Masks of the Dreamer: The Cult Strikes Back
Right now, we’re roughly at the halfway point of this campaign in many ways and how long it goes will heavily depend on what the players do from here. Numerous plot threads are starting to come together and I feel the investigators are starting to get a good grasp on the big overall picture of what is happening. Of course, it’s worth bringing up that we’re also getting to a point where some of these investigators are seriously broken people.
If anyone needs to know what truly makes a game like Call of Cthulhu or Trail of Cthulhu unique, it’s that knowledge plus experience doesn’t directly equal an increase in power like Dungeons and Dragons. Most of my players investigators are far more capable now than they were at the very start of the game sure, but they’re also starting to suffer having permanently lost rating points in stability and most importantly: Sanity.
Sanity as a stat basically puts a defined, known shelf-life on your investigators and how long they are going to last. The more monsters, magic and strange things they encounter, the lower their potential time in the game. Likewise, players who invest heavily into mythos knowledge, magic and similar are equally likely to reach a potential breaking point sooner than later. Mechanics like this reinforce the hopelessness and inevitable defeat the fight against mythos is, with how those who face it inevitably go insane, become a tool of what they fought against or even worse fates.
It does have a notable consequence on the overall way I write the game: It means that over an extended period, it’s hard to think that all investigators will make it to the end. After a while of running this game, I have become rather fond of many of my players investigators, with the plot deeply woven around these characters and their actions. Due to the amount of sanity damage around it is invariable as we get into deeper conspiracies, more ferocious monsters and even more bizarre situations that one, or more, will go insane (or meet a tragic end). As a result, I’ve begun to try and deliberately move some of these points onwards a bit.
In this session I decided to take a distinctly different tone and write the entire thing like a soap opera: Just with cultists. Instead of drama and tension coming from monsters or magic, I have an overarching plot about a potential attack from one of the investigators numerous enemies on the wedding, but then focused entirely on inter-character drama. This meant there wasn’t a lot of need for stability checks, which could run the risk of damaging an investigators dwindling sanity if it came about due to a monster or spell. Another advantage was that it gave me plenty of time to characterize different NPCs at the wedding, throwing in numerous potential candidates for “Who might be threatening the bride and groom?” and also adding some intrigue to Damian’s mysterious mafia family to explore.
And perhaps some highly uncomfortable truths for Damian to discover along the way…