Phaedra's Short Game Summary (spoilers!)
Suggestions for Keepers (spoilers!)
I ran ROUND6, a scenario for Call of Cthulhu by Tobie Abad!
Here is its DriveThruRPG description:
“Everyone desperately needs the money.
Times are hard. And life is unfair. But each of you had been invited to take part in a game unlike any other. Known as the ROUND6, all thirty contestants are to play through five different games in hopes of being the winner of over 6 million dollars. But when the reward is this high and the stakes are deadly, who will emerge as the winner at the end of the sixth round.
Inspired by Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale, Takashi Miike’s As The Gods Will, César Charlone; Daina Giannecchini; Dani Libardi; Jotagá Crema; Philippe Barcinski’s 3%, Haro Aso’s Alice in Borderland, Kazutaka Kodaka’s Danganronpa, and Hwang Dong-hyuk’s The Squid Game.
With 9 different games, all inspired by Filipino children's games, to play and survive in
21 different quick character concepts you can play
Rules for Cinematic, No Keeper, and Survival Horror game styles
Generous guides on how to keep the tension high and recommendations on running the game.
ROUND6 is a unique scenario inspired by, and heavily modelled after, Squid Game. The similarities and throwbacks to the series are obvious throughout, and will likely be enjoyed by all fans of the show and the genre. Stand out qualities include the quality of the PDF and the creatively outlined driving forces of all 30 NPCs, who double as backup player characters. In addition, the variety of ways the game can be played, paired with Keeper tips and randomised table, make ROUND6 shine! While it can technically be fit into one session, I recommend this game be played as a mini campaign, as my experience was that the games and story were rushed to fit into the allotted time.
I ran this game online with four players who all had some experience with Call of Cthulhu. It took approximately 5.30 hours to complete, following strict timings and going from game to game and not including a lot of between-game intrigue. I used 5 games followed by the finale, though the scenario seems to imply that there should be 6 games before the finale, so it could take longer.
What Makes This Scenario Great:
I enjoyed how well thought out the ways this scenario could be approached were. It has clearly been playtested with different types of players and play-styles and revised each time. There are different mechanics to focus on if you’d rather play ‘Cinematically’ or ‘Survival’ for example, which let me modify my game to what I thought would fit my group and the time frame best. This also shows from the Keeper information that tries to answer questions or solves issues that might arise at various points within the scenario as well as the 8 games (from which you pick your favourite 5-6). This game goes a step further than most by being replayable by the same group which might want a different experience.
The PDF design is great. I liked the handouts and images, as well as the detail of adding the lyrics and translations to the Filipino songs that are part of the games! Though I have to admit I was reluctant to sing them myself, and both my players and I agreed that it would have been awesome if the writer had included audio files to the MR package so that I can play them for them during the action.
A lot of thought has been put in the NPCs who can also be used as PCs. They have different appearance and backgrounds in a way that is recognisable, their best skills, traits and treasured possessions are highlighted, and they all have clear and interesting goals for being here. They serve great as easy NPCs to throw in if needed, who are able to come to life independently, provided they don’t need to make any rolls besides their key stats.
The scenario introduces itself with a very thorough few pages on trigger warnings, which I appreciated as the game can be very gory and cut-throat. Inclusion-wise, there was mention of Type 1 Diabetes and allowances for characters who carry medical equipment, which I personally appreciate as a Type 1 myself, and some of the NPCs were Non-binary, which is also excellent.
I found the randomised table of sponsorship very fun! It was hilarious to see my players try so hard to get a gift from the viewers and end up rolling up a bible or condoms. I consider that a stroke of genius!
Suggestions for Improvement:
I believe this game would benefit for the NPCs coming with fuller stat blocks like NPCs do in most call of Cthulhu scenarios, rather than just named key skills. That would make it much easier to grab a new character and continue playing with minimal interruption. Character creation on the day took a long time even though I tried to streamline it, so in retrospect I would have tried to make some myself before the game.
Some of the ‘games’ include very heavy mechanics that were very hard for me to run smoothly while primarily using Theatre of the Mind, as is common with Call of Cthulhu. This is a personal preference and might work well for some people who enjoy crunchy systems and use of maps and potentially minis. I would have appreciated the game including simplified rules for all of them (so a series of rolls like a chase scene) for those of us who struggle with maps and distances. Some games are already tailored more to that playstyle.
Some terminology could do with updating to keep the game in the Call of Cthulhu style: for example using “Bonus die” instead of “Advantage”, which I believe is more of a DnD term. Same also applies to “skills” instead of “stats”.
The Showman, an excellent addition to the game, is not as involved as I would have potentially liked in the scenario until the final game, and for me became an after-thought, with only a line or two about his state in every game, rather than potentially suggested encounters or interactions.
The trigger warning list is missing quite an important trigger I thought, which is dead-naming a trans character. I would have included that in the pre-game discussion. While the presence of a thorough list is great, I wonder whether the sheer amount of things on it, which might or might not be relevant, dilutes its power a bit. I would personally suggest only including things that are definitely part of the scenario as written, and if something else comes up that is up to the Keeper.
Phaedra’s Short Game Summary:
I chose to run the game in survival mode. I printed a list of all the NPCs and then had players roll randomly as to who will be their first PC. My players went through between 2-6 characters during the game. After the initial character creation, which I tried to streamline, we did a bit of role-play around what the characters would have done in the selection process in the lead-up of the game. Then I proceeded to run them through: Tumbang Preso, Ten-Twenty, Luksong Tinik, Dr Quak Quak, Sawsaw Suka, and the Finale (Bahay Bahayan). The person who only lost one character ended up winning the game, alongside one more character who also survived the finale. Some fun highlights were:
A player clumsily antagonised an NPC and was briefly intimidated into doing the NPCs bidding before the NPC refused to help them in a game and they tumbled to their death.
A player tried to kiss an NPC to impress the viewers but was slapped, only for another player to get in on the action. They then killed the player who slapped them and started their own love story, receiving three (very silly) gifts from the viewers. At the end, both died.
One player briefly realised that the Showman was an Avatar of some elder god, only to pass out and awaken by his house.
Suggestions for Keepers:
I did a quick narration of the lead-up to the games and gave everyone a chance to say what their character would do, bearing in mind that they would have to make a new character if they had their character refuse to do a challenge or say no to joining the game. A lot of information about the lead-up to the game and general detail is given about everything, but not a lot of information about how to add this to the scenario. In my opinion, the stuff happening before action could potentially be done in separate 1on1 Session 0s for a campaign-style playthrough. Especially because they’re so similar, playing through the entire thing with every player might get boring for the rest.
I decided that the best way to play this as a one-shot is Survival, allowing people to pick a new character whenever theirs died. This is because for a one-shot there’s not enough time for in-depth roleplay as well as playing the games, and not having people get through the entire game with one character made roleplay less likely and it became more of a number’s game. If I had time, however, my preference would have been to increase roleplay and in between scenes, even though that would be extra Keeper prep and/or improv.
I added to that a point system to see how everyone fared at the end for fun. I deducted points for each character death - 1 point for one death, 2 for two, 3 for three, etc. And then had the winner(s) gain 5 points. The person with the highest point total did the best in the game.
For a one-shot, it made more sense to me to pick 5 games and then have the finale be Round 6, rather than 7. It still seemed rushed in a 5.30 hour game, and having fewer than 6 rounds seems silly (because of the title).y recommendation would be to give this game more than 6 hours to make the most out of it, but also to keep the games fast-paced, as getting bogged down on mechanics can be tiring.
Most of my players felt that the finale had a massive element of luck which took away their agency and the chances of them making it through. That is because it depends a lot on the team having certain very specific skills. This might not be a problem for other players, but it is a thing to be prepared for as a Keeper and it may be worth thinking of a way to work around it if it would be a problem for your group. Finales can feel underwhelming if it feels like you had no chance at all of making it. I personally didn’t feel like it was too much, but I am the Keeper and it’s the players’ opinions that matter more.
If you'd like your own Miskatonic Repository Scenario reviewed on Phaedra Keeps an Eye, contact me through Stars Are Right, or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.