The Alexandrian

Eternal Lies – Ethiopia

June 17th, 2015

Go to Eternal Lies: The Alexandrian Remix

Eternal Lies - Ethiopia

Campaign NotesDioramaProps Packet

Ethiopia receives very few changes for the remix. There are a few minor changes, mostly aimed at either (a) incorporating the Obelisk of Axum into the campaign or (b) creating a clearer path by which the PCs could reach Ayers. (I knew that there was literally 0% chance that my players would choose to just blindly ride into the desert in a vaguely western direction on the off-chance they might run into him, so I created the mythology of the Dream-Scourged Halls of Oloth-Waaq to give a little flavorful direction.)

One thing I did change, however, was the custom Heat Track the campaign uses for desert travel. I posted these previously on the Alexandrian when I first developed them, but I’ll share them here, too, for easy reference.

The effect of prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures in Trail of Cthulhu is very straight-forward: Investigators are considered to be hurt, resulting in them suffering a +1 difficulty on all tests.

The designers of Eternal Lies had a desire to make exposure to extreme heat more mechanically interesting and they introduced a rudimentary heat track. I found their treatment interesting, but wanted something a little more robust (particularly when it came to treatment and recovery). These mechanics are specifically designed for desert travel.

HEAT TRACK

0. Not suffering heat.

1. Can only make spends after first resting for 10 minutes (to gather their thoughts and spirits).

2. Difficulty of contests +1 (including hit thresholds).

3. Difficulty of tests at +1.

4. Can only make 1 spend per day and must make it in the morning after a good night’s sleep, before the day’s temperatures begin to rise.

5. Cannot make any spends.

6. Can only refresh 1 Health per day. If Heat Track would advance, it remains at 6 but character suffers 1 damage.

ADVANCING HEAT

Desert Travel: +1 Heat track per day. Characters who traveled during the day are considered to be under extreme heat conditions for the purposes of treating heat.

Camping: Characters who take a rest from traveling by camping for one full day are considered to be in favorable conditions for the purposes of treating heat.

Oasis: An oasis or similar place of significant respite may be considered “controlled conditions” for the purposes of treating heat.

TREATING HEAT

A given character can be treated for heat once per day.

First Aid/Medicine in favorable conditions to prevent advancement or reduce position on the heat track by 1.

First Aid/Medicine (difficulty 3 + heat track) in extreme heat conditions to prevent advancement or reduce position on the heat track.

First Aid 1 / Medicine 1 in controlled conditions to bring an investigator back to 0.

PROP NOTES

Dallol Diorama Photos: These colorful illustrations of the deadly beauty around Dallol should be added to the diorama after the PCs begin exploring the area.

Acuna’s Letter to the University: This is a nifty little prop, but I get the feeling that no one will ever see it. Lemme know if your players prove me wrong!

Reference – The Heat and Interpreters: This isn’t really a prop, per se, but it’s designed to be something that you hand to the players as a useful reference for the special rules that apply in Ethiopia. Thus, for lack of a better place to put it, you’ll find it here in the props pack.

Eternal Lies - Ethiopia

Go to 2.2.1 Obelisk of Axum

Rachel Dolezal

A couple days ago I read a few articles on Rachel Dolezal and came to the conclusion that she was suffering from some form of body dysmorphic disorder and I thought it was very sad that this mentally ill woman was being pilloried.

But then I stumbled across, back-to-back, Mike Huckabee attacking transgender people as being imaginary and some random people accusing Caitlin Jenner of being mentally ill and suffering from… body dysmorphic disorder.

And I began to suspect that I may have made a mistake.

Then Dave Chapelle uttered some words of wisdom: “The thing that the media’s gotta be real careful about, that they’re kind of overlooking, is the emotional context of what she means. There’s something that’s very nuanced where she’s highlighting the difference between personal feeling and what’s construct as far as racism is concerned. I don’t know what her agenda is, but there’s an emotional context for black people when they see her and white people when they see her. There’s a lot of feelings that are going to come out behind what’s happening with this lady. And she’s just a person, no matter how we feel about her.”

Dolezal is just one person and her personal experience doesn’t deserve to be held up as the one-grand-truth on this complicated issue. But now I’m looking at progressives who would fight tooth and nail for a person’s right to choose their gender identity and to celebrate their sexual orientation while simultaneously condemning a woman for making a choice about her racial identity, and I find myself wondering whether that’s really just outrageous hypocrisy.

Having just been practicing that hypocrisy myself, I rather suspect that it is.

Go to Eternal Lies: The Alexandrian Remix

Eternal Lies - Severn Valley - Deepfall Lake

Campaign ScenarioDioramaProps PacketMap

Now we come to one of the two completely new locales that I introduced to the campaign. The Severn Valley is 60 pages, 40+ props, and 20,000 words. It’s also robust enough that you could easily run it as an independent scenario (and I’ve included notes for doing so below).

The origin of the Severn Valley scenario was relatively straightforward: Eternal Lies incorporates a lot of elements from Ramsey Campbell’s stories of the Mythos. I was not previously familiar with Campbell’s fiction and so, as part of my preparation for the campaign, I began reading through all of his Severn Valley stories. Then, as I described over here, I decided to create a list of expeditions for Savitree Sirikhan’s exploration team. I thought it would be a nice tip of the hat for one of those locations to be the Severn Valley, and I included an oblique reference to the Severn Valley reference in the props I designed for The Obelisk of Axum.

I was not anticipating that my original group of PCs would immediately seize on that oblique reference and decide that their next stop should be the Severn Valley itself.

My initial intention with the scenario was to do something relatively simple and straightforward. I decided that visiting the meteoric lake from Campbell’s “The Inhabitant of the Lake” was a good bet: The PCs might be able to have a brief encounter with Glaaki, which would give them some visceral reference for the “Prisoner of Glaaki” references sprinkled through the rest of the campaign. The lake had no name in Campbell’s original story, so I decided to call it Deepfall Lake and started work. (Ironically, I would discover that Campbell had later named the lake Deepfall Waters in The Last Revelation of Glaaki.)

But as I worked at unraveling the enigma of Deepfall Lake, I found that what I had initially taken to be a relatively isolated location was, in fact, all tangled up with the rest of Campbell’s Mythos. And all of it began looping back through the Revelations of Glaaki. My Severn Valley scenario became one of those creative endeavors which take on a life of its own.

INTEGRATING THE NEW LOCALES

Both The Obelisk of Axum and Severn Valley were specifically designed for use in my campaign. In terms of adapting the specific material to your own campaigns, the most notable factor to take into consideration will be the dates involved with the activities of the Emporium of Bangkok Antiquities.

Integrating the locales into the general flow of your campaign requires a bit more finesse, however. These two locales are designed to provide the current expeditions being pursued by the Emporium of Bangkok Antiquities. (By providing a sense of activity on the part of the cultists, you’ll create a sense of urgency in the PCs. Like the floating scenes, it also makes the campaign world feel more alive and active, instead of entirely passive.) Because the PCs can visit the locations in almost any order (the exception being that there’s no practical way for them to go to the Severn Valley without visiting either Axum or Bangkok first), however, it can be a little difficult to manage all the moving parts.

In general, there are four possibilities:

BANGKOK FIRST: If the PCs go to Bangkok first, then I recommend having a current expedition at the Obelisk of Axum. In this scenario, include Fauche’s Axum Telegram (modifying it to have a recent date) with the notes on the Obelisk of Axum. If the PCs go to Axum next, they’ll find the EBA there. If they skip ahead to Severn Valley, I’d recommend having them discover that the EBA left Axum shortly after Fauche’s telegram and that they’ve already reached Severn Valley. (When they double back to Axum, you’ll need to make a few modifications to the material, but it will require significantly less work than modifying the Severn Valley material to a pre-EBA state.)

AXUM FIRST, THEN BANGKOK: Include Husain’s Site Report and Fauche’s Second Axum Telegram with the Obelisk of Axum notes. The PCs can visit Severn Valley at any point after Bangkok with little or no change to the material.

AXUM FIRST, THEN SEVERN VALLEY: When the PCs get to Bangkok, include all of the above props plus Soliman’s Letter from Severn and Survivors’ Telegram to Daniel Lowman.

AXUM FIRST, AND THE PCs KILL THE EBA: The easier option is to have Savitree hire a new team and quickly dispatch them to continue her research. (She’s increasingly desperate to figure this out, remember. She’s also well connected, so some quick telegrams to London’s archaeology community might allow her to quickly get a team on the ground.) The more complicated option is to heavily modify Severn Valley. The potentially crazy (but potentially totally awesome) option is to heavily modify Severn Valley and have Savitree try to hire them to explore it for her. (“We both want the same thing: We’re both scared of what this Great Entity can do. We both want to know how control it. How to limit its influence. How to free ourselves from it.”)

In my campaign, the PCs went to Axum first, finished their business in Ethiopia while the EBA went to the Severn Valley, and then followed them there. The timelines in the Severn Valley scenario reflect that. If the PCs are hot on their heels, the EBA will move rapidly in the Severn Valley: They’ll get to their expedition sites faster and cut more corners while investigating. They’ll hire thugs and assassins to delay or simply murder the PCs. (One particularly good set of timing, however, would be for the PCs to catch up with them at Deepfall Lake just as Glaaki is attacking them.)

AFTER SEVERN VALLEY: After Soliman’s “death” in the Severn Valley, the Emporium members will be beached in Bangkok for a time. If the PCs haven’t gone there yet, you can have them complicate the situation in Bangkok. If the PCs have already wrecked Bangkok, it’s possible that Fauche might try to pick up the pieces. Or they might ally with other cult leaders. Or they might organize efforts to seek revenge (or simply regain any research material the PCs stole from Savitree).

Savitree’s Research Notes do include details for a future expedition to the Great Sandy Desert in 1935. This is a reference to Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Out of Time”, but my intention is that the Emporium of Bangkok Antiquities DON’T end up going on that expedition. (The negotiations fall through.) But if you wanted to run a Trials and Tribble-lations style adventure where the PCs and the EBA are running around in the background of “The Shadow Out of Time”, I say more power to you. You could use that as an opportunity to reveal the meteor-cities of the Yithians. The connection of those meteor-cities to Glaaki could be another method for pointing the PCs towards the Severn Valley if they haven’t already visited. (The meteor-cities are explained here in my notes for the Severn Valley scenario.)

THE MYTHOS OF THE SEVERN VALLEY

Most of Campbell’s Severn Valley stories are set during the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s (when they were written). With the campaign set in the 1930s, I seized the opportunity to create a dynamic prequel to Campbell’s stories: Not only will players familiar with Severn Valley have a chance to spot familiar sites, I’ve also structured the scenario so that the probable outcome is for the PCs to set up the circumstances which give rise to Campbell’s stories. Conversely, if your players aren’t familiar with Campbell’s stories they should get an extra thrill from reading them after the campaign is finished. If you’re interested in reading the specific stories which make up the fabric of the scenario, they are:

  • “The Inhabitant of the Lake”
  • “The Church in High Street”
  • “The Stone on the Island”
  • “Cold Print”

There are also references to “The Room in the Castle”, “The Render in Veils”, “The Plain of Sound”, and The Last Revelation of Glaaki. You can get all of the short stories in a single volume by tracking down a copy of the 1993 expanded edition of the Cold Print collection.

While I have done my best to scrupulously adhere to Campbell’s continuity, however, I have also taken the opportunity to vastly expand the Severn Valley Mythos.

THE DOUBLING OF TIME: At the core of my conception of Severn Valley is the doubling of time and place. Glaaki, riding within a meteor, arrives on Earth in 1787. His cultists perform a ritual using the reversed angles of Tagh-Clatur which rewrite history and warps space in the Vale of Berkeley. This means, first, that Glaaki’s meteor has always rested in the Vale of Berkeley, so that his influence on the world now stretches back to prehistory. And, second, the “weight” of the angles invoked actually increases the size of the local terrain: The city of Brichester now exists in the Severn Valley.

See, Campbell’s city of Brichester is fictional. And what I discovered when I tried to create a map of the region is that not only does the city not exist, there isn’t enough room for it to exist: It’s supposed to lie between the River Severn and the A38 north of Berkeley. But that span of land is only 4 miles across. It would be difficult to squeeze the metropolis of Brichester into that area all by itself, but it’s supposed to be surrounded by areas of wilderness that takes hours to walk across. So in order to create a map of the fictional Severn Valley, I would need to actually expand the size of the region.

Eternal Lies - Severn Valley - The Church in High StreetAnd then I thought about how utterly terrifying it would be if that had actually happened and only a few people knew about it. (And, of course, you would consider those people insane. It would be like someone trying to claim that Chicago, IL wasn’t supposed to exist.)

Figuring out how Glaaki had managed to make this happen, I ended up linking the Isle Beyond Severnford (from “The Stone on the Island”) directly into the Glaaki mythos.

THE TRUE IDENTITY OF THE TOMB-HERD: Another conundrum I struggled with while unraveling Campbell’s Mythos was the identity of the tomb-herd. They’re referenced as either working for or allied with Glaaki in “The Inhabitant of the Lake”, but they receive a full description in “The Church on High Street” (which has also appeared under the title “The Tomb Herds”) with a mythology that doesn’t quite square with the later reference.

One possibility is that there are multiple tomb-herds, but I found a different way of squaring the circle by, first, entertwining the history of Glaaki’s cult and the Church in High Street and then postulating that the tomb-herd are, in fact, the next stage of development for the glakeen. I don’t know if Campbell would approve (although I do take some comfort from the amorphous transformations of The Last Revelation of Glaaki), but I hope you find the results compelling and terrifying.

LINKING ETERNAL LIES: The other thing I wanted to do, of course, was to tie Severn Valley to the Eternal Lies campaign. I did that through the character of Tricia Piper. In “Cold Print”, Ramsey Campbell establishes that an additional volume of the Revelations of Glaaki, steeped in lore concerning Y’Golonac, was written by an inmate at the Mercy Hill Asylum. I decided that the process of writing this volume started in 1924 and it was a direct result of the ritual that was performed by Echavarria in Los Angeles.

I don’t know if you’ll share the same thrill of excitement that gives me: But the idea of players being able to link the exploits of their characters into a wider world in subtle and insidious ways just seems to invest such a unique depth of meaning above and beyond all the normal ways in which a campaign can deliver meaning.

 UNTANGLING THE REVELATIONS OF GLAAKI

There are a number of reference sheets throughout the Severn Valley scenario to help you keep track of the complicated and overlapping continuities and mythologies. There were times when it felt like I was sweating blood to pull those coherent references together, and this was never more true than with the six page reference sheet for the Revelations of Glaaki you’ll find at the end of the scenario.

This final reference sheet is less organized and condensed than the others. Its function is, instead, to contain every scrap of information I’ve dredged up about the Revelations from Campbell’s work (and others of note). As with the other aspects of the scenario, I have expanded upon the known body of lore concerning the Revelations of Glaaki for my remix, but I wanted a solid body of reference to build from. And because the Revelations are, in many ways, the central pivot on which the mythology of Eternal Lies turns, I suspect you may find it useful, too. (Or, at the very least, of interest.)

PROP NOTES

Alan Thorpe’s Notes: The front and back cover of Alan Thorpe’s Notes are designed to be printed out on cardstock (I used matte photo paper) and taped together to form a folder that you can then slide the actual Notes into.

Birch Sculptures: It doesn’t matter which picture goes with which Birch sculpture they discover. The visual references are atmospheric in nature. (These sculptures are, in fact, the work of Cris Agterberg, who is name-dropped in the scenario as supposedly taking influence from the completely fictional Birch.)

Faces of the Violet Cube: If you wanted to cut the cube out and tape it into an actual cube, I’m betting that would be pretty awesome.

Husain Soliman’s Notes: The conceit I’m shooting for here is that the notes are made in a little notebook. You could copy them out by hand if you’ve got an appropriate notebook. What I did was to print these out, cut the sheets down, and staple them together to form a little pseudo-notebook. (If you wanted to put a hole through them and stain them as if Glaaki’s spine had speared straight through the notes and into Soliman’s chest cavity, more power to you.)

Journal of Thomas Cavanaugh: These are designed to be printed as a booklet. The cover is presented in a separate file (I printed it on matte photo paper to give a nice, sturdy cover).

Photo of Grotesque Statue: You can actually buy this statue as a resin kit for $40 CAD if you want a really awesome, physical prop to drop on the table and freak your players out.

Revelation of the Herd: This is sized to be printed on a very nice piece of stationary paper that I happen to own which looks like the sort of thing you’d find in a 1930s hotel. (Which is, in fact, where it ended up being written in my campaign.) Note that the handwriting actually DOES match the handwritten Revelations of Glaaki excerpts.

USING SEVERN VALLEY AS AN INDEPENDENT SCENARIO

The core of this scenario is that the PCs are coming to the Severn Valley on the trail of a group of archaeologists from the Emporium of Bangkok Antiquities. It’s relatively easy to use the Emporium while severing its connection to Savitree Sirikhan and the Eternal Lies campaign. (Alternatively, you could actually use Severn Valley as an alternative way of kicking off an Eternal Lies campaign, although you’d want to add more clues that would allow PCs to track the Emporium back to Bangkok.)

The reason for the PCs’ pursuit of the Emporium might be professional (the Armitage Inquiry is interested in consulting the group or putting them on retainer), hostile (Project Covenant has identified the group as a potential security threat), or concerned (the PCs are also associates of the Emporium who have come to find out why their colleagues have stopped reporting back).

EXPANDING THE SEVERN VALLEY: Another option would be to expand Severn Valley to include more of Campbell’s stories. The setting practically screams for being turned into a full-throttled sandbox focused around the local Mythos forces drawn to the region by Glaaki’s presence (like the Mi-Go and the cultists of Goatswood), with telltale traces throughout the region gradually pointing the PCs towards the terrible truths of the Valley’s true history. (Basically, a big orgy of the Campbellian Mythos focused through the lens of Glaaki.)

For a sandbox campaign, there are a number of ways that the PCs could be drawn into the Valley for the first time:

  • The Brichester Scholars, based out of Brichester University, would be a relatively standard “scholars vs. the Mythos” set-up.
  • The Winchester Group, an SIS workgroup tasked with the unwise mission of discovering how Mythos technology could be exploited in the inevitable war against fascism, would probably result in the campaign looking a lot more like Raid on Innsmouth than Shadows Over Innsmouth.
  • The Summer Holiday structure would reframe the Severn Valley as a gothic romance: School chums come to spend their holiday in the Valley, only to be drawn into its horrors.
  • A special guest appearance by the Bookhounds of London (with their frame focused around the many volumes of the Revelations of Glaaki) would make a lot of sense.
  • I’m also struck by the idea of a Children of the Blitz frame, featuring a Narnia-like premise with young children evacuated from London.

Eternal Lies - Severn Valley - Brichester

Go to 2.2 Ethiopia

Heavy Gear - Storyline Book 1: Crisis of FaithTo paraphrase somebody famous, there are two ways to handle a meta-story: The right way and the wrong way.

When handled correctly, a meta-story adds depth and complexity to a roleplaying game. Instead of merely describing a setting as it physically exists at some given point in time, a line of products becomes capable of describing dynamic relationships within the setting as they evolve over time.

When handled incorrectly, a meta-story becomes a marketing gimmick – stringing the customers along from one product to the next, always keeping some essential piece of information just out of reach in the “next release”. Buy Product A, which will only work if you buy Product B, which will only work if you buy Product C… Instead of serving as a spice, the poorly managed meta-story becomes a flaw: Existing customers get frustrated with having to purchase books they don’t want in order to keep up, while new customers get lost in a flurry of books whose interrelationships are murky and unclear.

And then there’s Dream Pod 9’s Heavy Gear: The standard by which all other meta-stories are to be judged. The meta-story of this game is clearly presented, compellingly conceived, and brilliantly executed. No other game has come close.

There are three keys to this success. First, there is the Timewatch system. On the back of every single Heavy Gear product there is a date printed: The date in the game setting which the material in the book describes. This idea is so simple and elegant that it would, literally, cost absolutely nothing for every single producer of roleplaying products to mimic it – and yet the effect it has on the Heavy Gear game line is profound: The Timewatch system strips away an entire level of complexity and potential confusion and resolves it in the easy reference of four digits.

The second key is the strength, clarity, and flexibility of the methodology underlying the Heavy Gear product line. “Clarity” because the purpose and scope of every supplement is clearly communicated to its audience. “Strength” because of the interlocking levels of detail and coverage, combined with strong, continuing support across the board. “Flexibility” because each supplement is truly modular – requiring nothing more than itself and the core rules to be fully useable. The importance of all this cannot be understated: The ability for a newcomer to be able to look at a shelf of products and know exactly what each book covers and which books they should buy, and the ability to buy only those books which contain precisely the information they need, makes Heavy Gear the most accessible and durable line of RPG products on the market.

Heavy Gear - Storyline Book 2: Blood on the WindThis second key leads directly to the concept of the Storyline Book: Instead of spreading the development of the meta-story across a myriad array of unrelated products, Dream Pod 9 has instead concentrated the story into this single set of books. The information to be found here, of course, is supported in other products – but it’s supported in the same way that other game lines support their standard world information. In other words, if you want more information about, for example, the Black Talon program you’d pick up the Black Talon Field Guide. But if you weren’t interested in having detailed coverage of the Talons, then the information found in Return to Cat’s Eye would be more than sufficient to let you know what the major developments with the Talons are. This gives you the ability to follow the meta-story of Heavy Gear without having to buy every Heavy Gear product that the Pod produces (regardless of whether or not you actually want the information found in that product). The Pod will make you want to own the books, but will never require you to own anything more than a tightly controlled set of core resources.

And the third key? Mind-blowing quality. The story being told by Dream Pod 9, the first part of which appears in these three books, is one of the best you’re going to find, in or out of the gaming industry. Intrigue, power, politics, war, love, murder, mayhem. You name it – Heavy Gear’s got it.

This story is so good, it’s worth reading even if you don’t play the game – and it’s accompanied by a visual tour de force that fans of the Pod have come to recognize as par for the course. There is no other company in the industry that can feast your eyes the way the Pod can (supported, as they are, by the astounding talent of Ghislain Barbe) – and all the while doing it with exactly the right balance: The art is always there as a supplement and companion to the writing, never overpowering it or distracting from it.

These books actually are designed to stand on their own. The Heavy Gear universe, and this story, were conceived as a whole. They were not produced, specifically, as a “roleplaying setting” or a “tactical scenario”, but rather as a product which could stand on its own. Its creation was a collaboration, combining not only the written word but also the visual elements of the world as an organic whole. The result is a universe broad in scope and rich in detail, driven by a story which is epic in proportion and gripping in the telling.

Crisis of Faith begins the story in TN 1932, as the world of Terra Nova begins to spin towards global war. Told through the collected notes and intelligence data of Nicosa Renault – a “retired” master spy who still keeps tabs on the powerbrokers of her world – the story of Heavy Gear begins to unfold before you through the thoughts, conversations, video logs, and journals of actual Terranovans. As the book nears its conclusion things begin to spiral hopelessly out of control, ending with a shocking surprise ending.

Heavy Gear - Storyline Book 3: Return to Cat's EyeIf the last six pages of Crisis of Faith hit you with the power of a sledgehammer, then the first two pages of Blood on the Wind will send you reeling across the room… and the thrills are just beginning: The world goes to hell and Dream Pod 9 is taking you along for the ride. If you thought the beginning was surprising, just wait until you see the end: A grand mystery is left unsolved and a new crisis looms on the horizon.

Return to Cat’s Eye brings the first part of the Heavy Gear storyline to a conclusion. The pieces left hanging from the first two books are slowly brought to their resolution, but just as you think you’ve figured out the rules of the game, new players begin to appear… and old players do the totally unexpected.

These books are masterpieces. They make me proud to be a gamer. They are something which I can point to and say: “Why do I roleplay? Because things like this are possible.” You’ll use them. You’ll read them. And then you’ll read them again. They are treasures to own, and joys to appreciate. They are something you simply must not miss.

Style: 5
Substance: 5

Author: Philippe Boulle, Marc-Alexandre Vezina, and Hilary Doda
Company/Publisher: Dream Pod 9
Cost: $19.95 / $17.95 / $17.95
Page Count: 112 / 80 / 80
ISBN: 1-896776-21-3 / 1-896776-27-2 / 1-896776-59-0

Originally Posted: 2000/10/14

When I wrote this review, I had previously written reviews of both Crisis of Faith and Blood on the Wind. I am honestly uncertain at this point whether I had simply forgotten that I had written those review or if (more likely) I decided that a review of Return to Cat’s Eye would have been rather slim by itself and that it would make more sense to look at the collective effect of Heavy Gear‘s “first act” (so to speak) in a single package.

I had originally intended to follow this up with a review of the next trilogy of Storyline Books, but four days after submitting this review to RPGNet (and several days before it was actually published) I received an offer from Dream Pod 9 to revise material from an unpublished supplement I had written for them so that it could be incorporated into the fourth Heavy Gear storyline book. That prompted me to post a rather weird “I’m biased now, but I wasn’t biased when I wrote this” notice shortly after the review went live.

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

Go to Eternal Lies: The Alexandrian Remix

Eternal Lies - Cavern of Black SpectersIn my remix of Eternal Lies, there are two major document dumps: The first are the individual volumes of Echavarria’s cult library. The second is Savitree’s research into the true identity of the Thing With a Thousand Mouths.

My first goal with these document dumps was to create a trove of immersive Mythos lore. Not all of my players are steeped in Lovecraftian lore, and these documents created a way for them to become familiar with the material through play. And for the experienced Lovecraft scholars in my group, these documents simultaneously created a flak cloud: There’s enough material here drawn from a large enough body of sources that, hopefully, they won’t be able to immediately zero in on the pertinent clues to what’s really happening. (So often you end up with Mythos adventures where you say “artist with weird dreams” and the experts immediately know it’s a Cthulhu scenario. That’s generally non-optimal for creating a sense of mystery and horror; and it’s really important that it doesn’t happen with Eternal Lies.)

My second goal was to enrich the final revelations of the campaign (as I explained here). Echavarria’s library exists to (a) create a “suspect pool” for the true identity of the Thing With a Thousand Mouth and (b) hide the Gaze of Azathoth (which provides an explicit solution to the campaign) in plain sight. Savitree’s expedition reports similarly create a “suspect pool” for the location of the Maw of the Mouth to which the clue “it’s a mountain” can be applied.

My third goal was to give the players the experience of actually performing Mythos research. I wanted them to feel like they were pawing their way through dusty tomes, tracking down particular leads, and drawing their own conclusions. (Instead of just saying, “You spend a couple of days looking through Savitree’s notes and now you know X, Y, and Z.”) This can be a little risky because, of course, that carries with it the risk they won’t be able to figure it out. But fortunately (a) I’ve built redundancies into the campaign and (b) if all else fails, they can always use Cthulhu Mythos to rend their sanity and figure it out.

USING THE CULT LIBRARY BOOKS: When the PCs gain access to a particular lot of books from the cult’s library (either the UCLA lot or the books in Trammel’s mansion), give them the list of volumes they’ve obtained. They can now choose which volumes they want to skim. (I used a guideline of 1d3+1 days per volume, modifiable by the Library Use spends listed in the core rulebook. You could also assign a specific number of pages to each book and use the official guideline of 1 hour per 100 printed pages or 10 handwritten pages.) Skimming a volume gives them access to the one page handout describing the contents of the book. The skimming might also trigger Mythos stability checks or give them access to dedicated pool points, as described.

Most books, you’ll note, also has a section describing the benefits of Poring Over. The standard rules for poring over apply (it happens between sessions): They could generally pore over 1 book per week between locales. (Or during significant down time during a locale, although that never came up.) Echavarria’s library was incredibly well-stocked and patient players can actually rack up a pretty impressive Cthulhu Mythos score by taking the time to study it in full. (I believe the maximum possible gain is +15 Cthulhu Mythos.) Of course, they’ll pretty much drive themselves insane in the process.

USING SAVITREE’S RESEARCH: Savitree’s Research is broken up into 16 briefing documents. These mostly consist of summaries of the various expeditions of the Emporium of Bangkok Antiquities, but also include letters from other cult leaders, and also a summary of her attempts to reconstruct Echavarria’s 1924 ritual.

For each day that the PCs spend studying this notes, give them ONE of the briefing documents. The first briefing document they receive will be random unless they proactively go looking for some specific topic right off the bat, and I strongly encourage you to actually randomize it. (Shuffle the papers up; pick one randomly.) Now that they’ve stuck their toe in the water, however, you should prompt them as they continue their work, “Is there any particular direction you want to follow in your research?” Or pay attention to their discussion and see if there’s a particular topic mentioned in the first briefing document that they sound particularly interested in and ask if they want to pursue it.

If they don’t have any particular topic in mind, then go ahead and give them another random document. But if the do, then give them an appropriate briefing document and continue from there.

For example, let’s say that you start by randomly giving them the briefing document for Hang Maden. In that document, it’s mentioned that Carsten Braunlich died in 1927. They want to know how he died, so the next briefing document they get is for the 1927 expedition to Tunguska. The reference to “Echavarria’s Gol-Goroth” reminds them of something they saw in the first document, and they notice that Savitree mentions her “studies of the Black Stone”. They follow that and you randomly select between several briefing documents discussing it and they get the 1934 report on the Obelisk of Axum. (Only later do they eventually track down the original reports on Braunlich’s 1927 expedition to Hungary to examine the Black Stone itself.)

The idea here is that, instead of just getting a big linear narrative, the players will actually crawl their way through the research. They’ll forge their own connections and create their own narrative connections through the material.

Eternal Lies - Savitree's Research

(PDF)

SAVITREE’S LIBRARY: Savitree’s actual library (as opposed to her research notes) is a completely different monster. It’s even more impressive than Echavarria’s library. As described in Eternal Lies, poring over this library is impossible within the timeframe of the campaign (it would take years). Skimming the library takes considerable amounts of time (as described in the campaign), but rewards you with a massive set of dedicated pool points.

(Note: Although the campaign suggests that the players will have to return to Ko Kruk Island in order to access the full library, you should be prepared for them taking the time to crate the whole thing up and ship it to a safe house somewhere. It’s not difficult, however, to argue that it can’t all fit on their plane in a usable/accessible form. Because it won’t.)

One specific tome that can be found in the library, however, is the 9-volume Matterhorn Press edition of the Revelations of Glaaki. I’ve prepped a specific handout for that and you should pass it over as soon as they’ve spent any amount of time perusing the library’s contents. (The relationship between various versions of the Revelations is one key way in which the remix allows the PCs to figure out the true identity of the Thing With a Thousand Mouths and succeed where Savitree failed. But there’ll be more details on that when we reach Severn Valley.)

Go to 2.1.1 Severn Valley

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