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Horror on the Orient Express: Paris Episode 2

Edelmiro Cervantes – Spanish-born Occultist touring Britain.
Dr. Klaus Fischer – German-born Psychiatrist, disciple of Jung.
Flora Bianchin – Italian Nurse and Midwife, saw the Great War up close. (absent)
Mikhail Sokolov – Exiled Russian Aristo-turned-Criminal.
Viktor Gruzinsky – Bolshevik Spy posing as Exiled Russian Aristo. (absent)
Lavinia Wray – English Archaeologist working for the British Museum.
*Sophie Chapallier – French Librarian working for the Bibliothéque de l’Arsenal.   *Keeper’s Note: With Flora and Viktor’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 l’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 it’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 “Mr. Paws†to “Monsieur Pattes†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 don’t prove themselves to be too obsessive or deviant in their practices. Edelmiro managed to arrange lunch at a café 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.   Charenton Asylum
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 they’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 they’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. Delplace’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 director’s secretary. Sophie’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 Sophie’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. “Poor little mice, you must be lost. Don’t worry. I’ll help you.†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. “Oh, what fun! What fun we shall have! See you next time, little mice!†  Upon reaching the safety of the hotel and reading the stolen notebook, detailing the discovery of a “lost†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.

*Keeper’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 “000.†I would argue that there is a difference between getting where you want to go and getting where you “think†you want to go. A successful role would have led the subdivided group to Fenalik’s broken cellar room. Instead, it led them to an encounter with Fenalik.
--My players were already suspecting a “vampire†in that they’ve encountered the long-lived Mister Corbitt. So the fact that Fenalik is long-lived wasn’t so much a surprise to them.
--After reading through the campaign and listening to the YSDC pod-cast I’ve elected to make Fenalik and Mehmet Makryat more “public†characters. This is an experiment on my part and we’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 “who are these people?†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 partner’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.
  Poissy
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 Fenalik’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 Lorien’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 “fleshed out†archives compared to many towns in the area. Things went downhill from there and the town hall of Poissy will forever be known for it’s “fleshy archives†which would brave investigators “deeply penetrated.†But it isn’t a Call of Cthulhu game until we reach the plumb the gutters of gallows sex humor, now is it?  
Chez Lorien
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 comte’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 other’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. Fischer’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 they’ve dug, advising the Lorien’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 statue’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 L’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 Milan…

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

Horror on the Orient Express: London Episode 2 / Paris Episode 1

Edelmiro Cervantes - Spanish-born Occultist touring Britain.
Dr. Klauss Fischer - German-born Psychiatrist, disciple of Jung. (absent, post-London)
Flora Bianchin - Italian Nurse and Midwife, saw the Great War up close. (absent)
Mikhail Sokolov - Exiled Russian Aristo-turned-Criminal.
Viktor Gruzinsky - Bolshevik Spy posing as Exiled Russian Aristo. (absent)
Lavinia Wray - English Archaeologist working for the British Museum.   Keeper’s Note: Our most recent session was unusual in that we had two players missing for medical reasons and one player had to leave early in order to pick up a family member at the airport. As a result, by the time the group reached Paris, we were down 50% of our players. I steered these remaining players toward research to get the necessary Fenalik clues so the full group could press on the physical investigation in Paris during the next session.   The night after the incident with the London-Liverpool express, the investigators discover their world has gone topsy-turvy. Strange newspaper articles indicate Mehmet Makryat, a strange character they encountered at Profession Smith post-lecture reception and a key figure in the disappearance/death of Henry Stanley has now become involved in bizarre triple murder/suicide. To make matters worse, professor Smith’s home in St. John’s Wood has burned to the ground and the jovial and rotund academic is missing. Finally, the police are looking to question witnesses regarding the bizarre noises and the smell of smoke coming from the alleyway behind Viktor Gruzinsky’s townhome.   Gruzinsky makes up a story about ruffians with a smoking, backfiring automobile rumbling through the alley causing mayhem. He points to Flora (who fell on her face during he escape from the Doom Train) as having been assaulted by the thugs. Flora goes along with the ruse and the two are taken in to give statements at the Chelsea police precinct. Meanwhile, the rest of the group make their way over the to the nearby Chelsea Arms hotel to see if they can learn more about the thrice-dead Mehmet Makryat.   During the day there are visits in the Chelsea Arms Hotel, the University of London, and morgue room at New Scotland Yard. Discoveries include that the three Mehmet’s were similar, but not identical, they appeared to be stabbed through the heart without a struggle, and they had been bled out in a hotel room bathtub, partially skinned with surgical precision, and then redressed and placed in the room to be discovered by the cleaning staff.   Later in the day Edelmiro returns to the Hotel Fitz for the first time in roughly twenty-four hours. He discovers an envelope waiting for him at the front desk. It contains a visiting card from Professor Smith with his address in St. John’s Wood scratched out and an address in Cheapside written in its place. He brings the note to Viktor’s house where he meets the rest of the group. Night is falling, and the investigators decide to waste no time in going to Cheapside.   The dilapidated tenement where Professor Smith and Beddows are laying low is a cramped and dimly lit affair. There is a thick medicinal smell, and once the party is over the shock of seeing Professor Smith’s burns, they quickly do what they can to aid their injured friend. Dr. Fischer is able to assist Beddows is applying bandages and adjusting the medicines Beddows has managed to acquire for comfort. Professor Smith is roused and relates the story of the fire and likely the meaning behind the attack on his home.   Ever the performer, he begins by quoting a Shakespeare, specifically Hamlet’s line to Horatio about there being, “more things on Heaven and Earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy.†He also adds that he knows the investigators have seen some things in recent months that are outside the realm of the normal and everyday, even for members of the SPR. He had hoped to use the Challenger Trust Lecture and subsequent grant to bring his concerns about the realities of the supernatural to the attention of those in power, slowly pulling back the vale so as not to break their stagnant minds. Unfortunately, be became aware of a group of men during his last trip to Europe who have more flexible minds when it comes to magic and more flexible morality. He relates the story of the Sedefkar Simulacrum and the need for it to be destroyed. It is too late to wait for good people with power and influence to come around to his way of thinking, and now he must rely on the discrete friends he has to take up his task.   After receiving what little information the professor has on the artifact, the group agrees to make the journey to collect and destroy the various part of the artifact in their friend’s place. They are given funds and tickets aboard the Orient Express, as well as the promise that once the professor is safe, Beddows will be in touch by telegram. The group plans to set off following a few days of preparation.   Dr. Fischer makes for the Bethlehem Hospital in order to arrange a leave of absence and hand his regular cases off to an eager disciple. Meanwhile, Lavinia makes her way to the British Museum to arrange her own leave of absence. This also gives her associate Edelmiro a chance to get acquainted with the reading room. Finally, there is Mikhail, who spends a couple of days preparing the itinerary, booking rooms at Le Bristol in Paris with the Professor’s money, and creating a some secret compartments in the group’s collective luggage where he can stash a couple of pistols and some spare ammunition in case things go array.   On his last day of research, Edelmiro is witness to a horrible sight. A strange man appears at the table across from him the reading room. He wears a hat and coat and hold a newspaper in front of his face. Edelmiro remarks on the man to Lavinia, quietly alerts a security guard. The guard, and Edelmiro unfortunately, discover this is not some thug lying in wait, but the oozing, bloody corpse of Richard Wentworth, flayed from head to toe and placed there in the Reading Room as a warning! A cryptic note written on tanned human skin sits before him on the table. “The Skinless One will not be Denied!†  Bags packed, and hotel arranged, the investigators quickly make their way from London to Paris without incident. Lavinia, an excellent library researcher who’s spent time in the Bibliothéque Nationale before, is able to uncover a variety of information involving courtly intrigues and scandals involving Comte Fenalik and share them with Edelmiro. They uncover personal diaries from two courtiers, which point to Fenalik losing favor with the King for acts of sacrilege and being committed to the lunatic asylum Charenton, placed out of sight were he could do no further harm.   While skilled in French, Mikhail is not terribly skilled with research, so he uses his wit, charm, and fast-talking to build a relationship with an intern at the Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal. Sophie Chapellier (NPC invented on the spot) is a bookish young lady with a fascination for history and leftist politics. Mikhail cleverly hides his association with the Russian Royalists and tells her tales of witnessing the glorious Bolshevik revolution first-hand. Sophie is captivated, and gladly offers to assist Mikhail with his research on Comte Fenalik and the raid on his estate in Poissy.

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

Horror on the Orient Express: London, part 1

Edelmiro Cervantes - Spanish-born Occultist touring Britain.
Dr. Klauss Fischer - German-born Psychiatrist, disciple of Jung.
Flora Bianchin - Italian Nurse and Midwife, saw the Great War up close.
Mikhail Sokolov - Exiled Russian Aristo-turned-Criminal.
Viktor Gruzinsky - Bolshevik Spy posing as Exiled Russian Aristo.
Lavinia Wray - English Archaeologist working for the British Museum.   Our story opens at the Imperial Institute in Kensington, where Professor Julius will was giving his Challenger Trust Lecture on the evening of January 3rd, 1923. As members of the SPR and recent contributors to Smith's research, the investigators were invited to the dinner as well as the cocktail party to follow at the Oriental Club.   As expected, Smith’s lecture was an all around success. He was in fine form and kept the crowd entertained as well as informed. The feeling in the room is that the SPR will have a good shot at this year's Challenger Trust Grant. Getting a hold of Professor Smith at the Imperial Institute proves difficult, so the investigators decide to save their personal congratulations for the Oriental Club, where there's rumors of an open bar!   The cocktail hour is a whirlwind of booze, dancing and conversation. Flora and Lavinia attract particular attention as ladies are only rarely allowed in the building. Much free alcohol is consumed and by 9pm Lavinia, Flora, and Dr. Fischer are thoroughly soused, while Mikhail, Viktor (weened in vodka) and Edelmiro retain their faculties.   In the midst of the crowd, the investigators note a sour faced man of Eastern extraction who appears to be trying to get ahold of Professor Smith. Viktor decides to take the diplomatic approach and introduce himself. The man speaks in a halting accent, stating his name is Memhet Makryat and he has an urgent matter to discuss with the professor. Coincidentally, the professor has just stumbled, having gone a glass of port too far, and Edelmiro is helping him to a finely appointed couch.   Makryat produces a portion of a newspaper and speaks urgently to Professor Smith. Smith seems to be brushing him off and shaking his head until he looks up at the investigators and smiles to himself. He explains that his friend Memhet is an importer who’s been helping him acquire artifacts from Turkey and other parts of the Middle East. A regular customer of his, Henry Stanley, is missing and the rumor is he suffered an accident of spontaneous combustion.   This fascinating epiphenomena is worth studying in it's own right, and Memhet’s concern makes the investigation all the more worth it. The professor, having taken a fall in the Balkans this summer, isn’t fit to go stomping around London looking for clues. Memhet is crestfallen at this, though he attempts to conceal his feelings and quickly presses the professor on an additional matter, a meeting to discuss some books he’s recently acquired.   The investigators stumble home, a new case in hand. They meet the following afternoon for tea across from Lavinia’s place of work: the British museum. Over tea and biscuits they divide up the tasks: they want to interview Memhet about his relationship with Mr. Stanley, look up any medical documentation on the other case of spontaneous combustion mentioned in the article: a gentleman from Kent in 1919, and meet up at Stanley's apartment in the evening and see if anyone is about.   Flora and Dr. Fischer travel to the office of the London Coroner's Court, and the rest make their way to the crescent treasury in Islington. The coroner’s office has limited information, only that the 1919 case was ruled Death by Misadventure, and the Crescent Treasury is shut up tight. A kindly cobbler across the street advises the “Old Man†who ran the Crescent Treasury shut the store and took off a week and a half ago. Mikhail decides a break-in is in order, but it’ll have to wait until after dark.   Meeting up in Stoke Newington, they meet Stanley’s nosy landlady offering tours of his Death Room. 2 shillings later, the group is examining the upstairs room. They discover strange sooty marks, a train afficiando's encyclopedia open to a section on the London-Liverpool Express, and, looking behind the desk, a receipt from the Crescent Treasury for an oddly inexpensive model train toy. Furthermore, the landlady volunteers the visiting card of Mr. Arthur Butters of the London Train Spotters Society, who apparently came took some of Henry Stanley’s property for safekeeping, after discovering he was missing.   Mikhail and Viktor are now certain that they must get inside the Crescent Treasury. Accompanied by Lavinia and Edelmiro, they head back to Islington. Meanwhile the doctor and Flora go to visit Arthur Butters. Mr. Butters is a little unnerved to receive visitors after suppertime, but when Flora and Dr. Fischer explain that A) they are working to locate his friend who’s mysteriously disappeared (the truth) and they are, in fact, fascinated with trains (a lie) the meek little train spotter is very welcoming. Of predominant interest to the investigators is the model train set Mr. Butters acquired from Henry Stanley’s room. Mr. Butters explains that the London-Liverpool express model is exquisite, custom-made with a degree of detail rarely seen. Furthermore, it’s a highly morbid model given the fact the train is famous for derailing and killing all crew and passengers aboard. Mr. Butters is happy to let the doctor and Flora take the model, as he’s unsettled by it.   Meanwhile, in Islington, Mikhail is picking the lock on the back door the Crescent Treasury. He manages to pop open the door and permit access to himself and his companions. The group does a quick sweep of the one bedroom apartment upstairs find it cleared out. The shop counter downstairs contains a ledger with curious entries, including mentions of an expensive custom model train set purchased from an estate sale of Randolph Alexis and then sold to Mr. Henry Stanley for a pittance. Edelmiro has heard of Randolph Alexis: an infamous occultist who managed to offend the sensibilities of the Golden Dawn and the Order of the Silver Twilight, leading to his expulsion from both groups. He was reported killed along with the other passengers of the London-Liverpool Express derailment of 1897. Edelmiro seems to recall his son was also keen on the occult, but he disappeared some years ago.   The two groups meet up a Viktor’s house in Chelsea. There is discussion about next steps, but things go sideways in a hurry when Mikhail figures out how to set up the train model’s complex track, sets up the board behind the house, and turns it on. After a handful of revolutions around the track, both Mikhail and Edelmiro (who is standing in the frame of the back door) witness an electrical surge that brings a ghostly set of train tracks racing into existence down the alley that separates the row houses Viktor and his neighbours live in from their various garages and sheds. Through a billowing cloud of black smoke and electrical discharges emerges the true to life London-Liverpool express of 1897!   As Edelmiro calls for the rest of the investigators, passengers in Victorian attire swirl around Mikhail, pleasant at first but then twisting and distorting into haggard, hungry dead. Mikhail is carried aboard the train by many revenant hands. The remaining investigators, taken aback by what they see materialized in Viktor’s backyard fall into a pattern of fight-or-flight: Lavinia, Edelmiro, and Viktor are cautious, while Flora and Dr. Fischer bolt for the open door of the train car to rescue Mikhail. The remaining investigators can only watch a follow for a little distact as the train departs through a bring wall at the end of the alleyway.   Onboard, a host of wretched, undead froth at chance to suck Mikhail’s soul from his lips. Fortunately, the close rows of bench seats prevent Mikhail from being swarmed, and he’s able to wriggle away as Flora and Dr. Fischer distract the fiends. Flora employs a fire poker swiped from Viktor’s kitchen. Dr. Fischer opts for Marquis of Queensbury rules. The fight is brief, as the investigators figure out they are grossly outnumbered and make for the empty train car behind them. When the train arrived, Flora had noted the face of Henry Stanley from the window crying out for help a window of the third car, finding it barred from the inside, she pounds on the door and shouts Stanley’s name. Another man answers, haggard looking and wearing a tattered Victorian suit, but not appearing to be one of the wretched dead things in the front car.   The weary looking fellow introduces himself as Randolph Alexis. He’s been hiding in the barricaded sleeper car at the end of the train for years. When asked about Henry Stanley, Randolph points half-heartedly toward the last door at the end of the sleeper car, advising he’s a small minded fool who will be of no help. Flora goes to check on Henry, while Mikhail and Doctor Fischer converse with Alexis. The would-be sorcerer advises something went wrong with an incantation he was he tried to complete on the train back in 1897. He advises this is a pocket universe where time had but a toehold on physics. As near as he can figure it’s 1911 back home. Mikhail informs him he’s a little off in his calculations. Randolph sighs and says, all the same, they need a solution soon, pointing out the solid shadow of the train consuming the darkness outside.   Meanwhile, Henry Stanley, is ranting to Flora that he’s been trapped on a train for what feels like weeks with a mad-man, looking toward the other rooms on the sleeper car and shudder. Flora inspects one room and finds a pile of bones Randolph shrugs and acknowledges is his son, who built the train model to come to rescue him. He then shows the investigators his more fleshy model of the toy train set. Doctor Fishcer, is just about the point on the fact his organ train (which the players started calling the Oregon Train, after the “Oregon Trail†video game) is missing the ramps to provide the gate sigil its three-dimensional quality when there is a sudden sound like thunder and the train begins to slow. Back in the physical plane, Viktor has turned on the model and let it run its course again!   This time, when the passengers debark, the remaining investigators are ready. Viktor stabs the first woman who approaches him, Lavinia levels a rife at the pack of passengers, and Edelmiro, spying his friends in the third car, hurries to try and retrieve them. The pack of undead monstrosities is split between fighting off Viktor and Lavinia at the door of the first coach and breaking through the barricade at the rear car with all the fresh souls hiding inside it.   Struggles ensue on both ends of the train. Doctor Fischer manages to get a window of the rear car open, dislodging the black frost of the pocket dimension that had frozen it shut. Randolph Alexis spares no time, knocking Henry Stanley into the pack of hungry dead at the door and leaping out the window. Edelmiro brandishes a knife outside the train car and Alexis turns about and flees down the alleyway at a dead sprint. Edelmiro pursues, but the mad man is just too fast. Back on the train the doctor helps Flora out of the car, where she promptly falls face first into the cobbles. Mikhail helps the doctor, holding off the hungry dead with his pistol, and then manages to barely escape.   Covered by Lavinia and Viktor, the rest of the group make for the house, barricading themselves inside. The hungry dead, some shot through by Lavinia’s rifle, paw at the door and windows ineffectually as the train rolls away into the night. As it vanishes, its former passengers loose a silent scream and fade into nothingness, their tortured souls utterly destroyed by separation from the bizarre limbo-like plane that sustained them. Shakily reflecting on this metaphysical truth, and the loss of Henry Stanley, an innocent, the investigators decide to stay at Viktor’s home for the night, light a roaring fire, drink tea, and get a small amount of the sleep.   Studying the remains of the train model overnight, Viktor comes to an understanding of how it works and thinks if he had the time and the tools he could reproduce the spell. He regards it not it as magic, but as some form of experimental mathematics. He shakily collects the morning paper and notes two curious articles: “Man Dies Three Times in One Night†and “Professor’s Home Burns.†It's about this time a pair of constables arrive to inquire about complaints of gunshots, various industrial noises, and smoke and soot phoned in by his neighbors last night.

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

Horror on the Orient Express, Prologue: the Haunting, Part 2

Edelmiro Cervantes - Spanish-born Occultist touring Britain.
Dr. Klauss Fischer - German-born Psychiatrist, disciple of Jung. (player absent)
Flora Bianchin - Italian Nurse and Midwife, saw the Great War up close.
Mikhail Sokolov - Exiled Russian Aristo-turned-Criminal.
Viktor Gruzinsky - Bolshevik Spy posing as Exiled Russian Aristo.
Lavinia Wray - English Archaeologist working for the British Museum.   The second part of our prologue commences when the group arrives at the Fitz Hotel Dining Room to discuss the days events. A new face shows up at the table: Dr. Fischer has asked his friend Lavinia Wray to attend the gathering on his behalf so he can deal with a difficult patient. Given all the information to hand, the group decides once again to divide up in order to pursue two goals: Dr. Wray and Mr. Cervantes will check the London city records office while the remainder of the group will perform a cursory inspection of the house at Bacon's Lane.   Visiting the Records Office yields some further information: a certificate of death for Walter Corbitt dated in 1866 and court records pertaining to the arrest of disbanding of the Societas Cognitationis. Half a dozen men were arrested for defacing the grave of Anna Kingsford in Highgate Cemetery. Cervantes knows the name Anna Kingsford, but can't place it. The pair decided to make their way to Cambridge to review the SPR library, which has a number of sources on historic occult and supernatural happenings. Research reveals Anna Kingsford was a rare case of demonic possession investigated by the Church of England. Ms. Kingsford had several violent outbursts wherein she harmed her parents and her local parish priest. She eventually institutionalized and her family left money to pay for a burial in the newly constructed Highgate Cemetery. She was interred in one of the first large public vaults.   Meanwhile, in Camden, Viktor, Mikhail, and Flora enter the former home of Walter Corbitt. Viktor is convinced that if a house is "haunted" the source of the problem is invariably in the basement, and heads there first with Flora while Mikhail checks out the upstairs. Viktor notices a broken step and he and Flora are able to avoid it. Flora quickly spots a rat hole in the far wall that indicates there's something hidden behind it. The pair begin to search around for what else might be hidden in the debris of the basement. Flora wants to find a tool she can use to pry off the boards surround the rat hole, having the sense that the basement is unusually small for a house of this size.   Mikhail is on his way to the former guest bedroom when he hears a scream from downstairs. From amidst a pile of broken boards and dirty rags, a gore encrusted knife emerges and floats in midair, attacking the pair of investigators in the basement. Terrified, the pair flee upstairs and bolt the door, knocking Mikhail over in the process of taking cover. After fleeing the house, the group reassesses their plans and heads for the second floor, this time staying together. Once inside the remaining bedroom, Flora closes the door to present any unwanted cutlery from attacking. Viktor views the wall in the room and watches in shock as the face of a terrible old man bubbles up from within the crusty wallpaper. As Viktor draws the attention of his friends to the phantom image only he can see, the wooden bed frame in the room rises up and strikes Mikhail! Flora bolts for the door, only to find it resisting her efforts to pull it open, Viktor pulls his pistol and blast the face in the wall, which dissipates in dust and silent laughter. The bed now turns up on end, towering over Mikhail and forcing him toward the window. Mihkail makes a startlingly fast dodge out of the way just as the bed surges toward the window, trying to drive him through it. Viktor during his gun on the door and blows a hole in it. The door falls open and the three companions escape, this time leaving the house behind them.   The investigators join up again for another nighttime meal at the Fitz Hotel. Edelmiro and Lavinia notice Vitkor's torn pant leg (a near miss with the knife) and Mikhail limping. Their three companions recount their tale of the haunted house. At a loss for what to do next and fearing the house at night, the bulk of the investigators decide to see what they can learn from the burial site of Anna Kingsford. Perhaps the Societas Congnitationis left some clues behind that could better help them understand the old Corbitt house. Meanwhile, Flora is looking for coping strategies and turns to the Roman Catholic Church. She's seen some horrible things in the Great War, but nothing that prepared her for genuine supernatural activity. A persuasive discuss with her priest allows her access to his personal library, where she finds a copy of Malleus Maleficarum.   Back in Camden, Lavinia, Edelmiro, Viktor, and Mikhail sneak into Highgate Cemetery after hours and pry open the vault where Anna Kingsford in interred. Inside they find her wood casket, marked up with a variety of sigils, including a prominent all-seeing eye. Looking around, the investigators find a loose stone in the floor of the tomb, under which is hidden a canvas bag containing some ritual objects and a record book containing the minutes of the Societas Cognitationis. Anna Kingsford's grave was chosen because of her experience with possession. The SC considered her remains an ideal focus for calling to their "God Beneath the Earth." The records also identify Walter Corbitt as a founding member of the SC and indicate his last request was to anoint his body with certain oils he'd mixed and then lay him to rest in his basement.   Sunday and Monday are used for research, as Edelmiro combs through the Societas Cognitationis records and several other investigators attempt research to different ends: Flora studies MM, Lavinia looks for a source on cult activity and turns up Murray's The Witch Cult in Western Europe. Viktor takes a different approach, studying sources on magnetism, electricity, and rumors regarding Tesla's latest theories and inventions, as he's convinced himself there is nothing supernatural in the house, but rather someone is using magnetic and electrical effects distort perceptions and make things move seemingly of their own accord.   By Wednesday, the investigators are ready to go back to the house and deal with what lies within the the basement. Their plan is to locate Corbitt's remains and either bury them properly or burn them. Their 1920s "Ghost Buster" kit consist of two wooden shields with leather straps commissioned through a local carpenter and a large magnet. These are intended to trap and deactivate the floating knife or another other sharp objects employed against them. Lavinia supplies a shovel and pick axe from her personal tools, and Flora brings a vial of holy water secured from her priest, some herbs to burn, and rags soaked in medical alcohol to act as accelerants.   Heading down into the basement, careful to avoid the broken step that Viktor and Flora discovered the first time, Viktor and Mikail locate the formerly floating knife resting atop a pile of crates in the basement. Using the shields, they knock it to the floor, place a shield on top of it and Mikhail stands on it. Upstairs on the ground floor, Edelmiro, Flora, and Lavinia take a moment to rifle through the storage cupboards where they find a box of books marked "Corbitt." They find three hand-written journals in ratty leather bindings and set them aside to review later. The remaining three investigators head for the basement and Edelmiro and Lavinia tear into the wall with the tools while Flora lights her herbs intent on warding off the evil she can feel practically feel beyond the loosening boards.   After prying away three boards and revealing the 1-foot space between the two false walls, a flood of rats rush out and cover the three closest investigators. The group has had the foresight to purchase heavy leather jackets and coveralls for protection, but the rats hang on and seek the soft spaces where the clothing doesn't cover as thoroughly. Wrists, knees, ankles, and necks become targets as the rats cling on in defense of their nest. Finally the death of one of the larger rats is a signal for the rest to flee up the stairs and disappear.   In the midst of the confusion with the rats, Mikhail was overpowered by a voice at the back of his mind which commands him to pick up the knife and drive it into VIktor when his back is turned. Mikhail attempts this, but fortunately Flora sees what's coming and warns Viktor. Viktor dodges out of the way of the attack and restrains Mikhail while Flora strikes him repeatedly with her handbag. The blows seem to knock some sense into Mikhail and he gets control of himself and drops the knife, which is picked up with Viktor's heavy magnet and placed in a a chest of drawers at the back of the basement. Mikhail, however, is a mess. He wakes up from his trance in an amnesiac state. As far has he was concerned he was just having breakfast a moment ago. His mind tries to force away the memory of the otherworldly voice scratching about inside his head and commanding him to do its bidding. It's all too much. Mikhail will be largely useless in the coming fight with Coribitt, but as he recovers he begins to correlate the contents of his mind (Mythos related sanity=+5% Cthulhu Mythos).   The rats are dealt with and Mikhail, psychologically weakened and disoriented, has been placed at the back of the basement near the stairs. These two matters in hand, Lavinia and Edelmiro break through the wall that stands between themselves and Corbitt. Flora approaches the wooden-looking cadaver on its mound of earth first, intent on making an examination of Corbitt's curious state followed by anointing the remains with holy water. Her plan his cut short when the cadaver suddenly lurches up upright! The monstrous thing lunges for Flora, who drops her vile of holy water on the floor. The creatures claws rake across her stomach, a wound so severe it takes all her concentration to stay upright.   Viktor's bullets do little except distract the creature, but this gives Lavinia enough time to light one of the alcohol soaked rags and shove it in the Corbitt-thing's face. Edelmiro puts himself between Flora and the creature, but falls in the process of trying to assault with his cane. The creature leaps onto the occultist and rakes him with its claws. Lavinia wraps the burning rag around Corbitt, now that his back is turned. The fire does the work that bullets and blunt instruments can't, and Viktor manages to finish off the creature by striking its burning body from one of the commissioned shield. Edelmiro is rescued from the remains as Corbitt crumbles to ashes.   Both the occultist and Flora are taken to a nearby hospital where they spend almost a month recovering. The group takes some time to go through Corbitt's journals, learning of how he left seminar, failed at becoming a professional writer, and eventually pursued some darker avenues of research that led him to conjuring a being he calls the Opener of the Way. This creature taught Corbitt a variety of magical knowledge, initiated him in the worship of several Great Old Ones, and offered him command of powerful spells.   Concluding thoughts:
--My investigator group has vary degrees of experience with CoC, they're clever thinkers, and they also keep in mind the bigger picture of telling a good horror story and role-play to a fault. They know better than the burn a house down if they can help it, so they came up with a couple of ingenious ways to handle Corbitt and the games he plays: the magnet, the shields, coveralls, and the burning rags. The quick-start version of the 7th edition rules containing "The Haunting" doesn't really mention Corbitt is vulnerable to fire or that the knife can be stopped by a competing magnetic field, but I decided these were well-thought out strategies.
--I'm still having trouble managing some of the more obscure rules: ganging up, burning luck points in combat.
--They're taking the "Mythos Book Club" approach this time. Everyone read Corbitt's diaries. I decided to leave out the Livre d'Ivon associated with the cult in the original adventure, because this isn't a stand alone story and there's not enough time between the prologue (September 1922) and the Challenger Lecture that starts off HotOE (January 1923) to appreciate a longer tome. So I reduced it to the Records of the Societas Cogitationis. The Records and the Corbitt Diaries offer +3% and +4% Cthulhu Mythos respectively in exchange for a small amount of Sanity Loss. The players now have access to two short Mythos sources and Corbitt's magical knife, so calling upon the Opener of the Way is there as a tantalizing option.
--Most players now have between 4% and 7% Cthulhu Mythos, with Mikhail leading the pack at 9% due to the additional "benefit" of Mythos induced insanity.

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

Horror on the Orient Express, Prologue: the Haunting

Characters:
Edelmiro Cervantes - Spanish-born Occultist touring Britain.
Dr. Klauss Fischer - German-born Psychiatrist, disciple of Jung.
Flora Bianchin - Italian Nurse and Midwife, saw the Great War up close.
Mikhail Sokolov - Exiled Russian Aristo-turned-Criminal.
Viktor Gruzinsky - Bolshevik Spy posing as Exiled Russian Aristo.   In September of 1922, Dr. Klauss Fischer, a psychiatrist with offices in London, and a member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), receives a letter from SPR senior fellow Professor Julius Smith. Smith states that he's currently in Europe and his research assistant Richard Wentworth has received a series of letters from Henry Knott of Knott & Sons Properties. He's having difficulty renting a property on Bacon's Lane in Highgate. Knott has asked for an SPR consultation, and this is especially important at Henry's Uncle is Archibald Knott, a former MP and board member of the Challenger Trust. Given the fact that Smith is preparing a major lecture for the Trust on behalf of the SPR to secure funding and academic standing for the Society, he's asked Dr. Fischer to handle the matter.   Dr. Fischer, intrigued by the request, calls upon his cadre of associates within the SPR, fellow European immigrants who are often snubbed by British members of the society. This could be a great opportunity for them to contribute to a major Society project and increase their reputation. The group meet together at the foreigner-friendly Blue Swan Tea Room, discuss the opportunity, and decide to start by collecting the letters sent to Professor Smith from Richard Wentworth at Smith's University of London offices. The young student is eager to hand off the task to some SPR members and continue with his duties filling in for Professor Smith and working on his own graduate research.   Fischer, Cervantes, and Bianchin think they should start by checking newspaper archives, the closest ones being in the University of London Library. They are limited compared to some, but as good a place as any to start. They come up with the name Walter Corbitt, a neighborhood character residents of Bacon's Lane sued in the 1800s for nefarious and menacing behavior.   In the meantime, the Solokov and Guzinsky try to get in touch with Henry Knott, discovering he's made his way to the Athenaeum Club for a suppertime meeting. Always on the look out for opportunities to increase their social standing and ndulge in fancy food belonging to someone else, Solokov and Guzinsky try to weasel their way into the club's dining room. Charm (Viktor) and Fast Talk (Mikhail) get the down-on-their-luck aristocrats into the lobby, but no further. Knott appears and advises that this is not the time or place to discuss the matter, but rather than outright offend the Russian gentlemen who stand half-a-head taller than him, he graciously invites Viktor, Mikhail, and their associates to his offices for a 9am appointment.   During said appointment, Knott provides some details on the home: it has been difficult to rent, numerous applicants have taken an interest only to back out at the last minute. The home was purchased from the Estate of Walter Corbitt. The last people to reside in the home were the Marshmans, who moved out suddenly following an accident of some kind. With the key in hand, as well as the names and addresses of the last few applicants to take an interest in the home, the investigators set about looking into the little gothic-style cottage at the end of Bacon's Lane. They decide to divide up the work. Dr. Fischer and Mr. Cervantes head for the newspaper morgue of the London Illustrated News. The remaining three investigators start making phone calls.   Over the course of the day Mikhail, Viktor, and Flora manage to interview some former applicants for renting the home, learn that #7 Bacon's Lane is considered a "Murder House," and discover it was connected with an investigation involving a gentleman's club that was broken up for unsavory nocturnal practices in Highgate Cemetery: the Societas Cogitationis (the Society of Pure Thought). Fischer and Cervantes discover an unpublished article containing interviews with the home's last residents: the Marshmans. The Marshmans are currently in long term care at Bethlehem Hospital, where Dr. Fischer does weekly rounds and observations. Mrs. Marshman is the most lucid, and with some not so delicate psychoanalysis the two men manage to extract some information about a stabbing incident, but this leads poor Mrs. Marshman to have a violent fit.   We leave off our first episode with the investigators regrouping at the Fitz Hotel (a step down from the Ritz for sure) where Mr. Cervantes is staying. Dinner is served as the five friends share their findings.

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

Brian McNaughton's Seelura

Below is my interpretation of the lands and kingdoms represented in Brian McNaughton's weird fantasy anthology The Throne of Bones. My understanding is McNaughton himself never created a map for his world because he felt it would limit him creatively and I have yet to find any example of the world of Seelura translated into an rpg format. I'm hoping to get a game going soon using the Basic Roleplaying System.   http://maglaurus.tumblr.com/post/93776877167/my-interpretation-of-brian-mcnaughtons-seelura

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

Surreal Visions (Session 3, Finale)

Investigators Clayton Brady: 30-year-old Private Investigator (ex-Beat Cop) (Drive: Duty) Lilliane Keane: 26-year-old Dilettante & Field Researcher at Miskatonic University (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge) Dr. Phinias Chilton: 55-year-old Medical Professor at Miskatonic University (Drive: Antiquarianism) Nikolas Hathorne: 32-year-old Rare Book Dealer (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge)   Our intrepid band of investigators took some time to question Jacob Lecroix before calling in the police. The homicidal artist was not terribly forthcoming, or lucid, but he managed to identify a coffee shop in South Queens where he periodically met with Brian Whateley before the latter dissolved their partnership. He began to ramble about how the thesis Whateley had made him dream of beings from the beyond the stars so evolved that mankind was little more than insects before them. Lecroix’s hideous creation was an attempt to garner the attention of these creatures, that they might show him mercy when they eventually arrived to enslave or destroy the Earth. Clayton had heard others (Howard Montclair and Thomas Huntington) spout similar nonsense and refused to listen, making his way to the phone while Lecroix bellowed on and on.   With the police due to arrive, Clayton suggested the rest of the group head back to the Ledonia and let him take the heat. Lilliane was still tired and staggering from the shot in the arm she received, so Dr. Chilton—who was now doing his best to act like Clayton—agreed it was his duty to see her safely to her room at the very least. Nikolas followed suit, if only to avoid notice that might be a detriment to his business. The officers that arrived took Clayton’s statement, hauled Lecroix away in handcuffs, and ordered an ambulance for the poor creature found in the washroom. The P.I. used both his reputation as an ex-cop and his friendship with Detective James Murphy to walk away from the scene, but he was cornered into giving them Lilliane’s name as his client and he was told not to leave town in case there were further questions he needed to answer.   Arriving back at the Ledonia, Clayton called James Murphy about the name he’d given the detective earlier: Byron Wheeler. Murphy said that Wheeler had both an arrest for trespassing and a warrant for failure to appear before a judge. The address he’d given the police was a fake, and Murphy suspected the name might be a fake as well. He’d walked out of the precinct rather easily for someone not carrying any identification. This caused Clayton to surmise two things: Wheeler and Whateley were possibly the same person, and the Jamaica Bay Bungalows at Broad Channel was the group’s next best option for a lead.   Lilliane and Nicholas were hesitant, but Clayton and Dr. Chilton (acting very much like Clayton down to the way he wore his shirt and tie) insisted upon going after the Broad Channel lead before Wheeler/Whateley flew the coup. Given that it was December, anyone staying in the bungalows that typically served as summer vacation homes would be easy to find. Indeed, there were only two lights on among the dozen-or-so bungalows that the brochure Dr. Chilton found in Wheeler’s coat pocket advertised. One building had several cars parked near it and party music was blaring. Clayton noted the telltale signs of a narcotics den. The other light was a single lamp in a kitchen window, far more likely for someone trying to lay low. Nikolas and Lilliane went around back to where the bungalow’s rickety porch became an equally rickety private dock when the tide was in, while Clayton and Dr. Chilton knocked on the front door.   Byron Wheeler allowed the door to fall open. In one had he held the lamp, in the other a small metal tube that was likely a whistle. When Clayton called the man “Whateley†he merely smiled and nodded in agreement. The man was relatively casual when he said he suspected this visit was about more than him throwing a cup of coffee at the doctor and invited the gentlemen and their associates on the sides of the house to come inside for a chat. Both Lilliane and Nicholas were called in, but not before the latter detected an odd flapping sound on the wind among the houses nearby. Dr. Chilton, suspecting the whistle was something arcane and dangerous, demanded Whateley turn the instrument over to him. Whateley complied as he took a seat at the kitchen table and placed the lamp there as well. The smirk on his face told Chilton he’d likely already used the piece to call forth…something.   When Clayton questioned Whateley about Lecroix’s murderous appetites, the man calmly stated that he and Lecroix had a business relationship until he realized the artist was mentally unfit and then he revoked his commission and went to Pfaff. He insisted Pfaff had completed the work he required but refused to give it to him, and even though he’d received his money back from the artist he wanted what the man had painted. Whateley then offered to employ the investigators in securing what was rightfully his, but Clayton was not in the mood. Too many people were dead or missing and there was something wrong about this man. The P.I. moved to place Whateley under citizen’s arrest, taking a set of handcuffs out of his pocket. Whateley, in a voice that was somehow different from his own, ordered Clayton to stop, and while the ex-cop froze for a half a second (successful POW Resistance role), he continued to move forward.   Clayton drew his gun and, on edge, Dr. Chilton pulled the revolver Clayton had given him earlier in the day during the incident with Lecroix. Whateley rolled his eyes raised his hands in submission, offering his wrists to Clayton, but when the P.I. was about to bring the cuffs down Whateley grabbed his right wrist and muttered something low and inhuman-sounding. The P.I.’s arm began to itch, and then burn, and then smoke. There was a concussive force that launched Clayton back and caused him to drop his gun as his hand receded into his jack sleeve and became a withered and useless lump of throbbing agony. The rest of the group was horrified, but Clayton reacted with rage. He rose up intending to throttle Whateley with the nearest object. When the man ordered Clayton to, “Lay down and die!†in the same voice he’d tried to use before, Dr. Chilton shot him in the back. This propelled the sorcerer at Clayton, who took up the oil lamp and drove it into the man’s face.   Whateley burned to death as flaming kerosene scattered across the kitchen. The bungalow was going to go up like a tinderbox, but it seemed the sorcerer had one last card to play. Outside the dwelling their was a shriek like a rush of wind, and then something hit the back of the building like a wrecking ball, shattering its cheap windows and causing its timbers to groan ominously. The form that rose amidst the dust and splintered timbers, lit ominously by the flames of the burning lantern oil, was the size of a draft horse, with odd wings and a pitted and scarred face that reminded one of an insect. For the first time, Clayton looked into the eyes of one of the horrors his fellows had been babbling about and the reality was just too much to bear. As Dr. Chilton helped extricate Lilliane and Nikolas from the burning ruins, the P.I. stood unmoving before the horrid creature, the leaping flames were the only things protecting him from its advances. The beast burned itself twice while attempting to put its fetid paws on Clayton, and this seemed to snap whatever sorcerous bond was holding it to the Earthly plane. Unsatisfied with the prospect of a cooked meal, it winged away into the night sky just as Chilton made a move to pull Clayton’s catatonic form out of the wreckage. Nikolas had already started up the Cadillac and the group sped off before the fire brigade could arrive.   Two days later, Clayton would emerge from his bed a new man. While he had relied on his alcoholism up until this point to help him ignore the shadows at the corner of his eyes, the burns on his legs and his withered arm were permanent reminders that the devil and his unholy army were all too real. The hardened gumshoe took refuge in prayer and his awakening gave him strength enough to suggest a course of action: the group must confront Pfaff, the last remaining link in the demonic chain of events. Dr. Chilton, now no longer suffering from the mania that caused him to act like Clayton, was apprehensive, but both Nikolas and Lilliane were too curious about the artist’s source of inspiration to let the matter drop.   Pfaff had given Lilliane a card with the address of his studio and residence at the NYU reception. The site was a two-story Dutch Colonial house in the Bronx neighborhood of University Heights owned by an elderly widow named Betty Shoemaker. Pfaff maintained his studio and quarters on the house’s upper floor and, it seemed, looked after the deaf, old woman in the way he might an elderly relation. All the same, when the investigators came to the door they asked to speak to Pfaff privately in the parlor. They wanted to know more about his arrangement with Whateley and Pfaff obliged, although he was confused as to why the group insisted on being so secretive. Pfaff eventually indicates that around the same time he received the commission and the bizarre thesis from Whateley he was inspired to produce a dramatic landscape of immense proportions which now takes up one of the walls near the back of his studio space. While Pfaff didn’t appear to see the connection, the investigators suspected he’d been touched by an entity beyond time and space and was mistaking it for an artistic muse. Suspicions were also aroused when the widow Shoemaker spoke absentmindedly to both Clayton and Nikolas in a bizarre language neither could place: though the words “Nug-Sothâ€, “Yaddithâ€, and “Dholes†came up with some regularity.   Convinced to show the investigators his private studio, Pfaff led the group upstairs. The soul-sapping and fatigue-causing experience the group had with Pfaff’s paintings happened yet again as they looked upon works that were either not finished or not fit for public consumption. Scenes of the same alien cataclysm predominated, as did the bizarre blue-green landscape-washing veil with which the group had become all too familiar. Stretched across one wall far from the door was a massive custom canvas; nearly twenty feet long and perhaps seven feet tall. An epic landscape showing a steaming lake in the middle of a volcanic caldera with alien forms dancing around a temple built at its edge. Clayton moved close to inspect the painting, and began to see what he thought were moving forms, changing position every time he blinked.   Dr. Chilton, on a hunch, made the Voorish Sign to see what the studio might be hiding that was beyond the parameters of human sight. He could barely contain himself when he saw the result of his magical working. The air was filled with an iridescent, blue-green pollen that moved in and out of Pfaff’s paintings. His companions were walking through it, breathing it in, and exhaling something of themselves which was being slowly drawn toward the massive painting on the far wall. Worse still, the landscape was not a painting put a true vision of an alien realm. The caldera, though cold, dark, a filled with an algae-like mass instead of a lake, was very, very real! Dr. Chilton did his best to stammer the truth to his companions.   This was all the proof that Clayton needed. Exploding with a confused anger, he grabbed Pfaff and shoved him through the painting. The artist disappeared from view for most of the group, but Chilton was forced to watch as ropey tentacles reached forth from the mass inside the caldera and dragged the man downward, silently screams his last. The experience of seeing Pfaff disappear shook the sanity of both Lilliane and Nikolas, and perhaps this was what allowed Clayton to convince the group that, before they demolished this abomination, the old woman must go through it as well! The P.I. led the group downstairs to collect Mrs. Shoemaker, who was now speaking English and seemed to be able to hear far better than before. Clayton was convinced this was ruse, and hauled the crying woman upstairs, casting her into the painting and, in his own words, “Back to Hell.†With that, Clayton and Dr. Chilton destroyed the landscape painting and the latter used the Voorish Sign again, noting that the pollen was still present in the room, but the major source of it was gone.   As a final precaution, Clayton used some of the knowledge he gained as a policeman to set fire to the house in a delayed fashion that would make its destruction look like a kitchen accident. His skilled effort would ensure that the police and firemen arriving long after the investigators were gone would think the senile widow had left a pan on the stove before wandering out the back door and into the night.

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

Surreal Visions (Session 2)

Clayton Brady: 30-year-old Private Investigator (ex-Beat Cop) (Drive: Duty) Lilliane Keane: 26-year-old Dilettante & Field Researcher at Miskatonic University (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge) Dr. Phinias Chilton: 55-year-old Medical Professor at Miskatonic University (Drive: Antiquarianism) Nikolas Hathorne: 32-year-old Rare Book Dealer (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge)   December 9th, 1934 (Sunday) After numerous delays, the Chicago train bearing Nikolas Hathorne among its passengers pulls into New York City late Saturday night, allowing the book dealer to check his messages at his shop in Queens before retiring for a few hours of sleep. Nikolas is surprised to see a number of messages from Lilliane, hinting at the interesting events that started earlier in the week and pressing Nikolas to join the group as soon as he’s available. A reunion takes place over breakfast at the Ledonia Hotel and it is decided that the investigators will attend the meeting of the American Decency League that evening to learn more about Tobias Pfaff’s detractors.   The ADL meeting takes place at the John’s Street Methodist Church in downtown Manhattan, a stout building with a red façade that seems to stand in opposition to the art-deco high-rises that are closing in around it. The last service of the day is letting out and a quick word with the reverend results in an introduction to Roberta Witherspoon, church busybody and head of the ADL. Roberta is all too happy to have new attendees at her meeting, which is setting up in the hall behind the church nave. In the minutes leading up to the meeting itself, the investigators attempt to become acquainted with some of the attendees and try to determine significant figures or potential troublemakers. Dr. Chilton is directed to one Byron Wheeler, a newer member responsible for arranging the protest against Pfaff’s paintings at the Hyde and Masterson Fine Art Gallery. Wheeler appears to be a rather well groomed, but meek and standoffish, but takes a nasty turn when Chilton mentions his employer is Miskatonic University. The man stands and attempts to throw his hot coffee in the doctor’s face!   Chilton avoids the liquid bombardment, but the splash strikes at elderly woman behind him. Wheeler flees out the back door, into the church’s small parking lot, and over a fence into the an alley. Chilton is confused, while Hathorne and Lilliane attempt to give chase. Clayton remains behind to render first aid to the elderly woman. Nikolas becomes hung up on the fence, allowing the doctor and Lilliane to pass him up and continue across the next street. Lilliane eventually falls behind in the next alleyway as she hears tires screech and a horn blare behind her. She turns to see Nikolas, in his effort to catch up after being caught on the fence, being struck by an oncoming cab while running across the street! (00 on his chase-related Dex roll: 2d4 damage; a Luck roll saved him from being struck by the car directly)   Chilton, pursuing Wheeler alone, eventually catches up to the man and tires to stop him, but the younger, stronger fellow easily wriggles out of his grasp, leaving the doctor holding his quarry’s suit jacket. Wheeler makes for the Broad Street Subway station, which is currently undergoing maintenance and surrounded by a wooden fence. Faced with the dark passage of the empty station leading underground, Chilton decides to allow Wheeler to escape—perhaps fearing some of the strange things he knows are lurking in the dark of New York City’s underground. The doctor answers Lilliane’s cries for help instead and endeavors to sort out the bruising and cracked ribs Nikolas endured while tumbling head first over the hood of the cab.   Once satisfied that his companion is safe, Chilton riffles through the pockets of Wheeler’s jacket, pulling forth a single scrap of paper: a brochure entitled “Jamaica Bay Bungalows at Broad Channelâ€. The tourist attraction states that it has rooms to rent from Spring until early Autumn. Chilton gives the pamphlet to Clayton Brady, hoping the detective cane make something of it.   December 10th, 1934 (Monday) The next morning Clayton takes the opportunity to contact James Murphy the prison detective at Welfare Island. He hopes to call in a favor and have murphy help him search for Byron Wheeler. Murphy, who admires Clayton’s character in spite of the fact he’s no longer a “real copâ€, agrees to get back to the P.I. by 4pm. Not wanting to bog down his ally, Clayton tries to look up Jacob Lecroix on his own by charming the local operator. The effort pays off and Clayton learns that Lecroix’s studio is in the Bowery. About this time Lilliane and Chilton return from the library with information on Lecroix and his connection to Pfaff, both are listed in an old class catalogue for the Salmagundi Club, an art school of poor repute where it is said “students†do more leering at the models than sketching them. It is indeed an odd thing that Pfaff would rise from the depravity of the Salmagundi to become an artist in residence at NYU.   Lecroix’s Bowery neighborhood is a rough place. The building where he maintains his studio is largely abandoned and looks to have been in the midst of renovations when the market collapsed. Deciding the take a subtle approach rather than overwhelming Lecroix, Clayton and Lilliane play the part of art buffs seeking a commission. The pair knock on the third floor address noted on a barley legible sign below while Nikolas and Dr. Chilton wait just down the stairs. A nervous little man in a stained smock invites Clayton and Lilliane inside and offers them some tea. The two attempt a short conversation with Lecroix before mentioning Tobias Pfaff, a reference that causes Lecroix’s tone to change considerably. The small man is all too eager to declare Pfaff a hack and betrayer, someone who used politics to garner his position at NYU. Not only that, but he’s certainly a killer and that’s why he sent Lilliane the letter at the Ledonia!   The researcher/dilettante suddenly realizes she’s seen this man before. He was shelving books at the library while she was studying “Cultes des Goulesâ€. Lecroix says that he didn’t know her name, but he followed her to her hotel because of the books she was reading, because she would understand. Lecroix explains that a man named Brian Whateley asked him to produce a commission based on a text, but when he didn’t like the result he withdrew his offer and gave the commission to Pfaff. However, Lecroix couldn’t let the matter go, what he’d learned had changed him. With a flourish, he reveals his work, which sits beneath a paint-stained tarp in the studio space where the three are having their rapidly degenerating discussion. It is a monstrous thing: a four-foot-tall wooden pillar decorated with the empty, stretched faces of men and women. Clayton repulsed by the obvious wood and leather construction, but Lilliane sees the awful truth: the faces, with their hollow eyes and mouths, are not designs carved from cow hide but actual human faces! It is then that, just out of Clayton’s earshot, Lilliane begins to hear something thumping against the door of Lecroix’s washroom.   Lilliane, not wanting to face what she’s hearing, alerts Clayton to the noise. The P.I. investigates while Lecroix backs off toward the kitchen. On the other side of the washroom door is a hideous site: a ragged, delirious, and emaciated woman with her face wrapped in filthy bandages. Wild eyes that cannot close stare from between the wrappings and rasping breath heaves from within a formless nasal pit. Clayton turns on Lecroix, who stands holding a syringe and a butcher knife. The little man smiles hideously and remarks that it is important for those who sacrifice to live long enough to see their place in his creation. Moreover, if Clayton and Lilliane will not assist him in bringing down Pfaff, he’ll be satisfied with making them part of his work as well.   Lilliane tries to run, but Lecroix grabs her in drives the syringe into her arm, while Clayton tries desperately to shoot the maniac without hitting his companion. From the stairwell, Nikolas and Dr. Chilton hear Lilliane shout before her voice fades and then witness bullets ripping through the cracked wooden door. The two enter just in time to see Clayton shoot Lecroix in the leg, causing him to drop Lilliane. The P.I. then falls upon the artist, pummeling him into unconsciousness. Chilton determines that Lilliane was dosed with morphine and will likely regain consciousness soon. In one of the studio’s side rooms there is a cobbled-together surgery kit and table as well as some dog-eared and blood-spattered medical texts. Knowing this, Dr. Chilton and Nikolas cannot but see the hideous creation in the main room as art made from human flesh. Dr. Chilton, in an effort to pull himself together, begins to emulate the speech and actions of the one man in the room who is calm even as reality unravels around him: Clayton Brady.

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maglaurus

 

Surreal Visions (Session 1)

Investigators Clayton Brady: 30-year-old Private Investigator (ex-Beat Cop) (Drive: Duty) Lilliane Keane: 26-year-old Dilettante & Field Researcher at Miskatonic University (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge) Dr. Phinias Chilton: 55-year-old Medical Professor at Miskatonic University (Drive: Antiquarianism)   December 4th, 1934: The latest chapter in the investigative careers of Lilliane Keane and Dr. Phineas Chilton begins with a sudden and panicked knock at the former’s hotel room door in the wee hours of the morning. This was followed by the deposit of a brown paper envelope beneath the door, and by the time Ms. Keane has the opportunity to look down the hall the mysterious messenger was nowhere to be seen. Lilliane and Phineas have made their home at the Ledonia Hotel on East 28th Street in New York for much of the Summer, having used the resources in the Main Branch of the New York Public Library, and a portion of Lilliane’s trust fund, to pour over the contents of the obscure volume Cultes des Goules, which had belonged to the late Dr. Howard Montclair.   The innocuous brown paper envelope turns out to contain a hand-written message on a scrap of unusually heavy paper and three articles from various tabloid newspapers and magazines. The note, which is unsigned, states that a man named Tobias Pfaff is responsible for many deaths and that others will follow unless action is taken. The three articles refer to the deaths of four individuals: 2 by subway accident, 1 by suicide, and 1 disappearance. All these individuals are, in some way, connected to New York’s Greenwich Village art community—either artists or appreciators of art. The deaths are thoroughly and reasonably explained however, and Pfaff is mentioned in none of the articles.   Lilliane takes the opportunity to call upon her associate Clayton Brady, who has been let go from the Arkham PD due to budget cuts and has begun a career as a private investigator. Clayton is all too happy to drive to New York from his Boston-area office. While tailing client’s cheating spouses has brought in some income, the gumshoe finds he misses the strangeness that seems to surround folks like Lilliane & Dr. Chilton—even though it drives him to drink. He also admits to having a crush on the beautiful Ms. Keane, who he frequently refers to as "Legs". Ms. Keane, for her part, flirts buts seems to see the newly minted P.I. as beneath her social standing.   December 5th, 1934: With Clayton on board, the group decides to look into Tobias Pfaff using the resources of the now familiar New York Public Library’s Main Branch. As it turns out, Pfaff, a German immigrant and member of the European Surrealist school of artistic expression, has recently been granted a position as an “Artist in Residence†at NYU. An exhibition of his works at the Grey Gallery is planned for the coming Friday evening. Pfaff is not without controversy though, as Lilliane turns up a news article detailing a protest of his works at the Hyde & Masterson Fine Art Gallery in Greenwich Village. The American Decency League seems to have singled out Pfaff’s works as particularly repugnant and morally offensive.   Taking this lead and running with it, the group catches up with Alexander Hyde as he’s closing his gallery for the night. Lilliane manages to charm the art dealer into letting the group look over the only Pfaff painting that he still has available for sale. It is a large, hideous creation entitled "The Conflagration of Yaddith." It is a scene of alien cataclysm showing more than a thousand simultaneous deaths by immolation, the remains of the vaguely humanoid characters are cast in a bizarre blue-green haze. The painting leaves Ms. Keane, Mr. Brady, and Dr. Chilton all dazed, missing time (approximately ten minutes), and feeling fatigued. In order to appease the grumbling Mr. Hyde, Lilliane agrees to purchase the painting. At the very least, owning one of the man’s works should give her an opening to talk with Pfaff directly at the exhibition on Friday.   December 6th, 1934: The day before the Pfaff exhibition, Dr. Chilton uses his influence as a Miskatonic University professor to put the group’s names on the guest list for a special cocktail party celebrating the new Artist in Residence at NYU’s Grey Gallery. Also, further inquiries are made regarding the American Decency League. A local Roman Catholic deacon is able to provide minimal information and a flyer distributed to a number of New York churches. The ADL is run by a woman named Roberta Witherspoon and its meetings are held in the utility room of the John’s Street Methodist Church. The investigators make plans to attend then next meeting on the forthcoming Sunday evening.   All that remains now for the group is to squeeze Clayton into a rented tuxedo and travel to the Pfaff exhibition to meet the man behind creations such as "The Conflagration of Yaddith."   December 7th, 1934: The Grey Gallery has two rooms set aside to display Pfaff’s works, and after a short speech from the university provost, wine is poured and attendees are invited to view the collection. The rest of Pfaff’s paintings have, indeed, a similar effect to that of "The Conflagration of Yaddith" on the investigators and the rest of the crowd. Faculty, patrons, and other guests seem lost as the stare at strange alien landscapes, terrible calamities, and charnel images that send the mind reeling. Clayton is forced to assist an elderly woman as she succumbs to her terror and is falls to the ground, catatonic for a time. While this is happening, Lillian and Dr. Chilton manage to locate Tobias Pfaff and engage him in conversation.   The artist himself is a small and angry man, egocentric to say the least. He spends much of the evening adjusting the lamps near his paintings and complaining that the gallery staff did not pay attention when he explained how to display his works. Lilliane uses this as an opportunity to bring up her own purchase from the Hyde and Masterson gallery and asks Pfaff for his opinion. In the midst of this conversation the doctor tries to casually break in, attempting to glean what Pfaff knows about “Yaddithâ€, a celestial body with which the doctor has only passing familiarity. The artist’s eyes narrow and he points an accusing finger at the doctor, not because of the interruption but because yet another "idiot occultist" is making suppositions regarding his work. Pfaff accuses the doctor of conspiring with someone named Brian Whateley (a name unknown to the group, but a lineage that is certainly familiar to the Arkham residents). Pfaff takes a bundle of papers from his valise and hurls them at the frail doctor, saying he’d intended to violate Whateley in an intimate fashion with his “stupid equations†if he saw him tonight, but having his lap dog return them to their owner would be good enough for the time being.   After an angry glare from the provost, Pfaff checks his tone. Lilliane moves in to charm the artist and, while he’s momentarily dazzled, the doctor assures him that he is not an occultist but someone who studies the deviant behaviors of occultists. Lilliane comes clean and explains how she received the note and articles and Pfaff suggests that any number of his enemies could be responsible, showing the pair a number of anonymous notes he's received recently calling him a "degenerate" and a "pervert" and ordering him to go back to Germany under the threat of physical violence:   *Brian Whateley saw Pfaff’s paintings and requested a commission based on the data in an academic text. Pfaff took the commission because he needed the money, but when the Artist in Residence opportunity arose he returned Whateley’s check and told him he could not complete the project. Whateley has been pestering and threatening him ever since.   *Jacob Lecroix is a local artist who has been publicly calling Pfaff a hack and a fraud. Pfaff suspects he has some connection to Whateley.   *The ADL continues to hound Pfaff at every turn and almost spoiled his arrangement with NYU.   *Finally, Morris Mallory, an ex-employee of a gallery from which Pfaff pulled his paintings, is attempting to sue the artist (he apparently lost his job because of Pfaff).   The evening concludes with Ms. Keane, Mr. Brady, and Dr. Chilton discussing how Pfaff's paintings made them feel "strange" and "cold" and establishing a new goal for their investigation: yhey intend to find out who has been manipulating them from behind the scenes and they suspect that one of Pfaff’s enemies might be the culprit. There is also the curious text that has fallen into their collective lap: a papers Pfaff wanted to not-so-delicately “return†to Whateley. It turns out they are an honors these by one Walter Gilman, a Miskatonic student and math prodigy who died before completing his degree.   December 8th, 1934 The group spends their Saturday skimming over Gilman’s “Witch-Cults and Similar Legends as Evidence for Non-Euclidean Properties of Space-Timeâ€. Bleary-eyed and confused by alternative theories of how matter and energy move through space, the investigators head to bed, intending to pay a visit to the ADL’s weekly prayer meeting on the following day.

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maglaurus

 

Rites of Tantalus (Session 4) Finale

Investigators: Sgt. Clayton Brady: 30-year-old Uniformed Police Officer with Arkham PD (Drive: Duty) Nikolas Hathorne: 32-year-old Rare Book Dealer (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge) Emanuel "Manny" Bolivar: 32-year-old Honorably Discharged Military Officer (Drive: Revenge)* Lilliane Keane: 26-year-old Field Researcher at Miskatonic University (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge) Dr. Phinias Chilton: 55-year-old Medical Professor at Miskatonic University (Drive: Antiquarianism)   *The group remains down one player and Manny remains in the hospital.   Wednesday May 23rd, 1934: After an uneasy night's rest at the Fort Greene Monument Hotel in Brooklyn, the group takes some time to sift through remaining leads. Lilliane is stuck on the idea of Dr. Montclair's previous patients who were referred to private asylums only to turn violent at later dates. What's more, she thinks there might be some kind of conspiracy associated with the State Hospital on Welfare Island. Clayton, feeling stumped, decides to follow Lilliane and sets a meeting up with Peter Murphy, the prison detective he met a couple days previous. As it turns out, Murphy has some dire news to share: Thomas Huntington has escaped! Apparently both he and the nurse who was looking after him vanished during the course of the previous day. The police are still searching Welfare Island, hoping to find Huntington on the grounds.   Despite the threat of an unattended madman possibly lurking about the hospital grounds, Lilliane takes Clayton back to Welfare Island and charms her way past the guards and to the attendant at the hospital's main desk. Her goal is to find out more about Donald Philips and Esther Davenport; two of Montclair's previous patients. The story she gets is one of typical big city government corruption that favors wealthy families: a deal is reached between the DA's office and members of the city's societal elite behind closed doors and Montclair serves to rubber-stamp the arrangement by signing the related medical documents as a consulting physician. Unfortunately, this tale is little more than workplace gossip and there is no evidence that gets Lilliane any closer to understanding what's going on between Montclair and Huntington or why Helen and co. came under fire for interviewing the latter.   It is decided that the group will stake out the Huntington family's Park Ave. house in the hope that Thomas, or someone who helped him escape, might return to the scene of the crime. After talking it over the with the house's only remaining resident, the Huntington's butler Mr. Chambers, the group waits across the street in Nikolas' Cadillac until sunrise. Unfortunately, the night yields little more than sleep deprivation and neck cramps.   Thursday, May 24th 1934: Realizing now that the only way to get to the bottom of what's happening is to break into Montclair's office...the group opts to alternate between getting some rest and doing a bit more research. Lilliane is not finished with her line of inquiry into Philips and Davenport and she enlists Dr. Chilton to make it happen. Carefully scripted and rehearsed, Dr. Chilton poses as an interested medical professional following on some old cases. He approaches the remaining members of the two wealthy families (located through judicious use of the New York society pages) and attempts to extract the names of the asylums to which the patients were sent. Both are in private upstate hospitals: which would requires a day's travel there and back should the group wish to contact them. Again the story emerges that Dr. Montclair was kind enough to sign the necessary paperwork so that the members of wealthy families who had done wrong would not have to go to prison or spend their lives in State facilities like "common" folk do. All this does is reaffirm that Dr. Montclair is an underhanded opportunist.   While Nikolas and the doctor are nosing around among society types to satisfy Lilliane's curiosity, Lilliane herself is helping Clayton acquire some packages that have arrived at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Earlier in the week, while Clayton and Nikolas were beefing up the group's arsenal, the latter took the opportunity to rush-order a pair of "Dunrite Bullet Proof Vests" from the Detective Publishing Company of Chicago. Clayton rightly suspects that there will be police awaiting them at the hotel, as he's two days late in returning Helen's notebook to Montclair, and waits in the car while Lilliane retrieves the packages. With Clayton and Nikolas now better equipped to endure whatever dangers await, the group decides it’s time to take action…after a good night’s sleep.   Friday, May 25th 1934: Over breakfast the next morning at the auto-mat next to the Forte Green Monument Hotel, the group plots its next move. Initially there is discussion of breaking into Montclair's office, but Clayton quickly vetoes that idea. The group is about to follow through with the police officer's plan of tailing Montclair when Lilliane, reviewing the evidence found in Freddy Wilson's boarding house room, hits upon a suspicious coincidence: Mr. Wilson noted a disappearance and several other crimes near a church that was one of several properties Victory Investments purchased before two of its partners were arrested for fraud and arson. Given that Montclair is still using the Victory Investments name for clandestine purchases, this is a coincidence that is too glaring to ignore--even if Lilliane isn't sure what it means. As the group isn't really up for tailing Montclair and/or dealing with the thugs he apparently has as bodyguards, they decide to make their way to Hell's Kitchen to see what they can find.   The desanctified church of St. Raphael, with its colonial construction style and weed-choked graveyard, looks to be so old that New York City grew up around it. According to newspaper accounts, Victory Investments owned the church and was trying to buy the tenement building to complete the space it needed for an industrial development deal. A fire was set in the tenement, arson was suspected, and this is when Victory Investments broke up and Montclair started helping the DA's office while his former partners went to jail. The group is speculating as to what this means when Clayton notices a set of dirty, unshod, if slightly misshapen, footprints leading from the front of the church into the overgrown graveyard around back. Following the trail, Clayton comes upon a cellar door hidden under the weeds and carefully opens it.   The cellar has seen some movement (more dirty foot prints) and it is decided Clayton, Lilliane, and Dr. Chilton will make their way into the vaults beyond the cellar while Nikolas guards the rear. While exploring the hallway beyond the cellar the group finds a broken syringe identical to the one found the Huntington house. The needle smells faintly of heroin, as did Thomas' bedroom. There are three crypts in the hallway, as well as a short stairway leading up into the chapel. Only one of the crypt doors is movable, though it is blocked on the inside with a heavy cement block (an odd thing to find an abandoned church built before cement was invented). In the midst of the crypt is a wide, low well with a worm-eaten wooden cover that sits slightly ajar. Dr. Chilton swears he hears voices coming up from below the well. After some trepidation the group comes to the conclusion that the only way they'll know for sure is to remove the plug entirely and inspect the shaft below. Clayton and Dr. Chilton pull aside the wooden cover. There is a burst of mephitic odor followed by two leaping forms: mockeries of human shape with features as ape-like as they are dog-like and possessed of an overall rubbery quality. Dr. Chilton is attacked, while Clayton is barked at from the edge of the well.   The police officer draws his gun and shoots, wounding Dr. Chilton's attacker and causing his own opponent to move from warnings to outright aggression. As Dr. Chilton flees the room, Liliane tries to hit one of the rubbery things with the cement block the group found behind the door. It is about this time that Nikolas hears the cellar door shutting behind him and sees a shadowy figure that is somehow familiar for a split-second before all natural light vanishes from the cellar and accompanying vaults. Running down the hallway to aid his comrades, Nikolas barely avoid shooting Dr. Chilton, but is knocked aside by the fleeing physician and discharges his shotgun into the wall. Clayton manages to down one of the creatures just before the other sets upon him. His Dunrite vest spares him a gruesome injury. Nikolas now arrives in the room and discharges his shotgun into an appropriate target, dropping the second creature. The sound of the shotgun blast reverberating off the walls of the tiny crypt is enough to leave Clayton and Lilliane in ringing agony. Only Nikolas is aware enough to see three more creatures carefully creeping up out of the well. The book dealer is trying to reload as Clayton orders him and Lilliane out of the crypt, determined to protect his compatriots from what he's decided are inbred Ozark Mountain folk who are living in the sewers below New York City.   Seeing that the cellar door is shut, the group opts to head upstairs into the chapel. Clayton is injured while holding off the creatures on the stairs, but he discovers that the things seem to fear the sunlight that is creeping through the church's broken windows. The bleeding police officer orders Nikolas to help him shoot out the glass panes entirely, which causes the rubbery, meeping things to fall back to the safety of the dark hallway. This is when the group realizes their not alone in the chapel, as a pair of figures have torn the boards off the main doors and entered the stone hall: Dr. Montclair and Thomas Huntington's nurse! Montclair has been forced to his knees, he is battered and bruised, his clothes are torn, and the woman holds a kitchen knife to his throat.   Just when the group is about to address the woman, her skin roils and shifts, and she transforms into the sneering visage of Thomas Huntington! This is more than Lilliane can bare. The understanding that black magic is real, that anyone can be anyone, and that she can never fully trust another person again causes her to go catatonic...paralyzed by waking dreams of her dead friend Helen's laughter. Clayton emerges from the cellar stairs at this time, sure that the creatures have been driven back and addresses Huntington, (he's conveniently missed the transformation that has left everyone else with their jaws on the floor) ordering him to drop the knife and let go of Montclair. In the grip of madness, the young man declares that he intends to give Montclair over to the creatures below the stairs and he need not bring him alive, for life and death are meaningless dreams. The psychiatrist begs for his life and, despite disliking Montclair intensely, Clayton cannot simply let him be killed. He raises his gun and fires at Huntington, winging him as the mental patient is using the other man as a human shield. The young man saws into the doctor's throat as Clayton is delayed by the need to reload.   Huntington moves on Clayton next, stepping over the dead doctor. Nikolas reacts however, discharging his shotgun at the psychopath. The blast is crippling, reducing one of the young man's hands to a stump and mangling the left side of his face, but Huntingon is still standing! He lurches toward Nikolas and buries the kitchen knife in his bulletproof vest, breaking the blade. Clayton, his revolver reloaded, blasts the madman before he can lash out at the book dealer with his remaining good hand. The investigators flee the chapel through the front door and seek out the nearest phone to call the police.   After patching up his associates, Dr. Chilton takes the opportunity to use his medical credentials to examine the bodies before the medical examiner arrives. The officers dispatched to the scene relent, and the doctor recovers a strange crystal tied around Montclair's neck. The stone is painfully cold to the touch, so the doctor wraps it in a handkerchief for later examination. Nikolas is certain that this is the Crystal of Nir about which Dejango Klusken told him.   Saturday May 26th, 1934: Unable to contain their curiosity, and comforted by the thought, that since Dr. Montclair is dead, his thugs will not continue to protect his property, Lillian and Nikolas try their hand at the time-honored investigative art of "breaking and entering". Breaking the knob off Montclair’s office door, the pair enter the building and search for any information that might explain the events of the previous days. They locate Montclair's copy of “Cultes des Goulesâ€, a second book detailing the rituals and secrets of the Order of the Silver Key, and some strange items bearing tags from “Klusken Consignment and Auctionsâ€: a clay lamp depicting a bizarre, faceless creature and a leather scroll of Korean origin that Doctor Chilton later determines is made of cured human flesh.

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maglaurus

 

The Rites of Tantalus (Session 3)

Investigators: Sgt. Clayton Brady: 30-year-old Uniformed Police Officer with Arkham PD (Drive: Duty) Nikolas Hathorne: 32-year-old Rare Book Dealer (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge) Emanuel "Manny" Bolivar: 32-year-old Honorably Discharged Military Officer (Drive: Revenge)* Lilliane Keane: 26-year-old Field Researcher at Miskatonic University (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge) Dr. Phinias Chilton: 55-year-old Medical Professor at Miskatonic University (Drive: Antiquarianism)   *Manny's player is working off-shore for a few weeks, so he's laid up in the hospital recovering from his gunshot wound. The easy-to-explain absence is perhaps the one bright point in last week's brutal combat.   May 19th, 1934: Welfare Island Epilogue Clayton Brady awakes sometime after supper, his fever finally broken. About this time he receives a phone call from an anxious Dr. Montclair explaining that he needs to come to New York Hospital across from Cornell University. There's been an accident. Clayton is in shock and immediately feels intense guilt upon seeing Manny's unconscious form recuperating in a hospital bed. He boils over when he learns that Helen and Bertrand are dead. Clayton and Nikolas visit the morgue, where the former uses his authority as a policeman to collect Helen's belongings, including the notebook she took to her interview with Thomas Huntington III.   May 21st 1934: Helen’s Friends Arrive Montclair arranges for a small funeral to be held for Helen and Bertrand at the mourning chapel on the grounds of St. Patrick's Cathedral. This is sight that typically sees a lot of police officer funerals. Helen's parents attend, even though Helen had not spoken to them for several years. Bertrand's family consist of an estranged wife and children whom Bertrand avoid as best he could. In attendance are also two strangers: an aging, if attractive man (APP 14) who feigns a British accent and a beautiful red-haired woman who's grace and charm could rival any film star's (APP 18 ). Lilliane and Dr. Chilton were apparently members of Helen's circle of friends back in Arkham. They would meet for coffee and discuss matters of the occult. Both were exceedingly interested in Helen's experience with the "Face in the Woods" and were attempting to pry their way into what she'd learned from that demon-hunter's encyclopedia she'd turned up in the Orne Library. Helen had listed the two Arkham residents under "next of kin" on the paperwork for the New York City DA's office, so Montclair had called to inform them of the sad news. They had informed Helen's parents in Boston and the four had taken a train to Manhattan together.   At the funeral, Montclair quizzes Nikolas on what Helen had discussed with Thomas Huntington III. Nikolas regales the psychiatrist with the whole ghastly tale, including the blood-letting and Helen's bizarre contact with Thomas. The unwitting book dealer also reveals that Clayton took Helen's notebook from the morgue, much to Montclair's displeasure. The investigators spend the rest of the day at separate tasks: Clayton investigating the site of the ambush on Welfare Island and making fast friends with the detective on staff at Blackwell Penitentiary, Nikolas securing some extra firearms from a dealer-friend of his, and Lilliane and Dr. Chilton attempting to recover Helen's notes and the copy of Daeomolatria from her room at the Gramercy Park Hotel. In the latter case the news is most grim, as the NYPD have been handed a court order specifying the removal of all written materials from Helen's hotel room so that they might be entered into evidence involving her and Bertrand's demise and so that Dr. Montclair can review them for his own work with Thomas Huntington. Over an evening meal Clayton is still boiling over at the prospect that Helen's killer got away, but that doesn't stop he and Nikolas from making a pact of mutual aid with Lilliane and Dr. Chilton.   May 22nd, 1934: Contracts Ended, Suspicions About Montclair The next morning, the two new investigators sit at the booth behind Clayton and Nikolas as they have a meeting with Dr. Montclair. Deeply upset at the loss of two people under his authority and disturbed by Clayton's vocal anger in a public place such as the Gramercy Park Hotel's dining room, Montclair decides to close out the contracts of the remaining investigators by paying them in full and allowing them to keep their rooms at the hotel until the coming Friday. This is, of course, contingent on Clayton handing over Helen's notebook. Clayton informs Dr. Montclair that it's in the hands of Helen's friends at the moment, but he'll have it back to him by 7pm. The doctor presents each of the men with a cash payment in good faith and excuses himself to attend a meeting at the DA's office.   Nikolas takes the opportunity to follow-up on the card given to him by Dejango Klusken. A man had purchased a copy of Cultes des Goules from the shifty antique dealer under the name "Victory Investment Group". The phone number was disconnected some four years ago, but the group rather shocked when they discover that the Chelsea address is now the office of Dr. Howard Montclair's private practice. After a stare down with some well-dressed thugs patrolling the street who seem to be working for Montclair (Clayton stakes out the office later that night to confirm this) the group decides to follow other leads. A trip to the library reveals that the ring deposited in Helen's pocket (along with the finger bone) relate to the Order of the Silver Key, an exclusive esoteric society that is said to have drifted away from the Rosicrucians in the 1840s in order to study Eastern philosophies more thoroughly. The only contact point is the grand lodge in Boston, the New York and Philadelphia chapters have no public face. An awkward phone call between Lillian and one of the society's members in charge of outreach and public relations brings the sense that something rather unfortunate has befallen the New York chapter (this was the psychological interpretation of the adept Dr. Chilton, who was listening in on the conversation via another phone).   After picking up his messages by phone from the Gramercy Park Hotel, Clayton discovers that Freddy Wilson, the reporter the group met while visiting the Huntington's Park Ave. home, wants to meet at a boarding house in Brooklyn’s seedy Navy Yard neighborhood. He says he's onto something big. Whatever Freddy was onto, he lost his head over it...literally. The group comes upon the reporter sitting at the desk in his dingy boarding house room. He was clearly attacked by two strong individuals: one who held him in the chair with such strength has to bruise his chest and arms, and another who almost decapitated him by sawing at his neck with one or more sharp instruments (knives or razors). The individuals likely forced their way in through the connecting door between Freddy’s room (#22) and the one next to it (#24). On the desk are two blood-stained items of interest: a notebook containing information on recent grave robberies, funeral home break-ins, missing persons, missing pets, and unidentified human remains in the Hell's Kitchen/Chelsea area, and a partially written op-ed piece on the proliferation of death cults in New York City's poorest neighborhoods.   Discussion with the desk clerk revealed that “Mr. Smith†and “Mr. Johnson†had checked out of the room #24 earlier in the day. The Navy Yard isn’t the sort of place where people ask questions or come to each other’s aid. If Freddy had cried out as he was attacked, his cries were likely ignored. As the bodies are piling up now and Clayton is beginning to suspect a conspiracy that might reach into the DA’s office and beyond (this isn’t a matter of SAN, its just the way the player role-playing) the group decides to spend the night away from the Gramercy Park Hotel. They check into the Monument Hotel across from Martyr’s Monument and spend an uneasy night with weapons close at hand.

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maglaurus

 

The Rites of Tantalus (Session 2)

Investigators Sgt. Clayton Brady: 30-year-old Uniformed Police Officer with Arkham PD (Drive: Duty)* Bertrand Ingstrum: 46-year-old Con-Artist & Traveling Salesman (Drive: Curiosity) Helen Francois: 32-year-old Graduate Student & Parapsychologist (Drive: Scholarship) Nikolas Hathorne: 32-year-old Rare Book Dealer (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge) Emanuel "Manny" Bolivar: 32-year-old Honorably Discharged Military Officer (Drive: Revenge)     *Clayton's player was absent this session, so it was stated he complained for feeling unseasonably chilly at the close of the evening meeting with Montclair in the previous episode. **Manny’s player had to step out briefly to give someone a lift home in the middle of the session. This is why his character declines to take part in the interview with Thomas Huntington III and why he manages to show up just in time for the action at the end.   May 18th, 1934: A Day Downtown Before retiring for the evening, Helen speaks briefly with Dr. Montclair, questioning him about two patients Freddy Wilson claimed he'd allowed to injure and kill others after the he’d declared them insane but non-violent. Montclair states that these cases the reporter is pointing to were early in his work for the DA and he was beguiled by the cunning qualities of the criminally insane psyche. He claims to have learned his lesson, and suggests that Freddy (yes, Helen gave Montclair his name) is fishing for a story where there is none, as is the habit of many tabloid reporters. Helen is appeased for the moment, but plans to investigate Freddy Wilson's second claim of Montclair's involvement with organized crime on her own before bringing it up.   The next morning the group follows Nikolas to the public records office as he looks for any unusual tunnels or odd sewer junctions beneath the 23rd Precinct holding cell and/or the Huntington house on the hunch that Huntington's scrawlings about "Gods Beneath Our Feet" should be taken at face value. Turning up nothing unusual, the group heads to the New York Public Library. Bertrand, Helen, and Nikolas don't notice Manny break away from the group as they head up the library steps. The wounded vet has spotted a pair of those elusive men in tattered brown coats and hats that seem to turn up frequently when they are out and about in Manhattan. Rounding one of the famous lion statues on the steps of the library, Manny spies the two men and gets a clear look at one: he looks remarkably like a tired Basset Hound with great blood-shot, watery eyes and oddly hanging jowls. The short, round man deposits a handkerchief next to the lion statue before walking off into the lunchtime crowd along with his compatriot. Manny, spoiling for some action, picks up the item and pursues them. He manages to track the pair as far as the maintenance yard behind Grand Central Station before losing track of them. Unwilling to relent, Manny manages to pick the lock on door marked "Tunnel Access" and finds...a long, empty hallway of access points that would require several strong men with crowbars to open. There is a pungent smell in the air that reminds Manny of a compost pile, but little more. If the men were here they either walked through a wall or removed one of the access hatches without the aid of tools and replaced it just as easily. A pair of disturbing premises. Manny takes a moment to look at what was in the handkerchief the fat man dropped: its a piece of a human skull (cheekbone and some teeth along the upper jaw).   Meanwhile, the other three investigators have made their way to the reading room of the public library and have set about various tasks. Nikolas (having failed a number of History and Occult rolls related to the evidence) starts with the basics by thumbing through copies of Cotton Mather's "The Invisible World" and Fraiser's "The Golden Bough". Helen knows a little more about she's looking for and manages to get access to the rare books collection where, after some hours of looking, she finds a severely damaged copy of a book called "Cultes des Goules". Unable to read French, but certain that the diagrams in the volume are identical to the one Huntington scrawled in his own blood on the floor of his holding cell, Helen calls for Nikolas' assistance. Realizing that, even with reading French as well as he does, it would take months to comb through the book fully and this would be compounded by the limitations of library hours, Nikolas tries to wheel-and-deal with the librarian in charge of the rare books collection. The volume is too damaged to be checked out, even to someone of Nikolas' reputation, but a compromise is reached. The librarian informs Nikolas that the library tried to buy a better copy at auction recently, only to be shut out by an anonymous phone bidder. In exchange for a three year lone of a rare volume of "Canterbury Tales" Nikolas owns, the librarian gives him the auction house's card, which points him to Klusken Antiques in Yorkville. The owner, Django Klusken, is known to Nikolas. He is a disreputable dealer in stolen merchandise and connected to criminals and tomb robbers in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.   Bertrand, after debating about finding a bar wherein he could spend his stipend granted by the DA's office, decides to do some actual work and looks up Freddy Wilson's previous articles in The Daily Mirror and the Police Gazette. Wilson is, indeed, a sensationalist tabloid reporter but he does appear to have a lot of experience reporting on New York City's organized crime syndicates and corrupt government officials.   The group recovers Manny on the steps of the Public Library and heads for a late lunch/early supper with Montclair at the hotel. Montclair gives a medical opinion on the piece of skull, stating it’s less than a year old and was relieved of its attached flesh through scrapping rather than chemical means. While disturbing, the psychiatrist suggests that high-profile murder cases tend to attract insane individuals with morbid interests. He suggests calling the police the next time these men are seen. When Helen requests an interview with Thomas Huntington, Montclair groans but eventually relents, claiming the boy has so much phenobarbital in his system he's impossible to talk to, so she shouldn't expect much. With that, the group members go their separate ways to seek some entertainment in New York City on a Friday night.   May 19th, 1934: The Welfare Island Incident The night passes calmly, save for Manny being bothered by dogs barking at all hours and then getting up and seeing a man peering across the street at from the rooftop of an apartment building. This is odd, as Gramercy Park is not a "people standing on rooftops" neighborhood. That's more Harlem or Bowery behavior. Manny tries to access the Gramercy Park Hotel's rooftop for a better view, only to be stymied by a locked door and then forced to flee when his efforts to break the doorknob with a fire extinguisher attract too much attention from other hotel guests.   Nikolas elects to visit Django Klusken's shop in the hope of tracking down the current owner of the superior copy of "Cultes des Goules". Klusken, while protective of his buyers, knows a good opportunity when he sees one. Nikolas Hathorne is a well-reputed book dealer serving numerous high-profile (i.e. rich!) clients. Klusken proposes a trade: references for the information on his buyer. Nikolas knows this will deal damage to his reputation (a drop in Credit Rating), but his need to know gets the better of him (I rolled a d10 and he only lost 2 points) and Klusken hands over a business card marked "Victory Investment Group" with an address in Chelsea, saying the buyer made all purchases under this name.   While Helen works at "Cultes des Goules" with a French/English dictionary, eventually uncovering the name of the ritual recorded on the walls of the jail-cell: The Tantalian Rite, Bertrand busies himself again with the newspaper archives investigating the Huntington family's appearances in the society pages. Apparently, Mrs. Huntington was a driving force behind a number of charitable organizations until her death in 1926. Based on evidence found at the Huntington mansion, Thomas Huntington Jr. was planning to contribute to some of those organizations on his late wife's behalf when he was killed.   Meanwhile, Manny is not willing to give up on his lead at Grand Central Station and stakes out the maintenance doors while the others are at their intellectual labors. When he spies a suspicious man in a dirty brown coat and hat Manny prepares to confront him, only to watch him bolt like a frightened deer. In Manny's mind: running=guilt, so he chases the man across the street and toward the library, knocking over a hotdog cart in the process (2 HP damage). When he finally tackles the man, he discovers the his prey is just a tramp who assumes Manny's going to break his legs over money he owes someone (Manny botched his original Spot Hidden roll at GCS, which resulted in a case of mistaken identity. Rather than explain himself to the police approaching him, Manny bolts and manages to elude three pursuers. Unfortunately, his last effort to leap over a tall fence at the back of an alley results in a ripped pant-leg and a twisted ankle (2 HP damage).   It’s about this time that Helen receives a call at the library from Dr. Montclair, informing her that he's arranged for an interview with Thomas Huntington. While Manny isn't around at Grand Central Station where he said he'd be earlier, Helen and Bertrand find him along with Nikolas at the Gramercy Park Hotel. The group takes two cars (Bertrand's and Manny's) to the State Mental Hospital on Welfare Island, a journey that requires crossing the Queensboro bridge half-way before making one’s way down a vehicle elevator to the island itself (I actually looked this up and found a photo of the building in which the mechanism is housed). The interview takes place in a ground-level building known as "the bunker", which lies between the State Hospital and Blackwell Prison and is meant to house the criminally insane. Huntington is somewhat cagey at first, expecting the cat and mouse games he's accustomed to with the hospital doctors and Montclair. The lad indicates he went somewhere and spent time with the "gods below the earth", listening to them sing and smelling what they smell--but Helen disarms him somewhat by asking him where he learned the Tantalian Rite. He offers to teach it to her and she eagerly agrees to come close and let him whisper it to her. Despite being bound and chained, Huntington manages to bite himself on the arm deeply enough to cause bleeding. He then draws a number of crude smears on the table in front of him with his bandaged hands, chanting words just loudly enough for Helen to hear. He places a drop of his blood on the table in front of Helen and invites her to taste it, saying it will give her the wisdom she seeks. Helen does this, even as Bertrand and Nikolas protest (Manny didn't want to take part in the interview and shared cigarettes with the guards in the hall). Helen comes to understand the Tantalian Rite as a means of extending one's lifespan through regular cannibalistic feasts, and she also comes to realize that Thomas is trying to sublimate her will in a magical fashion (contest of POWs, Helen has an iron will). Thwarted, Huntington begins to thrash about and scream. The guards and Huntington's nurse move to subdue the patient and the nurse accuses the investigators of causing Huntington to self-harm. She ends the interview.   Bertrand, Helen, and Nikolas take the same car back to the vehicular lift building--primarily so the two men can question Helen about what she was sharing with Huntington. Manny is in the car in front of them and makes it onto the bridge just before the elevator ceases to work, trapping Helen and the two gentlemen on a middle floor of the building. This is when the men in tattered coats and hats emerge from the shadows. Oddly, Helen calmly exits the vehicle and approaches the three figures intending to talk. Bertrand and Nikolas follow. As it turns out these two men and one woman (Mr. Burgoyne, Mrs. Thornhill, and Mr. Putnam) intend to kill the three investigators, claiming they're meddling in their affairs. They also claim they'll leave enough of the investigators behind to send a message. Meanwhile, Manny has noticed three figures leaping from the side of the bridge onto the lower levels of the lift structure and has stopped his car, intending to follow them. He's making the same near-suicidal climb and jump the figures made as the discussion is taking place in the structure.   Mr. Burgoyne draws a pistol and begins plugging away at Helen, while Mr. Putnam, despite being short and fat, moves with preternatural speed towards her. Bertrand is attacked by Mrs. Thornhill. He manages to put two bullets into her with his snub-nose .38, but she keeps moving. Helen tries to conceal herself, but is set upon by Putnam, who rakes a set of clawed fingers across her abdomen (8 points of damage!). Bertrand fairs far worse though, as Mrs. Thornhill rips him open in a single blow, causing his entrails to uncoil like a length of rubber hose (11 damage! Bertrand only has 8 HP to begin with). Manny enters the fray now, sneaking up behind Mr. Burgoyne and shooting him in the back of the head with his Colt New Service. The retired Army officer is shocked when the man barely flinches at the attack. Plugging the man with a second round causes him to waiver, but not before he can shoot Manny in the gut (given his previous injuries Manny drops to 1 HP!). Nikolas snatches up poor Bertrand's revolver and seeks to attack Mr. Putnam (since Mrs. Thornhill seems somewhat occupied by the gory mess she's made of the traveling salesman). Sadly, he misses with his shots and the fat man takes the opportunity to leap upon Helen and sink his teeth into her (2 more points of damage, Helen falls unconscious and begins to bleed out). Manny proves deadly with his next two rounds, caving in Burgoyne's face with one and then exploding Mrs. Thornhill's chest with the second. Seeing himself outnumbered, Mr. Putnam takes the opportunity toplace a wadded scrap of paper next to his victim and then leaps over out the window of the lift building. Both Nikolas and Manny try to save Helen, but there is just too much blood and neither has enough training to stem the tide of her wounds (both had base First Aid and both failed their rolls). Manny opens the wad of paper and finds a finger bone, thoroughly cleaned of flesh just like the skull fragment, bearing an ornate-looking key as its decoration.

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

The Rites of Tantalus (Session 1)

I'd like to start by conveying my thanks to Yog-Sothoth members AncientHistory and EdwardPickman, who endured multiple hours of chat conversation as I planned the following original scenario--which saw a number of variations before I arrived at this one. I was genuinely surprised by how much my players argued over the motive of the accused as well as whether the evidence, grotesque as it was, was circumstantial. I suspect I've written something that starts as a slow police procedural and then picks up speed. Constructive criticism is welcome.   Investigators: Sgt. Clayton Brady: 30-year-old Uniformed Police Officer with Arkham PD (Drive: Duty) Bertrand Ingstrum: 46-year-old Con-Artist & Traveling Salesman (Drive: Curiosity) Helen Francois: 32-year-old Graduate Student & Parapsychologist (Drive: Scholarship) Nikolas Hathorne: 32-year-old Rare Book Dealer (Drive: Thirst for Knowledge) Emanuel "Manny" Bolivar: 32-year-old Honorably Discharged Military Officer (Drive: Revenge)   May 16th 1934, A Reunion of Sorts: During their undergraduate years at Miskatonic University (1920-1924) Helen Francois, Nikolas Hathorne, and Emanuel Bolivar were all part of a notorious unauthorized student club known locally as the Vokes Society. The club had been extant in one form or another for roughly forty years, manifesting for a little less than a decade each time it did before being shut down. Each iteration had one thing in common however, the routine of meeting at the abandoned Arkham property known as the "Vokes House", a reputedly haunted structure that is said to have witnessed half a dozen murders and an equal number of suicides. While ostensibly an organization dedicated to the study of occult and esoteric forces, Vokes Society meetings had a habit of degenerating into drug an alcohol-fueled debauches where the only real "black magic" being performed might be reading aloud from Aleister Crowley's latest work or locking new initiates in the cellar or a closet and forcing them to swear allegiance to the club and Satan before releasing them.   It was rather surprising then when the three aforementioned club members received a telegram from a fourth: Howard Montclair. An upper-classman when the three entered Mikatonic as part of the class of '24, "Monty the Mush" was an English major with a penchant for writing whining romantic poetry and then forcing his friends and acquaintances to listen to it. Most of the Vokes Society indulged him because he came from a wealthy family and always sprang for liquor and drugs. As it turned out, Howard had straightened himself out after his years as an undergraduate and gone on to become a successful psychiatrist in New York City. His reputation was such that the District Attorney's Office would often bring him in to consult on cases where the defense had entered a plea of insanity. This was what led Howard to contact his old occult circle. He'd been stumped by his most recent case: a twenty-four-year-old Park Ave. man who had murdered his widower father and younger sister in a most gruesome fashion that showed a number of occult overtones. Thus he invited any of his old associates who might be available to a supper at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Whereas Emanuel and Nikolas came separately, Helen brought along two associates from a previous strange adventure that caused her to spend dozens of hours studying the witch-hunting guide "Daemonolatria" in search of answers to questions that haunted her ever since seeing a hideous face in the woods northwest of Dunwich.   Upon arriving at the hotel the former colleagues attempted to recall each other from their hazy memories of nights in the haunted house. Most everyone danced around the subject of the horrible injury that now forced Manny to wear a custom-painted mask over half his face. Montclair soon arrived with his servant Brown in tow. There was dinner and much catching up, but eventually the conversation turned to the Huntington murders, Howard's difficulty in determining the young man's mental capacity, and the psychiatrist's desire for a second opinion of the evidence available both at the Huntington's Park Ave. home and at the 23rd Police Precinct where he'd been held for three nights before being moved to the State Mental Hospital at Welfare Island. Much to Montclair's dismay, the conversation was largely dominated by Clayton Brady, the Arkham police offer with more time on his hands now since the end of Prohibition. Between Brady's haranguing him about how insanity pleas interfered with the mechanisms of criminal justice and his desire to know every detail about the case, Howard was forced to answer an excessive amount of questions even before he could present the group with the the documents that would make them temporary consultants for the District Attorney's Office. That night, while having a mild bout of insomnia, Helen noticed the same strange man walking up and down the relatively empty street across from the hotel several times in a period of two hours. The man whore a tattered and dirty hat and coat, both brown, and seemed to be looking the direction of the rooms in which she and her companions were staying.   May 17th 1934, Blood Stains: Since Dr. Montclair was particularly eager to have the group examine the precinct cell where his patient was housed for three days, the freshly minted consultants made their way to it first. The desk sergeant was rather grateful to see the group, as he figured he could finally have the cell cleaned now that the experts he'd been told about hat arrived. Sgt. Babcock had been working the night shift when Thomas Huntington was brought in after being found wandering Park Ave. in blood-stained garments with a dazed look on his face. The things the boy said, the way he spoke about the acts of death and dying with such excitement and mirth made Babcock demand the day shift instead of his usual nights and certailyn put the group on edge, but it couldn't prepare them for what they found in the cell. Wall to wall, the chamber was covered with brownish-red streaks and smears. A strange collection of symbols, phrases, and words were centered around what could only be described as a loving homage to Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man; save for the fact this man was pictured dismembered and with various organs on display. When the Desk Sergeant remarked that Huntington had bitten off the tips of his fingers to paint the mural in his cell, it was more than some of the investigators (Brady and Ingstrum in particular) could tolerate in silence.   After a lunch that consisted mostly of coffee and cigarettes, as only a couple of the group had appetites of any kind, and arguments over whether what they saw was the work of a sane or insane man (particularly the quality and detail of the central diagram) the group steeled themselves for what they would find at the house on Park Ave. While leaving the diner, Helen had her second sighting of the man in the dirty brown coat and hat (this time there were two of them). Nikolas saw them too, but when he told Manny and the army officer made his move toward the alleyway where the two men were thought to be skulking about he found nothing.   Upon approaching the house the group was met by John Chambers, the aged butler to the Huntington family for the past twenty years, at the main doors. Directed to Thomas' room, Emma's sewing room, and the library, the group discovered several things: Thomas was a regular user of heroin, the two members of the family were attacked unawares with a hunting knife taken from a display in the parlor, and both bodies were dragged to the kitchen. Given that the incident report discussed dismemberment and the coroner's report notes organs missing from both sets of remains, the group was prepared for the worst upon entering the kitchen. They were not disappointed: knives and other cutting tools used to the point of being dulled and bent, cooking pots arranged on the stove were stained with blood and contained various unrecognizable blobs that might have been organs. It was uncertain if the killer had merely cooked or cooked and consumed some of the remains, but it was certainly a disturbing scene.   In the midst of the shock, Bertrand took a moment to peruse the parlor (having one of his light-fingered turns). Chambers had certainly packed away anything small enough to be pocketed, but there was still a monogrammed pen at the piano, it was young Thomas'. He'd been using it to write on a piece of sheet music. There were a few notes that faded quickly to angry scribbles. Chambers, approaching Ingstrum to keep an eye on him, related that the night before he discovered the bodies he heard piano music being played from his bedroom in the guest house. Young Thomas was once set to become a Julliard pianist and composer, but his mother's untimely death from influenza had caused him to squander his gift in a number of self-pitying habits.   While leaving the Park Ave. mansion the man in the brown coat was sighted yet again, hiding behind the investigator's vehicles, and Manny and Clayton took the opportunity to pursue him with guns drawn. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity as the man in the brown coat (a slightly cleaner and less tattered one Helen realized) turned out to be a tabloid reporter who was tipped off that someone was inside the Huntington home. Once the group learned that the reporter, Freddy Wilson, had been absorbed in all the angles of the case from the beginning, Clayton shocked everyone by offering to buy him dinner and exchange information with him. At an automat restaurant near the Mid-Town East harbor, Wilson explained what he'd heard while sneaking around the edges of the Huntington property while the police investigated the scene. What was more interesting however was his efforts to investigate Montclair, and the accusation that he might be on the take; accepting payoffs from lawyers and wealthy families to declare criminally-insane clients fit to live out their lives in cushy private asylums rather than behind the cold walls of the the State Mental Hospital's "bunker". The group kept their conversation with Freddy Wilson a secret during their meeting with Montclair later that night. Montclair strongly advocated the group begin library research the next day, perturbed by Brady's efforts to probe the angles of the case with which the group was not involved.

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

The Hills Rise Wild

Investigators: Clayton Brady: 30-year-old off-duty patrolman with the Arkham Police Department. [Drive: Duty]* Bertrand Ingstram^: 46-year-old traveling salesman. [Drive: Curiosity]* Helen Francois: 32-year-old parapsychologist (long-suffering M.U. graduate student). [Drive: Scholarship]* *While I'm running traditional Call of Cthulhu, I have adapted a couple of rules from Trail of Cthulhu to suit my purposes. I think drives make a lot of sense as they help remind players of why their characters would remain in situations that most sensible people would flee from at the first hint of danger. ^This may or may not be a false name, as Bertrand works for one of the last quack medicine companies in the American northeast.   The three heroes of our strange tale were thrown together by random chance when Dr. Morris Billings, a professor of astronomy at Miskatonic University, drew their names out of a hat and assigned them an area of 20 square miles north and west of the village of Dunwich in order to assist with an organized search for a bolide that burned its way across the night's sky of Arkham in the early morning hours of September 13th, 1933. Eager to help with the search, just like the other two-dozen volunteers who piled into the lecture hall the following afternoon to hear Dr. Billings speak on the matter, the strangers introduced themselves and agreed it was best they not delay their search until the following morning like most of the other groups were planning to do. Supplied with mimeograms of the bolide's trajectory the group set off down the Aylesbury Pike in Mr. Ingstram's 1927 Model-A; a car supplied by the Whipple & Wilcox Pharmaceuticals Company--a less-than reputable business known for, among other things, making a poor hair-growth tonic that is, in fact, an excellent weed-killer.   After spending the first night of their search camping in what they thought was an unused field, the group awoke to the thundering sound of a dozen head of cattle being driven out to pasture. This led to an encounter with a local farmer named Donald Allen, who has seen the bolide travel across the sky on the previous night but was more concerned with making sure the group of strangers weren't planning to try and collect on his delinquent Alylesbury Telephone Company account and/or strip him of his phone line entirely. On the advice of Mr. Allen, the group avoided the the farm down the road owned by the surly Mr. Low and attempted to talk to the Pickering family instead. While Clay and Bertrand where stymied by a pair of middle-aged farmers who pitched cards into a hat while refusing the make eye contact or speak to them directly, Helen encountered a boy of twelve (the youngest of the Pickering boys) who showed her a two-headed calf born at the moment the fire-ball passed overhead. The boy explained that his mother delivered the mewling creature (which would surely die of starvation before long given the rejection of its mother) and then contacted his grandmother in Dunwich. Apparently, such a thing is an evil sign according to the old ways, but to kill it outright would bring a plague upon the household.   Realizing they'd get little from the farmers east of Dunwich, the group forged ahead to the village itself, where they encountered a pair of men playing checkers on the stoop of Osborn's General Store. Though silent at first, mostly out of suspicion that Mr. Ingstram was going to try to sell them brushes, Officer Brady's purchase of a pair of Pepsi-Colas for the gentlemen seemed to bring them around. Despite being blind and hideously scarred from a chemical accident, one of the checker players offered very clear directions to where it was suspected the bolide came to rest, suggesting the group follow Talbot Rd. to an overgrown and unused piece of road that paralleled Lost Cow Creek. Helen, again, wandered away from Clay and Bertrand, this time encountering a pair of cross-eyed and seemingly mentally-deficient twin girls on the road in front of the general store. The odd feeling Helen had seeing people on the road give the twins a wide berth was confirmed the twins walked right up to her without provocation and offered a cryptic message saying, "It savors the oblations, but its denied. 'Cause the hand that feeds it keeps on livin'." Seeing the twins making pronouncements drove most of the folk on the Dunwich Common indoors rather suddenly. Alone in the eerie little village, the meteor-hunters got back in their car and headed for Lost Cow Creek.   By the time they reached the end of the overgrown road paralleling the creek, Mr. Ingstram's Model-A had just about had it. Helen, who was somewhat skilled at mechanical repair due to her own scholarly habits (she carried photography and recording devices with her) and her father's love of automobiles before the stock market crash forced him to sell his collection along with the family home (which explains her poor Credit Rating), could make the engine run but suspected deeper problems would prevent the vehicle from traveling any further over the rough terrain. It was decided that the group would hoof it, and a convenient track that looked to have been traveled by a pack mule (according to Clay), was chosen as the best route to the escarpment the blind checker player had told them about. It so happened that, after a long hike up hill carrying as much of their camping gear and Helen's equipment as they could, the investigators happened upon a small log cabin.   Clay was immediately suspicious of the man who greeted them from the front door, as his was the first smiling face they'd seen during their entire journey. The meteor-searchers soon learned that this Levi Stone and his family were not like more of the superstitious and down-right heathen Dunwich folk. Their family line was descended from the last Christian preacher to dwell in the village. Levi's great-grandfather had built the church building that is now Osborn's General Store. The group spent the evening in relative comfort away from the the "sin and degradation" of hilly countryside. Between the readings of Psalms and long-winded prayers, Levi treated the group to tales of Dunwich's Satanic past, including rumor of "Wizard Whateley", who gave his only daughter as a bride to devil; the union of which begat a son that was as much goat as man. Levi's family, his wife and son, were relatively quiet, but Levi explained this both as an issue of isolation and their lacking his great-grandfather's natural inclination toward spreading the Word of God (which was passed to him through his grandfather and father). Two incidents created unease and discomfort for the group: the spilling of boiling-hot coffee on the back of Bertrand's legs and the discovery of silent timber rattler beneath the chair on which Bertrand sat (fortunately Levi grabbed the serpent and broke its neck before it could bite the shaking Bertrand).   The next morning Levi planned to check some traps below the escarpment on which his cabin sat and was more than happy to take the meteor-hunters with him. Clay's paranoia increased when some falling rocks from the escarpment narrowly missed Helen during the group's descent. The discovery of some stick-figure dolls dressed similarly to the meteor-searchers hanging from a tree didn't help much. When Levi suggested he a Clay climb a rather rough hill to have a look at the wider landscape for any sign of impact, while the others had a rest it was too much for the policeman to bear. He was convinced the trapper was hiding something and despite Levi's insistence that it was likely folks from Dunwich who wanted the meteorite for their own Satanic purposes and Bertrand and Helen stating that the trusted their host and guide emphatically, he would not be dissuaded.   Things came to a head when the group wandered close to a boggy region between hills, suspecting the meteor might have fallen in the black, vegetation-choked waters. Clay spotted a figure in the woods watching the group (he would later discover this was Levi's silent son Ezekiel) and took off into the bog. Levi seemed to follow the angry policeman, only to loop back around and attack Bertrand and Helen with a set of axes concealed for the purpose of ambush. Helen fled into the bog, while Bertrand produced a small pistol and attempted to stop the maniacal trapper. Shots were fired and Clay tried to hurry back, only to be caught in a bear-trap that lay beneath the murky waters. He was forced to drag the trap along with him, slowing him down as Bertrand barely avoided Levi's attacks. Both Bertrand and Clay shot the trapper multiple times, certainly enough to kill a normal man. At the last moment, the maniac landed a blow against Bertram, cutting him deep in the guts and leaving him floating face down in the bog waters. Clay was torn between trying to chase down the Levi and save Bertram. He put the last of his bullets into the trapper before turning Bertram over and saving his life. Meanwhile, the unnaturally hearty man moved deeper into the bog toward Helen. Clay attempted to stop him, but he easily threw the cop aside, despite the fact he didn't seem to have a heartbeat when Clay grabbed him around the chest.   Meanwhile, Helen moved as deep into the bog, away from the axes and shooting, as she could. She discovered a small island and attempted to climb up onto its bank using some exposed tree roots. She was quite shocked to discover one of her hand holds was a decaying arm, part of a garden of corpses that covered the bank. Worse still, before the corpses sat a hideous carving; a horrid face within the wood of a long dead tree. She remained strong despite the twin hideous sights strong enough to see and hear the approaching Levi who moved with astounding speed despite his guts hanging out of multiple bullet-holes in his midsection. He was not angling toward her, but the face in the dead tree. It was at this point that she recalled the words of the twin girls in Dunwich and interposed herself between Levi and the wooden horror. Though not a fighter, she held her ground, and when the time came she grabbed the nearest rock she could find and drove it into the slavering lunatic's face as hard as she could.   From beneath the earth, perhaps from the face in the dead tree, came an unearthly scream, followed by an explosion that blew Bertrand and Clay back multiple yards and sent poor Helen sailing across the small island into a tree. When the men again could hear each other speak, they went to look for Helen and found her upright against the trunk of a tree across from the garden of corpses. The trio made their way as fast as they could back to Bertrand's Model-A, bypassing the Stone family's cabin. Bertrand and Helen would spend a number of weeks in hospital while Clay was bandaged up and allowed to recover at home. Helen's obsession over understanding the corpses, the face, and Levi's madness would lead her to the Miskatonic University library and a book entitled "Daemonolatria", where she would read of the fabled Titans Potens.   It is unclear what awaits these three hapless individuals, thrown together by fate, but it is certain their lives will never be the same.

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

Concluding Thoughts on "Realms of Cthulhu" One-Shot

I want to post a few notes about my experience with the Savage Worlds variant of Mythos role-playing, Realms of Cthulhu, and some conclusions I've come to based on that experience. As you might note from previous posts, I converted the scenario "The Dig" by Brian Sammons to these rules. I'm going to use bullet points to save a bit of time.   --Structurally speaking, the transitions were smooth and quick. I had no problems or pitfalls making the Call of Cthulhu BRP material into Savage Worlds material. I found that my group, who had the benefit of three previous Savage Worlds campaigns, easily adjusted to the alternate rules.   --I definitely found the Bennies made up for any concern I had that the characters would find the clues necessary resolve the mystery.   --It was definitely a struggle to get these characters to go mad. Guts checks are far too easy to pass and the fact that you can Benny a Guts check is slightly irritating as a Keeper. With that I will add that when you run a game as Pulpy/Gritty...it's Pulpy. Pulpy rules just seem to trump Gritty rules as long as they are present in whatever form--perhaps because Guts checks are too easy to pass.   --I had two players interested in using the BRP rules just to see what a "gritty" game might look like. Also they were interested to have a more detailed skills system. Were I to do this I might still employ two Trail of Cthulhu enhancements to make play a little smoother: a few "points" for players to sink into automatic skill successes just to make sure clues are found, and Drives. Drives were very useful in this game for keeping the players from running away. Joey had "In the Blood", which led him to hunt Burlington and his creatures, Betty had Follower, which allowed her to do insane things to keep up with Joey, and Patrick had Thirst for Knowledge, which made allowed him to put understanding the mystery above his own personal safety. I want these things in any Mythos game I run.

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

The Dig, Part 2

We resume on the night of June 27th, 1925   Our group of investigators has just finished a brief conversation with Joseph Burlington, professor of anthropology, and he has advised them to leave their professor, archaeologist Adam Carris, where he is--barricaded in the artifact tent. Joey Nataleone, Betty Harris, and Patrick Henderson decide that the Campbell barn, while secure, is not safe enough. They expect the Dunlow Creature(s) to strike at any moment and they want to see if Morris Campbell has weapons in his house. Since the Campbell family likely won't be back from the undertaker until morning, Joey breaks the lock on the back door and gains entry. They locate the only other gun in the house (Morris took his shotgun with him), an 1870s revolver with twelve rounds of ammunition in the bedside table. The group elects to hide in the attic, assuming that the worst to come before sunrise. They are surprised to get a few hours of sleep before they hear the Campbell clan coming through the outer gate and are forced to sneak out of the house and back to the barn.   While hiding the tools and weapons they took from the Campbells' in the woods, the group makes a shocking discovery: the body of Bill Balin* lying against a tree, the young man's so thoroughly broken his head is backwards. Next to Balin's corpse lies the 30-06 rifle, broken in half^. Regrouping at the barn, the investigators find the anthropology students and Dr. Burlington are missing. Over the remainder of the morning hours its determined that the trucks and cars associated with the summer dig have been sabotaged.   Carris finally snaps in the afternoon when he notices to the three nosy students poking around the dig site looking for anything that might help them. The paranoid insomniac professor attacks Joey with a shovel. Startled and untrained, Betty draws the pistol and shoots it. The old peacemaker kicks hard and the shot hits the ground, but this is just enough time for Joey to subdue Carris. As the only faculty member left standing approaches with some students, Betty creates an elaborate fiction involving Carris threatening her with the gun and planning to violate her. Joey and Patrick become heroes to their classmates. What's more, the investigators are finally able to get into the artifact tent, where they are able to recover Carris' journal, the book Legends of Hyperborea, and the various artifacts from the dig. They elect to leave the nasty looking statue behind, and it is bulky and makes them uneasy.   The group spends some time in the barn going over what they've discovered. Disturbing revelations result, and both Betty and Patrick manage to learn how to "Inscribe the Blazing Eye" and its associated five pointed star. The time for study and passivity is soon over however, as anthropology student Philip Shirley comes bursting outs of the woods, followed by a number of fur-covered evolutionary throwbacks who quickly begin to subdue and tie up as many students as they can find. Rather than attack, the investigators try to block the entrances to the barn and hide in the hay loft. Four of the simian creatures eventually make their way in and are greeted by surprise attacks. Joey shoots one of the creatures, Patrick kills another by stabbing it, but the most shocking display of carnage comes from Betty, who skewers a pair of the creatures with pitchfork.   By dark, the creatures have rounded up half a dozen victims and made off with them. The rest of students seem to have fled or possibly died in the attack. The lights are on in the Campbell home, so the group makes for the farmhouse. While sneaking away from the barn though, they encounter a disheveled and confused Thomas McCoy. The young football star appears to have amnesia, though some of his mannerisms are suspect. Out of curiosity, Patrick tries to show Thomas the strange five-pointed star symbol the archaeologists discovered just to see if it would jog his memory--perhaps he'd seen something similar wherever he'd been hidden/kept. The recoiling reaction coupled with the formation of black ichor psuedopods lead the group to realize McCoy is not himself. Patrick quickly strikes the emergent creature with the copper symbol, causing it to move some distance towards the woods in either fear or revulsion. Despite his fear, Joey shoots the peacemaker with remarkable accuracy blowing McCoy's head do pieces. This, unfortunately, does not stop these strange oozing growths that emerge now from the neck of what was once MU's star quarterback. Betty takes the opportunity to try the spell she has learned from the translated Hyperborean tablet. Casting it in the air, the symbol does not hold, but emits a powerful wave of psychic force (sustains by Betty's own soul) that drives the creature back into the shadows of the treeline. There, the ichor-beast dislodges itself from McCoy and begins to run along the ground toward the camp. The investigators see this as an opportunity to make for the Campbell house.   At the farmhouse the situation is grim, Morris has held off the voormis with his shotgun, but the battle has driven him to drink heavily. After hearing Lydia Snyder relate what Philip was babbling about a temple in the woods and Burlington sacrificing his students, the group decides they must attempt to put an end to whatever is happening. Stephen Campbell tells Joey about a shed near the treeline where his father keeps some dynamite. The three remaining investigators, along with Stephen and Lydia, recover the explosives and make for the temple by dark after Patrick learns from reading a portion of Legends of Hyperborea that the voormis are active at sunrise and sunset, having eyes that are little better adjusted to the darkness than their human cousins. While climbing the hills the temple the cadre is set upon by four voormis wielding stone axes and blocking their escape. Stephen is killed with a single blow, and Lydia soon follows. Patrick is injured, but with the aid of his pitchfork and pistol-wielding companions he lives to fight on.   Arriving at the temple the group hears Burlington chanting strange words. Joey, seeing no other alternative, decided to light the dynamite on a moderately long fuse and face down Burlington to keep him in the cave. However, Betty is not willing to let her friend endure the experience alone and as Joey calls out to Burlington and shoots him in the midst of a sacrifice, the socialite charges forward with her pitchfork and attacks. Burlington attempts to damage Joey with magic, but the words fail him (punctured lung, perhaps?). He flees to one of the temple's antechambers and disappears into the wall. Joey follows, pushing through the strange portal-door himself. Betty decides to extinguish the dynamite. Joey, after hearing slurping and squirming in the darkness of N'Kai that he decides is better fought another day, returns to find Betty and Patrick untying their classmates. The street thug-turned-monster-hunter is worried the students might already be tainted, but the revelation of just how Burlington was making the voormis come to life gives the group reason to continue freeing the students. In the end, the wall containing the gate is blown to bits, and the arch of the temple is collapsed and sealed with the Elder Sign cast by Betty and Patrick. Nine students are rescued. Many others are dead and/or missing.   While Joey is considered paranoid for thinking there might be something malign among the students, no one notices the traces of black ooze in Erik Ashford's eyes or his strange mannerisms. After all he's as thick as they come...   *Bill Balin's player couldn't attend due to a back injury, so I felt that the "next body" should have some personal meaning to the group. Clayton Skipp's player was also out at a party, but given there was a chance he might turn up late, he was spared a similar fate. ^I was able to correct my mistake and get rid of the damned thing.

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

The Dig, Part 1

Well I've completed my first session as a Keeper and this seem to be progressing nicely. Rather than running a scenario of my own design over several sessions, my regular gaming group is letting me run a short scenario over two sessions while the current GM is busy. As the title suggests, I'm using the Brian Sammons' scenario "The Dig" from the book Terrors from Beyond*. My players arrived to find a deck of cards each possessing a photo and description of the scenario's pre-gen characters^. The five players picked the following members of Miskatonic's undergraduate Summer archaeology program:   William "Bill" Balin: Rural farmhand turned college-kid. Patrick Henderson: Student of the occult and avid reader of Weird Tales magazine. Betty Harris: Budding socialite with a need for friends to validate her. Joseph "Joey" Nataleone: Street-kid from Chicago, trying to turn his life around. Clayton Skipp: Baseball star threatened with suspension if he doesn't raise his grades.   June 22nd, 1925 The students loan up in their three trucks to drive thirty miles to the dig site in Dunlow. Betty bats her eyes at Erik Ashford, earning her a seat in one of the trucks, while the rest of the investigators are forced to ride in the high-framed beds with the equipment. This led to much sickness, though Joey Nataleone took it has an opportunity to swipe a flask from another student. Unfortunately this set off a feud between Joey and Bill, who witnessed the theft and made his feelings know during the lunch break before the group's arrival in Dunlow. Betty tried to intervene, but Joey and Bill came to blows and Professor Carris had to break up the fight. After a few subtle threats of dismissal from the project, the group was back on track and headed for the Campbell farm. With set-up complete, most of the students (including Clayton, Betty, and Joey) joined in campfire activities. Bill went to bed early, earning him a kiss-up reputation and the nickname "Farmer Bill" from the rest of the group. Patrick proved himself weird by taking a walk out to the proposed dig site, where he uncovered a curious pot-sherd and heard a bizarre howl that silenced the rest of the animals in the woods beyond the farm. The strange young man held his ground, in spite of what he heard, and contemplated the nature of his find. The partial symbol on it looked like something he'd seen in one of his magazines, a piece written and illustrated by an Arkham writer named Thomas Bishop called "The Sons of Hyperborea". Hard and draining work lay ahead for the investigators over the next couple of days, and during that time Joey spotted Morris Campbell chasing Thomas McCoy away from his daughter and Patrick and Betty were accosted by a strange, armed man in the woods. Strange things were discovered in the dig site: a building containing a copper plate with strange writing, a bizarre statue that tested Patrick's mental fortitude once again, and a strange copper seal emblem that might've been part of a shield at one point. Things began to unravel when the archaeologists were forced to buy some new tools from Kline's goods: forcing William (who had found his way into Carris' good-graces) and Joey to work together. They found common ground in asking kindly old Mr. Kline about bears or panthers that might be prowling in the woods, given some unsettling experiences the student had over the previous nights and Patrick's constant prattling about the "Dunlow Creature". Kline point the boys to Jeremiah Elliot, who told the boys of his experience with the creature. The farm boy and street kid parted ways again though, when the latter decided to visit Jeb Hacket's farm on the theory the Campbell's neighbor might be hiding a still in his ruined barn and the students' alcohol supplies were dangerously low. After a strange encounter with the Hacket family, and sneaking a peak at the weapons the inbred bootlegger had stashed in his barn, Joey returned to the Campbell farm to find the students in an uproar over the murder of Susan Campbell. Morris Campbell was already blaming Thomas McCoy and the local Constable was doing likewise, despite the strange footprints Bill found out behind the barn. The four other investigators followed Bill as he tracked the creature(s) into the woods and say them joined by a set of hiking boots. They caught up with whatever made the tracks just in time to find the dismembered corpse of the Arnold Landsdale (the hunter Betty encountered) and learn through his journal that he was tracking the Dunlow creature. Fearful of whatever might be lurking out in the woods (animal, madman, or monster) the students convinced their professors to let them move into the Campbell barn for the night. Bill held tight to the 30-06 he'd taken from Arnold Landsdale's corpse (in retrospect the keeper should've told him the attack had broken the rifle in half, but you can't retcon a role-playing scenario) and the group endured the night in the barn as rain fell outside. The next morning involved interviews with the constable, digging on a voluntary basis, and Carris slowly losing his mind. By the end of the day, the investigating students became obsessed with knowing what Carris was doing in the artifact tent. Direct attempts rebuffed, Betty went so far as to gather the various girls in camp and attempt to enter the tent on the premise of being sacred and needing a "real man" to protect them--moonshine would be used if needed. Carris aggressive rebuff of this quasi-seduction proved the final word on the matter. Dr. Burlington counseled that Carris throws himself into his work whenever he is stressed. Considering the fact that McCoy was still missing and a young girl was murdered, Carris was likely worrying about the future of his career. Somewhat reassured by Burlington's commentary on his faculty rival, the group headed off to sleep in the barn once more.   Next week, the morning of June 27th...     *I should note that I'm not running BRP-style Call of Cthulhu but Realms of Cthulhu using the Savage Worlds system. I rarely bring this up in forum posts or in chat, only because I don't think there are a lot of folks playing it. For those interested, my players settled on the "Gritty/Pulpy" style that makes characters more likely to retire from madness than die bloody deaths--though Savage Worlds is a system that can kill PCs very quickly in spite of its damage soak system. I've also added the element of "Drives" from Trail of Cthulhu, helping players largely unfamiliar with Cthulhu Mythos gaming to understand why they don't just run away like sensible people.   ^I made some alterations to the pre-gen characters both to facilitate easier play (i.e. one of the players is named "Ben", so having another person playing a "Ben" could get confusing) and to meet the needs of my players (i.e. Betty Harris became strict socialite rather than a closeted woman to meet the needs of a first-time player and the maturity level of the "boys" in my gaming group).

maglaurus

maglaurus

 

Campaign/Scenario Development Using a Word Matrix

After completing most of the work for what would be my player's first foray into Mythos role-playing, it occurred to me that, whilst maintaining the silence necessary to pull off a good mystery game, I had built a scenario that met my needs but perhaps not those of the other gamers in my weekly group. My solution to this was scrap the previous work and start over, something I do a lot it seems. I still couldn't really ask my players, "What do you want to do in the Call of Cthulhu campaign?" as it would lead to expectations and the kind of discussion that ruins a good mystery.   Rather than direct conversation, I decided to offer my players a word-matrix encompassing as many of the Lovecraftian tropes as I could bring to mind. I put them in groups of two and three words/phrases on a sheet of paper and asked players to mark or circle the items that intrigued them the most. I managed to learn a good deal about my players in the process: they like the occult as much as they want to meet aliens; they prefer cultists to monsters and insane asylums to museums; not as many of them want to do archaeology as I would have suspected; and they all want to visit graveyards.   Below is my best effort to render the word matrix for public consumption (I can never get columns to line up on these website blogs for some reason). I've also had to leave out some matrix examples where I asked players to pick a font that attracted them the most. I found these useful, as they were inclined toward writing that looked disturbed from the the desk of an impoverished investigative journalism, rather than something that came from a dusty European tome.   INSTRUCTIONS This is my effort to make sure that your next role-playing experience with me features things you want to see and do in character. Please place an highlight or place an “X” next to one word/phrase on each row (if you like, pick two in rows that have 3 options) that you find the most exciting or intriguing.     1. Military------------------Field Research/Science   2. On the Water----------On Land   3. Extraterrestrials-------Magic/Occult   4. Cold/Snowy------------Hot/Sunny   5. He went insane.-------He was ripped limb-from-limb.   6. Other Planets----------Other Times   7. Francisco Goya--------Salvador Dali   8. Degenerate Aristocrats------Inbred Hill-Folk------Salty Sailors   9. Archaeology------------------Psychoanalysis-------Police Work   10. Urban Streets---------------Rural Farms----------Decaying Docklands   11. Newspapers----------------Evil Books/Tomes----Notes from Serial Killers   12. Graveyards-----------------Libraries/Museums---Mental Hospitals   13. Cannibals-------------------Cults--------------------Monsters   14. Hong Kong-----------------Antarctica--------------Easter Island

maglaurus

maglaurus

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