Have you ever wanted to save the world from monstrous Cthulhu style threats from the lovecraftian mythos, in a one-shot game that follows classic disaster movie tropes? Then read on!
There is a super no-prep story game by Magpie Games that I’ve often enjoyed, called Our Last Best Hope. It captures the typical movie trope where a group of people are the last best hope for humanity in a range of scenarios - the basic book includes space disaster, climate disaster and zombie disaster scenarios.
The game can be played for laughs (I’ve heard some very funny runs on podcasts such as OneShot) but it can also be played seriously if one wishes.
The players create characters using one of four archetypes (soldier, scientist, medic, engineer) and each has something they left behind, something they took with them, someone who keeps you sane, someone who drives you crazy, a secret and a fear (secrets and fears are handed to the players on your left and right and means that there is at least two other people who know awkward things about your character...). You also have a ‘death’ card - whether you die in accordance with your fate (or cheat death) can have an impact on the endgame.
A pile of potential threats and equipment are also written down on index cards. In the first part of the game you take it in turns to take on threats and attempt to resolve them, earning black or white dice for the mid-game twist. You can take injuries, and those really hurt your chances later. At the mid-game twist a bunch of dice are rolled and additional complications ensue. Can you resolve the final threats before finding out whether or not you have succeeded? It is not only possible to die in the second act, it is often advisable to - giving your life guarantees that a threat is resolved successfully and earns white dice for the plan. This is a wonderful nod to the movie trope the game emulates.
At the end you roll the big pile of black and white dice you’ve been generating and find out how well you’ve succeeded or how badly you have failed...
These rules are a lightweight hack of the original game to cover some different kinds of adventures. You must purchase the original game from Magpie Games to play! Please visit their site for more details
Why Lovecraft Style?
I like the included scenarios, but I thought it would be fun to try these mechanics for a game with a 1920’s lovecraftian themed game, and it worked very nicely. You’ll need to purchase the game rules from Magpie Games to run it, but you make the following changes to suit the 1920’s Cthulhu Mythos better:
(Replaces the role of Engineer)
Their role is still to keep technology working, but since you are in the 1920's it makes sense for you to be a mechanic rather than an engineer. You are much more likely to be dealing with mechanical and electrical problems back in those days.
Their specialty is to spend a Story Point to add one white die when facing technical threats.
They are great at problem solving, especially when any malfunction or mistake might mean the end of humanity.
(Replaces the role of the Soldier)
The adventurer is the bold person adept with fists and gun, ready to step up the plate when a physical threat challenges the expedition. You may be a wealthy adventurer who seeks a challenge or a tough dock worker who was in the right place at the right time.
Their specialty is to spend a Story Point to add one white die when attempting to inflict damage on a threat.
They are great at fighting off the cultists and more mundane foes on the way to facing the bigger challenge to humanity.
Doctor remains a doctor
The doctor still looks after the psychological and physiological health of the team, and counters biological threats. In a lovecraftian story psychological damage is likely to be a more prominent manifestation of the harm that the team suffer.
They spend a story point to allow a player to ignore their harm dice for one roll.
Without a doctor your chances of lasting long enough to save humanity are greatly reduced
(Replaces the role of Scientist)
The professor has been studying arcane books and mysterious signs. He is familiar with some of the horrors of Cthulhu to some extent or another, and has bold and risky plans for overcoming the threat.
They spend story points to remove one black die from a threat roll.
After years plumbing the secrets man was not supposed to know, your time has come. Perhaps now is the time when your secret knowledge will help your team overcome the threat to humanity.
MIMIC is replaced by the Necronomicon
Rather than have an AI to provide information, the party can consult the terrible Book of secrets. It contains all the information Humanity has about the crisis and can be consulted by any team member at any time.
The Mission is “Stop a Mythos Catastrophe”. You can choose or randomly select a Crisis from the following list:
- Cthulhu is rising from dread R'leyh
- Yog Sothoth is breaching the dimensional boundaries of space and time
- Shoggoths are rising from the deep and sweeping across the land
- Shan have decided that the time has come to dominate all humanity
- Dholes will burst forth from the earth to consume everything
- Deep Ones are set to invade and take over the earth
A great threat is immediate (will kill the team NOW), is local (a direct danger to the team) and is non-negotiable (can’t be talked round).
Example threats from a game we played:
- Cultist ambush
- Corrupt police in the pay of your enemies
- Hounds of tindalos
- Mi-go want your brains
- Engine failure
- A saboteur nearby
- Non-euclidean geometries are going to spirit you away
- Attacked by a biplane while driving through farmland
- Trapped in a room mystically filling with water
- Brakes on car cut and we were going to crash into the harbour
- Tentacles burst through the bottom of the diving bell
- Face to face with a Deep One soldier under the water
In the game that I played when facing a Deep One invasion, we successfully defeated the threat and the sole survivor was feted by humanity for his role, and his description of his heroics. It is sad that his secret was that he was actually a serial killer, and that he was responsible for some of the 'self-sacrifice' of the other party members! (I ought to point out that when we knew that he was a serial killer it was fun to have our sacrifical deaths via the 'death card' to play into that - especially the last person to die whose card read "I will die at the hand of another"!)