Jan 072015
Rag-NERD-rok Podcast Tree

A respected mathematician, an ex-RAF non-com and a scholar of the occult set out to the remote Scottish isle of St. Margaret’s in pursuit of a trio of missing persons who vanished months ago. As cover, they take up positions at a boarding school, a holdover from the Victorian era where English girls are moulded into proper young ladies, but something seems amiss. The students are sickly and listless, victims of sudden and horrific injuries. Faculty and staff seem equally apathetic about life at St. Margaret’s. All this raises a number of questions that our Investigators must answer, even if it costs their last vestiges of sanity: Is there something more at work on the island than educational ennui? What drew the missing persons to the school in the months prior, and what caused their disappearance? Finally, what can be done to save the students from succumbing to The Dying of St. Margaret’s? Listen to find out!

  • Ryan was saying at the end there that the adventure was like a funhouse. I often say that CoC adventures come in two flavors: haunted houses, where you’re going through a relatively linear set of spooky events, which are often action-oriented (Adam Scott Glancy writes a lot of these), versus investigations, where you have more of the “follow the clue to the destination of your choice” Black Isle CRPG-style freedom of movement and agency. I think Dying and all of the other Final Revelation games are haunted houses disguising themselves as revelations. characters feel like they’re figuring out a mystery, but they’re really moving from weird image to weird image, with the illusion of having the power to affect events.

    which is fine, as far as it goes. it’s certainly what Ken was going for. I think a lot of players have trouble with it, though, because they’re less games and more short stories that you walk through. this scenario played out almost scene for scene identically to the RPPR run of Dying.

    if you don’t like Gumshoe, you should listen to the RPPR talk podcast’s postmortem of their Tribes of Tokyo campaign run in Night’s Black Agents, because as usual Caleb’s explanation of -why- he likes Gumshoe made a convert of me. his argument is that it lets you mimic narrative structure in a much more interesting way–decide to risk failure now so you can succeed in the clutch. in the second B-Sides, he runs Fall Without End in Trail twice, and it works sooo much better than in CoC, because your characters can feel themselves -getting tired.- admittedly, that’s much more the case in games that are heavier on the general/physical abilities than on investigative–I think the Final Revelation games could as easily be run systemlessly, with the GM giving players whatever clues feel appropriate to their character. but since part of the point is making players -think- they have agency, I can see why it was done with rules.

    fun game, anyway. I really love that the “you’ll work in the kitchens” was built into the scenario.

    • *disguising themselves as investigations, not revelations. clearly need more wine.

    • Nextlevel2

      Funny you mentioned RPPR because didn’t they just put up a trail of Cthulhu campaign?

      Ryan definitely got the Robin Williams/Mrs Doubtfire thing down packed! Perfect impression of a classic comedy, may Robin Williams RIP.

      • Unfortunately, my Scottish accent does owe a great deal to Robin Williams’ performance in Mrs. Doubtfire. See also: his accent-hopping scene in Death to Smoochy.

        I’m sure there’s a fair bit of Ed as Mrs. Wells in there, too.

      • indeedyes, this very one. this is the first adventure from the Final Revelation campaign. although it looks like Dying was also sold separately.

  • Omega

    crawlkill already stated most of the points I feel to be made about Gumshoe/the Final Revelation scenarios. Gumshoe, and especially Trail, have their purpose, and it’s one I admire them for, but it’s something everybody has to be on-board with going in, because these type of “purist” scenarios especially aren’t so much a “game” as more of an interactive fiction, or a CYOA. Nothing against them, but that type of thing isn’t all things to all people. The RPPR guys (Caleb especially) like them, but that doesn’t mean everybody has to. I’d also say that much like a CYOA book, these types of scenarios have limited “replayability” or flexibility. You run it once or twice, you get the same show each time. Or you can cheat and just read the whole thing.

    Props to Ryan for his commitment to accents (as a GM I dread accent theatre time. I should probably stop putting NPCs who aren’t generic Americans into my games then. Especially when I write characters I have no fucking clue what their accent should be like), and to everyone else for trying to be suitably British at least most of the time, kind of.

    Also Ryan, I don’t have to give you a long laundry list of errors. You’ve finally learned, when you don’t know what the rule is, you looked it up, and were better for it. I have nothing more to teach you.

    Alternatively, if that’s not entertaning enough for your gentle ribbing; u fuckin’ wot m8? Ill fit u. Swear on me mum.

  • Chados

    While I do like some of the new rules ideas they introduced with the Gumshoe system(more Player Agency, point pools), I don’t really like the system. I much prefer the randomness and larger margin of success/failure of the d% system(1d6? WTF?), and the ability to control some of your destiny of the Moxie system of Eclipse Phase. If I can get my CoC campaign going (maybe soon), I want to introduce the dice rolling/crit/Moxie systems of EP into it somehow.

    While I can see some point of the ok, “spend a point and you learn this clue” of Gumshoe, it seems if you don’t have points in the skill, or you are out, you get nothing, no dice roll or anything. Meh.

    I do kinda like the glum despair brought out by the scenario- for some reason, I liked it.

    • Alex

      I understand what you’re saying. One of the things I like about Gumshoe is that if your character is good at something, you don’t have to make a roll to get a clue and possibly fail it, thereby missing the clue. If you’re a biologist, you know about biology. That part makes sense. Not being able to do anything when you run out of points, and not having many easy ways to refresh them, doesn’t.

      If you’re looking to add a Moxie-like system into CoC, you might want to check out the 7th Ed book first. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I know they added a reroll mechanic (finally). It’s not quite Moxie, but it’s better than nothing.

      • of course, you can always Gumshoeize CoC and just hand players clues/ask “does anyone have biology at 40 or above? okay you get this information.” particularly if you the GM designed the pregens for a oneshot and know exactly who has the “right” to a particular clue.

        CoC’s biggest failing is in understanding there should only be a possibility of failure when failure is an interesting outcome. its design aesthetic is very much of that early days pseudo-simulationist style.

        • Chados

          That is a great compromise, Crawlkill! At least, the investigators will get the “Core” clues like Gumshoe.

          I prefer the random chances of the d% system, and the % skills make sense to me, but I can see how some people would prefer the ToC/Gumshoe system.

          Alex, I haven’t heard much about the 7th edition rules, so I will have to check that out. It might be easier to get my group onboard if it’s an “Official” system, instead of my CoC-Moxie hack.

          • Alex

            If I remember correctly, you can “Push” failed rolls. Basically it lets you reroll a failure and hope for a success. If you succeed, great. But if you fail again, you get a consequence worse than what the initial failure would have been.

            7th Ed. has also incorporated luck points, but I don’t know what they’re for, unfortunately.

        • Alex

          That’s a good idea! I’ll have to keep that in mind for the next time I run COC.

          • yeah, you can improve CoC with a little cross-pollenation easily. the one time I ran it I also ported the Eclipse Phase crit rules, just because nerds hate doing even the simplest math but can mostly recognize doubles at a glance. you end up with substantially fewer critical successes and more critical failures (skill of 100 in CoC is 20% chance to crit succeed and I think only 1 or 2 to crit fail? as opposed to EP’s, what, 10% chance to crit succeed at a skill 100, but 9% chance to crit fail at skill of 10?).

          • Omega


            The Drunk and Ugly guys substitute the EP rolling system for CoC a lot, and it works pretty well for them. Doubles/Excellent, etc. I think that the Blackjack rule is a lot easier to grok than having to do a subtractive math. Also, MoS/MoF rules mean that if you have an 80 in something, and you fail, you don’t fail by that much.

    • Omega

      As I said above, I like Gumshoe for what it does, but I can agree with your points. Gumshoe, especially in Trail is not very game like. I don’t even know if it has the cherry rules and stuff. You try another game, like Night’s Black Agents, that has cherries and a lot more use of general abilities in extended manners (gunfights, fist-fights, car chases) so you tend to roll more dice. Now, if you don’t like the smaller probability spread, that’s just dice for you, but it does have more randomized interactivity (with, of course, points to help massage the randomization, much like Moxie). It changes the experience.

      In Eclipse Phase, I tend to use the Margin of Success/Failure a lot when giving clues or information from knowledge or technical skills. You roll a 01 out of 40, well, I’ll give you the basic information literally anyone who took those 10 minutes to look at the problem could probably have guessed. You roll a 30/30 or 40/40, then you’re on the top of your game, and you’re solving clues like Sherlock Holmes on Kick. And even if you fail, if your Margin is small, I can still give general information a doctorate in Computer Science would know (“This code fragment is incredibly complex”) without giving a whole clue (“This code fragment is obviously TITAN work, and matches samples from Iapetus”), so that you can find another tact or come to conclusions on your own. If you fail completely, well, nothing about the transhuman future says you can’t have a brain fart.

      (nb, for those interested, there is an EP Gumshoe hack being developed sporadically on the EP forums you might want to check out.

      Personally, I’ve toyed around with making an ORE hack to EP, since I like EP and my group also likes ORE, but I haven’t done much with it)

  • Chados

    Oh yeah, and thanks for the mention. 🙂 I *did* make a ringtone from Meyer’s “AAAAHHHH!!” outburst from the BA: Apex City 5 episode, and about 5 seconds of James’ laughing about it. Good stuff. I’m still not sure what happened to set Meyer off, something Ed did, maybe?

    • NextLevel2

      That’s hilarious!! You’re going to have to put it up on iTunes and share hahaha!!

    • Seriously though, if you send the file to our email address, I’ll share it on the website so that all Rag-NERD-rok fans can enjoy the Meyer / James ringtone.

  • Mark from Illinois

    First time commenter, coming on to say a couple of things:

    1) I really loved your guys’ play-through of this scenario. Despite the less-than-accurate accents, you did a very good job getting into character, which made the inevitable grim outcome all the more moving. Also, Ryan did a good job hitting the proper notes of bleakness and gray despair.

    2) I’ve run through “Dying” once with my gaming group, a few years ago, and had a blast. It was my first time running/my group’s first time playing Trail also. I’ve got to disagree with the people upthread who say that “Dying” is the same every time, and player choices don’t matter. Yes, my run-through did feature the same bitter end (or at least a similar one) but on the way there, different things happened. They took to the Gumshoe system pretty naturally, and spent a lot of time investigating all kinds of weird stuff, and formulating all manner of bizarre plan to defeat whatever they found in the cave. They all died anyway (except for one character who turned on the Machine, walked into it, and is now spending all of eternity being slowly and excruciatingly pulled into the center of a black hole) but their journey to death was very different from either the RNR or RPPR play-throughs.

    • Omega

      Well, I’ll admit I’ve never read Dying. So just from two listens, it operates fairly similarly (though not the same, obviously. RPPR went back out of the cave and turned on the machine, for instance, rather than what RNR did). I’d say that the variance is nothing to do with Dying itself, as I’m fairly certain there’s no “spend points to concoct a master plan” bullet point in there anywhere. Your group took to Gumshoe well, and were able to do something outside the CYOA scenario itself and prep for it, all for it to basically be meaningless for the same reasons that Dying is a purist scenario which will always end roughly the same way. I’d say that says more about the quality of your group than the quality of Trail or “Dying”.

      Not to bash ToC or anything, I have players who’d probably really love Dying, since they take to CoC-style game with a very Gallows Humor over the whole thing. They’d be looking around every corner for something to eat them and then probably go “AW SHIT” when it finally gets them (or they decide to leave the country) and laugh about it later. I just would say that Dying doesn’t seem like a great “game” scenario, you have to bring your own game, and that’s not for everyone.

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