Call of Cthulhu: He Calls Me By The Thunder

33443rAt the end of the Civil War, two wounded Confederate veterans stumble through the wreckage of central Georgia, trying to get the passes they need to safely return home. When they arrive at an abandoned Union garrison at a remote plantation, they soon  realize that there may be worse things than Yankees lurking in the wake of Sherman’s march, and their war might not quite be over. Or maybe they’ll just find gold and get rich. That happens a lot in Call of Cthulhu, right?

This game was played after hours at Fear the Con 7. We started in the hotel lobby, and in the middle we had to move to a different (and much creepier) hotel. This is a very early playtest draft of the scenario, which has since been improved considerably.

  26 comments for “Call of Cthulhu: He Calls Me By The Thunder

  1. crawlkill
    November 13, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    ooh, we’ve never had a game where it’s just Caleb and Ross as PCs before, have we? so dynamic much DUO sweet fuck though I hope you move to the eldritch hotel early

  2. November 13, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    FYI: We switch venues about 30 minutes in.

  3. Adaptive
    November 13, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Yeah! Columbia FTW!

  4. darthrex354
    November 13, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    This is not the Rending Box, Payton. Why is it not the Rending Box?

  5. Ethan C.
    November 14, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Hey, Adaptive! You live around here someplace? Message me on the forum or facebook if you’d be interested in a game sometime.

    Thanks to Ross and Caleb for the opportunity to run this thing. Those were great playtest notes. I’ve run it four times since, and it’s been better and better each time. And Aaron did in fact get to play it at Springfield GAME — I won’t spoil whether he survived or not.

    Oh, man, this is the first time I’ve listened to a long recording of myself talking…the verbal tics…gaaaaah. How many times do I say “You see what appears to be…”?

  6. Ben Wenham
    November 14, 2014 at 3:06 am

    Darthrex354: The answer to that should be abundantly clear…

    Because Ross is a horrible monster.

  7. Neil C.
    November 14, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Ethan’s my brother and it’s really interesting to hear audio from the earlier runs to hear what was changed. Not sure if he’s fixed the “how to get the players to not leave” issue. When we played we won by saying “this is really creepy let’s try someplace else” and leaving….

  8. crawlkill
    November 14, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    not done yet–

    liking the scenario so far, tend to dislike ghost stories in CoC because ghosts are so anthropic but I dunno if that’s all that’s going on yet, but in response to ‘a compelling reason for PCs to stay’:

    maybe the PCs are all considered war criminals, so they REALLY REALLY need those papers? I was reminded of Caleb’s Fraternizing with the Enemy–the bad men there are horrific Nazis who really need documents saying they’re immune to prosecution. the PCs here don’t have to actually be so awful, but they might all be the subject of Union ghost stories? say, maybe the surgeon was captured at one point and went all Hippocratic Oath, swearing to help wounded Union soldiers, who–maybe by intent or maybe through no fault of his own, it’d be up to the player–to a man managed to die after he operated on them. so there’s this legend of this horrific Confederate surgeon that’s grown to tall tale status among the Union army. or the legend of the artilleryman who joined in the sack of Atlanta with his shells because ‘death is better than the Union.’

    they don’t have to be true stories, but you can have every player make up his own Bad Shit he’s known for–rightly or wrongly–that makes him really, really need strong legal protection from the North. which further lets people establish an identity for their pregens right off the bat. and it means that leaving without The Papers seems like a death sentence to the PCs–who should be very aware of their reputations, and reacting to them the whole while.

  9. crawlkill
    November 15, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    and finished:

    I really liked it! I usually think of myself as not liking CoC games that use “canon” entities, but people like ASG and now this dude often seem to use them in creatively unexpected ways. I always love the meta element of, like–digging up some obscure rule, like that Cause Blindness spell ASG based his last RPPRposted game on or the “there are all these stupid pointless animal stats in the CoC book, let’s use em.” it’s almost a take that at simulationist game design. “you thought you could put the most pointless, stupid thing imaginable on this page? hah! I’ll show you!”

    I think Ross and Caleb were right that assigning starting wounds is a really strong mechanic in a oneshot, gives the players something to start working with right off the bat. yeah, it got played for laughs here, but whatcha gonna do when you got two jokestery players, they’ll do that no matter what ya give em. and it was gold. Ross+Caleb otp did not disappoint.

    aaand having the Yithians decide that the guy they sent forward was boring and the chick they dragged back was cool is darkly hilarious.

    I’d pay five bucks for it on drivethrurpg, for sure! probably throw in more than that on a Kickstarter because of irrationality.

  10. Urielfallen
    November 15, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    “He’s an STI-ridden-artillery-ogre with an incurable curiosity for things that should not be!”

    “He’s a one-handed field surgeon who can’t pass a single medical check!”

    “They FIGHT CRIME!”

    Incidently, with Ross and Caleb’s PCs sniping at each other the whole time like an old married couple, I couldn’t help but hear the Brokeback Mountain theme when the latter was trampled to death by possessed horses.

  11. Adaptive
    November 15, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    @Ethan C.

    I don’t live there currently, but it is my hometown so I visit often. If I’m in town I’d love to play a game.

  12. Beej
    November 16, 2014 at 4:46 am

    Loved the episode. The scenario premise was really cool. Holy balls, flying polyp / shoggoth hybrid…
    Ross and Caleb, masterful.

  13. Tim
    November 16, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Have not finished but my vote for title of the TV show of the amazing crime fighting duo is “Dr Gnome and the Cyclops”

  14. Tim
    November 16, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Just finished.

    Enjoyed the scenario quite a lot although I like haunted house stories (which given your well thought out core scenario a haunted house that is internally consistent) and also like the crazy true sons of the south bro comedy that was on display.

    Horse Punching! Or Horse Clubbing!

    I think this would work better as a Trail of Cthulhu story as there are so many investigative moment that are frustrating if the rolls don’t go that well.

  15. Adam
    November 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

    This was a neat scenario.

    I’m pretty new to CoC, I’ve lately been running the back of the PH scenarios with varying degrees of success, but especially after listening to the Glancy ‘casts, I’ve been brainstorming scenario ideas in my particular area of study, which is colonial through to the War of 1812.

    One of the ideas I’ve been working on involves the War of 1812, a squad of Royal Marines, a local freed slave woman as a guide, and a sinister plantation that involves sacrifice.

    Really liked it.

  16. Ethan C.
    November 17, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks for the good comments, everybody! I got the Crawlkill Seal of Approval! And I might steal that war criminal idea for another scenario. 🙂

    Tim: After running this scenario several more times in Call of Cthulhu, I’m definitely thinking of rewriting it for Trail, especially if I can get a couple more Civil War scenarios written and put them together for publication. I think the investigative spending mechanic would really help move the scenes along. I’ve had lots of players get bogged down at the very beginning, before even going into the house.

    And Neil: I believe I have solved the leaving problem. With ravenous flocks of mind-controlled vultures. Based on real historical events.

  17. Tim
    November 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I really like COC but Trail does have some advantages. I have taken a few Trail ideas into my games, I think I was always doing them really to a great or lesser extent but have started to think about them more formally. I will often use the roll to establish a range of success or set a timeline. So a critical success is like a 1-2 point spend. A marginal success is a 0 point spent. Barely a failure is a 0 point spend but I might edit out some less crucial details or have it take longer or have some complication then a critical failure is an actual failure. You might ask why I do that and just not play Trail? I have not really run any actual Trail so there is that but the other reason is that while I like the spend mechanic I feel it can be difficult for some people to internalize (mind you I maybe just projecting my own issues here).

    In regards to a collection of scenarios, even if you just focus the period that this scenario covers, just after the surrender, is rich enough you could focus on that in a number of different fronts. Spread them out geographically or even keep them somewhat close but different perspectives of different sides of the conflict.

  18. matt
    November 17, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Now I’m curious – what was the Beethoven piece?

  19. Ethan C.
    November 17, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Matt: Here’s a recording – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqIKv-42v1E

  20. Twisting H
    November 18, 2014 at 12:52 am

    Good scenario Ethan.

    A couple of thoughts:

    The backstory you gave for the Yithian and the monster were well thought out and firmly placed the mystery into the Mythos. Even if the investigators never uncover the fact that Steve the pocket-protector Yithian was shipped off to Reconstruction South for latrine duty the players and Keepers will get a kick out of it.

    I can’t stop thinking about a conical Yithian with buck teeth oozing over to the water cooler trying to make conversation, then a Yithian with a tie around his sensor arm asking him where those TPS reports are, and the dejected Yithian sadly oozing back to his shitty cubical.

    The biggest issue, that you addressed, is how do you get players to stay within the grounds of a haunted house? You could do this in two ways: finding the papers is urgent or encroaching danger surrounding the house once they get to the house. To increase urgency, maybe the investigators have a deadline to get the papers because if they don’t a train will take off and it will be another month before they get paid or something. Or there is a letter/telegram from a relative that requires money urgently.

    I like the idea of angry union soldiers (maybe sharpshooters) being in the area as a way to enclose the investigators in the house, but with a human enemy I could see investigators deciding to wait until the cover of darkness and booking it because the external danger is much less than the horrors with in the house. As hackneyed as it sounds, could a driving rainstorm and uneven terrain around the house work? It would certainly complicate things like blowing up the house outright.

    The idea of the monster speaking in recorded voices is original and creepy.

    I like this theme of greed you are going for. You could emphasize this by having the investigators come across a corpse, perhaps the corpse of a wealthy landowner, in a ditch, clutching a briefcase filled with confederate dollars (clearly now devalued) and a ticket to somewhere in South America. If this encounter were to emphasize the futility of greed, perhaps the investigators will think twice before simply taking the gold plates.

    Nah. Who am I kidding :D.

  21. Ethan C.
    November 18, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Thanks, Twisting H. Glad you enjoyed that element. The Yithians’ perfect, meritocratic socialist society is a great place to live if you happen to be the smartest person from your whole time period. If you’re a researcher who screwed up an experiment and got demoted to check-up duty, not so much.

    In the developed version of the scenario, the Yithian won’t help you unless you can find some way to convince Evelyn to return to her body.

    And I solved the problem of PCs leaving with a little historical detail. There was an island in the Ocmulgee river where Sherman’s army collected all of the livestock they had rounded up since Atlanta, and just shot them all. Hundreds of buzzards collected on it, and the locals renamed it Buzzard Island. That island is in range of the monster’s mind control power, so it has a gigantic flock of killer buzzards patrolling the edges of its domain.

    As to the greed: in 3 out of the 5 times I’ve run the game, one PC has discovered the gold and tried to keep it secret for himself.

  22. Thorn
    November 18, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Awesome scenario Ethan. I always knew there was a reason I have been distrustful of horses. For a time there, I thought we were going to have the slave’s heathen religion trope pop up, but the flying polyp / shoggoth hybrid angel was a pleasant surprise.

    Perhaps Mitchum Cleary with encounter Yithian Steve in his time-warped adventures.

  23. Humanity Akbar
    November 22, 2014 at 3:21 am

    Crosby & Hope have nothing on these two romantics

  24. Chados
    December 5, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    There aren’t many scenarios set in or near the civil war, and this one was pretty cool and different. I echo Thonr’s hope in seeing Yithian Steve again somewhere.

    I think the main problem here was only playing 2 investigators, and not enough critical skills between them.

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