Death Toll is an Old West adventure for Call of Cthulhu set on the old California Trail.
Written by G. A. Patrick and published into the Chaosium Community Content program, the PDF is now available at DriveThruRPG.
Fever: Death Toll has been available for only a few days but its already in the top five “hottest” section within the community.
Geek Native is lucky enough to be able to share a nine-page preview of the adventure which you can read below.
The adventure’s author, G. A. Patrick, has also kindly made time to answer some questions.
We ask about whether any character types might not fit the game, about the extra rules the adventure (optionally) adds and we’re given a Soundcloud link to some atmospheric music.
Fever: Death Toll preview
Fever questions with Graeme Patrick
DriveThruRPG won’t let me read the description of Fever: Death Toll without logging in and accepting their mature content warning. The first thing the adventure’s summary includes is a warning that the game is for adults only. Just how mature is this?
Fever covers a variety of subject matters that can be seen as adult, it is a very grim tale and it pulls no punches. Themes that are touched on are suicide, body horror, racism, slavery, and of course violence. There is a growing trend towards more PG content with the introduction of pulp and I wanted to make a very clear distinction that this is a horror game and not just in name alone.
Can you tell us a bit about the setting? What’s the year? What sort of people will find themselves on The Carson Trail?
The scenario is set during the exodus of the 49ers from the east of America to the unsettled West in 1849. The Gold fields attracted people from almost every walk of life to hopefully find their fortunes.
Not only that it was a way to escape persecution like the Mormons, other people society saw as outsiders, or even outright criminals; however for the most part the people that took this route to the West were seeking gold. Most only found misery, poverty, and death.
Are there any limitations on character choices?
This all depends on how era accurate the group wishes to be. That said, the reasons and motives to travel west are tempting for almost anyone. I’d say the players have more flexible choices than your average Call of Cthulhu scenario for that reason. Through our play testings, I’ve had Antique Dealers, Fugitives, Nuns, Mountain Men, Snake Oil Salesmen, War Heroes, Farmers, Journalists, Blacksmiths, and Eastern Natives.
What sort of things could Keepers do to create the right kind of atmosphere for the game? Any background music you would recommend? Are candles appropriate?
This is a game that takes you into the barren desert with relentless heat that broils you alive, I wouldn’t say candles are that appropriate really and short of an industrial fan and a bag of sand I think the best atmosphere tool is music. I used the OST for 3.10 From Yuma for almost all sessions during our playtesting. That said we actually have background music coming out in a few weeks written for Fever by the very talented musician, Filip Melvan. You can find samples of the music here. There will be 7 tracks that all hit that horror, Old West vibe.
Is there anything else a Keeper needs to prepare in advance to get the most from the adventure? Or could you download it at work, read it on your phone on the bus back home and be ready to run it by supper?
The scenario is about 90 pages and there is a lot there to digest in terms of setting and NPC backstory, it all depends on how much the Keeper wishes to take in. Boiling it down to its core, yes you could pick up and play easily. It is designed a little different that most Call of Cthulhu scenarios, publishing on Miskatoinc Repository gave me some leeway in format. I’ve designed the game into Events that have all the information infront of you with no page turning. It is always either a single page or two facing pages. Every NPC and monster has printable cheat sheet with traits, and stats. These are meant to be printed and staple into a small booklet that the Keeper will always have to hand. All you need are those and the scenes you want to cover and you are golden.
Is there room for Keepers to make their own mark on the scenario?
Yes, while there are 17 scenes that are directly related to the story, the relations and development of characters and their relationship while travelling are also key components. You are given 40 seeds to spark creative improvisation in the party and let the group develop over the course of the 40 miles.
What about the players? Are there good gaming practices you would recommend to gamers sitting down to experience the adventure? Turn your smartphone off, for example, or take the time to tell the Keeper what your character’s current motivations are?
There are several places during the game called out to the Keeper that are to engage in the PCs backstories, making sure the Keeper is informed ahead of time with motives, and background can be very useful.
I find the players that got the most out of the scenario were engaged with the NPCs the most, telling the Keeper what they are doing during downtime, or in camp during the night and creating those bonds sparked all kinds of brilliant scenes of laughter, revelations, and tragedy. There is a large cast and each player should be able to bring their own group, as background characters, or by using the optional follower rules. This sense of community is key, the game is a loyalty fantasy at its heart, people going through fire for each other.
Fever: Death Toll includes optional rules for Followers. Can you tell us a bit about them? Are there other settings for which you think they could be appropriate?
The follower rules are very simple as they are based around social interactions. You have to persuade, fast talk, charm, or intimidate the followers to act. The follower system gives a known advantage or disadvantage to that roll dependant on their loyalty, and the difficulty of the roll is changed from Normal/hard/extreme depending on whether the task is out of character, etc, for that NPC. Depending on what happens when they complete an action they are compelled to do can change the loyalty rating.
They are easily slotted into any Call of Cthulhu setting. I think they work best where the PCs are part of larger groups. Achtung Cthulhu comes to mind, where units of soldiers are often ordered to die. I’ve used followers in Dark Ages too.
You can pick up Fever: Death Toll at DriveThruRPG today.
What do you think? Sound off in the comment section below.