The Innsmouth House Players were the first group to put Actual Play recordings on the internet1 and their back catalog contains an impressive array from the greatest Call of Cthulhu scenarios. One of the lesser known ones is the mind-bending Unseen Masters.
YSDC‘s Innsmouth House Players brought decades of experience together at the gaming table in their final Chaosium-produced campaign. Their final commercially-available campaign is their recently completed recording of Cubicle 7’s Curse of Nineveh.
The exceptional Keeper, Val Robertson, excelled at keeping this three story-arc campaign taut and disconcerting. The unrelenting series of events wore down the sanity of the investigators as all good Call of Cthulhu scenarios do (even making the listener wonder just what evil was causing things to unravel… what unknowable force is warping the world of the investigators?).
The table banter is remarkably self-aware, completely versed in the tropes of Lovecraft and of the other classic Call of Cthulhu scenarios. Paul Maclean‘s characters are a delight to listen to unravel and meet their end, especially as they are often insufferable. Graham Bissell’s character Damien Sunderland (a descendent of a previous campaign’s character) is well-played throughout, a good example to listeners who might wonder how to play a modern, level-headed and technologically literate character in Call of Cthulhu. Val capably contains the impacts of technology, a possible help for keepers who wonder how to run these “modern” scenarios written before the ubiquity of the smartphone.
Unseen Masters lacked the globe trotting scope of Masks of Nyarlathotep and Horror on the Orient Express (both available as recordings from YSDC), but it succeeded in a kind of creeping fear that will make you want to know “how is this madness going to end?” The conclusion will reward the listener for their patience in sticking with the winding plot. Worth noting is that in 2001 Bruce Ballon won the Mary Seeman Award for Achievement in the Area of Psychiatry and the Humanities from the University of Toronto for Unseen Masters—so you have award-winning madness on display in this recording!
The Innsmouth House Players never got bogged down in Unseen Masters with things like torturous accounting rolls that occasionally endanger forward narrative development in Call of Cthulhu— a nightmare that happened in YSDC’s recording of Beyond the Mountains of Madness as they reviewed manifests in preparation for their journey to Antarctica. Val kept the investigators on the trail of the terror, and when time came for the horror to unfold, she was absolutely masterful.
The YSDC Actual Plays were once limited to supporters of YSDC, but are now publicly available on the website. Sign up and check them out.
2–3 hour recording length.
High quality recording
Picture from Yog-Sothoth.com showing part of Helen Maclean’s “Julie Hayward” character sheet, all rights reside with the original creator.