Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Achtung! Cthulhu: The Book of Eibon (A Study of the End - Part 1)

It's been a couple of weeks since I ran this particular session, so bear with me if it's a tad disjointed.

One More 'R' - Research

Where we last left off, the PCs set up shop in a German-held base in Northern France for two weeks. They took this time to study their newly acquired Book of Eibon and to get a better grasp of what was going on.

Based on what they wanted to do, I had the players roll their appropriate skill, and doled out "facts" based on how many shifts they got – while not keeping any information that would prevent forward progress.

Oberst Loeb pulls all his military contacts, rolls well, and finds out all he can about the NON-occult side of the Black Sun (anything not in parentheses).

New "Facts" about the Black Sun (most of these came out of the Achtung! Cthulhu Fate Keeper's Guide):
  • Reinhardt Weissler starts The Order of the Black Sun in 1921 (after disappearing in 1890, learning under Nyarlathotep in the Dreamlands, returning after 25 years, and joining the Thule Society)
  • (The actual Black Sun is Yog-Shoggoth trapped in the Dreamlands by the Hyperboreans)
  • (The goal of the organization is to bring the Black Sun into the waking world)
  • The Black Sun and the Nazi Party join forces in 1933 under the Ahnenerbe
  • Heinrich Himmler takes oversees it in 1935
  • In 1936, Weissler shuts himself away for six moths to study all the accumulated manuscripts - Mina Wolff takes over in his stead, studies the accumulated physical artifacts, and starts the Nachtwölfe
I also answered any organization questions Loeb's player had, such as: Where is their base of operations? (Wewelsburg Castle) Who's in charge? (Weissler and his Priors) Etc.

In a drunken bender, Gerulf keeps his ear to the ground for rumors. He rolled okay, so I gave him the first two items below:

Miscellaneous rumors:
  • Some personnel have been asking about the PCs
  • Small groups of American special forces have been spotted in Northern France
  • Black Sun patches have been seen on some uniforms on base
  • A large German force has deployed via tramp steamer from the French coast
Gerty, Yu, and Dr. Heidelberg take turns reading the Book of Eibon and researching related information, specifically Hyperborea. I wanted to make sure they got ALL of the following information, so I handed it out according to their rolls and questions:

New "Facts" about Hyperborea: 
  • Hyperborea existed 40-45 million years ago in the Eocene Epoch
  • It was all forests and jungles then - most fossils from that time are buried under ice now
  • Since then, Magnetic North has shifted approximately 5º N and 95º W
  • Black Sun leaders believe they can bring the actual Black Sun into the physical world by creating a tear between the two worlds with the Dread Equinox spell.
  • This must happen in Hyperborea on the day with the longest night – the Winter Solstice
  • The Northern Winter Solstice is December 21, 1942 – in TWO DAYS
Based on the "Wo ist Hyperborea?" page of the Torn Notebook Pages, the players were pretty convinced that Hyperborea is/was located at or near the North Pole. Knowing that Hyperborea's Magnetic North Pole has wandered approximately 5º N and 95º W, they just needed to find out where the current Magnetic North Pole is (in 1942)...

More Props! (...or Too Much of a Good Thing)

That's where this paper on The Harmonic Analysis of the Earth's Magnetic Field, for Epoch 1942 comes in! It spells out 1942's Magnetic North Pole at approximately 76º N, 103º W. I printed out an abridged version of that paper and handed it to the players. Unfortunately, there were so many other numbers and formulas, the pertinent data got lost in information overload. What I should have done is taken a red wax pencil and circled the specific pertinent information in the table on the second to last page (page numbered 429).

Taking the Magnetic North of 1942 of approximately 76º N, 103º W and subtracting the 5º N, 95º W shift of the Hyperborean North Pole, that puts the its current location at 71º N, 8º W. Cross-referencing those coordinates on this lovely diagram from the same paper:
It puts it on that little fleck in the ocean – otherwise known as the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen:
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Mayen
Sadly, two of the players had iPads and punched the coordinates into Google Maps and got a very accurate blip in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. Once I scrolled them over to Jan Mayen, then everybody got a wiki-history lesson. Ah well...

Aaand They're Off!

Now knowing the presumed destination of the Black Sun faction and having a two-day clock ticking down (the iPads said it would take four days...), Oberst Loeb gathers up a detachment of 16 infantry, a couple of trucks, and supplies and heads to the nearest German-occupied naval base in France.

Gerty and Yu decide to hang back another three hours to get as much out of the Book of Eibon as they can.

Enter the Basterds

At this point, the Black Sun knows that Team M has picked up the torch from Team K (Nachtwölfe) - both from spies on the base and the earlier weird radio call.

As such, they have once again tipped off the Inglourious Basterds and have them waiting in ambush for Oberst Loeb's small platoon.

I'll be honest with you – this was a mess. The scene was awkward. I started with "let's narrate" and it devolved into turns. I forgot mob rules for Loeb's infantry. Since two of the PCs said they were hanging back for three hours, I held them to it and the players didn't participate. And the payoff of using the Basterds didn't materialize. The only result was thinning out Loeb's platoon. Mess.

Best I can do is: mental note; future reference.

Back on Track

Upon reaching the German-occupied naval base, Oberst Loeb reinforces his troops to 20 and acquires a boat, setting course for Jan Mayen.

During the trip, Gerty, Yu, and Dr. Heidelberg finish learning what they can from the Book of Eibon.

Here's a nice German map of Jan Mayen:
As they get close to Jan Mayen, they can see flashes of light scattered around the saddle of the island. They decide to land the party on the southern end between Leuchtthurm Klippe and Cap Traill. The captain stops the boat outside of the reefs and sends everybody in via rowboat.
Once ashore, Oberst Loeb sends a team to scout ahead. They discover the aftermath of what appears to be a skirmish between Black Sun and British forces. British boats are still waiting on the North side of the island, but they also see a row of torches climbing Beerenberg Volcano.

Once it's safe to cross the saddle, Oberst Loeb orders everybody to follow the torches, and so the climb begins. Just below the lip of the caldera, the heavily beaten path turns North. However, a small trail also heads East. Loeb orders the group to follow the bigger path, Yu, however, stealthily peels off from the group and heads East.

Maximillian Loeb peers around the broken edge of the caldera and sees another platoon of infantry, various Black Sun officers and enforcers, and a circle of stones with ten robed figures being led by some sort of high wizard, just as he begins to lead them in a chant!

Gerty exclaims to Loeb that they have about a minute before all all hell breaks loose! Oberst orders the mortar team to set up...

Meanwhile, Yu comes upon four figures wearing red robes under their Union Jack emblazoned parkas. They don't notice his approach...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Riding the Atomic Highway

In honor of the impending new Mad Max movie, our regular gaming group played Colin Chapman's Atomic Highway this evening AND HAD A GREAT TIME!

Atomic Highway uses Radioactive Ape Design's V6 Engine system. The V6 Engine utilizes sets of 7 attributes and 20 skills. When a die roll is called for (and they make a point of saying, 'only when necessary'), you choose the appropriate attribute and skill that apply. You roll a number of six-sided dice equal to your attribute, with the goal of rolling sixes. Each six counts as one success and you can spend your skill level to boost lesser dice results into successful sixes as well. Also, natural sixes explode, allowing you to roll them again. R.A.D.'s website has an example of this elegantly simple system.

Character creation is a matter of using a point-buy for attributes and assigning skill points based on your character's background. Start by spending 18 points, one-for-one, across 7 attributes, three of which – Muscle, Tenacity, and Toughness – determine your Health. Next, determine how your character was raised and what life path they have chosen. Each Rearing and Pursuit provides a set series of skill levels, clothing, and gear. You get some extra skill points to fill in any gaps, name your character, and go!

We ended up with:
IDK - A Bartertown Outrider with her own motorcycle with sidecar.
Kalvin - A Remnant Scavenger - Think a vault dweller from Fallout.
Kel - A Nomad Beastmaster with dog Rex and horse Pal.
• We also whipped up a Feral Pit Fighter as a spare.

We jump in with both feet as Kel is tracking down the people who killed and absconded with the rest of his nomad clan when he comes across IDK and Kalvin scavenging some ruins. A short conversation is had just before being interrupted by the sound of a car engine and hardcore hip hop. They scatter to the shadows, Kel taking the high-ground. As the car turns the corner, Kel sees the occupants are marked up in clown makeup – he knows these are members of the raiding group that took his family away from him. He lines up his rifle on the driver and takes the shot...

With the called shot and cover from the car frame, Kel needed three successes and I only rolled one of them. Fortunately, the V6 Engine includes a nice little feature: Fortune Points! Like Bennies or Fate Points in other systems, they give you a little extra oomph. Each character starts with 5 Fortune Points and they can be spent on things like free successes, tweaking the plot, damage mitigation, etc. Since I wanted this opening shot to have some narrative weight to it, I burned a couple of Fortune Points, got my three successes, took out the driver, and sent the buggy crashing into a building.

A few more of the hip-hop-listening, clown-makeup-wearing raiders show up, but IDK, Kalvin, and Kel (and Rex!) make quick work of them. An interesting night camping, blowing up a building, and a game of chicken later, we wrapped the game for the night.

We decided we really like the system. Combat (particularly with vehicles!) can be deadly, but not as bad as some systems. Characters feel competent as the Fortune Points allow you to save your bacon if you need to and accomplish some amazing feats if you want to. This is all wrapped up in a slightly campy package that really captures the feel of renegades out on the post-apocalyptic open road. I look forward to playing it again.