|by Andrew Leman, with massive assistance from Phil Bell
played in August, 1988 in Denver and Boulder, Colorado
When he learns that his old friend and colleague has died in an insane asylum, veteran investigator Charlie Twobears returns to America to find out what happened. He discovers that the director of the asylum has made an insane deal with a Yithian....
Black Tentacle Awards
This game won five BT Awards, including Best Plot and Best Adventure of the year. The episode in the insane asylum won the trophy for Best Scenario, and the brain machine was voted Best Special Effect. Sean Branney won the Best Investigator tentacle for his playing of classic character Charlie Twobears.
The game's title refers both to the Great Race of Yith and to the Nazis, both of whom figure tangentially in the story.
This was the last game played by the core group of the HPLHS in Colorado. Shortly after this game ended, Sean Branney moved to California and Andrew Leman moved to Illinois to attend their respective graduate schools, while Phil Bell remained in Colorado. It was the last time the three founding officers of the HPLHS would all live in the same city.
Knowing that it was to be the last Colorado game, and worrying that it might be the last game ever, Keeper Andrew Leman wanted to take the opportunity to look back over the many adventures the group had played. So the plot called for a crate filled with artifacts from the career of long-standing character Wally Forsythe. The crate of Wally's things was filled with props from many old games, and viewing them was a trip down memory lane not only for the character Charlie Twobears but also for player Sean Branney. The characters of Charlie and Wally had started out as paper characters in Call of Cthulhu, and they had had many adventures even before the HPLHS started playing its games in the live-action style. To increase the impact of the mementoes in the crate, Andrew created props from some of the paper games as though they had actually been played live.
The Asylum scenario was played at Regis Jesuit High School, with the kind assistance of Mr. Mike Buckley, Andrew's former high school advisor. The lecture hall was used as the "secret lab," classrooms were (appropriately) cells, and an administrative office was used for Dr. Headrick. It rained on the night the scenario was played, which added fantastic atmosphere as the Investigators fled from the madhouse.
The Brain Machine was built from an old filing cabinet, a fish tank, scrap lumber, and numerous bits of electrical surplus. A small color television was hidden inside the body of the filing cabinet, positioned upside-down. The screen of the TV was reflected off a piece of ordinary glass at a 45 degree angle as shown in the diagram below.
When the investigators looked through the small viewing window on the machine in front of the brain tank, they saw the reflection of the TV screen, which was in turn connected to a VHS camcorder hidden in an adjacent room with Phil Bell, who played Jack. A two-way intercom setup allowed the Investigators to carry on a conversation with Jack, and he could react to the changes they made to the knobs and buttons on the machine. Because they were looking at a semi-transparent reflection of the screen, rather than the screen itself, the image of Jack seemed to be floating and ghostly inside the box.
The brain inside the tank was made from cotton drapery cording and latex rubber. Sadly, Andrew failed to consider that the brain would not be neutrally buoyant, and it floated much too high in the tank. (Water also leaked from the tank into the box and nearly ruined the electronic equipment hidden inside.)
The three most interesting knobs on the machine were "pleasure," "pain," and "life support." Andrew thought that the Investigators would wrestle at least briefly with the moral dilemma presented by those knobs, but Sean Branney didn't hesitate to inflict pain on poor helpless Jack to get information out of him. The life support switch was rigged to an extremely loud siren: the minute they flipped it they set off a deafening racket.
The scenario at Temperton's house was played at Bonnie Leman's home in Arvada. The house had been built to her specifications some years earlier, and when she was drawing up the plans, her son Andrew begged her to include a secret room hidden behind a swinging bookcase, a la Batman or Anne Frank. Being an amazingly cool mom, she agreed, and Andrew never told any of his friends that this secret room existed, because he hoped to use it in a game of Cthulhu Lives one day. This was the game where the secret room finally got revealed. The Yithian Communication device worked on the same principles as the Brain Machine: the image of the Yithian was reflected from a television screen onto a piece of ordinary glass, so that it seemed to hover like a hologram in the air. The edges of the cube hid the edges of the glass.
The Yithian was a rod puppet standing about two feet high made of chicken wire, foam rubber, latex, and thermoplastic. It was operated by Phil and Andrew in Andrew's garage. The Yithian "conversation" was pre-recorded, and it was not actually responding to the Investigators' questions in any way, even though they felt like it was.
The gigantic puppet of Nodens for the final scenario was hastily constructed from chicken wire, muslin, and lumber. It was made in four sections: head, body, two arms. It featured almost no facial detail, and its body and arms were just rectangles of cloth. Standing about 18 feet high, it took several people to operate. The sections were meant to operate independently at first, just being vague white shapes twirling around each other in the darkness. Then at the proper moment in the ceremony, all the shapes suddenly come together to form a vaguely anthropoid shape which comes at the Investigators. Though it was very crude, in the heat of the moment of the last scenario it was incredibly effective. To have something 18 feet high coming at you in the dark is a very visceral thrill.
The location for the final scenario was a Boulder hillside that had been used in several previous games of Cthulhu Lives. Having Wally's shoe fly off in the final escape attempt was not at all planned. In fact, the original intention was that Wally would be successfully rescued by the Investigators. But Andrew's shoelaces were loose, and his shoe really did spontaneously fly off while they were all running away. And the place really was covered with cactus, so running without shoes was not an option. The way the scenario actually ended could not have been better: no amount of Keeper planning and staging can ever beat what spontaneously happens when a game is going well.
"I bought those shoes at the DAV thrift store for ten cents, and wore them in several games of Cthulhu. Those were the shoes that trekked across the Egyptian desert. I loved those shoes, and was sorry to lose them." -AHL