Masks, Session 2 Report
by, 6th February 2011 at 04:42 PM (1005 Views)
Please note we have never read or run Masks, so please do not spoil future sessions.
Our group resumed Masks last night. We picked up in the aftermath of the battle at the Ju Ju House, and we were able to extract ourselves from the horrors we'd seen without any police presence. Last session we had taken position of a number of different artifacts: lion claw gloves, feather shawl, horrific African mask, a scepter, a copper bowl, gunmetal circlet, and a copy of Africa's Dark Sects, and we wanted to take time to research these items with local experts, but had a few pressing engagements first.
Top of the docket was the funeral of Jackson Elias, which was sparsely attended. We feared we might be attacked by remnants of the African cult we fought in the Chelsea Hotel and Ju Ju House, but no trouble flared up. We were heavily leaning towards finishing up our American leads and then sailing for Kenya, but Jonah Kensington shared the names of two leads that Jackson was working in London in the last trip over before his untimely death. Given this, our group made the decision to travel to London before heading to Egypt or Kenya. [Members of the team felt gently nudged to London by the keeper and also that the Mountain of the Black Wind and Kenya sounded more like where the campaign would reach a climactic conclusion. I wanted Kenya first, but agreed that London was on the way . . . and didn't want to make waves in the party]. Before London, we still had work to do Stateside however.
While in New York, we visited Erica Carlisle's suspiciously fortified estate where she was preparing for a big party the next day. She gave us a little information about members of the Carlisle expedition and a mysterious "negro woman" she blamed for her brother's downfall. She nipped my fast talk attempt to acquire the book's mentioned in Jackson's letter that were supposed to be in Carlyle's safe in the bud, but my female partner was able to appeal to her sense of compassion at the recent loss of our friend and her honest and up front approach was more successful. Erica Carlyle loaned us the three books she'd found in her brothers safe:
a. The Pnakotic Manuscript
b. Selections des livres d'Ibon
c. My Life as a God
So, now we had four interesting books and a load of different artifacts that we needed to understand. Plus we had a couple leads we needed to follow up at Harvard and Miskatonic . . . so those academic institutions sounded like great places to get answers about what we'd discovered.
So, just after a couple members of our team returned from their 2nd trip to Emerson Imports, where they learned the Ju Ju House exclusive supplier in Mombasa was a man named Ahja Singh, we said farewell to the bright lights of Broadway, and headed back to Massachusetts.
Professor Cowles lectured us excitedly about the Cult of the Sandy Bat and their bizarre practice of making human sacrifices run a gauntlet of cultists beating them with poisoned clubs featuring embedded bat fangs. The cult wanted to awaken a sleeping sub-aquatic god who'd been defeated battling the Rainbow Serpent. We were distracted by his radiant daughter. He knew nothing of Africa, couldn't really remember Jackson Elias very well, and basically gave us a second cult to feel creeped out about.
Visiting the Widener Library at Harvard, we confirmed that the missing book that Jackson Elias had been looking for was Africa's Dark Sects. The copy we'd discovered in the basement of the Ju Ju House had a Harvard Library stamp inside, so we were not surprised. We were surprised to learn that a stinking smell was produced at the time the book went missing. [This sent meta-game signals to everyone in the group familiar with The Dunwich Horror and Wilbur Whately.]
We went about the tricky business of beginning to study the books we'd recovered, and tried to tap resources in several different departments and institutions for help with our artifacts. We learned a little more than was obvious when we recovered the objects in the basement of the Ju Ju House. The inscriptions on the copper bowl and the grey circlet were not markings any of the scholars we went to could identify, metallurgists had trouble aging and even identifying the types of metals involved . . . and the apparently copper bowl was probably not copper or any other metal known to our expert. The scepter we'd found was African (duh) and the markings in the non-Egyptian / Zambesi cartouche found on the scepter referenced the African creator god Nyambe (?sp) and was made of baobab.
What happened next was truly ludicrous and amusing. Members of our group starting trying on the artifacts and attempting to unlock powers of the items. The conspiracy theorist put on the feathered shawl and tried to shoot lighting bolts and attempted to fly . . . without success. The journalista put on the circlet to find that . . . the metal was cold. Our yokel tied on the lion's paws gloves, and they fit snugly. Our mob doctor decided to put on the African mask. DING DING DING. The mask fused to his face and the pupils of the mask widened while he staggered. The rest of the team tried to pull the mask off him and even struck him in an effort to free him. After a short while, he passed out and the mask fell off his face. He'd seen indescribable chaos and was still reeling.
Unable to unlock the powers of these items other than the ferociously terrifying mask, we set sail for Southampton and went about studying the books that we'd discovered. During our trans-Atlantic, slowboat journey, we were unable to make much headway with the books. Aside from My Life as a God, which had obvious references to inverted ankhs, Dark Pharoah, bloody tongue, human sacrifice, and absolute madness, we could not see a direct connection of any of these books to Jackson Elias.
Arriving in London, a trip to our rare and ancient books expert in Cambridge gave us no additional insight into any of these books at all. When we took our ancient and unusual artifacts to the British Museum, they did not generate any interest on the part of the tedious museum officials . . . which we found utterly baffling. They suggested making appointments and charging us a consultation fee and seemed generally bureaucratic and disinterested by what we thought were wondrous treasures.
We took the opportunity to contact the first of Jackson Elias's London contacts . . . Inspector James Barrington of Scotland Yard. Barrington was very stand offish. When we explained that our friend had been murdered by an African gang in New York, and we had reason to believe that it had something to do with the inquiries he had been making in London, Barrington was not forthcoming about conversations Elias had with him. With persistence and the ability to contend with the tedium Barrington inflicted upon us, we were able to learn that Jackson Elias suspected the Penhew Foundation's director Edward Gavigan was responsible in some way for the 'Egyptian murders' happening in London. Jackson had noted a pattern of Egyptians being murdered in London and brought it to the Yard, who felt it was no business for a private citizen to investigate these matters. Mind you, the Yard itself still had no idea about what was happening but completely dismissed that Gavigan and Penhew Foundation could have anything to do with what as happening.
Tabloid newspaperman Mickey Mahoney was our other contact. He liked the hard drinking Jackson Elias and shared a bunch of clippings that Jackson had requested on an array of different events going on in London. Jackson had also given The Scoop leads on the Egyptian murders and mentioned something about the Blue Pyramid nightclub being a place of interest in the investigation. Mahoney said Jackson discovered a cult called the Brotherhood of the Dark Pharoah, which Jackson asserted had ties to the Penhew Foundation.
At this point, our group went a little Scooby Doo and split up. Shaggy, Thelma and Scooby went to check one of the clippings about an artist named Miles Shipley who was painting horrific scenes that seemed to jive with the dreams of Carlyle and those found in My Life as a Good. Some thought the subjects of the paintings were horribly mutilated in the same fashion as the Bloody Tongue murder victims in New York. The other members of our group headed over to the Blue Pyramid.
At the Shipley residence, the team asked to see Shipley's paintings. The painting depicted reptile men in marshlands. The sights made them feel woozy and gave them the sensation that they were being drawn into the painting. Before they could recover, Miles began throwing paint at them, while his "mother" attacked with crotchet needles and transformed into a serpent creature. After a short battle, the Scooby gang survived uninjured and a little shaken mentally from the experience. They could not definitively tie this to Jackson, the Brotherhood of the Dark Pharoah, or the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, at this point.
At the Blue Pyramid, our group was rebuffed coldly during our inquiries until one of the bellydancers secretly invited one of our team to meet her. She revealed her boyfriend had been killed by the Brotherhood of the Dark Pharoah and she wanted vengeance. The Blue Pyramid was not a safe place to be asking questions, she noted. She identifed a man named Tewfik al-Sayed and said members of the Brotherhood would often meet at the Blue Pyramid and leave together suspiciously for late night trips out of town.
At this point, it was time to break. We believe Jackson Elias was correct and want to discover how the Brotherhood is connected to the Penhew Foundation. From the start of the campaign, we've been convinced that the Penhew Foundation is like SPECTRE in James Bond, and that Sir Aubrey is like Blofeld. To connect the murders and the Dark Pharoah cult to Penhew, we aim to get a visual ID of Tewfik under a completely unrelated business pretense. We will try to learn where he lives and then search his home while he's gone. In addition, we want to follow him and others from the Blue Pyramid on one of their late night runs. We really don't trust Barrington, but are divided over whether he's incompetent, an a-hole, or a Penhew informant.
In many ways, it was a very frustrating night. We faced loads of tedious bureaucracy and stonewalling whenever we tried to have investigative conversations with NPCS. The general feeling of most of the team was that we made very little progress . . . especially given that we only play once every month or so. We spent too much time trying in vain to unlock the books and artifacts we've collected. Personally, my character was stymied at any attempts I made at investigation, so I personally felt pretty shut down all night. Without much opportunity for a punch up, foot chase, or any stress-relieving action, it made this session particularly arduous. At the end of this session, it just didn't feel like we'd really achieved any significant gains . . . but I think that has more to do with the nature of the campaign and the track record of our group over the last 14 months. Before Masks, our campaign was a string of linked scenarios that provide a sense of climax each night, and then last month we had the battle with the Bloody Tongue in JuJu House. There was no money shot last night. It sort of felt like one of those dull episodes in a really good series where you are setting up excitement in future episodes.