The Yorkshire Horrors
Artist(s): James Kevin Ramos
Appears in: Cthulhu by Gaslight (1st and 2nd editions)
In which the Investigators puzzle over strange events occurring on a Yorkshire estate, while great forces struggle for the Empire and the world.
The Investigators are summoned by none other than Sherlock Holmes. Holmes’ brother Sherrinford stands accused of murder, and Holmes is away on urgent Crown business that cannot be delayed even in such a case. He asks them to investigate on his behalf. This case leads them into a deep and tangled web of crime, horror and the unbelievable.
The scenario is described as intended for Investigators with “some knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos and some useful spells.”
Link to outside reviews or helpful pages.
Spoilers - Keepers Eyes Only
Players should not read any further.
The murder of Holmes’ servant was orchestrated by Moriarty. Moriarty, whose extensive scholarship included the Mythos, survived his plunge at Reichenbach Falls by means of an extradimensional gate he had prepared. After a long time spent in fantastic alien landscapes, he has returned to rebuild his empire.
Seeking revenge against Holmes, he schemes to lure him up to Yorkshire, where he has built an extensive coven (which would never have escaped Holmes’ notice in London). Here he plans to capture and sacrifice both Sherlock and Sherrinford to the Great Old Ones on Walpurgis Night. Holmes is not entirely unaware of these events. Terrible suspicions have arisen, and realising his own ignorance of the supernatural, he called on the Investigators to work on his behalf.
The Holmes manor proves to be infiltrated by Moriarty’s cultists, as well as rat-things. A stone circle is linked to Nyarlathotep, and the murdered man (and most of the thugs) are Deep Ones. Dark Young lurk in a nearby woodland. There is a Necronomicon in an abandoned church nearby, now used by the coven and full of rat-things, with nightgaunts in the attic.
Shortly, more murders follow, and Sherrinford is caught at the scene. He disappears from prison. The hired men and key servants immediately depart as well. Mycroft Holmes disappears en route to Yorkshire. Soon, Watson and Holmes also appear, though Holmes remains in disguise and out of sight.
Eventually, the trail leads to a series of gates, through which the Investigators can travel to find Moriarty at Stonehenge – and in the distant past. They also finally meet Sherlock Holmes. Dozens of cultists are embarking on a ceremony, with Nyarlathotep already present. They have no option but to try and rescue the Holmes brothers. Though various people may die along the way, there is no long-term consequence to the outcome.
Locations: Holmes Manor in Northallerton
Tomes and Artifacts: John Dee Necronomicon
Campaigns / Scenarios:
The suggested best solution to the scenario is to summon Yog-Sothoth. This may give Keepers an indication of the designers’ general frame of mind.
The scenario assumes that Investigators engage cultists in a running magical battle, with attack spells and powerful weapons. As such, it is unsuitable for many Investigator types.
The sheer number of disparate Mythos elements may make things hard to keep track of, as there is no clear connection between most of them. It may stretch plausibility that Dark Young, Nightgaunts, Rat-Things and witches can all be ambling around apparently unnoticed within a few miles of sizeable towns. The Yorkshire Moors may be rural, but they are no remote wilderness. This is particularly true of the old ‘druid’ who apparently summons Dark Young on the slightest provocation, and fires at passers-by with his shotgun. The sheer number of rat-things may also be overwhelming; from the numbers given, most of the manor staff must encounter them daily. Apparently they have also overrun the nearby Roman Catholic church, driving the congregation away and attacking an exorcist, until the church was shut down. It’s very hard to argue that any of this can remain remotely secret, and the Vatican would certainly have taken a strong interest in such a case.
Since the whole point of the murders is to get hold of Sherlock by implicating Sherrinford, removing Sherrinford from the scene would stymie the whole plot. If he objects, canny Investigators can play on his conscience, pointing out that his presence endangers his servants.
There are several points where, should Investigators make a single poor roll, they are thrown out on their ear by some NPC, possibly at the point of a shotgun. Keepers and players alike may find some of these implausible; for example, failing to prevent a known madman from having hysterics is a flimsy basis for being barred from a pub. In another case, simply mentioning Stark’s name to an NPC is the cause (in passing, it may be worth noting that shopkeepers are not permitted to drive people out with pitchforks, especially as the Investigators are probably wealthy and upper-class). Care may be needed to avoid these becoming accidental red herrings.
The police presented in the scenario are incompetent (in keeping with the source material), and almost aggressively unhelpful. They are written to reject Investigators’ suggestions, no matter how sensible. There is enough evidence available early on to indicate that Stark has conspired to fill the Holmes manor with his own gang, even without proof of the supernatural, that this high-handed attitude may be hard to maintain. In the Victorian era, faced with wealthy Investigators and firm evidence of a murderous working-class gang, the police will do as they’re told.
The servants’ quarters at the house include padlocked and magically-warded cupboards, where material is stored that obviously incriminates the hired men. Getting inside is supposed to be very difficult – but in a Victorian household, privacy for servants cannot be expected. The Investigators would only need to speak with Sherrinford, who can order the locker to be opened. Doing so would provide some evidence of the murderer, and possibly prove the existence of the rat-things. A follow-up search is likely to uncover the gate.
The early part of the scenario allows Investigators to dig around at their own page. However, it remains heavily scripted. The murders and kidnappings are pre-ordained and cannot be stopped; the enemies’ rat-thing allies and gate magic ensure it. Apparently nothing can prevent the murders; doing so would let the girls spill what they know about the case, and Investigators cannot persuade them to do so before they are killed. Since players are very creative, the lack of fall-back options from the designer may be a problem. This is especially true of Lucinda, who pulls the classic trick of promising to return later and Tell All; her murder is predictable, and players are well within their rights to compel her to speak immediately. What’s more, inviting an Investigator to visit her room at night is madness – she’ll be fired on the spot if anyone learns of it, and the hired men would likely hear any conversation through the adjoining wall.
Essentially, there is nothing players can do to change the overall course of events: murder, kidnapping and massive ritual. Some may find this unsatisfying.
Should Investigators visit the church early on, as assumed by the scenario, there is a considerable chance of a Total Party Kill. They may be carried off by nightgaunts, or locked in the cellars by cultists who then send Dark Young after them. Later on, there is a reasonable chance they will get lost in a maze of gates, perhaps being eaten by Chaugnar Faugn or stranded on Yuggoth.
It is very possible that Investigators will confront Stark early in the adventure – in particular, if they are found snooping around the church. If he is killed, it is not clear how the scenario would proceed.
The scenario, like many others, has a Schroedinger's consequence: if Mycroft is saved, then the Great War is delayed until 1914 by his masterful efforts. If he is killed, the British Government is left with bumblers whose incompetence leads to the Great War. Some Keepers, and indeed players, may prefer more concrete consequences.
Watson is portrayed in the scenario as dim and incompetent, which will not be to everyone's taste.