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JustAnotherDeepOne

How is Down Darker Trails?

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JustAnotherDeepOne

I'm interested in trying my hand at keeper...ing some CoC. However, as much as I like the Classic time period, I've always had a soft spot for supernatural tales set in the Old West. That being said, has anyone checked out Down Darker Trails? The reviews seem to be fairly positive and the cover looks fan-freakin'-tastic, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to get a second (or third or fourth) opinion. Would I be alright just running the game with the Keeper Handbook and this supplement? Or are there better resources to pursue when first assembling a Lovecraftian gaming library?

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cloud64

I will speak from a position of not actually owning the supplement, which may seem odd, but that's only because the Old West theme doesn't do much for me. I have had a look at it though, and it is a very well put together piece of work. So good that I am sorely tempted to purchase it – especially as it is currently on sale on the Chaosium website – to satisfy my completionist urges. That and the fact that one of my players likes this period, and I'm sure it would be fun to play in. 

 

I think you'd be fine using it with just the Keeper Handbook. The Investigator Handbook provides a lot of information about classic era occupations, history, weapons, investigative methods, etc., that would not be much use if playing in the Old West era. Down Darker Trails will give you all of that info relevant to the Old West, effectively bypassing the Investigator Handbook.

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Fatman

Speaking as somebody who owns a copy of “Down Darker Trails” but not having run an Old West scenario yet, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s packed full of information; giving you a brief history of the Wild West, a quick glimpse into the various Native American tribes, it gives you an option to run it as a Pulp or Purist (leaning towards Pulp but you can play it either way), it stats out well known historical figures like the Earps and Wild Bill Hicock. There’s also two towns that have been fleshed-out pretty well; the Deadwood inspired Pawherton and San Rafael which is on the Texas/México border. Plus there’s two scenarios in there (I liked one, the other was a bit meh).

 

If running an Old West scenario or campaign is your thing, I’d definitely rush out and buy it. My proviso is that although it is a great overview of the Wild West, If there’s something specific that you want to delve into (say, the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857 or the Lincoln County War if you’re planning a Billy the Kid thing), you’ll have to do your own research. It’s hard to cram in SO much into the one book. Plus, for a Cthulhu book, there’s not a huge amount of Mythos stuff. The book is about 3/4 Wild West, 1/4 Cthulhu. But if you’ve got the Keeper’s handbook that shouldn’t be a huge problem.

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JustAnotherDeepOne

Awesome, thanks guys! I went ahead and ordered a copy at my local Game Preserve. It sounds like I may look into Pulp Cthulhu as well in the near future...

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Fatman

Good luck with that and let us know how you go. I’m currently waiting on the much delayed “Western” Kickstarter to come in from the Swedish company Åskfågeln (most likely a 2019 release) before I delve into the Old West era for my Cthulhu game. But there’s plenty of Red Dead Redemption 2 to keep me occupied until then.

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Thelesuit

Down Darker Trails is well worth the price of admission. I'm enjoying running it as a Keeper and my players are enjoying playing.

 

It has been a challenge though. Our regular CoC Keeper is one of the players! So I've really had to steer clear of Mythos-related content. It makes things more interesting.


Beyond that though, we are having a great time. The party is slogging through the early winter plains of Kansas in 1873 searching for a missing doctor. Much of what I've done so far has been "home-brewed", but I'm constantly looking for bits and pieces I can borrow from other sources. Any advice on that would be greatly appreciated.

 

~TheLesuit

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JustAnotherDeepOne

Well my copy of Down Darker Trails came in today, a lot faster than I expected. I'm planning to pick it up after work, but as I'm on call tonight I doubt I'll have a chance to look over it in much depth until later in the week. Looking forward to cracking it open though!

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JustAnotherDeepOne

So I've been looking through the book. I was curious as to whether anyone had used the optional double HP rule and the variants for gunslinging without going the full pulp route? How does it affect gameplay? Would I be better served running some classic CoC in order to get a hang of the rules before worrying about variants?

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AdamAlexander

My group played a session of DDT a few months ago and had a blast. I definitely recommend it. 

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Thelesuit
1 hour ago, JustAnotherDeepOne said:

So I've been looking through the book. I was curious as to whether anyone had used the optional double HP rule and the variants for gunslinging without going the full pulp route? How does it affect gameplay? Would I be better served running some classic CoC in order to get a hang of the rules before worrying about variants?

 

Well, the double hit points definitely makes the human villains a bit light-weight in comparison. I'm using that right now and the heroes blow through them like so much Kleenex especially if they get a chance to double-team them or if there are no mooks around. Between the wealth of HP's and using Luck to reduce damage, the PCs aren't terribly afraid of dying.

 

Pile on the mooks!

 

I do like some "pulpiness", but next time I might opt for HP x 1.5 rather than HP x 2.

 

~TheLesuit

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JustAnotherDeepOne

Do you double the HP of significant NPCs and villains as well?

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Thelesuit
36 minutes ago, JustAnotherDeepOne said:

Do you double the HP of significant NPCs and villains as well?

 

Yes. At least to the extent where I wanted them to last more than a couple rounds of combat and provide something of a challenge.

 

Invariably in DDT, guns are drawn and the shooting commences.

 

Even so, they have done little more than siphon Luck from the PC's.

 

Flesh Ward is the Cultist's friend.

 

~TheLesuit

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4Acrossisemu
On 06/12/2018 at 17:11, JustAnotherDeepOne said:

Do you double the HP of significant NPCs and villains as well?

 

I'd stay away from doubling HP. I've been running Westerns with the normal rulebook before DDT came out, running several groups through a gold rush era campaign. The higher stakes and deadly nature of the era is part of its charm. fights are very high stakes. Players should be very aware of it before they choose to start anything. there is no hospital around the corner. No clean water, no medicine on hand. Diseases and adhock surgery is the norm. 

 

One of the best scenes i have was a group deciding how to cut a mans arm off due to a snake bite. It was one of the grisly things and it was brilliant. They went for a long handled axe and took it off in 4 strokes. everyone looking on as he howled in pain. Then one of the players offered opium! afterwards! he had it the whole time. I had the wife of the man openly hate him from then on, they were in a wagon party together so no escaping it. She even lost her faith in God as he slowly got worse and went mad (the man was a preacher). I had her write the downtime diary for the players each session. 

 

Life should be cheap out there. Risk and tension is key to CoC. tread lightly and run away! 

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yronimoswhateley
On 03/12/2018 at 16:30, Thelesuit said:

...Much of what I've done so far has been "home-brewed", but I'm constantly looking for bits and pieces I can borrow from other sources. Any advice on that would be greatly appreciated....

 

If it helps, I've added a wiki page a few months ago dedicated to the "Weird Western Film Genre", which might include some ideas that Keepers might find helpful for a keeper to "borrow" and alter as desired for a Weird West setting.  Some of my favorites:

  • Curse of the Undead (1959) - A cow-town preacher shoots a custom bullet at a vampire gunfighter in the Old West.
  • Valley of the Gwanji (1969) - Everything goes wrong when a Wild West showman and his cowboy adventurers try to capture a monster-god near a Mexican town, and are placed under a Gypsy curse....
  • Horror Express (1972) - In 1906 China and Siberia, a British anthropologist who discovered a frozen, demonic, prehistoric alien teams up with a physician, a mad monk, and a brutal Cossack officer to stop the monster after it escapes on their train, leaving a trail of death in its wake. (Not an obvious choice of "Western", as a British horror film set in China and Siberia, but it would be only a little less weird if it were reset in a more traditional Western setting; this is actually an uncredited adaptation of "Who Goes There?", the story that The Thing was based on.)
  • Tremors (1990 franchise) Bored ranch-hands, a concerned seismologist, and an eccentric survivalist couple in the small desert town of Perfection, Nevada happen upon a series of mysterious deaths, and soon find themselves fighting for survival against giant, worm-like monsters hungry for human flesh.
  • Ravenous (1999) In a remote military outpost in the 19th Century, a U.S. cavalry regiment embark on a rescue mission which takes a dark turn when they are ambushed by a sadistic cannibal.
  • Dead Birds (2004) A group of Confederate soldiers hole up in an abandoned plantation after robbing a bank, and find themselves at the mercy of an eldritch horror summoned by the plantation's former occupant.
  • The Village (2004) Members of a remote pioneer community are threatened by the strange creatures that inhabit the surrounding forest under an uneasy truce when one villager enters the forest and breaks the pact. (You might get the most mileage from dropping the infamous twist ending.)
  • The Burrowers (2008) In the American western Dakota Territories, a rescue party sets out to find a family of settlers that has vanished from their home under mysterious circumstances; it looks like the work of local natives, until half-eaten, paralyzed victims are found buried in the earth.

 

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Mysterioso
12 minutes ago, yronimoswhateley said:

 

If it helps, I've added a wiki page a few months ago dedicated to the "Weird Western Film Genre", which might include some ideas that Keepers might find helpful for a keeper to "borrow" and alter as desired for a Weird West setting.  Some of my favorites:

  • Curse of the Undead (1959) - A cow-town preacher shoots a custom bullet at a vampire gunfighter in the Old West.
  • Valley of the Gwanji (1969) - Everything goes wrong when a Wild West showman and his cowboy adventurers try to capture a monster-god near a Mexican town, and are placed under a Gypsy curse....
  • Horror Express (1972) - In 1906 China and Siberia, a British anthropologist who discovered a frozen, demonic, prehistoric alien teams up with a physician, a mad monk, and a brutal Cossack officer to stop the monster after it escapes on their train, leaving a trail of death in its wake. (Not an obvious choice of "Western", as a British horror film set in China and Siberia, but it would be only a little less weird if it were reset in a more traditional Western setting; this is actually an uncredited adaptation of "Who Goes There?", the story that The Thing was based on.)
  • Tremors (1990 franchise) Bored ranch-hands, a concerned seismologist, and an eccentric survivalist couple in the small desert town of Perfection, Nevada happen upon a series of mysterious deaths, and soon find themselves fighting for survival against giant, worm-like monsters hungry for human flesh.
  • Ravenous (1999) In a remote military outpost in the 19th Century, a U.S. cavalry regiment embark on a rescue mission which takes a dark turn when they are ambushed by a sadistic cannibal.
  • Dead Birds (2004) A group of Confederate soldiers hole up in an abandoned plantation after robbing a bank, and find themselves at the mercy of an eldritch horror summoned by the plantation's former occupant.
  • The Village (2004) Members of a remote pioneer community are threatened by the strange creatures that inhabit the surrounding forest under an uneasy truce when one villager enters the forest and breaks the pact. (You might get the most mileage from dropping the infamous twist ending.)
  • The Burrowers (2008) In the American western Dakota Territories, a rescue party sets out to find a family of settlers that has vanished from their home under mysterious circumstances; it looks like the work of local natives, until half-eaten, paralyzed victims are found buried in the earth.

 

 

You should add Bone Tomahawk (2015) to this list.   IMDb: Bone Tomahawk

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Mysterioso
On 03/12/2018 at 16:30, Thelesuit said:

Much of what I've done so far has been "home-brewed", but I'm constantly looking for bits and pieces I can borrow from other sources. Any advice on that would be greatly appreciated.

 

 

It looks like the old TSR Boot Hill scenarios are up on DriveThruRPG as PDFs.  I wonder if they could be converted by simply restating all the NPCs and then figuring out what the appropriate skill checks would be for the investigation/action.

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yronimoswhateley

Added!  I'm betting there are a couple other examples I'd forgotten about when making the page.

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Mysterioso
1 hour ago, yronimoswhateley said:

Added!  I'm betting there are a couple other examples I'd forgotten about when making the page.

 

Horror Express was a brilliant add.  Moving it to the Bone Wars of Cope & Marsh is about all that is needed to make it work for the American West, though for extra complications take a few pages/scenes from Breakheart Pass (Alistair MacLean novel, with a 1975 movie staring Charles Bronson based off of it).

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yronimoswhateley

Oh, good call!  With that, I think you're little more than a cast of characters away from a complete scenario.

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Graham
9 hours ago, yronimoswhateley said:

Oh, good call!  With that, I think you're little more than a cast of characters away from a complete scenario.

 

I'd call it a great call, that would bring two of my favourite films from the 1970s together.

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