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**SPOILERS** "Horror on the Orient Express" posts contain spoilers for my group's playthrough and the campaign in general. My ...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Horror on the Orient Express: Session 32; Constantinople 330, Part Two

“Horror on the Orient Express” ala Trail of Cthulhu, Session 32

As always this post contains *Spoilers* for “Horror the Orient Express” as a whole, and for our play through in particular.

I don’t go into details of the actual events of the sessions, but you can to read more up at: Obsidian Portal.

This session continued the flashback scenario set in 330 AD Constantinople, and included some major plot reveals I’ve been working towards since early in the campaign. The characters had a mission with a very definite goal but a lot of different paths they could follow for their investigation. The main plot ended up being based entirely on a player idea: she contacted the criminal cult being investigated, posing as a rogue wanting to join up. This was an unexpected development to me as GM, but one that opened up a clear path to the required resolution.

The next half of the scenario was a trip into Roman Dacia and beyond. It could easily have been a whole session, drawing on the material in the published scenario, but I wanted to wrap things up and so just summarized the journey. Now this whole 330 AD scenario is actually a historical record being read by the main player characters in 1923. I emphasized that the place the 330 AD characters were journeying to seemed to be the archaeological dig in Yugoslavia where they 1923 Investigators had found the book they are reading in the first place.

I’m now getting into big, big Spoiler territory for Orient Express, so be aware….

As written, the climax of the 330 AD scenario involves the PCs commanding officer slaying the big bad cultist, becoming poisoned by tainted blood, and eventually transforming into the vampire Fenalik, who haunts the 1923 characters as one of their many adversaries. This is strictly scripted to happen. The NPC kills the baddie and is poisoned. Even if somehow a PC succeeds in the final blow, it is still the NPC who gets cursed. The GM is supposed, if at all possible, rob them of a satisfying death blow and – even worse, it seems much, much cooler if one of the PCs themselves becomes Fenalik! It’s an odd element of the published material that it actively takes agency away from the players, or makes they actions secondary to other peoples’ stories.

So I had the commander NPC stay back at home in Constantinople and left which player character would end up cursed to actual game play. As it turned out, the choice became clear pretty early on: the character who was pretending to join the cult. Things could have gone a different way at the last minute, but the pieces did end up falling into place as if planned.

I next then read a narrative section that was much longer than I usually like. As GM I try not to talk for extended periods, but there was a lot to cover: the unfortunate character’s dissection, reconstruction and mental conditioning into a vampiric bio-weapon by the Mi-go. Mixing the Mi-go into “Horror on the Orient Express” was my own addition, part of my desire to have more straightforward Lovecraftian elements into a story that fundamentally had little to with the classic Mythos. I also had decided early on that the Mi-go spawned vampires as experiments to create a tool to give them some control over the Sedefkar Simulacrum.

Returning to 1923, players had several options as to what they wanted to do next. There is still one piece of the Simulacrum to find. But I’ve been hinting that a wise course would be travelling to Constantinople to follow up a possible contact with the Brothers of the Skin, the cult than is their main advensary at this point. I did leave the choice up to them, though they chose to take my hints. I’m trying to wrap up various components of our quite convoluted plot one by one, so hopefully the next couple sessions will see a resolution of the Brothers and set the stage for the final conclusion of the campaign.