Here’s my report! Note that it gets progressively more positive as the day goes on, so stick with it!
My Free RPG Day began by going to my FLGS to find that they didn’t get in any product. So, off to a rough start. The worker told me that that they tried to order but weren’t allowed to use a credit card this year because the endeavor is under new management. So, by the time they got to doing Paypal, the FRPG people were out of boxes. So, kind of a sour start, but I had plans for later in the day and I’m fortunate that Omaha has a ton of game stores, so I knew that somebody had to have gotten a shipment.
Perusing online I found that, sure enough, another FLGS got product. So, I went in and found that they were giving away any two choice items for free. I got what I came for: The Kids On Bikes Mini-Campaign. Yay! I thought about taking a second item, since it was allowed at this store, but I just wasn’t keen on any of the other offerings (even the dice). This Day was pretty Paizo-heavy, and I don’t play Starfinder or Pathfinder. So, I just decided to leave a second item to a gamer who’d really get some use out of it. I will say that the scenario on the table for Starfinder did look cool. Nice production, art, and a funny alien.
Now to the Main Event (cue arena music). The sibling store of the first store I mentioned had a person running Call of Cthulhu in the evening! The store policy (and rightly so, in my opinion) is that priority is given to new players. So, I figured I’d show up, and if it was full I’d just watch/help with rules questions. I wore the arcane symbol Cthulhu-themed shirt one of my players gave me last year. OBVIOUSLY.
I arrived on time and found an experienced gamer (Len-Keeper) and a much younger guy (Brandon) at the back table. Plenty of open slots. Honestly, for this area, I was excited that we got to play. The area is dominated by combat RPGs (no offense intended) but that just isn’t my thing. Well, here was an older gent who it wasn’t his thing (he was very interested when I mentioned Runequest) and a younger kid who was “sick of” Adventurer’s League-style DND and wanted to try something new. Bless his heart, and as soon as we heard that, Len and I were extra determined to give him a great experience with Call of Cthulhu!
We chatted for a bit about how Call of Cthulhu is a different style of game than DND and that getting into combat is generally a bad idea. Brandon understood this immediately (some people don’t). He picked Nevada Jones from the Starter as his character and I picked Jessie Williams. She seemed to be a good compliment to Nevada.
Len ran Deadlight. I hadn’t read it in a long time and the opening scene kind of reminded me of it, but I couldn’t remember any of the particulars. So, it was just like I was playing it fresh. Len was a good Keeper. He was especially good at description and evoking mood, which is something I’m continually working on as a Keeper. So, he was a good Keeper for me to learn from.
*Deadlight spoilers from here on-skip to after three asterisks for summary*
We were driving along the road on our way back to Arkham when we saw a shape on the road. Nevada clipped the figure with the car and nearly crashed it. Jessie ran out into the rain to see if the figure was ok to find a woman in a white dress raving about “the light” and how it had “taken my grandfather.” I got her back into the car and out of the elements while Nevada checked the car and found it to be ok, just a bit stuck. He pushed while I hit the gas and the three of us headed down the ride, driving much more slowly this time. I asked the woman her name (Amelia Bell) and about what she saw. She said that her grandfather was “attacked by the light” and that she had run away from the situation. All along the drive we saw a light in the woods a hundred or so yards off…
Up the road we found a semi-truck jackknifed across the road. This made it completely impassable due to the mud on either side, but there was a nearby diner/gas station that we took shelter in. We walked in to hear two men arguing with each other and Doreen, our waitress got us all set up with coffee. Jake, a huge guy with a truckers logo on his hat was also speaking about seeing lights. In this case, they caused him to jackknife his truck. Jake was pretty heightened and at one point grabbed Nevada by the scruff and got real intense. We managed to talk him down and set out to find out what could be done to get back to Arkham. Jessie’s character sheet says she is religious, so I played it as if she was in a bit of denial about the weird happenings around us (resisting the Mythos). I nonchalantly asked Doreen if she knew the people who lived nearby and through that conversation learned about Dr. Bell living back up the road on Orchard Road in the direction we had come from.
Doreen mentioned that the phone was down but I went to check on it to see if I could use Mechanical Repair to work on it. I failed my roll, but Pushed and got an Extreme success. There was nothing wrong with the phone and the wires leading out of the building seemed intact, so I resigned myself to the fact that there wasn’t anything I could do about that.
Nevada suggested we go check Jake’s truck to see if there was anything that could be done. Forging out into the rain, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it, other than it being jack-knifed and in the mud. We asked about an adjacent repair bay since old gas stations frequently had repair stations attached. Sure enough, there was one, and we went out to see if we could find any tools or pulleys that could help us work on the truck, even though that seemed like a long shot. Jake went with us. The power went out when we were in there and Jake started to get agitated. He ran out into the rain desperate to get his truck going. We still hadn’t found any equipment so Brandon and I were very much in “what would our characters do?” moments. As players we knew the guy was probably doomed, but we both agreed that our characters would likely be focused on the task at hand so we just “waited for him to get back” (ha ha).
We saw a light near the truck and assumed that Jake found a useful tool and headed out to investigate. I waited on the other side of the truck while Nevada peered around the corner. He saw Jake flat on his back on the ground with a flashlight spinning slowly nearby. He snagged the flashlight and noted that Jake’s face looked distorted. Not burned. More melted. Jake sat bolt upright and screamed. We made SAN checks and Brandon passed. I failed it, but took less SAN because I didn’t see the full details of what was transpiring. As Jake stood up, bright light was emitted from his mouth and eyes and his whole upper body seemed to liquify. We ran and the light seemed to retreat back into the woods.
I tried to encourage everyone in the diner to get away from the windows and head into the back. Something was going on here and my religious upbringing caused my character to focus on keeping people safe. People were hesitant to follow such weird instructions but we did our best to explain and got people in the back. We searched for a fuse box and found all of the fuses intact!
At this point, Mary the waitress started to get really agitated. I asked her why she was so upset and she pulled a gun on me! She said that she wasn’t going to wait any longer for her boyfriend to show up for the robbery they were committing. I gave a little speech to try to calm her down and the Keeper gave me a 10 percent bonus on a dismal Persuade skill level, given my speech. I critically failed and immediately requested a Push, leaning on how I just wanted to get all of us to safety and the future mattered more than her past. My Pushed roll succeeded, and I spent Luck to turn it into a Hard Success. This calmed Mary down and she put the gun away.
Realizing that agitation seemed to attract “the light” I hatched a plan to get Doreen to get everyone some marshmallows to try to lighten the mood around the fire. While doing this, Mary disappeared. We saw her running out to a car behind the repair bay! Knowing that may be our only option for helping others escape, we ran out into the rain after her. When we arrived, Mary was being consumed by “the light” and both Nevada and I took SAN hits before we fled back.
Piecing the bits of the puzzle together, Nevada and I agreed that we weren’t likely to make any headway at our current location. It wasn’t safe to be outside on foot and the power and phone options were dead ends. So, I made the audacious suggestion that we go try to help Amelia’s grandfather.
We headed back up the road with the light trailing us the whole way. We found Amelia’s grandfather’s place. We brought her inside and immediately found a sitting room with a ghastly sight (in retrospect we could have done a better job of protecting her from any imagery). Amelia’s grandfather and her two robbers were laying dead on the floor in various stages of “melting.” There was also a metal box/chest that was opened in the room. It looked like the seam had been sealed with wax in the past. (Seems to be the source of an imprisoned entity of some kind? Hmm.)
Amelia went catatonic. We found a working oil lamp and decided to explore the rest of the house. I stayed with her while Nevada explored the kitchen and an adjoining room. No clues. We switched off “custody” of Amelia and I found a crowbar and the study. Nevada searched the pockets of the grandfather and found a small key and a pocket watch. He also stoked the fire.
The study was a Call of Cthulhu player’s DREAM! A bookcase! A desk! 😜 With no Locksmith skill, I went to my Crudely Use Crowbar skill and forced open the desk drawer. Sorry Nevada, your key is useless now. 😉 My Spot Hidden roll was a fail. I Pushed it, with the aim of trying to categorize the desk material into piles to make it easier to search. I critically failed my Pushed roll (!) and my kind Keeper just made my light run out of oil (rather than setting the desk on fire). I resigned myself to being a failure in that room and traded off with Nevada again.
Nevada found an accounting book (neither of us have Accounting), but more critically also an old leather-bound journal with strange writings (squeal). In perusing it he found references to a set of detailed steps related to the wax-sealed box. It explained how to imprison “the light” within the box with a sacrifice. Given that it was just Nevada, Amelia, and I, the “sacrifice” option was particularly maddening to consider. Thankfully, it also mentioned that extreme heat, electricity, or daylight could potentially “kill” the entity, but that if it hid during daylight it would just return the next night.
Nevada gained 1 Cthulhu Mythos and took 3 SAN.
Our last investigative push was to try to see if we could get the lights of the house back on. The Keeper mentioned that there were no wires that seemed to lead into the house. I suggested we try to find a basement. We found the door leading into the blackness and made our way down some dangerous steps, making our DEX rolls. Sure enough, there was a generator in the basement. We tried to pick it up to carry it upstairs with the intent of taking it to the people stranded at the diner. We failed our Strength rolls. Amelia screamed. I yelled to Nevada to get the generator running and I went to grab Amelia. “The Light” was moving through the house towards us. I succeeded on a Fighting Maneuver to grapple her and began to drag her to the basement door. Nevada got the generator running after several failed attempts.
We got down into the basement and the entity followed us. Without a ground state, Nevada plunged the business ends of the generator wires into the entity, killing it, and himself, but saving Amelia and I. His hat rolled towards me and I put it on. Jessie will wear that hat every day from that moment on as a reminder of her friend, Nevada.
What a blast! I had been Keeping for so long that it had been years since I got to actually play Call of Cthulhu myself. I was fortunate to have enthusiastic people at the table and an experienced Keeper. We rounded out the evening with some “war stories” of our various gaming groups, the challenges of trying to bring Call of Cthulhu to a general audience very much focused on combat gaming, and some potential plans for future games! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!
Enjoy this? Consider subscribing to RPG Imaginings on YouTube. Lots of CoC unboxings, reviews, etc.