The Alexandrian

Go to Eternal Lies: The Alexandrian Remix

Hotel DeSoto - Savannah, GA

Mirroring my experience with airports when I originally ran Eternal Lies, those instances where a very specific hotel was established in both my imagination and the imaginations of my players resulted in much richer and more interesting play than when a generic hotel served as a generic homebase for their operations in an area.

In returning to the campaign, therefore, I decided to get much more deliberate in setting up these hotels. And, once again, this afforded me the opportunity to inject more historically-sourced material into the campaign. Although some of the hotels in this addendum are fictional, the significant majority of them are real hotels that you could rented a room at in 1934-35.

Simply prepping a single hotel for each locale, however, was generally not sufficient. Deciding on where they wanted to stay (and how that would inform their strategy in approaching each locale) was actually quite important for my original group, and quickly proved the same for my second group.

As such, for most locales these addendum contains three different hotels, each representing a different class: High, Middle, and Low. (There are some locales where accommodations are scant and beggars can’t be choosers.)

  • High class hotels require a 1 point Credit Rating spend.
  • Middle class hotels have no mechanical effect, but they generally lack the security of higher class establishments (and the GM should take that into account when the bad guys become aware of them).
  • Low class hotels also have no mechanical effect. They, too, lack security, but this can be made up for by the fact that PCs may find it easier to fly under the radar here. On the other hand, these facilities can often create complications in their own right. In addition to the mundane, they’re often an appropriate milieu for some of the grubbier floating scenes (as described on pg.125-144 in the campaign book).

The GM should also keep in mind that these hotels can be used in other ways than simply PC accommodations. For example, when the PCs concocted an unexpected strategy for pursuing the cultists in Savannah, they were able to track them back to their hotel. Since I had two other hotels on tap, it was easy to just pick one on-the-fly and decide that the bad guys had been staying there.

Make sure to also grab the Props Packet for this addendum, which contains photos and other props for many of the hotels. (This packet includes a video that can be played for your players.)

Note: There are no hotels given for New York (as it is not anticipated that the PCs will spend significant time there). No hotels are given for Thibet, as that’s a traveling scenario and the PCs are not anticipated to remain in one location for prolonged periods of time.

The Ambassador - Los Angeles, California

ETERNAL LIES ADDENDUM – HOTELS

(PDF)

PROP PACKET – HOTELS

(Zip File)

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE

Session 10A: The Labyrinths of Ghul

Tee and Elestra both recognized the statues as depicting the legendary figure of Ghul the Skull-King…

Towards the beginning of the campaign journal for Session 10, there are a couple large blocks of text – one for Ghul the Skull-King and another for shadowveined rock — which were originally written up as handouts for the players: If/when their characters succeeded on the requisite Knowledge checks, I’d be able to hand them these one page summaries.

The alternative to this, obviously, would be for the GM to simply read or summarize this information out loud. So why go to the extra effort to write up a handout?

First, you’ll note that there’s a lot of information being conveyed in these handouts. I’ve tried to keep the presentation of that information efficient, but that’s just resulted in the information being quite dense. Presenting this amount of information in written form (particularly if accompanied by visual references or enhancements) can aid comprehension.

Second, it highlights the information as being of particular importance, helping to make sure that the players pay attention to it. Of course, this only works if you don’t overuse the technique. (These two handouts weren’t explicitly designed to be delivered in such rapid succession, but the group had failed their earlier Knowledge checks to recognize Ghul’s Labyrinth by ways of its unique architectural features, and it was only the more explicit examination of the statues of Ghul himself which provoked their memory.)

Third, such handouts can serve as rewards. This is particularly effective with certain groups (the ones who light up and start clapping their hands with glee when the GM dips his hand into the Big Box of Handouts), but even with players are less inherently excited by this sort of thing

For example, the original version of the Shadowveined Rock handout included a number of mechanics, as you can see in this PDF version of the same:

I didn’t include these mechanical details in the campaign journal, eschewing them for a purely narrative approach, but he original handout included all kinds of information that would allow the PCs to leverage their discovery of the shadowveined rock to maximum effect (including unique items that they could either commission or have Ranthir create, for example).

Fourth, on a similar note, such handouts serve as reference material, allowing the players to easily review what they know about a particular topic (without having to freshly quiz the GM about it). This is particularly important because these handouts — like any exposition dump — should only exist for a purpose. The GM shouldn’t just start waxing rhapsodic about obscure details of their campaign world in the middle of the session without any rhyme or reason.

In the case of the shadowveined rock handout, the primary purpose was to serve as a rules reference when the players needed it later. (I do this a lot, actually: Packaging up snippets of non-core mechanical material into handouts and effectively drip-feeding the content into the campaign. In the case of shadowveined rock, it was something I had created. But this is also a really effective technique for incorporating material from supplements.)

In the case of the Ghulwar handout, the knowledge of Ghul provided context that helped them to navigate the dungeon they were standing in. So being able to refer back to these key facts regarding his life and exploits was continually useful for them (particularly as their expeditions extended between sessions and, later, years of out-of-game time).

Ptolus - In the Shadow of the Spire

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE

SESSION 10A: THE LABYRINTHS OF GHUL

November 3rd, 2007
The 28th Day of Amseyl in the 790th Year of the Seyrunian Dynasty

The group briefly considered the possibility of returning to the city above to obtain healing services for the poison that was weakening Agnarr’s body. But Dominic testified that the poison would not prove mortal – that it had, in fact, already run the worst of its course – and the tempting enigma of whatever lay beyond the door of blue steel was too tantalizing to resist.

Tee pushed the door open, revealing a long hallway made from the same cream-colored stone. About sixty feet away her elven eyes could dimly make out that the hallway opened out into a larger chamber of some sort.

The sunrod in Agnarr’s hand was sputtering, so he threw it aside and cracked a new one. With his light behind her, Tee headed down the corridor. The shadows flicked and leaped around her as she made her way towards the larger chamber.

Emerging into it, she found the ceiling vaulting more than forty feet above her. In each corner of the room, upon ten-foot high daises, stood immense statues more than twenty-feet high. Each statue was identical, carved from a dark gray rock that stood in sharp contrast to the pale stone and depicting a broad-shouldered figure wearing a skull-faced mask who looked down upon the center of the chamber with his arms crossed proudly upon his chest.

Tee and Elestra both recognized the statues as depicting the legendary figure of Ghul the Skull-King.

THE GHULWAR

The Ghulwar was a legendary conflict which took place in the area around Ptolus sometime during the misty aeons of prehistory. It had long been discounted by serious historians and scholars as a mere fancy entertained only by the gullible and credulous. But recent discoveries in the subterranean labyrinths beneath the city would seem to lend credence to at least some of the ancient tales. The tales vary in their character, but the general outlines are such:

Ghul the Skull-KingGhul – the Skull-King, the Half God, the Sorcerer’s Get – built a great fortress called Goth Gugamel upon the Spire of Ptolus. He claimed to be descended from the Banelord (a still older, malevolent figure whose tale has been lost entirely to the modern world). Within his black fortress, Ghul worked dark arts upon the orcs, raising up a mighty army of them. This army poured forth from Goth Gugamel and laid waste to the all the lands from coast to mountain.

This was the First Campaign of the Ghulwar, and it only came to an end when an Army of Sorcerers stood up to Ghul and stopped his rapacious armies. His goals of conquest thwarted, Ghul then called forth the Utterdark – a magical darkness which blanketed all the lands which he had conquered. Thus began the Cold Quiet, during which Ghul labored within the halls of Goth Gugamel.

The Cold Quiet ended as the Second Campaign of the Ghulwar began: Ogres and trolls and creatures of even worse countenance had joined the army of the Skull-King. The tales of this Second Campaign are even wilder than the first: Armies of dragon-mounted elves. A conflagration which burnt all the lands beyond the Mountains of the West to ash. In the end, the Utterdark was banished and Ghul fled from the Forces of Light which had been arrayed against him. It is said that the Avatars themselves hunted down Ghul and slayed him.

After making sure that the chamber was safe, Tee waved the rest of the group forward. As the light drew closer she was able to look down the corridors leading away from the room. Down the far corridor she saw double-doors of gray stone, but looking down the other two corridors she found halls lined with niches in which stood life-size statues of orcish warriors.

The group ultimately decided to follow one of the statue-lined halls. Tee again took the lead, drifting on the edge of shadow with her keen elven eyes plumbing the shadowy course ahead of her.

She came to another large room – nearly the same size as the last. As she drew near to it, however, she found the air growing suddenly cold. Her breath steamed. She came to a stop and waited for the others to catch up to her.

Looking into the room, she could see that nearly the entire floor was covered with a raised bas relief of black stone that depicted a skull-like sigil:

Sigil of Ghul the Skull-King

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Go to Eternal Lies: The Alexandrian Remix

Croydon Airport - 1930

When I originally ran Eternal Lies, I semi-coincidentally included a couple of local airports. This was primarily because (a) I wanted to make the opening scene really specific and filled with lots of historical details in order to immediately begin immersing the players into the time period and (b) while searching for visual references of DC-3 planes for the Silver Sable I stumbled across this amazing photo:

In any case, roughly two-thirds of the way through running the campaign, I realized that getting very specific with each airport they arrived at was a very effective technique this type of campaign. Compared to using a sort of “generic airport”:

  • It made the arrival at each location memorable and distinct, creating a clear starting point for each regional scenario.
  • It immediately established the transition in environment and culture.
  • It transforms arrival and — perhaps even more importantly — departure into a scene which has been much more specifically framed. This seemed to encourage meaningful action (by both the PCs and the NPCs) to gravitate towards the airports, which had the satisfying consequence of frequently syncing character arcs and dramatic arcs with actual geography and travel itinerary.

In other words, it’s true what they say. First impressions are really important, and it turns out that in a globe-hopping campaign the airports are your first impressions.

Now that I’m running the campaign again, therefore, one of the things I prioritized was assembling similarly specific research on the other airports in the campaign. (As with other aspects of the campaign, I find that using historically accurate details seems to be both heighten immersion and create a general sense of satisfaction both for myself and from my players.) As an addendum to the Alexandrian Remix of Eternal Lies, I’m presenting these notes in the hopes that other GMs will find it useful.

One thing I realized in the process of assembling this material is that, even moreso than I had suspected, during the ‘30s air travel was this incredibly experimental, regionalized, and freeform ideal. Today we associate airports with these massive, institutional, homogenous experiences, but in the ‘30s every airport had its own unique flavor. This is something that I think a GM of Eternal Lies can really lean into, because it will emphasize just how much bigger the world was back then compared to day. How much more isolated; how much more strange; and how much more alienating.

Make sure to also grab the Props Packet for this addendum, which contains photos and other props for many of the hotels.

Note: New York’s airport (Floyd Bennett Field) is fully detailed in 1.1 New York and is not detailed below.

Bangkok Airport

ETERNAL LIES ADDENDUM – AIRPORTS

(PDF)

PROP PACKET – AIRPORTS

(Zip File)

Go to Eternal Lies: The Alexandrian Remix

This addendum to the Alexandrian Remix of Eternal Lies adds historically-sourced local newspapers to all of the major locations of the campaign.

I have not researched papers for New York (the PCs spend so little time there; and, if in doubt, use the New York Times) or Thibet (the PCs are in such an isolated location that newspapers are unlikely to be available, except perhaps for an international edition of a paper like the Paris Herald Tribune, as described under Bangkok newspapers).

Hitting up the morgues of local papers for leads has become such a standard procedural element for Cthulhu-esque investigators that I probably don’t need to pontificate upon it at any great length here. It should be noted that the original campaign references a number of specific newspapers in which specific articles of note are published; those are generally not mentioned here (although obviously they also exist). The purpose of this resource is to provide a firm foundation for the GM to improvise from when the PCs go off the beaten path and begin performing unanticipated background research.

When I originally ran the campaign, I also found that it was not particularly uncommon for the globetrotting PCs to specifically request a local newspaper upon checking into a new hotel. Being able to reference specific papers (with a few personalizing factoids to distinguish one broadsheet from another) proved to be a remarkably effective and immersive technique that can contribute greatly to the meaningful sensation of the campaign moving through space and culture.

ETERNAL LIES ADDENDUM – NEWSPAPERS

(PDF)

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