Experimenting on Mythos Tomes

We have been playing my AWengine hack for a few months now. There is a lot to talk about this game but I make my return to blogging by discussing the use of Mythos Tomes in roleplaying games.

A Mythos Tome is most likely found in horror games but should by no means to be limited to them. Mythos Tomes are ancient books filled with most eldritch secrets no man was ever to know. Or at least that is the main assumption.

When we started this campaign (called “Door of Shadows“) we used the first session to discuss what kind of a game we wanted to play. I told the players that we are going to play a horror game with lovecraftian influences but no direct linking to Cthulhu Mythos or at least not in the beginning.

As the main idea of running the game with AWengine is to “play to find out” I did not have anything concrete when we started. But immediately during the first actual playing session one of the players introduced esoteric notes that his character found. I was really pleased with that since it gave me a point of introduction for the Mythos of this campaign.

Between session I wondered how this pile of papers should be handled. I realised I wanted to make it as an actual handout for the players. I took some things from Simon’s Necronomicon and other from Egyptian Book of the Dead (since we had established that the notes were hieroglyph translations). Quickly I had roughly 30 pages that included some backstory to be built upon, a few spells and a ritual to summon ‘Umr at-Tawil.

During the next session I gave the pile to the player whose character had found them. He read them through (though apparently in not too much detail). I told him that the papers had markings the previous owner had written there so if needed we could add things to the Bruno Kowolski Fragments.

A page from the Bruno Kowolski Fragments

A page from the Bruno Kowolski Fragments

I knew that the Fragments were in essence a Mythos Tome. I was not sure (and still do not know) what if any spells from the Fragments actually work. Reading it did not reduce the players sanity or the character’s but neither of them actually paid much attention to them anyway.

In my experience Mythos Tomes turn out to be culmination points of any Cthulhu campaign and as the game has progressed the Fragments and their meaning have come more apparent. But still they stay as only slightly interesting gaming piece. All signs of one of the characters possessing a Mythos Tome are lacking.

I’m still on the edge whether this is a good thing or not. It is quite interesting to follow the players reaction to things happening around them while they have no actual clue of why they happen. This post might change things. Or not. I’m not sure if any of them will read this.

What I am saying is that sometimes it might be more interesting to not to tell the characters they have come into possession of Mythos Tome. It might be more interesting for them to find out that the book they thought to be only a small random item actually is a key element of the story.

During last holiday I actually rewrote the Fragments. I removed most material from original sources and changed them to suit our campaign better. I scribbled the Kowolski’s notes on the papers, added stains, smells and crumbled the papers. And during the next session the player whose character had the papers didn’t even look at them until I pointed out that there might be something interesting there…

He actually did not notice that I had changed most of the text. Or if he did he didn’t say it out.

It has been a great experiment and truly something different than most cthulhuish games. I’m still excited to see what impression the Fragments actually leave in the game and post game conversations.

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2 thoughts on “Experimenting on Mythos Tomes

  1. Interesting experiment and rely useful observation of the character reaction. I have used los porcions of mitologiacl and antropological writing in my campaines and have a similar problems.
    Most players tend to not pay atentios to that clues that are not self evident.
    If you uploaded some where the fragment so I can see them, I buld be reali interested in analise them

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