Mar 182015
Rag-NERD-rok Podcast Tree

This week, we wrap up Alex’s Call of Cthulhu one-shot, The Blackbourne Expedition! Miles from civilization in the arctic Svalbard Archipelago, our Investigators have discovered the isolated cabin where James Blackbourne and his fellow surveyors took refuge from the elements. When Doctor Appleton wanders off in the middle of the night, the remaining members of the party set off to track him down. Their search leads them to a set of puzzling animal tracks, into the heart of a dangerous winter wind storm, and toward a confrontation that could be the end of them all. Is there a connection between the mysterious tracks and Appleton’s disappearance? What dark purpose do the stone idols of the octopoid horror serve? What terrible fate befell James Blackbourne on Nordaustlandet? Listen to find out!

  • I have always wanted to be as cool as you Meyer and I’m confident you’ll be the next Obama

    I was glad Alex addressed how it would’ve gone if he hadn’t had an instigating NPC in there, cause I was wondering the whole time. if I had any useful feedback, it might be…longer climax? the whole conclusion comes on and concludes pretty rapidly. there was room for more of a change of scenery in there. the terrible ice-caves beneath the snow, the unintended passage halfway into some otherworld, something that drew out the panic part of the evening a little longer. these two games were heavy on confusion, heavy on helplessness, but once things actually got super bad, they ended almost straight away thereafter. which is fine and Lovecraftian and all, but as a game structure, I think it’s less memorable than having the final act be a little more textured than “you’re fucking doomed a few rounds after you’re noticed.”

    and Svalbarg will never be as good without ARMORED BEARS.

  • Omega

    I hate to tell you guys, but the way I learned CoC is that it’s a critfail on 96+. Been a while since I checked the actually rules though.

    This scenario is interesting, reminds me a lot of the first chunk of the Walker in the Wastes campaign.

    Though Meyer’s roleplaying seems off to me somehow. Like he’s concerned with things as a player or questioning things about the wrong aspects that don’t fit with how I remember his character in the first section. Other times he might be very in character but his very incredulous questions seem.. I dunno, redundant. Asking Ryan questions which boil down to “the fuck you talking about” when everybody on the meta knows at least that Ryan can only shrug his shoulders and go “I’m only saying what dice tell me, comrade”. It just doesn’t flow as well as other buddy-cop team ups in the RNR past. Though I suppose part of it is Ryan’s own fault, running with the six-leg thing when he still passed his SAN check to rationalize it.

    (Though maybe this is some fine tuning Alex could do, arming players who pass rolls with finer details they can more clearly point out – and thus spread more chances for crazy to others. Because when your arctic survival expert says he’s never seen tracks like this and it almost looks like an animal has six legs and jumped 10 feet, that should at least be a SAN check because that shit be crazy).

    • Omega

      Something I want to add since Alex said he did a lot of research on this scenario is that it shows, and shows well. As a person pretty well versed in the Cthulhu Mythos, it was definitely interesting to listen to it and pick up on the elements as they showed up and kind of know what would be going on, even so far back as when Alex described “Dante Must Die” mode with Ithaqua and being like “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard some games with the Wind Walker before, then you’d be like right fucked”. It accomplishes that “purist” feel very well, playing a lot like a Lovecraft short story, but it doesn’t sit back and chortle “ohoho, you were doomed from the start” like I feel at the conclusion of some ToC scenarios. Statistically, failure is very likely, but you don’t quite feel how fucked it all is right up until the blood and the screaming.

      (Though Crawlkill has some very salient points. Ice caves filled with horrible occult shit from beyond ye ken would also be sweet)

      • Alex

        Thanks! I really appreciate that! The “not know how fucked you really are until it’s too late” thing is what I was going for.

        And while I do kind of like the idea of the ice caves, I’m not sure how well it would fit with the scenario. Part of me thinks that any other way to torture players in a CoC came is fun, but another part thinks it would just be prolonging the suffering for no reason. Unless the caves had a secret exit somewhere away from the camp…….

  • Kevin

    Loved it guys, it was a well written scenario I’d love to use, except half of my players would die in crevasses or freeze to death in the first half. I especially loved this one because I tend to superimpose Meyer onto all of his characters, no matter how he describes them (and you do have a link to his tumblr on the site), and I really enjoyed the image of a fur-clad Meyer desperately shouting ‘CTHULHU! CTHULHU!’ at a bunch of nonplussed tribesmen.

    I’m in Crawlkill’s boat about the ending though. I was a bit disappointed at the missed potential, if only because of how well Alex set up atmosphere with James Blackbourne’s journal. That creeping feeling of being not only trapped\watched, but actively hunted, a feeling reinforced and intensified by the sheer isolation of the setting. The abrupt blood-spattered end is fine for short stories and the like, but Ragnerdrok has become a victim of its own competence and I was really looking forwards to Alex’s gnoph-keh and cannibal tribe sadistically stalking Meyer and Ryan across the snows (or through the caves).

    On the other hand, if the story had gone another way we may have never gotten to see Harold thrown under the bus in favor of a dog, so yay silver linings!

  • NextLevel2

    Anyone who doesn’t like Meyer or his pre-recorded throwing up can screw off hahaha! 🙂
    By the way may your friend RIP and my condolences, truly.

    You guys always create great content no matter what you spit out! I have faith haha.

  • Chados

    Ok, I’ll take one for the team and be the guy that thinks Meyer is the coolest guy in the world. I also think Alex’s apple slices and pausing while he looks up things, is awesome. 😉

    I’m not sure at what point I realized the players were just, well, fucked. Probably there wasn’t much chance after they got down to like 6 or 7 sled dogs and with Harold still wanting to continue.

    • Alex

      The chance for success are slim to none, but they’re there. I don’t remember if I said it on mic or not, but if Ryan hadn’t started shooting the cultists, they would have had more time to deal with them. If Meyer had pulled out the Cthulhu idol when they weren’t in the middle of trying to kill him, he probably could have parlayed with them.

      If they had managed to kill the gnoph-keh (which, as far as Mythos monsters go, isn’t too strong), the sea ice between the main islands of Svalbard would have been intact and they could have walked/sledded back. It would have been extremely rough going, and they might not all have made it, but it would be possible. Although I think what happened in this game is the most likely outcome.

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