship apparently went down 10 days ago, despite the players clearly experiencing it the night before the wreckage still being somewhat on fire. Ships as part of a search party spent a week looking for wreckage or survivors but found none. They island, shrouded in fog and only located by ship after they followed the radio signal, wasn't there the day before. The captain of the ship swore they came that way the day before in clear weather and there was not island in sight. The island seems to be a lot of cliffs along the shore, although the ship can see a river emptying out of cave. The passenger heard a story from a sailor in a dockside bar in Iceland about a cursed island that could only be located when the fog was bad. The island was surrounded by cliffs and full of wonders and dangers. The locals call it Dreki Eyja, roughly Dragon Island in English, because it was said to be home to a terrible serpent god. The PCs start to debate the right course of action to move forward with. The mummy uses his weather magic to push back the fog a bit and they can now see the entire steamy lake, the primeval forests, and sheer stone cliffs of the caldera this is all in.  Some of the players think they should follow the river out of the lake to the beach where the ship can pick them up.  Some of them think they should build a camp and wait for the Royal Navy to come get them. That's when I pointed out the trees in the forest shaking, and terrifying roar coming from that same direction. I placed the Location Trouble Aspect "Escape from Dragon Island" on the expedition sheet.   The Serpent God of Dragon Island At this point a massive dinosaur (Spinosaurus) clambers out of the tree line and delivers a terrifying roar (backed up by a creature stunt and an invoke on the "Serpent God" aspect to make a potent fear based mental attack on everyone present.) I expected the players, who had looted rifles from the wreckage of the airship, to fire on it, discover it was immune to standard weapons, and flee in the same direction as the other crash survivors (who did not handle a "dragon" well.)  This was of course foolish of me.  My players intuitively decided a monster so big was not worth shooting at. They immediately formed a plan to lure the creature into the wreckage of the airship and detonate all the remaining hydrogen tanks they could fine.  What followed was an entertaining battle where the players split their activities between manipulating the dragon and setting up the explosive, while the dragon tried to eat them. Their plan proved successful, and they manged to kill the beast in a giant explosion that also wiped out the radio.   Island of Serpents The destruction of the airship wreckage wiped out most of the resources the players had considered using to setup camp with so they opted to follow the river to the coast and hope the Norwegian ship would be able to pick them up. Along the way they discovered a serpent themed alter in a swamp (See future connection to the Serpent of Soho side quest) and at the top of a path to where the lower jungles of the island, a series of pillars where sacrifices were clearly offered up to the god.  They also discovered massive stone carvings of serpents, some 20 stories tall and looking over the island. It was obvious that the culture that once built the tall statues and alter was far more advanced than the primitive tribe offering sacrifices at the pillars. They also discovered a pyramid shaped burial mound. Inside they found a few remains, one near the back clutching a modified bible (their first occult tome), and what appeared to be a bolder sealing up a hole in the ground. They opted not to see what was trapped under it. They continued on along the river's edge, eventually meeting the local tribe of island: a race that seemed part Celtic and part neanderthal. They spoke a broken kind of Icelandic, but a couple player characters were able to communicate. Thanks to some quick talking, they managed to convince the tribe that the death of their god was a good thing ("feast on its meat and absorb its power") and the tribe rejoiced... until the pilot (Trouble aspect: Foot Placed Squarely In Mouth) blasphemed and next think you know they are chased down the river, through the tunnel, and onto the beach with spears being hurled at them.   Escape! On the beach, the players are rescued by the Norwegian freighter crew, and meet Jackson Elias, the English speaking African American passenger. Over the three day journey to Iceland, he trades stories with them about dealing with tribes and cults.  The players each go their own way after that.   GM Note: Possible Problems for my Evil Plans One of players made a special note of Jackson Elias's full name and appeared to be googling it on his phone. I'm not sure if it sounded familiar or if he just doesn't trust me after the last game I ran (time travel) where the players spent months doing jobs for a guy in a suit named Mr. Riddle before they finally met his younger self outside a Michigan dinner in the 1970s and found out his full name was James Riddle Hoffa. Jackson Elias is a unique enough name that if he did google it he will know what scenario I am planning to run. If he googled it in relation to "Dragon Island" he will probably find my posts here on Yog and thus know even more about what's going on.   In fact, just in case he finds this blog: Hey Mike, stop Cheating!   Connections to the Larger Plot The main goals of this scenario was to help bring the players together, to get the pulp feel across,  to introduce several mechanics like making Will defense rolls against disturbing situations and terrifying beasts, to get them their first occult tome, and of course to introduce Jackson Elias in a way that hopeful endears him to the players.  It also has some other more minor goals. First, the location may be used again. One bit of weirdness of the island was the passage of time.  The players crashed one night and the next morning it was 10 days later to the outside world. This was intentional on my part because the island was built by the Serpentmen empire long ago as a temporal life raft.  This may come up again later when the players encounter the serpent alter painting/time gate in the London side quest. The second connection to the larger plot is just a bit of foreshadowing: the occult tome they have found in the step pyramid shaped burial mound contains references to Loki the many faced who will bring about Ragnarok when the giants from beyond fire, ice, and time will come and destroy the world. The book also gives a little bit more background on the island, it's current tribe of semi-humans, and hints at serpent people able to take on human form and use potent magic.

Next time... Next session, available here, is the start of the Peru chapter from the new MoN.

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

Character Creation

Most of my players took part in character creation last night, so I now have some idea what this game is going to look like. They have put together a team that should do very well, and in a few cases are oddly well aligned with the setting.  One actually chose to do a Lovecraftian Scholar From Arkham which I tried not to look too thrilled about. The player has unwittingly given me cover to make all kinds of CoC references!  Oh, and other is an actual mummy but we are keeping that secret from the rest of the players for now.   Salim Based loosely on Sallah from Indiana Jones, Salim is a face character with excellent negotiation and (living) language skills. He has a basic intuitive knowledge of ritual magic, and has a tea ceremony that gives him a supernatural edge in negotiations. High Concept: Wheeler, Dealer, Stealer, Tire-Peeler Trouble: Not Everyone is Happy With Their Deal Unlikley Relief or Reinforcements You're My Newest Friend Can Deal With Anyone, Anywhere   Lin Ru-Shi A young woman from the streets from Hong Kong, Lin is a skilled pickpocket, thief, and martial artist (because of course an Asian character in a 1920s pulp story needs to know martial arts.) . She has a mild robin-hood complex and a soft spot for kids and especially fellow orphans. High Concept: Street Theif With A Heart of Gold Trouble: Gets In Over Her Head Blends In, Gets Ignored Comedically Bad Timing Great At Making Friends, Better At Making Enemies   Declan Macmanus A minor Irish Lord and Great War flying ace, now living out of a flying boat and making his way as a smuggler. His aspects really spell out the pulp concept: High Concept: Irish Lord Pilot Turned Smuggler Trouble: Foot Placed Squarely In Mouth “Friends” in Every Port “I Swear I Love You, Honest!” A Kind Word, and A Gun During the three phase portion of character creation, Declan robbed, hit, and in once case shot, other PCs.   Hist stunts include "Boring Conversation Anyway" and "Ramming Speed!"   The Player of Declan replaced one of this aspects with "Order of St. George" after killing the "Dragon" in Episode 1.   Doctor Bhisaj An Indian whose education at a London medical school was interrupted by the Great War. He served as an ambulance driver, and was shot (by Declan). He returned to school after the war and has recently received his medical degree.  His Trouble is "Too Trusting" High Concept: Young Indian Doctor Far From Home Trouble: People Are Always Good, Right? Great War Ambulance Driver Everyone Loves Me Right Place At The Right Time   Sebastian Sullivan An Arkham occult scholar turned not-so-great detective.  He has a incomplete (half-burned) copy of a John Dee translated Necronomicon. His starting spells include a Skeleton Key spell, a Dream Forge spell, and an "Elder Sign" warding spell. Sebastian is surprisingly durable and knowledgeable, and has a knack for translating ancient languages and locating cursed objects that could be used against foes. High Concept: Arkham Academic Turned Not So Great P.I. Trouble: I'm Keeping This. I'm Not Saying It's the Old-Ones, But It's The Old-Ones. How Dare You Not Tell Me!? Don't Worry, It'll Be Fine.   Abdul “Abe” Tepema An additional player wasn't able to attend the character creation session, so we worked on his character over beers a few days ago. He wanted to convert an existing character he'd run in several other games: the original being a World of Darkness Mummy. I agreed, on the condition that he not tell the rest of the players his character is actually an unliving being from ancient Egypt.  We had some fun making character aspects that don't say "ancient mummy now living as a detective" but hint at it: High Concept: World Weary, Hard Boiled Private Eye Trouble: Violence Has Always Been the Last Resort of the Incompetent Case of the Missing Star Sign Underworld Connections Gumshoe Made of Leather Although he's forgotten most of his magic, he still has a spell for locating lost things, and a spell for influencing the weather.   Unnamed Gangster One player was too tired to make it to the character creation session and so has not yet made his character. He plans on playing a Chicago Gangster. Last time we talked about it, he wanted to have authority over some goons, so he may end up a minor mob boss, not just some hitter. If that's the direction he wants to go, I'm likely to give him a mob of mobster using Dresden Files Accelerated type rules. UPDATE: The player of this character unfortunately had to drop from the game.   EDITED 10/1/18 - Updated Character Aspects

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

Pulpcraft - Fate Core Rules For a Secretly Lovecraftian Pulp Game

As I have noted, I'm essentially running a pulpy version of the new Masks of Nyarlathotep, but without warning my players they are even in a CoC scenario first. To both conceal the truth and because both me and my group is comfortable with the rules, I will be running the game in Fate Core.   Mostly Fate Core Rules For the most part I will be running the game using Fate Core rules, especially when it comes to things on the players' side of the screen.  Five aspects, three Refresh, three free Stunts, Skill pyramid, etc. I've intentionally tried not to add any complex mechanics to the player side of the system, especially for character creation. I'm not using extras like Weapon or Armor ratings.   Skills List wise, I've added an Occult skill, which covers manipulating magical forces. Note that Lore is still used for knowing anything about gods, monsters, etc.   One major variation from the core rules is that I will be using Elective Action Order (AKA: Balsera or Pop Corn) initiative. I have initiative cards to use with it, and found it very quick and fun with a little meta-game strategy to it. I've used it a few times now, and it's my go to initiative system for Fate.   On the GM side of the screen, I will be using various tricks from the Fate Adversary Toolkit, original Fate Toolkit, and Fate Horror Toolkit but those won't be too obvious to the players, at least at first.  As a broad rule, I will be giving NPCs and Monsters single stress unified tracks so that the players can easily mix Mental and Physical based attacks against targets.  Some foes, particularly supernatural ones, will be given Immunity to Normal Weapons, and will require the players to find non-normal attacks to harm them. When I do this, I will pay the group a Fate Point. Essentially they will need then need to Create an Advantage appropriate to the foe to actually hurt them.  For example, you can't shoot or stab a Fire Vampire, but you can hurt it with water.   Expedition Sheet I will also be using some rules taken from the Fate Horror Toolkit: Heroic Sacrifices, Legacy Aspects, and Group "Expedition" Fate Points. A lot of details will be tracked on the group "Expedition Sheet" which is a kind of group character sheet.  It also contains the record of current location related aspects and languages.  Each major location has a High Concept, a Trouble, and a Hidden Issue. Dealing with a hidden issue is how the group will earn Significant and Major milestones.   Magic Magic in the system is based on the Subtle Art magic rules from the Fate Toolkit/SRD, including Jazzing it Up and Combat Curses. In order to take the Occult skill, players have to have an Aspect that explains where their magic comes from. At character creation they have a number of spells equal to their rank in Occult. Spells are typically rituals cast from a documented source, like a spellbook. Combat curses require a stunt each, but allow the casting of a spell as a single action on a single target nearby. There is also a stunt that allows for up to 3 rituals to be memorized. Players start with a spellbook of their known spells, if they have any.   Lovecraftian magic looks similar on the surface, but is actually based somewhat on the Voidcallers magic system.  Players will roll Occult vs a target number, just they do with the above "subtle" system, but the result might be a Hunting Horror being summoned.  In these cases, there is also a secret higher difficulty for the summoning, and the difference between that rating and what the players roll turns into Doom Points I can use to make the magic/monster go wrong.   Given their importance in the setting, I'm planning on making occult tomes into a special prop. A little booklet with details about how the book looks on the front, and a skimming synopsis of the content on the back along with rules for translating/reading the book. The booklet is taped shut. If a book is actually read in detail, the booklet is opened and a more detailed synopsis along with any important contents (like spells) are inside, along with any horror or madness related mechanics.   Horror & Madness (AKA: Sanity) I will be treating what CoC does with Sanity rolls via mental attacks. Disturbing creatures, places, things, or ideas (like you might get from reading occult tomes) get to make a free attack against a player's Defense with Will to inflict Mental Stress, and possibly Consequences. Horror in this case is treated as the Horror attack rating. I'm also including a Madness rating which is used like a Weapon rating for that attack. If Horror gets through your defenses, it inflicts extra stress equal to the Madness rating. Actually going crazy will be done with appropriate mental consequences or concession. Going permanently mad would be getting taken out. Note: I haven't actually warned my players about any of the above, and not many of them took Will serious as a skill, so I expect a few of them will go a little crazy regularly, at least at first.   For More Details... Edited 10/5/2018 If you want to know more about the Fate formulation I'm using for this game, I started a multi-part break down which begins here.

HidingFromMyPlayers

HidingFromMyPlayers

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