Fear Itself: Journey to the City

Night fell and the hours dragged on, but still we murmured to each other of the King and the Pallid Mask, and midnight sounded from the misty spires in the fog-wrapped city. We spoke of Hastur and of Cassilda, while outside the fog rolled against the blank window-panes as the cloud waves roll and break on the shores of Hali.An earthquake links a group of survivors together. If not for a seemingly miraculous event, they should have all died. Drawn to a mysterious professor who seems to know how and why they were saved, the survivors agree to follow him on a trip to a strange city. The city was built by visionaries but has been forgotten by history. Where is it? What secrets lurk within? The survivors know they must answer these questions or the they will never find peace. But once inside, the survivors find that leaving the city may be impossible. What price will they pay to find a way out?

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  2. @crawlkill: You gotta read the tags, man.

  3. they’re often wrong! they tell lies!

  4. Author

    I actually re-listen to APs before I post them to make sure I tag the correct players now. YOUR COMMENTS CHANGED HOW I DO THINGS THE SYSTEM WORKS

  5. I thought this was a very entertaining session. The Google Glass integration was fun, and I am glad Ross didn’t just say “no” to the character having a pair.

    I am curious about the choice to use GUMSHOE for this scenario. It works, but I wonder if it would be better served using CoC rules to create a little more chaos and randomness to work with the architectural chaos of the city.

  6. Mutton Chops

    On an very early “Fear Itself” scenario, a few of the crew mentioned liking that the “Fear Itself” is set in modern day without super-powers, which Call of Cthulhu does use “normal humans” but wants to be set in the past.

    I like that Fear Itself -s rule structure is set to RP your own movie. Course, I’m just a fan. 😉


  7. Author

    The GUMSHOE game system is freely available to other RPG designers, thanks to an OGL and Creative Commons license. Thus, I am more interested in it than Call of Cthulhu’s BRP system.

  8. Oh, don’t get me wrong, GUMSHOE is one of my favorite systems. Are you intending to publish the scenario? If that is the case, then GUMSHOE obviously makes sense, and I will proceed to listen again to repent for my shame.

  9. pff, accurate tags take all the mystery out of life! you can’t win Ross PAYTON. seriously though this was cool. calling the eldritch thing “The Minotaur” was rull evocative, especially in the absence of directly referring to the city as a labyrinth but having it behave like one. implication is everything! I was trying to figure out if the Google Glass/augmented reality angle was Caleb’s idea or if you’d written a pregen who did the locative art thing. it did seem semi-integrated with the mechanics of the elseplace, but maybe that was improvisational?

    I always thought Gumshoe would have problems with, like, players being hesitant to spend their points until they thought the adventure was concluding because WHAT IF NEED LATER, but having heard you guys play it as often as we have now, that doesn’t seem t’be a common problem.

  10. First off, existential dread wins. Second, favorite quote was something like “The cement doesn’t like to be cement.”

  11. Can Fear itself be used for a modern day Cthulhu games?

  12. Absolutely, I use it frequently instead of CoC. It’s strength is its design and creation of typical human characters instead of investigators/hero characters.

    Has anyone tried to run a campaign in Fear Itself? So far I have only done one-shots, and that seems to be what it is best for.

  13. Obvious question aside, the pitch written elsewhere say that it more of a cinematic game? I mean, this playthrough was obviously not a slasher/horrorflick but more of the mindtwisty horror.

    Also what’s the difference between this and Night’s Black Agents? I’ve been reading into that and it seems that the starting PCs in that game are startlingly proficient at murder.

    Oh and great game guys.

  14. Author

    There are several variations of the GUMSHOE system, and I used Fear Itself because it is the most basic one. Other systems add additional game mechanics. I have not yet run a campaign in Fear Itself and there are no campaigns released for it. Fear Itself is marketed as a game that emulates horror cinema but my upcoming game will be its own thing. I will create new game mechanics for the system so the end product will be noticeably different than Fear Itself.

    The average starting PC in Night’s Black Agents is comparable to any character in Ronin or the Bourne films. You should listen to our campaign, Tribes of Tokyo, to get an idea of how it plays out in practice.

  15. Is Fear Itself the version with the psychic powers? Or is that the Essoterrorists? I always thought that would be an interesting area to delve into for a mini-campaign.

    Tribes of Tokyo is great fun. I already recommended it to a few people that were uncertain if they would like GUMSHOE.

    Ross, is your upcoming game going to be kickstarted? More importantly, will it include super sweet telekinetic city/architecture-shaping mechanics similar to the movie Dark City!? Or at least mechanics to make creepy Kiefer Sutherland characters to slink around and be all cryptic and stuff….? Basically, I kind of got a Dark City mixed with Bioshock vibe from this scenario, which is cool, and I want MOAR.

  16. Author

    Fear Itself has psychic powers. Esoterrorists has more investigation skills, especially the new edition.

    Yes, the new game will be a Kickstarter project. Because each GUMSHOE game has new game mechanics, I plan to introduce a new system of magic for PCs – it will be horrific but unlike mythos magic, it will be easy to learn and use. Some of it was featured in this scenario – the Repurpose Structure form was really a spell, after all. More powerful spells will exist, allowing for Dark City style effects. Of course, there are costs to using such powerful spells.

  17. Great! Can’t wait to hear more details on the new game. It sounds neat, and as long as I can play a sickly, monstrous old bastard that can level cities while wielding his Hurrycane, I’ll be satisfied.

  18. But but but… Ross I thought your next game was baseraiders 2 the supportening / the expandening?

  19. Will there be a frequent spell punch cards? Use 9 reality shattering spells that leave one a broken drooling shell and the 10th is free!

  20. Author

    1. New Base Raiders content is coming, both free material on the website and paid PDF supplements. I want to get some adventures, NPCs, and other material out before I launch a second Kickstarter for it.

    2. No punch cards, but casters who sign up for spellcasting PRIME will get a free trip to Carcosa every time they cast a spell. You are already signed up. You’ve always been signed up.

  21. Ross, you might want to consider adding in some Marxist philosophy references to this scenario. Many of the proponents of brutalism sympathized with this school of thought and the materialist viewpoint could have some interesting implications for how the city functions.

    Such questions as “does the environment influence the behavior of the citizens or do the citizens shape the environment” come to mind.

  22. The high school Humanities teacher in me loved the informative discussion about the tarantella dance. I just taught a lesson about it back in early December.

    Excellent game Ross. As these actual play sessions go on I find myself appreciating the gumshoe system more.

  23. Author

    For the record, Caleb came up with the idea for using Google Glasses and I rolled with it. It was a great idea and I loved getting a new way to throw more info to the players AND creep them out at the same time.

  24. The big difference between Fear Itself and Night’s Black Agents is that the former is about regular people stumbling into horror movie type scenarios, and the latter is about hyper-competent thriller protagonists working as freelance intelligence operatives who stumble across a dangerous supernatural conspiracy (vampires, by default, but there’s a -lot- of wiggle room there and it doesn’t need that much adaptation to mix in some Lovecraft or whatnot). NBA has a lot more rules about things like combat (particularly designed to replicate the sort of high octane action you’d get in action movies) and chase sequences. Also designing vampires and conspiracies.

    I feel like in some ways it strays the furthest from GUMSHOE’s roots because your prototypical GUMSHOE game is about solving mysteries, whereas NBA is about replicating the structure of a thriller. They’re not a million miles apart but I feel like NBA is way more improv-friendly, which suits me better as a GM.

  25. Architectural horror! This was a good take on the KiY mythos, and Carcosa. I do share Ross’ love of the KiY and Carcosa. Moar.

  26. So, what would have happened if they corralled the Minotaur to the Reliquary?

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