Tatterdemalion

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Fatal Experiments

Details

Pages: 26

Author(s): Richard Watts and Penelope Love; additional text by Kevin A. Ross

Artist(s): Earl Geier, Carol Triplett-Smith (maps)

Setting: 1920s

Appears in: Fatal Experiments

Campaign:

Summary

Tatterdemalion: a ragged man, a ragamuffin; by extension, the void at the center of form; here, a scenario taking the investigators to the verge of cosmic madness.

This scenario is designed for a group of Investigators with connections to the New York theatrical world. The Investigators attend an evening gala on a Long Island estate. Intrigue is inevitable in such company, but tonight events will take a deadly turn. The Investigators must hurry to find the source of the horror if they hope to survive.

Links

Spoilers - Keepers Eyes Only

Players should not read any further.


Synopsis

This scenario is particularly suitable for investigators who pursue artistic occupations or presume some acquaintance with the theatrical arts in any major city, especially New York City.

Though good investigator skills are certainly a help, weapons are not. If they have determination and courage, beginning investigators may do well here because their Sanities are likely to be more uniformly high.

A group of Investigators connected to the theatrical world receive invitations to a gala hosted by noted producer and playwright Anthony Carmichael. Each guest has, in some way, crossed the host, although their disputes may seem trivial. After a major flop and accompanying mental breakdown, Carmichael sought out a copy of The King in Yellow. Inevitably, he ended up insane. Carmichael now plans a grand performance at his gala, an artistic triumph that will also wreak horrible revenge on any who have slighted him.

A game of hide-and-seek at the mansion rapidly turns into serial murder as Carmichael begins his revenge. The mansion is isolated by a space-time bubble evoked by the influence of the King.

The Investigators are eventually led, by the subtle shifting of the mansion, to the library, where they find a copy of the King in Yellow and read it. This transports them to Carcosa. Here they journey to a tall tower, atop which the Yellow King lies inert on a throne. They may attempt to banish the King, or close some of the dimensional windows to Earth. Assuming they are not trapped in Carcosa by these actions, they return to the mansion and find Carmichael leading a performance of The King in Yellow. If they prevent this, normality is restored.

References

Player Handouts:

  • Carmichael’s invitation
  • Newspaper and Library Information

Locations: Carmichael’s Long Island mansion, Carcosa.

Creatures: Aldebaran skipper, the King in Yellow, the Hunched Gentleman

Tomes and Artifacts: The King in Yellow

Campaigns / Scenarios:

Comments

This scenario was originally presented at Arcarnacon 6, Melbourne Australia, in July of 1988. It has been substantially revised for Fatal Experiments

Includes images:

  • Various NPC portraits
  • Masked ball picture
  • Various corpses
  • The book of The King in Yellow
  • The Hunched Gentleman, herald of the King in Yellow
  • Aldebaran skipper (a whistling, stonelike vermin)
  • A street of Carcosa
  • The King in Yellow on his throne

Keeper Comments

The scenario gives a lot of hints on atmosphere to help Keepers get across the feel of both the mansion and Carsosa. However, there’s not much concrete detail, so it may be worth dreaming up some specific locations ahead of time.

There are a number of potential bottlenecks in this scenario which may cause problems. The initial encounter with Carmichael after the murders begin assumes that Investigators don’t suspect him. In practice, it’s likely that they will. For one, he invited the guests, and the scenario makes plain to players that he has a grudge against each one, making him the obvious culprit. As the host, he’s also in the best position to plan and prepare a campaign of murder. Finally, it’s a pretty well-known trope by this point which players are likely to spot. If Investigators are suspicious and take him prisoner, the scenario can’t really proceed any further. The best bet may be to have him melt away into shadow, as suggested if they follow him.

The King in Yellow is a second roadblock. It’s a Mythos tome notorious for driving insane anyone who reads so much as a single page. Sensible Investigators will do no such thing. The scenario nevertheless assumes that at least one Investigator will insist on reading it, as this is the only way to get to Carcosa; unless an Elder Sign is available, there’s no other way to progress the scenario.

As the scenario notes, “The rest of the events at the Mansion assume that the investigators sensibly go upstairs, where they can hide in comfort.” If they instead accept Carmichael’s invitation and go outside to smoke, they are cut off from the scenario; it’s possible to get back in, but players may not realise that’s the intention (or consider it rather foolish).

Another question raised is the hide-and-seek itself. Though the scenario leaves them hidden, Investigators might choose to be caught, or find the atmosphere eerie and head towards a hunter or indeed the main ballroom where captives are gathered. Here they would have plenty of company and events might unfold differently – but how?

There is a great deal of potential exploration in the mansion and around Carcosa; both rely largely on the Keeper’s ingenuity, as the scenario focuses on atmosphere rather than specific features. However, this is a very linear scenario at heart: attend the gala, discover the murders, read The King in Yellow, come to Carcosa, walk to the tower, return to the mansion, confront the play. The few choices available require powerful magical abilities, such as Elder Signs or Gate spells, from previous play. Otherwise, the scenario explicitly restricts players to a single solution to the climax: using performance skills to out-compete Carmichael’s actors. This linearity may prove frustrating for some.

Because of its high-mythos nature, and the way existing Mythos knowledge and magical power will greatly increase the options available to Investigators, this scenario may be most suitable as the conclusion (or a later part) of a campaign, perhaps one focused on Hastur. It could potentially be incorporated into Tatters of the King.