“It is altogether against my will that I tell my reasons for opposing this contemplated invasion of the antarctic, and I am the more reluctant because my warning may be in vain. Doubt of the real facts, as I must reveal them, is inevitable; yet if I suppressed what will seem extravagant and incredible there would be nothing left.”
-HP Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness
There are places on earth yet unexplored and untamed. The most formidable of these is undoubtedly Antarctica, a forbidding, austral world where all the technology and arrogance of modern man means nothing against the neverending white expanse.
Betrayal at the Mountains of Madness is an eight-scenario cycle for Arkham Horror: The Card Game. The complete campaign is available to play now on Tabletop Simulator.
It is 1935
Ten years have passed. The world has moved on: gone are the roaring twenties, prohibition, speakeasies and the idea that things can only get better. In 1929 the stock market crashed, and America has yet to recover. Across the nation, there is only anger and blame for the widespread poverty and destitution. In Europe, fascism is on the rise and racial and national tensions are flaring across the continent.
But technology too marches on. The advent of the talking picture has seen the rise of Hollywood and widespread exportation of American culture. The incredible invention of the television promises to go even further, broadcasting “radio movies” to every corner of the globe. Bigger and more efficient steamships are making the world smaller and travel more routine. Even Antarctica, once an impenetrable frontier, is becoming accessible to those of a scientific or adventurous bent.
The investigators of Arkham, meanwhile, are older, wiser, and scarred from their experiences in Dunwich, Mexico and the places beyond. Many survivors of the weird and horrific have congregated in Arkham and the Miskatonic University – Wendy Adams is majoring in art, Daisy Walker is the head librarian now that Professor Armitage has been promoted, and Amanda Sharpe is the youngest dean in the university’s history.
Unto the Utter South
In 1931 Miskatonic University sent an expedition to Antarctica, led by geologist William Dyer. After initial reports of incredible fossil finds, the expedition returned from the ice missing most of its scientists and explaining that the early reports had been fantastic exaggerations. Dyer himself spent the next two years trying to dissuade others from Antarctic exploration, and rumours abounded of fantastic claims he made in private regarding what he saw there.
Despite Dyer’s efforts, in 1933 two more expeditions set out for the south. The Starkweather-Moore expedition, also out of Miskatonic University, was led by famed explorer and adventurer James Starkweather and another geologist, Professor William Moore. The Barsmeier-Falken expedition meanwhile, led by Josef Barsmeier and Doctor Klaus Falken, was a private German endeavour, funded in large part by the Junkers and DELAG corporations.
Both expeditions ended very similarly. Early in 1934 the SS Gabrielle and the SS Wilhemina returned to civilisation without the majority of their expedition personnel, and without James Starkweather, William Moore or Klaus Falken. Josef Barsmeier took his own life later that year, and the expeditions were quietly forgotten about.
But things are changing in Germany. In 1933, the outspoken leader of the Nazi party, Adolf Hitler, took control of the country through ruthless – some say criminal – suppression of his political opponents. Now Nazi influence is spreading, and a reborn, nationalistic Germany seeks to prove itself a Great Power.
The Ahnenerbe, a politicised science institute attached to the SS, is funding yet another expedition to the Antarctic. Their goals are exploration, and to find biological or archaeological evidence of German superiority, though respectable academics scoff at what they could hope to find on the barren continent.
“He has on rare occasions whispered disjointed and irresponsible things about ‘the black pit’, ‘the carven rim’, ‘the proto-shoggoths’, ‘the windowless solids with five dimensions’, ‘the nameless cylinder’, ‘the elder pharos’, ‘Yog-Sothoth’, ‘the primal white jelly’, ‘the colour out of space’, ‘the wings’, ‘the eyes in darkness’, ‘the moon-ladder’, ‘the original, the eternal, the undying’, and other bizarre conceptions; but when he is fully himself he repudiates all this and attributes it to his curious and macabre reading of earlier years. Danforth, indeed, is known to be among the few who have ever dared go completely through that worm-riddled copy of the Necronomicon kept under lock and key in the college library.”
-HP Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness
This campaign is heavily based on the novella At the Mountains of Madness. The core question is simple: what did Danforth see when he took that final, fateful look back? The story is also heavily inspired by the Chaosium campaign sourcebook Beyond the Mountains of Madness. If you’ve read or played that campaign, the events of Betrayal will work as a sequel, but it will be no less enjoyable if you haven’t. You’ll also find influences from ice station horror like The Thing, alien abduction material like The X-Files and archaeological adventure stories like Indiana Jones.
The scenarios in the campaign cover a huge variety of tones, themes, topics and locations, from the Boston subway to the blasted, inhospitable wasteland of the Filchner ice shelf, to the timeless city of the Elder Things themselves. Along the way you’ll face the arcane technology of the city’s architects, battle against Nazis, fight, run and even parley with shoggoths, and run from the forces that frighten even those protean abominations.
Betrayal is aimed at an audience who love Arkham Horror: The Card Game. In AHLCG, every scenario feels like an imaginative new experience, and capturing this feeling is the priority in these scenarios. You’ll also find a wealth of allusions to earlier campaigns and other Lovecraftian material, woven together into a story which Miskatonic University Radio described as “their favourite story experience of any of the campaigns”.
Scenario 1: Boston Red Line
In the first scenario, the investigators must escape hostile forces in the subway tunnels beneath Boston.
Scenario 2: In the Company of Monsters
In the second scenario, the investigators travel south to the Antarctic in the dubious company of a Nazi scientific expedition.
Scenario 3: Cold Heart
In the third scenario, the investigators must race against the Germans to find a lost base camp in hostile, Antarctic terrain.
Scenario 4: Frostbound Cenotaph
The the fourth scenario, the investigators must explore a silent and abandoned Antarctic base occupied by mysterious, protean beings.
Scenario 5: Mainline to the Mountains of Madness
In the fifth scenario, the investigators take a ride on an alien train system across the continent, under attack from at least four factions of enemies.
Scenario 6: City of the Elder Things
In this two-part scenario, the investigators navigate the treacherous ruins of the ancient city, from the ancient tunnels and vents deep beneath it, all the way to the ice-locked surface.
Scenario 7: Judgement at the Dark Tower
In the seventh scenario, the investigators confront the forces that led them to Antarctica and finally learn the truth.
Scenario 8: The End of the Earth
In the eighth and final scenario, the investigators come face to face with a threat more extreme than anything they’ve confronted so far in their long careers.
How to Play
These scenarios are intended for the Arkham Horror (Super Complete Edition) mod for Tabletop Simulator, and I strongly recommend playing player-made content in this way. It avoids all the hassle of having to format, print and proxy all the cards, not to mention that it’s basically impossible to assemble a custom scenario without spoiling it.
A Steam workshop mod containing the scenario components can be found here. Just right-click the campaign box and choose “Save Object” to save it locally. Then just load up the AHLCG mod in TTS and import the campaign box from Objects -> Saved Objects.
I do plan to provide full printable versions of each scenario, but at the moment I’m waiting to gather more feedback from the TTS campaign launch before I provide final versions, since the cost of making changes to physical cards is so much higher. The versions available on Arkham Central are very outdated and I don’t recommend printing them at this stage.
Scenario development status, as of October 2021:
- 1 – Boston Red Line – Playable
- 2 – The Voyage South – Playable
- 3 – Cold Heart – Playable
- 4 – Frostbound Cenotaph – Playable
- 5 – Mainline to the Mountains of Madness – Playable
- 6 – City of the Elder Things – Playable
- 7 – The Dark Tower – Playable
- 8 – The End of the Earth – Playable
(Although these scenarios have been extensively playtested, any assets are still subject to change.)
Feedback & Contacting Me
Feedback is really important to me as a designer so that I can improve these scenarios and give players the best experience posible. If you have any thoughts, positive or negative, I’d love to hear them! Recorded videos or streams of play are especially good because I can really dig into your decision making and how you interpreted the card text, but feedback in any form is welcome.
To leave feedback, you can:
- Leave a comment on this article, or the article of a particular scenario.
- Contact me on reddit: https://www.reddit.com/user/Jaxtrasi/
- Find me on the Mythos Busters discord server, in the #homebrew-scenarios channel, under the name Jaxtrasi.
Thanks in advance for your help!