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

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Horror on the Orient Express: Session 36; On The Train 1923, Part Two

This session picked up immediately after the last one — though that was a month ago, so I tried to do a detailed recap. I’m always amazed to hear about game that play weekly. Just like in my last long term game (a 4th Edition D&D campaign) once a month tends to be the best I can hope for.

I know some of my plot threads and themes have been diluted through a campaign that’s taken three and a half years to play 36 sessions. I have tried to not make it vital that the players remember everything that has happened and I’ve structured things so that important topics get refreshed. Still I wish I had a better way to keep important story elements fresh in the players’ minds.

The penultimate scenario in the published campaign is very influenced by the 1972 Cushing/Lee movie “Horror Express” (which itself is another take on “The Thing). It includes some interesting elements, some weird events that don’t really go anywhere, and an immensely unsatisfying ending. Very little of it was appropriate for how our campaign has developed. A few elements, such as the return of the Jigsaw Prince as an uneasy ally, I’d actually already repurposed for early scenarios. I rebuilt things into a resolution and confrontation with Mi-go, whom I’ve made major players in our campaign. Even including a “Whisper in the Darkness” homage: a voice claiming to be one of the character’s uncle who had learned the “truth” of the Mi-go and tried to persuade the PCs to cooperate. I also utilized some favorite NPCs: Men in Black. Not the Will Smith kind, but inspired by the sort in John Keel’s “The Mothman Prophecies.” Strange, unidentifiable foreigners who both know too much but also lacking in basic understanding of communication and human behavior.

The purpose of these MIBs was to trigger various hallucinatory visions in the PCs, each a vision of a possible future, including the genocidal devastation of World War II. These futures are a key feature of how I plan to wrap up the campaign.

This session ended with a mini-scenario that resolved finding the last piece of the Simulacrum. This was also the biggest “edit” I made in order to move to a conclusion. I decided to entirely remove the Trieste chapter of the campaign. I had ideas in mind that I liked (as usual using the published campaign mostly as a source book) but I was feeling strongly that another three session scenario would drag the game out too much. The main story elements were already in place, the characters were getting dangerously low on Sanity, and, I was starting to feel the beginning of burnout. Wrapping up seemed best. Within the campaign story what happened also made some sense: the Investigators had been undercover from their “allies” in British Intelligence. MI6 in turn decided to send their own team of operatives to find the last piece of the Simulacrum. This team was successful, though they all came back insane. So a sort of 1920s Delta Green scenario took place in the background while the Investigators were elsewhere. It still ended up being up to the PCs to use their hard learned occult knowledge to control the Simulacrum piece. One player also used her spiritual power to purge the madness from the other team. That was something I hadn’t expected, but it was cool idea. She was successful, though ultimately it was a sacrifice, since it cost the character more Stability than she gained by following her Drive. I need to think about to work this selfless act into the story some more, though not necessarily as a benefit. This is Lovecraft after all, and good deeds don’t necessarily lead to rewards.

Additionally, our PC who has down to 1 Sanity suffered a Mythos shock… But as I talked about last post, it would be odd to start a new character at this point, so I have a mechanic in mind to allow another character prop his Sanity up for a bit — but he is a dead man walking at this point, and is not coming out of things well, regardless of how the story wraps up.

Next session will be the end of the campaign. The published resolution is pretty anticlimactic and lacking in a sense of cosmic stakes. The only specific consequences of, say the bad guys getting control of the Simulacrum, have been rather petty. I have been trying to build the impression of a looming apocalypse. The Mi-go claim that if they control the artifact they can guarantee the preservation at least single called life on Earth. If the Simulacrum cannot be properly presented to the Skinless One when he arrives on Earth, the consequences will be much, much worse. These are the two choices the Investigators are faced with. But they, through their adventures, have collected enough lore and Mythos points to attempt what has never been done before: actually destroying the Simulacrum before it summons the Skinless One. Tune in next time! Our next game is scheduled for the end of August.