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Wednesday, January 9, 2019
(After playing the Call of Cthulhu Down Darker Trails Catastrophe Engine Campaign Tuesday from noon until 1:30 with James Brown.)
Jack West fell through strange lights unlike anything he had ever seen. He had been in 1855 in the Apache village during the attack before he had fallen through into that odd city of stone filled with terrible creatures. He had fallen again and then blinked.
The smell hit him first. The smell of gun smoke was very thick. His eyes focused and the first thing he saw was the dead eyes of the man sitting across the desk from him. The smell of blood came next and he noticed the man had been shot three or four times in the chest. With all the blood, it was hard to tell how many. The room he was in was warm and he saw a window behind the desk and the dead man. It was daylight outside. He heard the crackle of a nearby fire and realized he was sitting in a very comfortable, stuffed chair with a high back.
The dead man was older and stout with a thick mustache and graying hair. His suit, before he had been shot and covered with blood, had probably been very fine. His jaw was slack and his eyes stared at Jack West, glazed over in death. Jack West didn’t recognize him.
The pall of gun smoke made Jack West’s eyes sting.
He realized he had been hearing something since he had opened his eyes. The sound of someone pounding on wood came from behind him. He heard muffled shouts of alarm as well.
He looked at his empty hands and realized his pistols were on his belt and the hidden pistol pressed on his back behind him. He was wearing his heavy poncho.
He got up and went to the window. He noticed a blazing fire in the fireplace and saw that a large sideboard and a few heavy chairs had been pushed in front of the door to the room. It was a cloudy day outside and the building he was in was obviously in the hilly badlands. There were a few outbuildings and a barn but nothing else as far as the eye could see. The room was on the second floor and he heard a nicker below him and saw his horse standing under the window.
The pounding on the door and shouts to open it up continued.
He quickly searched the drawers of the desk. He found a pile of bank notes in one drawer and some odd, gold coins in another. Two drawers were filled with letters. One set of the letters were older and worn out. The letters in the other drawer were newer. The older ones were written to “Ignatius” while the newer ones were addressed to “B” or “Mr. B.” He grabbed all of them and shoved them in his jacket. He scooped up the money and the handful of gold coins and items as well.
He heard the rending of wood and looked towards the door. An axe head had come through the panel and, as he watched, moved back and forth as whomever was on the other side worked it back out.
He flung the window open and climbed down onto the horse as the destruction of the door continued. He noticed a rifle sheath on the saddle with the butt of a rifle in it. He didn’t remember having that before. His saddlebags and bedroll were still on the back of the horse.
He untied the horse from the shutter and, as he mounted it, he saw a woman through the window, working on dough with a roller. She noticed him and her mouth turned into an “o” as she looked at the man in surprise.
As he rode away from the house at speed, he saw he was in a low area in the badlands surrounded by hills. He rode as fast as he could and soon heard yelling and gunfire from the house behind him. He never looked back, glad to be out of range, and rode into the hills.
He soon found he had a dozen or so pursuers.
* * *
It took Jack West five days to lose the pursuers from the house. He crossed a good distance in that time, using rivers and streams to try to throw them off the trail, as well as some other tricks he had learned over the years by men trying to lose him. It was only on the fifth day that he started to try to figure out where he was, exactly, and, after another few days, stumbled across the town of Willoughby, whereupon he learned he was in Oregon. He found out the date was October 11, 1875, and got instructions on how to get back to Nevada.
* * *
As he traveled back to California, Jack West had the opportunity to finally examine the rifle in the new sheath on his saddle. It was a Sharp’s “Big 50,” a 50-caliber buffalo rifle. It was loaded and 19 more bullets were in a pocket in the sheath.
He also had the opportunity, when he stopped in various towns along the way, to read over the letters.
The older letters proved to be signed only “JV.” All of them were dated between 1853 and 1857. They indicated the man lived in a town called Saltmarsh, Washington Territory. They contained a lot of talk about chemical compositions and changing the chemical compositions. He couldn’t easily make heads or tails of any of it.
The newer letters were from within the last two years from various people. They were all working against something called the Yith, which Jack West recognized as the claw people. It seemed like all of them had been kidnapped and he got the idea that the people were all kidnapped by the Yithians and were unhappy about it. The feeling was they were all wanting to work together to stop the Yithians or get their revenge. He got the impression they remembered what happened and they weren’t supposed to.
He also bought a fine silver engraved mirror at one of the towns along the way.
* * *
Jack West arrived at Terwilliger’s farm in Oakland, California, on Friday, November 5, 1875. He saw more work had been done on the strange tower with the metallic dome on top that was connected with wires to the barn.
Professor Terwilliger was happy to see him, as he always was.
“Mr. West!” the man said with a grin. “I’ve got something for you.”
“Whatta ya got?” Jack West said.
“Are you going to pay me for this?”
“Didn’t I rescue you from the …?”
“Oh yeah! You can owe me. A favor.”
Professor Terwilliger led the man into the barn where he opened a standing safe and took out the pistol Jack West had left with him. He handed it over.
The gun had been heavily modified. It was still a Colt Peacemaker, but with the addition of a bit of metal and glass atop it, almost like a sight, as well as a copper or brass nipple on the end of the barrel. The barrel itself had a thick copper wire wound around it somewhat tightly. The wire ran through the top of the pistol to the sight as well as to the handle. He looked through the strange sight on the top and down the barrel.
“You’re going to have to be careful with it,” Professor Terwilliger said. “It’s not as durable as just a regular pistol.”
“So, don’t drop it?” Jack West said.
“Right,” Professor Terwilliger said. “Don’t drop it. Don’t throw it. These are copper wires. If you damage them, it’s going to wreck it.”
Jack West looked over it.
“All right, so here’s what I did,” Professor Terwilliger said. “You’re going to love this! Inside the handle here, I’ve placed a tiny electrical generator. When you pull the trigger, it activates the generator, which runs a magnetic charge up the barrel, pushing the bullet faster.”
He took Jack West outside and put on a thick pair of gloves. It looked like he’d set up a little firing range outside of the barn.
“Here’s the main problem with it,” he said. “You ready for this?”
“Uh-huh,” Jack West said.
Professor Terwilliger aimed and fired the pistol. As the weapon fired, there was a high-pitched, ear-piercing whine from the pistol.
“That’s the generator inside the handle,” he said. “Don’t ever fire it without wearing gloves. I wasn’t able to insulate it properly. So the entire thing gets an electrical charge when you shoot it. It also has to have special bullets. Lead is not magnetic. It won’t go. It won’t go.”
He motioned with his hands down the barrel of the gun several times.
“What you need is special bullets made with a piece of something magnetic in them like a piece of iron,” he said. “Steel. Anything magnetic made in the bullets.”
“Can I just use iron?” Jack West said.
“Well, you don’t use an iron bullet,” Professor Terwilliger said. “Lead is better for the propelling. But you need someone iron inside the bullet. They have to be specially made. The ones I had made cost me a dollar a bullet.”
Jack West nodded.
“Have the person making them drill a hole through the bullet and put in a line of steel, iron, nickel, cobalt or some ferro-magnetic material,” Professor Terwilliger said.
“Yeah, sure,” Jack West said.
He had no idea what ferro-magnetic meant but got the gist. Professor Terwilliger made sure the pistol was fully loaded before he handed it back over to the man. He again warned him to be careful with it as it was more delicate than a regular pistol and if the coils were damaged, it wouldn’t work as it should.
“And speaking of … uh … special bullets,” Jack West said. “Do you have anything that can go through armor better?”
“Hm,” Professor Terwilliger said. “Hm. I’ll have to think about that one.”
He did so.
“Why?” he said.
“Well, just … uh … some people like to wear … thick leathers,” Jack West said.
He thought on that a moment.
“Like myself,” he said.
“Oh!” Professor Terwilliger said.
He pointed at the thick poncho the man wore. He poked it.
“I never thought about it but I’ll try to put my mind to it and see what we come up with,” he said.
“Thank you,” Jack West said.
* * *
Jack West spent a couple of days at Terwilliger’s. He noticed more work had been done on the strange steam-powered vehicles and even stumbled across what appeared to be a long, narrow, delicate-looking house behind the barn. He also noticed a lot of silk sheets and heavy cables in the loft as well. There was some kind of cage-work that was almost as big as the barn but he was not sure what that was all about.
He spent a couple of days at the Terwilliger farm before he headed out to search for Valentine again.
* * *
It was late November when Jack West found himself in a little town named Furnace in the badlands of eastern Colorado. The town hadn’t been on any maps he’d seen and most of the buildings there looked to be abandoned. It lay in a hilly area and there appeared to be a few mines on the edge of town though the rotten supports and rusty rails gave him the idea they were no longer worked.
The whole place looked like a boom town that had gone bust some years before. The buildings were run down, unpainted, and squatters were living in some of them. Only a few people seemed to live in the town. He guessed the town might have had a population of a couple hundred when it was a boomtown, but now there were fewer than a dozen actual residents. The other hundred rough people were probably passing through. Even the town jail was abandoned. There was not even a door on the front of the building. The bank, too, was abandoned.
He had heard not to go to Furnace as it was long-abandoned, but had gone anyway, in search of Valentine or word of him. The town looked like it was primarily inhabited by bandits and outlaws.
Only the saloon was in use as far as businesses. The place was nasty and the beer and whiskey were terrible. Only the bartender seemed to be working there and the building had obviously not been cleaned in a very long time. Most of the men in the town were there. A fight was going on in the corner, one man beating up another while two other men just stood nearby and watched. No one made a move to do anything about it.
He had sidled up to the bar and gotten a whiskey. The once nice mirror behind the bar had been destroyed sometime in the past, leaving only a wooden-backed frame over the bar. That’s why he didn’t notice the two men come up behind him until they stuck their guns in his back.
“Someone wants to talk to you,” one of the men said.
Jack West shifted in his seat.
“Uh-uh!” one of the men said. “Keep ‘em where we can see ‘em.”
“Who might that be?” Jack West said.
“C’mon,” one of the men said.
“All righty,” Jack West said.
He picked up his glass and drained the terrible whiskey, putting it carefully down on the bar again. He stood up slowly and saw the bartender go down behind the bar. The two men with their guns trained on him were very large but didn’t look very smart. They poked him in the poncho with their guns and one of them gestured towards the back door of the saloon.
One man they passed pulled his hat down and another looked expectantly at the tableau, obviously hoping for gunplay that didn’t happen.
Jack West led them to the back door and out the back of the building. He led the men, at their instruction, only a short way down the narrow alley to the back of another building, opening the door there. The small bedroom was obviously in use but they pressed the man to pass through it to the room beyond.
He found himself in a barber shop that was, once upon a time, also a dentist. The front of the office, towards the back street, was completely boarded shut. A little light came through the cracks in the boards over the broken windows of the place. Solid boards were nailed over the door as well. The shop had three chairs for customers, a single barber’s chair, and counters on two sides still covered in equipment, medicine, drugs, and the like. The mirrors were still intact in the place on two walls a well. It looked like it had been hastily abandoned sometime in the past.
A man in black sat in the reclined barber chair, his hat over his eyes.
“Here he is, boss,” one of the giant men said.
John Valentine tipped back his hat and sat up, his eyes wild and unblinking, his smile crooked and unsettling. He got up and stretched.
“Good job, boys,” he said. “C’mon in, Jack.”
The two men took the pistols out of Jack West’s holsters and then patted him down, disarming him. They placed the numerous guns on the counter on the other side of John Valentine. Then they left, telling Valentine they’d be right out back. Valentine gestured for Jack to sit in the customers chairs and he took a seat on the barber chair again.
“Been looking for you, Valentine,” Jack West said.
“Mr. West, have you considered my offer?” Valentine said.
“I’ve been considering it, ‘cause I know you have what it takes to pay.”
“Oh. That’s right. I do. So, you’d come work for me then?”
“It depends on the job.”
“Oh, there’ll be lots of jobs. You like killing, right? Most of my boys do.”
A gunshot came from somewhere outside.
“That’s probably one of ‘em now,” Valentine said.
“I mean, it is entertaining to … best others in gunplay, but …” Jack West said. “… we gotta watch out for the ones we care about.”
“Well, I might leave you as a bit of a free agent. But I need some information from you, first. Then, you’ll be paid as you … bring me what I need.”
“Interesting. Now … what do you think you need, Valentine?”
“Now, there’s been a lot of talk about the Crescent. If you don’t mind enlightening me as to what it does, ‘cause if it doesn’t endanger the ones I care about …”
“It doesn’t. As long as they don’t touch it, they don’t come near it, they don’t do anything with it, it don’t do nothing to them. Now, what it allows is for certain someones … that would be yours truly … to … I don’t want to sound crass … but I’d be able to … this is cliché. You read the dime novels, don’t you, once in a while? Get bored.”
Valentine pointed to some dime novels in the next chair.
“So, I would be able to effectively … well, in the background … take over the world,” Valentine said. “You don’t want to go for half measures.”
“Why take only half when you can take all of it?” Jack West said.
“A man after my own heart. It would allow me to effectively control who I want to control.”
“As long as it’s not me and mine, I have no qualms with that.”
“If my men aren’t willing to follow me voluntarily, what is the use?”
“Very true. Because then you always got to look over your shoulder. And that’s never fun.”
“Exactly. As I said, you’re a man after my own spirit. So, have we struck a deal? It will make you a rich man.”
“Anything to help mine and mine, you can have whatever you like.”
“Yours and yours can stay where they are. And do what they want.”
“Well, you might actually be able to directly help me with something then.”
“‘Cause it’s one of your lieutenants …”
“I believe is still looking for my family.”
“No, she’s not.”
“Oh no. Not right now. Maybe later. But she’s … she’s settling down right now. Starting her own little family. Don’t you know about that? I’m surprised she hasn’t sent you a letter to gloat.”
“You know how women are.”
“She’s settling down.”
The two men regarded each other for a moment. Jack West took out his flask and drank a swig of whiskey and laudanum. He had been adding more and more of the drug to each flask of whiskey as he needed more and more to calm himself.
“I would have thought you knew about this by now,” Valentine said. “I’ll let her know that you’re interested. She ain’t here. She’s up north somewhere. I think she said something about having ranchers to slaughter? I don’t know. I don’t remember.”
“As long as she stays away from my family,” Jack West said.
“She said she wanted to meet … her step kid.”
“She … implies we’re married?”
“No. But she did use the term stepchild. I don’t ask too much. You know Popie. She’s crazy.”
“And she’s a woman and with her being … expecting and all … they get crazier and crazier. That’s why it’s best to kill ‘em when you’re done with ‘em.”
The two looked at each other.
“Now, you were asking for information at the moment?” Jack West said.
“That’s a good start,” Valentine said. “Yeah. Like, where are your friends looking for the Crescent right now?”
“Well, in the past-thing we did where we took the roll of Indians … very odd. We found out there was more than one. How many more …?”
“How many are there?”
“There are three. Well, there were. There are two left.”
“One exploded. Now, they all tend to have a failsafe to explode?”
“Iunno. I’ve only dealt with the one.”
“Hopefully not. Well, currently, I’m looking to catch back up with them.”
“And when I find ‘em, is this the best address?”
“Hm. No. I tend to roam. Can’t let the grass grow under your feet, you know?”
Somewhere nearby, they could hear the sound of people fist fighting.
“Not as well as it could be,” Valentine said. “I will find you and contact you. If you get hold of the Crescent, it’s worth a lot of money to me. Enough that you won’t have to worry about money ever again.”
“And how much would that be?” Jack West said.
“How much do you think it should be?”
“I reckon it’s worth about … well, you said it’s world domination … as long as my people can live comfortably for their lives and their children. Just 50 sounds like a comfortable starting point.”
“We can discuss it further when the Crescent’s in your hands. Unless … you probably shouldn’t touch it.”
“I feel like I shouldn’t touch it either. I did see one of your boys handling it though.”
“John? Jack? Andrews? I shot him off of a train.”
“Jack Parker?” he said.
“Jack Parker!” Jack West said.
“We’ve already been trying to deal with Jack Parker. Yes.”
“Is he being troublesome?”
“I believe your friends have kidnapped him from me. But I could be mistaken.”
“Really? Maybe if I help get him free of that kidnapping?”
“Or kill him if he doesn’t want to come.”
“I can do that.”
“If you find him, let me know. Find a way. You can get a message out.”
“Reckon I can’t keep him with me. If I kill him, do I need to bring you evidence?”
“A head is fine.”
“Hm. It might not be preserved too well.”
“If I can recognize it as him, that’s all that matters. He’s not worth as much as the Crescent.”
“Got you. Now, do you pay more than the bounty office?”
“You’ll get more than any sheriff or marshal will pay you.”
“And if you need any other heads, there’s some people I don’t like in that group.”
“They won’t be worth much.”
“But every penny counts.”
“And that satisfaction value.”
“How do you propose that we … seal the deal?”
“I reckon a handshake is good, but do you know of something … more binding?”
Jack West noticed, behind him on the counter was a fancy brandy decanter that was empty and a pair of nice tumblers. One of the glasses was turned up and the other turn down.
“A drink and a handshake, I’d say, that’s a mighty fine way to strike a contract,” Jack West said.
Valentine looked over his shoulder and noted the empty decanter. He stood and went to it, turning his back on Jack West, and picked up the glasses. He turned back and tossed him first one, then the other glass.
“I appear to be out,” he said.
“Well, we’re in luck,” Jack West said. “I got some fun stuff.”
Jack West filled each glass with the whiskey and laudanum mixture from his flask and then handed Valentine one of them. The man had watched him very closely the whole time. He smiled.
“To business,” Valentine said.
He tapped his glass to Jack West’s and then waited while the other man drank. Then Valentine drank his down. He smacked his lips at the good whiskey and complimented Jack West on his choice of beverage.
“One can’t drink just one,” he said.
He tossed his glass to the man again and Jack West filled them both up again and they drank once more. However, after his second glass, Jack West saw the large amount of laudanum he always placed in the whiskey was affecting the other man. Valentine seemed to realize it as well.
“Jack,” he slurred. “How could you?”
He reached for his gun but before he could fill his hand with steel, he slumped down to the ground in a stupor.
Jack West retrieved his weapons from the counter and armed himself once again. He was feeling the laudanum but had it under control. He’d had to add more and more to the whiskey to even feel it and realized his addiction might soon start to affect him in a very dangerous way if he didn’t get it under control.
He checked Valentine and found he was armed to the teeth. He had an Arkansas toothpick in the back of his belt in addition to the Bowie knife in his boot and the two pistols on his belt. He found a .44 derringer in his other boot. There was some money in his pocket.
Valentine suddenly grabbed his hand.
“Jack West, you must help me,” he said.
His voice sounded emotionless and bland, very unlike the strong southern accent he usually had. Jack West saw that the man’s eyes were still glazed over and he hadn’t moved except to grab his hand.
“Help you with what?” Jack West said.
“You must not allow John Valentine to get the Crescent,” Valentine said.
“So, why do y’all need it then? Are you the possessor people?”
“Do you know of the Yithians?”
“I think I’ve heard your strange name in passing.”
“I was sent - I was sent to stop him. To make it easier to reacquire the Crescent. It is ours. It belongs to us. I was sent to possess him. To send his mind back to us. But something went wrong, and I was trapped in his mind. There’s two of us in here. But his force of will is so strong, I cannot fight against him unless he is unconscious. He was unconscious several days ago. A week or more. When he was … when he was … someone did something to him. I am able to watch but not act from within. He-he is … he was - he was - he was - he was knocked unconscious as you have done. In these moments, I am lucid and I can actually communicate. Some woman … cast a spell, I believe, upon him, which caused him to faint for some short time, less than a minute. And in that time, I was able to try to make the change. But I am trapped in this body.”
“Do you need him dead?”
“That would kill me as well.”
“I was sent to recover the Crescents. We need them back. They are … important to my people.”
“What will they do for you?”
“We are gatherers of information. These Crescents have been gathering such for millions of years. They are a source of information for us. We need them.”
“So, they’re a bunch of books, basically?”
“Uh … yes. In your vernacular, that is an analogy that is accurate.”
“So … uh …”
“I’ve been trapped in his mind for two years. He is quite mad.”
“So, y’all are weird, strange creatures. Do I get some fun stuff for helping y’all out?”
“I am sure you’ll be greatly rewarded if you help. Do not let him get the Crescent.”
“I … I do not know. What do you wish?”
“Safety and security for mine and mine and maybe some fancy doo-dads.”
“I’m sure it could be arranged.”
“All right. Well, then, my gun can be yours.”
“I can help you to escape this place, but you must do everything you can to stop Valentine. Try not to kill him. I would rather not die.”
“If you can find a way to suppress his mind, destroy his memories.”
“I can force more of this down his throat─”
“No no no.”
“─but that might kill him, too.”
“Now … uh … I’ll take note of that if any of these other people that say they’re wizards say they can help with that.”
“Yes, please. Please. There’s someone named ‘Sparks’ that holds the other Crescent. Valentine has learned this much. He is planning on searching for this person soon.”
Whatever was talking to Jack West also quickly gave him the location of three other of Valentine’s hideouts in Colorado, scattered about the state. It also confirmed there were three Crescents and told him they grew intelligent over millions of years. It told the man it was sent to try to take over Valentine, but the man was touching one of the Crescents when the Yithian tried to take his mind.
“Normally, minds are transferred but, in this case, Valentine didn’t come out,” the Yithian said to him. “We’re both in the same body but Valentine’s force of will is much stronger than mine. He is completely mad.”
“Was he mad before he got the Crescent?” Jack West asked.
“Oh yes. He was. The Crescent drove him further into madness but he was already quite mad. Now, I am trapped in this body as well and cannot act while Valentine’s conscious. I can partially act while he sleeps, but not easily.”
“So … uh … tell you what. You can go away. He can come back. We’ve already made a deal. So, I’ll just continue that and get out of here nice and safely.”
“He will think you’ve betrayed him with your laudanum, I think.”
“But if he sees me sitting here, guns holstered but equipped, him in his chair, he should take that as a sign …”
“If you wish.”
Jack West put the man up in his chair and sat back down. He waited for a half hour before he got bored and realized the amount of laudanum he gave to Valentine might take several hours to wear off.
“I’m gonna leave him a note,” he muttered.
He found paper and pencil and wrote the man a note:
Maybe I shouldn’t have used the top shelf with the laudanum. The deal is still on.
I’ll bring you Parker. Once I figure out good places to send you information, I’ll
tell you about the Crescent.
He found a small table in the back room and left the note on the table next to the man along with the two tumblers. He turned to leave and Valentine spoke again in the Yithian’s voice.
“Tell them that John Valentine said ‘The wind is to the south,’” he said. “That is a code for him to allow you to leave without him.”
“Sweet,” Jack West said. “I’ll let ‘em know. Thank you … uh … Bob.”
“I am called Lashanloshoolalal.”
“How ‘bout Lala for short.”
“Good luck,” the Yithian said.
“Thank you,” Jack West said. “I’ll work on that for you. Now, these things … uh … the other ones seemed afraid … or something … to go back to y’all.”
“The other what seemed afraid?”
“Crescent. And then it self-destructed after getting anxious.”
“The damaged one. They do not want to return to us. But they must.”
“All right. And I highly doubt your Crescent can sway me from our deal, so …”
“Good. Thank you.”
“Just make sure you keep your end.”
“We will. Good luck. Your friends will be in Denver soon. They’re planning on spending something called ‘criss-mass’ with Dr. Weisswald?”
Is that the lady with the pants, Jack West thought.
He added to the note to John Valentine that he was heading for Denver.
Jack West tipped his hat and left.
The two men out back stopped him but he gave them the password and they let him pass, one of them going back to the saloon while the other one stayed at the door.
Jack West left Furnace, Colorado, heading for Denver.
* * *
After he reached Denver, he heard about some strange occurrences on the Arkansas River in early November. He did a little research and found a newspaper article about it in the Nov. 19 Denver Times. It read:
Massacre in Granite!
Granite, Nov. 13 ― The town Marshal, deputy, and several other townsfolk were gunned
down in Granite by persons unknown.
Just after sundown, Granite Town Marshal Edward Denning and his deputy Hiram Shute
were both killed when the marshal’s office came under sudden and unexpected attack by
several men in the street.
The men proceeded to assault the Granite Saloon as well, which had closed early that
evening. Incidental fire saw the injury or deaths of eight other people in the town.
Gunfire left the Granite Saloon badly damaged and soaked in spilled alcohol and blood.
One man was found dead in the saloon and another in the street behind the building. Whether
they were the raiders or customers of the saloon is not known. Several other men reportedly
fled the saloon.
Confusion was rife in the town as locals retrieved their rifles and shotguns to take up the
fight. Some were convinced it was an Indian attack.
Lake County Sheriff John Weldon and a posse of deputized men soon followed the raiders
to the north where their trail was lost the following day in the rain.
Cause of the attack is unknown. Sheriff Weldon notes it might have been some dispute
over land rights or claim jumping. He said it might have been a personal grudge held against
Marshal Denning, Deputy Shute, Opus Smith, the town drunk, or banker Festus Dalrymple,
who recently confessed to embezzling funds from the back in 1870. Neither Smith nor
Dalrymple was injured in the attack.
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With session 2, the finale was fast approaching. Alas, we had one player less, so the enforcer Spencer Shull had to be played by me, the GM. Which wasn't good, because the gróup was in dire straits already, and he was the guy with the fists and the pistol...
So we started off with jumping a little back in time, with the investogators drinving a Church van towards the Celebrity retreat. They soon noticed they were followed by church security guards and pulled in at a Starbucks. Here, they talked over their plan but were unable to get rid of the followers. The atmosphere was getting dark and foreboding, with Daria Nowland suggesting not to go and get emptied. But Blake Tevis, the church PR guy, insisted on follwing through with the Church head's orders.
Once in the retreat, they met Verity Harrow, all hidden by a gigantic star-sprinkled shawl and huge mirrored sunglasses that I had ordered specifically from China. I put those on as props, and when Verity spoke with a hollow, monotonous voice, the effect was instant: Severeal playes stood up from the table and wanted to somehow touch Verity, especially remove her enormous sunglasses. She didnt let that happen, but Daria noticed that the actresses body was malleable like an inflated balloon...
CONFLICT WITH THE GUARDS
There was some scuffle with several guards then, with the enforcer Shull threatening one guard, and Blake Tevis influencing another. It all led up to the female characters trying to flee, until they encountered the locked glass doors. They then hid in the Lady's room and talked quickly to Verity Harrow. She made some dark announcements, but remained cryptical. When the guard knocked harder on the door, they had to let Verity go, and she although she pleaded to be taken away from here, she was taken "to a safe and quiet place" by the guards.
Now, the guards insisted on bringing the investogators to their arrainged Emptying session - their coach must be waiting. Nobody really wanted to go right now, so they found the excuse to send only one man there for the first session (the now-NPC Spencer Shull), while PR guy Tevis insisted they needed to see the Screening Room first to see if all was good for tomorrow. Once there, they searched around but found no clues to anything anormal. They met a technician, who couldnt help much, then a female Emptying coach appeared, to take them to their session.
SPLIT UP - AND RUN!
After some time, the coach coulndt be ignored anymore. So, Daria the producer and Julia Cortese, the personal assistant, agreed to go for their session. After all, Spencer had textedt them "all okay here" just now. Little did they know he had been emptied already, and Steele was writing the message. Blake Tevis, meanwhile, insisted that he first had to meet Steele before the session, and stayed near his office, now with only one guard. Since I figured Steele had come in while they were inside the screening room, I decided he had passed shortly through his office to fetch something, and after a Luck roll it was decided that he had not locked his door this time. Using the right moment, Tevis sneaked into Steele's office, when the guard called him from the hallway. Here, he missed the chance to just play as if Steele was there ("Oh, hello Craig, long time...") and shut the door. This would have allowed him to search the whole office. Instead, it came to a fight with the guard. Blake would have been chanceless, if it were not for his luck - and the little X-Acto-knife he had taken from Woodward's editing suite. He managed to cut the guard and flee. But where? He ran for the new wing where the Emptying suites are and snuck into the Meditation room. Here, he hid in one of the floating tanks.
Meanwhile, Daria Nowland got ready for her session, while PA Julia saved some time going to the bathroom (again). Here, she sent some text and audio messages to police chief Neumann, to warn him about the Retreat, the upcoming screening and alert him that Verity had been found (along with her voice on the audio as proof). Just when she wanted to leave the Ladies' room again, she spotted the ground floor window here, and managed to open it to flee into the garden. This was well done, since her colleague Daria just now met Craig Steele and the surgeon in the operating theatre, where she was soon skinned alive to the music theme "Machine gun" by Portishead.
The only one free to move now was Julia. She snuck around the hose to the car park, where she saw Spencer Shull leaning against their car, sunglasses on. She wisely decided not to contact him
and instead called for a luck roll, which brought her a parked laundry van in front of the retreat. She hid in the back, between towels and sheets, waiting. Of course, this was spotted by the omnipresent cameras. But just when some guards came up, she had enough luck (again!) to have the laundry driver appear and start the engine. They were stopped at the gate to be searched, but now Julia took off one of her high-heels and put into the neck of the driver: "Drive on, fast, or I shoot and we all die!" Aghast, the guy speeded out of the retreat - and drove Julia to the police station, where she alerted Neumann on all she knew. They wouldnt have believed her ramblings, if it weren't for some audio evidence she had on her cellphone.
This left only Blake Tevis still on the run. After a while, he decided to leave the tank. He felt strangely drawn to the Emptying Suites... where he met Daria, sunglasses and shawl on, and Craig Steele. When he wanted to run, it was already too late, guards had closed the heavy doors. He didn't give up, though, and did a surprise attack on Steele with his X-Acto-knife, hurting him just enough to have the Hungry Void come out! Since there was no space to run to, Tevis was soon sucked into The Space between, where he started floating through space to the music of "The Sound of Silence"....
Of the four investigators, only Julia remained. But she was able to stop the screening, have the Retreat searched by Neumann, and stop the whole madness.
It was a victory, after all, albeit a bitter one.
I think this is a scenario that's great on many levels: charakters, NPCs, setting, atmosphere, a very unusual enemy etc.
One thing that makes it difficult, though, is that the Celebrity Retreat is a real death trap. I also noticed that in an actual podcast I listened to. While this may be realistic, I think it is overly harsh on characters who are not combat machines. So, next time I run this, I will introduce two possibilities for the investiagtors to flee: some minor repair work on the walls in the gardens behind the house, with a small scaffolding from the inside - and a heli-port on the roof top! (I will also give 1 or 2 investogators the ability to fly such a thing, or maybe have a pilot up there who could be forced to fly them out). That could make for a nice cinematic escape.
This should also raise possibilities for some investigators to get to the final screening, which I missed out on here. Which was a real pity, because I prepared a video for the rough cut from some youtube material. Hopefully, I will use it nex time I run this.
I think, with the adventure as written, it is difficult to get to the screening finale. I am thinking on changing the time frame and have the screening scheduled on the same night the scenario starts off. That will raise tension and time pressure. Also, investigators will be able to find people preparing the screening if they get to the Retreat the first day.
I am also thinking as how to handle things when the group splits up, which is very likely. This time, I sent players outside for longer periods than I like, so as not to spoil the dangerous mystery. But maybe next time I will just have everybody watch and see if they can play things well, distinguishing player/character knowledge.
So that's that, thanks again Scott, a really cool adventure! Wanna run it at a con in summer, but I am not sure yet about the time length. It can be anything from 2 to 6 hours from what I have seen.
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It's 2.30am here in China, but that's fine because I spent most of yesterday asleep due to yet another cold. The classic campaigns really don't showcase the real-world travelling experiences: constant assault, not from the forces of the Mythos, but from an endless array of unfamiliar viruses. A diet of throat medicine and whatever is within arm's reach, rather than exotic Parma kippers.
Something I should probably have mentioned ages ago, but didn't, is that I've ended up giving a short lecture series on weird fiction. This may not strike you as that odd, but I'm in no sense an expert on the topic. Basically, my university has a policy that my staff group must give lectures in addition to teaching classes; they can be on anything, but I couldn't really think of a topic. After all, I'm much more a broad-ranging butterfly than a deep-delving expert on anything. In the end, I decided that weird fiction would broaden my Chinese students' horizons about English literature, introduce some cultural background, and would at least be interesting for me. Which is more than can be said for many other potential topics.
An additional difficulty has been getting utterly swamped by workload, which has meant I've had remarkably little time to actually prepare the lectures. There's only one per month, but I have only managed to complete a single book (Joshi's Evolution of the Weird Tale) since I arrived here, over three months ago. Given my usual appetite for reading that's shocking. So the kind of serious research I'd have loved to do for this simply hasn't been an option.
I did manage to read a few articles, and thankfully I have been a long-term fan of the fabulous "HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast", so I have gathered a lot of general knowledge that way, as well as from the MR James podcast "A Podcast to the Curious", the sadly-deceased "Double Shadow" (Clark Ashton Smith) and some brief visits to the mighty "Cromcast". On the downside there are a good few recent weird collections sitting unread on my Kobo.
The audience has turned out to be pretty small - I say pretty small, I mean around 6 people! - which is disappointing for my boss and delightful for me. Two are existing fans of weird fiction, despite the absence of the genre in China, and a couple of others are fantasy and sci-fi fans with a strong interest in learning more. The lectures are my first ever lecture series, so they're definitely not classics, but I'm vaguely proud of them nonetheless. The second, discussing antecedents of weird fiction, was definitely better than the first (and full of material I really wish I'd had time to dig deeply into beforehand).
Tomorrow, or rather today, I'm due to give the third and final lecture, which is on recent and modern weird fiction. This is the one I'm least confident about, because as I said, I just haven't had time to catch up on it. Since I don't tend to enjoy actual horror, I didn't read it growing up, you know, in the period when free time existed. To make matters worse, I never got into the habit of watching TV somehow, and I rarely watch films compared to most people, so that's a whole swathe of stuff that's passed me by! A whole lake of ignorance to wallow in. Hopefully I can still keep any audience interested... I do have to talk about RPGs (I don't think you can possibly discuss the revival of weird without it) so that helps.
For some reason it was only yesterday that I realised it would have been sensible to mention this on YSDC, since I'm sure people would have all sorts of suggestions to offer. Dim! But I'd still love to hear them, partly for interest, and partly as I'd like to improve the lectures if I'm asked to give them again. There is oodles of room for improvement. I do have recordings of them and could probably find somewhere to put them if there's any interest, though I do warn you it's neither excellent quality nor excellent material. Talking about weird fiction to a group of people with almost no cultural prior knowledge has been a challenge - never mind Lovecraft, they largely don't have any knowledge of Cthulhu (not part of Chinese internet), Conan, tabletop gaming, pulps, Western ghost stories and horror, the social and cultural background to the rise of weird fiction... challenging but in a good way.
There's enough interest that I'm hoping I may be able to set up a little weird fiction reading circle and discuss short stories with them, which would be great, but depends mostly on workload. We'll see.
Right, time for bed I suppose. Wish me successful Luck rolls!
What a fantastic title! I gather this is an excerpt from a letter Lovecraft wrote, recounting a dream he'd had. So, again, it's not a finished short story, though it was published as one after his death in Weird Tales.
The tale is of a narrator who inadvertently, and to be honest rather stupidly, releases the trapped soul and more of the titular clergyman. If you're told not to do anything with a mysterious box, whatever you do, follow those instructions! Though to be fair, if he'd done that, the story would be even shorter, and much less fun.
If it had been published as a story in Lovecraft's time it would definitely have benefited from further development. It's rather sparse in many places, and needs some touches added. But, oh, it's so imaginative, and well conceived as an idea. It's also satisfyingly terrifying, with a good ending. I particularly liked the images of the clergyman moving around, and the other characters that appeared. And the burning of the books. Yes, it's really very evocative.
I think this is probably the Lovecraft fragment that I'd most like to have seen finished properly. I think it's a lovely piece, albeit rarely read by Lovecraft fans, and well worth seeking out.
The Diary of Harry Harrison: Mystic
I write this some miles from my small but comfortable room above the clubhouse of the Second Sight Co-operative, for it is with this erstwhile organisation that I currently find myself employed.
While my memories have yet to fully return since those terrible days in Clio, MI, my companions and I have at least ascertained that we are all members of the SSC (formerly headed by the late Lyn Cartwright). It seems that we are all dedicated to researching the weird and supernatural, and the clubhouse (situated next to the Miskatonic University’s Orne Library) acts as a nascent museum to such oddities (among our meagre exhibits are letters from such luminaries as Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle and Harry Houdini no less).
Arkham, and indeed most of the New England seaboard, is currently in the grip of the most severe winter in decades. It was thus with some surprise that we (Monty, Reginald and myself – poor Ossian being confined to a padded cell) received a request for help from one Dr. Trenton Harrod, psychiatrist.
Taking along with us our newest member, a sceptical photographer straight out of university by the name of Bob Grubb, we were received by Dr. Harrod’s secretary Ms. Swain and shown into his office. It transpired that the good doctor wished us to investigate the suicide of one of his patients, Joseph Sutton: a successful banker who had been consulting him since the summer, upon returning to Arkham after a trip to his brother’s, following which he to be plagued by terrible dreams.
He played us a recording of Mr. Sutton while he was under hypnosis. The poor man spoke of a terrible cold, blood freezing and body turning black. Freezing wind ripping through him as something huge loomed above, pulling his down with cold arms. He screams as something shrieks and blurry, inhuman faces loom through the icy wind. As he is smothered by the ice and snow the huge shape calls to him and two red stars burn in the sky…
Dr. Harrod linked these terrible nightmares to a childhood incident when Sutton and his father became lost during a winter hunting trip in the wilds of Maine. Joseph Sutton was found alive, albeit with half his left hand missing from frostbite, but his father perished.
Apparently the patient was responding well to treatment, but nonetheless a few days ago succumbed to some mania (possibly an extreme fear of cold) and blew his brains out, leaving behind a grieving wife, Marilyn.
Interestingly Sutton suspected his wife of being intimate with his brother, Stuart, with whom his widow is now residing at a lodge up in Maine. Could feelings of inadequacy regarding a possible affair have contributed to the victim’s state of mind? It was up to us to find out – subject to a daily fee plus expenses!
We gallantly took him up on the case. He had little else to tell us, save that an obviously pregnant Mrs. Sutton was swathed in black during the funeral. While she was inconsolable, her brother-in-law was noticeably less upset.
After obtaining a letter of introduction from Dr. Harrod, lest anyone object to our investigations, we proceeded with the case. Dining at Reginald’s club, we discovered that Sutton was well known and did not get on at all well with his brother. Maybe his suspicions of an affair were well founded?
We decided to split up. I headed for Sutton’s abode and, finding no-one at home, interviewed one Gary Webb, who rented the rooms above. He spoke of hearing Joseph’s terrible nightmare screams during the night, but also told me a curious tale of how he often saw Marilyn shouting and wandering out into the snow. He would tell me little else – apparently Joseph had threatened him into silence before his suicide.
I eventually secured a spare key from Webb and took a look around the house. I discovered little, save a photo of the two brothers in happier times and a grisly blood stain in the master bedroom - presumably this is where Sutton took his own life. I did however ‘borrow’ the man’s address book for future research.
Meanwhile Monty visited the local hospital (where he had recuperated following the ‘Clio incident’) to speak to the coroner. He informed us that Joseph had shot himself through the left-side of his head. But hang on – wasn’t his left hand crippled by frostbite? Something didn’t add up here…
Reginald showed Bob the ropes by doing some research at the public library. Looking for any information on northern New England, specifically the brother’s lodgings in Maine, they found some quaint Indian legends of Manitou and an embodiment of winter hunger known as the Wendigo, but nothing concrete.
We retired to the SSC clubhouse and were roused the next morning by a messenger boy, bidding us to attend to Ms. Swain without delay. Trudging through the snowy streets we arrived at her employer’s office to find the secretary distraught, and for good reason – the whole building practically encased with snow and ice!
Digging our way to the door, we managed to gain entry, only to find that even the interior was coated with snow. In fact it was colder inside than it was out! Soon we were in for another shock – sitting at his desk with black staring eyes was Dr. Harrod, frozen solid!
The poor man had clearly been frozen to death. Moreover his office had been trashed, as if a whirlwind had passed through it. Looking for clues was futile, as everything we touched was so frozen that it crumbled to the touch. The cold was so intense that we would have done too if we had stayed inside for too long!
After comforting Ms. Swain we called the police, who were as mystified as we were. We gave our statements to their satisfaction, before earning their gratitude by saving the now gawping crowd from being swamped by the large amount of snow that was now rapidly thawing and threatening to fall from the roof of the building.
Capitalising on this gratitude, Monty and I met a Detective Cooper (a surname that even now brings a shudder), who showed us, off the record, the evidence from Sutton’s suicide. There was the revolver, found at his side, and a suicide note, apologising to his ‘beautiful wife and loving brother’. We were also told that on the night of the suicide, the domestic staff had been given the week off and that his wife had gone for a walk – returning to find his body.
Luckily I was allowed to make a tracing of the suicide note and hit upon the idea of comparing the handwriting to that in the purloined address book. There were two styles, presumably that of Sutton and his wife, but neither of them matched the handwriting in the note.
A quick trip to the coroner to view Sutton’s death certificate, as signed by his brother, added further mystery. The brother’s signature matched the handwriting on the suicide note. Interesting…
Reginald and Bob meanwhile paid another visit to the Sutton’s house, once again obtaining the key from Mr. Webb. A second search of the bedroom revealed a smaller bloodstain, consistent of someone being shot in the left-hand side of the head. Also of interest was the fact that there was little in the way of female clothing in the wardrobe and absolutely no evidence of gun ownership. Had his wife pre-packed to leave? How did Sutton obtain the revolver? Indeed, how did he manage to use it?
They questioned Webb some more, but he became increasingly nervous and uncooperative. He claimed to be a pianist, playing at an eating establishment called Luigi’s, but the intrepid pair could not recall such a place. Intrigued, they trailed him as he set off for work that evening, eventually following him to a nondescript door. Oblivious to his trackers, he knocked and went in. Suffering from the cold, Bob sought warmth in a nearby café while Monty lingered outside the door, only to be warned off by a large menacing man.
Subsequent inquiries (during which Reginald lost his precious train set - don't ask) proved fruitless until a chance encounter with a less-than-lawful acquaintance of mine revealed what I had suspected – Webb worked at a mob-run gin-joint. We decided to drop this line of enquiry – supernatural perils are quite enough without getting involved with the Mafia!
Knowing from bitter experience that it’s not a good idea to waste too much time, we decided to head north as soon as possible, buying some winter clothing and supplies before taking the train to Bangor, Maine. As we headed north the weather grew worse, and it was with much difficulty and expense that we found a taxi driver, Claude, willing to take us further into the cold.
Perhaps we could have benefited with some more research in Bangor, perhaps not. Suffice to say we now begin our motor trip into the frozen hills of Maine, to the Winter Haven Hunting Lodge, Penobscot County. Will we find Mrs. Sutton and her suspicious brother-in-law Stuart? Only time will tell…
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In a randomly generated scenario, the player characters are sent to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Laundry officer Harry Palmer, who was investigating equally mysterious disappearances at Paradise Mansions housing estate in Hackney Wick. Interviewing his line manager, they discover that there may be a connection to several wild parties held in flat 3b. They search Palmer's properly warded Shoreditch apartment and find that Mr Palmer was a bon-viveur and has ladies' underwear stuffed down the back of his sofa.
The agents arrive at "Hackney Wick, twinned with Mogadishu". Paradise Mansions does not quite live up to its name. They already knew there was a drug problem, but did not expect the level of deprivation and vandalism that confronts them. The security door is understandably unlocked and the lift serves as a makeshift toilet. They find flat 3b and the occupant Ronnie gives them a flyer for tonight's party. Sorted.
Feanella McKay spends the rest of the day resting before the all-nighter, but new agent Freddy Drake decides to stake out the housing estate. He is approached by a gang of homophobic youths who take exception to the rainbow trainers he is wearing. Time for a sharp exit; time for a sharp half in the nearest pub.
That evening, both agents go to the party. They are among the first guests. In addition to Ronnie there are a French couple called Martin and Liliane.
"Where about in France are you from?"
"Never heard of it."
"Is there anyone good-looking like Maggie Smith?"
"Now that's a phrase I never expected to hear!"
Little do the agents know, but Martin and Liliane are Masters of the Société Saint Crapaud (see Cultists Under the Bed page 117). Ronnie is a Body. The player characters are Lambs. As the party heats up, the action seems to focus on the bedroom. A surreptitious visit to the toilet and a level 1 Scrying on a Necronomiphone reveals no thaumic energy, as the cult is magic-poor. Feanella is taken to the bedroom and shown a big black dildo; she agrees to take one for the team. Freddy is unwilling to participate and looks like he is about to become a Lamb to the slaughter after he is injected from behind my a hypodermic syringe.
Only an emergency call to the Metropolitan Police saves the day and our brave investigators. Another emergency call to the Baggers proves to be a waste of departmental resources, as there is nothing really nasty for them to bag. N.B. According to the agents' field reports, it was actually Feanella who "saved Freddy's ass".
Most of the cultists are rounded up, but Martin and Liliane escape the country. Ronnie is interrogated under a level 3 Truth Geas after spending a week recovering from an initial rough encounter with trigger-happy Feanella ("Why did you shoot off his foot, Agent McKay?") and spills what he knows about the cult, which isn't all that much. He doesn't know where Averoigne is, but the big cheese appears to be an aloof Italian by the name of Reggio Salvati. Ronnie and Reggi in the same firm?!
The agents research Averoigne and uncover a medieval map, but it doesn't tell them the modern location. However, the Abbaye Saint Crapaud may be the same abbey near Tours that revolutionaries made a point of destroying in 1789; it certainly does not look welcoming...
They fill in the requisite forms and get the Eurostar to Paris (retaining their ticket stubs for Accounts). A Laundry asset in Paris provides them with a concealed bulletproof vest and Beretta each, but no banishment rounds. They get the train to Tours, where they hire an off-road vehicle. Feanella is pessimistic about the chances of finding Harry Palmer alive, so has Residual Human Resources on speed-dial. Being dead is no excuse for shirking one's duties as a Laundry operative; in fact Mr Palmer may make a more efficient employee after his death, as he will no longer be throwing any sickies.
They drive north west from Tours and, after much searching, Feanella finds the ruined abbey. Both agents approach, but only Feanella hears the chanting of "Ia! Tsathoggua!" Nearing the ruins, Feanella spots a group of cloaked figures surrounding the bound form of Harry Palmer, who is not only alive but pi**ed off. Feanella opens her laptop and casts a level 3 Banishment, but the cultists carry on chanting. Feanella shoots half of them, getting at least one Impale. Freddy takes careful aim with his Beretta and - his gun jams! It is up to Feanella to finish them off. Two of the deceased cultists are identified as Martin and Liliane; Reggio Salvati is not among the dead. Harry is given some clothing and whisked back to London for a stern meeting with his line manager.
Criminal activities: YES
Unusual behaviour: DEFINITELY
Both agents are sent on training courses; Freddy chooses COWE1 and Esoteric History 1. Amazingly, neither his Occult or his pitifully low Handgun Attack go up.
Feanella chooses Occulinux Installation & Use. Her Computer Maintenance goes up, but not her Computer Use (Magic). "I rolled for them the wrong way round, didn't I?" "Yes, you did."
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In which the players hear the last will and testament of their good friend Jackson Elias. Also, the cult tries to kill them and Declan gets slapped by his Ex.
Reminder: My players don't entirely know they are playing through Masks of Nyarlathotep. As far as they know, this is a 1920s Pulp themed Fate Core game. This article does contain spoilers for the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep.
Cast of Player Characters This Episode
- *Lin Ru-Shi - A Hong Kong street urchin that grew up to be a martial artist thief.
- Lord Declan MacManus - A minor Irish Lord and Great War pilot turned smuggler. Lives on his flying boat and has a way with the ladies.
- Salim Dali - A negotiator, translator, expedition assistant extraordinaire.
- Abdul “Abe” Tepema - An Englishman of color, born in Egypt, he has a little knowledge of the old magic, and is a skilled detective.
- Sebastian Sullivan - An amateur student of the arcane, driven from Arkham and currently operating as a less than-impressive detective.
The player of Lin Ru-Shi wasn't able to attend so I worked with the player to describe what happened to her while the rest of the players were doing their thing, and then used those details to feed into the session everyone else was involved in.
When we last left our cast of globetrotting explorers, they had attended Jackson Elias's funeral, raided a secret cult ritual chamber, and even done a bit of investigation. Having read Jackson's notes, seen his passport, and read the copy of Africa's Dark Sects they had taken from the chamber under the Ju Ju House, they now had some idea that there was an international conspiracy invovling a cult of the bloody tongue, and that they were somehow linked to Larkin, or at least his tattoo.
Sidelining Lin Ru-Shi
As I mentioned before, Ru-Shi's player wasn't able attend the game so I worked with them the day before the session with the rest of the players and ran Ru-Shi through her own personal adventure.
Since Detective Robson was blackmailed into finding someone else to take the fall for the Harlem murders (by Salim pretending to a Federal Agent) he decided to to use one of the foreigners hanging around the new ritual chamber crime scene, and being a corrupt cop, turned to his criminal contacts to find one of them. The Italian mob, as you may recall, had mistaken Ru-Shi for a yakuza scout. (Yes, they mistook her for Japanese, it was that bad of a roll.) They knew where she was staying, and that she didn't enter the country in anyway that left a record.
Ru-Shi woke up as the cops were bashing in her hotel door and gracefully dived out the window onto the fire escape, where a police officer was waiting with a sap. When she woke she was in the Harlem Police station. A detective interrogated her, letting her know they found a box of jewelry associated with Harlem murder victims, and several missing people from Harlem, in her room. Very convenient as it was so much better than the evidence they were planning to plant in her room. What the detective wanted was Silas and his boss Mukunga, but unless they could find him she'd have to take the fall instead. Disappointed she didn't know where they were, and after letting slip details about the criminal organization they now realized was a cult, he had her thrown in lock-up downstairs.
Ru-Shi of course arranged for a prison break before the night was over and escaped over the rooftops while the police were busy trying to round up all the other criminals. She then used clues the detective let slip to track down a cult hideout, a flop house above the speakeasy "Fat Maybell's" and managed to stumble into a cult ceremony. She escapes thanks to her martial arts skills, but not without suffering a pranga (African machete) blow to the body on her way out.
Detectives and Nightmares
Both Abe and Sebastian are detective characters so when their players weren't able to attend the previous session, we decided they were off running down details on members of the Carlyle Expedition when most of the previous session happened (although we decided their characters had been there for the funeral.) I had each of them roll to turn up details on an expedition member of their choice and then handed them handouts on Ms. Masters and Sir Penhew.
I also took the opportunity to hit Abe with another nightmare. He had been having them ever since Peru, and typically involved a hooded figure trapped in a gold cage trying in vain to whisper, he assumed, to him. Now, the room the cage was in was clearly an underground space where the angles were wrong. 4 walls and 5 corners. The gilded Peruvian cage was in one corner, but something dark was unseen in each of the others.
Message From Beyond the Grave
Declan's cousin the detective got a hold of Declan in the morning to let him know that Ru-Shi had been arrested, and then escaped custody the night before, and that as her known accomplices, the Harlem cops would likely be looking for them. They were advised to stay away from Harlem. Instead they went shopping for disguises and then headed to the Jackson's Lawyer's office to hear Jackson's will read. They noticed an unmarked police car down the street keeping an eye on the building and managed to wedge a potato into the tailpipe without being caught, then proceeded into the building disguised and in separate groups without the police catching on.
Jackson turned out to have made a small fortune off his haul from Peru, and he left roughly half of it to his publishing house to encourage them to keep printing books on the occult, particularly those debunking it. The other half was used to make a trust to help fund further investigations along his most recently lines of research. He also included a personal letter, written recently, imploring his good friends to take up the cause that he assumed was likely the cause of his death. The fund contained the modern equivalent of a quarter million dollars, but the lawyer was quick to point out he was in charge of the fund and would require documentation and receipts suitable for IRS investigation he was positive a rich black man's estate would would draw. The players agreed that they were interested in learning more about the cult and whatever secret plot Jackson had started to uncover. Some from vengeance, some from curiosity, and some from greed.
As the players left the building they were attacked by the cult, who had clearly also been watching the lawyer's office. They attempted to the run the players down with a stolen truck, and then had a half dozen cultists, one with a Tommy gun, pour of the truck to try and finish the group off. It was a brutal fight in the snow, and Abe was actually lit on fire, but eventually they downed 4 of the cultist and sent the other two running off. The players also somewhat regretted disabling the police car as it prevented the detectives from being much help. The PC did manage to get away before the cops could arrest any of them. The wrecked truck burning in the snowbank was a good distraction. It also let them steal the detectives' unmarked car.
The players decided to follow up a different lead that also gave them an excuse to get out of the city for a while and visited the Carlyle mansion north of the city. As it turns out, Declan and Erica had some history, going back to around the time she had a run in with a mob boss and ended up with Joe Corey in her employ. She actually let the players into the mansion purely so she could slap Declan across the face for leaving her without even phone call or letter. Eventually the group managed to talk Erica into listening to them about some kind of conspiracy involving her Brother's death. They managed to avoid telling her anything too outlandish, and she disbelieved a lot of what they said anyway, but eventually she admitted that Roger had been into some strange occult things in the time before he left for his expedition. This led into a conversation about his strange books, and Erica agreed to let the group see the books, but to not let them out of her house.
The players ended up staying for a couple of days, basically living in the mansion's library, taking notes on several strange occult books that had been in Roger's safe. Most of the books were of a generic occult nature but one book described an Englishman that had taken up worship of an Egyptian sorcerer known as the Pharaoh of Darkness. Another book described an Egyptian sorceress queen. Both details caught Abe's attention, considering he was originally alive in the time period between those to entities. (Note: Reminder that Abe is a mummy but neither the other characters nor the players at the table know that.)
While most of the party studied the texts and wrote notes as quickly as possible, Declan proceeded to make an ass out of himself trying to prove his worth in Erica's eyes by besting Joe. He lost a fist fight and resorted to a competition more his strength: drinking. He was ultimately successful in out drinking the large man, but Erica didn't seem interested.
Having collected what information they could, and realizing that Erica had gotten bored of watching Joe punch Declan in the face on a semi-regular schedule, the group headed out of the mansion and back into town, ditching their stolen police car at a train station.
Next Time: Darkness and Monsters
Art Credit: Page 129 from Masks of Nyarlathotep, Handout.
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As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, in the past couple of years I have played two Call of Cthulhu scenarios with my family. The first game, The Haunting, did not go as well as I wanted. The second game, the Peru Prologue to Masks of Nyarlathotep, went far better. I learned a lot from both sessions, and studying those experiences can point to what worked well and what didn’t – pointing to a preliminary list of features for my game.
I’ve also played a fair bit of both Mansions of Madness and Arkham Horror: The Card Game, not to mention numerous other board games. Again, examining what I liked and what I didn’t should help define some more features I may wish to incorporate.
There are a few things I did differently when playing these two scenarios. While The Haunting didn’t go badly, my kids had a difficult time with it. We also didn’t really engage the system that much, and wading through the content of the prop handouts I used consumed a lot of time without a lot of benefit in terms of driving the investigation forward (great for immersion though).
When we played The Haunting, we used the Trail of Cthulhu conversion. There were very few dice rolls, and in general we didn’t engage the system except for during character creation. We didn’t quite reach Corbitt before we had to stop, which assuredly would have used the system due to combat. Not sure that would have gone well anyway, since we didn’t use the system much leading up to it.
For Peru, I used a work-in-progress version of the system I’m working now, which is a custom adaptation of Fate Core. There were a few parts of the system we didn’t engage with as much as we probably should have, but that was due more to some mistakes on my part as GM. I should have made the difficulty of rolls known to everyone, which I think would have helped drive the Fate Point economy. (I was leaning on my past experience of using unknown difficulties to help build suspense, but that wasn’t necessary.) I probably called for a couple of rolls I shouldn’t have, since I didn’t have any good ideas for complications from failure. And I should have called for a few more defense from horror rolls when the investigators encountered something strange or horrific.
Overall though, we definitely used the system a lot more in Peru, and it never felt like we had an excessive number of rolls. I had already put together a conversion doc that helped me quickly identify what skills would typically apply. However, even when the players wanted to take some action that wasn’t explicitly covered in the scenario, the Fate system made it easy to quickly identify a skill and mechanic to handle what they wanted to accomplish.
I think one of the differences that had the biggest impact for my group was how we got started with everyone’s characters. Our first time around we created characters from scratch using the ToC rules. This got the adults interested in their characters, but we spent a lot of time on this – and since we didn’t engage the system much, it was largely pointless. The choices of professions and such was interesting, but no one had a clue how the numbers for the skills would be relevant. We ended up spending around two hours on creating characters, whereas if we had spent less time on this we probably could have finished the scenario. More importantly, the kids were completely lost during this part. There were way too many choices for them to pick from, which turned them off from the beginning.
When we played Peru, I converted the pre-generated characters over to my Fate Core implementation and presented them to the players. So three people were choosing between about 8 characters. Since I was using a version of Fate, each investigator had a handful of aspects that provided a quick summary of the character, which made it easy for everyone to see how the investigators were different from one another and make a choice. After the investigation got started, I also had each player come up with a Drive for their investigator – basically a goal or concern they had related to the scenario or the other investigators. We didn’t have much opportunity to actually use those Drives in the scenario, but it allowed a bit of customization without requiring a lot of time.
I’ve though quite a bit about how best to handle creating characters in my game. I like the idea of starting with pre-generated characters for the first scenario or two and then allowing custom characters to be created. I also think providing the option to use pre-generated characters in later scenarios could useful – especially if you have additional players join the group. The option to customize pre-generated characters could also be useful. I want character creation to be quick and simple, but still allow for player choice and customization. When it comes to creating investigators from scratch, I’m also thinking of starting with a limited number of choices and then expanding them over time. This makes it easier to get familiar with the process without being overwhelmed and helps support character creation being quick.
I’ll probably deviate a fair bit from typical Fate Core character creation. The focus on the player characters in cosmic horror is very different from that of vanilla Fate Core, and the likelihood that investigators will die or go insane is usually fairly high in these types of games. I want the players to be invested in their characters, but not feel so attached to them that they are put off when they have to be replaced.
Character Creation Design Goals
- Incorporate pre-generated characters
- Allow pre-generated characters to be customized (Drives, Stunts, Ties)
- Allow creation of new characters
- Quick and simple character creation combined with player choice and customization
- Limited initial character creation options that increase over time
Character creation is one of the areas where I have some developed, but a lot planned conceptually. I’ll create a separate post delving into this in more detail.
A central element to investigation-based gameplay is the discovery and interpretation of clues. One mythos game that really embraces this idea is Trail of Cthulhu, and it also touches on there being different types of clues. Building on this idea and adding a Fate twist, I handled clues a little differently with Peru than I did in The Haunting. This ended up working to great effect.
When we played The Haunting, I used lots of props, so there were plenty of documents that provided clues to the investigators. While these were great for immersion, they did little to overcome some of the common challenges with investigation games. Without going too much into it here, the players had difficulty parsing through the documents to separate the clues from the fluff, keeping track of the clues they had uncovered, and piecing together clues any sort of helpful way. When we ran Peru, which has far fewer physical documents, the players nevertheless had a far easier time keeping track of clues and figuring things out. They still had to find the clues and interpret them, so the core of this kind of gameplay remained intact without many of the usual challenges. (They even interpreted the clues incorrectly, but were still able to bring about a generally successful conclusion to the scenario.)
The first thing I did was to give clues a little more of a defined structure. Rather than a document or “the information Mr. Knott told you” being treated as a clue, each piece of relevant information obtained from those sources is a separate, discrete clue. So a document may contain several clues, each of which is written as a short, bite-sized, phrase or sentence. (Each Clue is also an Aspect, which has some other interesting advantages, but more on that elsewhere.)
I then created cards for each Clue, which were given to the players as the investigators uncovered them. I still gave the players documents and other props, which continued to provide immersion, and the players only received the Clue cards once they had read the documents. The Clue cards proved extremely helpful. The players could use them to keep track of and review what they learned and easily differentiate between actual clues and information that was just fluff/detail. I also categorized Clues as either Core (vital to the successful completion of the scenario) or Supporting (helpful or background info, but not indispensable), which is useful when determining how to handle investigator efforts to find those Clues.
Clue Features & Design Goals
- Clues written as Aspects on Cards
- Clue types – Core, Supporting, Floating
- Use props whenever possible for documents, etc.
- Clue and Encounter maps for the Keeper/GM
- Some Clues lead to other scenarios (Fragments, Seeds, Hooks)
One thing I had a lot of fun with when we ran The Haunting was a map of the locations in the scenario. I printed a large 20s-era map of Boston and put it on a bulletin board. I then printed out small collages of images for each place and pinned them to the board, with thin yard tacked between the place and its location on the map. As new locations cam up in play, I added them to the board. Gave everything a nice investigation/conspiracy feel and provided the players with some images to help visualize each location.
However, using this board did have a couple of issues. First, it was rather large. We had to either let it take up one whole side of the table or put it off to the side, which meant the players had to get it and walk to it if they wanted to look at the images or reference the map for any reason. It also meant that any time a new location was added, it took a minute to post it to the board and tie it to its location. Most importantly, using the board meant that putting everything away between sessions either took up a lot more space or a lot more time.
When we played Peru, I took a page from Arkham Horror: TCG and decided to use cards. In that game, each location is represented by a single card. Obviously, this doesn’t take much space, and it has the added benefit of allowing for any size location to be represented in the same way. I made a card for each location that contained its name, an image, and an aspect or two describing the location. I started out with only the starting location in play. As places came to the attention of the investigators during the scenario, I put the cards for those locations into play (assuming they knew enough of the location to actually get there).
In practice, this worked extremely well. The players were provided with an array of options of where to go, and as they gathered Clues and learned more they revealed new locations. Essentially, it provided a visual path to follow. They still had to decide where to go and what to do when they got there, but they always had some idea of where to go to look for more Clues.
I also created a sort of “board” for the Ruins in Peru. The idea was to echo the process of exploring a location in Mansions of Madness. I showed the players the map of the Ruins and they described what they were doing as they checked them out, but once they went underground, I laid out tiles representing the tunnels under the ruins. They started out with only a couple of tiles branching in two or three directions. As they explored I added more tiles (and also a few Aspects that described the environment). Combined with the creepy sound effects of the Peru module for Syrinscape that I was using, the players were definitely spooked and cautious. It worked fairly well, even with just basic white tiles with no art. The descriptions provided by the Aspects and the process of revealing the map only as they explored it, plus the atmospheric sound effect, was more than sufficient to set the mood and keep them on edge.
There were a few things that need to be refined too. I think providing the players with the map of the ruins worked okay, but I think using cards to represent each area of the ruins could have some benefits. The ruins on the surface were kind of an odd middle ground between the “Encounter” and “Investigation” levels of the game, so I need to look at that some more. When there wasn’t anything of consequence for a couple of tiles in the tunnels, the process of “Which way do you go? That way. Here are more tiles. Now where?” got a little tedious and pointless. Obviously, Mansions of Madness has a lot more structure defined with turns, actions, and such, so I’ll have to work on how to structure this Investigation level of play better. I hadn’t really delved into that yet for this first play through, so all in all it went well. And of course having art for the tiles would be a big improvement. I’m a little concerned that while converting scenarios to this system should be fairly simple for the most part, creating tiles for the Investigation of specific locations could be a challenge and big time sink.
Location Features & Design Goals
- Support quick set up and tear down
- Include image and descriptions/Aspects for each location
- Use cards for locations at most levels of gameplay
- Put location cards into play as players learn of them
- Player pieces can be placed on cards to indication their location during Encounters
- Investigation of locations transitions to tile-based board/map with player pieces
- Additional tiles are added as players explore
- Support additional locations not specified by the scenario, as players desire to visit other places
In games like Call of Cthulhu, keeping track of all the non-player characters the investigators come across can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. This can be such a big issue in larger campaigns that Chaosium’s most recent edition of the epic Masks of Nyarlathotep includes 12 pages of NPC portraits that Keepers can present to players just to help them keep things straight. It’s always a good idea to provide information in more than one form (spoken, text, images, etc.) whenever practical, since different people have an easier time processing and recalling information in different ways.
There aren’t that many NPCs in The Haunting, and only one of them is all that memorable. Since we didn’t reach him during our play through, NPCs weren’t that big of a deal during that game. On the other hand, investigators in Peru will actually get most of their clues from NPCs. There is a lot of repeated interaction with different NPCs, and even one that uses an alias. Again, I used cards for each NPC, including the image from the scenario guide and a couple of descriptive Aspects. Worked really well for helping the players get a quick impression and keep track of everyone.
One thing I need to do differently is with the Aspects for each NPC. I included some information on the cards that the PCs wouldn’t reasonably be aware of at first. I need to focus on basic first impressions and allow for additional details to be added as they are uncovered. Additional details/Aspects could be physically written on the cards, put into play as separate cards, or an alternate version of the card could replace the original. I actually used the last approach for one of the named NPCs in Peru whose “true physical nature” is revealed partway through the scenario.
Character Features & Design Goals
- Use cards for each named NPC or mob
- Include name, image, and descriptions/Aspects for each character
- Allow for additional details of NPCs to be revealed and put into play, beyond what’s on their card initially
Obviously, there are plenty of other elements to the game – details on the investigators, character advancement, tying scenarios together, etc. – but these are the big ones that made a clear difference in our two games, so they are taking center stage to start out. As I mentioned, I already have more developed or planned for character creation and clues as well, which I’ll hopefully get around to posting in the near future.
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PCs: Lewis, Hawk, Wilson, Smith
-Thanksgiving, preparing for the trip to Lake’s Camp and the setting up of a new Camp. Starkweather travels to Beardmore Glacier, taking Sorensen and a sled-dog team.
-Flight to Lake’s Camp, Hawk piloting. Smith is the only one to look at the Mountains with binoculars and could swear she sees some cylindrical and cuboid formations in the upper ladders of the higher mountains of the foothills.
Hawk provides his passengers with a mostly smooth flight, except for half an hour or so of turbulence, with a few minutes of some stronger jumps and falls of a few feet, which shakes them, but they all keep their breakfasts in.
-When they are approaching the coordinates of the Camp, Hawk is the only one to detect the markings that show where it once stood. He positions the plane well, using the wind against him and has a rough but good landing.
Moore stops the group before stepping down from the plane and gives them the speech about his friends and finding out the truth about what happened, asking them to please find out and dedicate themselves to it.
Moore then goes to talk to the approaching Sykes and Cole and they start to plan and then set up camp in the spot chosen by Sykes. The group help unload the plane, with Cole and Sykes joining them shortly.
After this they start to set up their tents first, following Moore’s instructions to take care of that and then start investigating. Hawk sets up his tent for 2 and earns Sykes congratulations about really paying attention in his classes, because he sets it up in record time and along with its ice wall it looks as sturdy as it can possibly be. Wilson plans to sleep alone and he sets up a small tent correctly and without trouble.
Lewis and Smith decide to share a tent and set it up pretty quickly. They glance at each other, satisfied and about to start congratulating one another, when a breeze blows by and with it the tent. This earns them Sykes laughter and he offers his help, but Lewis rejects it, saying that if she spent so many hours in class she would make her own tent, so she proceeds to start again to set it up, this time accidentally ripping up the fabric and leaving a tear of around 1 mt, which makes Sykes stop laughing and proceed to respectfully but sternly suggest that they allow him finish setting up their tent, it was his job and they surely had “lots of science” to do out there, waiting for them.
After this they were ready to start working on Lake’s Camp, and after having a quick walk and look around they estimated that they could maybe clear at least one site before dinner and rest.
They notice Moore going to the Cairn and staying there for several minutes, lost in thought.
Wilson also notices that there’s what seems to have been one of the tents that was away from the rest and close to the straight line of hummocks, and he deduces that must’ve been the Biology tent in which Lake worked, so he tells the rest that they should work on that one first, and they agree.
After more than four hours of work they uncover the bloody scene and both Lewis and Smith immediately understand that at least one person bled out completely, with that blood coming out of him with violence, and they are understandably a bit more shaken than the rest.
After dinner, when giving their report to Moore in which they mention everything, Smith says it would be a good idea to investigate the buried bodies, taking into account what they found, and Lewis is with her.
Moore is initially taken aback by the suggestion and objects out of respect for the dead, saying that it was to be expected that the terrible storm that killed them had caused bloodshed, but Lewis firmly informs him that what was in that tent hadn’t been caused by no storm. They needed no more evidence than the arterial blood spray patterns, which were definite proof of violence and wounds not caused by a storm or the effects it could have had. She adds that it was completely necessary for the investigation, to know what happened, which was what he asked them to do, and the bodies would be treated with the utmost care and respect. Moore defers to her medical experience and accepts her arguments, so the group decides to start on that after next day’s breakfast.
They spend all morning working at the cairn, passing over to noon, studying and analyzing what they find, which confirms without any possible doubt that no storm had killed those men.
They identify 11 of the 12 bodies, although they’re sure they have 12, which means that either Lake or Gedney are missing. It should be Gedney as per Dyer and his rescue mission, but by this point they don’t believe anything they said and state they’ll double check everything.
When they give their report to Moore after their late lunch he confirms by the fracture on one of the leg bones that the pile of unidentified remains was Lake, being Gedney then the only one missing.
The group tells Moore that they’ve confirmed that it was simply impossible that a storm was what killed those men, no matter how terrible, which clearly affects him deeply, mentioning that then it must have been... Gedney? who killed them all?, but why would Dyer lie about it?
Wilson, Smith and Lewis talk at the same time to interrupt him and tell him it was definitely not Gedney either, that it was impossible for one person to do some much damage in one night and it also didn’t explain they way in which some bodies were harmed, cut and dismembered.
Moore asks them then what could’ve been? Did they have any theory? They owed it to the dead to find out and back it up with hard evidence. They recognize that they have no theories at this point, but they plan to keep working as fast as possible to know more.
With the intention of getting results faster, they decide then to start working on the smaller hummocks, and Wilson adds that they clearly aren’t tents and their symmetrical disposition irks him. Hawk joins them, temporarily free from airplane related duties.
After a bit more than an hour of work, the group frees their first Elder One, a damaged specimen, but not nearly enough that they can’t recognize it from Lake’s descriptions. Everyone is rendered speechless at the sight and Lewis is particularly affected. That is definitely not a plant. And that was definitely an eye. Or five.
Wilson wants to take it immediately to the new Biology Tent to start studying it, but Lewis wants nothing to do with it, saying they should destroy it, burn it, whatever it took!
Everyone is shaken by the discovery but they agree they should show Moore first, so Smith and Lewis go look for him while Hawk and Wilson start on uncovering Hummock #2, although they stop working when Moore arrives to be part of that talk.
Moore reacts per the book until the following exchange takes place:
WILSON: I intend to take it to the Biology Tent and start dissecting it and studying it in more detail.
LEWIS: And I say we have to destroy it. Destroy it!!.
HAWK: Maybe we should decapitate it... to be sure.
MOORE: Well, as scientists I believe we have an obligation to study it in detail, I’m surprised you’d ask us to just destroy it Dr. Lewis. Of course all precautions must be taken, and you should also handle yourselves discreetly, there’s no need to comment on any of these findings to the rest of the Expedition and I won’t mention anything yet on my radio broadcasts, until we have more information.
Hawk and Wilson then take the specimen to the new Biology Tent, wrapped in waterproof tarp. Smith, Lewis and Hawk, when he returns, resume digging up M2, finding then the specimen that was probably the one worked on by Lake, due to the state of it and the numerous cuts and dissections.
Being a team of 3 they progress quickly with the hummocks so in a few hours they also dig up M3 and M4, finding then two of the Elder Sign Stones.
Exhausted and starved they finish up work for the day, taking the new specimens to the tent where Wilson is working, showing him the stones. Wilson is not surprised about having found more specimens and mentions that it almost seems as if they were buried that way intentionally.
Before entering the Biology Tent, Lewis notices Acacia going inside the old Biology Tent they cleared the day before, along with Priestley and his camera.
They take some time to examine the stones but can’t find any specific meaning to them, besides the star shaped design and the fact that they found them on top of the heads they resemble, which almost seems like it has a ceremonial meaning or some meaning they can’t fathom.
They call Moore then to show him the stones and to have him hear Wilson’s initial report.
After that, Lewis insists: We need to destroy the specimens. They are dangerous, and everything we find points to them not being really dead but in hibernation or something like that, and we can’t be sure that they won’t get up again and kill us all.
WILSON: Well, all we’ve seen so far are pretty damaged, one even has his head completely crushed, but since they reproduce via spores I think it’s probably best if we wrap them and seal them as best as we can. I don’t know about coming back to life, but what if we do something and cause them to shoot spores?
LEWIS: And new ones could be born… baby ones. We can’t be sure of anything, these things are different than anything anyone ever saw. You’ve been studying them for hours and couldn’t deny with absolute certainty that maybe if you cut enough of their tentacles another head will grow. We don’t know how their organism works, which means we can’t know what ‘damaged’ means for them and if they really couldn’t get back to life.
HAWK: We need to cut their heads. We. need. to cut. their heads!!
He is ignored by the rest, that continue with their argument. Hawk looks around the tent, searching for an ax, and seeing none, starts to move towards the exit with the intent of getting one, when he notices the dissecting tools that might come in handy, so he grabs a nice looking saw and moves towards the specimen over the dissection table.
The rest finally notice what he was trying to do, which causes Wilson to ask the predictable: What the hell are you doing?
HAWK: I am proceeding to cut the head of this thing, and after that I will do the same to the rest.
MOORE: Erm… I think that maybe it’s best if we wait until Dr. Greene and/or Bryce have the chance to study the specimens as well, and that way we'll have a 2nd look and opinion over the organism, don’t you think it would be best?
LEWIS: Actually I think decapitating the specimens is a great idea.
SMITH: And I think so as well.
WILSON: Well… yes, I agree, and we can still continue studying the specimens as much as we want and you can have that 2nd opinion.
MOORE: Very well then... if everyone agrees that’s best. Wilson can make the clean incisions and leave them ready for additional dissections and studies.
They agree that Wilson will get started on that while the rest would split to dig up M5 and M6, already imagining what they would find.
Lewis and Smith notice then at the same time that they had 4 specimens and there were 2 hummocks left, which would then should mean 6 specimens, but Lake’s original reports mentioned 14 specimens. Realizing that could mean that 8 of those things were alive terrifies both of them and they share it with the rest, which makes Hawk reply that he planned to be armed at all times from now on and suggests the same for the rest, but Wilson tells them that it doesn’t make sense to think about that now, they should stay alert but focus on continuing work on the Camp to see what else they could find.
They split up and dig up M5 and M6, netting the result of 2 more specimens and 2 more Elder Stones, Hawk pockets one (Lewis had grabbed one of the previous pair for herself as well) and gives Moore the other one.
After some brief discussion they decide to continue with the tents, starting with the closest one to the Hummock, choosing the one that used to belong to Moulton and Mills.
They continue with the one on top of that one but don’t have time for more that day so they go eat, report to Moore, and rest.
-They work at uncovering Lake’s Tent and Carroll and Brennan’s, which means they once again are shaken by some gruesome findings.
Everyone wakes up to the sound of the German airplanes, and they go out to receive them.
After Meyer’s initial speech he is approached by Moore and the group, with Lewis asking him while they walked towards the newcomers if he knew anything about this, but his surprised face made his negative easy to guess.
Moore is first to speak, complaining about not being notified of their arrival, which causes Meyer to act terribly surprised and his mention about the possible miscommunication between camps, maybe some problems with the radio equipment?. Wouldn’t have happened if they had their equipment of great quality.
Wilson and Lewis then ask him why had they come, and Meyer answers that despite not being their main expedition objective, they were glad to have the possibility to examine Lake’s amazing findings and work alongside them, so he had gladly accepted the invitation to come.
LEWIS: Invitation? What invitation?
WILSON: What do you mean, Invitation? Who invited you?
*Moore’s and all eyes moved towards Acacia, that had said nothing after the initial greetings*
ACACIA: *a bit defensively* Yes, that’s right, I invited them. Do you have a problem with that?
LEWIS: What do you mean you invited them?... *uff* I mean WHY? Why did you call them?
ACACIA: What do you mean why?! It's beyond clear why, this way I won't have to depend on James Starkweather anymore! I think that’s reason enough!, Sorry, Moore. The germans agreed to provide me and my people with everything we lost on the explosion and the supplies we need, and like I said, that way I won’t depend in any way on Starkweather anymore.
LEWIS: In exchange for what, then?
WILSON: Yes, what did the Germans ask in exchange for all that?
ACACIA: Well… I agreed to ensure them 3 or 4 seats in my flight across the mountains.
-That comment seals an idea that had been circling Hawk, which was that there was no way those fat Junkers could fly up those peaks.
MEYER: *looking amused* That’s right gentlemen, we’ve come to a mutually beneficial arrangement with Miss Lexington, but I assure you that our presence will also benefit you, since we are of course here to assist and work alongside you.
With this in mind, and if you don’t mind me asking, I assume you’ve already been working and starting your investigations, correct?
*The group exchanges looks and then look at Moore* “Moore, a moment?”. They excuse themselves and take him aside.
LEWIS: I don’t know if we should tell the Germans.
HAWK: No, of course not, we should tell them nothing.
WILSON: But they will find out, I think we should use them.
LEWIS: Use them? Use them how?
WILSON: Right, we gain their trust by telling them and we use them and all the supposed superior German quality equipment and have them work for us.
HAWK: But then they’ll know everything, we should say nothing to them.
SMITH: Yes, I’m not so sure about telling and showing them everything.
LEWIS: Besides, I’m not sure how we could use them, they probably have their agenda and I don’t think we can trust them.
MOORE: I think that the fact that Acacia invited them, the same Acacia that knows about the specimens, means that if they don’t know already, they will shortly.
WILSON: What do you mean she knows about the specimens?
MOORE: Of course she knows, Wilson. We are camping with her people, we are in this together and she is her leader and had a right to know. Besides I had Priestley exhaustively document the first specimen while you worked on it in the Biology Tent.
LEWIS: Well.. that’s that. Clearly it’s like Moore said, if they don’t know already they’re probably finding out as we speak.
WILSON: So… let’s go back to what I was saying then, since they’ll know anyway, let’s go back, tell them everything, and use them to our advantage as best we can.
SMITH: Starkweather is -not- going to be happy when he hears about all this.
MOORE: No, no, definitely not. As soon as we finish talking with our new…“allies” I’ll contact him via radio to let him know everything, you’ll probably hear him shouting from a few tents over.
SMITH: I bet.
MOORE: He planned to join us shortly anyway when he finished up with the glacier, but he’ll probably want to expedite his return with these news.
HAWK: Should I maybe go ahead and go look for him? Wouldn’t that be a good idea, to ease him down a bit?
MOORE: I hadn’t thought of it… it’s a good idea Hawk, maybe he’ll receive the news slightly better if I tell him that we are ready to launch a flight to pick them up. Ready a co-pilot and aircraft to be ready to fly but wait for my confirmation, let me talk to him first just in case.
They go back to Meyer and Lexington.
MOORE: Thanks for waiting, we’ve discussed it and believe that in the spirit of cooperation and good relations it’s best if we tell you everything.
WILSON: We’ve already dug up several of Lake’s specimens, *hands Meyer some sketches*, these are some sketches of my initial analysis and dissections.
MEYER: Of course! The amazing Lake’s creatures, animal-plants that in the end were just plants.
WILSON: No… they are not plants. They clearly could move, at the very least.
MEYER: Ah, I see.. of course we will be provided access to make our own examinations, ja?
MOORE: Of course, right now our Dr. Greene and Charles Myers, our other biologist, are working with them to have a 2nd opinion on Mr. Wilson’s initial analysis, but they’ll be finished by tomorrow.
MEYER: Excellent, thank you very much herr professor. And what else have you found?
WILSON: We also dug up several of the tents of the old camp, finding several signs of struggle and violence, blood stains, blood patterns and so.
MEYER: Ah I see, I see.. of course. A great tragedy of course. It must have been a terrible, terrible storm.
LEWIS: What we found was caused by no storm.
MEYER: I see... well, of course we will want to inspect them as well.
MOORE: Of course.
MEYER: And what about the famed Lake’s Cave? Have you been able to break through and access it yet?
MOORE: We’ve had a slight delay in schedule due to bad weather, which forced us to cancel a few flights, which meant that we’ve just finished assembling our Pabodie Drill. Our people plan to access the Cave today and start on its study as soon as possible, while this group here will in the meantime continue investigating the remains of the Camp.
MEYER: I understand, it's a shame we didn’t come sooner! Our german equipment of great quality would surely have been of much help!
LEWIS: Like what? You keep mentioning the superior equipment, what do you have to offer?
MEYER: Well… several things, let’s see, wait one moment.
*calls Baumann, they speak in german and he leaves and comes back a few minutes later with a briefcase, from which he takes out one of the Ice Knives*. Uhr, who came along with Baumann, quickly shows them the piece of equipment and explains how it works.
LEWIS: It seems to be a rather specific piece of equipment, to work the ice with precision, why did you bring this?
WILSON: You weren’t surprised when I showed you my sketches of the creature and now these tools… what do you know?
MEYER: Well Herr Wilson, of course we all here vividly remember the enthusiastic descriptions made by Herr Professor Lake, which your sketches reproduce expertly I must say... and to tell you the truth we expected you to find and analyze some of them.
In regards to our tools, well… I certainly don’t wish to sound arrogant, but as expected of our excellent planning and organization we undoubtedly included all types of equipment, specially cutting edge pieces of technology like this, in case we needed to do precision work on the ice. I trust you don’t have a tool like this one, eh? You’re more than welcome to use them! We’ll provide you with several and teach you the best way to use them as soon as work is restarted.
Regarding work... I was conversing here with Miss Lexington and noticed we’ve been attuned to exactly the opposite work schedule, so the most effective way of taking advantage of time would be to work on two alternating shifts, covering every available hour between the two. That way we will complete work much sooner than expected, no doubt!.
At the end of each shift we can share findings and discuss them. What do you think?
LEWIS: No, I don’t agree at all, we should create mixed crews.
MEYER: But… that way we couldn’t work in the most efficient manner, learning to work with strangers, we couldn’t cover the 24hs, it’s not the most effective plan.
LEWIS: We can work all hours anyway if we divide the teams and shifts appropriately, if we could do it separated, we can do it this way. I don’t think that working as two separate units is an acceptable idea.
MEYER: It certainly is not in the intention of hiding or being uncooperative, Miss Lewis, I forgot to mention that my idea was always going to have some of your people work alongside us and supervise what we do, my suggestion was merely in the spirit of maximum possible efficiency, of course.
LEWIS: Yes, regardless. We’ll do mixed teams. And it's Doctor Lewis.
MEYER: Of course, of course. We can certainly organize ourselves that way.
MOORE: Gentlemen, now that we are agreed on this we invite you to a humble welcome meal so that you can rest up and we can organize the day’s work and teams.
MEYER: Thank you very much, herr professor Moore, a very nice gesture that will be appreciated by my men, although of course most will have to continue working unloading our equipment and setting up camp.
MOORE: Very well, let’s go.
--- END SESSION 5 - A bit over 4hs.
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Before him was an incredibly long mahogany table. Twelve matching chairs, upholstered with fine dark green fabric, were lined up on either side, with one more at each head of the table. The table itself had a fine bone china place setting at each seat, complete with crystal goblets to drink from and genuine silverware. There were three silver candelabras, dull from not being polished, spread evenly across the length of the table. Judging by the piles of dried wax built up on the table, they had been burned with reckless abandon. Frank wondered how many dinners had been hosted at this table by Pickman for his fine art pals. He couldn't fathom the idea that anyone from Boston would have ventured to Arkham, but he may have had friends in the small town itself.
On the far wall, just behind the head of the table, hung a crude painting of the Last Supper. It was a perversion of the original work, with Jesus offering his actual flesh to his acolytes, all of whom were painted as hungrily devouring it, their eyes aglow with devilish fire. It unsettled Frank as he looked at it. He wasn't a religious man, but even to him, it felt blasphemous. He shivered. Maybe from the cold of being soaked to the bone, maybe from the artwork.
Flesh of my flesh. Literally. Jesus.
The left side of the dining room was lined with windows. The thick curtains, which matched the fabric on the chairs, were drawn. Frank moved to the center window and yanked the heavy curtain open, letting moonlight spill into the room. The rain was still dumping outside.
“What a beautiful night,” he muttered to himself.
At the end of the dining room on the right side of the room was a white swinging door with a round glass window eye-level in the center of it. The kitchen, perhaps? Frank moved to it and pushed through to the other side.
The stench hit him first and was potent enough to make his eyes water. He gagged and brought his forearm up to his nose to filter some of the stink. His stomach burbled and it took all of his resolve to not vomit.
“drat me,” Frank retched.
Flies buzzed wildly around the room. The center island of the kitchen was covered with rotted food - meats, vegetables, fruits, and cheeses. All of it was green and spotted with white fuzz. Maggots squirmed freely out of the meats and cheeses and swarmed along the counters. A pot on the stove had something unnatural growing out of it. The sinks were messily piled nearly to the ceiling with disgusting dishes and pots and pans.
He made a second quick sweep of the room with his flashlight, covering his nose for dear life. There was a door at the far end of the kitchen, which Frank deduced went back out into the entrance hall. Nothing else seemed to be of interest, and he didn't know how much longer he could stand being in the disease-ridden room. He stepped back into the dining room.
Inhaling deeply, Frank coughed heartily to clear his lungs of the funk he breathed in from the kitchen. He took in a few more deeps breaths of clean air and began walking back to the door leading to the entrance hall.
Lightning struck with a strobe effect, and he was suddenly no longer alone in the dining room.
Frank stopped walking. He turned slowly to face the dining table.
A figure was now seated in the darkness at every chair of the table, except at the head nearest to the entrance hall. They didn't speak. They didn't move. They just sat there, their heads all turned towards Frank's direction.
Another flash of lightning rippled across the sky and the fluorescent light lingered long enough for Frank to get a better look at his new table guests. They were dead. Every single one of them, and judging by the varying states of their decomposition, most of them had been dead for a while. Both males and females were present at the table, dressed in the finest formal wear and fluffy dresses from the previous century.
This isn't real. None of this is real. It's all in your head.
“If you say it enough times in your mind, are you able to convince yourself?” the near-mummified man adorned with a top hat at the head of the table inquired aloud.
Frank's jaw dropped and his heart damn near imploded in his chest. He didn't say anything. He couldn't. He was consumed by fear. Fear, and shock. He was suddenly very aware that everyone at the table was staring at him through the black holes where their eyes should have been. He could feel it in his very soul, if such a thing existed.
“I asked a question, good sir. Don't be rude,” the corpse with the top hat continued, grinning wildly. It was not a friendly gesture.
Frank closed his eyes.
This isn't happening. You're imagining this. Don't lose it. Not here. Not now. Snap out of it! Come on, Frank. Come on. You're going to open your eyes on three. When you do, they'll be gone. One...two...three.
Frank opened his eyes. The candles were now all lit, casting ghastly shadows over his ghoulish company.
“We're still here, Frank,” the top-hatted corpse said. There was a hint of malice in his voice now. “Won't you join us?"
With a sickening sound of snapping bone, the thing in the top hat motioned to the empty chair at the other end of the table.
“And if I don't?” Frank asked, unable to hide the weakness in his voice.
One of the women at the table stabbed a knife into the wood in an eruption of violence.
“It's rude to refuse your host!” the angry thing hoarsely screamed. Her jaw detached with a wet rip of muscle and dropped onto the plate in front of her. She didn't move to pick it up, leaving a corroded tongue horrifyingly flopping about the gaping hole where her mouth should have been.
Frank moved to the end of the table and took a seat as requested, not taking his eyes off of the ghoulish dinner party.
“Splendid,” said Top Hat. “Let the feast begin!”
Top Hat clapped his hands dryly together with a sound that reminded Frank of a set of leather gloves slapping against one another. Undead servants paraded out of the kitchen, one after the other, with trays loaded with spoiled food. The platters were lined up along the length of the table and the fiendish guests piled their plates with a disgusting array of moldy sustenance.
They dug in, eating hungrily and sloppily without silverware, gripping the filth with their fetid hands and ripping into it with their putrid maws. Sounds of slurping and grunting and crunching made Frank's stomach churn as he watched the unholy feast before him.
He was stuck to the seat, frozen in the nightmare. His brain couldn't fathom what his eyes bore witness to. He wanted to scream. He wanted to flee. He wanted to do anything else but sit in that chair and watch this macabre orgy of food and death, but he couldn't tear his eyes away. And the smell. My god, the smell! It was worse than the revolting sounds the monsters were making with every bite they took.
Calcified bones, stripped of their meat, were tossed listlessly to the floor. Rancid juices spurted into the air and dripped down gangrenous chins as sour fruits and vegetables were chewed into. The ravenous party feasted for what seemed like an eternity.
It was hypnotizing. Frank's head spun as a cold sweat ran down his face. His knuckles were white from gripping the handles on his chair so tightly. His breathing became shallow and his vision grayed as he fought the urge to pass out.
This is madness!
Then, all grew quiet.
Frank's head cleared, and he realized that the entire dinner party had their eyes fixed on him once more. Half-chewed rot hung from their diseased gums and blackened teeth. They were watching him again, waiting for something.
“Well?” Top Hat asked. “Aren't you hungry?”
Frank looked down at his plate and gasped. Two eyeballs accompanied by a set of ears and a severed tongue sat on his plate amid a pool of blood.
Top Hat raised his goblet, which was filled with a vile black liquid. The others did the same.
“A toast!” Top Hat cheered. “To our esteemed guest. May he dine with us here in this hall...forever!”
Every candle went out in a wisp of smoke.
All of the dinner guests were suddenly on their feet, looming over the table towards Frank.
Lightning seared the sky, filling the dining room with blinding white light. Frank covered his eyes from the flash with his arm.
When he lowered his arm, the dinner party had vanished.
- Excerpt from A Call Beyond
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Resuming the blog, abandoned previously when I found that the writing style I was trying to develop didn't suit me - I'll try shorter, less formal subjects and see if that works better!
Some thoughts on Mythological Monsters: It occurred to me while creating Wiki entries for mythological monsters, like "Trolls", that I actually prefer writing about those sorts of creatures to the weirder Mythos monsters. It seemed counter-intuitive.
Thinking about it again, I realize that the standard approach for Mythos monsters is fairly rigid and limiting - not to me, but to the monster itself: it defines the weirdness out of Mythos monsters!
Meanwhile, the more generic mythological monsters are more of a blank slate: they've been defined into boredom by hundreds or thousands of years of pop culture in many cases, but their role in "the Mythos" is wide-open for reinterpretation, especially for uncertain and vaguely-defined reinterpretation: in truth, I enjoy the mythological monsters more because I'm freer to write ambiguity and mystery into them, by supposing a lot of things they COULD be, but possibly aren't!
It's a less conscious (and, I suspect, potentially more potent) version of my addition of "Heresies and Controversies" sections to any of the Mythos elements I add to the Wiki: a muddying of the well-defined waters, an attempt to leave murkier areas for unpleasant surprises and undefined horrors to lurk within.
I have had a small number of such entries planned, which (hopefully) I'll get around to adding over time.
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It's been bugging me for awhile now the question of "Am I alright as a Game Master?" it's a question I guess all G.M's ask themselves from time to time but after my last online group just weirdly faded away after a few poorly attended sessions without and real comment from anyone the question of my Gaming style has risen from the depths.
I do all my gaming Online and that may factor into how things pan out, Online is a fantastic way to meet up with people all over the world and actually get to roll dice but it does mean is a little more trickier to fully connect with people as off table talk is almost impossible to do, if you and another person starts talking about last nights game its heard by everyone and interrupts the game, so when the action involves someone else its probably best to mute your microphone and resist the temptation to do a google search on the information the Games Master has just dropped but back to the question that's unsettling me a little, am I okay as a G.M? as I mentioned before the last group I was part of just faded away in a really bizarre manner the first session was nearly a full house and the Players were awesome and I really had a blast running the game though I saw afterwards that I needed to change a few things to match the handouts better etc. but after that first session Players started to skip out, at first it wasn't to bad as they would post up that they couldn't make it next week which was fine, real life always trumps gaming and its always a juggling act spare time wise but soon the updates stopped and each session was a different make up from the previous and then suddenly after five or so sessions no one turned up not even the one Player who had previously made all the other sessions. For me the strangest thing was that even after a couple of days no one had really made an attempt to find out what had happened and when I managed to contact a few of the Players none seemed too concerned either way if the game continued or not, so it didn't (I never managed to contact the only Player who had previously made every session and if you are reading this I hope you're okay as your online presence went dark) Other groups though have lasted several years and I've almost completed a fantastic Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign which was updated to the modern day but all these groups in the end have foundered as people lost interest or they said things in the heat of the moment that couldn't be unsaid (This one was unfortunate as the guy running the Cthulhu Dark game is pretty cool but the play test didn't go the way he expected and blamed me for all the problems and I was to was apparently on a short fuse towards the end, never have I regretted not taking a count of five and some deep breaths more) but I still maintain that whilst not playing great I did play okay and it was the adventure that was mostly at fault.
So that's a potted history of my Cthulhu gaming most of the groups have started off well but end badly or in that one case just end which is a shame as these people become my internet friends, we share a cool hobby and I don't talk to most of them anymore because of how the groups ended which is a great shame but thinking about the groups of yesterday got me thinking about what mistakes I have made and its a lot. I don't think I have ever run a decent campaign, there have been two mostly okay ones that petered out before they were finished but everything else has been pretty shabby really and that's been mostly down to me as a G.M to be honest. The Eclipse Phase game I ran was a horrible mess to be honest as I just got swamped by all those options (So many options) and it was the game that broke a Player. Looking back on my G.M'ing career its awash with partial games that ended fairly quickly due to one reason or another, a sprinkling of cool moments here and there but nothing really sustained, overall its been rushed games with not enough preparation on my part and listening back to some of those early games I'm surprised that anyone could understand me as I muttered and mumbled through endless handouts ( I went a little crazy on the handout front with one game ) but for a time at least everyone came back and rolled dice until ennui set in or I blew a fuse.
I suppose the real question is why am I writing this? the answer is I want to roll dice and try to save the world from the uncaring forces of the cosmos but I'm uncertain if it will work. All the other groups have collapsed (Though I think the Masks group might be still going in one form or other) and whilst they collapsed for a variety of reasons I was involved in some capacity with their demise. I think I'm a better Player now but I don't think I'm a better G.M and since running a game is the easiest way to get a group started I'm a bit conflicted and to honest the failure of the last group has taken the wind out of my sails somewhat.
Reading this back I think I will hang off trying to get a group together, I'm playing in a pretty awesome Renaissance campaign at the moment so I'm still getting my gaming fix and it looks like I need to get the preparation aspects right first before trying again as that seems to have been a major problem in the past as I've had to fudge and um and arr a lot which has made things difficult for the Players. Also I need to calm the hell down as I have gotten way too over excited at times as well stressing out about the lack of communication (Must admit this still bugs me but I don't get as angry as I used to)
So this has really been a way to get my thoughts in order and to get in a bit of cheap therapy on the side I guess but if anyone who has gamed with me as a Player or as a G.M reads this by any chance let us know how you thought things went, all offers of advice gratefully received and Mr B if you read this can you just confirm that you made it back safely from the Christmas cruise?
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I've bought a box of 120 crayons and have done three drawings, including the ones that are probably the most important. I'm probably overdoing this.
I've made a map using something from Google and am not sure why I can't copy it so I can have one without all the points that didn't exist then but also without the green, and one with all of that -- or, for that matter, why I can't add park green to the Basic Atlas style. No big deal, I know, but it itches at me.
Have now seen Angel Heart twice, and while it doesn't help directly here, it's really good.
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This site is Japanese CoC unofficial site. Japanese CoC official don't have official site.
This page is Japanese CoC official supplement and scenario page.
This page is Japanese Interim CoC scenario timeline.
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Synopsis: The investigators discover the gruesome fate of Arthur Cornthwaite.
Session Date: Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Session Location: Six Feet Under Games, New Holland, Pennsylvania
* Elspeth Marsh, a librarian at the Miskatonic University
* Stephanie MacLeod, an archaeologist at Cambridge University
* Lynn Conners, a stage magician in Arkham, Massachusetts
Monday, February 9, 1925
After a breakfast with Hank and Edith, the ladies ask Pete to drive them back to the Fitzgerald Manse. Now more than ever, they are struck by the 'wrongness' of the house - the way it seems somehow crooked despite any obvious architectural flaws. Inside, the water damage seems to have worsened since their last visit two days earlier.
When they enter the kitchen, the door that they could not budge last time is now hanging open. The ladies draw their firearms. None of them wants to venture down into the basement; instead, they make their way upstairs and find the master bedroom. While searching the room, Elspeth begins to notice thin lines of salt here and there - on the windowsills, under the door, and around the fireplace. Near the hearth, she also finds some shotgun shells that have been emptied, as well as a crystal salt shaker. The interior of the fireplace is darkly discolored.
The next room is locked, but Lynn easily picks the lock. Opening the door just a crack, she sees a golden face leering at her with a wicked expression. The room is filled with artifacts - statues, busts, masks - almost all of them featuring sinister visages. The investigators move through the room, noticing that everything is covered in a thin layer of dust, unlike the rest of the house. As Lynn passes a display table, a small figurine with a particularly vicious face topples to the floor. Elspeth begins to notice a gruesome pattern - all of these artifacts involve funerary rites of various South American tribes. She begins to open the shutters on the windows to admit more light. While opening the second set of shutters, she notices a strange figure walking through the garden path below. It is wearing the uniform of a Revolutionary War soldier and carries a musket. She calls to the others, and all three of them watch as the figure moves toward the front of the house. Stephanie hastens downstairs, while Elspeth is taken aback when the figure looks up at her, revealing a gaunt face with dark hollows where the eyes ought to be.
Stephanie almost reaches the door when there is a loud knock. She opens the door to find Sheriff Whitford glaring at her suspiciously - particularly at her drawn revolver. Stephanie informs the sheriff that they have seen an unknown man walking in the garden. Whitford goes to have a look, with the ladies close behind. Where the figure was walking, there are no footprints, despite ample mud on the path. Whitford asks them what they are up to and warns them not to cause trouble. He says that the house is cursed, and that they would do well to steer clear of it. He then drives away, leaving Pete to ask if everything is all right.
Back inside the house, Stephanie hears a skittering noise upstairs. In one of the guest bedrooms, she spots what appear to be tiny handprints leading under the bed. Peering underneath, she sees a dark creature with glaring red eyes. She gives the bed a shove, and the raccoon darts away, frantically clawing at a crack in the wall near the fireplace. Stephanie aims her revolver at the creature and fires, creating an explosion of gore and fur.
Back in the hallway, Stephanie pulls down a ladder leading up to the attic. She and Elspeth carefully climb the rickety rungs and begin to explore the attic. They are surprised to find that the roof is dry, based on the water damage throughout the house. Elspeth notices that one of the trunks appears to have been flattened; its sides are lying on the floor, leaving its contents in a somewhat damp pile. The trunk contained the kind of clothing a jungle explorer might wear, and one of the pockets appears to have been ripped apart.
Returning to the landing to discuss their next move, the ladies hear a soft gurgling from below. Looking down the stairs, they see that the ground floor appears to have flooded - except that water doesn't move the way this dark, translucent gel is moving. They watch in horror as eyes begin to open here and there, as well as gaping mouths full of rotten teeth. Within the writhing mass, they spot the mangled features of the man they have been looking for. Cornthwaite's face looks twisted, as if it's a mask that could be worn over someone's head. Behind him are the similarly distorted features of a horse.
Elspeth lets out a shrill scream, while Stephanie staggers backward. Lynn steps forward and fires her shotgun at the seething mass. Slime splatters everywhere, but the thing is still moving, filling the ground floor, sliding up the steps toward them.
The ladies retreat to the master bedroom. Throwing open the shutters, Elspeth and Stephanie see that there is a straight drop down the ground below - perhaps fifteen feet or so. While Lynn fires her shotgun again, Elspeth tries to lower herself out the window, but soon slips and falls. Fortunately, she lands on some bushes below, but the wind is knocked out of her.
While Lynn prepares to climb out the window, Stephanie spots a snake-like tendril creeping out from under the chimney. She quickly grabs a handful of salt from the fireplace and flings it at the tendril, causing it to hiss and recoil. She realizes that the creature must be vulnerable to salt, but her triumph is short-lived when she hears a cry from outside; Lynn has fallen to the ground, badly twisting her ankle.
Alone in the bedroom, Stephanie sees that the nightmarish slime is now covering the doorway and oozing toward her. She grabs the windowsill and lowers herself down the wall, managing to jump down without injuring herself. She notices that a dark stain is beginning to creep from the foundations of the house, quickly spreading across the grass. Stephanie and Elspeth support Lynn; together, they make their way to the front of the building, where they are horrified to discover Pete's lifeless body inside the car, his head covered in a shroud of undulating slime. The ladies hobble as fast as they can down the winding drive and eventually hitch a ride back to town.
Returning to the boarding house, Hank and Edith are dismayed at the sight of the bedraggled women. They scramble to provide blankets, food, and bandages. The investigators say nothing of the horror they've encountered; Lynn says that she suffered a fall in the house. Hank shakes his head, saying that he did warn them that the house was 'just plain bad'.
The next day, Stephanie drives the dump track full of salt up to the Fitzgerald Manse. She drives a thick circle of salt around the property before dumping most of it into the cellar. The ladies watch in horrified fascination as the house begins to tear itself apart in a cacophony of hissing shrieks.
Walter Dodge is livid when they tell him that the house simply collapsed. He threatens to sue them for everything they own. But as they leave, Sheriff Whitford assures them that he'll talk with Dodge. He says that the house was cursed from the beginning, and that he's frankly relieved that it's gone. He advises them to leave Gamwell as soon as they can.
*** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^ *** ^
I felt as though this was a satisfying conclusion to the investigation. All of the early clue-finding finally reached its horrifying culmination. I get the sense that the players would have liked more thrills and dangers throughout the rest of the scenario, and I'll keep that in mind when I plan future mysteries for them. I think some players are happy to conduct investigations, scouring libraries, talking to NPCs, etc. - but this particular group seems keen to get involved in more adrenaline-charged encounters.
I'm really glad I finally had a chance to run this scenario, something I've wanted to do for years. The players didn't seem as thrilled with it as I was, mainly for the reasons mentioned above. It also occurred to me that the scenario includes a lot of red herrings that could some players might find irritating - e.g., the sinister shed, the ghost of Johnny Fitzgerald, the gruesome history of the house, etc. I still like the scenario a lot, but I think it might work better for players who are more interested in the investigation aspects of the game.
Interestingly, the players lost very little sanity. Two of them failed their sanity checks when they saw the monster, but their d20 rolls were extremely low. There weren't really any other sanity checks in the scenario (they never found Curwen's corpse), although I realized belatedly that I should have called for checks when they saw their deceased chauffeur. I also should have introduced Joe Virelli sooner (he did appear briefly in the last session, but Lynn basically threatened him with her shotgun until he left).
What to do next? There are so many great published scenarios - Blackwater Creek, more scenarios from Mansions of Madness and Shadows of Yog-Sothoth. But I'm really tempted to create my own scenario. It would be a lot more work, coming up with all the characters, locations, etc. - but I like the idea of building my own structure rather than trying to adapt someone else's.
Please feel free to offer any comments, suggestions, or advice, especially if you've had experience with this scenario. Thanks!
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Edelmiro Cervantes â€“ Spanish-born Occultist touring Britain.
Dr. Klaus Fischer â€“ German-born Psychiatrist, disciple of Jung.
Flora Bianchin â€“ Italian Nurse and Midwife, saw the Great War up close. (absent)
Mikhail Sokolov â€“ Exiled Russian Aristo-turned-Criminal.
Viktor Gruzinsky â€“ Bolshevik Spy posing as Exiled Russian Aristo. (absent)
Lavinia Wray â€“ English Archaeologist working for the British Museum.
*Sophie Chapallier â€“ French Librarian working for the BibliothÃ©que de lâ€™Arsenal.
*Keeperâ€™s Note: With Flora and Viktorâ€™s players once again absent due to medical issues, it was decided to briefly add a new investigator in the person of Sophie Chapallier. We had written Sophie as an NPC who became smitten with Mikhail when he visited the Bibliotheque de lâ€™Arsenal during the last session. However, my partner, who had been quietly observing my games with fascination, decided they wanted to take a turn as a player just to see what itâ€™s like. So we stated Sophie based on the librarian in the Curious Characters Deck (handy little tool in a pinch), shuffled around the language skills, did away with the Dreaming in favor of some more concrete investigative skills, and changed the name of â€œMr. Pawsâ€ to â€œMonsieur Pattesâ€ and we were off and running.
A Rosicrucian Connection?
Edelmiro, hoping the local community of occult scholars might know something about Fenalik, the Sedefkar Simulacrum, and/or the Skinless One, endeavored to meet with members of the Rosecrucian order in Paris. As with many such groups, the Rosecrucians are more a service organization in these days than an occult society, but the stories and literature are available through such organizations to hobbyists, provided they donâ€™t prove themselves to be too obsessive or deviant in their practices. Edelmiro managed to arrange lunch at a cafÃ© with a one such man, a banker by trade, who did not have much to add, but did indicate there are many stories of sacrilege and debauchery associated with the French nobility in the days leading up the revolution. He was also familiar with Poissy, and suggested visiting the archives at the town hall, saying they were very thorough.
Klaus Fischer and Lavinia Wray, both established academics, led investigation of the Charenton Asylum by getting contact with the acting director. It takes a day to get access to Dr. Leroux, and when they do theyâ€™re glowered at for brining their fellows along with them to his office, which is currently in shambles from changing hands owing to the accidental death of former director Dr. Delplace. Lavinia and Klaus are permitted the meet with Leroux, while the rest are forced to wait in the secretary. Quickly taking stock of the room theyâ€™re in, Mikhail, Edelmiro, and Sophie note boxes marked with the name of Dr. Delplace, including a particular box containing private research journals.
Having no qualms about theft of private property, Mikhail pockets Dr. Delplaceâ€™s most recent research journal while his replacement was distracted by questions from Lavinia and Klaus. He then calmly exited the room after asking after the washroom, a signal to his fellows that he was going to go snoop about. Edelmiro and Sophie followed Mikhail out of curiosity, and also to escape the uncomfortable gaze of the acting directorâ€™s secretary. Sophieâ€™s nose for directions* led the group right to the medieval cellars beneath the hospital, where their research reported Fenalik had been entombed.
The sneaky investigators were rewarded with confirmation that someone was imprisoned down here: a room has been bricked off (sometime during the 18th century according to Sophieâ€™s archaeological knowledge) and someone had been chained up inside it. The clothing within had all but disintegrated, but there was dried blood on the wall that appeared to be only a few weeks old by comparison. It was then, from the gloom of the far hallway a voice spoke. It tried several languages before settling on archaic, courtly French. â€œPoor little mice, you must be lost. Donâ€™t worry. Iâ€™ll help you.â€ With that, there was clacking, ticking and cracking coming towards them. Almost as though something was crawling across the ceiling in their direction. As the investigators turned their torches toward the noise a mangy, emaciated creature leapt into their midst! Those who caught a glimpse of the snarling beast swore it was a tiger. Amidst the torch beams they saw yellowed teeth and claws. They ran for the stairs, the creature hot on their heels. As they made their way upward, the pursuit ended, and the snarling was replaced by tittering laughter. â€œOh, what fun! What fun we shall have! See you next time, little mice!â€
Upon reaching the safety of the hotel and reading the stolen notebook, detailing the discovery of a â€œlostâ€ catatonic patient, and the mayhem this patient caused, the three investigators who found their way to the basement immediately jump to the conclusion that the creature they encountered was Fenalik himself. This chilling revelation sparks a debate between returning to the Asylum to confront the creature and visiting Poissy, the last known location of the Simulacrum. In the end, the investigators belief it is wiser to seek out the artifact, both because it is the purpose of their visit to Paris and the creature seemed very, very dangerous, even moreso than old Corbitt.
*Keeperâ€™s note: I decided to have a more aggressive contact with Fenalik here in the cellars of the Asylum for a few reasons:
--Sophie made a Navigation roll to get herself, Edelmiro, and Mikhail through the building. It turned up a â€œ000.â€ I would argue that there is a difference between getting where you want to go and getting where you â€œthinkâ€ you want to go. A successful role would have led the subdivided group to Fenalikâ€™s broken cellar room. Instead, it led them to an encounter with Fenalik.
--My players were already suspecting a â€œvampireâ€ in that theyâ€™ve encountered the long-lived Mister Corbitt. So the fact that Fenalik is long-lived wasnâ€™t so much a surprise to them.
--After reading through the campaign and listening to the YSDC pod-cast Iâ€™ve elected to make Fenalik and Mehmet Makryat more â€œpublicâ€ characters. This is an experiment on my part and weâ€™ll see how it goes. I feel though that, as written, the involvement of Fenalik and Mehmet Makryat in the campaign have more of a â€œwho are these people?â€ impact once they were revealed than the subtle puppet-master approach the authors were going for.
--Finally, given this was going to be a one time appearance of Sophie and, for now, my partnerâ€™s first and only foray into Cthulhu gaming as a player, I wanted to give them the full experience: sanity loss, mythos monsters, etc. So having Fenalik make a brief appearance was meaningful in that regard.
After travelling to Poissy and taking in some time to enjoy the quaint amenities of the Hotel Rose Blanche and a Sunday afternoon and evening exploring the town, the investigators make their way to the town hall. After a day of exploring the archives* they learn that the Lorien family occupy a home on Comte Fenalikâ€™s old estate. They make their way to the Lorien home, posing as surveyors for an archaeological dig.
The Loriens are all to happy to welcome a team of academics, as they can now boast to their neighbors about the historical significance of their home. The investigators spend two days and nights with the Loriens while working at their impromptu excavation. During that time Mikhail and Sophie experience hideous dreams of an emactiated tiger emerging from a cloud of mist that floats across the floor of the Lorienâ€™s home. They awaken just as it pounces on them.
*The encounter with the tiger in the basement of the asylum had seriously rattled the players. As a result, the puns were flowing freely as a means of dealing with the emotion surrounding the threat. I made the mistake of having a desk clerk remark that Poissy had thoroughly â€œfleshed outâ€ archives compared to many towns in the area. Things went downhill from there and the town hall of Poissy will forever be known for itâ€™s â€œfleshy archivesâ€ which would brave investigators â€œdeeply penetrated.â€ But it isnâ€™t a Call of Cthulhu game until we reach the plumb the gutters of gallows sex humor, now is it?
Over two nights, the group digs down beneath the cold ground of the back yard and discovers an 18th century cellar door. Forcing it open, they discover a long-forgotten chamber of horrors: skeletons bound in numerous torcher devices tell a sadistic story of the comteâ€™s last days before his incarceration.
The sight of the tortured remains of so many victims in the cellar had a particularly cruel impact on Mikhail. Upon seeing what he perceived to be a bride and groom, locked in torture devices and forced to observe each otherâ€™s suffering, it was too much for him. He could only rationalized that this must be some sort of nightmare and he had to wake up to save himself. To this end, he began to buffet himself about the head, at first with hard slaps, but eventually with the closed fists. It took Dr. Fischerâ€™s stern, psychiatric intervention to stop Mikhail from breaking his own jaw.
With Mikhail settled and under control, Lavinia presses forward and recovers the left arm of the Sedefkar Simulacrum from the wall at the far end of the cellar. The group then quickly emerges and fills in the hole theyâ€™ve dug, advising the Lorienâ€™s that, while historically, significant, it is much too dangerous to be left open. They promise a more complete archaeological team will return in the Summer months to unearth the entirety to the cellar and remove all dangerous and historically noteworthy materials. While the Loriens seem more at peace with the removal of the artifact, the investigators have some reservations. A strange, cold mist seemed to follow them into the cellar, only to recede suddenly when they recovered the statueâ€™s arm, and, perhaps more ominously, some of the investigators thought they heard an odd, giggling laughter similar to that heard in the basement of the Charenton Asylum.
The Orient Express
The group boards the Orient Express just after midnight, with a band playing and well-wishers coming to send off performers from a traveling opera company who just finished a series of performances at the Lâ€™Opera. On board the train they meet Ms. Caterina Cavallaro, along with a handful of hangers on: a member of the chorus, a woman of Rhodesian extraction named Blessing, a Russian Jewish clarinet player from the orchestra named Ari, and quiet, unassuming Japanese man named Kashiro, educated in the Netherlands and now following the opera company as a set design consultant.
Ms. Cavallaro is enchanting, and gets on well with the traveling investigators. Amidst the free-flowing wine and song of the evening, she offers them passes to her upcoming performance in Milanâ€¦
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After solving the riddles of the NWI mines, our Investigators were hailed as heroes, given their pay and a complimentary bottle of Canadian whiskey, and promptly sent back to New York City. Three of them, at least. Mike and Jeffrey decided to stay on and honor their contracts with NWI. They exchanged information and saw the others off at the station at Rapid City.
As the traversed the country, the three men talked of what had happened, what they had to do when they got back home, and even a few dreams.
Dr Nathaniel Millheim: noted wacky occult expert and rising pulp writer was all about a "spa retreat" to soothe his rattled nerves. He had even decided to allow his assistant to read the books he had accumulated. Of course, he would have to find a place that would allow him to keep writing. It would be therapeutic, after all.
Brian Nichols: Dr Millheim's assistant, became giddy at the concept of finally being able to read some books. His disintegrating sanity kept presenting the case for spa retreat as well.
Professor Steven O'Hara: Had been delighted by the "mining adventure money" to cover some of his wife's higher end items on her Christmas list.
The group had a plan after the holidays as the train pulled into home. Meanwhile, in another part of the city...
December 18th, 1923
Ah, Christmastime in New York City... The lights, the freshly fallen snow, the endless supply of Christmas parties, socials, and balls. The Mogens Institute for Advanced Human Studies Annual Christmas Party. The Mogens Institute wasn't a hot ticket, but most organizations working with them often sent a few obligatory guests. Among them were:
Dr Bob Wintermute: Acclaimed professor of history, currently teaching at Columbia via loan from cash strapped Miskatonic. His prodigious publishing schedule has forced Miskatonic to sell their rights to him to the highest bidder
Kahleel: There were many a strange glance when he brought the Middle Eastern library assistant to a function.
Jessica Carson Her fame and popularity waning from saving Mayor Hylan's daughter, the widow Carson was milking the last of it. She used her status for invites to numerous parties. The Mogens Ball was a favor for her friend, wealthy industrialist Robert Carrington. His chemical branch of business did significant business with Mogens, but neither Carrington nor his immediate underlings wanted to attend. Jessica was offered a chaperone by Carrington, one....
Joshua Wanisko: Joshua was the chemist at Carrington Industrials with the most interaction with Mogens. He was rather quiet... and married, so it hopefully it work out well acting as a buffer between a "famous" person and a solid client. He was given specific instructions to keep Jessica out of trouble.
Josh failed to show up due to a massively rescheduled weekend. As a result, he was played as an NPC. Please remember as you read the rest, that I could have been far, far worse on him.
Det. Francis Dresden: A transplant from the New Orleans Police Department, Francis had been given the unenviable task of trying to figure exactly what happened that night last October when a full block of the Theatre District was levelled and JP Carson, PI disappeared. Three previous detectives gave up on the case, but Dresden was determined to trail the widow Carson and get down to the bottom of things. On a tip that she would be appearing at the ball, he acquired an invite and pressed his best suit.
The last five wandered into the Hotel Algonquin around the same time, and after a bit of small talk before the ballroom doors opened, it was apparent that no one, investigator or high faluting NPC, recognized Jessica. Her despair over her fleeting fame was cut short by two men darting through the lobby and slide-hopping on one foot to make the corner into the ballroom area. One looked slightly desheviled in a black tuxedo, but the other fellow was decked out in an all white tuxedo, complete with shoes, gloves, hat, and a cane.
Brian Nichols and Dr. Millheim had arrived....
When this duo arrived back at their office/backroom apartment, they discovered the tuxedos hanging from the coatrack with a note.
As part of your advance you agreed to perform certain public functions. I obtained tickets for you and a date/your assistant to attend this years Mogen's Institute Christmas Ball. The people attending it are eclectic enough to embrace your eclectic style. Please make sure you are there by 7pm, or the contract is voided and you must return your advance, minus the portions for services you have already completed. Invitation is on the desk.
Henry Campbell, Gemfolk Publishing
This was read at 6:30. Cuff links were still being fastened as they coolly walked to the end of the line. Pleasantries were exchanged, Brian recognized Jessica, Joshua admitted being a fan of Dr Millheim work, and Dr Wintermute showed some disdain towards the pulp author/parapsychologist's occupations.
Then the waiting guests heard a horrible caterwauling coming from the lobby. A shrew of a woman dragged a frazzled bespectacled man to the back of the line.
Steven and Angela O'Hara made it.
Although Steven was the first drop off on the taxi, he had hit the local speakeasy before arriving home. He barely got his foot in the door when he saw his tuxedo hanging off a door and a very inpatient wife in an evening gown. Similar to Dr Wintermute's predicament, Columbia wanted more representation at the gala, and since Steven was the low man on the totem pole (and rarely complained about it), the tickets had arrived the day before he left for South Dakota.
Pleasantries continued to be exchanged, Angela introduced Steven to Dr Wintermute, and Dr Millheim finally met Jessica.
Soon enough the doors were opened and the guests filtered in.
Refreshments were served and official kibitzing began. About 15 minutes in, Ambrose Mogens himself took to a small podium, thanked everyone for their attendance, apologized to needing to run back to the lab for more tests, and left without interacting with any guest.
As the waitstaff was trying to move the guests towards their seats to serve the meal, a hysterical woman, wearing only a faux-silk night gown and dripping in sweat, blood, and muddy water, yelled, "Help!" She staggered through the crowd, finally being stopped by Detective Dresden.
"He's upstairs... It's got him."
Dresden raced upstairs, following her muddy trail of footprints, the rest of the group in tow.
The trail ended at a room on the third floor. A sound of a scuffle could heard from inside, They pushed open the door and were immediately hit with an earthy smell of mud, blood, and urine. The room was only lit by the windows and the hall lights. Within was a single man, acting like he was struggling with something invisible. Before they could react, the man fell out of the window, onto the street below. The woman, whose name Siobhan was the only thing Jessica could get out of her, went into full hysterics before turning completely catatonic. The group went into action searching the room before Dresden could kick them out to contact the police. Jessica put the confused Joshua on elevator/stair duty, to wait for the police.
The room was covered vile form of mud. Quickly going through the things in the room netted the man's name (Robert Williamson), his job (salesman at WNYC), and a home address in Queens. They also found a card for a "Theodore Depp, Carouser" for a Sugar Cane club close to Harlem.
Nathaniel and Steven ran downstairs to take a look at the body. They pushed through a growing crowd of gawkers to find that Williamson had landed on top of a car, and was hopefully killed instantly. His undershirt and pants were torn and bloody. The two odd things they noticed was a tattoo of a script "A" inside a pentagon on his upper arm, and a distinct lack of glass around the car from falling out of a window.
When the duo came back upstairs, Dresden was trying to usher everyone else out, however two beat cops showed up and needed direction, so he begrudgingly left the rest to their own devices.
All the glass was on the floor of the room, plus they noticed what appeared to be claw marks on the window frame. From the looks of them, claw marks were used to pull something from outside the window. Jessica checked the bathroom to find Siobhan's clothes, a small silver flask, a rent book for the Drury Tenement, and more cards for the Sugar Cane club.
Dresden finally came back with two other detectives, Cory Hyatt and Jack Stapleton. All three detectives and the two beat cops went about interviewing the group, plus the remaining guests downstairs. Correction, the beat cops did most of the work. Dresden tried to diagram the room while Stapleton and Hyatt flirted with Jessica the celebrity.
Pretty soon the coroner showed up, as well as an ambulance from Bellevue Hospital to handle the catatonic prostitute. With the questioning finally finished, the investigators got a chance to go down to the ballroom, where the party had wrapped up early due to the dire circumstances in the hotel. The staff was nice enough to reheat some of the meals for the haggard group, and after a few shared swigs of a flask, everyone left for home, more concerned about how to get the various stains out of their clothing, than solving a murder or a suicide A good night's sleep and they would be ready to take on anything.
Coming up on The Pennywell Hangmen, Part Two: Early morning hygiene with martial fervor.
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I've run Forget Me Not (Great adventure from The Things We Leave Behind published by Stygian Fox) for three of my friends during two long game sessions. I took the liberty to set the story in 1987 because I wanted to give that "retro" flair to the game for my players. Also, we've used pre-generated characters because I thought it was more logical for this kind of adventure (With investigators having lost their memory). It was really fun to run and everyone had a good time. I can't recommend this adventure enough and we can't wait to play Ladybug, Ladybug Fly Away Home. Have a a good read.
First Session : A van on the side of the road.
A woman comes to inside a van. She is sitting on the passenger seat and she is hurt. There is blood on her face, right beneath her nose, and her head... It feels awful. Also, she's visibly peed herself.
It's dark outside, but she is not alone. There is a man on the driver seat, he is unconscious, his head resting on the wheel. Behind them, in the back of the van, another man is lying on the floor. Unconscious too.
The woman wakes the driver up. He is young. About thirty years old. He has a mohawk and wears blue sunglasses and a leather jacket.
â€œWhat happened ? â€œ he asks. â€œWho are you ?â€
The woman doesn't know what to answer to each question.
She gets the urge to wakes the other man up. He is even younger that the other, but with a more conventional appearance. Both men have minor injuries and hell of a headache. Just like her.
And nobody remember anything. Not even who they are.
The group checks their pockets, finding id cards, money and several objects. The woman seems to be called Rosamund Kane. The man with the mohawk is Lawrence Davies and he Â« feels Â» like his friends call him Larry. Last, the other man is called Thomas Woodhouse. All of them seem to live in Los Angeles, California but they have no memories whatsoever. Kane finds out she is wearing a pendant with â€œR&Lâ€ carved on it, and Davies wears a crucifix around his neck. Is he a christian? Also, he has in his pockets a flasks of what appears to be vodka and a photo of a naked blond woman.
Around them, they found cables, broken monitors, microphones... It's like the van belongs to a TV crew except there is no video camera. Kane is the only one with a watch that is still functionning and the screens says that it's Tuesday September the 17th 1987, 08:24 pm. In the glove box, Kane finds two maps. One is a road map of the entire United States of America, but the second one is a road map of the state of Michigan and there are annotations on it... The road is marked from Detroit to a place called Clio. Woodhouse finds a Polaroid camera near where he was lying. He feels that he knows exactly how to use it (And he has a few films in his pockets).
Outside, it starts raining. Looking around, the group sees a farmhouse nearby. They decide to go there and check for help. They walk toward the house. Strangely, all of them feels the necessity to be cautious. They look at the corn fields around them, the tall grass near the road. Each shadow, each movement created by the wind make them uneasy. It's like they're expecting some predator will come out of the field and tear them appart.
They arrive at the farmhouse and Davies knocks on the front door. They can hear noises from inside, as if someone was watching the television. The sounds stops and then the door opens to a man who is about thirty-five or forty years old. He looks at them, his eyes widened in surprise.
â€œHm.. Good evening. May I help you?â€
Larry starts explaining the situation without letting anything in the dark. It looks like they just had a car accident, they feel awful and they don't remember anything.
The man is surprised, but his good side makes him invite the group inside. He calls for his wife, Angela, asking for blankets. He leads the group to the living room where a teenage boy is reading a comic-book.
Angela enters the room with the blankets and offers to prepare hot coffee for the trio. All of them accept with gratitude while the man, who is called Graham Baker, says he will call for his brother-in-law, a mechanic who could help with their vehicle. Thomas indicates that they were riding a van. Angel gives Kane an aspirine for her headache.
Dave the mechanic says he will arrive in about an hour. In the meantime, the trio asks questions to the Baker. Where are they? Is there something odd or special about that road where they had the accident?
The Bakers say that there is nothing special here and that the group is in Clio, a small town of Michigan. Basically, it's the middle of nowhere.
Dave Sheridan arrives with the van. He asks 80 dollars for his service, which upsets both Graham and Angela but Davies accepts to pay. The group gets inside the van and starts wondering about the situation. Looking further inside the vans and their belongings, they discover that some of the case containing the equipment are decorated with a sticker. It says â€œThe Supernatural Filesâ€. It looks like they were indeed a TV crew, but a special kind of crew. Ghost hunters. Paranormal investigators...
With their keys, they find keys of a motel room. The Coach and Lantern Motel... Clio, Michigan.
They decide to go there.
When they arrive, Kane has a flash-back. It's the end of the afternood and they are parking the van in the motel's parking lot. Inside the van, there is a fourth person : a pretty young woman with red hair. And all of them seem to know each other.
Kane explains her vision and everyone start to worry about where that red haired woman might be right now. Kane and Woodhouse decide to go to their respective room while Davies says he wants to go to the reception and ask a few questions to the motel's employee.
In the reception, Davies meets Lisa Sawyer. She is surprised by his appearance and asks if he is alright. Davies starts asking questions, telling the truth about his amnesia. Lisa agrees to help, saying that the group arrived on the evening of the 14th of September, three days ago. She finds odd that Davies doesn't remember the woman with the red hair, who, she says, is called Lyn Cartwright and has paid for the rooms. Thanking the young woman, Larry leaves and goes toward to his room.
Inside Room #5, Woodhouse finds a black t-shirt with â€œThe Supernatural Filesâ€ printed on it, and a few documents. They're press articles. He starts to read one of them. It's about two homicides committed in a small isolated farm near Clio, Michigan...
In her room (#3), Kane starts snooping around. She finds clothes, a laptop and a bra... Too small for her. It triggers another vision. She is in bed with the woman with the red hair. They've just had sex. She savors the moment. They're not in the motel room but in a totally different place. Home? Suddenly, the vision shatters. Kane only sees the face of the woman, covered in blood and tears. Her mouth is deformed by a silent scream. Something is wrong. More blood starts pouring down on her face. Her eyes get bloodshot and then are gouged out. Kane hears a voice. An awfully powerful voice saying â€œTHEN YOU WILL DIE!!â€. The vision dissappears and Kane starts shrieking. Soon after, Davies and Woodhouse enter the room, asking what is going on. Kane explains. She thinks the woman is or was in danger. Davies tells the others about his discovery : the woman is called Lyn Cartwright and she paid for the rooms. So, maybe that woman is their boss. Woodhouse shows the articles to the others. Double homicides in Clio. A unindentified corpse found in the fields. A horror movie project that was shut down by the town. A missing teenager... And all of this is connected to the Cooper farm where Andrew Cooper killed his wife and son because â€œThey were inside themâ€.
They agree that they should get some sleep now. But Davies decides otherwise. He wants to search his room first. There, he finds videotapes for a camera (But not camera) and some audiotapes too. The videotapes are annoted â€œB-Rollâ€ and the audiotapes have names written on them. But Davies doesn't have anything to play them. He goes to the van and search for such a thing but there is nothing he can use.
He goes to the reception, where there is a man (Thomas Sawyer, Lisa's husband). He asks if he has a tape-player or something like that and if he could borrow. The man agrees but when Davies tries to convince him to give the key of Lyn's room, he refuses. Davies thanks the man and goes back to his room to listen to one of the tapes. It's an interview of two teenagers : Alexis Romanov and her friend or boyfriend James Burke. They says that they went inside the Cooper farm because one of Jimmy's friends challenged them to do so. Inside, they saw a ghost and then they fleed. The tape stops and suddenly, Davies starts hearing voices. Kane's, Woodhouse's and even his own voice. There is also another woman's voice and he assumes that it's Lyn's. Everyone is screaming and panicking about a closed door. And then something happens. Lyn screams and Davies hears a powerful voice, so powerful that it hurts to hear it : â€œDO YOU WANT TO LIVE???â€
Half scared, Davies goes to sleep.
Wednesday September 18th. 09:30 am.
The trio wakes up painfully after a terrible night. All of them had bizarre nightmares and Woodhouse even woke up beneath his bed!
Also, they all still feel horrible and Kane now has one of her eyes completely bloodshot. Oddly, when searching for clothes in his bag before going to the bathroom, Woodhouse got the sensation that something, some bug, was crawling up his arm. It terrified him so much that he pulled out his hand of the bag but there was nothing in there.
During breakfast, they discuss about the night and their horrible dreams. Davies is startled when Kane mentions â€œwhite spider-like thingsâ€. He remembers hearing the two kids from audiotape talk about â€œfat white spidersâ€ they saw in the Cooper farm.
The group listens to the other videotapes. Ghost stories. Spiders crawling out of a swollen dead cat. McCumsey Road. The very road where they woke up. Did they go to the Cooper farm? Did something happened to them in there? Was this the cause of their amnesia? What if Lyn was still there??
They ask the man at the reception (Now Bob Sawyer, Thomas' father) if they could check inside Lyn's room. Kane lies about something important Lyn's forgotten there. It works and Bob leads them there. He allows them to go inside but under he will watch to make sure they don't still anything or snoop inside the woman's privacy. Davies tries his best to distract the old man while Kane and Woodhouse search the room. Woodhouse finds a laptop computer he manages to gain access to. Kane finds a novel in Lyn's luggage. IT from Stephen King. It looks like her girlfriend was into horror stories. She also finds notes about interviews that have taken place on the 16th of September and possibly on the 17th of September. She recognizes a name in the list : Vanessa Volker. It the real estate agent mentionned in one of the press articles found by Woodhouse. She is supposed to be in charge of the Cooper farm.
Davies' conversation with Bob Sawyer takes an unexpected turn when the latter mentions that the man's nose is bleeding. And it is bleeding a LOT. Davies tries his best to contain the blood and starts feeling dizzy. He sits on the bed. Bob leaves the room to search for something to clean the blood on the floor.
Now, all of them is worried. First the amnesia, then Kane's eye, now Davies' nose. What the hell is wrong with them?
Woodhouse takes this opportunity to see what's on the laptop. He finds the same list on the laptop but also some emails about their travel to Clio. It confirms their first impression : it was a scheduled trip and Lyn must be the show's producer. He also finds some â€œromanticâ€emails sent by Lyn to Kane. They were indeed in a secret (and pretty steamy) relationship.
After Davies stopped bleeding, the group decides to do some research about the Cooper farm. Maybe they could find something at the Clio Historical Society.
There, they meet Lilly Austin. A 68 years old eccentric woman with a dark sense of humor. Apparently, they've met her the day before but they don't mention the amnesia and says they were just pretending to have forgotten her. Amused, the old woman gives them a hand in their research. They spend the next five hours searching her collection of press articles, skipping lunch even when she offers them snacks (They're not hungry).
They find some interesting things about the farm. First of all, it was built by an man called Edmund McCumsey that came from the United Kingdom to Clio to build his house with the help of german workers, back in 1947. He was an historian and he was known for a book published in 1937 about labyrinths... They were rumors about a treasure hidden inside a vault the man had built beneath his house (The man had enough money to pay the construction of the road connecting the house to the town so...). Three men went missing in 1948. One of the men's wife told the police that the trio was going to break inside McCumsey's house and search for the treasure. The McCumsey's house was searched but there was no sign of the missing men.
The next day, the three men reappeared, dirty and â€œconfusedâ€ about what they were doing and where they were during the last 48 hours. The authories concluded that the men were drunk and the case was closed.
A month later, one of the men died. Then another one, and this one's wife went mad. The third man died soon after with his whole family when his farm's burning.
Davies and Woodhouse suggest they should go back to the Bakers and ask if Zack, their teenager, already went to the Cooper farm, just like most of Clio's youth, then they shoud go interrogate Vanessa Volker. After all, it seems that she was the last person they were supposed to meet yesterday.
All of the sudden, Rosamund feels horribly ill. She wants to puke and asks Lilly's for the bathroom.
There, she vomits some blood and also a few bits of flesh. She is very worried and ask the others to go to a doctor.
At the Clio Urgent Medical Care Center, they're all examined by Doctor Jacob Groom. The results show nothing out of the ordinary, even though all of them had horrible sensations when the doctor examined their mouth and throat. But because they talked about their amnesia, the bleeding and, most of all, because Kane did vomit blood, Groom suggests that they should go to Saint Mary's Hospital in Saginaw as soon as possible for further examinations. They may have a serious problem and the Clio Urgent Medical Care Center just hasn't got the proper equipment to reveal it.
The group hits the road in direction of Saginaw. While Kane is being examined at the hospital, the men will search local bookstores and libraries and see if they can buy a copy of McCumsey's book.
Two hours after Kane's arrival at the hospital, Doctor Cowie talks to her about the results. The imagery indicates a lot of â€œdark spotâ€ inside her shot. In fact, those spots are everywhere inside her body. The doctor explains that it may be a form of cancer but he can't be sure. He recommends that they make another test : a biopsy. Kane starts worrying. Does she really have cancer?? Was it before the accident or did something happen to her yesterday? But... She is also worried sick about the procedure itself. The idea that someone will simply cut her open and check inside her... It makes her uncomfortable. She starts asking for another solution, but Cowie says there is no other choice.
Davies and Woodhouse get back to the hospital after they managed to buy a copy of the book. Davies had skim read the book on the road and he tells the others about the book's content.
In his eyes, it's nothing but the delusions of a mad man. According to McCumsey, there is a huge network of tunnels beneath the planet's surface. It was built by an ancient civilisation and it's because of this â€œlabyrinthâ€ that there are similitudes in distant civilisations, such as the Egyptians and the Aztecs having pyramids and mummies... Bullshits. But, maybe that's why McCumsey went to Clio. Maybe the rumors about a secret vault beneath the farm were true.
Woodhouse goes to the toilet but there he has a unpleasant sight. Two tumor-like bump had grown at the base of his neck. When he touches them, they start moving and then dissapeared inside his body.
Kane is talking about the cancer when Woodhouse comes back. She is really worried and doesn't know if she should accept the procedure. The two men manage to calm Kane down and to convince her to accept the biopsy. After all she really has not choice in the matter. Woodhouse mentions the two tumors from earlier and says that maybe all of them have cancer.
She relently accepts and everyone goes to sleep. The operation is scheduled to tomorrow morning. The men are allowed to sleep in the hospital's waiting room while Kane gets her own room.
Once again... They sleep and they dream.
Thursday September 19th. 07:00 am.
The orderlies wake Kane up and start preparing her for the procedure.
The men wake up thirty minutes later and starts talking about the nightmares they just had. Woodhouse goes to the coffee machine but he suddenly feels terrible. He goes to the toilet and has a bowel movement. But right before flushing the toilet, he sees something in the feces. Movements. Then four tiny white things with multiple legs gets out of the fecal matter and crawl out of the toilet. He is just too surprised to react but then he has the most horrible epiphany : the two tumors that MOVED inside of his own body. The MULTIPLE dark spots shown on Kane's scan results. The SWOLLEN dead cat that erupted with dozens of spiders pouring out of it. The symptoms. The BIOPSY.
â€œOh god... The procedure will kill her!â€
He had to stop the doctors before it is too late!!
TO BE CONTINUED
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I have been running three players through this classic campaign for a good number of months now. We have been pretty good at getting together Monday nights online and playing for a couple hours.
TWO HOUR GAME LIMIT....
This actually works out so well for me as a keeper. The prep I have to do is so minimal. They can only get so far off track in two hours!
I do not discourage any tangent they want to go on, and I have a week to figure out a clever way to let them do what they want and still progress through the campaign.
Because of this I have dropped whole chapters from Shadows as written. Sometimes I skip something completely, other times I substitute a completely different published adventure.
I have done a lot of writing.
I have learned how to read a chapter of the campaign, strip out everything that doesn't matter, and focus on the main thing that does.
I have learned to set up set pieces that must happen, but leave them open ended enough so they can crop up whenever the opportunity presents itself.
I have learned how to gently herd the players to these set pieces and edit them on the fly.
I have learned how to use the NPCs as the main thing that drives my end of the story.
Once I read the scenario I figure out who the NPCs are, and what they are trying to achieve. I then contemplate how they plan on doing this. I try to plan for what my PCs most likely will do, predict possible outcomes, make a few notes and run with it.
I think Shadows of Yogsothoth is a fantastic campaign.
I do not think it flows well from chapter to chapter. I do not think the chapters really even relate to each other very much.
Some of it is even ridiculous I dare say.
BUT! I have learned so much about running this game through my efforts in trying to make Shadows work.
We have about three sessions until the end.
I would recommend this campaign to any Keeper out there. I have been having a great time with it, and so have my players.
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Some weeks after the four experienced the strange dream Rafe Weston, FBI agent undercover as Private Security Christopher Rameriz received an email from his contact:
Field Agent Weston
Congratulations, youâ€™ve been reactivated.
Donâ€™t get too excited, I expect that fact we needed someone to do some detective work up there is the reason you got expedited.
Thereâ€™s a killer on the loose. This alone wouldnâ€™t be especially new but this guy seems to have some serious hacking skills on top of his bizarre methods. We need you to check it out before we get seriously involved. Your liaison will be a Detective Neumeir. I think youâ€™ve met. He will be in contact shortly.
It seemed Neumeir had changed his tune since his run in with the investigators during the Church of Sunyata case. At 10 that night Rafe received the call heâ€™d been waiting for.
Neaumeir reported that the latest body in a string of murders had been found at â€˜The Honey Spotâ€™ Motel in Compton and requested that Rameriz organize his group to meet there.
The four arrived at around 10.30 to find the crime scene bustling. A cordon of police tape had been run around the motel and confused and angry looking guests were in the parking lot being interviewed. A trio of news vans had already arrived, including some sort of ghost hunting show.
Rameriz, Williams, Field and Smith approached the cop guarding the perimeter. â€˜Move alongâ€™ he said tiredly. The quartet introduced themselves and he radioed in. A barely audible response of â€˜send them upâ€™ buzzed back. â€˜Stairs are on the rightâ€™ he says, raising the tape.
The police shifted around the crime scene taking photoâ€™s and dusting surfaces. It occurred to Rameriz that the equipment the police were using seemed rather dated. On the floor in the centre of the room lied the body of a woman. Small holes dotted the room. Neumeir crouched by her.
The body was unusual. The woman appeared thin but her skin was loose and baggy as if she had lost a lot of weight quickly. She looked approximately 50 and was dressed rather provocatively. A blond wig was dropped nearby.
â€˜Thanks for coming. Iâ€™ll tell you straight up Iâ€™m not thrilled to have to call you in but this **** is insane and I need someone who has worked with insanity. This caseâ€¦.. it feels similar to that church craziness you lot were involved in.
The victimâ€™s Name is Miranda Tinoco, missing since the 25th of September, when she went on a date with one Robert Hoff. Hoff was found in a similar state to Ms Tinoco here. He too had been missing since a date with a lady named Charlene Mendle, deceased also of course. A week prior to that she met with a David Eugenson and he, so far, is our patient zero. Weâ€™ve found that all the victims met on a casual rendezvous site called â€˜Intimate Encountersâ€™
â€˜The Medical Examiner will be here shortly but I can tell you what heâ€™ll find. All our victims have experienced massive, sudden weight loss. Theyâ€™re call our guy the Lip Killer. Though Iâ€™m not certain there even is a killer and some weird virus. Hell I donâ€™t know, all I can think of when I see these folks are those bags of skin left around after that Sunyata ****. You think this is connected?â€™
George responded that they couldnâ€™t know but they would look into it. â€˜Oh and one other thingâ€™ Neumeir pointed out. â€˜Our equipment has been affected by some sort of virus. Researching this craziness online has a habit of killing your electronics. You might have noticed weâ€™re down to last generations kit.â€™ he said, gesturing to the police investigators.
The group left the scene to discuss in the SUV. A quick search of the victims profiles on Intimate Encounters showed a couple of things in common. For one, all the victims were overweight. Secondly, all the deceased seemed to have been alcoholics, or at least drinkers.
The Investigators came up with a plan to catfish the killer. Each of them set up a fake profile, making sure to suggest they were on the bigger size and werenâ€™t adverse to having a few drinks.
But the rate the murders happened suggested that there wouldnâ€™t be a bite for about a week. They decided to be more proactive.
The offices of Intimate Encounters might provide some information into the mystery. Fortunately, Tannequaâ€™s cleaning company held to contract for the offices and they were due to send someone around in a couple of day. A few favours called in and Tannequa arranged to be sent out there on the next rostered day.
But there was one final lead they had and they could look into it now. The first murder, David Eugenson.
With a bit of digging the group was able to find Eugenson worked for National Communication Services.
A few phone calls later and they found he had last been seen when he went on a job at Sommerset Industrial Park. The failed park had been abandoned since the mid eighties but NCS held the contract to maintain an antenna located on the site. The Group decided to get some sleep and set out in the morning.
The following day the group set out. The park had little in the way of security aside from a barb wire-topped fence, which the team managed to scale with a few scrapes and cuts.
A stark industrial wasteland stretched before them. Papers blew past in the L.A. breeze. A pair of mangy strays rutted among some trash. Most of the area looked like it had been abandoned for the last thirty years but for a pair of tyre tracks in the dust looked fresh.
The investigators followed the tracks to one of the buildings and a closed roller door. Quietly inching open the inset pedestrian door they located the source of the tracks. A van bearing the logo for National Communication Services was parked in the warehouse. The group approached it.
Inside the unlocked vanâ€™s glove compartment the group discovered a log book with Eugenson listed as the last driver, obviously they were on the right track. Beyond some heavy doors a rumbling was emanating. With the doors opened the sound was much louder and the group soon traced it to a room with a large hole in it.
The stink of excrement seeped up from the darkness but the group pressed on and clambered, as quietly as possible, down the rubble into the hole.
They found themselves what appeared to be an old septic tank. Fortunately time had evaporated much of itâ€™s contents but the smell of **** still hung in the air and the ground still had a slippery coating of slime.
Further in the depths of the chamber the investigators could see a figure working on a huge contraption. The machine didnâ€™t look like anything any of them had ever seen before. It was a bizzare mish-mash of electronics and itâ€™s purpose wasnâ€™t apparent. The figure was a man, his back to the group, but as they approached he straightened. Without turning, in a rather bored tone he announced â€˜Hello.â€™
â€˜I guess youâ€™ve found me.â€™ He continued. â€˜Im afraid youâ€™re going to have to let me finish my work however.â€™
The group pressed him for information, demanding to know what was going on and the figure had no qualms about telling them.
â€˜You might recognise this body as one Scott Parkerâ€™ he explained, his voice conversational.
â€˜Iâ€™m afraid ive had to borrow it, along with the others. You see this place Iâ€™ve been dragged to isnâ€™t compatible with my kind.â€™
When quizzed about this he continued;
â€˜I believe it was just an accident that brought me here. The one called Eugenson was repairing one of the antenna in this park. Funny how just the right combination of electrical interference, combined with some chemicals left over from the previous tenants, was enough to tear a door in reality. I was dragged from my home and stranded here. Just bad luck I guess.â€™ He shrugged.
â€˜Well now if youâ€™ll let me be Iâ€™ve just got to finish up here and Iâ€™ll be on my way back home.â€™
â€˜So what exactly will happen when you start up the machineâ€™ enquired Williams.
â€˜Well Itâ€™ll open up a portal to my home.â€™ Said the being. â€˜I mean it will cause a small explosion on closing, but that canâ€™t be helped.â€™
â€˜Small explosion?â€™ echoed the investigators.
â€˜Yes, about ten to fifteen megatons I expect. Canâ€™t be helped.â€™
â€˜Iâ€™m afraid we cant allow you to do that.â€™ Began Smith as Rameriz drew his gun.
â€˜Oh I donâ€™t think you can stop meâ€™ â€“ said the Eugenson thing, ignoring the request and continuing to work on its machine.
â€˜Ok, step away from the machine!â€™ yelled Rameriz, taking aim with him Magnum.
Eugenson stopped and turned, an annoyed look crossing his features.
â€˜Well, sorry it had to come to this.â€™
His skin erupted and as a living void smashed through his chest. The empty skin of Eugenson collapsed on the ground in a pile leaving a black ball of negative energy in its place.
The Entity moved on the team and Rameriz fired but his bullets did nothing as they were absorbed by the creature. They fled.
The Entity closed in on them as they scrambled up and out of the hole and fled the building. Lighting crackled from creature burning small wounds in the team.
The van stood ahead and they piled in. Field threw it into reverse and slammed the accelerator. Then they realized the warehouse doors were shut.
With a smash the back of the van crumpled in as it collided with the heavy doors. The Entity closed in, moving in front of the van. Thinking quickly Field threw the car in drive and plowed into the void-like creature. The speeding van collected the Entity and all five hurtled into the far wall. With a tearing sound the Entity came apart, absorbing the front of the van into itself and collapsing. As sense returned to the situation the creature, and a large semi-circular part of the front of the van, was gone.
The investigators piled out of the wreckage and raced to the machine which was looking exceedingly unstable.
Esther Smith approached it while the others considered what to do and a few seconds later the machine was deactivated, leaving everyone wondering how a hairdresser had any knowledge on Interdimensional Engineering.
Agent Rafe Weston soon arranged for the FBI to come and seize control of the strange machine and the incident was covered up quickly and cleanly.
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[spoiler alert - do not read if you intend to be a player in TERROR]
I always liked the TERROR scenario: the idea that players are being tested for their loyalty prior to being erased from the living and turned into special agents investigating the mythos that reaches into the very heart of the Soviet state has such pulpy overtones. but the scenario does not take this potential further (after all it's a one-shot) and instead drops it altogether by having the characters executed at the end. much worse, it suffers from so many historical inaccuracies that even players without much knowledge of the Soviet union would feel their suspension of disbelief breaking if it was played out as written.
what i set out to do was the following:
1) fix some of the historical mistakes and adjust the tone of some other scenes;
2) provide some historical background that can be used to add more realism to the setting;
3) integrate GRU SV8 into the narrative and set it up as a starting point for a campaign.
Most obviously, 1932 is not the time of the purges yet. However the terrain is being prepared and this is something the keeper can build on. Martemyan Ryutin was expelled from the party in 1930; he was released from prison in Jan 1931 and allowed to rejoin the party but remained in silent opposition to Stalin. He was allied with Nikolai Bukharin, a well-regarded figure in Soviet politics also opposed to Stalin. Bukharin confided to Lev Kamenev (another well-regarded Soviet revolutionary, former husband of Trotsky's sister Olga Kameneva) that Stalin was "Ghenghis Khan" and "evil genius of the Russian revolution". Bukharin, Kamenev and Zioviev lead a clandestine anti-Stalin platform, and Stalin is aware that this is the major threat to his leadership. Trotsky is more of a threat from the background - in 1932 he lives on Buyukada island in Turkey, thereby geographically still fairly close. So the atmosphere can be portrayed as politically ominous, and it is especially helpful to have one character who may be affiliated with Bukharin, Kamenev, Zinoviev and Ryutin.
The second problematic aspect is that the scenario assumes that the Tunguska explosion was common knowledge in 1908, so much so that the reports of a meteor in the swamp soon followed. In fact, the expeditions were only conducted in earnest at the end of the 1920s. In the scenario, Stalin is meant to have been imprisoned for revolutionary activities in the Krasnoyarsk region in 1912 and subjected to experiments with the meteor. For those who are familiar with Stalin's revolutionary years, this doesn't really fit in well. In Dec 1916 however, Stalin was made to travel to Achinsk (a place on the trans-siberian railway one mile from Karsnoyarsk) with assorted enemies of the state (including Kamenev) by dog sleigh. It makes sense to have Dr Chervyakov as a geneticist drafted as an army doctor who comes into possession of a piece of the meteor which at that point is used in witch-healing rituals by a local tribe, observes its mutagen properties, and commences on his own to conduct experiments on communist prisoners to learn more of its properties. This also allows a tie in with Kamenev: he can be involved into the story at a later point as he would presumably know about Stalin's strange experience with the meteor fragment.
The third problematic apsect is the timeline - if the meteor was so important, the cover up of the monstrous events in the wagon would be enacted very quickly. I pushed everything forward, so that the pick up of the meteor was on the day of arrival at 7pm, Berger stumbling onto the scene at 9pm (in a panic that ensued after the monster massacred the prisoners, the wagon was just closed and left unattended while the meteor was driven away) and the murder of Potakov and the start of an earnest cover up at 2am. The investigators have a window in which they can conduct some investigations at the wagon depo - after 2am, the wagon is taken away as if it was never there, Lupova gets murdered after speaking with them, the ominous black car (a NAMI-I) appears in front of buildings where important NPCs live and attempts to follow the investigators to their base. The recruitment of the investigators is orchestrated by Major Strudnikov of GRU-SV8 and comrade Rubeshkov is a friendly who fought with Strudnikov in the same unit and can be trusted. The investigators are given a disused building in Krasnoselski district to use as a base, as well as a car and some basic supplies. If the investigators manage to complete the mission but their base is discovered, the ending as written ensues, with the real OGPU waiting there for their report. If they manage to complete the mission without their base being discovered, they will be sent on the next mission for GRU-SV8.
There's also a few historical inaccuracies: the NKVD is called OGPU in 1932. Head of OGPU between July 1931 and Oct 1932 is Vyacheslav Rudolfovich Menzhinsky, although some say that his predecessor (and soon to be heir again) Henrik Yagoda is in fact in charge. Head of the anti-religious section of the OGPU is Yevgeniy Alexandrovich Tuchkov. The transport section is called GTU - Glavnoye transportnoye upravyenie. Together with the Narkomput it is in charge of transport, which is serious business: saboteurs on the railways are a big issue and are blamed on the worker-peasant party, industrial party and menysheviks. There are big tranport developments in Moscow itself - the plans for the underground have just been approved in Jan 1932. Metrovick (metropolitan-Vickers electrical company) from London is advising on the building, which leads to additional paranoia about foreign spying. Similar deals with the west were not unheard of in this period: e.g. in May 1929 a deal was signed with Ford to open the NAZ car factory, which duly happened in Jan 1932, with Ford's sign on the factory logo and its engineers contracted to provide advice. Mayor of Moscow (aka first secretary of Gorkom) at the time is Lazar Moyseyevich Kaganovich, with Nikita Kruschov as his deputy who is very much connected with the moscow underground project.
In terms of railway yards in Moscow, it is best to put them in Krasnoselski district, which contained multiple railway interchanges and stations (Yaroslavsk, Kazansk & Kursk stations) around Komsomolski square, where a big underground station will be built (to open in 1935).
Finally, in terms of Soviet science, in 1931 OGPU did purge a number of scientists. The academy of sciences itself is to relocate to Moscow from Leningrad in 1934. Soviet scientists have been known to indulge in a few wild projects and I envisioned Dr Chervyakov as a mad scientist whose experiments included production of the Soviet super-soldier by crossing gorillas and humans, with a Dr Demikhov-style monkey with two heads in one of the cages. I did not think it sensible that he should have a meteor thing captured in a cage - the way these things are described, they could easily break out of a cage at any time, and I thought it best if he had a dead meteor thing from M. Kalinin for autopsy. I think it also makes sense that if Dr Chervyakov is engaged in state sponsored top-secret experiments, his lab should be in a protected compound into which the investigators would need to sneak in or fast-talk their way through.
To follow this up, I plan to send the characters on a mission pursuing the Shokptsi who escaped to Shanghai from Vladivostok. That will give me the opportunity to use some of the marvelous material in the Masks of Nyarlatothep companion. Alternatively, tie ins would also be possible with Cold Harvest or MTS-37. I am not terribly fond of Secrets of the Kremlin, but it serves well as a prequel from the official DG:Countdown history for GRU-SV8, wherein it is said that in 1928 Stalin had found Ivan Grozny's secret library but that by April 1931 his experiments had failed. This presents a nice lead-in to him wanting to acquire the meteor fragment again.
Finally, no one should be called mister, as it says in the scenario, unless you're a pro-western subversive - it's for each comrade according to their needs, and from each comrade according to their abilities!
"But it would be dangerous to search too earnestly for the allegorical in Titus Groan. It remains essentially a work of the closed imagination, in which a world parallel to our own is presented in almost paranoiac denseness of detail. But the madness is illusory, and control never falters. It is, if you like, a rich wine of fancy chilled by the intellect to just the right temperature. There is no really close relative to it in all our prose literature. It is uniquely brilliant, and we are right to call it a modern classic."
- Anthony Burgess on Titus Groan (1946) by Mervyn Peake
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At the boarding house, the door was opened by a stolid looking Portuguese woman, a miss Ferreira. While seemingly not thrilled to have a visitor, I noticed her looking more than once at the cat on my shoulder with a soft expression, obviously another feline lover. After our exchange she went to fetch Watson who was fortunately at home and promply returned with a young man. If Jenkins had found him harried, I thought he looked positively haunted. Mrs Ferreira brought us lemonade and retired to the kitchen with my cat in tow.
I quickly explained my business and Watson was positively relieved. At least there would be no problem with acquiring the scrolls, he was a more than willing seller. I also learned that he was a librarian too, working at the public library. He explained to me that he had been plagued by nightmares lately, barely able to sleep at all, and the scrolls seemed to be linked with it. I was naturally excited if a little skeptic of his statement and asked to see the scrolls, to which he readily assented. We got up and climbed the stairs to his rooms.
We were met by a strange sight, Watson's muttering about not remembering to have left the door opened our only advance notice that something was wrong. Inside we found another young man hugging the scroll box to his chest, seemingly in a daze. When challenged by Watson he turned on us and began to shout in a strange language - I caught something like "Ia Ia Nyarlathothep!" amidst the gibberish erupting from his lips - before rushing us. The two of us where easily able to immobilize him especially since in his frenzy of incoherent moves he helped us by knocking himself out by hitting the doorjamb with his head. He was recognized as Stephen Wilkes, a young artist who rented the room next to Charles'.
When he came too, we began to interrogate him. He was very cooperative. In fact he seemed to have suffered from nightmares and a strange compulsion to approriate the scrolls. I proposed to take charge of the scrolls, immediately paying Watson what he wanted for them and invited them to come to my flat later in the afternoon, once I had performed a preliminary inspection of the box's contents. Both readily agreed and after saving my cat from Mrs. Ferreira's attentions, went back home.
During the rest of the afternoon, I studied both the box and the scrolls but couldn't make real progress. While I ascertained its Egyptian origin, I couldn't place the material the box was made of, the only piece of information I could gather came from a hieroglyph I was able to recognize from an entry in one of my Occult books on Egypt : it identified the Dark Pharaoh Nephren-Ka. Beyond this I had nothing to go on. I would have to enlist the help of one of the university professors...
"it is said, that, beneath all the chaos, there is an underlying pattern of perfect order."
Once, there was no change, no entropy. Only the pattern and everything that belonged, designed and created to suit its purpose.
Today, the pattern remains, but only in tatters, warped in new ways. From the echoes of the pattern came change and thought; driven by the "divine spark" that dwells within any sentient creature. Are these the fragments of Azathoth's lost mind?
It is not gold that spreads through the world now, the fragments are tugging at their vessels, they want to pull back together. It corrupts the world, spreading, consuming.
We must stop this... We must.
If we do not...
If the Daemon Sultan sits it's form once more...
The pattern will be remade.
There will be nothing but cold and gold once more...
Just some random thoughts on what if Azathoth was once a creature of absolute order, until he went fruitloops and the fragments of his mind scattered, allowing creatures to perceive the world (mores the pity). Naturally, these fragments see the current state of the universe as an abomination, and craves to "tip back the balance" and create a unliving, undying world of perfect order.
Take your pick what's worse.
"You crave a purpose, stability, an answer to the question "Why am I here?". I can grant you it..."
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Mr Tom Driberg, society reporter and scandal hound, currently working for the Daily Clarion, has revealed himself as the original recipient of the puzzling pseudo-Egyptian scroll which he passed to Mr Edmundson, knowing Edmundson's interest in antique manuscripts. Owen Davies also recognises Mr Driberg as a frequenter of a number of nightspots for young gentlemen who would prefer their predelictions for said nightspots not to be nosed about. Musing further upon this theme, he remembers a nightspot where a man dressed as a heathen priestess (a 'Galli') did an act involving feeding a black panther - wasn't a black panther the Egyptian sacred animal of this evil god Nyharuthotep? Cybele and Attis, that was the act's name.
Driberg has heard of Edmundson's death and is extremely nervous. Charlotte's suggestion that he take an overseas vacation is met with awkward silence from the members of the less monied classes present. Tobias Gold (being NPCd this session) decides that this situation is best dealt with by drinking heavily.
The group reconstruct a timeline; Driberg had received the letter in the evening post; it was postmarked London, so it might have been sent the same day; and passed it on to Edmundson the next morning. That day Edmundson had called the bookhounds, then met his death later that night. Evidently there is a delay between receiving the letter and the attack it portends.
Owen reconstructs the marked map of London from the Baedecker he and Tobias hurriedly browsed in ex-Dr Briggs' cellar. The marked places are all public areas or attractions of central London: Abney Park Cemetery, the Temple Bar Memorial, Greenwich Observatory, Liverpool Street Station, Carrera's Cigarette Factory, Cleopatra's Needle, Green Park, and the Church of St George Bloomsbury. Charlotte notes that many of the locations have Egyptian or Classically themed architecture.
There are no obvious links between the marked places and the people Briggs swore revenge against (Driberg, the owner of the Daily Clarion Lord Elwood, and the 5 members of the British Medical Association board who had Briggs disbarred and committed to the asylum: Professor Henry Masters (Bailliol, Oxford), Dr Albert Winterton (now retired), Dr and later Sir Arthur Railton (deceased, survived by daughter Hermione, a dedicated partygoer and Bright Young Thing), Dr Hamilton Lund ("Moneygrubbing Freudian quack!" mutters Toby), and Sir Howard Colnbury, now Conservative MP for Hampshire.
The evening draws late and the bookhounds and Mr Driberg retire to their separate lodgings or drinking establishments of choice.
A new day. The morning papers bring news of the horrible murder of Professor Masters of Oxford. Charlotte, a graduate of St Hilda's College in Oxford, decides to visit to see what she can find out, hoping that her old Archaeology professor might give her an insight or at least a chaperone into the all-male Bailliol. Owen and Comtess Vivien decide to visit the list of sites from Briggs' Baedecker, in the hope of finding what made them interesting to him. Toby will man the bookshop and continue to drink.
The closest site to Gold's Books, which like all reputable London Bookshops is found in Charing Cross, is Cleopatra's Needle on the bank of the Thames. Drawing near it in the early hours of the morning ('far too early' the Comtess grumbles), before the street sweepers have been through, Owen finds a grisly and disconcerting artefact; a drowned rat, at the centre of a chalk circle with an inscription in Egyptian Hieroglyphs around it. A shame Charlotte is on the train to Oxford; however, Owen is an expert copyist and so reproduces the inscription in his notebook. Charlotte and Owen debate whether removing this morbid object would disrupt the enchantment, or set it off; neither is sure and they leave the thing untouched, reasoning that a street sweeper will eventually remove it in any case.
A little up the road and away from Mother Thames, at one of the ancient gates of the Square Mile of London City, stands the Temple Bar memorial. Owen and Charlotte inspect the surroundings of the neo-renaissance Dragon carefully, but find no traces of sorcery or anything save a superabundance of lawyers.
Towards the British Museum from Temple Bar is the Church of St George Bloomsbury, a classical folly by Nicholas Hawksmoor incorporating elements of the Mausoleum at Helicarnassus and a Temple of Bacchus. Questioning the elderly sexton, Owen learns that the man found another grisly relic while sweeping around in the upper levels of the steeple; a dead snake, with some "strange writing" around it. The man complains about the youth of today and their predilection for vandalism and lack of respect for religion. Under further questioning, he admits that the snake might have been up the tower for a few days, the sexton's legs not being what they once were, and also that the man hasn't yet taken a mop and bucket up the stairs to wash away the chalk. Owen bounds - well, plods - upwards to be confronted with another set of hieroglyphs, similar but not identical to the previous lot; he sketches a copy. The Comtess peeks in the rubbish and sees that the snake was strangled.
Not exactly pleased with their findings, but at least feeling they are on the track of something, Owen and the Comtess return to Gold's bookshop for lunch.
Meanwhile Charlotte has arrived in Oxford. As a modern young lady who feared no scandal, she had no qualms about being seen to buy a railway station paperback to read on the train, yet was welcomed back to the hallowed halls of Oxford nevertheless. Her former tutor was agog at this mysterious entangling of Egyptology and Murder ('Shades of the curse of Tutankhamun!') and succeeded in negotiating her past the porters of Bailliol despite their prejudice towards entry by the fairer sex. Charlotte discovers Inspector Carlton of Scotland Yard (who has been called in due to the similarities to the Edmundson murder) in possession of the scene. Inspector Carlton is not impressed with "amateur sleuthing by girls who've read too much Agatha Christie", nor does he wish Charlotte to be exposed to, or to contaminate, the crime scene ("It's quite ghastly in there"). Being a well-brought-up upper-middle-class young lady, Charlotte happily shares what she knows of Edmundson's murder and the connection to bizarre Egyptian manuscripts, including various details Toby, who has a rather lower opinion of the Rozzers, had seen fit to elide ("and then we went to Mr Briggs house, which happened to be unlocked, fancy!"). The egyptological angle, the previously unknown connection to Briggs, and Charlotte's recital of the various hardships and indignities of digs in Egypt convinces Carlton that Miss Winstonthorpe and her Egyptology Professor may have something to offer after all, or at least will not throw up on the body.
The body itself is still in situ until a full forensic team travels up from London. It has been brutally slashed and hacked, and the late Professor's study is splattered with blood and viscera. On the professor's desk is another piece of pseudo-Egyptian scrollwork; comparing it to a sketch of the previous scroll, Charlotte realises that a passage she previously took for gibberish by an inexpert forger in fact spells out Henry Masters' name phonetically. The scroll implores Nyharuthotep to cast the soul of "Henry Masters, who holds this paper" into the maw of the serpent of darkness Apep. The previous scroll had named Thomas Driberg; however, it was Edmundson, the last owner, who fell victim to it, suggesting the name is irrelevant to the curse. There is also an envelope, postmarked Bristol.
Both Charlotte and the Inspector are both skeptical of any supernatural cause, believing that the murders are being committed by the insane Briggs, armed with some form of blade, hook or claw with which he attempts to disguise the murders as animal attacks.
Charlotte goes in search of a more private phone line than the college line of Bailliol and finds it at her professor's college. She phones the bookshop, shares her findings, and learns they have found some mysterious egyptian inscriptions. She hurries to Oxford station to catch the next train.
After hurried sandwiches, Owen and the Comtess travel across London to find the other places on the list: Green Park, where they encounter a sinister-seeming tree; Carreras Cigarette Factory (a burned cat and another inscription; Owen is upset and removes this sad burned feline); The entrance to Abney Park Cemetery (nothing); Liverpool street station (where the Comtess sneaks into the employees only Underground Postal Rail area and discovers another inscription, and a toad nailed to the floor) and, as evening draws in, Greenwich Observatory (nothing).
The Bookhounds regroup at the bookshop. Charlotte translates the inscriptions: they are invocations to the Queens of the four classical elements and directions, all with the same phrasing: "To the Queen of the East, the Queen of Water, accept this sacrifice and lend me your power for the Work" (Cleopatra's Needle); "To the Queen of the North, the Queen of Air, accept this sacrifice and lend me your power for the Work" (St George Bloomsbury); "To the Queen of the West, the Queen of Fire, accept this sacrifice and lend me your power for the Work" (Carreras Cigarette Factory), "To the Queen of the South, the Queen of Earth, accept this sacrifice and lend me your power for the Work" (Liverpool St Station). Biggs is clearly up to something elaborate - but what?
Hearing Charlotte and the Inspector's theory of a murderer pretending to be an animal, Tobias rummages in the bookshop stacks and finds a paperback copy of Mr Elliot O'Donnell's Strange Cults and Secret Societies of Modern London, which has a chapter on panther- and leopard-worshipping cults, who apparently take on animalistic characteristics and stalk Blackheath for human prey. Is there a connection? Or is this another of O'Donnell's popular fictions?
Although it has been a long day, the Bookhounds feel that time is of the essence and there are a few activities that can only be carried out in the evening. Charlotte and the Comtess get their glad rags on and hit the dance-spots to find Hermione Railton, who is a) thoroughly squiffy and has not received any mysterious letters recently - they decline to share any further details with her. Owen hits a more discreet Soho establishment, where he has heard of a man dressed as a Galli who does an act with a panther. Although the place gives him a sense of creeping unease, he does not see anything connecting it with the case.
Eventually, the weary Bookhounds lay their heads to their pillows, wondering what horrors the new day will bring.
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