Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fordyce Hall

So, Saturday night I began running my new CALL OF CTHULHU adventure, "Fordyce Hall". It's a CTHULHU BY GASLIGHT scenario, set in 1884 in the English countryside, and falls into two parts.

The adventure begins with the first set of Investigators arriving by train at the remote village of Tysoe Abbey in 'Momerset' (the nickname for Somerset among folks who aren't from there, Christopher Wiseman told me); think Somerset/Devon/Gloucestershire.

In Phase One, which we just started, all the PCs are servants who work for the new heir of Fordyce Hall, young Sir Charles Fordyce, a London gentleman who has just inherited the estate from an elderly great-uncle who kept the old place closed up and lived in town (York) instead. Neither Sir Charles nor any of the PCs have ever been there, but the new baronet wants to celebrate Christmas in his new manor and so has sent these trusted servants ahead to get the place in order for the family to follow a month later.

Without giving too much away, at least some of the fun of the adventure should come from multiple layers of distancing. The players are all Americans but here they're playing Englishmen. We're all 'middle-class' but they're playing servants--the "downstairs" of a vanished Upstairs/Downstairs world--but servants off on their own, without any of the Family present. And their characters are city-dwellers used to the modern conveniences of Kensington, like gaslight and modern plumbing and the new central heating, here thrown into a remote manor house that hasn't been renovated for more than half a century--rather like someone from today's Manhattan being dropped off at a Depression-era Kansas farmhouse.

So, on the one hand there's their task at hand, which for various reasons they couldn't have anticipated turns out to be greater than they imagined: a much bigger house, in a greater state of disrepair, on vast ground left to run wild year after year. So far they've done a great job of pulling together, getting organized, and making a preliminary survey. Next comes their first night at the manor, as they start the herculean task of getting enough of the place cleaned up enough that the Fordyces can enjoy a stay in their new ancestral home.

And, of course, I'm curious what they make of the various sanity-sapping occurrences they'll soon begin to encounter. So far what they've encountered has been more in the way of obstacles than mythos threats. They took the first minor shock or two well, but it's early days yet; they've only just arrived at the Manor and had their first look around to get the lay of the land. To use a Tolkien analogy, they're like the Fellowship when they'd only taken a step or two to disturb the dark waters of the Watcher's pool; any vast tentacular beast that might lurk below has given off nary a ripple yet, much less risen to the surface. Without giving too much away, the nature of the threat they face in this scenario is unusual, not your typical C.o.C. fare, and I'm curious how they rise to the challenge.

We'll see.

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