Thursday, August 15, 2013


Last night we finished Beyond the Mountains of Madness, which is widely considered one of the great epic Call of Cthulhu campaigns.  I have previously posted about our ascent through Mountains here and here and my thoughts about how this campaign contrasts with another of the classics; Masks of Nyarlathotep.
I am pleased to say that providing a strong character focus during the early sessions of this campaign let us pick up the action after a nine month break and dive straight back into it.  The finale was played out over several different scenes, as written in the campaign which offered some great action moments.  I think the most important part of running any game which involves dice, is for the GM to understand the system well enough to set the odds so they are likely to deliver the best outcome for the story, then turn it over to the characters and the dice, and accept whatever results are rolled.  This transparency leads to real tension amongst the players, and makes survival, or indeed triumph, so much sweeter.
However, in a campaign like Mountains this can be a high risk strategy.  A finite number of characters are on hand, and after spending time building some intense characterisation, there is always the possibility that a player will have atrocious luck, and be eliminated at any juncture.  In Mountains I tried to mitigate this risk somewhat with paired down house rules from my pulp outings which granted each character a single fate point (allowing survival when death would otherwise have been inventible) and this point gave each character two skill re-rolls per session. Setting the odds for each encounter also allows a GM a high degree of influence in determining a likely outcome which is often not immediately apparent to the players.
The enduring reward for running this campaign, investing in the characters, and having the vast majority survive the campaign, is the legacy of each of these characters after they leave Antarctica.  How they reconcile their harrowing experiences and the dreadful truths they have learnt and what this will ultimately cost them.  This attempt by broken and shattered people to reconcile horror with life in the modern world is, I think, the essence of Lovecraft and a fitting way to leave the campaign.
Campaign Statistics
Sessions Played: 14
Chapters: 16
Number of Players: 7
Number of Characters: 7
Total Fate Points Expended: 2
Character Deaths: 1

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