Masks of the Dreamer: Recovery of U-571: Part 1 This excellent piece of concept art comes from a very exciting upcoming horror video game, called Soma.
After a hiatus for a while from my Trail of Cthulhu campaign, we return now with the moment that defines the journey towards the end of this campaign: The recovery of U-571. This German submarine was lost during WW2, for reasons that the investigators don’t know but my players are fully aware of. While giving my players a degree of metagaming knowledge about what happened isn’t always the best idea, here it works because of how late into the game we are and the investigators are already aware of things like Deep Ones. So the prior knowledge my players bring, which their investigators wouldn’t have, does not significantly impact this investigation in a meaningful way by changing how my players would make decisions.
The gains from allowing the players to directly play through and see exactly what happened to the submarine were many. For one, it gives them a satisfying feeling of seeing how their actions changed the actual game world – such as entering the sub to see the bullet ridden uniforms and skeletons of the panicked sailors trying to open the door to the deep ones. Secondly, it allowed me to give the players who “won” some degree of interesting narrative control over what happens in the story in future from this point. Some of these effects won’t be felt immediately, but will have a lot of influence over how the game ultimately comes to its conclusion.
In any event, I actually had one main problem to overcome before I could get into this game properly. That hiatus from the game I mentioned, meant there was a substantial gap between when I last ran Trail of Cthulhu and when we resumed playing. Naturally by this point players tend to forget what has happened and important bits and pieces sometimes go missing – including on my part! So one of the first things I did was write up the earlier post about the general plot of the game, so everyone had a bit of a refresher on what was going on. Then when I restarted the game, I deliberately slowed the pacing of the plot right down in the first part.
I’ve written about the importance of pacing in the past on this blog, especially because initially my pace was far too slow. On the other hand when returning from a break you should slow things up much more for multiple reasons. The first is that a slower pace lets me deliberately reintroduce NPCs and other plot elements back to the party. Secondly it helps both me and my players ease back into character, with plenty of time to give reminders about “Why are we doing this again?”. Taking extra time like this is a good idea, especially when you come back from any kind of long break between sessions.