Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chronicles

Share the details of your occult explorations here. AAR's most welcome.

Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chronicles

Postby tylertoo » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:48 pm

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I thought I’d do an AAR of Vic's latest offering as a primer of sorts for those who are curious. I won’t go too far, as a true AAR would spoil the stories of the missions.

So: mild spoilers of the early part of one mission are contained herein!

The basics of gameplay are laid out in the game’s main page at the Cryptic Comet site.

The game gives you a choice of with six missions involving solving a horror-themed mystery. We’ll start with one that seems most true to the game’s Lovecraftian roots:

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Hmmm. A human sacrifice. Sounds ominous.

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The other choices on initial setup: Story speed is essentially the ticking clock. You have to solve the mission before the 12th story token is drawn, or you lose. This setting determines how fast the tokens appear.

There are five difficulty settings. The game mode toggles between Reaper and Normal. In normal, you can save anywhere, and if your character dies you are put back at the beginning, but with the rooms you’ve previously uncovered left revealed. In Reaper, you can only save on exit, and death is permanent. This is the setting that most emulates a rougelike and it is what Vic recommends. Despite the screenshot above, I ended up playing in Normal to facilitate note taking for the AAR.
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Re: Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chroni

Postby tylertoo » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:49 pm

The choices in character creation are many, so even with just six missions there is massive replayability.

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Twelve different character types, each with their own starting bonuses. For this run through, we’re playing as a soldier.

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The next set up choice is to pick a bone (die) that will be used in addition to the default bone that comes with your character type. Vic recommends, “You should select a DIFFERENT starting bone that complements the bone that comes with your background.” As the soldier character comes with Bone of Swords, we’re adding Bone of Wands. Not sure if this is complementary with the Swords Bone, but at least its different!

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Then we choose our edge, which is a passive skill. There are many too choose from (right hand column) and as we’re in a John Wayne kind of mood, we choose True Grit (described in left hand panel). Other passive skills can be drawn later in the game.

Finally in character creation, we allocate point among various stats:

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As I’ve found in past runthroughs that its easier to lose our sanity than to die outright, I am putting more starting points into sanity. The lower four stats are your basic tarot attributes, which can be boosted as the game progresses, and which affect gameplay in a variety of ways, mainly in combat. As we’re going with a soldier, we emphasize swords.

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Our character is now complete and we are ready to enter the mansion.
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Re: Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chroni

Postby tylertoo » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:50 pm

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Norfolk N. Chance, soldier-for-hire, enters the mansion armed with a Remington Shotgun that he conveniently tucks underneath his trench coat. It is quite warm outside, but he understands that you must wear a trench coat in order to investigate a haunted mansion.


Chance makes his way to the top of the stairwell. Best to start in the upper floors of the mansion, he reasons.

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The clue card is saved and can help later in the game:

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Further along he creeps, exploring a second floor hallway, and comes upon the game’s first challenge: a locked door:


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This is the most basic of the challenges that players will encounter every step of the way. Here, you have two choices: leave the door alone, or attempt to activate it. Of course Norfolk opts for the latter.


Resolving a challenge means entering a mini-game: a trick-based game using tarot cards. Your ability to win the challenge can be gauged by studying the modifiers that appear before you make the choice. For example, mousing over the option of activating the lock displays these modifiers:

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This is a wands-based challenge, so the modifier (2) is equal to the wands tarot attribute we chose on startup. The lock has a basic difficulty of seven, and this is then decreased by the modifier down to five. Obviously if we had poured more points into wands to start, picking locks would be easier.


The target of five is the number of points we must accumulate in the trick-taking game to unlock the door. This is a difficult challenge -- because we have only win trick to win and must get five points in doing so.
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Re: Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chroni

Postby tylertoo » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:51 pm

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The face down cards represent the tricks to be won. The face up cards at the bottom are the cards we are dealt. I won’t get into the fine details of trick-taking, that’s in the manual. I will say that to win a trick you need a higher value card of the same suit as the trick card that is revealed.

[INDENT]EDIT: Here's a brief explanation of trick taking:
All non face cards are worth 1 point. Pages are worth 2 points. Knights are worth 3 points. Queens are worth 4 points, Kings are worth 5 points. Major Arcana (A Trump Card) are worth 7 points if they take a trick.
You receive points for both the trick cards taken and the cards played from your hand to take the trick. So if a Page of Swords is played to take a 3 of Swords you will receive 3 points.
If you do not have any cards in your hand that match the suit of the revealed trick card, then you may click on another unrevealed trick card and attempt to match and take it.
You proceed to reveal trick cards and play cards from your hand until you can no longer claim any more trick points. The more trick points that you claim above the target value for success the better your rewards will be during the results phase. Conversely, the fewer points you have compared to the target value for success, the worse the penalties will be during the results phase.
[/INDENT]

So our three drawn cards are 5 of Cups, 9 of Wands, 7 of Swords. The face down trick card must be one of these three suits for us to even have a shot at winning. As the drawn cards are low in value, the odds of winning the trick even with a suit match is slim. The target, again is five points, which is the margin of difference in the value between the drawn card and the trick card when you win a trick.

Revealing the trick card:

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So we play the 7 of Swords on this and win the trick. Unfortunately that only nets us two points toward the target of five, so we lose the attempt to activate the door.


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At this point, just starting out, the only item we have that could be used to affect the outcome of the challenge is our Remington Shotgun. That, though, can only modify a combat challenge, not a lock challenge, so here it is of no use.


Note that once you get used to playing the challenges, they take a matter of seconds, so it is possible to keep trying to unlock the door in hopes that you’ll get lucky. However each lost challenge presents a chance you’ll be penalized in some way, usually through lost health or sanity, so there is a downside to simply repeating the challenge until you’re successful.

Speaking of luck, the game includes a luck modifier that goes up or down depending on cards drawn as rewards or penalties after a challenge is resolved.

And speaking of rewards and penalties, having lost our attempt to pick the lock, we must choose 2 cards in the penalty phase (the number of cards is roughly akin to how far away you were from your challenge target).

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The mostly likely card is ‘No results,” and that in fact is our penalty.


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So we emerge from this relatively minor encounter unscathed. Onward!
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Re: Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chroni

Postby tylertoo » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:51 pm

Having lost the attempt to activate the locked door mechanism, Chance could keep trying and hope for a lucky draw. Instead he opts to explore further down the hallway:

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He opens four other doors near the locked one. Below him is a reading room. Opposite the locked door is a bedroom. In front of him is a stairwell leading back down to the main floor. But to Chance’s left is a room with something odd, something that catches his interest. He opts to explore that room.

It might not have been such a good idea.

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This is our hero’s first combat enounter. Prior to each such encounter, you are given a chance to ‘resist the horror,’ essentially to stave off the effects of the initial meeting:

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Another difficult challenge, with just two tricks and a single card drawn.

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Fortunately for us that card is a King of Pentacles, and we win the challenge, allowing us to choose two reward cards.

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Ah well. Nothing gained, but at least we resisted the horror of the Ghost.

Having won that attempt to resist the horror’s tentacled grasp, Chance opts to do battle. Since the ghost is a paranormal, actually combat is not an option. Instead, three options: a psychic encounter in which he tries to dismiss the Ghost, a psychic encounter in which he tries to communicate with the Ghost, or an attempt to flee the ghost. We opt for the second:

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Just one trick to be played, but the target is only three, so its do-able.

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Luck shines upon us, as the only trick card is the 6 of Wands, and one of our drawn cards is the Knight of Wands, given us 4 and beating the target of 3. Note that had we not put 2 points in Wands during set-up, the target would have been 5, and the challenge would not have been won.

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Again, we come up blank on the rewards but do draw a Quest card, which is described in the upper left:

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These quest cards are stored in your personnel file and are to be completed as the game progresses.

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And with that the story advances, Norfolk N. Chance continues to explore the haunted mansion.
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Re: Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chroni

Postby tylertoo » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:52 pm

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No horror game would be complete without zombies. Chance finds a pack of them rambling down the hallway. First he must resist the horror.

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The resist attempt fails and we must choose three penalty cards. One of the three penalty cards dings our hero for two sanity points, dropping Chance’s sanity from 16 down to 14.

Next Chance faces a choice: battle the zombies, flee, or try a shotgun blast. We opt for the first.

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Two tricks, with a draw of five cards and a modified target of just five (knocked down from nine thanks to putting four points into swords on setup).

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An example of winning the battle but losing the war: we have won both tricks, but by slim margins thanks to a poor draw. Thus we garner only four points, one short of the target. Its a fail, and we draw penalty cards. In this instance, the penalty was one card, and it had no result, so Chance was not dinged in that encounter.

Ever optimistic, our hero tries again to battle the zombies, this time with better results:

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Drawing the Queen of Cups wins us just the one trick, but with six points. The zombies are vanquished, and we collect our rewards:

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Not much, a modest bump in health, but we’ll take it.
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Re: Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chroni

Postby tylertoo » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:53 pm

Emboldened by the victory, Chance ventures into the reading room.

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The question marks represent two possible encounters. Dramatic music flares up in the background as a bead of sweat trickles down Chance’s brow. He turns to his left, and...

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An attempt to resist the horror of the face in the vase results in Chance’s sanity dropping two more points. At this point, sweating profusely, he opts to leave it alone, but quickly comes upon another horror in the same room:

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Resistence is futile:

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Chance suffers no damaged from the failed resistence attempt, but has no chance to simply leave it alone. Instead his options are to attack the crocodile, use sorcery to dispel its attachment, flee or -- a tantalizing choice:

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This gives us five cards with which to win up to three tricks, with a modified target of five. Its do-able, Chance muses.

Our draw is not bad, three of five cards of higher rank:

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But the tricks are too difficult:

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The King of Cups, on which we are forced to place our lower rank Eight of Cups, then a Pentacle and another Cups card, neither of which we can win. The encounter leaves us with zero points, and we await our penalties:

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Chance’s health takes a hit, and that stat is now down to 12.

What’s interesting to note is that in this combat, unlike an encounter like a lockpick, losing a challenge does not end the encounter. In this case, Chance must again battle the crocodile.
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Re: Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chroni

Postby tylertoo » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:54 pm

The second time against the vile crocodile, victory is ours:


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Our spoils are limited to one Expertise token:

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In Chance’s personnel file, we apply that token to swords, to build up that stat.

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Two more tokens applies to Swords will increase that stat by one.

Emboldened by that victory, Chance decides to return to the mysterious vase in the same room, and to destroy it with a shotgun blast:


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With the King of Cups edging the Knight of Cups, Chance narrowly wins the challenge.

Eventually our hero makes his way back down to the first floor, and while exploring a narrow corridor, comes upon the Organ Room.

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Obviously this doesn’t refer to the type of organ with keyboards. Cue ominous music.


TO BE CONTINUED.....
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Re: Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chroni

Postby tylertoo » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:55 pm

Norfolk N. Chance, soldier in a trench coat, finds his Remington Shotgun itching to be used. Every encounter so far has precluded that. Perhaps that will soon change.

He enters the Organ room, immediately encounters another zombie, and promptly loses the ‘resist the horror’ challenge. This results in a drop of two to Chance’s already-challenged sanity. Time to use the Remington, baby.

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The base difficulty of 9 is modified way down to just 1, making this eminently winnable. [Note: I’m not sure how the modifier gets to 8, as the swords skill for combat is only at 4. Perhaps Vic or someone can explain].


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The reward amounts to a single expertise token which we again put into building toward another point in the Swords stat.

Chance ventures further into the room. A chandelier falls from the ceiling, but he successfully evades it with nary a scrape.

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And then, from one darkened corner of the dank room comes the sound of music:

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After the resist attempt, Chance has four options: attack the organ, use sorcery, start a psychic duel, or try to communicate with the organ. Although he spends a lot of time at home communicating with his own organ, here he opts for brute force:

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The target is 8, but our draw of six cards yields some potential winners:

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Four face cards and three tricks to be won, with a goal of eight. Let’s dive in:

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Damn! shouts Chance as the cards are flipped over. A lowly Ace of Swords cannot be won, as we have no swords. The Ace of Pentacles is easily won, but there’s no way to win the King of Pentacles. Thus the challenge is lost, and penalties await:

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A hit to health. Chance’s base stats now stand at 10 health and 10 sanity. Still relatively healthy and sane... but for how long? Two more such battles are for naught, although no penalties reveal themselves.

So rather than continuing the battles, our intrepid hero attempts to communicate with the organ, and is successful:

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This results in a quest card, which I will not show to minimize plot spoilers.

His ego ruffled by his inability to slay the chatty organ, Norfolk N. Chance moves further up the hallway on the first floor.

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A grand dining room, a conservatory, a collapsed room to the north, and two rooms with objects that capture his attention. Which way to go? Decisions, decisions...
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Re: Chance in Hell: An Introductory AAR to the Occult Chroni

Postby tylertoo » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:55 pm

As Norfolk mulls his options, a pendulum suddenly swings out of the darkness, and he fails to step aside in time:

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His health is now down to 8.

Chance opens a door to the room due north, where the floor has collapsed and a plank covers a gap.

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Chance has a simple choice: walk or run across the plank. Both present difficult challenges. He chooses to run, and quickly fails, falling into the basement below:

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Now dear reader, you may know by now that the basement level of the mansion is the hardest of all the floors of the house. Thus it may be incumbent upon our hero to make haste and return to the first floor. But even leaving the room into which he has fallen proves difficult, and Chance now finds himself firmly in hell:

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It is the toughest challenge that he has faced thus far. In fact, he can’t even pronounce it.

Chance fails to resist the Abomination’s horror, but suffers no penalties. Now he has four options, all of which are difficult: attack, use sorcery (both which have targets of 10 points), flee or use shotgun blast. We opt for the latter. The target is 8.

Unbelievably, we win the round -- albeit by the skin of Chance’s pearly white teeth:

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The King of Wands topped the 9 of Wands for six points, and miraculously we drew an 8 of Pentacles to top the 7 in the final trick, giving us an additional two points. Now hopefully we’ll get a decent reward:

We draw two reward picks, and one of them is actually a decent item: courage.

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Courage is fuel-type mechanic, as explained in the manual:

After the results phase has finished, if you have revealed any ammo, charge or courage cards then you will need to distribute them amongst your items. A dialogue box appears that shows you the current card being distributed and a list of items that can be ‘reloaded.’ You must click the claim button to proceed to the next result card to be distributed or to finish this last part of the results phase. Excess ammo, charge or courage that is not distributed is LOST.


We apply those two points toward our Critical Hit ability, which can be used in combat.

Chance may be emboldened by the victory over the Abomination, but he still has no desire to stay in the wretched basement, and continues search for stairs that lead upward.

In one room, a clue appears:

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The note was found at a dead end, and after reading it Chance turns back, only to be slashed by acid. The difficulties of this lower level are abundant, and he fails to evade the acid. It stings and cuts his health, quite literally, in half:

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Norfolk N. Chance, soldier-for-hire, is now in deep Cthulu. He is stuck in the most dangerous level of the mansion, his health is dangerous low, and he is sweating profusely underneath his trench coat.

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But -- as he would be quick to remind you -- the trench coat never comes off.
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