You Encounter two Deep Ones (not the joke version)

Another point that came up during my review of the Great Old Ones compilation was a set of suggestions early in the scenario ‘The Pale God’ for keeping things a bit mysterious for the players. I am highly in favor of this idea and am going to expound on it..and more, the other aspects of the game that it touches on.

Momentary spoiler that is part of that review, the scenario in question deals with Eihort, and its brood, and the action of the scenario begins with a victim of the brood dying in front of the party. In an attempt to enhance the feeling of mystery, the keeper is encouraged to change the description of the small creatures as they erupt from the body. And this brings up a couple of interesting concepts right off the bat.

There are some creatures in the Lovecraftian canon that are hard to disguise in any way, and experienced players brace for the experience when they realize that they are about to encounter Deep Ones, or ghouls, or…this is hard to avoid, but unless you really push the envelope, it is hard to avoid completely. Note, I specified, experienced players. Characters may very well be facing the creatures for the first time, and it is a good idea for the keeper to find a way to help the players find that chill for the players again. For the longest possible time, I strongly suggest using description to describe creatures encountered rather than breaking it down to the title of the this entry.

Yes the players will know it’s a deep one that just crawled over the gunwale; yes, the players will know that it’s a pack of ghouls stalking them in the cemetary; yes they will have an idea that the invisible thing that just appeared in the room and begins to take a pinkish hue as it drains its first victim as it titters is a star vampire. But describe don’t say ‘the star vampire grabs the professor, and you begin to see its form.’ Or ‘the deep one clambers aboard and approaches you.’…hold off that familiarity as long as possible. And don’t let the players use the terms until they can find a legitimate way to use the term, finding the name in some book, or finding a way for the characters to justify coming up with the term or an equivalent.

And then again…..

Why not use completely different names for some things, modified descriptions, or combinations of the two? We all do this with situations in the course of the game, so at least occasionally it makes sense to do it with the creatures and entities in the game if circumstances warrant it. Simplest example, I’ve had two moderately successful campaigns, one set with a base in Kansas City, one set in Dallas (the cities where I lived at the time). I did, in both instances, have a lot of “Lovecraft Country” type additions to local geography, a plethora of the small towns surrounding each that weren’t on any real map, but fit into the ‘game map’…and in both of these campaigns, there was one small city that corresponded to Innsmouth. A glance at any map of the United States shows that neither of these are even remotely close to the ocean, so Deep Ones as the creature du jour was not a logical development. In the Dallas campaign, I created an odd variation on Serpent People that fit the hybridization program template, with a subterranean city of degenerate Serpent People who were struggling to raise above their station. In the Kansas City version I created a completely different species that was treating the humans of its town the same way. I won’t go into the specifics of that race, or the events that game play produced, but rather than agonize over a full creation for something that I expected to only use for a small storyarc, I used the statistics for the Deep Ones straight out of the book, altering any aquatic references for ones appropriate to their natures.

But at the same time, never be afraid to create entirely new creatures, there is no familiarity if no one has seen it before. The first scenario released for 7th Edition, Dead Light, does a marvelous job of this, a creature that is mysterious in origin, nature, and motivations, a great creature, and perfect for its purpose, a one shot adventure…but at the same time, easy to reuse if need be.

And in addition to that, if you’re willing or able to pick up the Malleus Monstorum, you will have more creatures than you can use in a dozen campaigns. Oh, they yawned when they investigated the asteroid impact crater and saw a Colour Out of Space? Next time they’re out in the wilderness, let them trip over a Space Eater. They just shrugged when the wizard summoned a dimensional shambler? Have a Shugoran step out of the mists. Don’t feel obligated to have every campaign lead ultimately to the known Great Old Ones and powers. I know, the game is Call of Cthulhu..and my fondness for the big guy is huge, but I have no intention of him ever showing up directly in a game, though his cultists may abound. But servants of Yidhra will pop up too. Sometimes it can be daunting, the volume of things already available and the ease to create more for your own campaign. But no campaign should be about finding everything or doing everything.

Find what works for you and your players. Just try to find a way to keep it mysterioius.

That shambling somewhat humanoid creature that just crawled aboard your boat, the moonlight glistening off its scales as it steps forward should send a chill down the players at that sight. They should never just ‘oh it’s a Deep One.’ That mentality belongs in D and D, and not really a good fit there, in my opinion. Of course, if the moonlight gets brighter, and it turns out to be a Dweller in the Depths, all the better. (insert evil laughter here)

Two Deep Ones walk into a bar (humor in CoC)

I mention briefly in my review of the scenario compilation Great Old Ones a bit where a piece of somewhat humorous dialogue is suggested in an encounter. I also imply that I found this less than optimum for gameplay, and I would like to take this opportunity to address the topic of humor in Call of Cthulhu (and indirectly, humor in role playing games in general).

Players of table top rpgs tend to be intelligent, and witty people, with the wit having a wide range of expression. Players also often vent various bits of nervous energy by falling back on humor. Games often struggle to keep in character (less in Call of Cthulhu than most games, I find), but the games themselves lead to expressions of humor between the players or the characters as part of the game and the flow of it.

That being said, there are some scenarios that have been published where the humor is part of the scenario. The scenario referred to above, Still Waters, is one of the least offenders in this category, and the strangely ironic way the statements are made by the entities in question can keep them from being fully humorous, but in reading the scenario there is a bit of a feel that the writer was trying to input a humorous note, either for his own feelings or a possible Keeper tool. I have to admit I’ve never run this scenario, and while I would keep those bits of dialogue in mind, I am unsure if they would slip into the game, it would be situational, depending on how the players were taking things up to that point.

Then we run into scenarios where the humor is more blatant. The worst examples of this you will find in published scenarios occur in the second volume of Blood Brothers, and one particular scenario in Atomic Age Cthulhu. I have reviewed the two Blood Brothers volumes over in my reviews section and will let my negativity over the luchadore scenario and the alien beach horror scenario stand there. The one in Atomic Age Cthulhu (that is on my review list but it will be a while before I get to it) is a direct take on Elvis’ films, with two competing brands of cultists trying to further their agendas and feud on a movie set. When I read a scenario that goes to this extent, I find it hard to believe anyone wrote it with intent to play it, more of an ‘in joke’ for keepers to read and get a laugh at. Similarly, we have a few of these creep into the volumes of the Halloween Horror Series, where in one case we get what I would swear was a scenario inspired by parts of the film “Son of the Mask” (“the Mask of Neil Marlow’s Pet” by Simon Yee, in the volume Halloween Horror Returns. The author of this particular scenario has actually produced several other scenarios I really like so I am fairly certain that this was a similar attempt at a lighthearted jab at keepers taking themselves too seriously.) and in another we get an amazing mix of Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Producers by way of Arkham (Great Old Ones on the Great White Way by Joseph M. Isenberg in the volume Dead Leaves Fall. This is another scenario that I enjoyed reading but would have trouble running, even as a one shot) a few scenarios distributed on the web take this path too, the ‘Drooler in the Dark’ and ‘an Eldritch thing happened on the way to the Forum’ are the ones that come to mind immediately, both available in the files section at Yog Sothoth.com. The first of those is presented as a minor irritant background element to introduce into a campaign for comedic effect, and just not my cup of tea. The Eldritch thing actually can work to a point as a viable scenario, but it is also one big in joke as the people of Yog Sothoth.com themselves victims and npcs in the story as it unfolds. In this, one would have to weigh carefully to determine if you want to dip your toes in that water.

Do I disapprove of humorously written scenarios? No, I have enjoyed reading each of these scenarios. Well, except for the Elvis based one, but that’s more because I never cared for Elvis’ movie career, and while this was clearly a parody, it pushed all the wrong buttons for me, but that’s a matter of personal taste. Having stated that I’ve enjoyed reading them, these are scenarios I would be less inclined to run however.

I like to think that I am not too far gone in the sense of being a Keeper who takes himself too seriously. But I prefer the humor to grow from the playing of the game itself, not fed to the players. Of course if you disagree, in this case you are fully within your rights to say ‘well lighten up then,’ and we can agree to disagree on this point.

An interesting addendum to this before I get to post it, I have received some feedback from my review of the Great Old Ones scenario compilation, specifically about a person who remembered playing through the scenario referred to above, Still Waters, and he disagreed with me, stating that the somewhat humorous statements ended up having a chilling and frightening effect during play. This proves that this is a subjective matter, and my feeling less negatively about it is a viable feeling. I have to say that in the right circumstances I would probably risk introducing that element, but it would depend a great deal on the players, the overall chemistry.

a fight is a fight is a fight

Role playing games grew out of miniatures gaming, and the first role playing games were combat heavy. This is part of the history of the games, and since fiction (and hence games) are about conflict, violence as part of the resolution is as it has been, a large part of it. As the games grew, components more about storytelling aspects that didn’t have to be about conflict evolved. Ultimately every game still has a large part of violence to it. For some players, this is a source of great pleasure, for others a source of frustration (in another reference to the podcast “the Good Friends of Jackson Elias” one of them is very clear in his disdain for the combat systems in most games, which informs this entire post and refers back to earlier posts as well, at least to some extent).

Since the horror genre is about conflict and threat even more than most games, and danger, combat of one kind or another is, even if underplayed, more integral to the scenarios. The threat of combat should be high, and felt most of the time if not all the time. Entire scenarios can be played without a moment of combat, but the players should always be concerned about the possibility.

There is one train of thought, which I can’t argue completely, even if I don’t agree with totally, that combat should be avoided if at all possible in a CoC scenario. This is not fully a realistic goal, however, because intermittent violence is often called for in the early stages of the game though not vital, and usually even if you manage to head off ‘the volcano’ (referring to earlier postings) you usually have to perform some act of lesser violence to achieve that goal.

The game system for Call of Cthulhu is very intense when the combat comes around…experience doesn’t make you harder to kill, just makes you more efficient at the other parts of the game, including your ability to inflict damage. The risk in combat never lessens for humans. Your best bet for protection is armor, and it is limited in what it can do. Player characters in CoC should fear combat and try to avoid it when they can. Being ready for it is all well and good, but every time combat starts, the risks are high.

Most of the monsters one faces in CoC are also much tougher than humans, and combat is not usually a good idea. At the very least, combat should not be a toe to toe slugfest of any kind. Strategy becomes very important when combat is unavoidable. And the strategy of ‘run the hell away’ should never be discounted if the big bads get loose.

There are two articles in the Keeper’s Companion (I remember at least one of these articles from elsewhere, but memory of where eludes me at the moment.) “Good Cthulhu Hunting” is a set of guidelines for player characters to function in a campaign, both against monsters and in society. One of the points from this article was that player characters have to try to stay off the radar of law enforcement as much as possible, for various reasons. (next paragraph will go into this). The other article “Suggestions for Keepers” are some guidelines for keeping your game focused on being satisfying for all of the players and yourself. As the articles are copyrighted and in print I won’t reproduce them here. But I will highly recommend them. Those two articles alone are worth the price of that volume in my eyes.

Combat mechanics are not the focus of this article. That is covered very well in the rulebooks and many have discussed them. But I will go into a few points in a bit..the main thing at this point is, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, the repercussions of combat. In descending order, death of player characters, deaths of human opponents, injury to either, property damage (dead bodies of Cthulhoid monsters have a tendency to disappear in some manner or another, though any remaining will be a puzzle for authorities). But all that I listed will often trigger some degree of investigation. Being on a monster hunt doesn’t have a lot of weight with the average police department. A cultist or madman who was endangering the world may be worth killing in gameplay…but the police aren’t going to necessarily agree. So smart players try to stay under the radar, and cover their tracks as much as they can. The isolation of many cult rituals helps the players in this to a point.

Guns aren’t always as big a protection in the Mythos as they would be in ‘the normal world.’ As I said, the monsters are sometimes immune, and the cultists sometimes are armed themselves. Carrying the guns at all times puts one at some level of legal risk, even in the most permissive countries, and in some countries automatically makes one a criminal. Globe hoppers should check the rules where they travel. Players need to consider when to go armed and how to do it, and be ready as much as possible to try to minimize any evidence they may leave behind.  

Combat is part of the game. Pretty much inevitable, though it is easy to go through the game with a lot less than in other games…but the risk and potential for combat should always be just under the surface, ready to spring.

Absentia as scenario seed (movie spoilers) and a nice subtext to add

This is a film that has its fans and its detractors, something I find often crops up in the movies I see as good scenario seeds…they tend to engender responses at one extreme or the other. This one has some traits that I would want to make an entry of it even if I didn’t think it had potential as a seed.

The story begins with a pregnant woman, Tricia, posting missing persons fliers, clearly replacing ones on various posts and poles that are weathered with newer versions of the same flier. In short order we discern that this woman’s sister is coming to stay with her for a time as the missing person from the fliers is Tricia’s husband who has been missing for seven years. The story unfolds with Tricia reluctantly accepting her husband’s disappearance as his death as the ‘death in absentia’ process completes. The sister Callie and Tricia go through this adjustment with some tensions, and while the initial pacing is low-key, we gain a great deal of the backstory in short order, and pick up some odd elements of the neighborhood.

A police detective who has been involved in the husband’s disappearance is revealed to be having a somewhat hidden relationship with Tricia, and the question of the father of Tricia’s child is made a bit clearer. Their relationship seems to be on the edge of stepping up as the story unfolds.

Some odd elements come up as Callie picks up some odd elements about a nearby landmark, a tunnel that is apparently used as a transit point under a road (watching the movie twice, I never quite get a handle on what’s on top of the tunnel). It is not a long tunnel, the far side is visible from either entrance, a minor diversion for a jogger, one of those things people use as a marker on a journey but don’t really pay much attention to. A person she encounters in it, who seems to appear and disappear without warning, apparently a homeless man is one of the mysteries. Another person leaves a strange gathering of offerings at the tunnel, no clear explanation, and Callie seems curious about this development but answers are not easily forthcoming.

At the point where one can see where the characters are going, we are jarred by the sudden reappearance of the missing husband, and all the confusion attendant on what this does to the dynamic in the lives of the people who had been adjusting to his absence. His return brings with it more confusion as some things about his state are as puzzling if not more than his disappearance. He is reluctant to speak of where he had been, appears to be somewhat amnesiac, but the impression is more that he refuses to explain (personally I think that this part was brilliantly underacted by Morgan Peter Brown, giving a subtlety to this character). He is wearing the same clothes he was wearing when he vanished seven years ago, still has his wallet. His reluctance to communicate infuriates the police, and the detective with the romantic interest is clearly finding himself conflicted and angered.

Daniel the husband gives a vague hint to Callie in a moment, a reluctant hint that he refuses to elaborate on, and in one of the first moments when the two of them are alone in the house (in the film at least), a strange burst of action has Daniel disappearing again, with Callie’s memories of the incident his being attacked by some unknown large insectile creature never clearly seen.

Things go into a spiral of madness at this point, but from the moment of Daniel’s reappearance, an interesting subtext comes up that makes the movie slide into what I think was a brilliant level of ambiguity and is of particular note to keepers, whether or not this movie is of interest to them as a seed (particularly of interest with a development I’ve been given to understand as part of the pending 7th edition rules). As the detectives probe into Daniel’s disappearance and reappearance..and ‘redisappearance’ we are presented with scenes of their mundane interpretations of the hows and whys and whats of the events. Other secrets are uncovered, including a past history of drug use on Callie’s part, and an indication that she was on some major drugs of some kind at the time of the redisappearance and her account of what happened is called into question. Tensions escalate between Tricia and Callie, the detective grows more hostile towards Callie. His determination to find the truth and his feelings for Tricia drives him to continue searching for answers.

The discovery of a body, the arrest of a man (the two characters from earlier in the story I mentioned briefly), their connection to each other, only seems to muddy more waters than it solves.

During this phase of the story, Callie’s own research uncovers hints of a pattern and she forms a theory that is not welcomed by anyone she shares it with, some unknown entities living in or near the tunnel, which are kidnapping people for their own unexplained reasons.

The level of spoilers ramps up at this point. Tricia disappears just as mysteriously as Daniel had twice before, and Callie becomes a suspect. Callie takes up the role Tricia had earlier, posting missing persons posters, prowling hunting, trying to find answers, though she does keep to her theory of the mysterious entities, something that doesn’t win her any points with the others involved.

We see more scenes of the characters acting out people’s theories of the events before and after the disappearances, trying to explain the events and outcomes in mundane terms and explanations. By this point, event he detective clinging to hope has trouble with these theories though, though no better answers are forthcoming other than Callie’s theory, which sits poorly with him, but he can’t completely forget.

The story then gets to an odd point where Callie disappears just as mysteriously in a rather disturbing scene which I won’t dwell on at this point, though I have heard more than a few complain about this scene.

The story ends with the detective putting up missing persons posters, but we are given by his body language that his actions are without much hope. A final visual in the film indicates a confirmation of Callie’s theory, but by this point, we have seen so many sequences of people’s explanations and rationalizations we are left to figure out for ourselves if it’s ‘real’ or represents the detective beginning to accept Callie’s theory, or possibly something different.

Is the acting all top notch? Some dispute it but I think everyone did a good job. It is a relatively low budget movie, but has a great feel to it, I like this one.

And this brings up the point I was mentioning. Subjective rationalizations, mundane explanations. In Call of Cthulhu part of the point is the desire to uncover mysteries, and are confronted with dark horrors as they get to the truth behind the questions they explore. But we often forget (and this is something I have to admit I have done a fair bit as well…which brings to mind something somewhat connected which I will explain in the next paragraph) to include mundane possible explanations, whether or not they are ‘good fits’ for the details. Ambiguity as to what the full explanation of the mystery is, this is a wonderful thing to put in a scenario if you can.

There was a Japanese television series, Ultraman, something of a Kaiju sci fi television series in which an investigative team called, as memory serves ‘the Science Patrol’ investigate odd phenomenon, which invariably turn out to be giant monsters, which are fought by the alter ego of one of their number, the giant metallic skinned Ultraman, (will not go into the backstory here, it’s not germaine to the one scene that is the focus of this point.). In one episode, some odd phenomenon occurs, which they are advised of, and one of the Science Patrol members says to another in his initial response, ‘could be a monster’ to which the other nods in agreement. This moment was a jarring bit of non-logic that hit me hard when I saw it on television as a teen, and it brings to mind this issue.

Not saying that there is a problem with monsters in the game, the monsters are a major draw for the game, even if we’re trying to avoid them in the game we still want them there, but should ‘could be a monster’ be the first response? A keeper should keep the ambiguity as high as possible as long as possible, in all scenarios, and in the campaign, I think.

In 7th edition, there is a rule I’ve heard discussed in podcasts by some of the palytesters and people behind the rulebook construction. One confronts these strange things, and learns of the Mythos, gaining points in Cthulhu Mythos, but does not necessarily have to believe in the Mythos, believe that it is ‘real’. There comes a point where a player character is forced to, or chooses to accept the reality of the Mythos, and any SAN loss that they have avoided by not believing so far is applied in one nasty wicked lump sum, almost guaranteeing at least a short term bout of madness. (additional point is to remember that being a ‘believer’ does not mean being a ‘worshipper’, the players are not choosing to be cultists, just acknowledging that these monsters and strange things being confronted are part of a greater understanding of the universe.)

I think that if you are accepting this rule, a good idea is to, as much as possible, keep room for mundane explanations for everything the players confront. Yes you’re dealing with cultists, madmen, some strange life forms hitherto unknown, but that doesn’t mean you’re dealing with monsters from a different understanding of the universe, or more, of potential universes.

Until it suddenly means exactly that.

Even then, leaving as much as possible of potential mundane answers to the mysteries can only improve the flow of the game, and keep in mind that these mundane explanations will be the first defense of the skeptical ‘normal people’ the player characters will have to deal with. (“oh yes, you had to kill all those people because they were trying to summon a demon. Of course. Now shall we try you as a crazed killer or put a straightjacket on you and put you into some intensive therapy?”)

‘Nuff said, to quote Stan Lee.

Lovecraftian, Pulp style, Delta Green…one from column a, one from column b…

There are multiple styles of playing the game, and I would say most of them overlap to some extent. It is generally considered that the game has something of a ‘pulp’ feel. After all, more often than in the stories of Lovecraftian horror, the heroes tend to ‘win’, with varying degrees of success. There has been some attempt at various points to adapt Call of Cthulhu to differing approaches, ‘pulp’ being one. And since the 7th edition will include a pulp focus, it is worth bringing up at this time. However I do think at least a slight clarification is in order, given a basic fact. Subjective as it may be, and subject to modification with the release of said pulp rules. (it is worth noting, however, that the distinction between the two is a focus of the Trail of Cthulhu game, described as purist vs. pulp)

Differentiation between Lovecraftian and pulp takes on a bit of depth when you consider that Lovecraft, and many of his contemporaries, wrote for pulp magazines themselves, but this is not what we tend to think of when we use the term nowadays. Pulp as we tend to use the term now refers to a style of fiction epitomized from the time by characters like the Shadow and Doc Savage, and by films of a more contemporary natures like the Indiana Jones series. In gaming terms, the stakes are high, the heroes take risks but with style and flair, and the victories flashy. Guns are a bit more common than in many other styles, and the heroes tend to live on the edge. The published campaign ‘Masks of Nyarlathotep’, one of the classic published works in the game, while quite Lovecraftian, also has a strong pulp feel. All of the published campaigns up to this point had a globe hopping feel, but Masks ramped it all up.

So making a few definitions here, granted, based on my opinions. Pulp style as above. Lovecraftian seeks to recreate the feel of the stories of Lovecraft and his contemporaries, so beating the monster isn’t as often the goal as learning as much about what the monster is as possible, and if you’re doing well, containing it. Noir style is the world of the films epitomized by adaptations of Hammet and Chandler, with protagonists who are tarnished but still have ideals, and with moral ambiguity filling most of the environment, even your closest ally today could become a deadly enemy tomorrow…or later today. Delta Green, the campaign style and world created by Pagan Publishing, is a modern era campaign, but more than just a time setting, it is a campaign based on conspiracies, and the players are characters working in secret behind the scenes, hoping that their own masters are not among the villains, but the veil of secrecy being deep enough that they are never completely certain.

Depending on the era, all of these styles can be part of the game (and in my mind, to some extent should be), though I am less conspiracy minded than many. Depending on the players and the Keeper, any one of those styles can predominate, but it’s a rare campaign that doesn’t have room for more than one. But a theme can come up, and awareness of the themes and feels and styles can help you find what works for you and your players.

The most important advice for Keeping Call of Cthulhu, and for scenario construction

I have gone on at considerable length on things I think are important to consider in scenario building. You can find articles on it, podcasts, videos of interviews, all over the web and all over the various print articles on gaming about CoC and gaming in general.

However, there is one piece of advice many will give you, many more won’t mention, and it’s the most important of all.

Don’t be afraid to ignore every piece of advice. Individually or collectively.

If it doesn’t meet your style, and you and your players are enjoying the game by all means disregard it all. If you’re having a problem thinking something through or looking for advice, look to these articles for answers to those concerns.

I can ramble with the best of them, perhaps nowhere nearly as good as them, but with them regardless. But what I am saying is my opinion, based on my own experience. If it doesn’t suit, don’t use it.

(this may be my shortest entry of all, but it is a critical component).

Lots of smoke but no rabbit (apologies to CTW) (Spoilers almost guaranteed)

If you wonder about this entry’s title, it is referring to a muppet sketch from Sesame Street from some time back, involving Grover and Mumford the Magician. I won’t bother going into the sketch itself, except to say that it deals with a trick going awry and succeeding at the same time, and Grover looking for the magic and nobody seeing it as it unfolds around them. This actually leads to a major issue in Call of Cthulhu, not that I can necessarily state a best path to this issue but it is one that Keeper’s should be aware of. It actually is brought up wonderfully in one of the podcasts by “the Good Friends of Jackson Elias.”

It is simple logic that in many scenarios, there is a climactic event that the player characters are trying to some extent to thwart. The scenarios invariably have these scenes in them, and if the players have a real victory, they prevent this ‘volcano’ moment from happening. Without naming the campaigns and/or scenarios, let’s present a few of them, if the players haven’t ‘beaten’ the event.

The ritual from the head frees a monstrous creature that the players will be lucky to survive encountering. The evil archaeologists sacrifice the psychic to resurrect the ghoul queen’s mummy. The Spawn of Nyarlathotep is born in a bloody explosion before thousands of cultists. Cthulhu wades through his cultists and strides into the world. The possessed investigator turns into an elephantine parody of Chaugnar Faugn and to some extent his herald. The rocket is launched during the eclipse. Cthugha destroys San Francisco.

Great stuff, right? Moments that make for great, if horrific stories, but also make the payer characters’ lives rougher if not impossible. Admittedly, some of these, the scenarios are written so that the player mitigates more than prevents the actions…Cthulhu is out of his prison, the players just shorten his freedom, Cthugha just gets to singe a bit of stuff before the gate is closed.

The player characters should win, remember this is a game of struggle against a nihilistic universe to rail against the shadows and entropy and the mythos to protect humanity for that little bit longer, to stave off extinction, or just settle a ghost.

The players beat Corbitt. They stop the rocket’s launch. They use the experimental device and dismiss Chaugnar Faugn. They don’t let the play go on.

But since you’re stopping the volcano…you should still try hard, as the keeper, to give the investigators at least a fireworks display for their efforts. Try hard not to let there be a fizzle, a game deserves its payoff, in victory or in failure.

I assure you, in the game, beating Corbitt is not as simple as a rock paper scissors confrontation. You don’t stop the rocket by flipping a switch. The experimental device has to be maintained while the mutated possessed investigator and a Great Old One try to stop the investigators.

It is dramatic storytelling. Even if you avoid the catastrophe, for the sake of the game and the players, give the story a climax.

One of the strange hidden (possibly inadvertently) jokes in the game, sometimes the people writing them forget to include a way to keep the victory as dramatic as the volcano. Look for that when you read…or make…a scenario. If performing a ritual dismisses the demon, make it hard to perform and risky, with something…or some things….actively trying to stop it.