*Warning: This article contains HEAVY spoilers for the adventure The Midnight Masks from the Core Set. If you do not wish to be spoiled, please stop reading now. Sorry!*
Welcome back, fellow investigators into the unknown, to Delve Too Deep’s new series Behind the Curtain! Last time, we began our journey by observing the horrors met during the our very first encounter, The Gathering. Today, we escape from our home and into the town with Lita as we look for the mysterious cultists of The Midnight Masks!
Now that your team has left their house infested with Ghouls, you’re heading to the city in order to uncover a cultist conspiracy. You begin either at your house (if you didn’t burn it down) or the town centre (if there’s ashes where your home once was).
As you wander around town, you eventually notice a particularly fearsome man stalking you in the night. Unlike the others you may encounter, he cannot be convinced, only stopped. You have learned too much.
As you run about the town, looking for clues as to who is involved, cultists and monsters begin to appear, impeding your progress and hastening the ritual. If you don’t stop them in time, you may find that midnight comes a little sooner than expected.
The mission ends the same way regardless of how many cultists you interrogate. However, you either leave the town before midnight and head into woods, or you take too long and are now running late.
Interestingly, unlike The Gathering, which is entirely linear in structure, The Midnight Masks is fairly open and free; you have a task, but how you tackle it is entirely up to you (and somewhat randomly determined due to the way the Cult of Umordhoth works). There is a twist in the adventure in that one of the cultists (The Masked Hunter pictured above) only spawns after the agenda advances. It’s a really interesting twist on the advancement of agendas, and one I was really fond of when I first encountered it.
Otherwise, there is but a single act card which must be solved, giving players the option of spending clues to discover someone affiliated with the cult. From there, the players can either beat up the cultists, or perform another task (discarding cards, spending resources or clues, even evading!) to interrogate them. This provides players with their first opportunity to avoid fighting in favour of something else entirely, something I think was very important to establish early. After all, you don’t ALWAYS have to fight in RPGs, which Arkham Horror is inspired by.
The main feature of the town is the fact that the different areas have different positive abilities, and two of the areas are randomised, meaning that you have the potential for different experiences each time. I would say the largest feature of the Midnight Masks is the sense of exploration, a large change from the somewhat claustrophobic introductory scenario.
Cult of Umordhoth Deck (“Wolf-Man” Drew, Herman Collins, Peter Warren, Victoria Devereux, Ruth Turner)
Ghoul Priest (If not killed in The Gathering)
Wizard of the Order
2 Hunting Nightgaunt
3 Hunting Shadow
2 False Lead
2 Crypt Chill
2 Obscuring Fog
2 Mysterious Chanting
2 On Wings of Darkness
2 Locked Door
+1, 0, 0, -1, -1, -1, -2, -2, -3, -4, Skull, Skull, Cultist, Tablet, Tentacle, Elder Sign
Here we have our first real adventure; inside, there are monsters with minor powers, and many, many locations to explore. As mentioned in the structure, the most notable aspect of The Midnight Masks is the importance of location. Cards such as Locked Door, Obscuring Fog and On Wings of Darkness further emphasise the importance of moving around and trying to find the quickest ways to get clues as possible.
In fact, the other major factor in this adventure is the idea of racing against the clock. The Doom mechanic is first introduced here, and coupled with the above treachery cards, as well as Mysterious Chanting, Hunting Shadow and False Lead, players can find themselves with far fewer actions than they need to find all the cultists. False Lead can be particularly devastating, potentially undoing several actions worth of work in a single test. Both the Cultist and the Tablet chaos tokens further this, either by adding more Doom to nearby enemies, or by simply causing you to drop your clues.
Therefore, another important lesson about this mission is that you really can’t win ’em all. The time constraints on this mission are intense, and trying to find all of the cultists AND defeat them in the time you’re given can be tough. Depending on how quickly you’re able to deal with some of the treachery cards or the various cultists, the game can fly by very, very quickly.
Conclusion on The Midnight Masks
I loved the sandbox feel of The Midnight Masks; while it felt like I had a task to do, it felt as though I could really go about it however I wanted. Some encounter card combinations can be backbreaking, and the race against the clock feels far more real here than perhaps in any other adventure.
I feel as though perhaps including some variant cultists would have been interesting to enhance replayability just that little bit more, but it’s still a very solid quest. Showing the combat is not the only way, and with a huge emphasis on investigating and maneuvering around town, The Midnight Masks is an excellent second quest, and one that works very well even as a standalone.
The various cultists and the idea of discovering who’s part of the conspiracy really comes out well. The race against the clock is very present here, with both the Agenda deck advancing at a rapid pace, and many of you fumbling and dropping clue tokens everywhere, or even just finding it difficult to access certain locations.
I guess that depends on how you look at the scenario. If you measure success as capturing all of them, this is an incredibly difficult one. However, I’d say that even at four out of six captured, you’ve done quite well. Challenging, but not absurd, unless you’re going for a perfect win. If you lack a dedicated investigator, this can be a nightmare, however.
Decent. Due to the lack of linearity, the quest can play out very differently each and every time. Unfortunately, after the first playthrough, many aspects of the quest lose their surprise factor, which means that players can begin to plan for them before they arrive. If they had even one extra variant cultist, I think this would benefit the scenario greatly.
Thanks for reading everyone! I hope you’re enjoying the series as much as I’m enjoying writing it and analysing all the fun quests available. Let me know what you think so far, and until next time, may your skill checks remain untentacled!
*all images courtesy of arkhamdb.com and Fantasy Flight Games.
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