The first part of this session was mostly setup for the third big “flashback” scenario of the published campaign. These have been one of my favorite features of the updated “Orient Express.” Rather than just give the players a big data dump about historical events, they actually play out the situation as a one-shot scenario. Each has been set in a earlier phase of Constantinople, and each further back in time. They are now in 330 AD, just as Constantine the Great is establishing the city as his Nova Roma.
I went through a lot of revisions with this scenario. The published version in the game book is pretty good. It’s essentially Cthulhu Invictus, the Roman era Call of Cthulhu setting, advanced a few centuries. There is just one very odd narrative choice, that I shall discuss next time. I thought at first I could run it pretty much as written, with our usual loose adaptation to Trail of Cthulhu rules. As I outlined my notes I kept feeling dissatisfied though.
While the scenario does an interesting job introducing 4th Century Constantinople, once the characters get their mission they leave the city behind, without any real interaction with it. The previous two flashbacks, set in 1893 and 1204, have taken place within the walls of the city. Also each flashback has centered around a blighted, cursed district, where Sedefkar built his Red Tower and the Makryats operate from the Shunned Mosque. I wanted to maintain that structure.
What I ended up with was largely a police procedural, with the characters investigating a crime cult that has taken over a poor neighborhood, with the goal, as the players are staring to discover, of forcing citizens to hand over any dead bodies, and killing anyone who crosses them (which of course provides more dead bodies). The cultists are known to operate mostly at night, have strange powers of persuasion, and leave victims withered with bite marks on their throats. Yes, this in the end evolved into Nights Black Agents: New Rome.
The scenario is still moving towards the same conclusion as the published version, just with some Mi-go mixed in with the vampires.
A player asked me how many more sessions I expected in the campaign, and while I estimate 5-6, I don’t know for sure. I really do not have a definite resolution in mind, since the players have a lot of important choices to make that will shape that resolution. Those pivotal choices will though be coming up soon.