Review of the Japanese Call of Cthulhu scenario, Unseasonable Blooming and Minuet (狂い咲きとメヌエット), written by Aka (あか) and Lom (ろむ), the third entry in the Japonism collection of modern-day Japan scenarios put out by the Victims of INT Group (INT の犠牲者卓).

Note: Minuet is currently only available in Japanese, but with machine translation, a dictionary, and maybe bits of this review, you should be able to make it workable in English or your language of choice.

Unseasonable Blossoming and Minuet Review – Call of Cthulhu (Japonism)

Review of the Japanese Call of Cthulhu scenario, Unseasonable Blooming and Minuet (狂い咲きとメヌエット), written by Aka (あか) and Lom (ろむ), the third entry in the Japonism collection of modern-day Japan scenarios put out by the Victims of INT Group (INT の犠牲者卓). You can read the text version of this review on mjrrpg.com https://mjrrpg.com/unseasonable-blooming-and-minuet-review-call-of-cthulhu-japonism/  Japonism can be purchased from booth.pm.

In Short:

A strong missing-person investigation through modern social media and a deep dive into Heian-era Japanese history.

Spoilers-lite for Players and Keepers:

While the preceding Japonism scenarios, Do Gods Dream of Digital Drugs? (神々は電子ドラッグの夢をみるか) and Chanting Sutra Network (読経ネットワーク) take a science fiction / techno-thriller approach, Minuet is more firmly rooted in modern day technology, most notable Twitter. On the other hand, it is deeply rooted in history and mythology. Combined with a straightforward missing-persons case, Minuet has the most ‘classic’ feel of the Japonism pack. Set it a century earlier and in Massachusetts, swap Twitter for stacks of conspicuously specific letters and journals, and change the actual historic events in question with early American settler or native stories, and you have yourself a classic-era Call of Cthulhu scenario.

The scenario text takes up 10 pages, including a few stat blocks and character portraits, and a couple maps. There are once again no pregenerated investigators. Most characters will get along without much issues, though having some characters with strong History, Language (Japanese), and Computer Use skills would be ideal. The run time is estimated at 3 to 4 hours for 3 to 5 investigators, and once again my play time was just short of 4 hours. Depending on how the ending scene goes, how open the Keeper is to improvisation, and how much free reign the players are given to muck about investigating, I could see a longer play time being quite possible.

Like its sibling scenarios, the bulk of Minuet is free form investigation around the fictional valley-city of Hodaka. It’s a well-made investigation, with plenty of avenues for the players to take without worrying about dead ends, and with an initial starting clue and a friendly NPC that can help things along if need be, players always find somewhere to proceed to next. The setting is well integrated into the story and real-world history, and the scenario gives maps and descriptions to help flesh out the city.

For groups looking for modern day investigation, as well as those that love Japanese history, Unseasonable Blooming and Minuet is a fine addition and conclusion to the Japonism collection.

Japonism can be purchased on Booth.pm. It is currently only available in Japanese.

Below are spoilers, but before you go, maybe you would be interested in some of the below reviews or replays?
MJRRPG scenarios, Chaosium-released scenarios, Miskatonic Repository scenarios, Japanese scenarios

 

 

 

Spoilers Call of Cthulhu

 

 

Most of Minuet is free form investigation with clear cut clues and leads for the players to find and follow, and as such isn’t particularly difficult to run. The ending, though, can be extremely difficult for unprepared and unskilled investigators if they missed a particular clue, and the Keeper should be prepared to throw increasingly obvious hints in the players way if they don’t pick up on it themselves.

The scenario opens with the investigators accompanying a friend, Junichi Uda, and his highschooler sister, Kotomi, to Hodaka, a town the spent time in as children. Their family maintains an old house their, a mansion, really, that generally sits unused. I would suggest immediately having the friend explain the history of the guest house, rather than wait for investigators ask about it or discover some clue later on. The house was build for Emperor Uda, after he abdicated in the late 9th century, when he was on pilgrimage in Hodaka, and who the modern Uda family are direct descendants of (and who still have the Uda surname). The house and the Uda family are extremely important clues later in the scenario, and the sooner the players know of them, the better the chances they’ll find the ‘solution’ to the scenario’s conclusion themselves without the Keeper forcing it on them.

The sister soon separates from the group to meet with an old friend, but later in the night there is a news report of a missing local highschooler, prompting Junichi to call Kotomi. She answers, but asks for help and says she’s freezing right before the call cuts off. As Junichi goes to the police, he asks the investigators to try to find her. And we’re off to the races.

Hunting through social media, the players find numerous clues throughout the town, leading to interviews to help them build a timeline and idea of what is going on. They’ll find out that high school students are taking pictures of a blossoming plum tree for good luck in their studies, odd given that its December and plum trees don’t blossom until February. Once they know where to go, up a mountain trail behind a shrine, the investigators will be able to head straight up to the scenario’s conclusion if they want to bull ahead.

The climax, though, is liable to be a TPK if the investigators are not prepared. Waiting for them, looming over the dying Kotomi, is a living tree that sucks the warmth (and DEX) of anything nearby, swats and grabs with its branches, and shoots lightning that can paralyse a target on a hit. And if consumes 300 DEX, an evil spirit is birthed out of it, bringing calamity upon Hodaka. While the tree only has 25 HP and a single point of armour, given the setting the investigators are unlikely to have firearms, and approaching the tree is difficult. If they brought up herbicide, chainsaws, or some other sort of weaponry, the may stand a fighting chance, but it would still be a bloody fight. And even if they do put up a fight, there is a good chance the tree will automatically consume enough DEX to birth its evil spirit before the investigators manage to kill it.

Ideally the investigators will have found enough information to know what they are heading into, including a secret stash of notes and artefacts in the Uda house’s attic. There they can learn the true history of the area, Emperor Uda, and Sugawara no Michizane, the ssort-of-kind-of ‘villain’ of the scenario. With the artefact they can seal away the spirit and return the tree to dormancy, but it will still be risky approaching the tree.

I think it is important to see the Uda house and family being important early on and keep reminding the players as they explore. Otherwise, they aren’t likely to poke around the house’s attic, and head up into the mountains without learning what is actually going on or how to properly deal with it. While a ‘bad’ ending, with the spirit being birthed out of the tree and raining lightning and disaster down on the town, can be an effective ending, I do think the impact is lessened if the investigators don’t know why its happening, and that information is locked behind the attic-clue. If all else fails, the friendly Junichi NPC could be used to brute force the clue, going up into the attic and bringing down the box of goodies for the investigators to poke through.

One other point to consider is allowing the investigators to leave the climax and come back later. An unprepared group may see the tree and decide, nope, not ready yet. Depending on time constraints and pacing, the Keeper could force an ending by having Kotomi be near death, likely to freeze out in minutes. But if there is still time available, you could say Kotomi seems to be in a hibernation-like state, and might be alright for another few hours or a day, giving the investigators time to get equipment, help, or find the artefact.

When I was running the scenario, the group had the police go up the mountain first. But when the investigators arrived at the tree, they found a pair of officers also freezing, meaning the tree started with an extra shot of DEX and bringing it closer to birthing its evil spirit. There’s not really any way of warning the players about his without being overly heavy handed, so I’d suggest having a maximum of two officers go up the mountain, unless the group really forces the issue.

Overall, Unseasonable Blooming and Minuet is a strong investigative scenario in a unique location with a fun mix of social media and classical Japanese history, while also having a complex physical / combative Mythos threat to overcome. Along with its sibling scenarios, well recommended.

Again, Japonism can be purchased on Booth.pm. It is currently only available in Japanese.

Before you go, maybe you would be interested in some of the below reviews or replays?
MJRRPG scenarios, Chaosium-released scenarios, Miskatonic Repository scenarios, Japanese scenarios

 

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