Viral – A Miskatonic Repository Review [Call of Cthulhu]

Viral

A modern Call of Cthulhu Scenario

Author: Alex Guillotte & Buds RPG Review
Publisher: The Miskatonic Repository
Page Count: 110
Available Formats: PDF
PDF(DTRPG) – $12.95

Spektral Krew is the hottest ghost hunting show on the internet, and it is about to go viral. Led by lead investigator Marco ‘Proudfoot’ Maglioni and his talented ghost hunter crew, the Spektral Krew delve into the planet’s most scarious places for their loyal internet audience. At this moment, a chance for the show to go viral is upon them. They have a special broadcast lined up to put the show over in ratings and rake in a ton of money.

Viral is a modern-day 7th edition Call of Cthulhu scenario where players play as the Spektral Krew, an internet ghost hunting team. The team has secretly arranged to broadcast from a remote island off the coast of Sicily which houses a notorious hospital shut down by the Italian government in 1954. The island has remained off-limits to everyone ever since. The crew hopes the broadcast takes off, goes viral, and propels them to internet fame.

Please note that Viral has a lot of disturbing encounters and visually haunting moments. Before starting a session, it is advisable to speak with your players about the kinds of horrors within. With your home group, you should know where your players stand and what could upset them. At convention games, be aware. Some of the scenes in Viral may prove too much for some. Always start your session with a conversation and know your players’ boundaries.

The Spektral Crew is led by Marco ‘Proudfoot’ Maglioni, Lead Investigator. Marco is the founder and face of the organization. He loves the camera, and the camera loves him. He works hard to look his best and does not miss an opportunity to check. Supporting Marco is a crew of five. Corrina Trench (investigator) believes in the supernatural and is a professional medium. She is in tune with psychic energies and paranormal entities. Enoch Jeremiah Eakins (investigator) is a mountain of a man and is often used as the crew’s bodyguard. He is a former Mennonite and deals with his problems by numbing them through intoxication. Peter Wharton is the crew’s cameraman and is always super excited to get a paranormal event in the viewfinder. Ku Hyeon is the show’s producer and technician. He has a background in sound engineering and is the group’s resident skeptic. Finally, there is Maya Adeuwon, Marco’s editor and producer. Maya is wheelchair-bound and coordinates for the group from her home in London, England. Maya is the control center for the group. She monitors the live feed and directs and splices the final product together. If it were not for her, the crew would not have had the opportunity to investigate the remote island. She will not be there in person, but her voice will be in their ears, keeping them on schedule.

Players can opt to create their own paranormal investigators. A section for creating your own Spektral Crew investigators is provided. It is important that players who make their own character be on board with the concept of the scenario, performing on an internet show and doing what it takes to make it go viral. If players are not keen on playing as designed, there are suggested alternatives like tourists accidentally dropped on the island or a research group with permission to travel to the island. Using one of these alternatives will change the whole concept of the scenario but not the discovery of what horrors lie in wait.

Viral is a one-shot scenario with five pre-generated Spektral Krew characters. The scenario is perfect for a convention game but is too long to fit most convention time slots. Luckily the authors considered this and arranged a one, two, or three-session variation to meet a Keeper’s need, using vital encounters and locations to streamline the scenario to the desired length.

The scenario opens with the crew starting on the island with suggestions to begin to play with their arrival in Italy to conduct a pre-show investigation. The pre-show investigation is not developed in the scenario, but it is planned for expansion once the publication becomes available in print. The expanded section will have the investigators conversing with the locals and researching the island’s history.

Though Maya will not be present, she is the Keeper’s right-hand NPC to keep the players on schedule. From the time the Krew lands on the island until they are picked up later in the evening, Maya will be doing her best to produce the best stream ever. She will have to censor content that might get their Youtube feed demonetized, fill video gaps with historical and filler footage, monitoring chat messages, and make sure the crew adheres to the shot list. Not to make it sound like a railroad adventure, but the team should not deviate from the shot list. Doing so makes Maya’s job a lot harder; shuffling pages and rearranging filler video feeds will cost the feed viewership. Everything will need to be perfect to make this the Spektral Krew’s biggest show ever. Staying on schedule will ensure success.

Should the Keeper feel the need to add an extra hand in the field, a special “Super Fan” NPC or a rival ghost investigator NPC is available for use. The “Super Fan” has earned the privilege to accompany the Krew on their latest ghost hunt while the rival ghost hunter has beaten the Spetkral Krew to the island with her team, who has gone missing. Both are optional additions to the scenario.

The island they are investigating, Isola di Malamente, has a rich and troubling past. Located on it is the infamous Saint Roche’s Hospital. It is notorious for mistreating its patients and other horrible atrocities. In 1954 the Italian government seized control of the island and shut down the facility. Today only the derelict structures of the hospital and its dark past are left for the Spektral Krew to exploit. Will the Spektral Krew uncover the truth, or will they become the next chapter in the island’s horrid past?

Viral depends on the players buying into the story and embracing their internet personalities. The scenario provides a lot of control for the Keeper to steer the investigators along with the designated path; the shot list. Though no Keeper should forcibly make their players’ characters go where they do not want to, the prescribed order of encounters allows for a very nice build-up to the finale. The pressure of broadcasting live, and the importance of an uninterrupted feed to increase viewership should alleviate any heavy-handedness the Keeper may need to use to get the investigators moving to their next encounter. At a convention table, it is easier to forgive (necessary for time management), but for your home groups, a forceful hand may raise an eyebrow or two if not a Keeper’s usual method of gamemastering. It is best to encourage your players to get into their characters and ham it up. They will question it less when you force them to move along after dominating playtime with their antics for their viewers.

Viral incorporates a couple of new game mechanics. The first is called The Sight. It is an innate ability to connect characters with the spirit realm. Those with The Sight are attuned to the spirit world with heightened perception and giving them more insight into the world of the paranormal than typical characters. A character with The Sight may embrace it, fight it, or try to gain control over it and use it to their will. However, it requires using magic points or other spent commodities to invoke it. It is an insightful addition that can aid the investigators and the Keeper alike.

The second new mechanic is called Taint. From the moment the Spektral Krew arrive on the island, they are subject to accumulating Taint. As one can surmise by the name, Taint is not something you really want to collect. Without spoiling anything, the amount of Taint a character accumulates is directly tied to the climax of the scenario. To understand the full scope of Taint, you are just going to have to read or play and find out for yourself.

To match the heightened horror in Viral, the scenario comes with an alternative sanity loss chart. It is tailored to coincide with the scenario’s horror or ghost hunting activities. There are tables for Insanity and Bouts of Madness.

The scenario also includes a new mythos entity, spell, and mythos tome. The details of which will remain cloaked to preserve the story’s integrity. What I can divulge is that each is well constructed and thoroughly thought-out. The authors’ creations tie in nicely with the story and compliment it. Viral comes with a plethora of handouts. From various maps of the island to messages and updates about the video feed. There is a lot for the players to put their hands on.

One aspect of the scenarios that may tax a keeper is keeping up the live commenting from viewers. At each location, a handout with suggested viewer comments is provided. They range from “what as that behind that tree?” to egging the investigators to do something outrageous for a cash donation. Some suggestions will require the Keeper to remind the players to stay in character. To focus on their character’s goals as some requests throw caution and reason to the wind. Remember, it is all in good fun and for getting the show to go viral.

The next time you head out to a gaming convention or gathering around your home table, consider a night of horror with the Spektral Krew and their ambition to take their internet show to the next level and go viral. You and your table will have a memorable time and a great story to tell.

~Stephen Pennisi

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