The Edinburgh branch of Saunderson Investigations stepped off the train. They were down to meet with their London colleagues. They knew they had just suffered the loss of one of their number and felt that their visit could raise morale. The Edinburgh contingent consisted of Philip Murphy, ex-thief and Col. Antony Marsden. The London stable, still reeling from the death of Robert Bryson at the paws of the Hound in Sleetmoor Manor, consisted of the Rev. Calvin Reed, Thomas Richardson and stage magician Peter White.
The meeting began well, introductions were made and they began to discuss the best way to disembowel a man. One of the office runners came up to inform them that they had a visitor. The visitor was a Professor Wilkinson to see Dr. Cook. Dr. Cook was not at the gathering after being forced to remain in bed with a nasty case of the flu. The London branch immediately recognised the name however as being the man who helped them gain access to the British museum in their last case. They had him admitted to their company. He seemed extremely flustered and unsettled. After exchanging pleasantries the professor explained that he needed help. A colleague had received an invite to view the infamous Von Smitt Collection. It apparently contains a much sought after Norman era document. Wilkinson however had his concerns about Von Smitt. The elusive toymaker apparently had the most amazing collection of rare books but letters to view the collection fell on deaf ears. Instead there were rumours of academics who had received invites but they promptly disappeared. Wilkinson had tried to warn professor Stuart but all he could see was the opportunity to advance his career. Wilkinson asks if they could even research Von Smitt so he can reason with Stuart.
The investigators head to check out newspaper archives. The London team searched for Von Smitt and discovered that their toymaker was an expert in clockwork, he had visited the palace gifting the palace children with wind-up spiders and a couple of weeks later the royal children became ill. The Edinburgh group went after Gear House, Von Smitts residence. They discovered the house was designed by Von Smitt himself and he had gone through 4 builders, with one commenting on the strangeness of the build.
As the two groups share info, a messenger arrives with a telegram for the team from Wilkinson. Professor Stuart had left earlier that day with 5 students to make use of the invite. He implores them to go after him. Gear House is situated in Windsor and is hidden behind an imposing brick wall topped with broken glass. The gate is a work of art in its self. A mass of gears and cogs arranged beautifully in cast iron. Beside the gate is a panel with five dials, 4 have numbers 0-9 engraved round them, the 5th has number of guests written above it. Below the dials is an open space, inside which is a metal plate with the image of a hand printed on it. After some discussion Peter White places his hand on the plate. He finds his hand clamped in place. They put in a code Wilkinson said had been on the invite. The gates open and Peters hand is released in tact. The group enter into the grounds and as the gates close, they consider if they have made the right move. They walk round the outside of the house to get an idea of the layout. Most of the windows are heavily barred and the back door is without a handle and is locked solid. They also find a glassed building attached near the back of the building which could be a swimming pool.
The front door is a heavy wooden effort with no apparent lock but it's unable to be opened. Above the door is a strange figure. It appears to be a radio but with the dials and knobs arranged into a face. They press the doorbell and the door swings open. The party walk inside, almost sure they're walking to a trap. As they step in they view the large hallway, decked out in a classic style. There are two rooms on the left with a darkened corridor running to the back of the house. There's another door to the right and a set of stairs leading to a small landing before continuing to the first floor. On the landing is a grandfather clock. As they the door starts to close, three figures run from upstairs screaming to stop the door. Unfortunately their warning comes too late and the door closes. The three students (Stephen Payne, Martha McCrue and Arthur Simpson) explain that they came with Prof. Stuart and found themselves trapped. They split up to find someone or to see if they could get a way out. Professor Stuart headed up to look at the clock while the other two students headed upstairs to look around. The students were startled when the room on the left opened. Professor Stuart took the other two into the room. A few minutes later they heard a cry of pain, followed by the scream of the other female student. There was nothing but silence after that.
The Edinburgh team investigate the clock on the landing. In terms of design it resembles a standard grandfather clock except that it's constructed entirely from metal. The front plate is made of a sheet of glass. The clock face is standard but it only has one hand. There is a 1 inch slit under the face. Engraved on the glass plate is the following verse:
Welcome to my humble home
I hope you enjoy your stay
To divert you while your time ticks on
I have some games to play
To start of the festivities and push on the clock hands
Simply press the buttons in the rooms
To leave the house as planned
Now to begin our little game
There's a button down below
The Tick Tock Man awaits his players
Please press GO
"Please press Go" is written round a button built onto the clock. With no other option the players press the button. They hear a click coming from the first door on the left and they see it's opened. The team decide to split with Philip Murphy and Rev. Reid going into investigate. They also take Arthur Simpson with him, he had shown cooncern for Millie the female student who had gone with Prof Stuart. The three find themselves in a standard Drawing room, with a bar on one side and plenty of seats, heavy drapes surround the outside. Looking intently at the bar they find spots of blood. On the bar is a bell with a "Please ring for Service" sign propped against it. With trepidation they ring it. One of the sets of curtains gets flung aside. A figure dressed in Butlers garb jerkily steps out from an alcove. His face is blank except for a curly mustache painted on the faceplate. "Can I take your coat or take your hat?" It asks, repeatedly. It moves towards the bar. Arthur Simpson starts to panic and screams "Where's Millie?" The automaton reaches the young student and clamps it's hands either side of his head and he screams as pressure is placed on his skull. The investigators start by trying to distract it but when that fails they try to prise its hands apart. Alas their effort is in vain and it collapses his skull like an egg. The investigators fall back. Rev. Reed takes a shot with his handgun but the bullet pings off it, it's inner shell obviously bullet proof. The clockwork man grabs Reed's wrist. Philip Murphy looks around for a button to open the door. He is struck by the fact that the only place not searched is the alcove. Looking in he sees a button. Reed struggles to break the grip of the metal man but at the last possible moment he pulls out of his hand. The door opens when Philip hits the button. The two rush out of the room and they hear it slam behind them. The clock on the landing strikes 1 and they hear another door open.
This time they all decide to go and they keep the students in the hallway with Peter White. This room is clearly a dining room with a large table set for 8 people with some sort of soup laid for each setting. A metal covering sits in the centre of the table but it cannot be removed. Written on the wall they entered in is a mural:
" In lost Carcosa's hallowed halls
the court sat down to dine
The assembled gave merry,
"We praise the King in Yellow
and long live his mighty reign"
He silenced his court and addressed them:
"Who among you is wise?
Around my table is set 7 places
For those who claim to be my closest
But only one can truly be my counsellor
So step forward if you'd call me friend
And take your rightful place
but be warned
The fate of false friends will be death
So 7 joined the king at table
7 would be true
But only two would rise again
When the meal was through
The king addressed his wife
As she was the last survivor
"How did you know my dear
Where was the place to sit?"
She smiled as she addressed her love
"My king is strong so his place is poisoned
Otherwise how can he rule
And while it's said keep your friends close
It's true your enemies closer still
The seat opposite my lord
Is reserved for the one
he needs to watch the most
And either side of that
Are the plotters chairs
Which leads to two choices
Left a sign of frailty
And not a voice fit to be heard by a king
So all that's left is one spot
Hail Haster, my king"
Based on the poem and the fact that one of the chairs had its design picked out in yellow, the investigators choose what they think is the right chair. Col Marsden sits down and finds himself clamped into the chair and thrust towards the table. There's a tense moment before someone is brave enough to try the metal covering and find it's now loose. Under the cover is another button. Pressing it opens the door and again the clock strikes 2.
As they walk out the students are able to say that the door on the right hand side of the entrance hall opened. The investigators gingerly walk into the rooms along with Peter and the two students. A line of stuffed animal heads are hung on one wall, on the other is a case filled with stuffed birds. At the front is a lion perfectly preserved, while at the back are two bears. A gun rack is also featured at the front beside an obvious hole where a button should be. Many theories were bandied round about this room could be defeated. Col. Marsden decides that the birds are the answer and begins rearranging them. Rev. Reid looks at the gun rack and decides he needs an elephant gun. As he lifts it there's an audible click. The lion lets out a tinny roar before stepping down off its plinth. Three birds perched come to life as do the bears. The investigators take to the fight. Thomas Richardson, normally his teams fighting master, manages to break his shotgun and swings the wooden stock like a club missing everyone before being severely mauled by one of the bears. The rest tear into the lion, before turning on the bears. Col Marsden makes the birds his focus, taking some damage from the winged terrors. Peter Whites one contribution was to shoot Col. Marsden. On defeating the automated animals the investigators first aided Thomas and checked the remains of the animals. Among the cogs and gearing they discovered bits that didn't fit but did form a button the wall. Pressing this resulted in the door opening and a number of doors on the first floor opened.
The team go upstairs and find 4 bedrooms were opened. Four investigators took a room each. On the suggestion of a cross stitched picture they lay down on the beds. As they did, each felt a jab in their neck and drifted off. As Thomas Richardson came to, he realised that there was a second door in his room. He went through only to find himself in a replica of the initial room, as he stated to walk through the doors he became aware of a loud noise coming from one of the previous rooms. Checking it out he sees a familiar but horrific sight. The Hound they thought vanquished at Sleetmoor is following him, he runs as it gives chase. Rev. Reed finds the floor in his room has become lava. Col Marsden has found his face has become featureless. Philip Murphy finds duplicates of himself flooding his room but as space gets tighter he hears an odd noise, a clock ticking even though this version of the room doesn't have a clock. All four find their situations getting worse but some find themselves becoming more aware of this clock. Philip Murphy is the first to come to. As the tide of duplicates fills the room, Philip concentrates on the clock forcing himself to wake up. He wakes with a start and realises that lying on the bed has caused the button to slide out. He presses the button and his door opens, the clock ringing on. He immediately runs next door and hammers on the door. Col. Marsden hears this despite not having ears. He uses it to bring him round. He goes through the same procedure, pressing his button and releasing himself. The two bang on the door of Rev. Reed, he comes through. On leaving the room they go to save Thomas. Thomas has been backed into a corner, forced to hide in the wardrobe as the hound tears it's way through. The other three batter on the door desperately trying to bring their friend through. The hound breaks it's way into his hiding place. It swallows him whole. The door opens slowly and they see their friend laying on the bed, still. They press the button and are forced to leave him. At this last button being pressed the clock strikes and another door on this floor opens.
As they stand on the landing they hear the tinkly sounds of a music box lullaby. They now how deadly these games are now, and they want to get out alive with the students. Peter White decides to come with them as they're a man down. They walk cautiously down the hall and enter what appears to be a nursery. Any child would adore the room. One wall is shelving full of tin soldiers and tanks. The other is stocked with board games and a huge pile of cuddly toys. At the far end is the music box with a button on it and a chalk board. The chalk board says "it's not the button but it's a button". The investigators immediately suspect the soldiers and get ready for an onslaught. They press the button and the music stops. For a heartbeat they ready their guns to fire on the tin toys. The pile of stuffed bears explodes as a massive 6FT grey skinned mutant stands up, "WHY YOU WAKE ME.". It's dungarees look tight against the muscles and growths over its body. The monster hurled a chair at Peter. Three ready themselves to fire but Philip stops them. He noticed a duck embroidered on the dungarees and thought this is no monster. He talks to it firmly but kindly and he responds. Col Marsden notices two wires trailing from his back to the wall. He follows them to the button on his back. The button is padlocked onto his back but Philip is able to pick it and remove the harness. Frank, the creatures name, decides he wants to come too. They leave the room.
The unusual party come downstairs to hear there was a click down a small corridor past the dining room. Frank, rather taken with Martha, agrees to stay there. The four investigators make their way down the darkened corridor through another door to a kitchen. The kitchen is perfectly square and seems ordinary. The button is beside another door at the back of the room. Rev Reed takes a step into the room and is sprayed from a concealed nozzle in the roof. The chemical burns his skin. They sort him out as best they can and try to puzzle out the room. The floor is white marble with black stones inlaid in them. They also notice three cook books across the room, Julia Child's, Mrs Beaton and Fibonnacci? Rev. Reed pieces it together the larger tiles have different numbers of black tiles and when counted they matched the Fibonnacci sequence. Carefully they make their way across the room. Hitting the button and gaining access to the second door.
As the walk along this corridor they smell chlorine. They now have to visit the pool. The swimming pool has a giant frieze of an octopus on one wall, it's 8 legs stretching down the wall, along the side of the pool and into the pool. As they walk round the side they reach the far end they find a glass cylinder with two valves. Turning one activates a mechanism that drains the cylinder but also floods the room. Turning the second valve unscrews the front of the cylinder so they can push the button. As they press it the octopus springs to life it's arms lifting up and stretching across. The investigators are forced to dodge its limbs. Peter White and Col Marsden are a touch too slow and the octopus tries to lift them towards its beaky mouth. Marsden slips out but Peter is brought closer. Peter is sheared in two by the the beak. The three run out the new door that just opens in horror.
The new door opens onto a tight stairwell that goes to the top of the house. They enter the roof space but find themselves in a tiny space. One wall is made of concertinad metal. The other is an elaborate wooden carving of a spiders web with a series of holes cut out of it. A button is in the centre of the web. With nothing else for it they press it. The holes open and they hear the sound of lots of ratchets. The other wall drops revealing the long expanse of the attic. At the same time palm sized mechanical spiders pour out of the holes. The investigators run from the tide of tiny menaces. They are forced down tight spaces and to jump over debris before escaping.
Getting out of the roof space and sealing the door is a relief. Another set of stairs leads down to a library. This is the Von Smitt collection. The books cover all topics and are mostly rare editions or forgotten tomes. Looking through is an honour. They also find a secret door to Von Smitt's study. They find books relating to drugs, engineering and the occult. They find his journal which relates his dreaming visits from an entity known as the Tick Tock Man. He twists Von Smitts genius over time, he wanted devices that would provide sacrifices of souls of the intelligent. They also discover adoption papers for a 4 year old boy and a chemical formulae attached. They press the final button and exit onto the first floor.
They find the odd party of the students and Frank in the hall. The clock strikes 12 and a ticker tape is produced out of the clock. Reading it it says: "please leave, you have ruined my game. The staff will be released to clear up the mess." At this a click is heard from the side of the stairs. Looking down they see ghoulish figures appear from a hidden door. The party seeing enough flee!
The gates swing shut as you run outside. The "Staff" didn't get outside the door before it slammed shut. The gates remain closed, no one is quite brave enough to try the code again. Martha is crying on Arthur's shoulder while Frank, holding Martha's hand strokes her hair. While glad to get out, you can't help but think of the two who didn't make it out. The house looks even less inviting now you know the horror and misery contained within.
The funerals of Peter White and Thomas Richardson take place the following week. It's not the first time you've attended a funeral for a coffin filled with stones. Professor Wilkinson pays for the funerals as well as a small amount for their families. He was heartbroken that Peter and Thomas had died but was so grateful that you had rescued Martha and Arthur. Their families had provided Â£50 as payment, it was all they could afford. Frank is taken in by Martha's family, they live on a large farm where he can live out what life he can have. The government have become involved and believe they can relieve some of his pain but his mutations were too severe to remove.
On returning to Saunderson investigations they find a card waiting for them. On the front is a logo of three cogs geared together. Inside is the following message:
"I am writing to thank you for the two souls you provided for my benefactor, it was most unexpected. I did not remember inviting you to play our game but you have now become part of it. Hopefully you can replace the pieces you lost, while I lost pawns I believe you lost some more vital pieces. The house has been taken by a government player by the name of Stockton, I believe he intends to level it, a shame I had got it just how I liked it. Take care and I look forward to our second round.
Thought from the game:
All in all, it was great fun! It is a railroad due to its nature but the guys liked the puzzles. Three of them took part in Return of the Hound which ran three sessions and they were glad to move on. One of the group who played Peter was meant to come so we brought him along as an NPC. He never showed so when Thomas Richardson died he took control of Peter and promptly got him killed with some hideous rolls! Great fun had by all and a baddie who will strike again! We ran out of time towards the end so it was a bit rushed. It has manoeuvred things so we can start to work towards the campaign.