GM Notes: Les Fleurs du Mal

GM Notes

Tuesday’s podcast was a wrap for the second scenario of Horror on the Orient Express! If you’d like to catch up, you can follow these incredibly helpful Roll to Dodge links.

One of the things that I learned from this particular scenario is that by God bad rolls can grind a research-heavy CoC game to a halt. You just need to listen to the amount of swearing in Episode 3 to see how. The long days at the Bibliotheque Nationale were, while informative for the investigators, not terrifically dynamic. Thankfully, we were able to finish that session off with a bang by introducing The Ghoul Who Was Guillaume and getting some nice, old-fashioned trauma up in this for the investigators. But I see now why games like Trail of Cthulhu were created with the explicit intent of preventing an investigation from stalling in the face of dice that have decided to be polyhedral assholes.

I’m probably going to experiment with making the clues absolutely necessary to advance immediately accessible while having additional interesting but not vital information accessible with successful rolls.

Even when the players’ dice aren’t rolling for shit, I still spend a lot of time as the GM trying to make sure that there are workable ways to communicate necessary information to move the story along. The span spent at Charenton Asylum was probably the most difficult in that respect, because there is a lot of stuff happening in that madhouse that the PCs need to be aware of. Oddly, one bit of information I had been hoping would NOT get pulled into focus was Martin Guimart’s nocturnal escapades—which are, for me, the squickiest thing in this campaign by far.

But sometimes the PCs wind up saddled with the wrong kind of luck. On the flip side, Vivian and Neil dished up some sweet, sweet justice, and that was incredibly satisfying.

The final installment had to be played without Matt, because he and his new wife are now cozily holed up in Seattle. Luckily, Matt had given me an excellent idea for how to write Neil out of the story before shoving off for the city of Penny Arcade and plentiful rain, which made his absence from the game more or less seamless. If Matt ever rolls back through Oklahoma City, though, he’ll always have a spot at any table I GM.

The last adventure was probably the most fun for me to run, since it finally led to both the discovery of the first fragment of the Sedefkar Simulacrum and the first casualty of the campaign from indefinite insanity.

The investigators are only in Paris, and now both Neil and Vivian are effectively out of the picture. Seems like that high rate of character turnover the campaign books mentioned wasn’t just blowing hot air.

Between interacting with the Loriens and discovering Comte Fenalik’s cellar, the last part of the scenario is just a blast. I really do enjoy Horror for a lot of reasons, and one of them is the wonderful moment when the investigators realize that there’s something glowing at the far end of the cellar. The instant where everyone realizes that they have to go find out what it is, but volunteering is practically out of the question due to the dread.

Except for Sally Donovan. Sally Donovan is just a straight-up BAMF. Skeletons on torture racks? Pffft. Please. This Irish reporter’s seen grimmer shit than that before breakfast. You’ll need to try harder than that.

Next up for our intrepid heroes is Lausanne, Switzerland. Before we go there, though, we’re gonna take a bit of a break and explore the world of Eclipse Phase—or, at least, what I’ve interpreted as the world of EP. But don’t worry! We’ll return to HotOE soon enough. And there’ll be some side stories for the PCs to explore, too.

Two words: the Dreamlands.

Onward and upward!

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