Dark Ages, somewhere between 950 AD and 1050 AD, Cthulhu, what could possibly go wrong? Nothing. I love the Call of Cthulhu game system. It is pretty much full of awesome on every page. I have hard copies of several editions of:
- Call of Cthulhu (1920’s)
- Pulp Cthulhu (1930’s)
- Cthulhu Invictus (Roman era)
- Dark Ages Cthulhu (1,000 ADish)
- Cthulhu by Gaslight (1890’s in England – think Jack The Ripper)
- Achtung Cthulhu (Weird War II),
- Delta Green (1960’s to present)
- The Laundry (1980’s to present in England)
- and more…
Not that I am counting. I really like all of the different types of Call of Cthulhu. But the low magic horror based world of Cthulhu Dark Ages really appeals to me. Magic exists, but it is not something that you want to mess around with.
Now, it is no secret that I like low fantasy games. After all, having the magic user come in and fireball a critter, while taking out several of the players in the party – That means you, Loren… really doesn’t appeal to me. My witch was trying to do the right thing, and then, Loren, with her improved invisibility spell, while flying dropped a fireball on an area, and roasted my gnomish self. Yes, you, Loren… I am looking right at you. My witch character didn’t do anything bad to you, except the time I spellburned your wizard. But that didn’t deserve being roasted to a crisp, and losing 4 charisma points.
But, I may get over the burning my witch character, at some point in time, but today is not that day.
Anyhow, high fantasy role playing games are really overpowered. They lead to simplistic solutions… Monster? Call up the wizard, sorcerer or whatever party member has the uberkill spell. Then the druid and cleric will magically heal you for all of your hitpoints you lost. Now, if it is D&D 5th Edition, don’t worry if you went to 1 hit point, you can nap for 8 hours, and come back as though you never took a hit. You are magically full strength. If you need more, don’t worry, we have a potion that will give you insta-hit-points.
Now this is all balanced out in the overall game scheme. In reality, it becomes something like this:
This is all fun and games, and the video makes light of the greater live theater that is LARPing. This is also not something that I readily enjoy. LARPing is great for others. People LARP Masquerade, and any number of other games. That is awesome for them. Even the SCA is a form of LARPing. That is good for them. I have tried the SCA. My Aunt and Uncle were huge into it. It wasn’t for me. I do enjoy going to the occasional Renaissance Faire, but that is where I can retain my Levi’s and Tee shirt, not go dressed in period costume.
Let me make sure that I am clear here. I am not against anyone else’s gaming interest. If you are into live action My Little Pony vs zombie Smurfs, then good for you. I am not. However, I would probably go and watch how the zombie Smurfs fight pony’s.
I do like a low fantasy RPG better than a high fantasy RPG. Some of my favorite games include Call of Cthulhu which includes magic that corrupts, Harn, which is powerful to influence the game, but not to outright kill and slay, Runequest, which has magic that is subtle, or even Dungeon Crawl Classics, which has powerful magic but can result in seriously bad things happening to the caster and their party, let along the opportunity to use blood magic, where you can offer something like a finger or a quart of blood to help improve you magic.
Besides, when the party sees this:
They should shit their pants, not pull out the magic wand and yell out “Exfoliate” and have a massive lightening bolt sprout forth and knock the bad guy on its ass.
And never, never, never, should a wizard have the power to fly invisibly above the party in a forest full of Minotaurs and fireball the gnome witch. I am looking at you, Loren. Yes, you. You and that damned carpet loving rocca addicted wizard.
Anyhow, last Thursday Daron decided to take some time off, and leave us without a DM for the ongoing Pathfinder game. I volunteered to run some Call of Cthulhu, Dark Ages. See, low fantasy, Call of Cthulhu… pretty much what I love running. Everyone else thought that would be a good idea. I am not sure if they really thought it would be a good idea, or if they just didn’t want to run a game…
But, given that it was cook’s choice for games… I got to choose. I thought of Cthulhu, maybe some DCC, maybe some Dragon Age, or some other OSRIC game. But I decided that I needed to run some Cthulhu Dark Ages. I have two core books, one professionally printed, and one that I had printed out and bound at Office Despot. Loren had one printed copy. That will not even begin to make up for roasting the gnome witch Loren. Yes, you, Loren.
Anyhow, we met last Thursday evening. I had dinner with Eric at a delicious Mexican restaurant. We had port carnitas chili verde burritos. Recently, I turned Eric on to the most amazing dish that they have, Huevos Rancheros with STEAK. Yes, the STEAK must be capitalized.
I get in a rut for Mexican food. I get in a rut for most food. Once I find something that I like, I stick with it, even though there are a couple dozen other amazing dishes at the same restaurant. I love Mexican, Thai, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, and on and on and on.
For instance, I live Vietnamese. Molly, and I go out regularly for Vietnamese. She tries all sorts of different things. I stop when I see the Vietnamese Crepes (Bánh Xèo) on the menu.
So I am diabetic, and have to watch what I eat for carbohydrates. The Bánh Xèo is awesome. There is a little bit of flour in the crepe but it is mostly eggy goodness. Inside are thin slices of roasted pork and cooked shrimp. There is always a big plate of mung beans, fresh basil, fresh sliced hot peppers, and other goodness. Molly usually gets some sort of pho soup with lots of noodles, meat, and other goodness. The kids like all sorts of dishes, but I stop on the Bánh Xèo. always the Bánh Xèo. mmmmmmmm Bánh Xèo.
Now, Loren, if you wanted to make up for roasting my witch… we could talk about some Bánh Xèo…
But then I digress again. Eric and I have eaten a few times at Don Pedro, and at Antojo, across the street. This area of Fourth Plain has three Mexican restaurants within spitting distance. Don Pedro, Antojo (which are both awesome!) and Taco Time. A chain restaurant, which has taco burgers and mexi fries. bleh.
So I was stuck on Huevos Rancheros with STEAK (yes, STEAK must be capitalized here) and Eric convinced me to try the carnitas chili verde
Now, I have kept away from chili verde for a long time. Basically, green food outside of salads don’t normally appeal to me. I generally like a more spicy, smoky hot sauce than chili verde. My opinion about chili verde was previously based on the Chili Verde Doritos chips, which are at best forgettable and the canned Safeway Chili Verde sauce which is even more forgettable.
But, based on Eric’s suggestion, I tried pork chili verde. I must admit, I should have tried this decades ago. While it is not smoky hot spicy, it is fresh mildly spicy. The spicy with the pork is amazing. That is what is good about having friends. They gently push you off the rock you are on, as opposed to fireballing you while flying invisibly among the treetops, while avoiding the Minotaurs.
So what does all of this have to do with Dark Ages Cthulhu? Nothing really. It does track back to the fact that I am hungry, and my blood sugar levels are dropping. We are having ham and bean soup for dinner. I found some cans of butter beans at Fred Meyer. I love beans. Butter beans are the size and shape of lima beans, but they taste good. I have it on good authority that we will be having some sauteed cabbage as a side dish to the butter bean / ham soup. Which is pretty much full of deliciousness.
So where was I? Food, more food, and even more food. Oh yes, Loren’s attempted murder of my gnome witch, and some Cthulhu Dark Ages.
So we all arrived at Dice Age Games to play. I had a half dozen pregen vikings who were on an adventure called the “Island of the Damned”. I mean with an adventure named like that, how bad could it be?
The adventure came with the characters as pregens. Each character had a backstory that included what the other players knew about them, and some deep dark hidden secret. The pregens also included some information about how they all interacted with each other. Who liked whom, who wanted to shank the others. Loren of course was given the character who would turn invisible, float up away from the bad guys and roast the others alive… no, no, no, that was another game, not this one.
The storyline started out where they were part of a large group of boats that were going to go a viking, to bring back good stuff to their village. Most likely they were going to the coast of Brittany or somewhere like that. Anyhow, a storm kicks up and the vikings see several of their boats disappear under the water, with all hands lost on the other boats. After the storm, only two boats remain. The boat that the party is on, the Geslægen, and the other boat, the Vendu. After the storm, the vikings were struck by a massive calming, and the vikings sat for weeks under the hot sun, slowly dying of thirst and hunger. During the night, the Vendu disappeared on the horizon. Several NPC members of the Geslægen died, and just when all hope was lost, the Geslægen comes onto land. The party gets out, and proceeds to drink from a cool, clear stream, which allows them to replenish their strength as though they are revitalized.
The party falls asleep, and wakes up the next morning, and the Geslægen is gone. They are not sure of what they should do. They smell cooking fires coming from within the forest. They decide to move inland.
The forest is full of game, including a horned horse, flying squirrels, and other beasts. The party attempts to kill a horned horse for food. The horse just looks at the vikings as they slay it with an axe. The blood tastes like mead. The heart is very tender. The meat is the best meat they have ever had.
The party continues inland. They spot a village with about 30 natives within it. They are blowing horns and have two vikings from the Vendu tied up to stakes with leather thongs. As the vikings approach, the natives fall upon the villagers attack the two vikings who were tied up. The villagers tear the two vikings to pieces, ripping into their flesh with claws and sharp teeth.
The vikings from the Geslægen attack the villagers and kill about 10 of them, and the rest of the villagers run away. The vikings are unsure of what type of villagers these are. They do not bleed, they have many cuts in their bodies that were not caused by the viking’s weapons, and smell of horrible decay, like rotten meat.
The vikings go searching through the village, and find many weapons, armor and a small hut full of about 20 children and womenfolk villagers. They let them go. The vikings build funeral pyres for the two vikings. One viking in the party is Njal, the third son of the chieftain of the village. His brother Eriksson is among the dead, ripped asunder by the villagers.
Now Njal, would have probably been upset, if the wizard had been floating around invisibly and thrown a fireball down to kill Eriksson, but instead Eriksson was killed by ghoulish villager natives, which didn’t phase Njal much, since now he was closer to becoming the chieftain himself.
The vikings find a survivor from the Vendu, Svienbjorn, who is not Svengoolie:
and there was no mention of Berwin anywhere in the module.
That being said, Svienbjorn has been wounded, and is not able to fight, but is able to tell the vikings from the Geslægen that they landed on a beach, and drank from a stream. They fell asleep from exhaustion, and woke up and were being attacked by the villagers. The villagers killed two of the vikings, then captured the rest. They were brought here, and a complex ritual was underway when the crew of the Geslægen came and rescued him.
The vikings continued onward into the island. At one point, one decides to climb a tree. Now this viking did not use his aerial advantage to drop a fireball nor a roman candle or even a Molotov cocktail on the rest of the party. Loren, you could learn from this type of “cooperative” play, not to torch the gnome witch.
But then I digress, again. It is not like I am too overly worked up about having my gnome witch burned alive in Daron’s Pathfinder game.
As the vikings progress inward, the forest becomes quieter, more subdued. The viking that decided not to torch the witch while climbing up into the trees didn’t see anything of value. The trees canopy blocked his view of anything of note.
At one point, the trees block the path forward. The party decides to cut the branches out of the way, and the trees with the cut branches moan and bleed freely. That was not good. Trees don’t normally do this.
After some more moving forward, they party discovers that the forest is closing behind them. There is no way back. The path they are on goes in only one direction, forward. The forest on either side is too dense for them to cut through.
It is at this point where we have to give Jeremy some kudos for role playing. His character failed a sanity check after seeing a corpse. He lost his mind for a while. I took Jeremy aside, and said, “you need to decide for your character what the problem is, do you want to have necrophilia, or some other perversion?” He decided that the most logical thing to do was to become a serial masturbator. Now, he chose. I allowed him to play it out as he felt was appropriate.
And that is all I will say about Jeremy’s character and that.
A little later, Eric’s viking fell into a thick, viscous black quicksand. The different party members tried to save Eric several times, but the quicksand was stronger than their rolls on the opposed strength table. I mean, all they had to do was roll under 65, but they had serious problems with that. Eric then had to continue on with black sandy nastiness in every crack and crevice.
After a while, the vikings hear an old woman’s voice saying “This way, children…if you would live.”
The party continues on for a while, guided through the bog, and find a small rise, with a hut on stilts. There is an old hag sitting inside the hut. The party members throw all sorts of questions at her, and she ignores them. The adventure literally says “She answers no questions, but merely stares at them in frank curiosity. When the Vikings tire of throwing questions at her, she speaks.”
“Stand you now, on the Island of the damned, born from the mind of great evil, servant of the dancing bale flame. He seeks you now, but my magics cloak you. Be wary, for your deaths lie close. Listen well to what I say.”
“Take you the sword of Ethalorne, the fallen. Yet beware; let no man wield it when it pierces the heart of the one it was fashioned to slay!”
“Draw forth the blood of he in whom a demon resides. Let he whose blind eye he needs
not, rip it forth. Let the Sorcerer crush and mix it with the demon-borne blood, using the forbidden rituals of the wælcyrian. When the moon bleeds red over the pool of green, let he who knows his death drink from this cup.”
“When the path becomes unclear and filled with glamour, let the child of his father’s sin lead the way. All others shall lead you astray.”
“When the beast rears its terrible form, let he who knows his doom accept it. Let those who yet live fight the beast, and let their battle cry be ‘Eia, Eia Nyat Mia!”
“Let the sword wielded by no man pierce the pillar of flame, the terrible heart of Dark Father, and the tie which binds him to his God. Through the breach thus made, pass you into the world you knew.”
“This is my word, and I shall say no more.”
And the woman vanishes.
To which, Eric says “Can you repeat that?”
And the session ends.