Memories of the Orient Express, Part 3: Why did Constantinople get the works?

Where last we left things (in my 1994-5 run-through of Horror on the Orient Express), my players had arrived in Constantinople, having recovered the whole of the Sedefkar Simulacrum from the Fenalik and the Brotherhood of the Skin.

A couple things about my players time in the City of the Sublime Porte {Beware, loads of SPOILERS yonder.}

  • I wish I had known more about Constantinople; I had the basic information presented in the campaign supplemented by a little bit of (Encyclopedia Britannica) outside reading, but having learned a lot more about the city in the decades since, I am confident I failed to fully capture the unique qualities of the city.  [Full disclosure: for unrelated reasons… probably… as part of my graduate school research I ended up doing a great deal of reading about Italian mercantile interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea during the Middle Ages, including Constantinople.]
  • I really disliked the whole Mehmet-as-Hakim (that was his name, yes?) plot.  There was a lot of mustache twirling going on during the campaign, wasn’t there?  Were I to do it again, I’d definitely cut that bit out.  While the cistern scene was interesting, most of the set-pieces, like the graveyard sequence and Beylab the Perspirer were far too scripted for my taste.  The ideas were good but the execution frustrated my players since they quickly sniffed out the fact that the campaign was leading them around by their collective noses.  Beylab in particular was so clearly a trap, down to the gigantic speech I had to read, that some of my players interrupted him to make a break for the door.  Hopefully that fight will be more Eastern Promises than Blue Brothers in the second edition.
  • The mandatory capture and escape sequence from the Red Mosque again proved a frustration to my players.  They had little to do but wait through a series of scripted scenes and gloating monologues.  Let me just add that very few of my players were surprised that Dr. Smith wasn’t quite himself.  The climactic conflict went a little better and seeing the Simulacrum in action was thrilling.

Next time- Back to London

Memories of the Orient Express part 2: Strangeness on a Train

When my Junior year of college began I discovered that a number of my residents were gamers; one had even worked on the English translation of the Swedish horror game ‘Kult‘. While I had run a Star Wars campaign the previous year (much to my delight) I had never run a Call of Cthulhu game before, let alone a campaign. Nevertheless, I’d had the baleful eye of Nyarlathotep-in-train-form staring down from my shelf for two years. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to run Horror on the Orient Express.

We had four or five players, as I recall (and I should add, my memories of the game are in places rather hazy, it has been almost twenty year) and we played roughly once per week for about twenty sessions, wrapping up in the Spring just before finals. While I can’t remember ever character or session, a few points have remained with me (and here be many spoilers): Continue reading