IN SHORT… Tristan Lhomme is a well-known RPG name in France from the 80s and 90s. He massively contributed to the popularity of RPGs in the country by publishing excellent reviews, scenarios, supplements. We played one of the CoC scenarios that he wrote, “A quiet village”, and it really was a blast.
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4-hour game, 4 players (3 of them I had played with before, 1 new who was awesome), Voice on Discord, VTT on Roll20.
1920s. A small village in England. Four investigators meet on a bus, going to the small town of Thorgansby for various reasons. (The bus allows us to establish that they got acquainted with each other on the way, without the awkward intro roleplay.) As they are dropped off in this small 250-soul town, things are quiet… Very quiet… Bizarrely quiet… In fact, they quickly realize that there is *nobody* around. Stores are closed, two days worth of mail and newspapers are stacked in front of houses, some dogs are barking loudly from inside the houses for food.
4 characters, created de novo with random stat rolls :
- Robert — a 16-year old Brit “from money”, doing early medical studies and with an interest for the occult, a bit brash at times, but driven by a desire to unveil the secrets of this world
- Eliza — a former travel journalist from San Francisco in her 40s trying to find a new direction professionally and seeking a “story”, progressive (for the 1920s) but dignified
- Gunnar — a no-nonsense Swedish detective with experience dealing with the mythos, sent to the UK to collaborate with Scotland Yard even though he is generally viewed as a weirdo by his peers
- Lionel — a stubborn and grizzled American private investigator on holiday, visiting the town his grandparents came from, brave and protective, not afraid to “go in” first
The characters quickly figure that the entire town was lured to flee in the middle of the night into a cave from which they disappeared. After being attacked relentlessly through the night by everyday objects that animated, they find the cypher runes required to open a magical door inside the cave. They pass through the door and find the villagers — starved, going insane, and getting attacked by formless spawns — in a large cavern without any exit. There, they meet the young woman from the village who was originally lured into this trap by Tsathoggua, and with her help they go into a dream world where they meet the ancient Roman occultist who conjured the Great Old One to the village in the first place, almost 2,000 years ago. After a run through the dream dimension to flee from horrors hunting them down, they manage to wake up in the cavern, and leave with the help of the Roman mage who knows the exit incantation.
Lionel had got severely wounded early on by a mud monster, not by the monster itself (fairly innocuous), but being shot by Gunnar by accident with a critical hit… Rushing back to a house to give him first aid and treat the wounds, every time a character is on their own, they start getting attacked by everyday objects. The phone tries to strangle Gunnar, the pillow flies to smother Robert, the kitchen knives fly and severely stab Eliza, a bed sheet slithers like a snake and “strikes” Lionel, wrapping itself around his head to suffocate him, an antique armoire jumps on Gunnar to smash him. Meanwhile, a dog they found along the way keeps running around the house, barking at something outside, until they see the figure of a deformed child-size humanoid watching them and running around the house. (A servant of Tsathoggua who has traded his sanity and humanity for magical powers, and is on a mission to “deal” with the meddlers.) The tension builds until the morning. Eliza has a bout of panic, and starts smashing objects she cares about for fear they animate too. Lionel goes into a manic state, making weird compulsive shrill sounds every few minutes. The characters hole up for the rest of the night inside a bedroom from which they stripped everything except the biggest pieces of furniture. The little sleep they have is disturbed with odd dreams forced on them by Tsathoggua. Finally, as the sun rises, the characters think they are safe — until a car starts animating and following them through town, clearly determined to run them over when it can.
Super fun for the GM. I think the players enjoyed this as well.
I’m not going to comment on the Chaosium BRP mechanics. I think it works well. (As a side note, I tried Trail of Cthulhu once on the premise that it deals with clues better, and I didn’t find it was the case…)
The trick in Cthulhu for me is to deal with facts, people, and clues quickly. My prep looks like this from a 10-page scenario.
- A relationship map at the top to remind myself of all the NPCs, how they relate, and the “clues” they are linked to. This allows me to track the basic elements and make sure the players get a good baseline of the underlying story. I can also “rewire” things on the fly if I need to. I’m not a big fan of doing by what’s written as if it were in stone. I like being able to flex and make sure the players get a sense for what’s going on (as adjusted by the successes they get in the investigation between baseline events and full details). We used only 50% of that map and that’s totally fine.
- A small geographic map. Just to make the world “real” quickly. The characters ended up staying in Thorgansby instead of seeking help and lore from neighboring towns, and that was fine too.
- A timeline of in-game events. Just so I don’t have to look up key dates.
- An intended timeline of the game to stay relatively on track. Of course, things didn’t go *at all* the way they were supposed to after the character made “extreme success” rolls early on. But I still find it useful to be intentional about the sequences so that the end doesn’t get completely rushed.