Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Three Faces of the Wendigo

This is a collection of scenarios for the Cthulhu Hack that focus on the influence of the Wendigo or The Evil That Devours.

The foreword has the interesting anecdote that the collection was conceived at Dragonmeet 2016 and released for Dragonmeet 2017. Pretty good going!

The three scenarios are: Wolves in the Mountain, Lonely, Dark and Deep and Tainted Meat.

Of the three Tainted Meat is the most substantial and satisfying.

Lonely, Dark and Deep is a short piece about a hunting party in the woods that encounters and essentially fights the Wendigo. The thing is does well is use pre-generated characters to create reasons why the characters are going to tarry too long in the woods until the fateful encounter and also the tensions between them.

Wolves in the Mountain is one of those scenarios where cultists are both deranged in their behaviour but also capable of forming and executing long-term plans with patience, co-ordination and cooperation. The PCs are lured into the mountains to serve as a sacrifice while their town is attacked in their absence. A strong start and conceit gives way to horror that is always more telling than showing, followed by a conclusion that lacks any artistic or dramatic satisfaction.

Tainted Meat is essentially about a town that has started  to consume the regeneration carcass of a Wendigo, leaving them unable to enjoy normal food and enthralled to the town butcher who has hidden the Wendigo. The horror is more subtle and left in the background (although the townspeople's dark acts are spelled out in the text) and the metaphor is strong. The body horror combined with the strong possibility of the adventure's central revelation happens after the characters themselves are tainted is powerful.

The scenario also suggests a misdirection beginning with the characters ending up in the town after an accident. It's an interesting setup but then makes keeping the characters in town and conducting an investigation awkward. I think it would have been more interesting to take a leaf out of Lonely, Dark and Deep and make the characters townspeople responding to the poisoning of their food and themselves.

If found it interesting to see that all of the scenarios are set at some point in the past (some more explicitly than others). Banning the Internet, radios and mobile phones seems necessary to make all of them work. The Wilderness is clearly not what it once was.

Ultimately I felt that all of the scenarios in the collection were starting points for something a bit more interesting and tailored to a particular group or situation. Nothing felt broad and good to go straight from the page, it is well put together but not compelling.
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