Explorers confronting the supernatural, soldiers going on suicide missions, investigators looking into eerie New England fishing towns. Between war film and cosmic horror is my contribution today, and always looking over my shoulder is H.P. Lovecraft. After “Orsa the Fearless”, I now present the next feature pack for 7TV Pulp: “Lurkers from the Deep”.
Nightmares in VHS-Retro-Cases
In the meantime, I have already written several articles about my favourite game 7TV and recently also introduced the first Feature Pack for 7TV Fantasy. So I won’t go too far, because I have already explained both 7TV with its various genres and the purpose of a Feature Pack. “Lurkers from the Deep” was actually the first Feature Pack that was released and funded via Kickstarter. As a 7TV and Lovecraft fan, I naturally supported the campaign, but so far I have not been able to try out this expansion for 7TV Pulp.
I thought the campaign was great and an all-round success. The funding at the time was for the feature pack, a whole range of matching miniatures and a new range of matching MDF buildings from Sarissa Precision. Everything was all about Lovecraftian fishing towns on the east coast of the USA. Musty wooden houses, lighthouse and jetty, oddly fishy looking miniatures. If you wanted, you could order a nice collection of terrain for a themed gaming table. Despite my enthusiasm, none of this was possible for me, so I only took the Villain Pledge with Feature Pack and Fishfolk miniatures.
There were some freebies as Stretch Goals, whereby I am especially happy about the atmospheric Occult Investigator with raised lantern and the creepy Dr. Fiske, who is just putting on his latex gloves. A Necronomicon and an occult statue are also included. I can do less with the ladies and the spare heads off the top of my head, but I’m sure there will be a purpose for them too.
Lurkers from the Deep” also comes in a beautiful retro VHS case. As with “Orsa the Fearless”, the cover and the included materials are designed as if it were actually an existing film on the shelf of a video store, including the printed sticker “New Release – 7 Day Rental”. Strictly speaking, this is supposed to be a film by the fictional production studio Pinnacle Studios, which we already know from the 7TV Pulp Box. As a film nerd, this is all just delightful and right up my alley.
Lurkers from the Deep – What is included in the Feature Pack?
As with all 7TV Feature Packs, the Episode Guide, new Profile Cards and new Play Cards (Maguffin, Gadget, Cliffhanger and Injury Cards) are included first. In addition, there is the special Ritual Tracker, new tokens, a Kickstarter thank you card (presumably no longer included in the retail version) and the Kickstarter freebie miniatures, which can now be purchased regularly in the shop.
The centrepiece is, of course, the Episode Guide, which introduces the setting, explains the rules and includes a small campaign on around 80 pages. After a short introduction to the theme (New England, coastal city, washed-up corpses, strange cults, a pact of the inhabitants with an ancient power, hybrids of man and fish,…), the special features are explained.
This feature pack introduces new, special gadgets, but some of the gadgets from the basic box are to be dispensed with (no teleportation). Two new states mark the mental state of the models in Lovecraftian fashion: Neurotic or Insane, with corresponding effects on the game. Last but not least, there is the table for injuries, which we already know from the Orsa Feature Pack, but which was of course introduced here first. Later, a campaign is introduced in which the models can gain or suffer experience. Those who want to can thus improve their profiles or accept restrictions. This adds a lot to the atmosphere when the lead investigator has to deal with injuries in the course of the plot, but also gets along better with his opponents in return.
A larger part of the guide is taken up by a fictional article “Making Lurkers of the Deep” about the production of the film of the same name. As with Orsa, this section is purely for fluff, setting the mood and perhaps collecting ideas for games. The article is written like a real film review with all kinds of background info. As a Lovecraft fan, this is great cinema and one regrets that this film does not actually exist. However, not only the film is discussed, but also the production conditions and studio background. It’s all very meta, but that’s what 7TV is all about. Basically, we read what our game could be like.
New characters and action on the brink of madness
The Profile Cards bring a lot of suitable characters for both sides. Investigators or “G-Men” representing the government, US Army Rangers, researchers specialising in the occult things on this earth, fish-men, mad scientists, cultists and finally Lovecraftian creatures like shoggoths, tentacles and worse.
Gadget Cards bring the new matching equipment, Injury Cards are used as part of the injury system and new Cliffhanger Cards and a Maguffin Card ensure that the gameplay really feels like a typical nightmare in Lovecraft’s sense.
Special use within individual scenarios is made of the Ritual Tracker and the Incubator Token. The latter is used in the first scenario “Rats on the Rails”, in which government units try to arrest the mad Dr. Fiske. In the scenario, the incubator is a device that produces a liquid that transforms the drinker into a fish person. Models in base contact can pass a test and switch the incubator on or off – that’s what the token is for, which can be easily switched to “On” and “Off”. During the game, this has no function, but at the end of the game, the good or evil side gets additional Victory Points depending on whether the machine is on or off. A nice idea that adds an extra layer to the game.
The last scenario, “The Vault of Kutulu”, uses the Ritual Tracker, which is nothing more than a counter – an equally simple mechanism, but one that adds extra fun. In the scenario, a cult around Dr. Fiske gathers on an island between a column formation. Under certain conditions, the evil side can collect markers on the Ritual Tracker every round. If it is full before the end of the game, Kutulu is summoned, the game ends and the evil side receives a lot of Victory Points.
Lurkers from the Deep – Conclusion
I can’t say it any other way, as a film/pulp/Lovecraft fan, the “Lurkers from the Deep” feature pack is just the right addition for me. Beautiful, atmospheric scenarios allow you to replay a campaign that creates a pulp film in the spirit of Lovecraft in your mind’s eye. The rule additions keep within limits and put just the right screws to adapt the game and at the same time not overload it with special rules. In the course of the feature pack, a bunch of miniatures and matching buildings have been released, which make scenarios perfectly replayable.
Admittedly: The scenarios are all relatively special, require terrain that the average player certainly doesn’t have (lighthouse, railway tracks, accessories of a New England harbour town,…) and might require some effort to be able to replay them exactly. But either you go this way, which should undoubtedly be a lot of fun for fans, or you use the scenarios as inspiration and simply build your own games. Charming ideas like the Ritual Tracker or the Incubator can be developed independently. For example, I already have an idea for using the Incubator in a spy-fi scenario based around James Bond and the infiltration of a rogue’s hideout.
As with “Orsa the Fearless”, the same applies here: If you are only interested in rule supplements, only 4 pages of the feature guide are actually relevant. The rest contains “trappings”, explains backgrounds, characters and of course the campaign. For me, however, the overall package of 7TV is generally right, and this feature guide is no exception. Pure players without interest in the meta-level have to weigh up whether the investment is worth it. At 22 GBP, this expansion is not exactly cheap. But for those who shy away from the meta-level, 7TV is certainly only half to be enjoyed anyway, and conversely: For those who like the cinematic storytelling of this game, “Lurkers from the Deep” offers a lot of fun.