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Episode 1: By the Pricking of my Thumbs

Posted by MonkeyPrime , 09 October 2013 · 1,395 views

So this past Saturday I ran my first self-penned adventure for a group of friends. I have only ran published adventures so far and have had to do a great deal of work to be comfortable with running them. I am working on my magnum octopus campaign "Heir Apparent" but instead of jumping into it was advised by wiser heads on the forums to run some one-shots. I had planned to play Paranoia with them but received word that some had dropped out so decided to put fingers to Ipad and construct my own story. Due to me only having two hours to work on it some of the story is a bit obvious (especially around names of groups and books, I suddenly realised why Cameron called the mineral unobtainium in Avatar!). But we'll go with a narrative of what happened from my 3 investigators eyes.

General background: The three investigators work for a private detective firm Saunderson Investigations. They are part of a specific department that deals with the more unusual cases that need to be dealt with discreetly. My normal group work for the London branch but the three taking part in this work for the Edinburgh branch. The investigators are recruited having had some experience with the mythos but not understanding what it was so they want to find out more. The three investigators were: Philip Murphy (thief, during the course of a house breaking he found a mysterious gem that mesmerized him to the extent that he was discovered by the police the next morning, on his release he was offered a job), Dr. David Thompson (lecturer in anthropology, discovered repeated references to an entity know as dagon especially in island and seaside cultures and communities, can it be coincidence?) and Col. Antony Marsden (retired army, lost his entire squad after they became separated, they were set upon by small feral creatures that overwhelmed the soldiers, Marsden ran for his life and has never forgiven himself for his cowardice).

The story proper:
The group are contacted by Sir Angus Merryweather, chancellor of Edinburgh University. One of his staff, a folklorist by the name of Prof. Thomas Matthews has been killed. The police believe it to be the work of one his PhD students, Philip Goody as he has gone missing. Sir Angus is unconvinced believing that the police have chosen the simplest path. When questioned about the nature of Prof. Matthews work he is able to reveal he had been studying something with witches in Scotland. He is willing to pay handsomely for the truth to be uncovered.

The investigators start with a visit to the department. Prof. Matthews office is in the basement of the university and in one of the darkest corners. On entering his room they find another PhD student Melissa McDermott attempting to get his room in order. She is able to tell them that aside from his wallet a number of books on his current topic of witches and witch finders in Scotland are missing. She had done a bit of research for the professor on the subject and had looked at a book in Edinburgh library, "Ye Olde trials of the Witch Hunters" for the professor. On asking about Philip Goody, Melissa is adamant that he wouldn't have done, that the three of them were on good terms and in fact that in recent weeks Philip and the Professor were working on similar lines to do with a university society. Dr. Thompson was able to read between the lines that Melissa and Philip were more than friends and that her defence of him held a good deal of fondness for him. On asking about the society, Melissa spoke about a joint group between the anthropology department, in particular Professor Walters and Prof. Matthews called the Secrets of Scotland Society. The group was set up to discuss the ancient mysteries of Scotland and that she had initially been attending but had been made to feel less than welcome at the meetings so stopped, noting it had become a boys club. However over the last few weeks the professor and Philip seemed to have a falling out with the society. She never got to the nub of what had happened.
On looking closely at the room they found there appeared to be a lot of damage for just one person and that other more stealable items were still there. Before checking in with Professor Walters, Philip Murphy discovered a flier on the department noticeboard for the Secrets of Scotland Society, which mentioned they were due to meet at 8:00 that night in the Thistle and Haggis pub, near Cowgate.
Professor Walters is busy with a student when they enter his room. The student looks nervous at the interruption and makes to leave. Col. Marsden decides that this is inadvisable and threatens to shoot him when he tries to go. The student runs from the room threatening to get the police. Prof. Walters is furious and refuses to speak to them while the colonel is still there. When he does leave the remaining investigators have to do some fast talking and use some persuasion to get the professor to talk. He is mostly evasive and through his pronounced stutter relates that he found the professor was getting mixed up with some cult that met at the church of Contemplation, which was why they had fallen out at the society meeting. On the brief look round at his office they noticed that he had written a number of books seemingly on witch cults around the world and that he had locked his drawers securely. The investigators leave feeling an unease at the professor. But where was Col. Marsden?
On the leaving the professors room, he heard the sound of police whistles. Going outside he comes across three police officers talking with the harassed student. The more senior of the officers goes to speak with the Colonel after the student is able to point to him as being the man who threatened him. The colonel becomes quite difficult when the police question him, leading to the officer taking him into the station for a night in the cells, due to a lack of luck on the Colonel's part.
Despite having lost the colonel somewhere, our duo decide that the case needed to be resolved so head to Edinburgh library. Here Dr. Thompson is able to find the "Ye Olde Witch Trials..." book and learn that in the 18th century a witch hunters by the name of Matthew Payne operated in Scotland. One of his defining features was his blackthorn walking stick he carried with him. Upon finding a witch he would prick their finger on the stick and it was this blood, he claimed was what helped his divine abilities to search out witches. The book is in horrible condition and the Doctor is able to tell that there was more written but that a combination of mold and bad handling has damaged the relevant text.
Their next stop was to break into Professor Walters office. They find that the department is being locked for the dy and that the custodian is just locking the various office doors. The good doctor is able to hide in the shadows but our humble thief's skills momentarily leave him and he is caught in the corridor. He is however able to persuade him that he got lost after visiting a friend. The custodian guides him back out leaving the doctor in hiding. The doctor uses his position to let Philip back in and the thief is able to use his skills to open the Professors office and his desk drawers. There they find the journal of Thomas Payne. The doctors tremendous research skills come up trumps and is able to pick out that certain passages have been underlined. They learn that Matthew Payne did hunt witches but not for the crown. He was a witch himself and worshiped Shub-niggurath. His pricking of witch's fingers was his way of their drawing power into his staff. With this he would have access to more powerful spells. The last entry relates to a trial in Fort William but there are further sections missing.
The two leave the office and decide to check out the Secrets of Scotland Society meeting. In the pub they observe a number of students entering a back room. Philip successfully disguises himself as a student but on trying to enter the back room is told that it is a closed meeting. The two work out that the back room has a window that opens onto a back yard. With a combination of strength and stealth, Philip is able to be boosted up so that he can hear the conversation. The conversation centers around their inability to find something in Fortwilliam. One of voices states that they must find the it and the key to finding it was Philip. Someone else says that they've looked but cant find him. Well then, its stated, pressure would have to be put on the one person that might know where he was. They had to find that little bitch. Philip and the doctor decide that they're taking about Melissa. They have to protect her.
They are unable to find her that night but luck out the next morning in the library. However Dr. Thompson believes he sees the nervous student from Prof. Walters office but he seems to disappear. The two are able to persuade Melissa that they want to prove that Philip is innocent. She tells them that she has had contact with him at the pub his mother works in in Oldtown. The two decide that Melissa needs to be protected and should stay with them. At this point they realsied that the maybe the Colonel might be in the police station after his ill-advised gunplay. After Dr. Thompson flashes some cash the police officer agrees to let the headstrong colonel out.
On being filled in, the colonel decides that maybe they should check out the church of contemplation. The church is burnt out out although they get a funny headache from a symbol carved into the wall. Philip thinks he sees someone watching them but when he tries to give chase they lose him in the streets. The three take Melissa to Philip's mother's work to see if they can find Philip. They work out which of the waitresses is Philips mother but almost put her off when the Colonel's people skills get in the way. the Doctors persuasion wins out and they go to meet him but find he has been attacked. When he comes too with some successful first aid they learn that he was in the office with the professor when a group from the society came to threaten them. They accidentally killed the professor when one of them attempted to get violent with him. Philip ran taking one of the texts he knew that they wanted. He had it until someone led the group to his hiding place. The society has become obsessed with finding Payne's staff, believing it to be an item of power that could open them up to true power. Philip had the full version of the "Ye Olde Witch Trial..." which stated that he Payne had been finished his trialing at Cooper. When he checks he realises they took the book when they attacked him The three persuade Philip to stay hidden and to take Melissa. They had to visit Cooper.
In Cooper they find its a small village. They visit the local pub to book rooms and head to the village shop. There they pick up some supplies but hear some of the villagers discussing that two of the local girls have gone missing. Hearing this they become concerned that something maybe afoot.
Outside the local church they are nearly knocked over by a burley Scot named McTavish, being shouted at by the local minister. The minister realising that he has an audience becomes quieter. Thinking that Payne may have been buried with his staff try to look inside the church but the minister is dismissive and says that they can't search the crypt as it is unsafe. He is surley and blunt and not matter what they try they can't get a look in the crypt.
Deciding to look elsewhere, they find a small witch museum run by an enthusastic curator. Mr. McClaran is very excited about his subject and mentions the legends of a famous witchfinder who operated locally. After showing some interest the curator shows them his latest acquisition the McTavish family record. Apparently it contains the story of what occured when he visited and died in the village. Having some idea of when he visited, the investigators discovered the relevant entries fairly quickly. Payne had holded himself up in the village church with two of the local girls he claimed to be witches. By happy coincidence one of the girls was a McTavish and the McTavishs would not hear of a family member being taken in such a way. They rallied their family and the family of the other girl, the McCredys, to attack the witchfinder and his enforcers. They killed the enforcers but almost were undone by the witchfinder himself who called down powerful spells on the men. He did however fall. The two families agreed to safeguard the staff and had it buried with one of the McCredy's who fell during the fight. The investigators now knew where it buried, it was now a case of were they too late.
Their buttering up of the curator meant that when they left it was dark. But surely with a thief sneaking into the church would be no problem?
*Bang* "Sorry dropped my torch!"
*Crash* "Who put that bin there?"
*MEAOWWWW* "Bloody cat!"
And so it continued. They had spotted some of the students around the grounds of the church so were fairly sure they might be on alert. They managed to "sneak" into the vestry, which they realised had already been broken into. The door into the church was open and they could see someone wearing robes on the other side. Our master thief came up trumps this time and managed to blackjack the student on the back of the head. Listening at the door they hear the man they believe to be the leader question the minister. Desperate to find out what was going on he was beating the minister. The investigators tried to put the thief in the robes but they were too small and it became clear that he would not pass. So they decided the direct approach was the best. The three had weapons and were preparing to attack when they heard a shout coming up from the crypt, they had found the staff. The three burst into the church and took aim. One goes down to the doctors shotgun and two others get winged by the Colonel and thief's pistols. A maddened shriek goes up from the leader and cries to followers "Blessed ARISE!"
The three remaining cultists start to change, their features becoming goat-like and they grow in stature. Their legs grow hairier and their knees almost invert. Our three investigators remain unphased however and steel themselves. Instead of taking aim at the goat like followers, they aim for the leader. Although his body brushes off a gunshot wound, the Doctor's shotgun staggers him, forcing him to take cover. The followers leap to take on the investigators but do little to stop them. Despite him casting spells on Philip and the Colonel, the doctor's shotgun proves too much for the leader. One final perfect shot cracks his skin and his innards stain the ground. The followers fall to the ground as thier bodies try to return to their natural form. They are able to unveil that the head of the cult was Prof. Walters. The staff can now be destroyed and a young man can be proven innocent (somehow, after all a lot of wittnesses are dead or a goat-man!).

What I learned:
This is a heck of a lot of fun! It suffered a bit from a lack of preparation, having been written over the course of 2 hours and was a bit of a railroad at times but the guys had a lot of fun! If I was doing it again I would work on the finale, it needs something more possibly just needs to be paced better and I don't think the blessed/human cultists were a big enough threat, but that did have something to do with me botching 4 rolls in a row for one of them leading to him almost killing himself. I think it also could have done with some more red herrings to throw them off the trail a bit. The end reads fast as it happened fast, we were running quite late into the night and the mood was interested but needed a resolution to finish it off. There also needs to be more viable candidates for the main bad guy.

Some of the elements link into my campaign and it was nice to see how they could fit in and could be later used for other stories. Any feedback happily received!




December 2017

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