Pilgrim's Hope Review
Phaedra's Short Game Summary (spoilers!)
Suggestions for Keepers (spoilers!)
I ran Pilgrim's Hope, a Copper bestseller scenario for Call of Cthulhu by Jazmin Ospa!
Here is its DriveThruRPG description:
“At a stop in Illinois with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show and snakes are let loose during the performance. Performers and audience members are attacked-it's up to some plucky performers from the show to save the day-as the show must go on. Can they round up some snakes before too much harm is done?
Included are pregenerated characters with autocalc sheets and an option for keepers to use historical characters. Suitable for 3-5 players and a single 3 hour session. For use with Call of Cthulhu 7e rules and the Down Darker Trails book.”
Pilgrim's Hope is a concise but action-packed convention scenario set in the Wild West. It can be played with or without the Down Darker Trails supplement. Containing compelling sandbox elements despite its short nature, as well as an exciting mythical antagonist, this scenario can make for a thoroughly enjoyable, low-prep game night for both fans of the western genre and not alike!
I ran this game in person with three players with limited Call of Cthulhu experience. It took approximately 2.30 hours to complete in leisurely fashion. With more players and those heavily inclined to role-play it could potentially take longer.
What Makes This Scenario Great:
This scenario gives concise and interesting background information on the snake-handling religion it explores, including real and relevant bible quotes.
The Pre-generated Characters are diverse and partly inspired by real people. They also have their own horses (or camel!) with unique stats, and I loved the use of a legendary creature from Indigenous folklore.
A chase scene is included with information for new players on how to run it. It is well laid out, with a good number of obstacles to it.
I really enjoyed the story structure of this scenario - without giving any spoilers, an open exploration can occur while also giving the Keeper final decision making on when and how things escalate (more past spoiler section).
The map of the town is drawn in a lovely style.
Suggestions for Improvement:
The writing can be difficult to read at times, and the Keeper background information feels incorrectly ordered. I would have liked a summary of the scenario before the history of the church. The handouts could also be labelled, and some stats are confusing.
A few more images in the text, even if fillers, would have been nice to improve the reading experience.
When I ran this scenario, the hook felt a bit weak. It is easy for the investigators to choose to not go down that path, or to have more people than just the 3-5 of them follow them along, making the Keeper have to manage several NPCs in a small town early on. In the beginning, a choice can be made that makes the hook even weaker, potentially.
Would have been helpful to include the character sheets in separate PDFs that can also be used with a phone, either as pages of the scenario, flat PDFs, or using the newest Chaosium character sheets.
The chase scene including the player, NPC, monster, villager AND mount stats can get a bit convoluted. The mount stats, while fun as flavour, can be a bit cumbersome, and I would have preferred a generic "mount stat block".
Phaedra’s Short Game Summary:
Annie Oakley, the Gunslinger
Katy Quinn, the Entertainer
Robert Paul Gladstone, the Soldier
Before their usual Wild West show, our investigators saw and talked to a doctor warning them of the nearby town of Pilgrim's Hope and selling anti-venom. Curious, but not alarmed, they almost excelled in all their performances, until snakes were released into the crowd, and a small girl got beaten. Realising they have some anti-venom, but no way to administer it in time, they went to find the doctor, but he was gone. The nearest town, Pilgrim's Hope, was their best chance. First, they snuck around some tents, bumping into a concerningly overdressed man. They ran off and started searching for the doctor: they went to the underground of the church, vandalised the chairs, then took an impressive-looking amulet. They briefly visited the church service, but all to no avail; the doctor was nowhere, and no one would give them the info they required besides "he sinned, so he was taken away". They decided to visit the townsfolk's houses as well as patronage, where they used the unusual amulet to keep any snakes that were found inside those places away. They eventually found the doctor in a hidden cellar and his medical bag in a snake enclosure. Using the amulet again, they got him out. But then the vibrations that were ongoing throughout this investigation got worse. They found their horses and started riding off. Trying to get the inexperienced doctor on his horse, Robert got delayed as an angry mob emerged from the church, blocking their path. Seeing that, Annie returned to help and Robert, with a gunshot, dispersed the crowd. This crowd included strong, snake-like people and easily managed to dismount Annie just in time for a gigantic snake to emerge from the ground and grab her. When Katy saw that, she couldn’t comprehend the horror and blocked any memories of the last several hours. Turning around, she rode back into the show tent, only remembering what happened a few minutes later, and returning to help her friends. However, she only managed to save the doctor’s medical bag full of antivenom while her friends were consumed by the giant snake and the doctor was brutally killed by the mob. The little girl was thankfully saved.
Suggestions for Keepers:
I would recommend not following the book when it says to hint at the priest having taken him, as actually exploring the church last or near to last makes it most likely that the investigators will be more concerned and therefore pick up interesting amulet.
The chase scene is convoluted because of mounting and dismounting horses and the snake burrowing and crawling having different speeds. I suggest either simplifying the chase scene with homebrew rules or being very prepared in advance in order to not have to make new calculations. You might, for example, include: two generic ‘mob’ crowds, one for humans and one for snake people, the scores for the giant snake, all of the horses, all of the investigators, and the doctor.
Some groups might not let the doctor leave after buying the anti-venom. After telling them they’re all in danger, it doesn’t make sense for him to go back. You could make him stay but then make him disappear alongside the pastor and snake people - as if they abducted him. Also make sure the antivenom they buy is not enough to prevent them from going to Pilgrim's Hope in the first place.
Instead of rolling randomly, I had the snakes appear during the final act so that everyone got to make their rolls, and no one felt like their character didn’t get a chance to shine. So only the final performance got the snake scene.
The use of the amulet was not very clear in the scenario, but I had it repulse all snakes by having it shown to them. Unfortunately, my investigators failed to use it with the giant snake, and it cost two of them their lives.
If you'd like your own Miskatonic Repository Scenario reviewed on Phaedra Keeps an Eye, contact me through Stars Are Right, or email me: email@example.com.