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Manifests & Maniacs

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Jedo

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So I thought I would share a bit about how Beyond the Mountains of Madness was going for my players.  I'll try to hide specific spoilery bits.  My group is all distributed in different time zones, so we generally play for 2-3 hours on Friday nights.  So progress will be slow but steady.

 

I am using a 1st edition copy of the campaign, but have listed to the podcasts and have been looking at PDFs for the 2nd edition (via DTRPG) as well as notes elsewhere here on the forums, to piece together the changes for 2nd edition.

 

The party has three female investigators and only one male investigator, so one thing I realized was that regular timeline would not really work- if most of the PCs were rejected they would take it as a cue from me that they were supposed to find a different way to get to Antartica.  So I sort of handwaved the interview in July with a brushoff for them, only to be called back when Miss Lexington makes her announcement would be problematic. So I kind of handwaved the interview and told them that after a 'don't call us we'll call you' type response. Then in August, they get the call to come to NYC, coinciding with Miss Lexington announcing her expedition.
 

Spoiler

 

And then on September 4th, the big news was just that the Tallahassee would set sail on the 10th, prompting Starkers to move up the SS Gabrielle's departure date.

 

 

 

 

This week we finished Chapter 1 which went pretty well. Rather than giving them the handouts from the book, I made a manifest booklet for each of them.  In retrospect, a checklist with a box to tick for each item on the manifest might have helped them, since it took a little explaining that we were going to go through the list one at a time, and describe how they were looking for the items.  One player insisted that their character had to make a sanity check when they saw that there were only tea and no coffee listed for the months' long expedition.

 

They did all admit that the cargo manifest 'minigame' was kind of fun, and they now have a much better idea of what gear they will be relying on. When they saw the amount of things missing after the inital survey, they jumped to the conclusion that it was stolen by dockworkers, possibly at the behest of the other expedition. This lead to a fairly tense confrontation with the local shop steward of the longshormans union. But they did get the harmonicas back.

 

The following day they split up tasks with one PC wearing the green visor and going through the receipts, and the others running errands, returning items, etc as a solution to each missing item was determined. I ended up creating a new NPC named 'Mary Jo' who was Prof. Moore's personal assistant and was responsible for the ordering and accounts for the expedition. She had recently quit for unspecified reasons and dumped the ledgers and file of invoices in Dr. Moore's lap, who then passed them on to the PCs.  Thus now the players are debating whether Mary Jo was skimming off the top, paid by the other expedition to make a mess of things or just old fashioned incompetence.  Interestingly though they have decided to adopt Agatha Christy methods, and not inform any of the expedition's leadership about any of this, and paying for the missing items out of their own pocket. They are thinking that if there is a saboteur and he continues to think that he has successfully doomed the expedition, then all they need to do is see who tries to get off the ship before they reach the ice.  We will see how well this works out for them.

 

One other change I did was give them a copy of the Pym book a couple of months back while running them through the Auction. (the unexpurgated printer's proof of the book was one of the items up for auction, that I made sure landed in their hands.) The players read it when they got it, and then kind of forgot about it, until the initial session when I showed them the 'Antartica or Bust' clipping. Knowing what happened in the Pym's book has started them off with sort of dread and curiosity, and a lot of debate (in character and out) as to what was being depicted and how much to trust the narrator.

 

On the other hand, I also gave them a copy of the 'what the world knows about the 1930 expedition' as if it was a summary report prepared for the Board of Trustees at Miskatonic U. In retrospect, I wish I had condensed or edited out a lot of the anatomical details about the 'fossils' since that is quite specific and felt like it gave away too much up front. If I did it again, I would make that information only available if they talk to Dr. Bryce or another Palentologist who had seen the transcripts and could talk about how likely Lake's detailed descriptions were the result of snow madness. 

 

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