Greetings initiates, and welcome to this arcane philosophy lecture series at the Lodge. First, let me address some disquieting rumours about last year’s lectures on Medieval Metaphysics by saying that a thorough investigation found nothing untoward, and that the Eastern Wing of the lodge library is cordoned off for entirely unrelated renovation work. Now, onto our topic. Every so often, a card comes out that is…inspiring. Not necessarily particularly powerful, but one with lots of potential for interesting decks and builds. The Eldritch Sophist is one such card for me, and so I have decided to share my take on the card as well as a few decks designed around it to showcase its potential.
Exhaust Eldritch Sophist: Move 1 secret or charge from an asset you control to another asset controlled by an investigator at your location.
Once you let go of your assumptions, anything is possible.
And the art depicts a very dapper gentleman playing chess with rather unusual pieces in a library. Does my interest in this card have anything to do with how handsome he looks? No comment.
So right off the bat, the card has Uses (3 secrets) but no way to actually spend them. They are instead there to use his ability to move them onto other assets. In this way, he’s a little bit like the Venturer – a card whose role is to refill other limited-use assets. However, the Sophist’s ability is substantially more flexible – it can move both secrets and charges, from any card that has them, to any card that can use them.
It also offers quite a lot of Horror soak. In general, Seekers tend to have large pools of sanity and lots of means of soaking or healing horror, so this may be less useful than having lots of Damage soak, but it’s still a nice benefit, particularly for builds that use Shrivelling – and is very useful for some of the less obvious builds that can use the Sophist.
The Miskatonic trait doesn’t have much in the way of support, but it does work with Miskatonic Archaeology Funding. The test icon is pretty underwhelming, but at least Willpower is likely to come up for basically anyone and there will be times when you’ll take any Willpower icon you can get.
I use the following terms as shorthand to broadly define the role of various cards in interacting with the Eldritch Sophist:
Source: A card with Uses (secrets) or Uses (charges) whose main role in the build is to have those Uses transferred onto a different card. Typically a card that does not provide much benefit from those Uses, and/or a card that can provide a lot of Uses, repeatedly provide Uses, or provide Uses cheaply.
Target: A card with Uses (secrets) or Uses (charges) whose main role in the build is to receive Uses from other cards. Typically a card that provides a substantial benefit from its limited uses, such as a powerful enemy management or clue-gathering card.
Fixing: Moving Uses between cards as needed, where neither card is strictly a Source or a Target. Typically where both assets perform an important but distinct role in the build, and it may be advantageous to siphon charges from one to the other depending on the circumstances.
Replenishing: Increasing the number of Uses on an asset without moving them from another asset – essentially as a way to make it clear that the total number of Uses in play has increased. Conversely, I use Siphoning as a term for moving Uses via the Eldritch Sophist, where the total number of Uses in play does not change. For example, using Recharge or Truth From Fiction is Replenishing, whereas moving a secret from the Eldritch Sophist to another card is Siphoning.
These aren’t terms I think need to be adopted by the community at large or anything, merely ways to simplify further discussion in this post – though I also think they help illustrate how I look at the Eldritch Sophist. That said, if you find them useful, please do use them yourself!
Lecture 3: A minimalist approach
I feel that simply using the Sophist for the function it offers by itself – to add more secrets to a secret-using asset – is perfectly valid by itself. This is definitely the most straightforward approach to the card. If your build has one or more cards that have Uses (secrets), the Eldritch Sophist can let you get the most out of them. In such a deck, if you can spare the slot for the card and you want more secrets, it’s a useful option just like taking Venturer with a build that uses Ammunition or Supplies. And just like the Venturer, once it has run out of charges, you can throw it under the bus to soak up incoming damage/horror.
However, cost is a very real issue in such decks (again, just like the Venturer). The Sophist is quite expensive at 4 resources, and the ally slot is very competitive for Seekers (though that isn’t necessarily a big problem between Charisma and Miskatonic Archaeology Funding). If doing so, you’d want to keep in mind that you need to pay for both the Sophist and the asset(s) its secrets will be siphoned onto. Since the Sophist is a level 0 card, and you generally want to avoid having to spend exp on level 0 cards later on in a campaign (unless you have access to Adaptable or you want to take Versatile), this typically means that you want to have an asset that can make use of the extra secrets from the very beginning, even if your eventual plan is to use it in conjunction with a different, more powerful high-level card. In this way, the utility of the Sophist grows with the power of your deck, as the value of its secrets increases with the power of the abilities they fuel.
There is a big sticking point for such a deck, which is Truth From Fiction. This event is substantially cheaper, doesn’t take up the Ally slot and has substantially better skill icons. It’s not the case that Truth From Fiction is strictly better than the Sophist for this purpose – the Sophist provides as many secrets as Truth From Fiction (2) without the requirement for a clue at your location, and works particularly well if you have multiple other assets that use secrets – but it does mean there’s substantial competition for that role in a deck.
Lecture 4: Getting the most out of the Eldritch Sophist
This section is the major focus of this post. As we covered in the previous lecture, it’s perfectly valid to use the Eldritch Sophist just for its own secrets. However, to get full use of the Eldritch Sophist’s potential, we need to use all aspects of its ability – moving secrets and moving charges. This requires at least 4 different cards – the Sophist as the enabler and Source for secrets, some kind of Target for secrets, and either a Source and a Target for charges or two charge-using assets for charge fixing.
All four of these are necessarily assets, meaning that fully exploiting the potential of the Eldritch Sophist probably involves the majority of assets in your deck (8 cards total) – this in turn means that you want to build around the Eldritch Sophist as a cornerstone of your deck. Luckily, Seekers have access to plenty of draw and search abilities to let you set up a board state with several moving parts. Many assets that use charges and secrets are combat and investigation cards, so it’s also pretty viable to have them be the centrepieces of a deck.
Since the Eldritch Sophist is its own Source for secrets, this often means that the more complex interactions in your deck are based around charges, and you can simply take a generally useful asset that uses secrets in order to get value out of the Sophist itself. Luckily, there are several very solid options for this – cards that are useful for basically anyone that are limited by Uses (secrets). The taboo Scroll of Secrets (0), used together with the Eldritch Sophist, essentially draws you 6 cards over 6 rounds thanks to its free triggered ability even without doing something more complicated with its ability to target the Encounter deck or discard/relocate the drawn card, and is available to anyone who can take Eldritch Sophist. Scroll of Prophecies and Mr “Rook” are also cards that most decks can get a lot of value from. Of course, it’s also possible to have another, more specific use for the Sophist’s secrets – the point here is that if you’re including the Sophist to move charges around, you should at least add a simple economy card that benefits from its secrets in order to get more value out of it.
Sources of charges can be quite diverse. The obvious and classic option is Decorated Skull, a cheap Rogue asset that gains charges whenever enemies or allies are defeated at your location and can use those charges for slightly more efficient economy actions (substantially more efficient at level 3). Much like the old Decorated Skull/Torrent of Power decks that made use of its potential for charges, the idea is to take Decorated Skull and use the Eldritch Sophist to siphon off the charges it generates onto another card – most likely an attack card to create a self-sustaining loop of killing enemies to generate charges and then using those charges to kill enemies. Empty Vessel works in much the same way. Another straightforward option is the Chthonian Stone, which loses charges when you draw the auto-fail and returns to hand when empty. If you siphon off its charges, it returns to hand and can be replayed again, more or less being a repeatable source of three charges for 2 resources that also seals up a token until you’ve finished siphoning.
Some assets come into play with lots of charges and/or secrets for a low price, so the Sophist is a good way to put their inexpensive Uses to a better use on a more expensive card – it can be difficult to get good value out of Alchemical Transmutation, for example, partly because you need to successfully use all its charges before it provides a better profit than other more straightforward options, but if you have the Sophist in play, you can use its Charges to top up Shrivelling while also having the option to use them for the ability on Alchemical Transmutation itself. The same is true of Scrying to an extent. Similarly, Forbidden Knowledge and Forbidden Tome (Untranslated) provide plenty of Secrets at a very low price, which can be used to instead refuel a Pnakotic Manuscripts or even a Necronomicon – and siphoning charges from the Forbidden Tome even speeds up the translation process at the same time.
Charge Fixing is a very different approach to using the Sophist. Instead of taking charges from one asset and moving them to another asset where they will be substantially more valuable, this is instead about shifting charges around as the situation demands. A simple example would be a straightforward Mystic deck with an investigation spell and an attack spell – say, Jim Culver with Shrivelling and Rite of Seeking – that might not need all the Shrivelling charges it has if there aren’t many enemies around and so can put them onto Rite of Seeking to use them to attack the scenario in a different way, or conversely get extra Shrivelling charges to deal with a sudden swarm of enemies. This also means that once you have one copy of each in play, getting a second copy of either card, or playing Recharge on either copy, can effectively provide more uses for both cards, which in turn provides you with more consistency.
For charge/secret fixing, you can also use one card as a temporary repository for charges or secrets from the other. A simple example of how this might work is a situation where you have Shrivelling in play with 1 charge remaining, Rite of Seeking in play with 3 charges remaining, and a second copy of Shrivelling in hand. This round, you have an action going spare, and there are enemies lurking in the encounter deck with 4 health – this would be the ideal time to play that second copy of Shrivelling, but in doing so, you will effectively waste the charge on your current copy. On the other hand, if you were to wait until you have used that last charge, you might need to take an attack of opportunity – or use up an action you cannot spare at that time – in order to play the fresh copy. With the Eldritch Sophist, you can transfer the spare Shrivelling charge over to Rite of Seeking, then play your fresh Shrivelling, and then transfer the charge back if need be on a subsequent round. Similarly, you might want to siphon your last Secret from your Scroll of Secrets onto the Eldritch Sophist himself so that you can play a replacement Scroll of Secrets this round.
There are some more complex uses for charge/secret Fixing. Mind’s Eye is a good example – it might be the case that you need more uses of Mind’s Eye and so siphon them off a Scroll of Secrets, but you might also end up drawing your second and third copies of Mind’s Eye early and want to move them onto the Scroll of Secrets. Suggestion (4) is unusual in that you can use the Evade ability on it even when it has no charges – the charges are only lost if you don’t succeed by 2 and can also be used to dodge attacks – so you could siphon off all the charges onto your Shrivelling or Rite of Seeking, etc., and still be able to use that Evade ability – and if you ever do need to cancel an attack, you can siphon a charge back over. Similarly, you can push your luck with Seal of the Seventh Sign by siphoning off its charges if not many symbol tokens have been drawn, or siphon charges onto it if you need it to stay around longer.
In summary, there are a lot of more complex ways to use the Eldritch Sophist. The next lectures will introduce some deckbuilds using the Sophist to showcase various examples of the card in use.
Lecture 5: Roland Banks, Sophistic Swordmaster
The first deckbuild lecture uses the Eldritch Sophist to enable Roland Banks to use the Enchanted Blade as his main and only weapon, while also providing plenty of horror soak and healing to counteract his vulnerable sanity and the possible effects of his signature weaknesses. It is primarily a fighter, but also has enough investigation power to hold its own as a clue-gatherer.
The core of the deck is built around the Eldritch Sophist to siphon charges from Flesh Ward to the Enchanted Blade, and to move its own secrets onto the Cryptographic Cipher. This means that you can investigate at -2 shroud once per round with plenty of secrets, and make accurate 2-damage attacks with plenty of charges. Being able to rely solely on the Enchanted Blade means plenty of horror healing and card draw, together with plenty of other card draw and a heavy skill focus to absolutely tear through the deck. Empty Vessel can be used either to provide more Enchanted Blade charges or to form the Wish-Eater for extra healing and token cancellation – and if you want the Empty Vessel back to keep charging it up, you can siphon off the Wish-Eater charges to speed the process up.
Lecture 6: Jim Culver’s Callous Casuistry
This lecture showcases the Decorated Skull as part of a spellcasting deck, designed to kill enemies, gain charges and siphon off those charges back onto its spells. Jim Culver is ideal for this since his deckbuilding allows him to take both Decorated Skull and Eldritch Sophist. As with most Mystic builds, it fills a flex role with both investigation and combat solutions, but it does want to be in the thick of the fight to get those Decorated Skull charges.
This deck uses the Eldritch Sophist to siphon off the charges generated by the Decorated Skull (replenishing) and also move charges between spell assets as the situation demands (fixing). It also uses the Sophist to keep the Scroll of Prophecies stocked with secrets for maximum card draw. Having a consistent source of charges right from the beginning means that it’s a more consistent deck than many Mystics, at least once it is set up, and the deck can be used as a framework for lots of variant builds as discussed in the ArkhamDB writeup. A similar idea (Decorated Skull for charges, Eldritch Sophist to transfer them) can be used for Zoey Samaras using the Enchanted Blade, but that is not too dissimilar to the Roland Banks deck discussed in the previous lecture with its use of Empty Vessel.
Lecture 7: Norman Withers, the Stargazing Sophist
This lecture concerns the Astronomer himself, designed around using The Chthonian Stone (3) as a repeatable Source for charges to top up spells, while also controlling the chaos bag and using plenty of card draw. As with many Norman Withers decks, it starts off without much arcane power but grows into the potential of the Eldritch Sophist as it gets upgrades.
This deck uses Eldritch Sophist to siphon off charges from The Chthonian Stone (3) to keep its attack spell online, as well as charge fixing between Shrivelling, The Chthonian Stone and Seal of the Seventh Sign to switch between combat and bag control as the situation demands. The Sophist’s secrets are used to keep Scroll of Secrets working, which provides additional card draw and can be used to make optimal use of Norman’s ability. The flavour of the deck is awesome, as the Eldritch Sophist becomes more and more integral to how the deck works as the investigator abandons his scholastic origins and embraces the supernatural – perhaps Norman’s sophistic colleague has been showing him how to rewrite the stars as he sees fit…
Lecture 8: Marie Lambeau – Song of Sophistry
This lecture introduces a Marie deck designed to gather as many clues as possible while staying alive. It has minimal combat ability and plays more like a seeker than a typical mystic, and showcases the charge fixing concept introduced above.
This deck uses Eldritch Sophist to siphon off all the charges from Suggestion to Rite of Seeking, meaning that Suggestion can be used to evade with no risk of losing charges. The basic playstyle is to evade enemies and investigate using intellect, then using her final action in a round (preferably her extra action for having Doom in play, if it hasn’t already been used) to use Rite of Seeking, enabling her to get a huge number of clues at once. Eldritch Sophist also refills Dayana Esperence, allowing you to play around with doom on Blood Pact as much as you like using Moonlight Ritual, have a huge number of uses of Spectral Razor if you need more fighting power, or exercise immense control over the scenario with Alter Fate. Between Dayana Esperence and Eldritch Sophist, the deck has a substantial amount of soak available. The deck is designed to race through scenarios as quickly as possible, and the Eldritch Sophist keeps its motor running.
Lecture 9: Daisy Walker and Luke Robinson – getting experimental
This lecture presents two less conventional decks, a Daisy deck designed to largely neutralise the encounter deck at its roots, designed around using Cryptic Grimoire (Text of the Elder Guardian) as frequently as possible, and a Luke deck designed around Whitton Greene (2) to search the deck over and over again to trigger Revelation effects by entering Luke’s Dream-Gate every round, and investigating with intellect. These decks have not been properly tested and are designed less as concrete decklists and more as ways to showcase the more unconventional potential of the Eldritch Sophist.
This deck uses Cryptic Grimoires to bypass drawing cards from the encounter deck during the Mythos phase, and uses the Eldritch Sophist to transfer as many Secrets as possible onto the Cryptic Grimoires in order to enable this to be performed as often as possible, using Forbidden Knowledge as a source. Once the deck is running at full steam, it should be able to avoid drawing an encounter card at least once every other round. The rest of the deck is built around minimising the impact of any encounter cards that make it through the Grimoires, with cancellation and enemy management effects, as well as a basic level of investigation ability in order to attack the scenario itself.
This deck is designed to allow Luke to spend all his time in his Dream-Gate, neutralising most enemies and a number of encounter cards. The role of the Eldritch Sophist in this deck is primarily to siphon charges from Alchemical Transmutation in order to keep the Gate Box charged up throughout the scenario in order to trigger Whitton Greene and be safe from enemies every round; it also transfers secrets to the Scroll of Secrets to properly draw through the deck. One option with this deck (shown in the side deck) is to use Versatile to take “Let Me Handle This!” in order to take spawning enemies from other players while in the Dream-Gate so that they are discarded, which results in a lack of consistency but offers unconventional means of enemy management.
Thank you for taking part in this lecture series hosted by the Silver Twilight Lodge! If you happen to come up with other interesting uses or interactions for the Eldritch Sophist, I would love to hear them. Join us soon for a repeat of the History of the Silver Twilight Lodge, and in the meantime…
Stay safe out there in Arkham. The nights are dark indeed.
The Scarlet Keys Investigator Expansion has arrived, and with it dozens of fascinating player cards, many of which could form the centrepiece of a deck. Legendary community member Veronica has created her Ambassador project, wherein community members play with and talk about specific cards in the expansion so that each can have a moment in the spotlight – and as luck would have it, I pulled Orphic Theory. It turns out that Orphic Theory offers great potential depth for analysis, so let’s dive in.
I’ll start out by looking at the flavour of the card, followed by its underlying mechanics and quirks, and then deckbuilding. After that, I’ll give an overview of how the card interacts with every single eligible treachery card in the game, and then a breakdown of where those treacheries appear by scenario and campaign so that you can judge how valuable it would be to add Orphic Theory to your deck in a given campaign, and how early it’s worth including – as such, this article will to an extent provide analysis of the campaigns in general, and this analysis would be particularly helpful for evaluating the effectiveness of cards that fill a similar niche, such as Alter Fate. The table of contents below will let you skip to the parts you need – the ‘Breakdown by treachery card’ section and ‘Breakdown by campaign/scenario’ section might be useful to revisit any time you’re starting a new campaign. They’ve been positioned at the end of the article so that you can read the rest of the article without campaign spoilers.
“Orphic” refers to Orpheus and, by extension, Orphism. Orphism is an ancient religious movement supposedly founded by Orpheus, the legendary bard, animal-charmer and Argonaut of Greek myth who descended to the underworld to rescue his wife Eurydice. This article will be long enough without reproducing several Wikipedia articles’ worth of analysis, but suffice it to say that the Orphics were an ascetic mystery cult who believed that humanity had a dual nature much like later Dualists, and they expressed complex religious and ritual beliefs through poetry and other art. Orphic beliefs have been referenced by many later scholars and occultists from the Renaissance period and later. Another meaning of Orphism is an offshoot of the Cubist artistic movement in the early 20th Century. By extension, the term “Orphic” can also mean ‘mystic’ or refer to significance not readily percieved by the senses, or even ‘entrancing’. The myth of Orpheus has inspired countless works of art through to the present day, all of which could be considered “Orphic”.
It’s not clear which of the many meanings of “Orphic” is most emphasised in the card Orphic Theory, but what is clear is that the artwork for the card is completely awesome. The black-on-gold colour scheme is evocative and appealing, and it depicts a bizarre scene with a cosmological diagram with what might be Azathoth in gold at the centre. I love it. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s cover art for an utterly incredible death metal album. It was created by Ethan Patrick Harris, who has created plenty of other excellent pieces of card art, such as Essence of the Dream and Worlds Merge. I want it as a poster on my wall, as a playmat (which it actually is, for those lucky enough to have attended an Arkham Nights event in 2022) and as a card in my deck. That latter option, at least, is very achievable.
Spend 1 secret: Choose any non-weakness treachery not attached to an Elite enemy. Until the end of the round, treat that card’s printed text box as if it were blank (except for Traits).
Orphic theory is a relatively cheap asset, using the Arcane slot, which is not typically heavily contested in Seeker. Secrets are a commonly available type of uses in Seeker, and can be replenished with several cards such as Truth From Fiction, Ariadne’s Twine, Enraptured and, of course, Eldritch Sophist.
As a level 1 asset, it is inexpensive and can reliably be acquired after the first scenario in any campaign. It is also possible to use In The Thick of It to purchase it at the start of a campaign.
The actual ability has many nuances and caveats. When you use it, you select a non-weakness treachery card in play, and its text box is considered blank for the rest of the round. This only affects treachery cards that actually enter play – such as those that instruct you to put the card into play in your threat area, such as Frozen in Fear, those that attach to another card in play, such as Locked Door, and those that are put into play next to the agenda deck, such as Tough Crowd. By blanking the card text, you temporarily remove any abilities on the card, including Forced effects, constant effects, and so on. This might also mean that you remove the ability to more permanently get rid of the card. If you target Locked Door, you will temporarily enable the location to be investigated, but during that same period, nobody will be able to use the Action ability on the card to permanently discard it. If you target Frozen in Fear, you will prevent that investigator needing to spend an additional action that round, but you will also skip the discard trigger that would happen at the end of their turn.
It cannot affect any card that doesn’t enter play at all. Cards whose abilities resolve immediately as part of their revelation ability cannot be countered with Orphic Theory, for three reasons:
Firstly, and most importantly, they are in Limbo, as defined in the latest iteration of the FAQ, point 1.23: “While the effects of an event or treachery card are being resolved […] it is neither in play, in the discard pile, nor is it in an investigator’s hand. For the purposes of rules clarification, this liminal state is called “limbo.” […] A treachery card enters limbo after it is drawn, while its revelation ability is being resolved. […] While in limbo, the card is typically placed on the table to show that its effects are being resolved. […] It is technically not in play, and does not count as being in play for the purposes of other card effects, however its effects may still alter the game state. After resolving the card’s effects in full, it is placed in its relevant discard pile and is no longer in limbo. If its effects cause it to enter play (such as attaching to another game element or placing it in an investigator’s threat or play area), it leaves limbo and enters play at that point in time.” This means that treachery cards aren’t in play while their revelation effect is resolving, and as such they cannot be targeted by card effects unless those effects specify otherwise.
Secondly, once the revelation ability begins resolving, it doesn’t matter if the text on the card that caused the ability subsequently gets blanked. The ability continues to resolve even if the originating card leaves play or ceases to have its game text active. This is similar to how we can continue to use the second ability on Knife even though we’ve discarded it from play at the start of using it.
Thirdly, there’s no player window during resolution of a treachery card, unless it creates a skill test.
This means that Orphic Theory is not a catch-all counter to every treachery card out there. It won’t save you from Rotting Remains or Grasping Hands, and it’s not about to make Ward of Protection obsolete. For general-purpose 1 exp treachery card protection in Seeker, you’ll have to look to Forewarned. Even Treachery cards that create lasting effects, such as The King’s Edict, cannot be targeted by Orphic Theory unless the card itself enters play – and blanking such a card won’t cause the lasting effect to disappear if the lasting effect has already been created by the Revelation effect.
Orphic Theory’s ability is a free triggered ability, which presents a few tricky timing issues. Once the round begins, there are no player windows until all investigators have finished drawing and resolving encounter cards – the first player window is just prior to the end of the Mythos phase. This means that you typically cannot blank a treachery before or during drawing encounter cards. For example, if Investigator 1 draws Psychopomp’s Song and puts it into Investigator 2’s threat area, there’s no opportunity to use Orphic Theory to blank the text of Psychopomp’s Song before Investigator 2 resolves their own treachery card. However, every skill test includes two player windows, immediately before and immediately after committing cards to the skill test, and you can use Orphic Theory during those player windows, so if an investigator draws a card like Rotting Remains that creates a skill test, that creates an opportunity to use Orphic Theory during resolution of encounter cards (bearing in mind, as explained above, that you couldn’t use Orphic Theory against Rotting Remains itself).
Orphic Theory’s ability lasts “Until the end of the round”. This means that it is a “Lasting Effect”. The rules reference indicates that:
A lasting effect expires as soon as the timing point specified by its duration is reached. This means that an “until the end of the phase” lasting effect expires before an “at the end of the phase” ability or delayed effect may initiate.
As such, Orphic Theory will wear off before any part of the targeted card that happens “At the end of the round”. Sometimes this is a really good thing; if you target Dissonant Voices, you will completely negate the downside of the card and the card text will return just in time for the card to be discarded, effectively counteracting the card entirely. Sometimes this makes Orphic Theory useless or worse; if you target Sordid and Silent, the card text will return before the bad part of the card (dealing horror to each investigator at the location) triggers.
Orphic Theory and Hidden cards
Update: I have received an official rules response from FFG stating that Orphic Theory is unable to target Hidden cards in your hand. I’ll keep the analysis below for the curious, but to be clear: Orphic Theory cannot target Hidden cards at all.
This is a special interaction that works rather strangely. The rules for Hidden, as specified in The Path to Carcosa and The Dream-Eaters, include the following:
While a hidden treachery is in your hand, treat it as if it were in your threat area. Its constant abilities are active, and abilities on it can be triggered, but only by you.
A hidden card counts toward your hand size, but it cannot leave your hand by any means except those described on the card.
Since it is treated as though it is a treachery card in your threat area, you should be able to target it with Orphic Theory and temporarily suppress its effects. Can you use Orphic Theory on cards hidden in other players’ hands? A hidden card is secretly added to your hand and you aren’t supposed to reveal its text to other players, but the rules don’t require you to keep its existence a complete secret – simply looking at the card backs of a player’s hand should make it clear that there’s an encounter card among them, not to mention situations such as having to keep a card in your hand even if you’re hit with an effect that discards your entire hand – however, without knowing the text of the card, another player probably shouldn’t be able to know that it would be an eligible target for Orphic Theory, and the rules quoted above are all use the word “you”, which leads to the interpretation that only you, the person holding the hidden card, should be treating it as though it’s in your threat area – absent any other ruling, this interpretation creates the least confusion and keeps to the spirit of Hidden. Additionally, Hidden is a keyword and not a trait, which means that targeting a hidden card with Orphic Theory should blank the Hidden keyword itself. What happens then? The rules aren’t completely clear – without that keyword, it’s no longer treated as though it’s in your threat area. Additionally, the rules stating that you cannot discard it by any means other than those on the card are no longer active. I’d propose the following interpretation: The card text is no longer active. The card remains in your hand, and as such still counts towards your hand size. However, it can now be discarded like any other card, for example if you go above your hand size in the Upkeep phase.
Interactions and Deckbuilding
Orphic Theory takes up limited resources – one action, one card and two resources to play, one slot in your deck and one experience point per copy, and an arcane slot. It allows you to circumvent certain obstacles that could impede your progress, but it also has its own costs to consider – and many of the cards it can tackle have alternative means of dealing with them, even if that means is simply toughing them out until they disappear. It’s a way of hedging your bets against certain threats, and can allow you to compensate for your vulnerabilities.
For example, take Locked Door. It prevents you investigating the location – the primary task of most Seekers. If you have a good Combat or Agility, you can simply use the action to break down the door – or ask another investigator to do it if you’re not playing solo. You can use temporary boosts, whether in the form of talents like Hyperawareness or committing cards with plenty of icons to the test, to compensate for a low Agility or Combat. You can use means of collecting clues that don’t involve Investigating, such as Working a Hunch. Orphic Theory offers another way of countering Locked Door – if used properly, it might be a better way to deal with the problem than simply handling it on its own terms. That said, there are other ways to directly counter encounter cards, including Ward of Protection, Forewarned, A Test of Will, and Alter Fate, among many others.
If you decide that Orphic Theory is a good option for your deck, it doesn’t really need any additional support. Four uses per copy, used judiciously, can counteract several threats, and it’s essentially a complete package. That said, it can be used as part of a larger deckbuilding strategy. As mentioned earlier, it’s possible to replenish its secrets with various cards. Truth from Fiction and Enraptured give it additional uses, while Eldritch Sophist and Ariadne’s Twine can be used to replenish it indefinitely, or to repurpose its uses if not needed.
Orphic Theory can target any treachery in play – which means that it can be used for other investigators as well. This means that it can be a support tool. For instance, a Seeker might use Orphic Theory to circumvent a Locked Door preventing them from investigating themselves, but Roland Banks might use it to help another player against the same Locked Door.
Certain investigators are particularly well-suited to Orphic Theory. As mentioned, Roland Banks can supplement the defensive and support aspect of Guardian with Orphic Theory, and Carolyn Fern and Vincent Lee can use it to fill a support role as well. If Charlie Kane chooses Seeker as one of his classes, Orphic Theory can help him to make up for his low base stats and support the team. Marie Lambeau, Agnes Baker (with her Parallel deckbuilding) and Daisy Walker have access to Enraptured and Daisy and Marie can make good use of Eldritch Sophist, though the arcane slot pressure is an important concern, and both have access to other options such as Ward of Protection (2) and, in the case of Marie and Agnes, Alter Fate. However, to reiterate, it’s not necessarily important to build around it – any investigator with access to level 1 Seeker or Spell assets and a spare Arcane slot can include Orphic Theory and use it effectively, without needing to include additional support for it.
Player count is an interesting aspect of the card. For larger groups, the effect could be more beneficial insofar as it’s more likely for useful targets to be drawn when there are more players drawing encounter cards, plus with more investigators it’s more likely for someone to be particularly vulnerable to a given effects, and Orphic Theory doesn’t have a range limitation so you can use it to support investigators at any location. However, while it will have fewer targets on small player counts, it can be relatively more impactful. If you are playing solo and you use Orphic Theory to cancel out Dissonant Voices, you’ve essentially countered the entire round’s worth of encounter cards. If you use Orphic Theory to blank the aforementioned Locked Door for a round, it’s much easier to grab all of the clues from that location – and thus effectively counter Locked Door entirely – if there’s only one or two clues on that location in the first place. There’s definitely benefits and drawbacks regardless of player count, so there’s no simple answer as to whether it’s useful at a given number of investigators, but it will be worthwhile to check whether there are enough treacheries that you actually need to counter if playing solo or two player.
Orphic Theory is very easy to fit into a deck as you upgrade. It is generally not onerous to spare the 1 exp per copy even early in a campaign, particularly if you are hoping to use it to cover for a vulnerability of your investigator or as a key part of your deck. However, its effectiveness is entirely governed by the treachery cards you’ll encounter – you want to take it before you encounter the cards you’re hoping to use it against, and conversely you might not need it right away if the next scenario doesn’t have many good targets for it. If it will sit around contributing little in the next scenario, including it will probably just make your deck function less smoothly, so timing the upgrade can be crucial.
The final two sections of this article will break down which treachery cards can be targeted by Orphic Theory, and how impactful it is. The ‘Breakdown by campaign/scenario’ section, in particular, should help you decide on the best time to take Orphic Theory.
There’s also the question of In the Thick of It. This level 0 permanent from the Edge of the Earth Investigator Expansion can be taken when you first create your deck, taking 2 trauma in exchange for 3 experience points. This can provide a number of unique benefits – letting you start with a key upgrade such as a copy of Charisma in an ally-focused deck, say, or getting a headstart on identifying Ancient Stone, or for decks that actively benefit from the trauma such as Carolyn Fern or Vincent Lee starting with horror/damage to heal, Calvin Wright wanting to start with some boost to his skills, a deck emphasising Desperate cards, and so on. Since Orphic Theory costs 1 exp per copy, you can use In the Thick of It to take it right at the start of a campaign. Unless you really want to build around Orphic Theory, this might not be a particularly good deal – many decks have key upgrades they want to prioritise first, and the added resilience to encounter cards from Orphic Theory could be a false economy if you’re taking trauma and thus reducing your survivability in order to get there. That said, the ‘Breakdown by campaign/scenario’ at the end of this article will include the first scenarios of each campaign to help you make that decision, and in some cases it could be worth the investment, particularly if you’re hoping to cover for weak points in your deck. I’d certainly say you should think long and hard before going down this route, but it might well end up paying off in the right situation.
Finally, there’s the question of replacing Orphic Theory as you upgrade. Typically, you don’t want to get rid of an exp card later in a campaign, unless you’re upgrading it into a different card or Exiling it or something – investing experience points into your deck should ideally make it stronger, so removing those upgrades might feel like the experience points were wasted. However, the effectiveness of Orphic Theory is governed directly by the eligible treachery cards found in each scenario – and in some cases, such treacheries are thin on the ground in later scenarios in a campaign. There’s multiple campaigns with later scenarios that have zero useful targets for Orphic Theory, which would render it nearly worthless – a single Intellect icon if committed to a test, and a relatively cheap source of four Secrets if you have other means of manipulating them like Eldritch Sophist. Additionally, Orphic Theory is very cheap in terms of exp, so it’s not so onerous to have to replace it before it becomes obsolete. If you have access to Burn After Reading, you can exile Orphic Theory and replace it with a level 0 card for free. Hopefully, by the time you no longer benefit from Orphic Theory, it’s helped you accrue enough experience points that your deck is already working at full power and you can spare a few exp to replace it.
This section is here, rather than at the very end, because the next two sections contain heavy spoilers. Specifically, spoilers for treachery cards from every campaign, and the encounter deck makeup of every scenario.
I really like Orphic Theory. Part of that is that it’s one of those cards that you can get really deep into the weeds when analysing, which is definitely the kind of player I am, so I feel quite fortunate to have been randomly assigned it to talk about. It carries with it lots of interesting moment-to-moment decisions, and the cost feels pretty ideally balanced for it. It provides a solution to lots of potential problems, some of which are cards that otherwise can disproportionately affect certain investigators, without being a simple hard counter to things. In other words, it fits very neatly into its niche.
I also like the concept of an exp card that’s a situational option. As you can see below, depending on the campaign, you might not benefit from buying Orphic Theory right away, and you might get rid of it before the end of a campaign. 0 exp cards that are good for the early parts of a campaign and are designed to be replaceable later on is a fine design niche already, and Orphic Theory presents an interesting choice where you spend a small amount of experience on a card that might not be part of your deck for the whole campaign – is that worth it if you’ll eventually remove it again? In that way, it poses an intriguing question about how much experience points are worth and what constitutes an upgrade.
That said, it does have a lot of complicated and in many cases counterintuitive rules interactions. Whether it’s the timing points or the eligibility of certain cards, a strong understanding of the minutiae of the rules is needed to resolve all of the interactions Orphic Theory can create. This is in spite of its effect seeming relatively simple at first glance. That’s not necessarily a huge problem but I do think it could be a little inaccessible to newer players. I expect there will be plenty of questions about niche interactions, and it would be an excellent topic for an end-of-year rules quiz or something.
With its effect playing a support role and helping to counteract certain vulnerabilities and some very frustrating effects, Orphic Theory is appealing for lots of investigators. I do wonder how often it will actually make the cut, though – between the increasingly competitive arcane slot and the requirement of access to level 1+ Seeker assets, I can see it often being “cards 31 and 32” in a decklist – an intriguing option that doesn’t quite fit into the build. However, I will definitely be making the effort to squeeze it in, not just because I am its “ambassador” but also because of how incredible that art is – much as how I have tried to fit Stargazing into as many decks as I can because it’s so pleasing to see the art in my hand.
I hope that you have found this guide informative and interesting, and that I have encouraged you to try out Orphic Theory. It’s easy for a card to get lost in the mix of new cards, particularly with the new release format, and it’s definitely worth a look. The breakdown of targets for Orphic Theory below is intended to provide guidance for every campaign so it should be well worth revisiting whenever you’re considering taking the card, and to let you know what targets you should keep an eye out for once you have taken it.
Thank you for reading.
Breakdown by treachery card
This section lists every treachery card that is a valid target for Orphic Theory – meaning that it actually enters and remains in play. This includes some cards that are technically valid targets – in that they are in play and thus can be blanked by Orphic Theory – but which will provide no benefits of any kind, or even be actively detrimental, if targeted. It also includes certain cards that look like they should be valid targets but actually aren’t. Each treachery is placed into one or more general categories to give an overview of how effective Orphic Theory is at counteracting them, with certain special cases receiving additional explanation about the interaction. The categories of treacheries are as follows:
“Temporary suppression” means that the salient effects of the card will be suspended for the round, but it will remain in play and reactivate once the suppression ends. With an asterisk (“Temporary suppression*”), this indicates that an optional ability allowing you to do something to permanently remove the card is also temporarily unavailable – for example, Locked Door is suppressed and you can investigate the location this round, but you also can’t take the action to test to discard Locked Door. If you weren’t planning on activating that ability this round, there’s no downside. Sometimes, this is as good as countering the card entirely – if you can clear all the clues off a location with Locked Door attached within the duration of Orphic Theory, it no longer has a downside unless some other effect drops a clue back on that location later on – but that’s quite situational.
“Suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger” means that the salient effects of the card will be suspended for the round, but a triggered effect that could get rid of the card has also been suspended so the card may stay in play longer than otherwise. This is different from “Temporary suppression*” in that you aren’t simply losing access to an optional ability for discarding the card, but instead skipping a trigger that would – or could – discard it automatically. For example, blanking Frozen in Fear will suppress its effects but will cause it to stick around for next round when previously it was going to be discarded this round.
“Hard counter” means that blanking the card is as good as discarding it entirely, typically because it will be discarded harmlessly at the end of the round just after Orphic Theory elapses. Note that there’s some timing nuances – you can only use Orphic Theory in a player window, so a card could do something bad in between drawing it and reaching the next player window; naturally, the card is effectively “countered” only once you’ve been able to target it with Orphic Theory. With an asterisk (“Hard counter*”), this indicates that the card only discards a single copy of itself at the end of the round, so while you are essentially completely countering one copy of it, multiple copies in play at once may require additional uses of Orphic Theory over multiple turns to neutralise all of them harmlessly.
“Soft counter” means that the effects can be largely mitigated by blanking it at the right moment, but the card isn’t completely dealt with and could cause problems over a longer timescale than a single round. Effects that trigger once your deck or the encounter deck runs out can be avoided if you blank the card just before that condition is reached, but the effect will linger and could trigger later if that condition is reached a second time. The timing could be tricky with effects that trigger when the encounter deck is emptied – you’ll need a player window after the round begins but before the deck runs out to counter them with Orphic Theory, or you’ll need to empty the deck at some point other than in the Mythos phase – but if you can, it will go a long way to entirely defusing the card.
“Technically eligible but does nothing/purely disadvantageous” means that the card is a valid target for Orphic Theory under the rules, but blanking it won’t benefit you in any way – often because the bad part of the effect will go off “at the end of the round” and thus will be ready to trigger once Orphic Theory wears off, but this is also used in places where the bad part of the card has already happened when the card first came into play, and all you’re losing is a side benefit or the means of discarding it.
“Ineligible” means that the treachery is never going to be a valid target for Orphic Theory in the first place, for instance because its revelation effect causes it to become a different card type and therefore no longer be a treachery, or because it will always be attached to an Elite enemy.
Dissonant Voices from Striking Fear (hard counter)
Frozen in Fear from Striking Fear (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Locked Door from Locked Doors (temporary suppression*)
Obscuring Fog from Chilling Cold (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Dreams of R’lyeh from Agents of Cthulhu (temporary suppression*)
Return to the Night of the Zealot:
Mask of Umordhoth from The Devourer’s Cult (temporary suppression): The doom will be placed when the card enters play, but the other effects are suppressed.
The Dunwich Legacy:
Beyond the Veil from Sorcery (soft counter)
Light of Aforgomon from Bishop’s Thralls (temporary suppression)
Unhallowed Country from Dunwich (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Sordid and Silent from Dunwich (technically eligible but does nothing)
Cursed Luck from Bad Luck (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Altered Beast from Beast Thralls (temporary suppression)
Arcane Barrier from The Beyond (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Kidnapped from Blood on the Altar (temporary suppression): Very tricky, you need to blank it before the agenda advances. Won’t undo the ally being kidnapped but could prevent their permanent death.
Psychopomp’s Song from Blood on the Altar (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Towering Beasts from Undimensioned and Unseen (temporary suppression)
Note: Shadow-Spawned from The Miskatonic Museum is ineligible because it is only capable of attaching to an Elite enemy
Return to the Dunwich Legacy:
Raise the Stakes from Return to the House Always Wins (temporary suppression)
Infinite Doorway from Beyond the Threshold (temporary suppression)
Secret Door from Secret Doors (temporary suppression*)
Oppressive Mists from Creeping Cold (temporary suppression*)
Violent Commands from Erratic Fear (temporary suppression*)
Idle Hands from Erratic Fear (temporary suppression*)
Note: Dark Bidding from Return to the Miskatonic Museum and Imperceptible Creature from Return to Undimensioned and Unseen are ineligible because they are only capable of attaching to Elite enemies.
Path to Carcosa:
Frozen in Fear from A Phantom of Truth (see core set)
Torturous Chords from A Phantom of Truth (temporary suppression*)
Tough Crowd from The Last King (hard counter)
Spires of Carcosa from Evil Portents (technically eligible but purely disadvantageous)
Spirit’s Torment from Hauntings (temporary suppression*)
Ooze and Filth from Decay and Filth (hard counter)
The Shadow Behind You from The Pallid Mask (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
The Pit Below from The Pallid Mask (temporary suppression): This only suppresses the shroud increase – the discard and damage trigger is at the end of the round, by which point Orphic Theory has worn off.
Note: Straitjacket from The Unspeakable Oath is ineligible because once it enters play it has become an asset so isn’t a treachery anymore.
Return to the Path to Carcosa:
Radical Treatment from Return to the Unspeakable Oath (technically eligible but purely disadvantageous)
The Sign of Hastur from Hastur’s Envoys (temporary suppression)
Melancholy from Neurotic Fear (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Painful Reflection from Neurotic Fear (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
The Forgotten Age:
Overgrowth from Rainforest (temporary suppression*)
Voice of the Jungle from Rainforest (temporary suppression*)
Lost in the Wilds from Expedition (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Curse of Yig from Agents of Yig (temporary suppression*)
Entombed from Deadly Traps (temporary suppression*)
Deep Dark from Forgotten Ruins (hard counter)
Words of Power from Pnakotic Brotherhood (temporary suppression*)
Snakescourge from Yig’s Venom (hard counter)
Nobody’s Home from Threads of Fate (temporary suppression)
Conspiracy of Blood from Threads of Fate (temporary suppression*): The timing for this is extremely tricky, since it only matters if the agenda is about to advance – and typically that happens at the start of the round. Much like with Kidnapped! in Dunwich, it’s not a completely useless target because there are circumstances where the agenda could advance mid-round – like Ancient Evils, Agnes’ Dark Memory and Amina’s Deafening Silence – but I wouldn’t factor Conspiracy of Blood into whether you want Orphic Theory.
Poisonous Spores from Heart of the Elders (technically eligible but does nothing)
No Turning Back from K’n-yan (temporary suppression*)
Yithian Presence from The City of Archives (temporary suppression*)
Cruel Interrogations from The City of Archives (temporary suppression*)
Children of Valusia from The Depths of Yoth (hard counter)
Creeping Darkness from Shattered Aeons (temporary suppression*): The doom will still be placed, but used judiciously blanking this card is as good as dealing damage to the Formless Spawn.
Note: Poisoned from Poison is ineligible because it is a weakness. Between Worlds from Shattered Aeons is ineligible because once it enters play it has become a location and is no longer a treachery.
Return to the Forgotten Age:
Resentful Wilds from Doomed Expedition (temporary suppression)
The Circle Undone:
Daemonic Piping from Agents of Azathoth (technically eligible but does nothing): This is a complicated interaction – the constant effect that triggers when all three copies are in play only checks for whether the cards are in play, and will trigger immediately once the third copy enters play, before you’ll reach a player window that would enable you to blank it, so blanking the other copies that are already in play is irrelevant.
Wracked from Witchcraft (temporary suppression*)
Bedeviled from Witchcraft (temporary suppression*)
Evil Past from City of Sins (soft counter): Tricky timing, you need to blank it before the encounter deck runs out
Whispers in the Dark from Spectral Predators (hard counter)
Realm of Torment from Realm of Death (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Terror in the Night from Inexorable Fate (technically eligible but does nothing): See Daemonic Piping
Fate of All Fools from Inexorable Fate (technically eligible but does nothing – the effect that matters is on the second copy being resolved, not the first copy already in play)
Pulled by the Stars from The Secret Name (temporary suppression*)
Disquieting Dreams from The Secret Name (temporary suppression of first Forced effect, soft counter for second Forced effect): The second Forced effect triggers when the encounter deck runs out so timing is tricky.
Punishment from The Wages of Sin (temporary suppression*)
Death Approaches from Union and Disillusion (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Psychopomp’s Song from Union and Disillusion (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Primordial Gateway from In the Clutches of Chaos (temporary suppression*)
Note: Ultimate Chaos from Before the Black Throne is ineligible because it can only attach to an Elite enemy – even if that weren’t true, it would do nothing, see Daemonic Piping.
Return to The Circle Undone:
Brazier Enchantment from Return to Union and Disillusion (temporary suppression*)
Despoiled from Hexcraft (temporary suppression*)
Maligned from Hexcraft (temporary suppression*)
Impending Evils from Impending Evils (technically eligible but does nothing, see Daemonic Piping)
Unavoidable Demise from Unspeakable Fate (temporary suppression)
Fate of All Fools from Unspeakable Fate (technically eligible but does nothing, see Fate of All Fools above)
Mists from Beyond from Chilling Mists (temporary suppression, but doesn’t affect the Forced trigger)
Unstable Energies from Unstable Realm (temporary suppression, almost a hard counter)
Vice and Villainy from City of the Damned (soft counter to the first effect, hard counter to the second effect)
Bloodthirsty Spirits from Bloodthirsty Spirits (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Deeper Slumber from Dreamer’s Curse (temporary suppression*)
Dreamlands Eclipse from Dreamlands (hard counter)
Prismatic Phenomenon from Dreamlands (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Night Terrors from Merging Realities (temporary suppression*): Note that you can use Orphic Theory in the player window during the skill test to get rid of Night Terrors. This will blank the effect of Night Terrors and thus mean that its Forced effect can’t trigger as a result of the skill test, but the skill test itself will still continue and discard Night Terrors regardless of whether you succeed or fail.
Glimpse of the Underworld from Merging Realities (temporary suppression*)
Threads of Reality from Merging Realities (temporary suppression*)
Sickening Webs from Spiders (temporary suppression*)
Hunted by Corsairs from Corsairs (technically eligible but does nothing / hard counter): This card triggers when the act advances, and is then discarded because the attached act leaves play. In Search for Kadath, you can only advance the act “at the end of the round”, so Orphic Theory will wear off before it can trigger or be discarded. In Dark Side of the Moon, however, advancing the Act generally happens during the investigation phase and due to investigator decisions, so in that scenario it can be completely countered by blanking it before advancing.
Song of the Magah Bird from The Search for Kadath (temporary suppression*).
Wondrous Lands from The Search for Kadath (temporary suppression, including positive effect)
Indescribable Apparition from A Thousand Shapes of Horror (temporary suppression*)
Glowing Eyes from A Thousand Shapes of Horror (technically eligible but does nothing)
Deceptive Memories from A Thousand Shapes of Horror (temporary suppression, tricky timing)
Secrets in the Attic from A Thousand Shapes of Horror (hard counter*)
Lunar Patrol from Dark Side of the Moon (temporary suppression)
Dhole Tunnel from Terror of the Vale (technically eligible but does nothing)
Caught in a Web from Weaver of the Cosmos (temporary suppression*)
Note: The Spinner in Darkness is ineligible because it can only attach to an Elite enemy.
The Innsmouth Conspiracy
Undertow from Rising Tide (temporary suppression*)
Fog over Innsmouth from Fog over Innsmouth (hard counter*)
Malfunction from Malfunction (temporary suppression*)
Innsmouth Look from The Locals (temporary suppression*)
Furtive Locals from The Locals (hard counter*)
Aquatic Ambush from Devil Reef (hard counter*)
Dragged Under from Devil Reef (temporary suppression*)
Kiss of Brine from A Light in the Fog (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Totality from A Light in the Fog (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Stone Barrier from The Lair of Dagon (temporary suppression*)
Note: Worth His Salt is ineligible because it can only attach to an Elite enemy.
Edge of the Earth
Zero Visibility from Ice and Death (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Evanescent Mist from Fatal Mirage (hard counter)
Kindred Mist from Creatures in the Ice (temporary suppression)
Antarctic Wind from Deadly Weather (hard counter)
Whiteout from Deadly Weather (hard counter)
Polar Vortex from Deadly Weather (hard counter)
Through the Ice from Hazards of Antarctica (temporary suppression)
Abandoned to Madness from Left Behind (temporary suppression)
Blasphemous Visions from Nameless Horrors (temporary suppression*)
Miasmatic Torment from Miasma (temporary suppression*)
Nebulous Miasma from Miasma (hard counter)
Polar Mirage from Silence and Mystery (temporary suppression)
The Scarlet Keys
(Will update once I have access to the campaign – it’s not currently available in the UK)
Curse of the Rougarou:
Spectral Mist (temporary suppression*)
Dragged Under (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Note: Insatiable Bloodlust is ineligible because it is only capable of attaching to an Elite enemy.
Carnevale of Horrors:
Acrid Miasma (temporary suppression)
Labyrinths of Lunacy:
Dreadful Mechanism (temporary suppression*)
Paradox Effect, epic multiplayer version (technically eligible but purely disadvantageous)
Note: Harvested Pain is ineligible because it is placed in the victory display, even though its effect is still active while there.
Guardians of the Abyss:
Note: All Treachery cards in Guardians of the Abyss are part of the Sands of Egypt set, so they are all found in both Eternal Slumber and Night’s Usurper.
Slumber (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Dark Sacrifice (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Murder at the Excelsior Hotel:
Driven to Madness (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Incriminating Evidence (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Harvested Brain (temporary suppression)
The Blob that Ate Everything:
Caustic Dissemination (technically eligible but does nothing)
Sticky Feet (temporary suppression*)
“It’s got me!” (technically eligible but purely disadvantageous)
Alien Food Chain (temporary suppression)
War of the Outer Gods:
Predator’s Call (temporary suppression)
Machinations Through Time:
Temporal Distortion (temporary suppression*)
Dimensional Breach (temporary suppression*): Orphic Theory won’t do anything about the doom placed on the card.
Hunted by Byakats (suppresses the effect but skips discard trigger)
Stubborn Cat (temporary suppression*)
Note: None of the Parallel Investigator scenarios add new non-weakness Treachery cards.
Breakdown by campaign/scenario
Night of the Zealot:
The scenario in the Night of the Zealot with the most targets for Orphic Theory is The Gathering, and with the low overall exp rewards because of the short length of the campaign, I don’t recommend taking In the Thick of It for Orphic Theory. That said, if your strategy for Midnight Masks is to race through the scenario with a strong focus on clue gathering via investigation, Orphic Theory might prevent Locked Door and Obscuring Fog slowing you down, so if you have one or two experience points going spare after The Gathering and you have an intellect-heavy group, it might be worth considering.
The Gathering: Dissonant Voices, Chilling Fog, Frozen in Fear
Midnight Masks: Obscuring Fog, Locked Door
Devourer Below: Dissonant Voices, Frozen in Fear, Dreams of R’lyeh (¼ chance)
Return to the Night of the Zealot:
A slightly better choice for Return to the Night of the Zealot compared to the original version. Mask of Umordhoth is a real pain, putting doom on an enemy and then making them much harder to kill, so while the lack of available experience points is still a concern, it could be a decent pick after Return to the Gathering.
Return to the Gathering: Dissonant Voices, Chilling Fog, Frozen in Fear
Return to Midnight Masks: Obscuring Fog, Locked Door, Mask of Umordhoth
Return to the Devourer Below: Dissonant Voices, Frozen in Fear, Dreams of R’lyeh (¼ chance), Mask of Umordhoth
The Dunwich Legacy:
If you can get the timing right, Orphic Theory is an excellent counter to the dreaded Beyond the Veil. Seekers are particularly vulnerable to Beyond the Veil between their excellent card draw and typically low health, a problem which has become more pronounced as the game has gone on and more card draw options are available. There are plenty of other nasty cards in Dunwich that Orphic Theory can help with, particularly with Undimensioned and Unseen and Where Doom Awaits. Dunwich is rather infamous for the low experience point rewards, so the low cost of Orphic Theory might make it a more attractive option, though it could also be tough to prioritise. If you’re starting with The House Always Wins, I’d consider taking Orphic Theory before Extracurricular Activities; if you’re instead starting with Extracurricular Activities and you’re particularly worried about Beyond the Veil, I’d consider taking In the Thick of It to start with Orphic Theory.
Extracurricular Activities: Locked Door, Beyond the Veil, Light of Aforgomon, Arcane Barrier
The House Always Wins: Dissonant Voices, Frozen in Fear, Cursed Luck
The Miskatonic Museum: Cursed Luck, Beyond the Veil, Arcane Barrier, Obscuring Fog, Locked Door
The Essex County Express: Arcane Barrier, Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices
Blood on the Altar: Kidnapped, Psychopomp’s Song, Unhallowed Country
Undimensioned and Unseen: Unhallowed Country, Towering Beasts, Altered Beasts, Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices
Where Doom Awaits: Altered Beasts, Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices, Obscuring Fog, Beyond the Veil, Light of Aforgomon
Lost in Time and Space: Arcane Barrier, Beyond the Veil
Return to the Dunwich Legacy
Not much has changed in the Return to Dunwich – eligible targets have been replaced with different eligible targets, so the same recommendations apply from the base campaign. The addition of Imperceptible Creature in Return to Undimensioned and Unseen could throw a spanner in the works, making a Brood of Yog-Sothoth into an Elite enemy and thus protecting it against Orphic Theory. You can choose targets for the various treacheries that attach to the Broods, so if there’s more than one in play it might be worth stacking Altered Beasts and Towering Beasts onto one of them and attaching Imperceptible Creature to the other.
Return to Extracurricular Activities: Secret Door, Beyond the Veil, Light of Aforgomon, Infinite Doorway
Return to the House Always Wins: Violent Commands, Idle Hands, Cursed Luck
Return to the Miskatonic Museum: Cursed Luck, Beyond the Veil, Arcane Barrier, Oppressive Mists, Secret Door
Return to the Essex County Express: Infinite Doorway, Violent Commands, Idle Hands
Return to Blood on the Altar: Kidnapped, Psychopomp’s Song, Unhallowed Country
Return to Undimensioned and Unseen: Unhallowed Country, Towering Beasts, Altered Beasts, Violent Commands, Idle Hands
Return to Where Doom Awaits: Altered Beasts, Violent Commands, Idle Hands, Oppressive Mists, Beyond the Veil, Light of Aforgomon
Return to Lost in Time and Space: Infinite Doorway, Beyond the Veil
Path to Carcosa
There are fewer targets for Orphic Theory in Carcosa, and none that are as obviously impactful as Beyond the Veil was in Dunwich. Torturous Chords can be a real nightmare of a card and Orphic Theory can give you a round to play everything without worrying about it. Since there are zero valid targets for this card in Black Stars Rise, I’d consider getting rid of it after Pallid Mask, or only purchasing it for Dim Carcosa. With the ruling that you cannot target Hidden cards with Orphic Theory, it has become an extremely poor choice for Carcosa, and I would not recommend taking it. I can imagine taking it after Black Stars Rise in multiplayer if multiple investigators will struggle with Frozen in Fear and Dissonant Voices for Dim Carcosa, but that’s a niche use at best.
Curtain Call: Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices, Spirit’s Torment
The Last King: Tough Crowd, Ooze and Filth
Echoes of the Past: Locked Door
The Unspeakable Oath: Ooze and Filth
A Phantom of Truth: Frozen in Fear, Torturous Chords
The Pallid Mask: The Shadow Behind You, Obscuring Fog, Spirit’s Torment, The Pit Below
Black Stars Rise: (none)
Dim Carcosa: Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices
Return to the Path to Carcosa
Back when I was working under the assumption that you could target Hidden cards with Orphic Theory, I nevertheless felt that Orphic Theory was a little bit less useful in Return to the Path to Carcosa compared to the base campaign since Ooze and Filth has gone and the multiple new Hidden cards added were awkward to target. With the Hidden cards off the table, Orphic Theory is simply not worth using in Return to the Path to Carcosa, though as with the base campaign I can see using it for Dim Carcosa alone.
Return to Curtain Call: Melancholy, Painful Reflection, Spirit’s Torment
Return to the Last King: Tough Crowd
Return to Echoes of the Past: Locked Door
Return to the Unspeakable Oath: The Sign of Hastur
Return to a Phantom of Truth: Frozen in Fear, Torturous Chords, The Sign of Hastur
Return to the Pallid Mask: The Shadow Behind You, Obscuring Fog, Spirit’s Torment, The Pit Below
Return to Black Stars Rise:
Return to Dim Carcosa: Melancholy, Painful Reflection, The Sign of Hastur
The Forgotten Age
There are several really strong targets for Orphic Theory in The Forgotten Age. Suppressing Entombed for a round can save you from enemies or let you sprint to the exit, Words of Power is an excellent target since it will only occasionally be an issue but it’s a big issue when it comes up, and it has plenty of impactful targets in The City of Archives where cards like Locked Door and Obscuring Fog are much worse when you’re in the Body of a Yithian. It falls off in effectiveness a little by Shattered Aeons, but ultimately I think Orphic Theory is a strong option for The Forgotten Age. It’s quite useful for effects like Overgrowth and Lost in the Wilds, but I would think long and hard before using In the Thick of It for The Forgotten Age, since the campaign can pile on the trauma without your help. That said, the Forgotten Age can be very generous with experience points and a smoother ride through The Untamed Wilds can result in lots of extra victory points being earned. This also means that getting rid of Orphic Theory prior to Shattered Aeons doesn’t feel so bad since you might be swimming in experience points by then.
The Untamed Wilds: Overgrowth, Voice of the Jungle, Lost in the Wilds, Curse of Yig
The Doom of Eztli: Curse of Yig, Snakescourge, Entombed, Deep Dark, Obscuring Fog
Threads of Fate: Nobody’s Home, Conspiracy of Blood, Words of Power, Locked Door
The Boundary Beyond: Words of Power (in ⅔ setup configurations), Snakescourge (in the remaining configuration)
Heart of the Elders, pt 1: Overgrowth, Voice of the Jungle, Lost in the Wilds
Heart of the Elders, pt 2: Curse of Yig, Snakescourge, Entombed, Deep Dark, No Turning Back
The City of Archives: Yithian Presence, Cruel Interrogations, Locked Door, Obscuring Fog, Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices
The Depths of Yoth: Children of Valusia, Curse of Yig, Snakescourge, Lost in the Wilds, Deep Dark
Shattered Aeons: Creeping Darkness, Words of Power, Curse of Yig (in ⅔ setup configurations)
Turn Back Time: Curse of Yig, Snakescourge, Entombed, Deep Dark, Obscuring Fog
Return to the Forgotten Age
There’s very little change in Orphic Theory’s effectiveness between the original The Forgotten Age campaign and the Return to the Forgotten Age, so the same advice as above mainly applies. If you’re going for a zero Vengeance run, it might be a bit more worthwhile to take In the Thick of It for Orphic Theory in Return to the Untamed Wilds, to bypass Resentful Wilds, particularly since it’s a bit easier to heal trauma after Return to Threads of Fate.
Return to the Untamed Wilds: Overgrowth, Voice of the Jungle, Resentful Wilds, Curse of Yig
Return to the Doom of Eztli: Curse of Yig, Entombed, Deep Dark, Obscuring Fog
Return to Threads of Fate: Nobody’s Home, Conspiracy of Blood, Words of Power, Locked Door
Return to the Boundary Beyond: Words of Power (in ⅔ setup configurations)
Return to Heart of the Elders, pt 1: Overgrowth, Voice of the Jungle, Resentful Wilds
Return to Heart of the Elders, pt 2: Curse of Yig, Entombed, Deep Dark, No Turning Back
Return to the City of Archives: Yithian Presence, Cruel Interrogations, Locked Door, Obscuring Fog, Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices
Return to the Depths of Yoth: Children of Valusia, Curse of Yig, Resentful Wilds, Deep Dark
Return to shattered Aeons: Creeping Darkness, Words of Power, Curse of Yig (in ⅔ setup configurations)
Return to Turn Back Time: Curse of Yig, Entombed, Deep Dark, Obscuring Fog
The Circle Undone
When Orphic Theory was first shown, a lot of discussion immediately began about how it could help with The Circle Undone. It’s certainly true that there are a lot of lingering treachery cards that Orphic Theory can target, but it doesn’t have as many good targets as you might think – Fate of All Fools, Daemonic Piping and Terror in the Night aren’t actually affected by Orphic Theory, as much as you might think otherwise at first glance. Realm of Torment is a tricky one since you also lose the opportunity to get rid of it – if your current location has a horrible Haunted effect, you can use Orphic Theory to buy yourself a round to get somewhere safer and get rid of it next round. Evil Past and Disqueting Dreams trigger when the encounter deck runs out, and you might not have the opportunity to use Orphic Theory before that happens in a round. It can be nice particularly if you have low willpower to buy time with Wracked, Bedeviled, Punishment and Pulled by the Stars until you can find and evade a Witch enemy to get rid of them without testing. Using Orphic Theory to blank Primordial Gateway in The Clutches of Chaos is a nice moment of turning the tables on the encounter deck and preventing the attached location being blanked. Since there are zero valid targets in Before the Black Throne, you want to replace Orphic Theory after The Clutches of Chaos. In a multiplayer game, I would consider using In the Thick of It to start with Orphic Theory, since there’s lots of good targets in The Witching Hour and the investigators start out separated, so being able to support investigators you can’t otherwise reach is particularly useful there.
The Witching Hour: Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices, Wracked, Bedeviled, Evil Past
On Death’s Doorstep: Obscuring Fog, Whispers in the Dark, Realm of Torment
The Secret Name: Wracked, Bedeviled, Evil Past, Realm of Torment, Pulled by the Stars, Disquieting Dreams
The Wages of Sin: Wracked, Bedeviled, Evil Past, Realm of Torment, Punishment
For the Greater Good: Evil Past, Locked Door
Union and Disillusion: Obscuring Fog, Whispers in the Dark, Realm of Torment, Psychopomp’s Song, Death Approaches
The Clutches of Chaos: Primordial Gateway; “Anette Mason is possessed by evil” setup: Wracked, Bedeviled, Evil Past; “Carl Sanford possesses the secrets of the universe” setup: Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices
Before the Black Throne: (none)
Return to the Circle Undone
Orphic Theory is more or less as good in Return to the Circle Undone as it is in the original The Circle Undone, with valid targets being replaced with different valid targets, so mostly the same advice as before applies. While Return to the Black Throne does actually contain a valid target, I would still recommend getting rid of Orphic Theory for something more useful after Return to the Clutches of Chaos.
Return to the Witching Hour: Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices, Despoiled, Maligned, Vice and Villainy
Return to On Death’s Doorstep: Mists from Beyond, Whispers in the Dark, Unstable Energies, Bloodthirsty Spirits
Return to the Secret Name: Despoiled, Maligned, Vice and Villainy, Unstable Energies, Pulled by the Stars, Disquieting Dreams, Unavoidable Demise
Return to the Wages of Sin: Despoiled, Maligned, Vice and Villainy, Unstable Energies, Punishment, Bloodthirsty Spirits, Unavoidable Demise
Return to For the Greater Good: Vice and Villainy, Locked Door
Return to Union and Disillusion: Mists from Beyond, Whispers in the Dark, Unstable Energies, Psychopomp’s Song, Death Approaches, Brazier Enchantment, Unavoidable Demise
Return to the Clutches of Chaos: Primordial Gateway; “Anette Mason is possessed by evil” setup: Despoiled, Maligned, Vice and Villainy; “Carl Sanford possesses the secrets of the universe” setup: Frozen in Fear, Dissonant Voices
Return to Before the Black Throne: Unavoidable Demise
Much like Carcosa, Orphic Theory was not a particularly impressive choice even when I thought you could target Hidden cards with it, and the ruling makes it even less appealing. Nevertheless, the campaign has some tempting targets, with Dreamlands Eclipse being hard countered by Orphic Theory and Song of the Magah Bird and Wondrous Lands potentially being counteracted if you can clear off and leave the location in time. Orphic Theory is very effective in Beyond the Gates of Sleep so if you are interested in using it, I’d consider using In the Thick of It to take it, particularly since a shorter campaign means fewer instances in which you can suffer trauma otherwise. It falls off in effectiveness massively for Where the Gods Dwell, so if you do take Orphic Theory for this campaign you should replace it after Dark Side of the Moon – this means you’ll have it for at most two scenarios, or three with In the Thick of It, so I think it’s overall a pretty niche option for this campaign. Note that there’s no benefit to blanking Hunted by Corsairs in The Search for Kadath, since its effect can only trigger at the end of the round once Orphic Theory wears off, but it’s more or less a hard counter in Dark Side of the Moon.
Beyond the Gates of Sleep: Obscuring Fog, Deeper Slumber, Dreamlands Eclipse, Prismatic Phenomenon
The Search for Kadath: Dreamlands Eclipse, Prismatic Phenomenon, Song of the Magah Bird, Wondrous Lands
Blanking Hunted by Corsairs is pointless in this scenario, because the effect can only trigger at the end of the round once Orphic Theory wears off.
Dark Side of the Moon: Deeper Slumber, Hunted by Corsairs, Lunar Patrol
Where the Gods Dwell: Deeper Slumber
The Waking side of The Dream-Eaters, on the other hand, is full of targets for Orphic Theory. It’s an excellent counter to Night Terrors and can help you out of some very sticky situations caused by Sickening Webs, Threads of Reality and Glimpse of the Underworld (unless Threads of Reality attaches to Orphic Theory Itself). Look at that list for A Thousand Shapes of Horror: Eight targets, and most of them good ones (only Deceptive Memories is a marginal choice). I think In the Thick of It to take Orphic Theory is a very solid choice for this campaign, and while it does fall off after A Thousand Shapes of Horror, it has enough useful targets to remain effective throughout the campaign.
Waking Nightmare: Locked Door, Dissonant Voices, Frozen in Fear, Night Terrors, Glimpse of the Underworld, Threads of Reality, Sickening Webs
A Thousand Shapes of Horror: Locked Door, Obscuring Fog, Night Terrors, Glimpse of the Underworld, Threads of Reality, Indescribable Apparition, Deceptive Memories, Secrets in the Attic
Point of No Return: Dissonant Voices, Frozen in Fear
Weaver of the Cosmos: Obscuring Fog, Sickening Webs, Caught in a Web
The Innsmouth Conspiracy
There’s not many targets for Orphic Theory in The Innsmouth Conspiracy, and some of the ones that do exist don’t offer much benefit – for example, if you blank Undertow you’re just buying time, which might be valuable if you need to dig for cards to use on its ability or play for soak or healing, or get to another investigator who can help you out, but might just end up being treading water unless you’re near the end of the campaign. Blanking Malfunction isn’t that useful in Devil Reef, where you probably want to get rid of it permanently so you can use the boat again, but is much more useful in Horror in High Gear where you only need to use the action abilities on the cars every so often. I definitely wouldn’t use In the Thick of It to take Orphic Theory in Pit of Despair but it has enough targets to be useful after then, particularly in The Vanishing of Elina Harper. However, much like with The Circle Undone, there are no viable targets in Into the Maelstrom so if you do take it, you want to replace it by the end of The Lair of Dagon.
Pit of Despair: Undertow, Dreams of R’lyeh
The Vanishing of Elina Harper: Fog Over Innsmouth, Innsmouth Look, Furtive Locals, Locked Door, Obscuring Fog
In Too Deep: Undertow, Innsmouth Look, Furtive Locals, Dreams of R’lyeh
Horror in High Gear: Fog Over Innsmouth, Malfunction
A Light in the Fog: Kiss of Brine, Totality, Undertow, Dissonant Voices, Frozen in Fear
The Lair of Dagon: Stone Barrier, Locked Door
Into the Maelstrom: (none)
Edge of the Earth
Edge of the Earth is an excellent campaign for Orphic Theory. Every scenario has a decent number of targets, many of which are strong choices. The Deadly Weather set in particular is hard countered by Orphic Theory, as are Nebulous Miasma and Evanescent Mist, meaning that the only scenario without any cards that can be hard countered by Orphic Theory is City of the Elder Things (v. II). The results of Ice and Death Part 1 have a strong knock-on effect for the rest of the campaign so I would strongly consider taking In the Thick of It to start with Orphic Theory if you’re planning on using it.
Ice and Death, Part 1: Zero Visibility, Kindred Mist, Antarctic Wind, Whiteout, Polar Vortex, Through the Ice, Polar Mirage
Ice and Death, Part 2: Zero Visibility, Abandoned to Madness, Antarctic Wind, Whiteout, Polar Vortex, Through the Ice, Polar Mirage
Ice and Death, Part 3: Zero Visibility, Kindred Mist, Antarctic Wind, Whiteout, Polar Vortex, Through the Ice, Polar Mirage
Fatal Mirage (this is playable up to three times): Evanescent Mist, Abandoned to Madness, Miasmatic Torment, Nebulous Miasma, Blasphemous Visions, Polar Mirage, Obscuring Fog
To the Forbidden Peaks: Antarctic Wind, Whiteout, Polar Vortex, Through the Ice, Blasphemous Visions
City of the Elder Things (v. I): Miasmatic Torment, Nebulous Miasma, Blasphemous Visions, Locked Door
City of the Elder Things (v. II): Kindred Mist, Blasphemous Visions, Polar Mirage, Obscuring Fog
City of the Elder Things (v. III): Kindred Mist, Miasmatic Torment, Nebulous Miasma, Obscuring Fog, Locked Door
The Heart of Madness, Part 1: Miasmatic Torment, Nebulous Miasma, Blasphemous Visions, Locked Door
The Heart of Madness, Part 2: Miasmatic Torment, Nebulous Miasma, Blasphemous Visions, Obscuring Fog, Dissonant Voices, Frozen in Fear
The Scarlet Keys
(Will update once I have played the expansion)
Since these scenarios use self-contained encounter sets, the full list of treacheries for each scenario is already listed in the “Breakdown by treachery card” section above. In general, I don’t recommend Orphic Theory for the side scenarios, since they have few viable targets. I’d consider it for Guardians of the Abyss, since Slumber and Dark Sacrifice can both be very painful and you can often work out when you’re going to lower the Strength of the Abyss so you’re less likely to skip a discard trigger. It’s also not bad for Murder at the Excelsior Hotel, since it’s an excellent counter to Driven to Madness and blunts Harvested Brain, though there’s not really any way of predicting if you’ll face Harvested Brain. Machinations Through Time contains a couple of targets, Temporal Distortion being an excellent one, so I’d say it’s not a bad choice for that scenario either. Barkham Horror effectively has an equivalent to Locked Door and a slightly less onerous Frozen in Fear, so I’d say it’s not terrible, but hardly a priority, very similar to Midnight Masks.
Parallel investigator scenarios
Orphic Theory is a solid choice for any of the parallel investigator scenarios other than All or Nothing (where it’s not worth using). It’s particularly strong for Read or Die and Red Tide Rising, which have several good targets, much like the scenarios they’re based on. Bad Blood, Read or Die and By the Book are particularly noteworthy because the associated investigators – Agnes Baker, Roland Banks and Daisy Walker – can take Orphic Theory themselves (only parallel Agnes and standard Roland deckbuilding); the associated investigator needs to be present in the scenario, so if you’re playing true solo, you cannot use Orphic Theory in All or Nothing or Red Tide Rising in the first place.
All or Nothing: Cursed Luck
Bad Blood: Nobody’s Home, Conspiracy of Blood, Locked Door
By the Book: Dissonant Voices, Frozen in Fear, Obscuring Fog
Read or Die: Beyond the Veil, Arcane Barrier, Light of Aforgomon, Locked Door
Red Tide Rising: Fog Over Innsmouth, Innsmouth Look, Furtive Locals, Locked Door, Obscuring Fog
I originally posted this in December 2018 on the Arkham Horror LCG subreddit and on the now defunct FFG forums. At the time, it was intended as background following the announcement of The Circle Undone. Much of the text remains unchanged here, but as there have been lots of new additions to the wider community, and as it’s a post I’m rather proud of (not to mention appropriate for the theme and URL of this blog!), I thought I’d repost it here for posterity, with some tweaks. This post will include comprehensive spoilers for the classic Call of Cthulhu RPG campaign Shadows of Yog Sothoth and minor spoilers for Masks of Nyarlathotep, both by Chaosium, as well as potentially spoiler-y information about the discontinued Call of Cthulhu Card Game, all three editions of the Arkham Horror board game, Mansions of Madness 2e, and Eldritch Horror. I will be touching on the plotline of The Circle Undone in broad strokes, but I will try to avoid any major spoilers.
With the announcement of The Return to The Circle Undone, Arkham Horror players might be interested to know the background of the Order and its different incarnations. Since the Order plays a crucial – and morally uncertain – role in the Circle Undone, you may be curious to see where the Order has landed in terms of being villainous or heroic across its many appearances. My hope is that this gives you some interesting background to the story of TCU, whether you’re a veteran of the campaign or have yet to play it, and that it might help inspire speculation about the twists, turns and tweaks that we might see in the Return to… version of the campaign. A lot of this post was originally written from memory with reference to old materials, so while I have checked my sources, I’d welcome any corrections or additions.
First Appearance – Villainous super-cult
The Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight (HOST for short) goes back to the early days of Cthulhu Mythos tabletop gaming. The Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG, which is responsible to a large extent for much of the significance of the Cthulhu Mythos in modern pop culture, was first released in 1981. The initial scenarios in the core book were very “generic” and straightforward horror plots, such as investigating a supposedly haunted house. However, in 1982, the first campaign for Call of Cthulhu was published, called Shadows of Yog Sothoth. Shadows of Yog Sothoth hasn’t really stood the test of time – it consists of a number of rather incongruous scenarios that are meant to lead into one another, some of which are explicitly designed to just kill player characters, and it overall seems disjointed with a lack of focus or coherency compared with more modern RPG campaigns. However, it laid the foundation for all the Cthulhu Mythos campaigns to follow – taking horror out of the haunted house or creepy cave and making it about global conspiracies and globe-trotting battles against impending disaster.
The HOST is the central antagonistic organisation in the campaign. Initially, the Order seems to be a fraternal organisation in Boston with occult trappings, like a more hardcore version of the Freemasons and with a name evoking the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – it’s wealthy, has political connections, and while it has some weird rituals it seems to be mainly there to enable well-to-do people to make connections and provide a societal and political network for its members. Under the surface, however, the Hermetic Order is a front for an ancient organisation of Mythos sorcerers called the Lords of the Silver Twilight. Favoured members get inducted at late-night ceremonies into ever more occult ranks that give them Cthulhu Mythos knowledge, including oaths to swear allegiance to the Outer Gods, requirements to learn Mythos magic and exposure to mind-blasting horrors. The Lodge hall is an opulent town house with plush eating facilities and reception areas, as well as a bar (the Order’s money and connections mean it is essentially unaffected by prohibition), and occult but apparently benign ritual facilities and library on the second floor. However, it includes secret areas such as a third floor with evil ritual altars, a library of horrible tomes and cursed artwork that produces horror in onlookers, and a basement leading to a cave network with another occult library (including the Necronomicon), statues of Cthulhu, various clues for players, pits and cells for human captives (like people who asked too many questions) and monstrous beings, and bottles filled with the “essential saltes” needed for Resurrection (as detailed in the Lovecraft story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward) that can be used to resurrect people – or carefully created monsters known as Custodes who act as servants and defenders. The organisation is led by John Scott, a centuries-old resurrectee, and Carl Stanford, an ageless sorcerer and the true mastermind behind the Lodge.
The players are expected to find out the secret of the organisation and work to expose its crimes and see it dissolved, but that doesn’t end its schemes. They set up a second organisation called Look to the Future, invoking Nyarlathotep (who appears with the pseudonym Lostalus Black) and sending people through to the future (like the ’70s to ’90s). They sell inconsequential future gimmicks like ball-point pens and non-stick pans, but keep for themselves far more powerful future technology like a computer and assault rifles. This organisation is also led by Carl Stanford and his subordinate Bryan Slim, uses a captive Shoggoth for power generation, and has cultures of a supernatural and utterly deadly disease called the Black Fever.
After messing up these two organisations, the players end up investigating Silver Twilight offshoots throughout the world – the Silver Twilight is trying to get parts of a relic they can use to raise R’lyeh from the sea and free Cthulhu, meaning that their true end-goal is to destroy the world, so the players are competing with them and hunting down other cults to stop this goal. This takes the players to Scotland, where they encounter a coven of witches and, incongruously, serpent people and a chthonian; the Mojave desert, where they investigate a ruined film set and encounter beings known as Spectral Hunters called forth by insane Native American shamans and a member of the Silver Twilight a century prior; rural Maine, where the Silver Twilight tries to assassinate the player characters with the assistance of a Mi-Go; Easter Island, where the players encounter the Deep Ones and a Dimensional Shambler; and finally R’lyeh itself, where the players battle the Silver Twilight and Carl Stanford directly, and may face Cthulhu himself (as well as a fire vampire).
Carl Stanford is the main antagonist in this campaign, as he leads the Silver Twilight from Boston to R’lyeh and masterminds the plot that the players are trying to foil. The campaign itself features a completely scattershot grab-bag of mythos beasties – the HOST worships the Outer Gods, works with Nyarlathotep, communes with all kinds of Mythos beings, tries to summon Cthulhu, and yet the campaign is called Shadows of Yog Sothoth. In that sense, it provides very little in the way of mythos background for the interpretation of the Lodge found in TCU, which is why I’ve concentrated on the Lodge stuff at the start, as that is more heavily referenced in subsequent FFG games and seems the most relevant to the story and setting of TCU.
Second Appearance – Namechecked in MoN
Another seminal work in the history of Call of Cthulhu gaming is the mega-campaign Masks of Nyarlathotep, first released in 1984 and frequently updated and added to since then (a new version has recently been released and by all accounts is as masterful as ever, with a truly bewildering amount of secondary background material and roleplaying aids). In many ways this builds upon the ideas first created in Shadows of Yog Sothoth, but it’s by far the superior work. While it is also a globetrotting mystery that sees players attempting to foil a global conspiracy of immense power, it’s a much more focused story, concentrating on followers of Nyarlathotep, and for the most part the various machinations and monsters that the players encounter make a lot more sense and feel a lot more coherent (as opposed to Shadows of Yog Sothoth that often felt like they’d just thrown a dart at the monster section of the rulebook to determine what the players would come up against). It takes players from New York to London, Egypt, Kenya, Shanghai and Australia, and has been directly referenced in later FFG works (most notably the unfairly maligned final expansion to Eldritch Horror, also called Masks of Nyarlathotep, which was a direct collaboration between FFG and Chaosium). I live in hope that we’ll see a proper Masks mega-campaign for the Arkham LCG, but it’s tangentially relevant to the Circle Undone, as the HOST appears here too. In one part of the story, Carl Stanford of Silver Twilight infamy turns up; he doesn’t have a strong connection to the story, seeming more like he’s taking a working holiday at the HQ of a cult that the players are investigating, but this does establish that the Silver Twilight is active throughout the world – and gives me an excuse to mention Masks of Nyarlathotep in this post. The campaign isn’t perfect – notably, the Australia chapter (which was added later) is extremely weak. However, it has had a huge influence on all Cthulhu Mythos gaming and its influence is found even in the Arkham Horror LCG, albeit not overtly as yet.
FFG’s first steps – the Arkham Horror Board Game
Back in 1987, the first edition of the Arkham Horror Board Game was released. I haven’t played it, but it was by all accounts very different to the Arkham Files universe that we know today, with roll-to-move similar to Cluedo and a rather rudimentary-looking board – though it did mark the first appearance of many of the investigators in our game today. However, it does include the Silver Twilight Lodge as a location, where gates might spawn. Unfortunately, there isn’t much more to say about it, but this game was the first incarnation of what would become the Arkham Horror files and it already namechecks the Silver Twilight – which will be a continuing feature as we fast forward a couple of decades…
FFG starts its Cthulhu obsession
In 2004, Chaosium licensed FFG to produce the Call of Cthulhu Collectible Card Game. Unlike our beloved Arkham Horror LCG, it was a competitive game – players had decks with characters, support cards and events and attempted to win stories – this approach means that a group of Miskatonic Students could win over a horde of Mythos monsters by finishing their investigation before they all went mad or died, and notably, except for a handful of milling strategies and unusual alternative win conditions, the game was not a direct conflict where players attempted to defeat each other like in Magic: the Gathering or the previous Chaosium lovecraftian card game Mythos, but instead was a competition over, essentially, victory points in the form of mysteries to solve. In this incarnation of the card game, it was a CCG and not an LCG – outside of starter decks, players acquired cards randomly via booster packs. The Silver Twilight appeared here as well on a number of cards such as Lord of the Silver Twilight or Silver Twilight Turncoat, continuing the theme of a villainous cultist organisation, and our friend Carl Stanford was likewise present. These cards were aligned with the Cthulhu faction (and not the Yog Sothoth faction). There’s not really much to say about this, either – they had cultisty powers and were in league with Cthulhu. What is interesting is that this game had a much more pulpy theme than the RPG (not that the Call of Cthulhu RPG isn’t pulpy), with organised criminals hiring sorcerers and sending hit squads after deep ones, an agency of investigators shotgun-blasting monsters in the streets, and gods and nightmares striding the earth, opposed by humans. We’ll revisit the Call of Cthulhu Card Game and expand upon this pulpy theme when it makes the jump to the LCG format below…
Arkham Horror goes mainstream
In 2005, the second edition of Arkham Horror was launched. It’s fair to say that this was one of the cornerstones of FFG’s rapid rise to dominance in the board gaming world, and it was the first entry in what has now become the Arkham Files series and universe. I won’t devote much space to explaining the mechanics or nature of the game, as it will likely be familiar to many – in brief, gates appear across Arkham (and later Innsmouth and Dunwich – there was also a Kingsport expansion but technically gates didn’t spawn there), and it’s your job to close them and seal away the Ancient One with investigators wielding guns, magic, various familiar trinkets and items, and so on. Interestingly, this game marks the point where the Silver Twilight becomes a different kind of organisation within the broad narrative. The Silver Twilight Lodge is a location in the game, with a double purpose. Players can have encounters in the lodge where they rub shoulders with Lodge members, eavesdrop on secret conversations or steal useful items, or they can be offered membership – which allows access to Inner Sanctum encounters instead. These encounters see players enjoying support from influential fellow members or arcane resources – but also sees them take part in powerful rituals and hunts that directly help combat the destructive forces out to destroy Arkham, by closing gates and destroying enemies.
The Silver Twilight still does horrible things – monsters roam their halls, and you can be beaten or worse if you show disloyalty. It’s implied that the Silver Twilight might bear responsibility for the events in Arkham – Diana Stanley, the Redeemed Cultist certainly seems to think so, and she has secretly turned her back on the Order to oppose it, believing it to be evil. But in this incarnation it is no longer an unambiguous force for evil, but instead morally ambiguous, corrupt and yet helping to save Arkham. It’s led by Carl Stanford – who is definitely a nasty person, subjecting you to terrible beatings or horrifying experiences to test your suitability or punish you for failing to pay your fees, but is also willing to help you out with material resources and information.
The first Cthulhu LCG
In 2008, FFG switched the Call of Cthulhu CCG over to its LCG model and restarted it from scratch. The mechanics were essentially the same but it used the LCG format we know and love, retaining the seven factions of Yog Sothoth (purple, powerful spells, arcane power, combos, Yithians, milling enemies), Cthulhu (green, strong combat, horror, Deep Ones, enemy card destruction), Hastur (yellow, control, effect cancellation, horror and insanity, artists and lunatics), Shub Niggurath (red, lots of monsters, resource ramp, resurrecting characters, Dark Young and Mi-Go), the Agency (blue, detectives, powerful fighters, enemy card destruction, church and priests, government and police), the Miskatonic University (brown, students and professors, quick investigation, disposable characters, card draw) and the Syndicate (black, criminals, decent combat ability, control and card neutralisation, high skill), which could be freely mixed and matched to create decks like scientists supporting police investigations, researchers driven mad by Hastur, criminals allied with deep ones and so on.
Initially, it continued the previous approach of the Silver Twilight as a villainous force, with the cards Lord of the Silver Twilight, Silver Twilight Temptress and Carl Stanford (Deathless Fanatic). This changed with a deluxe expansion called, appropriately enough, The Order of the Silver Twilight, which added a new human faction, coloured silver, concentrating on control, powerful arcane rituals, combos and making progress at any cost with lots of effects that sacrificed characters, lots of effects that triggered when you sacrifice characters and lots of disposable characters to sacrifice. This incarnation of the Silver Twilight was the most ambiguous so far. Its effects meant that it synergised well with Yog Sothoth (a lodge corrupted to its core), Miskatonic (rich patrons supporting research) and the Syndicate (political corruption and organised crime). The Silver Twilight Lodge was the focus of a new cycle immediately after the deluxe, with a story concentrating on a young dilettante going to a Lodge party and ending up in way, way over her head. While the story isn’t available on FFG’s website, I was very kindly sent a scan of the Rituals of the Order fiction by Carthoris. I have to say, it hasn’t aged particularly well and should be mentioned with a content warning for attempted sexual assault, but it is an interesting curio nevertheless.
To me, this is the most interesting variation of the Silver Twilight, where it isn’t clear whether they’re a benevolent, powerful organisation, or a group seizing power in the chaos of mythos disasters, or a group ultimately responsible for them whether through recklessness or intent; how long have they been behind the scenes, pulling the strings, and is their assistance worth the risk – or can you afford to ignore it? A few named characters from the LCG make their appearance in The Circle Undone, and if the preview for Return to the Circle Undone is any indication, there will be more such crossovers soon.
Going global with Eldritch Horror
Eldritch Horror, first released in 2013, is an evolution of the ideas behind the Arkham Horror board game, retaining the D6 dice pool system, the same characters, the idea of gates spawning at locations and so on, but streamlining it with a greater emphasis both on story and on mechanical balance. The scope is broadened from everything happening in Arkham and surroundings (Arkham being like Cardiff in Torchwood, or Sunnydale in Buffy…) to the whole world, with investigators battling global conspiracies and having to combat plots specific to the mythos disaster taking place rather than playing whack-a-mole with gates all game. I’m a big fan, in case it isn’t clear. The moral ambiguity of the Arkham Horror board game is back, too. A great many effects see the players enjoying boons from or making shady deals with the Silver Twilight, meaning that generally they are on the side of humanity – they can retreatdoomto keep the Ancient One from awakening, empower you directly, or provide you with all kinds of usefulresources. However, when Yog Sothoth threatens the world, Carl Stanford might lead the Lodge to temptation and even join with the mythos.
Outside of a few crucial encounters if Yog Sothoth is the Ancient One, the Lodge is consistently helpful, and though the flavour text often implies that they are dubious and arcane, you don’t even have to make eldritch pacts or pay dues to enjoy their assistance. The impression is that they have influence all over the world, are aware of the doom awaiting the world and your efforts to resist it, and are working behind the scenes to help. Most of the time.
Later incarnations – Arkham 3e and Mansions 2e
The Order of the Silver Twilight has become a fixture of the Arkham Files games by now, appearing in a big way in both the new edition of the Arkham Horror board game and the second edition of Mansions of Madness. In Mansions, there’s a pair of scenarios about the Silver Twilight Lodge as part of the dedicated expansion the Sanctum of Twilight – one that sees you imprisoned by the Order and another that features a ritual during the yearly Twilight Fair through the streets of Arkham. In Arkham 3e, the Order is the focal point of a scenario in the core set, the Veil of Twilight, that sees players join the Lodge and (a familiar theme) get in over their heads. It seems that the Lodge will return in the upcoming Secrets of the Order expansion as well – where one scenario will apparently focus on the HOST.
Mansions of Madness Second Edition also saw the release of Preston Fairmont (who since appeared in Eldritch Horror: Masks of Nyarlathotep, Elder Sign: Omens of the Pharaoh, and of course in the LCG in The Circle Undone). The backstory of The Millionaire ties directly into the Silver Twilight Lodge as part of the mystery behind his fortune and the more esoteric elements of his inheritance.
Since both Arkham 3e and Mansions 2e have dedicated expansions focusing on the Order, it’s clear that it’s become a central point of the Arkham Files world. That said, the appearance of the Order in both games is something of a step back in terms of characterisation – they’re ultimately villains, even if through megalomaniacal schemes for the supposed benefit of humanity rather than simple malice, bringing the Order more in line with their portrayal in the RPG (albeit with a bit more nuance) rather than the ambiguity introduced in earlier FFG products. Perhaps that’s simply a function of the design of those two games, though.
The Arkham Horror LCG
Our own game saw the influence of the Silver Twilight as early as the core set, in the form of the Silver Twilight Acolyte. This enemy is a weakness with the Cultist, Silver Twilight and Humanoid traits, and he causes a small amount of physical damage – but has the punishing effect of adding doom directly to the agenda when he attacks. At first glance this seems unambiguously evil, but on second glance it’s a bit more nuanced than that. The flavour text indicates that the Acolyte is hunting you down because you learned – or stole – terrible secrets regarding the Silver Twilight, and the organisation needs to silence you. This could mean that you know they intend to destroy the world, but could also mean that you saw them sacrificing someone in a ritual (hardly a good-guy thing to do, but when we as investigators can sacrifice our allies or even stab our fellow investigators to fulfil the terms of eldritch blood pacts, being too judgemental might be hypocritical). You might even simply know relatively mundane secrets – like political corruption.
Either way, the Silver Twilight is certainly reckless in sending an Acolyte after you, as they’re preventing you saving Arkham and the world from otherwise certain doom, but the same is true of the misguided Stubborn Detective, who will follow you to Paris, Central America, Carcosa or Beyond Time and Space to get his collar, and the Mob Enforcer, who is truly motivated to get you to pay your gambling debts.
In The Circle Undone expansion, both Investigators with ties to the HOST – Diana Stanley and Preston Fairmont – were added to the roster and have the Silver Twilight trait. Investigator traits haven’t been explored a great deal (though there is a point where their Silver Twilight trait could matter in TCU), but that may be something expanded on later, who can say?
The campaign itself starts with a prologue set at a fancy dinner party thrown by the Lodge. Throughout the campaign, they can be helpful, suspicious and powerful all at once. It’s up to you as a player – and the whims of fate, of course – to decide how far you trust them. Any more than that would give things away but I will close by saying this: The Lodge of The Circle Undone is still rather ambiguous, and their silver facade conceals a thoroughly grey moral bearing. Just as it should be.
To summarise and conclude, over its 39 years of existence, the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight has been an apocalyptic cult of destruction, a force for good, an ambiguous and influential international conspiracy, and a cabal of sorcerers trying to undo their mistakes. How you interpret the Lodge in TCU is up to you. And I hope you’ll join me in Returning to The Circle Undone once it releases.
Stay safe out there in Arkham. The glow of twilight can be worse than the dark of night…
Hello and allow me to welcome you to my new Arkham Horror LCG blog. If you’ve stumbled across this site, hi! I hope you enjoy reading it.
I am Dai (DaiInAFire on the subreddit; Allonym on the defunct FFG forums), and I hope to publish my thoughts on the Arkham Horror LCG whenever the mood strikes me.
Possible topics may include decklists – I have a particular fondness for more unusual deckbuilds, with an eye to creative but effective designs – posts about specific cards (a post about the Eldritch Sophist should be arriving imminently), posts about lore and background (as the URL might give away, I’m quite fond of the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight, and will be crossposting my old post about its history to this blog soon), posts about community contributions and events, thoughts on community-made content, and hot takes on newly released or previewed cards and scenarios.
Given my fondness for the Silver Twilight Lodge, I’ve chosen a vague theme of a slightly tongue-in-cheek Silver Twilight newsletter for this blog, but I’m likely to be prioritising ease of reading over staying in character!
I’m more than happy to provide help and advice with deckbuilding or gameplay queries, or to collaborate on any kind of content, so if you are wanting some help tweaking a deck or looking at some aspect of the game, please feel free to get in touch!