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Posts tagged ‘eternal lies’

Eternal Lies – Yucatan

July 13th, 2015

Go to Eternal Lies: The Alexandrian Remix

Eternal Lies - Yucatan - Chichen Xoxul

Campaign NotesDioramaProps Packet

The Yucatan marks a shift in the organization of my notes for the campaign. Form, in this case, follows function. Whereas the other locations up to this point in the campaign are designed as mysteries (which are best handled by a node-based structure), in the Yucatan the PCs are primarily concerned with mounting an expedition to discover the lost ruins of Chichen Xoxul.

Therefore, the node structure is foregone and I’ve instead used a collection of sequences and locations to organize the material. The exception is minor miscellaneous investigations, research, and preparations that can be undertaken when the PCs first arrive in the Yucatan. (These have been grouped together as Prologue: Merida.)

This is one of my favorite sections of the campaign. And it was, in fact, while reading the conclusion of the Yucatan location that I became resolved to run the campaign. For the most part, I’ve merely contented myself with enriching and expanding the material (particularly around the mythology of Gol-Goroth), but there are a few key changes to keep an eye out for:

LOCATION OF CHICHEN XOXUL: In the original campaign, the location of Chichen Xoxul appears to be something of an open secret. (There even seems to be a standard location where people park their trucks before hiking out to see it.) That seemed a little strange to me, so I’ve made it a little more remote and I’ve made its location a little more mysterious. (The PCs still shouldn’t have any real difficulty finding it. There are, in fact, multiple ways for them to track it down. But hopefully it will feel like they’re actually tracking it down, and not just grabbing a brochure from the local tourist bureau.)

GOLXUMAL vs. GOL-GOROTH: In the original campaign, Golxumal is an alternative name for Gol-Goroth and also the name of the moon where the Xoxul live. Because I was working to incorporate global Gol-Goroth lore into the campaign, I decided to completely separate the two terms: Golxumal is the moon. Gol-Goroth is the Mythos god. (Although a few Western scholars do screw it up in the handouts.)

RESCUING FRANCISCO DE LA BELALCAZAR: I’ve specifically made it possible to rescue Francisco de la Belalcazar. (The PCs might manage to release him back into his own time, which could theoretically change history. More likely is that they’d bring him back to contemporary times, which could lead to an interesting interchange between Franscisco de la Vega and his distant ancestor.)

EXPEDITION GUIDELINES

I’ve added a set of detailed guidelines that will allow the players to actually plan their expedition. It’s nothing too extravagant and it shouldn’t turn your campaign of Lovecraftian horror into a session of Wilderness Expedition Logistics, but it should give just enough meat to give the PCs some meaningful decisions in Merida. The key elements are:

ORGANIZING: Any character with Outdoorsman can efficiently organize an expedition. Alternatively, a guide can be hired to provide the expertise. If not, add +1 to any Credit Rating spends associated with the expedition.

SUPPLIES: 1-point Credit Rating spend per week of supplies.

PORTERS: 1 porter per investigator and guide. For an expedition lasting longer than three weeks, double the number of porters. 1-point Credit Rating spend per porter. An Interpersonal ability is necessary to keep the porters well organized, although a guide will also generally take care of organizing the porters.

NAVIGATION: Outdoorsman can navigate to generally known locations. Local guides can provide guidance. For unknown locations, additional skills and/or spends may be necessary.

These costs can be reduced through the application of other skills (like Bargain, for example). Detailed notes are given in the prep notes.

MEETING GOL-GOROTH

At the end of the Yucatan location, the PCs have the opportunity to “meet” Gol-Goroth. In the published campaign, the initial moment of telepathic contact is a horrific experience during which Eternal Lies - Seal of GolxumalGol-Goroth goes rummaging through the minds of the PCs and they all collectively share a set of memories as he yanks them out to look at them.

And then I thought to myself: Wouldn’t it be cool if that’s how Gol-Goroth communicated? If he existed on such a completely different plane of existence that the only way for him to actually interact with a human being was by shuffling around their own thoughts?

In the end, I designed the encounter with Gol-Goroth around three techniques.

MEMORY MANIFESTATIONS: The investigators’ psyches are intermixed and tangled as Gol-Goroth paws through them. The idea that he’s attempting to communicate either comes from a gestalt of these memories or by transforming/combining them. (Go around the table and ask each player to share a memory of the specified type from their investigators’ past.)

VISIONS: Gol-Goroth simply shows them a vision of what he wants them to know.

APPROPRIATED BODIES: Gol-Goroth takes control of one or more investigators and speaks through them. (A technique I discovered during play – and which, therefore, isn’t represented in the remix notes – is to break up the declarations made through appropriated bodies and give them to each player to read aloud.)

As you’ll see in the remix notes, each major concept that Gol-Goroth wishes to communicate is packaged using some combination of these ideas. (And it’s actually quite trivial to improvise additional interactions if the players take the conversation in unexpected directions.)

My players encountered Gol-Goroth quite late in the campaign, which meant that the revelations of various memories and thoughts were a penultimate culmination of everything that these characters had experienced and a final exploration of all the aspects of them that had been developed through play. But the scene would probably play just as well near the beginning of the campaign (as a way of developing depth that would be explored through the rest of the campign) or the middle of the campaign (as a pivot point in that development).

PROP NOTES

PHOTOS OF THE SPAWN OF GOL-GOROTH: The idea here is that each player gets a different photograph of what the Spawn looks like without showing the other players. (Once the characters have a chance to compare notes, it’s fine if they flip the photos over.) This worked particularly well in my play-thru of the campaign because one of the PCs peeked around the corner, saw the Spawn eating corpses they had left on the Plaza, said “nope, nope, nope”, and skedaddled back to where the other PCs were waiting. The players thought the reason I handed her the photo face down was because they hadn’t seen the creature yet, so I got an inadvertent double whammy of having one of the players try to describe the horrible thing they had seen and then, later, revealing the “you all see something different” gimmick.

PHOTO OF THE PYRAMID: This is a really cool photo of a heavily overgrown Mayan pyramid. It is not, however, a perfect rendition of the pyramid at Chichen Xoxul. (Most notably, the backdrop behind the pyramid should be a thick and tangled jungle. It’s also a little too small, the structure on top isn’t quite right, and the observatory slits aren’t present.) Even while giving the proviso that “this photo isn’t 100% accurate”, I still found the photo an effective way to shake loose the popular image of modern Chichen Itza in the minds of my players and replace it with the image of a truly ruined complex. (This was important for me because I wanted to strongly contrast it with the image of an immaculate temple complex during the observatory sequence.)

I also used a small, miniature version of the Chichen Itza pyramid that I purchased while vacationing there about a decade ago. Having the 3D representation was a nice reference and then it lived on the gaming table for the rest of the campaign as another memento of their journey. The closest version I’ve been able to find online is a model kit of Kukulcan, which is really cool but considerably more expensive.

Eternal Lies - Yucatan

Go to 3.1 Thibet

Go to Eternal Lies: The Alexandrian Remix

Eternal Lies - Mexico City

Campaign NotesDioramaProps Packet

I’m afraid I need to preface the remix of the Mexico City locale with a hard truth: In my opinion, this section of the original campaign is a big mess. Despite some really interesting ideas (that are largely left undeveloped), it’s easily the weakest section of the entire campaign.

First, it’s heavily overwritten. There’s a lot of meandering about self-evident contingencies, but there’s also a lot of bizarrely out-of-place GM advice. For example: “Eternal Lies is performed on the soundstage of your imagination. It is not played out on location in Mexico City, 1937. When conjuring an imaginary Mexico City for your adaptation of Eternal Lies, remember that your dramatic interpretation of Mexico City must, foremost, serve your story.” At this point you’re 260 pages into the book and at least 6-8 sessions into the campaign. It feels really weird to be saying things like, “Hey! Remember that the thing you’ve been doing for the last two months is totally a work of fiction!” Or to say things like this: “Keep all of that in mind while you’re making choices for Gonchi, because when you’re playing the role of Gonchi, you’ve also got to be playing the part of the Keeper still.”

Ignoring the fact that I consider some of the advice in this chapter to be flat-out bad (like explicitly telling your players that a particular prop is really important, so they should make sure to pay attention to it), you’re still faced with the fact that it’s curiously banal.

Second, it’s structurally weak (featuring a long, tenuous string of linear clues with little redundancy and a lot of faith-leaping). It’s also structurally bloated. For example, when the PCs are trying to track down a band of musicians, there’s a sequence where they have to go to a bar, have a conversation with a specific NPC, then get invited to a party, have another conversation with that same NPC, and then finally get introduced to the band. Later they’re supposed to get captured by the bad guys and tossed down a pit lined with mouths. Then they’re supposed to walk across a room and fall down ANOTHER pit with a Mouth in it.

You’ll note that these curious redundancies are absent from the remix: The bar and the party are conflated into a single interaction. And there is only one mouth-filled pit in the bad guys’ lair.

Third, speaking of mouth-filled pits, the conclusion is a bit of a disaster: In order to play out as written, it requires the PCs to be captured and thrown into the oubliette. But there’s no reasonable way to actually arrange for their capture. The scenario then explicitly breaks the normal rules for handling Stability checks, implementing a custom system which is impossibly brutal and essentially guarantees that the PCs will be wiped out.Eternal Lies - Mexico City - Elena Alcatruz The author then seems to realize he’s made a mistake, because he includes an entire section dedicated exclusively to discussing how to railroad the PCs back out of the trap you’ve railroaded them into in order to avoid the inevitable TPK.

Fourth, there’s Elena Alcatruz. I thought about renaming her Mary Sue, but that felt a little too on the nose. Elena is this completely inconsequential and irrelevant character who is stunningly beautiful, utterly charming, versed in every subject the PCs are interested in, and literally the most amazing person they will ever meet. She receives the largest write-up of any NPC in the entire campaign (including three unique, detailed outfits), it’s suggested that one of the PCs should fall in love with her, and “if the Investigators (or their players) look forward to seeing her again in a future scene, you’re playing her just right.”

As a result of all this, Mexico City is probably the most heavily altered location in my version of the campaign: Entire scenes have been dropped, clues have been added and many have been redirected. It’s the only location where I recommend laying the book aside during the game and running strictly from the remix notes.

PROACTIVE NODES

One thing that will probably leap out at you about Mexico City is the large number of proactive nodes. When you’re running the location, don’t lose track of these: There are five proactive nodes and some of them (like Gonchi Del Toro or Brooks’ thugs) can even be used multiple times. Given that there are only eight static nodes (and three of those already include variations of the thugs in their own right), you won’t want to wait for the PCs to settle in before hitting them with the proactive stuff.

In many ways, these proactive nodes are the defining characteristic of the Mexico City location and set it apart from the other cities of the cult: Brooks has eyes and ears everywhere (and many of them are watching each other). Between Gonchi, the thugs, the birds, a second round of thugs, the shooter in Node 3, and then the thugs who attack La Paz, the entire city should pretty much just scream Brooks’ paranoia.

DE LA LUZ SONGS

One new addition to the Mexico City location that I’d like to call particular attention to are the additional De La Luz songs I developed: In the original campaign, there’s only one recording of Leticia de la Luz and its effect is fairly minimal. To this I’ve added “Cancion del Cuco”, “Armonia de los Dioses”, “Caricia de los Labios”, and “Grunido de la Montana”. Each of these has their own unique effect, which is summarized on a reference sheet (pg. 5 of the remix notes).

The conclusion of the Mexico City location, instead of being based around the oubliette, is instead based around Leticia de la Luz and the Major Mouth influencing the PCs through the alternating use of different songs. There’s no specific script for this: Play it by ear (pun intended) and keep switching the songs up while using them to best effect.

PROP NOTES

A LOVE POEM FOR LETICIA: I’m particularly satisfied with how this creepy-as-hell poem turned out. I’ve included a file for printing a 5.75″ x 4.5″ envelope. The poem is designed to be printed on matching stationary, but it’s relatively easy to print it on any size paper and trim it down. (You can skip the envelope, but note that it’s the primary clue here: The return address points to Brooks’ penthouse.)

LA PAZ MATCHBOOK: Print this onto cardstock and then cut it down to the size of a matchbook cover. It’s then relatively easy to rip the cover off a book of matches and staple the new cover on to replace it. A text file included in the props packet gives the address you’re supposed to write inside: La Cruz 29, 3°, 18. (That’s how addresses work in Mexico: It means #29 on La Cruz street, 3rd floor, Unit 18.)

LINER NOTES FOR THE NEW ALBUM: Separate files are given for the front and back of this handout. As detailed in the included text file and the scenario notes, there’s a crytography key that you can give to someone making a Cryptography spend. That should give them enough information to translate the text.

PHOTO OF DOMINGUEZ AND HIS CREW: Here, again, there’s a text file noting what need to be written on the back of the photo.

VICTOR CORTEZ BUSINESS CARD: These are designed for 8471 Avery Business Cards. (You could also print them on cardstock and cut them down to business card size.) I filled the whole sheet with them because… well… why not? And then I developed the idea of Cortez compulsively handing them out to everyone he talks to.

Eternal Lies - Mexico City - Aztec Mural

Go to 2.5 Yucatan

Eternal Lies – Malta

June 22nd, 2015

Go to Eternal Lies: The Alexandrian Remix

Eternal Lies - Malta

Campaign NotesDioramaProps Packet

A key thing to note for Malta in the Alexandrian Remix: This is the primary location for learning that the Rift of the Maw only opens under a new moon in a cloudless sky. In the adventure as written, this information is frequently accompanied by people also telling you that the Rift of the Maw is located in a mountain. If you want the remix to work the way it’s supposed to, it’s really important that you DON’T mention anything about a mountain in Malta. In the remix, nobody in Malta knows where the Rift is (and, in fact, quite a few people would like to figure it out).

Beyond that, you won’t find a lot of big, glaring changes in the Malta location. What the remix mostly does is beef up the clues to make the location a little more robust.

NECTAR TRADE: The most notable way I accomplished this was to add an active Nectar trade to Malta. In the published campaign, Montgomery Donovan is keeping Nectar off the streets of Malta in order to keep the local authorities off his back. I decided to go a different direction because (a) it gives the PCs a different avenue for cracking the local cult; (b) it makes Bangkok the only cult location where you can’t find Nectar on the streets (which thematically strengthens Savitree’s cautious isolationism); and (c) I had a couple of cool ideas for what the local Nectar trade might look like (which is where the Parkies and the Faldetta Peaches come from in the remix).

SIR GODFREY WELLES: Conversely, I dialed back the amount of information that Sir Godfrey Welles can provide. He’s got enough to point the PCs in the right direction (and a few wrong directions), but I’ve stripped him of his encyclopedic knowledge of what’s happening.

CATACOMBS: The other major change can be found in the catacombs beneath Malta. There’s some extra flavor down there, but if the PCs are being guided by Sir Godfrey they’re no longer at risk of running into booby traps. I’ve also added a robust mechanical structure for PCs who end up stumbling around blindly in the catacombs. (This also gives the PCs a more active way of finding Sir Godfrey, although he’s still most likely to pop up as a friendly and unexpected ally.)

DONOVAN’S TOWNHOUSE: In the original campaign there’s a discrepancy between the map of Donovan’s townhouse and the description of the townhouse. I’ve changed the map key to fix that.

PROP NOTES

Nectar Shipping Schedule: As noted in the PDF, you’ll need to shift the dates on this prop depending on when the PCs actually arrive in Malta. I’ve included a Word document of the prop and the necessary font so that you can do that.

Donovan’s Spell to Open the Sky: Note that this reference sheet can’t be used interchangeably with other locations where this spell can be gained throughout the campaign. (This copy includes notes in Donovan’s handwriting and particular to how he discovered it.)

Eternal Lies - Arriving in Malta

Go to 2.4 Mexico City

Go to Eternal Lies: The Alexandrian Remix

Eternal Lies - The Obelisk of Axum - The Cathedral of Tsion Maryam

Campaign NotesProps Packet

The Obelisk of Axum is the second of the original scenarios that I’ve incorporated into Eternal Lies. Like the Severn Valley, it was developed as an organic response to the choices made by my original players. And there are two distinct roots that underlie its origins:

First, in the original campaign there is an oblique reference to the Obelisk of Axum is used to justify why the archaeologist Bartolo Acuna has returned to Africa thirteen years after the failed expedition he led which the PCs are investigating just in time for the PCs to question him directly. (It’s also one of the key indications that the campaign was not originally designed to be begin in 1937, since by March 1937 the Obelisk was already back in Rome. With the travel times involved, you’d have to start your campaign on January 1st and hope the PCs bee-line for Ethiopia.)

As I’ve discussed previously, part of my work on the remix involved beefing up the mythological references to Gol-Goroth, the God of the Black Stone. The Black Stone itself is frequently described as an obelisk, and I thought it would be effective to have the Obelisk of Axum related to it (and, by extension, to Gol-Goroth). So I beefed up Acuna’s discussion of the Obelisk, using it as an opportunity to begin establishing Gol-Goroth in the minds of the players.

I hadn’t anticipated that the players would hear Acuna’s interest in the Obelisk and conclude that they should also be interested in it, prompting them to mount an expedition to Axum.

The second point of orign for this scenario is the odd route that my players had taken to get to this point: They followed the anticipated trajectory of New York to Savannah to Los Angeles. But then, after turning up enough information to learn of the cult’s expedition to Ethiopia in 1924, they decided that the cult’s drug-running activities in Los Angeles were too dangerous for them to tackle directly. As a result, they booked a flight to Ethiopia and skipped town without procuring any of the other leads.

This was something of a problem because Ethiopia is the only locale in the campaign which is structurally a dead-end. (Which makes sense because the cult was active there 10 years ago, but isn’t now. So there are no fresh leads to follow up.) While it was certainly possible for the PCs to investigate Ethiopia and then, without any further leads, simply return to Los Angeles, I knew that had the potential to be frustrating for them.

However, I’d already decided that Savitree Sirikhan had been mounting a series of expeditions. I decided that I would have her “anti-Investigators” (which I would shortly redub the Emporium of Bangkok Antiquities) active in Ethiopia. Once they crossed paths with the PCs, they would drop leads that would point back towards Bangkok, which had already been turned into a secondary hub that would put their investigation back on track (so to speak). I was playing around with the idea of having the Emporium also investigating Ayers’ decade-old expedition, but when the PCs decided to pursue the Obelisk of Axum I realized that it was the Obelisk itself which had brought the Emporium there.

USING THE SCENARIO

Fortunately, if you’re using the remix, you won’t need to have your players follow that precise sequence of events. I’ve incorporated clues pointing to the Obelisk of Axum into both the Ethiopia and Bangkok material. You can also strengthen these ties by increasing the activity of the Emporium of Bangkok Antiquities during the Ethiopia locale and having them attract the PCs’ attention. A few options might include:

  • They kidnap or murder Acuna, interrogating him for information about the Obelisk. (If this happens shortly after the PCs question him, they might become suspects.)
  • They decide to investigate the Dallol dig site. (Which they may have learned of from Acuna.)
  • If the PCs are already well-known to the cult and it’s possible for Sirikhan to know they’ve gone to Ethiopia, she might telegram instructions to the Emporium members to put them under surveillance or have them killed.

More detailed notes on how to integrate the Emporium’s active investigations into the campaign can be found in my description of the Severn Valley.

PROP NOTES

The Obelisk of Axum shares the poster map used for Ethiopia. The various photos of the Northern Obelisk Field and so forth are designed so that they can be added to the Ethiopian diorama as the PCs explore Axum.

USING THE OBELISK OF AXUM AS AN INDEPENDENT SCENARIO

Unlike the Severn Valley, it can’t be trivially broken out of the campaign and  run independently. (As designed, it really lacks any sort of conclusion: The PCs come to Axum, poke around, learn some stuff (that’s mostly meaningful in terms of the larger events of the campaign).

If you wanted to run it as an independent scenario, you’d probably want to have a stronger conclusion focused on the Obelisk itself in some way. Did Frumentius remove something from the Obelisk during its destruction? If so, the PCs might need to race the Emporium of Bangkok Antiquities to retrieve it.

Or the EBA might already have it, in which case the scenario becomes about them triggering something horrible with the Obelisk itself. Maybe one of them enters the Obelisk and is horribly transformed by it. (You could pull some of the lore books form the Los Angeles cult concerning Gol-Goroth and his obelisks to help establish some of this conceptually.)

Of course, you’ll also need to figure out some sort of independent hook for getting the PCs involved. Maybe they’ve been hired by the Italian government to prep the Obelisk for looting and, when they arrive onsite, they find the EBA already ensconced?

Eternal Lies - Obelisk of Axum

Go to 2.3 Malta

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

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