It Came From Friday, Part One
I decided that before I would run the larger family game with FU that it might be a good idea to run a smaller play test. I didn’t have to wait long for an opportunity to present itself. My middle son is having a friend over to spend the night tomorrow. They’ve been pestering me to run a game for them for some time. We decided the friend would make the call as to what genre we played in and the question was asked at school. The result, which I just got last night (Wednesday night) was … drumroll….. Cthulhu horror!!! (Can you hear the little celebratory marching band of eldritch horrors in my heart?)
Not only am I playtesting FU, I am also playtesting another brilliant system I’ve used for some time now. It’s a very cleverly crafted system of random events and cues to spark your creativity. The system is called Mythic and it’s designed to be a way to run a game without a GM (gamemaster.) Inconceivable! Not only can it do that it can also be used to help you design an adventure module, pull together a story plot and, dare I say it, do some solitaire gaming. (That just sounds dirty to type it out.) A second book in the series, Mythic Variations, actually gives some great guidelines on how to use it to outline an adventure. And that is what we are doing!
So, I have a little over twenty four hours to come up with a one shot Cthulhu game. Scratch that. I have a ton of other things on my plate so I only have a handful of hours to come up with a one shot Cthulhu game. Cue some dramatic music and lets get to it!
Below I’m going to do something I’ve never really posted before. I’ll be offering up the adventure design process using the Mythic system as well as my raw notes and commentary as we go along What is below is pretty much the raw .txt file I used to jot things on the fly. (During the day today I spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices since my wife needed to have several appointments. Being in a fender bender will do that to you. This resulted in my waiting around in said doctor’s office and writing this up!)
I’m not going to spend much if any time going into Myth and explaining how it all works. Additional comments will be in italics. I’ll be glad to answer questions in the comments. Once I get it done I’ll let you know how Friday goes with the official FU playtest!
Cue some spooky music and let’s get down to it.
Warning – This is a LONG post that I’ve decided to serialize due to it’s length. It doesn’t even have pictures! Go get a beverage of your choice and I’ll meet you back here. Click on the “read more” to descend into the madness.
Cthulhu Adventure design with the GM emulator
I will use the complex question idea from Mythic Variations to kick things off. The first thing to do is to get the main plot. (At this point you roll on two charts. One is an action and the other is a subject. You put them together and then unleash your creative brain.)
The event – Haggle / Subject.
My first thoughts are an estate sale or someone arguing over the contents of a family members will. The other idea is two collectors, one American, one European haggling over an ancient artifact that has either gone up for auction OR they are brokering between themselves.
I want a little more to run with so I go to Wikipedia and a random page – a page to Niwki, Namys County in Poland. (I got this idea from a webpage or forum board out there. Wikis are a GREAT way to get a random idea to jog the creativity.)
Ok. A county in Poland that was actually a part of Germany before World War 2. It gets me thinking… What about an old relic that had been in the country forever before the war. Something to do with the old germanic tribes or superstitions? It was rushed out of the area. I do a bit of research and Niwki is just north of Tatra National Park and a very gothic mountain range. I’m sure there is some spooky and mysterious history there and if there is not there is now! Just took a look through some pages on ancient Polish history and mythology. Good grief!!! I could be here all month! Information overload!
Scaling back, keeping it simple. Let’s run through some Mythic questions. Most will be 50/50 to get some clear groundwork. If a question is not 50/50 it will be noted. Random Events are now possible and in this phase will be used to generate more detail for the overarcing plot. (These questions are the engine of the Mythic system. It is VERY similar to the Matrix game style of play. You ask questions, roll the dice and go with what you get. Results can be Yes, No, Exceptional Yes and Exceptional No. Double digits signifies a Random Event.)
Is this about an ancient Polish statue or artifact? 65% No
Is this about an ancient tome of horrible knowledge? 65% Yes.
Is it a book written by, oh, say, a crazy Polish shaman of dark origins? 50/50 Yes.
I want the story to take place in the US (at least start there.) Is this a book that is up for auction? No.
Is it part of an estate? Yes.
Was it part of a collection? Yes.
Was the owner aware of it’s true nature? No.
Is another family member aware of it’s nature? no.
Is another person, outside of the family, aware of it’s power? Yes.
Is it a colleague of the deceased? Yes.
For the next question, I ask another complex question and this time I am going to the HP Lovecraft Wikia.
So what does this book do? What is it’s major focus? It gives me a page on Carr, PEter B who is a character in a small story called the Green Meadow. Peter is one of the people who pulls a strang meteorite ashore after it falls into the waters off of Maine. The story goes on to tell about a book, written in Greek, that comes from inside the meteorite.
I scanned the story and had the thought, “What if a similar rock also fell in the areas of Poland many many years before? A shaman was brought in and after researching it and being effected by it wrote his own information down on parchment and skin. It is his recordings of first hand contact and a record of his work.” To someone trying to learn more about these strange meteorites, this book would become invaluable.
For clarity, I need to connect it to one of the Mythos. Thinking about things, I’m really thinking about going with Yuggoth and the Mi-Go. It has quite a few of the direct outer space elements and it’s beyond the weird most of the time. 😀
I could dig into the details on this and get lost in building the backplot. I have to keep moving. Clowns will eat me. Bottom line – we have our Maguffin. The Book of Namys.
Complex Question – What does the book do??? (Here I roll on the random event chart and then meld the result with things to answer the complex question.) Result? Activate/Technology Cool. I’m going to say it’s instructions for how to build some form of magical plan-hopping transporter involving crystals, psychic energy and death. Yeah, sounds about right.
Alright, so we have an old book written by an evil Polish shaman after a series of bizarre encounters with technology from the planet Yuggoth. (Gah, that sentence alone fills me with glee.) This gets the Mi-Go involved. It would be an incredibly rare and one of a kind book. It’s not like they would be rushing to the printing press to run off copies of it yet to the right people it could be immmensely valuable!
Main theme – They will be trying to broker or haggle a deal for this book between several interested parties. Remember, in true Lovecraftian form, this needs to start completely innocent. Just an everyday legal transaction. An ancestor has been passed the book as part of a larger collection. They are not even aware they have it. Someone ELSE wants it and, perhaps, one or both of the PCs have been sent in to get it for their group. All the PC’s know is that it is a very rare book and needs to be obtained for a collection. We’ll leave the rest for character creation!
So, I know I want it to start with an old estate and the passing of a collector. Now, to have a target to shoot towards and hopefully save some time, I am also going to create, quickly, my end scene. By doing this ahead of time I can use it as an anchor to “pull” my story towards it’s destination. If not, it runs a chance of going herky-gerky all over the damn place.
Random Event Theme – Triumph Technology. VERY interesting since the book itself is about Activating technology. What a crazy roll! Obviously they are to stop whatever horrible evil is about to happen through a triumph of technology. Going to wikipedia I get — the Kaimondrake Volcano.
I don’t even need to roll at first. The technology could involve portal transportation but it might also cause massive upheavel with the geomagnetic Earth field thus causing fractures in the tectonic plates. Volcanoes could reactivate or even whole areas of the continent could split, causing raw magma to pour over the land!
Time for a few rolls real quick. Is the geomagnetic ripple an after-efffect of the technology from the book? Yes. Are the Mi-Go interested in this level of destruction? No. Is the technology in the book originally from the Mi-Go? Yes. Could this happen from “tinkering” with the technology by an ignorant human? Exceptional Yes! Even a small bit of incorrect tinkering could kill thousands if not millions!
If the Mi-Go are not interested in this level of destruction are they interested in getting this information from humans? No (Rolled doubles, 88 so that means a random event.)
Random Event – Focus = NPC Negative. Failure/Pain. Well, that’s a nice bit of confirmation, isn’t it? I take this to mean that during the ending the main NPC bad guy will fail in trying to make his new technology work by completely underestimating how much horrible pain he has to endure. OR something like it!
Yes, that is definitely enough for now. To sum up, the end scene will involve the technology from the book being used and possibly successfully by a human that thinks he is strong enough to handle it. Because there is no way he can be strong enough, there is a strong chance the Mi-Go will become involved but possibly on the side of our heroes. (THAT could get weird!) There is also a very good chance the power gets used and things spiral out of control.
I don’t have a location but I’m going to go with somewhere outside and probably in the mountains. Somewhere remote. It’s ALWAYS somewhere remote, right?
Onward with the actual game!
(quick comment here. With Mythic, you make a scene, define the goal of what is to happen and then roll against a Chaos score. If the right roll comes up then the scene is altered or interrupted. Chaos score goes up or down depending on how, uh, chaotic things get!)
Characters are to go to the estate sale / auction to discover more about the book. It’s being held at the deceased estate in (insert name of state and city here.) Chicago maybe?
Chaos score – 4
Plot Threads – Find out about the book. Obtain the book. Stay sane.
NPCs – Mi-Go (I know they are involved somewhere because of the end scene.)
Chaos roll – I roll a 4. Scene interrupt!
Introduce an NPC — Return/Power
Now it gets interesting. This is an interrupt and means the scene is entirely different than it is supposed to be. Immediately, I think that we need to set things a bit further back in time and the characters are introduced to someone interested in the book. I will need to adapt a bit after characters are built but for now, they are introduced to a very rich individual who is interested in the book. I play around with the internet with name generators and come up with Dr. Borys Skala, a college professor of Ancient Polish Mythology and Culture. (Cue lightning flash here.)
I need to know if Dr. Scala is a good guy or a bad guy. I use a 50/50 roll. Is Dr. Skala a bad guy? No.
Is Dr. Scala trying to keep the book out of the wrong hands? Yes.
Has he recently returned to the college from some personal time off? 75% Yes.
Is he returning because of the recent death? No.
Did the recent death cause him to panic about the book and where or with who it might end up? Exceptional yes. There we go.
Scene One – The players will be contacted (for whatever reason) by Dr. Scala to find or locate who has the book that was passed down by the passing of. Gah.. I need a name for the dead man. Mr. Herbert Werner. He was a high ranking legal man who had an interest in history and his geneology. Dr. Scala, a powerful man in the University, is now returned from sabbatical and concerned about this book which he was keeping an eye on and trying to get from Mr. Werner’s collection. Now, things have become problematic and the players are called in to assist. (If one of the players makes a janitor character this could get difficult!)
I think that’s enough for one posting.
Thanks for making it this far! Part Two of this adventure design will be up very shortly!