If you ask Call of Cthulhu fans to list their favorite horror adventures, Dead Light is guaranteed to be in the top 10. It’s been described as a “quintessential” horror adventure.
I won’t spoil the adventure for those of you haven’t played it yet. But the back cover advertises it as an adventure about surviving a single night. Trapped by a storm, the PCs are stranded away from civilization with something out there in the darkness. If you’re a fan of Alien, you’ll like Dead Light.
What strikes me about Dead Light is that it’s such a simple setup. While the adventure setting is evocative, the plot is simple, the enemy is singular, and the only real twists and turns are the ones that the Gamemaster and players create together.
I was inspired by Dead Light‘s constraints, and set up similar ones for myself when I wrote this month’s free adventure – Those the Comet Brings. I wanted the location of the adventure to be tight and moody, the foes to be small in number, and to only have a couple of NPCs for the players to deal with. Basically, I “built” the adventure with an indie movie budget.
To make sure I landed in a place that was different from Dead Light, I set Those the Comet Brings in 1951. The characters are (mostly) teenagers heading to the Jersey Shore for some sun, waves, and beer. Suddenly, strange radiation brings their car to a halt in the Pine Barrens… and they stumble on to a horrible scene involving dead bodies, a mysterious meteor, and dangerous creatures from another star. Although I didn’t intend it when I started writing the adventure, it really ended up with a 1950s creature-feature vibe! Cue the actor in the rubber suit…
Is Simple Better?
So are constrained, straightforward adventures better than ones with more locations, characters, and plot hooks? I think they have pros and cons:
- Easier for new players. Constrained adventures make great introductions to new roleplayers. Having an adventure take place at a single location means there’s less need for players to imagine the world outside the adventure. Players don’t have to think about going to the library, university, or police station to find clues. Everything is right there.
- Easier to finish in a single session! Similar to the above, when there’s not an entire town worth of NPCs and locations, players won’t waste time going down rabbit holes that aren’t important to the adventure. (This is often fun and makes for great roleplaying, but wandering can turn a one-shot adventure easily into a three-shot adventure!)
- Harder to GM! A detailed review of Dead Light mentioned “the Keeper needs to pace the scenario and not have it hunt down and kill everyone… The danger here is that in the hands of an inexperienced Keeper, Dead Light has the potential to result in the death of everyone!” I think this is true of a lot of scenarios where the PCs are trapped in a tight location with a dangerous foe. If the GM doesn’t turn it into a cat-and-mouse game, the entire adventure can run off the rails, with unprepared PCs getting wiped out early, or skilled gamers figuring out how to slay the big bad right away.
Realizing that the last issue might be a problem, I designed around it in Those the Comet Brings. The creatures that stalk the PCs literally need to recharge their abilities at a specific location after using them. This way, I have a solid reason as a GM to have them retreat, and a tool to keep the PCs alive for longer stretches of time. When I ran it, not only did this help me pace the adventure, but it gave the players another tool to use against the monsters.
If you want a quick overview of the adventure with more stories about how this one played out, check out my YouTube overview:
Get the FREE adventure here!
Download the free adventure for both Call of Cthulhu and GURPS Horror here:
Get THOSE THE COMET BRINGS (GURPS Atomic Horror)
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Get THOSE THE COMET BRINGS (Call of Cthulhu)
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What simple, constrained adventures have you enjoyed? Let me know in the comments below!
Related: From 50s Horror to 80s Horror
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This may seem silly, but can you explain the verb conjugation in the title? “The comet” is the singular subject, while “those” are the plural object, so I would expect the verb to be “brings” for a third-person singular subject. “Those the Comet Brings.” But you have “bring” instead. Why is that?
Hahaha! I think I just got it wrong! I went back and forth on that like five times. Sigh. I’ll fix it in the next update! 🙂
Because the subject of the sentence (the nominative) is “The Comet”, the object of the sentence (Accusative) is “Those”. Since the nominative is singular, i.e. there is just one comet, the verb is third person singular: Brings.
The sentence is essentially:. The comet brings those ( or more correctly “them”). The sentence is then rearranged for dramatic effect to be object subject verb (OSV) instead of the standard English subject verb object (SVO).
Have 2 questions concerning the monsters power (spoilers for the module from here on in)
“After three uses, a Progeny’s crystal must be charged. When
fully charged, a Progeny’s skull crystal is red. When it uses its
energy beam, the crystal degrades to green. After one use of
its gravity power, its crystal is gray and inert until recharged.”
1. Woulnd’t that mean they only have 2 charges? and
2. Under what circumstances would they have blue crystals?
The intent is that the crystals have 3 powers – energy beam (red) to gravity effect (green) to mesmerization (blue), therefore 3 charges. As you spotted, the description was missing a sentence and was super confusing! I updated the adventure with the missing sentence so it should be clear now. Thank you for the feedback!
Just wanted to say THANK YOU!!
I’ve not played Call of Cthulhu for 35 years and never as a Keeper, I’ve not even GMed for over 30 years, but’s the 40th Anniversary so I ran this adventure for my group of first time Call of Cthulhu players. We’re half way through and having a complete Blast!!
The plan is to move onto Pulp Cthulhu after this, but it’s been an amazing introduction for them and so much fun to run.
Awesome, glad you and your players are enjoying! Be sure to share any heroic or calamitous stories as you wrap up the adventure! 🙂
A nice little scenario, which I may adapt for DWAITAS.
One niggle is the ‘laser’ references in 1951, nine years before it was invented and the term coined. And two before the ‘maser’.
(p4) the reference to ‘The Day of the Triffids’ is odd as the story doesn’t really match the plot much. Plus the book was only published in December of 1951, before that only the heavily abridged version in Colliers Magazine existed.
(p8) “The creature shot at him was some kind of laser weapon.” I assume ‘was’ should be ‘with’?
Thanks for the feedback! It wouldn’t be a B-movie without some wrong/anachronistic references 🙂 I’ll fix up some of those mistakes in the next version.
Excellent. I’m not trying to nitpick (hell I make similar mistakes myself) but I’ve proof-read semi-professionally so they jump out at me,
Overall it’s a very nice little scenarios, very suitable to drop into the Whoniverse.
Hey, just wanted to let you know that we ran this scenario for the Halloween special episode of our podcast, “The Arkham Files” and we all had a blast! We had a ton of fun and laughs with the amazing 1950s B-movie setup, and wizard Gumblebell in particular. Thanks for the awesome scenario, though I admit I didn’t run it to its full potential (the second progeny was mostly cut due to time constraints)
If you want to check it out we’re on Apple podcasts and here’s the link on Spotify:
I’ll definitely check it out and listen! I swear I always hear that either Gumblebell or Edna saves the day in this on…
I just discovered your site. Thanks so much for this. 🙂
I’m planning on running this adventure for my friends, but I find myself a character short, and don’t want them to be able to tell which character sheet I made, So I’m looking for the specific 1950s themed character sheet you used?
If you can’t share it that’s cool and I understand the adventure is super cool and I plan to run it either way 😀
For Call of Cthulhu? I just added the one I adapted to the Themed Character Sheets tab on my site! It was mostly a hacky adaptation of the old 6th edition one. https://1shotadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Call-of-Cthulhu-1950s.pdf
OH Thank you!! I couldn’t find it for some reason, this is exactly what I need, I’m excited to run it and I’ll tell you how it went 😀
Ran this over the weekend with my regular GURPS group. We played for 2.5 hours and got about half way done. We had a great time—lots of laughs, and some squeals of fear as well. Highlight of the session was when Ronnie deduced that the blue gem was some sort of mind-control. When he made his will roll, he pretended to be charmed. He rolled a stellar success on his acting roll, fooling Frank Zerelli into believing that he was an ally. We ended the session after they managed to slay one of the aliens as it tried to regenerate its powers in the furnace. (They distracted Zerelli and tossed a grenade into the oven!) The bomber is incoming, so they’re high-tailing it into the woods, unsure of their next move.
With our short sessions, this will be a two-shot, but we’re all eager for the next chapter. Thank you for this one!
Awesome story, thanks for sharing! This might be one of the only examples I’ve heard of a party killing one of the creatures at the halfway point. I’ll cross my fingers their luck holds out for the rest – let me know how it ends!