…having an encounter with a three-thousand-year-old walking, talking corpse does tend to convert one. – Eyelyn Carnahan, The Mummy (1999)
This week we came to the end of the first chapter of the heart-stoppin’, snake-charmin’, death-rayin’, globe-trottin’ Two Headed Serpent campaign!
It’s a campaign for the Pulp Cthulhu variant rules for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, written by Paul Fricker, Scott Dorwood and Matthew Sanderson, the hosts of the ever excellent Good Friends of Jackson Ellias podcast.
The Armchair Adventurers have two teams of heroes battling through the adventure simultaneously on the last Monday of the month. Keeper Doc Griff also reached the dramatic conclusion of the Bolivia episode.
To find out how you can join the campaign, see the foot of this post and the next thing you know, you’ll be donning a fedora and snapping a bull-whip.
Here are some of the highlights of playing so far (spoilerish free) and one downer.
Once more, with character
It’s odd that the characters that have been created for this campaign seem more real and immediate than the ones that we have recently created for our more ‘purist’ campaigns. There’s something about the ‘Pulp Talent’ features that really bring characters alive as they feel like competent heroes rather than a team of ‘occupations’. Perhaps it’s because it suits our style of play playing ‘a team heroes’ seems to inject them with life:
Max (Phil the Dice Mechanic): Max von…I mean Mark Weaver joined Caduceus out of an interest in taking his dendro-pharmacological research out of the lab and into the field. Did we mention the outrageous German accent?
Jock (Sam Vail): A resourceful, former man-servent of Lord Colin Bruce-Machintosh, who followed his master around the world until he was killed by an infected mosquito bite. Now Jock is seeking adventures of his own and has proved himself a useful chap in a fight (against giant snakes).
Jack (Judge Blythy): Bootlegger turned gun runner from the mean streets of New York. He’s been keeping his head down by working going on a mission of mercy with the medical aid charity Caduceus. He needs to lie low for a while, as back in NY, Martino Bresciani has a bullet with his name written on it.
Percy (Neil Benson): Born into poverty, his family living in the slums of Scotland Road and working the docks in Liverpool where he got into gang-life following the war. Much of his ill gotten cash allowed him a modest living and a workshop at the end of the block where he spends most hours of the day working on engines and various other contraptions. He’s created some weird gadgets in the first episode.
Javier (@dailydwarf) DD is impressing us with his Spanish while playing this character from Northern Chilli. A talented and hard-working mining engineer he’s been toughened by harsh and unforgiving background. He’s also great with explosives and rendered a Formless Spawn even more formless.
It’s an explosive start that gets the players engaged with the action right away. They are working for Caduceus, a medical aid charity, that is not quite as it seems. They learn quickly that its their job to deal with a ‘possible level 3’ threat in the area.
The adventure is marinaded in atmospheric detail, not too much, but enough to paint an evocative picture of the setting. The muggy heat of the Bolivian jungle and the intensity of a ticking clock, while trying to locate the lost temple of the dreamer is set up really well through a few choice scenes.
Wrought for LUCK
This is the first time that we have applied 7ed Call of Cthulhu ‘as written’ as well as the variant rules for Pulp Cthulhu. I’ve been impressed with how the new innovations work. From the core rules, Bonus/ Penalty dice have worked really well. On paper, I was sceptical about them, but in play, they provide more options for the Keeper and players to negotiate a method of resolution.
The Pulp elements have been scaled as we have all become more confident with them. The luck resource has proven itself to be a fantastic method of bumping down fumbles, succeeding at key moments in the scene and defying death. Percy blew up a Formless Spawn after being swallowed by it, he succeeded in chucking a stick of dynamite while he was enveloped, temporarily destroying the hideous, protean entity, which sent him plummeting 1000 feet to his death. Fortunately, he was able to throw himself to the side of the shaft that he was falling through and, some how, grip, on to a crevice in the wall by his finger tips.
“You can’t use luck to alter a sanity roll,” Phil the Dice Mechanic reminded Judge Blythy at a crucial moment.
Rules lawyering the rules lawyer.
Insane Pulp Weirdness
One of the unexpected joys so far has been the use of weird science. Neil’s character Percy has been making some strange inventions along the way, including a Heath Robinson deathray-rifle made of wood, monkey bones and ancient alien technology.
It took a couple of sessions to for everyone to respond to the tone of The Two Headed Serpent campaign. There was a sense of caution and slow, steady investigation of scenes. This has now given way to a more confident gung-ho approach.
Great fun, but there is still a sense of danger. Percy’s interventions have driven him slightly insane, so much so that he’s now driving slightly insane with a new ‘insane driving talent’.
This is not the end, its the end of the beginning …
This was the first chapter and one of the pleasures of being the Keeper of Arcane Secrets is the knowledge of what’s going on in the background, working out how it will unfold and revealing the adventure that stretches in front of the heroes.
The final scene was epic and I only hope the rest of the campaign can live up to it: “Are sure he said he wants to take the serpent queen mummy back ‘alive’? He did say ‘alive’ didn’t he?”
Please, can we have more …
The downside of such a huge campaign is fitting it in the schedule. One two-hour session a month doesn’t seem enough to give it justice. If only we could conquer time and space.
Want to be part of the action? There are a couple of guest-spots available to join either Keeper Dirk or Keeper Griff. The sessions are usually on the last Monday of the month (except when they’re not). If you are interested in playing the next episode (it’ll probably run until the end of the year) then please put your name in the comments on the Patreon page. Names will be drawn from the hat.