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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, June 19, 2018

Horror on the Orient Express: Session 35; On The Train 1923, Part One

I had been planning on this being the next to last session of the campaign, but just a couple hours before we started I changed my mind about how I’d set up the scenario. I felt my initial plan was too structured so I made the scenario more open and, unlike what I usually do, took it back closer to the published campaign.

The Investigators were back aboard the Orient Express and I put them in with a big group of various NPCs. I let who they chose to talk to and interact with guide how things unfolded, improving and casting people in appropriate roles as we went. When I was a PC in The Orient Express – this was a few years ago at a Gencon event – we played this section as a larp, talking and mingling with a variety of people, some of whom were guest players, others actors directed by the GM. That was fun and I wanted some of that sense of freeform interaction.

It did mean that the session got only about half-way through the scenario. So we should still need two more sessions to complete everything. That’s probably for the best anyway, so they’ll be no need to rush. I mostly know how the ending will go (at least the setup for it; I want the ultimate resolution to arise from player actions), though I still want to work in a couple elements from the published campaign that help define “Orient Express” as the experience it was written to be.

One issue we do face is that characters are showing the strain of their experiences and one Investigator is down to 1 Sanity. I’ve talked with that player about his situation, and he’s said that in a shorter game he’d be fine with playing someone spiraling into Lovecraftian madness, but that wouldn’t be how he’d like to end this multi-year epic. I’ve been thinking of ways to allow him to continue, without just giving him (or the other PCs) any sort of “plot immunity.”

First I suggested he have a new Drive: Edge of Madness. This would let him recover some Stability by an occasional irrational act. Second, another player (whose character feels some guilt about it all) offered, at a cost to herself, to help him from going completely over the edge. My thought was that she could use her Psychology skill to help buffer any additional Sanity lost. This would be a finite resource though, and would drain her Psychology and Stability ratings, especially if the dice rolled poorly for her. Finally, in the very last session, the situation will lend itself to having characters go into negative Sanity. There will be no coming back from that, and the lower Sanity gets, the worse their ultimate fate will be. The Investigators don’t seem to expect to survive the final conclusion, but the players do appear to want to have some hope of success in holding off the looming Apocalypse as much as they can.

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