Sunday, 17 June 2018

Experiments in Horror - Call of Cthulhu (part 4 - final)


Scene 12

Chaos: Out of control (CF7 - d8)

Setup: to Brighton
1d10=1, Altered

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

When Julia arrives at Victoria, she is surprised to find DI Mitchell waiting by the ticket counter.

"I'm coming with you," he says.

"Oh, no you aren't!" counters Julia. "One whiff of our involvement, and Molly'll turn me away for good. Or worse!"

[POW vs. POW on the Resistance Table: her 13 vs. his 11 gives her a 60% chance. d%=82...]

"I'm sorry, Miss Quigley-Ffoulkes, but I cannot allow you to go into this den of vipers alone."

"You think I don't know how to handle myself? Because I'm a woman--?"

"Because, however formidable you may be, I allow that's a great deal, there is only one of you. Against this... this whole conspiracy. Alex isn't the first to disappear from within their ranks, you know."

"Fine. Come if you must. But keep your distance, so they don't get suspicious. I wouldn't want you to, how do you say, blow my cover, Detective Inspector." [Persuade (75%) roll: d%=68, ok]

"Agreed."

"Good. Now, I'm going to do something for which I must apologise. Perhaps I can make it up to you over dinner when this is all through. But for now, in case we're being observed..."

Julia slaps DI Mitchell across the face. She turns and stalks off to collect her ticket without pausing to see the look of astonishment tinged with not a little hurt in his eyes. He rubs his jaw, then goes down the platform to wait for the train.

[Q: Is she being followed? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and... ]


Scene 13

Chaos: Out of control (CF7 - d8)

Setup: 1d10=6, Interrupt (was: find Molly)
Interrupt:  NPC action - Janet Evans - inform / silence

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

The train to Brighton is uneventful. Julia tries unsuccessfully to divert herself with the book she'd borrowed from the library, Mirbeau's Journal d'une femme de chambre, but after the horrors of the past week she just can't find any solace in the accounts of a bourgeois family, even a naughty French one. She spends most of the trip with the open tome forgotten in her lap, staring out at the English countryside.

She hops a cab from the station to the Metropole. When she arrives, she sees a young woman sitting in the lobby reading a magazine with similar disinterest. Her rather arrestingly white skin cannot disguise her plain features; she looks remarkably sickly under all the heavy make-up.


Janet Evans
STR: 12  DEX:  7  INT: 12
CON:  6  APP:  9  POW: 15
SIZ: 12  EDU: 15





Julia checks in at the desk. When the young woman hears her give her name, she discards the magazine, and walks straight up to Julia once she has her key.

[UNE--
NPC Relationship: distrustful
Conversation Mood: withdrawn
inquisitive - questions - the character]


"Julia, I've been waiting for you. I'm friend of Molly's. Janet -- Janet Evans."

"Charmed, I'm sure."

"I needed to ask you about the party. Mind if I follow you up to your room? I know you've just arrived and all, but I won't keep you long."

"Of course."

Both women are quiet as they follow the bellhop up to Julia's room. Once he's been tipped and has left, Julia offers Janet a chair, and sits across from her on the corner of the bed.

"Molly wanted me to look out for you," begins Janet. "Only, our little club is a private affair, you see. Very private. We can't have loose tongues betraying our secrets. Well, you understand, the less we say about it in public, the more deliciously exclusive it is. You haven't said anything to anyone, have you? I mean, nothing major, right?"

"Oh, of course not. Wouldn't want a pack of crashers showing up! Or worse: someone from the sensationalist press!"

"No. Especially not them. I'm glad you were discreet. But, if you forgive my asking,  how did you...?"

"Hilly. I wheedled it out of him. I've known him too long for him to keep any secrets from me! And with the whole Alex thing, he was looking to confide in somebody."

"How well did you know Alex? Were you very good friends?"

[Julia's Psychology (40%) roll: 63, fails]

"Yes, I think so. I mean, as much as anyone could be very good friends with such a creature. I don't mean to speak ill of the dead -- I mean, I really loved Alex -- but, well... did you know her very well?"

[Q: Does she say so? 50/50 (4+): O2 C3 - No, and...]

"Barely. Just in passing, that is. It's just that her...  such awful circumstances... it's cast a pall over the whole soirée. At least for some."

Julia leans in close and almost whispers. "Do you think someone is out to tear the group apart? Some enemy of the club? Someone who perhaps wasn't invited, or...?"

"I... I think maybe... there are some who worry that the murderer is someone... inside the club." [mysterious - uncertainty - family]

"How scandalous! Oh, but you seem genuinely frightened. You don't say you believe the rumours have substance?"

"I don't-- I didn't credit them at first. But now I'm not so sure."

"What is it? There's something you want to tell me, isn't there? You think you know something." [Persuade (75%) roll: 53, success]

"This club... it's not new. I mean, it is new, in this incarnation. But it's a continuation of something far older. Something of unbelievable antiquity. A... a religion, I think." [mysterious - secrets - history]

"Janet, my dear, if this is true, that must mean you think Molly has some deeper purpose with all this pageantry. And that you think she had something to do with Alex's murder."

[Q: How does Janet react to these words? Enthusiastically / Ruined]

Janet slumps listlessly down into her chair. Julia takes her flask from her bag.

"Here, have a swig of this. It's good for the nerves. Or I've got something stronger in my compact, if you'd rather. Have as much as you need, there's a whole bottle in my suitcase. There's a good girl. Now, I will look after you, so you've just got to put on a brave face. If anything untoward happens at the soirée, I'll be right there with you. We'll support each other."

Janet recovers in short order, and excuses herself so Julia can unpack. As she closes the door behind her, Julia heaves a great sigh.

"She either an ally, or Molly's spy," thinks Julia, "but damned if I can decide which. This is going to be harder than I thought!"

[Because she failed the Psychology roll, Julia doesn't have any clue as to Janet's true intentions. So, since the player side of me had no information one way or the other, the DM side of me endeavoured to write Janet's conversation as ambiguously as possible. She's either telling the truth and scared of Molly, or it's all an act, sprinkled with enough truth to get Julia to tip her hand. CF +1 as the uncertainty is working against our heroine.]


Scene 14

Chaos: Madness (CF8 - d6)

Setup: 1d10=5, Interrupt (was: find Molly)
Interrupt:  NPC action - Molly Lasher - Inquire / Emotions

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

Julia starts unpacking once Janet leaves. She's half convinced she'll need to make a hasty exit, but she can afford to leave her things behind. Besides, she can't appear to be anything other than a thrill seeker and a decadent -- not that she isn't either of these things, but this time, at least, she has a higher purpose.

Then comes a knock at the door. It's Molly Lasher, carrying a box tied up with ribbon.

"A little bird told me you'd just arrived," says Molly, "so I thought I'd drop in and see how you were settling in."

"I've not much to get settled," says Julia. "I travel light."

"I see. Well, I've brought your attire for tonight."

"May I see?"

"Please do. Only, try not to laugh. It's not terribly classical."

"That's not a problem, as it happens. I look absolutely dreadful in a peplos!"

[1d3 colours=1
d12 on the Hue column of Silent Legions Word Elements for the Cult's Name table
1d12=Ivory

Q: Any identifiable marks/characters/insignia? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and...]


Julia opens the box and takes out a cowled robe made from a heavy, ivory-coloured fabric. "Shall I try it on?" she asks.

"Oh, go on." laughs Molly.

[Q: Anything weird? Unlikely (5+): O4 C5 - No.]

"Not bad," says Julia, admiring herself in the mirror. "Not bad at all. I could be a monk under here. One of the old ones on a mountaintop in France where they make those deadly liqueurs, to be sure. But a monk, nonetheless."

"I hope you won't look askance at our pagan revelries, Brother Julius!"

"Ha ha! But seriously, can I ask you something?"

"Why, of course."

"Tell me -- and this is in earnest -- should I wear white shoes or black? Only the white don't go with my dress so well..."

[Psychology roll (at half skill, so 20%) to suss out Molly's true mood: 65, fail
Persuade (75%) roll to keep up appearances: 60, success.]



Scene 15

Chaos: Madness (CF8 - d6)

Setup: 1d10=8, Interrupt (was: dinner & preparations)
Interrupt:   NPC negative - Molly Lasher - Struggle / Bureaucracy

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

Then comes another knock on the door. "Expecting someone?" asks Molly.

"No. How odd. Let me see who it is. Only I'd ought to take this off first..."

Julia folds the robe and puts it in the wardrobe before answering door.

[1d6=unknown man]

"Hello?" says Julia, as she opens to door to find a stranger standing there. He is [3D6= APP 12] an average looking man, but in an expensive, tailored suit.

"Hello, Miss Quigley-Ffoulkes. Molly's not in there with you is she?"

"Yes..."

"May I speak to--"

"Timothy? Is that you?" call Molly. "Oh, damn."

Molly excuses herself, and goes out to quickly confer with him in the corridor. She comes back in a few moments later, visibly annoyed.

"Sorry, darling. There's been some problems with the caterers, and I absolutely must sort them now, personally, or we'll be having a pagan-themed temperance rally. I'll pick you up here at half ten and take you over. You oughtn't to put on the robe till we get there. But I must warn you, I am notoriously punctual. Kiss kiss, must dash."


Scene 16

Chaos: Madness (CF8 - d6)

Setup: the soirée (1d10=9: finally, no alteration!)

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

Molly Lasher collects Julia at precisely 10:30, as she had said she would. She's looking radiant in a simple white frock, as Julia knew she would. Molly's demeanour is all sweetness and laughter -- indeed Molly can barely contain her excitement -- but underneath it all Julia can sense that the young woman is in total control of herself and her surroundings [no psychology roll necessary]. Molly delightedly reveals that she's hired the basement and tunnels beneath the Royal Pavilion for her soirée, and the two set out arm-in-arm into the night. It is pleasantly cool, for October, and since the Royal Pavilion lies but a 15 minute walk from the Metropole, Molly elects to walk.

DI Mitchell has been staking out the hotel, blending in with the people who even at this hour are strolling up and down the beachfront. [Spot Hidden (55%): d%=25, success] He sees the two women exit and begins to follow them at a respectable distance [rolling Sneak (10%) to tail: 44, fail] but he somehow manages to be rather conspicuous, hiding his face behind a copy of the Times as often as he does.

[Molly's Spot Hidden is ((2d6-2)x5 +25(base)=) 50%: d%=70, fail.] Molly, for her part, doesn't notice his clumsy attempt to follow. She's much too focussed on Julia, and is almost giddy with excitement. Julia makes no effort to see if he's there. She'd rather think that he is than think she is wholly without protection, after all. Moreover, her most pressing concern is trying to decide if miss Molly Lasher is coming on to her. Were the circumstances of their meeting less complicated, muses Julia, the good detective inspector might just have a rival for her affections.

[Q: Does DI Mitchell have a revolver? Unlikely (5+): O3 C2 - No, and...]

DI Mitchell watches them enter the pavilion, then strolls round to reconnoitre the area further, without getting too close.

Once they are inside and out of sight, they give their coats to an attendant -- a junior cult member, already dressed in ritual attire -- and put on their robes.

[Q: Are Molly's robes special? Likely (3+): O5 C3 - Yes, but...
Q: Are the other cultist's robes different than Julia's? 50/50 (4+): O2 C5 - No.]


Julia watches Molly dress with interest, expecting to see her clad in something truly magnificent, perhaps shockingly so, but in fact her robe is almost identical to the ones that Julia and the rest have been given, save for some understated bits of [d12=]black trim.

Julia estimates there must be about forty in attendance, counting the coat check attendant and three bartenders (also junior cult members, robed as the rest). [attendance: 3d20+4=43 NPCs]

There is an open bar, and a long buffet table near the back wall of the brick-floored basement chamber, opposite the almost Catholic looking altar. In the centre of the room a sort of tent has been constructed, made of long gauzy curtains hanging from the ceiling. Large candelabras provide the only light. The air is hazy with smoke, a mix of frankincense, tobacco, and marijuana, and just a little bit of opium.

[Q: Does Molly let Julia mingle? Unknown 1d6=5, Unlikely: O1 C6 - No.]

Julia quickly surveys the crowd, trying to find Hilly, but can't make him out anywhere [Spot Hidden (75%): d%=95, fail]. Molly takes her by the arm again. "Come with me, darling" she says, "let me introduce you to [1d4=3] some of my closest friends. I'm absolutely dying for them to meet you!" Molly moves at a whirl through the crowd, and Julia can barely keep up.

"Frank? Frank, darling, this is Julia. Be a dear and get us some champagne, won't you, Frank? I met Frank Pickman is actually related to that painter, the one who caused such a stir last season. I met him at the opening at that little gallery out in Shoreditch, of all places! They're cousins or something.... Oh, look it's Kathy! Kathy Barker, Julia Quigley-Ffoulkes. Kathy and I go back, well, darling, farther than I care to admit! We got expelled from the same boarding school in Harrow, once upon a time.... Oh, and here's Petra Theaker! She's an absolute hoot. I met her halfway up a mountain in Thibet...."

[Q: Does Molly entrust Julia to her friends whilst she prepares? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and...]

Despite her excitement, Molly glances ever at her watch. "It's nearly time to begin, Julia darling. And I want you to help me. You did learn your lines, didn't you?"

"Of course!"

"Come with me, then, sweetie."

Molly leads Julia to the altar.

[Time to be the Keeper:

Q: Will there be a human sacrifice? 50/50 (4+): O4 C6 - Yes.
Q: Is Julia the victim? 50/50 (4+): O1 C3 - No, but... she will be compelled to help.
Q: Does Molly trust Julia? 50/50 (4+): O3 C4 - No, but... she hopes to.

What is the Ultimate Horror?

When I started this adventure, I hadn't yet figured out exactly how the mechanism for making the final determination would work. I actually got to this point before writing it all out.

The current points were as follows:
5 hound of tindalos
8 mi-go
6 byakhee

As this came to a total of 19, a d20 seemed the easiest way to make the determination.

 roll result
 ---- ------
 1-5  hound of tindalos
 6-13 mi-go
14-19 byakhee
  (20 reroll)


1d20=18, byakhee

Now that I know the Horror, I used this information to fill in some details, or rather, to help me decide what to put into the next random chart--

Q: What is the purpose of the ritual? (1D8): 1 longevity , 2 power, 3 open gate, 4 summon Hastur, 5 enchant item, 6 transformation, 7 brew space mead, 8 summon servitor
1d8=4, summon Hastur]


"Alex lost faith, you know," says Molly. "I offered her everything, but she wanted to throw it away. Tell me, you won't be a disappointment like Alex, will you?"

"What do you mean?" asks Julia

"Don't be naïve! You can't honestly believe this is all just a bit of fun, can you?"

"What... what did happen to Alex?"

"She's not really dead... not yet. But I sent my little pet to collect her. And leave enough for the police to think her dead, and announce her murder to the world."

"But...?"

"Oh, the tongue was hers all right! But the rest of the pieces brought to her flat were, shall we say, donated."

"Wait-- Alex is really alive?"

"Oh, yes. And will be for several more minutes, in fact. Long enough for you to decide if you're in, or out. And darling, I'll be ever so disappointed if you make the wrong choice."

A gong sounds, and silence falls at once over the crowd. They discard their drinks and sundry other delights round the perimeter of the room and hurry to take up position in rows before the altar, onto which Molly has dragged Julia. A young woman is lying on the black-veined marble altar itself is a young woman, awake but heavily drugged. Her hairless body has been inscribed all over with a myriad of mystical sigils, from the crown of her shaved head to the soles of her feet. It takes a moment for Julia to recognise her, but it is indeed Alex Bishop!

Frank, Kathy and Petra take up positions behind Molly. Each bears some sort of grotesque copper sistrum. Petra gives a curved copper dagger to Molly, who, smiling hopefully, presses it into Julia's hand. The gong sounds again. Molly turns toward the silent crowd, and begins the chant.

Julia forces herself to be brave [POWx5 (65%): d%=38, ok] as she gauges her next action. She's certain she spotted [sc. hidden] guns bulging beneath the robes of Molly's confederates. For now, Julia just participates in the barbarous call-and-response chanting.

The cultists become ever more frenzied as Molly leads the awful chant. When the fervour reaches its peak, Petra and Kathy take over Molly's role as she slinks up behind Julia, and puts her arms softly round her waist. "You know what you have to do, darling," breathes Molly Lasher into Julia's ear. Molly nudges Julia's arms gently upward, then starts speaking the words of a new chant, one Julia does not know.

The chanting cultists begin to sway and writhe, some screaming out the unearthly syllables until their voices become raw. There are tears streaming down Julia's cheeks, but she cannot resist the will of Molly Lasher, who even now is groaning and purring and hissing behind her.

[POW x4 (54%) to resist performing sacrifice: d%=84, failure
SAN 1/1d6: d%=45, lose 1 point, down to 53 SAN]


Julia is barely aware of being in her own body as her hands fall, plunging the wicked blade into Alex's chest. She coughs once and shudders, and seems even more dreamy as the life streams out of her.

Molly lets go her waist, and produces a small flute-like instrument from beneath her robe, upon which she begins piping a discordant melody. Out from the darkness lopes a nightmare form, a lumbering, winged monstrosity, neither insect nor mole nor bat nor decomposing cadaver, but an unholy amalgamation or parody of the natural order. The monstrosity grins at Julia with its corpse-mouth as it flops up beside Molly.

[SAN roll d%=61, fail. Seeing the Byakhee costs 1d6=3 SAN. Julia's down to 50 SAN now.]

As Molly pipes furiously and the grinning horror leers and the cultists cavort, the shadows seem to move within the curtained-off platform. Something stirs within, a thing called forth across an unimaginable gulf of space by Molly's incantations, whose gargantuan form is a very affront to all that is known and knowable to the insignificant beings upon the Earth. At once a slimy, grey-green tentacle darts forth from the curtains, and snatches a cultist from the midst of the throng, squeezing them to pulpy mass and discarding the oozing corpse of the unworthy. Again and again a tentacle darts forth, snaking between those whose terrible piety for He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named does not waver, and reducing the unbelieving to stains upon the floor and walls.

[Q: Does Julia catch glimpse of Hastur? 50/50 (4+): O4 C1 - Yes, and...
SAN roll 56, failure; d100=29 SAN lost, leaving her with 21.
Julia's Idea roll (65%) succeeds, so she suffers Indefinite Insanity.]


Julia can hear Molly laughing behind her, even over the screams of terror and ecstasy coming from the assembly. But then all sounds seem to ring distant in her ears, as she catches a glimpse through the parted curtain. She can find no words to describe the thing within, the utter malice spewing from its awful face as its abhorrent glassy eye catches her own. Then blessed oblivion claims her.


Epilogue


Julia comes to in a padded cell. She calls out in fear, and the nurses come running. She calms down at the sight of them, and they give in to her entreaties to fetch a doctor.

"Well, now, Miss Quigley-Ffoulkes," says the doctor, "it's good to see you've calmed down somewhat. You've been quite difficult since we brought you in."

"I-- I don't remember... I remember going to Brighton, and then this party, and then... oh, it's too horrible."

"Do you remember what happened at this party? Do you remember when the police arrived? Or what happened just before?"

"No, I... it's all confused. Just a flood of images. Will you help me remember? Is that why I'm here?"

"Partly."

"Partly?"

"I will help you piece together the incidents of that night. But then I've got to make a recommendation..."

"About my release?"

"Not quite. I need to assess your state of mind, and decide whether you are mentally fit to stand trial for the murder of Miss Alexandra Bishop."

 ~~ finis ~~



Post mortem


So this was probably the most like an actual Lovecraft story ending I've ever had in a CoC game. I fear that Julia's career as an Investigator has come to an end. If Molly Lasher and/or her cronies have any influence in the Crown Court (highly likely), then Julia will probably be hanged for her "crime". Molly may return to continue her villainy in future games, perhaps even as an ally -- or a rival -- of Eleanor from my Silent Legions adventure.

I find I have less to say about the mechanism of the experiment than I did in the first one, probably because I compiled all my thoughts into the little rules document before starting to write up my posts. But it worked out as well as I hoped it would.


Saturday, 26 May 2018

Experiments in Horror - Call of Cthulhu (part 3)


When Julia arrives on Molly Lasher's quiet little street in Chelsea, she immediately notes the police car parked outside. She waits a little while, and is soon rewarded with the sight of a fuming DI Mitchell emerging from the building.

Scene 7

Chaos:
Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: d10=1, Altered (was: call on Molly Lasher)

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

[Alteration (1d6): 1 similar murder scene, 2 no one's seen her, 3 already left for Brighton, 4 lots of friends over, 5 police over, 6 "oh good, you came"; 1d6=5

Q: Does the inspector himself come out? 50/50 (4+): O4 C5 - Yes.]


"Detective inspector! How'd you get on? We should compare notes soon. Over dinner, perhaps?"

DI Mitchell composes himself, before answering, but Julia can't help think him pleased to see her. "So, you got Hillyard talking then, did you?" [UNE: knowing - examination - previous scene]

"Have I ever! How was Miss Lasher?"

"Defiantly modern." [Defiantly / Modern]

"Sounds just my sort of girl! Why don't I go up now and ring you at the station when I'm through." [Persuade (75%): d%=55, success]

"Be my guest!"

[Q: How does Molly Lasher's flat appear? Calmly / Historical
Q: Admitted? 50/50 (4+): O5 C6

UNE--
NPC Relationship: peaceful
Conversation Mood: helpful
mysterious - uncertainty - current scene]


Name: Molly Lasher
Occupation: Cult leader
Birthplace: Northampton
Sex: F Age: 29

STR: 10  DEX: 10  INT: 17  Idea: 85
CON: 13  APP: 15  POW: 21  Luck:105
SIZ:  9  EDU: 19           Know: 95
HP:  11  SAN:  0  Damage Bonus: -



Miss Molly Lasher may be a thoroughly modern girl, yet her flat is anything but. The décor is perfectly tasteful, rather subdued even. Plenty of antique sculptures and classical portraits in oil adorn the spaces between her overfull bookcases.

Molly extends a delicate hand to greet her guest.

"Such a day for visitors!" sighs Molly. "Oh, I do hope you'll be less tedious than the last."

"I just saw a copper leaving your building, if that's what you mean," smiles Julia.

"Indeed! Now Julia -- I may call you Julia, mayn't I? -- you look familiar, but I can't quite place where we met."

"We haven't. I'm a friend of Alex's. Was a friend of Alex's? Oh, damn. It's all very shocking."

"How well did you know her? I can't say I'm surprised she came to a sudden end."

"No, I suppose she'd always liked to run that risk. She'd be tickled to know her death made the headlines!"

[Roll APP x4 (64%) to be perfectly charming: d%=30, success]

Molly laughs. "She would indeed. A toast then, to poor famous Alex. Oh, what a miserable hostess I am! I've not offered you a drink."

"Scotch would be heavenly. Rocks if there are some to hand, otherwise neat will do me just fine."

Molly ushers Julia into an overstuffed chair and pours a drink for them both.

"So, you're probably wondering why I called," says Julia. "In fact, it's because I was just to see Hilly yesterday, and your name came up."

"Indeed. He might have telephoned me and said as much." [knowing - history - last action]

"That's Hilly for you. If I'd known, I'd have asked for an introduction. But he seemed... reticent to speak of you. It seemed like he'd lost heart."

"Oh?"

"And when he showed me the medallion... well I didn't know what to make of it at first. I mean, it doesn't really go with anything in my closet, you understand. But then last night logic set in. It just seemed all so... so exclusive! Show me a shiny thing, and I have to have it. And with poor Alex leaving us all so soon, I got to wondering. Might there be an opening in your little club?"

[Persuasion roll d%=10, special success]

"In fact there just might! We've a do planned in Brighton at the weekend. Can you get away?"

"Can I! I can practically taste the rock already."

"Good. I'm afraid there isn't time to get you a medallion done up before it's time to leave. Tell you what, I'm booked in at the Metropole. Leave me a message there, and I'll bring you as my guest."

"I'm looking forward to it! What's the dress code?"

"Understated, but fashionable, darling. Fashionable! Though I should tell you that, for the high point of the soirée, some fancy dress will be provided..."

"Oh? Shan't I bring my own?"

"Heavens, no! That wouldn't do at all. We need to all look the same. You must understand, darling, we needed a way to give our little club some caché, some mystique. So I have devised a splendid entertainment, a participatory one at that. We're going to dress up and re-enact the Dionysian mysteries."

"εὐάν! But, forgive me if I may be so bold as to say that I can't see how we'll manage. Not accurately, that is."

"Oh, you know of the Mysteries."

"I know what little the ancients dared say about them. I read classics at uni, you see."

"Oh, dear. This is going to seem so very gauche, I'm afraid."

"Not at all. I like to celebrate the modern day Bacchanalia just as much as the next girl. Probably more. I think it sounds perfectly marvellous."

"Wonderful! Then you'll play along. To wit, we must chant the rites in unison, as the Priest and Priestess make the sacrifice to Dionysus. I wrote a little chant -- it sounds enough like Greek to me, though I suppose you'll find it perfect gibberish. Please don't laugh. I don't want to know how awful it is! I'll write you it out, and you must promise to learn it."

"I promise."

"There's a good girl. Oh, where are my manners? Your glass is empty!"

[N.B. I forgot to have her roll a Spot Hidden to see if she could notice anything unusual in Molly's flat before going on to the next scene. But she had such a pleasant chat that I think she forgot to even look.]


Scene 8

Chaos: Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: d10=4, Interrupt (was: ring the inspector)
Interrupt:  Horror - NPC (DI Mitchell) - listen / knowledge

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

[Meanwhile, DI Mitchell has another cult member in the interview room, and they tell him something that brings up buried memories of the raid on that den of vice near the Limehouse docks when he was a rookie. It's so chilling he loses 1d8=8 SAN.

Idea roll 60%: d%=67, failure, so no Temporary Insanity. He won't speak of it to Julia, so it doesn't furnish any Clues.]




Scene 9

Chaos:
Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: ring the inspector

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

Julia rings the police station when she gets home, and in due course is connected to  DI Mitchell. [Psychology (40%) roll to detect his mood: d%=36, success]

"Detective Inspector, you sound frightened."

"Miss Quigley-Ffoulkes, I think you'd ought to go back to Cardiff. These people -- you don't know what they're capable of!"

"Yes, I most certainly do! Remember, I got into Alex's flat to see the state of it."

"Of course. How could I forget. So, did Miss Lasher have anything useful to tell you?" [inquisitive - curiosity - last action]

"They're planning on re-enacting some pagan rite! I've got an invitation."

"You can't go!"

"Don't take that tone with me, Detective Inspector, for I most certainly can! And I shall. Now, how about some quid pro quo: what progress have you made?"

"It's not a game with them. This goes well beyond spiritualism or some sort of revival of the 'Old Ways'. This is a pernicious sort of devil worship and the people are dangerously  unhinged by it." [insane - chaos - enemies]

"Well, obviously, someone's taken it too far. But I hardly think this Bacchic Revel will be any more than a bit of fun in fancy dress. Too much liquor and powders and sins of the flesh to be sure, but nothing I haven't seen before. Besides, the only way I'm going to find out what's going on is if I'm right there in it. I'm sure there must be some suspicions within the group about who killed Alex, and let's face it: none of them will talk to the police. Now, I must needs pack tonight, and head to the library first thing tomorrow before I catch my train. Just in case there is some obvious clue to be gained from the proceedings, I want to know all there is to know about the 'ancient mysteries'."

[Q: Can he ob-/interject? Unlikely (5+): O2 C5 - No.]


Scene 10

Chaos:
Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: 1d10=4, Interrupt (was: to the library)
Interrupt:  Horror - PC

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

[d30=sightings of dead
Q: Is it the ghost of Alex Bishop? Unlikely (5+): O1 C2 - No, and...]


Julia packs all her things that night and arranges room service for an early breakfast. She has dinner in her room and just the teensiest little nightcap (can't be more than 4 or 5 shots in the glass), for she has a busy day ahead!

But in the early hours of the morning she wakes with a start, and the feeling that she isn't alone. She switches on bedside lamp, and grabs her gun from her handbag. The shadows on the wall seem to move & contort, taking on shadowy human form and emerging from the wall all round her. Eldritch symbols have been carved into their necks, and when the phantoms open their mouths to speak, she can see their tongues have been cut out...

[The sight will cost 1/1D8 SAN. Julia's current Sanity is 62; d%=64, fails; 1D8=8 SAN lost.
Idea roll (65%): d%=47, success, so she comprehends the true awfulness of what she has seen and must roll on the Temporary Insanity table: d10=babbling incoherent speech for 1d10+4=9 combat rounds (about a minute).
For her first bout of insanity related to mythos sources, she receives +5% to her Cthulhu Mythos skill (so has 5% total skill).]


Julia tries to ask the approaching phantoms what they want, but cannot produce more than a torrent of inchoate glossolalia. The gruesome spectres touch her and disappear, or perhaps she just faints...


Scene 11

Chaos:
Out of control (CF increases to 7 - d8)

Setup: to the library

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

By morning, her rational self is once again in control and she does her best to laugh off the strange nightmare. Imagine! being so scared by a dream as to take one's handgun from one's purse! The mysteries of the subconscious, she decides, are best left to Mr. Freud. She has other Mysteries into which to delve this fine day.

The British Museum would be the logical place to start, had she a few days to devote to the project. But she does not. So off to the London Library it is. It has plenty of volumes on the intricacies of classical history, and it's only a 6-minute walk from the Ritz, besides. Such luck she's kept her membership all these years. And she hopes she doesn't have any overdue books still out from the last season she spent in Town...

Of course, her uni days were all spent in Cardiff, so most of her visits here were for the procurement of scandalous French novels. Undaunted, she dives into the card catalogue with an intoxicating sense of purpose. Soon Julia has found an armload of old volumes and an out-of-the way carrel in which to consult them.

[Library Use 25%: d%=10, success! potential for 3 clues.]

Q: Is the incantation like anything she might recognise? Unlikely (5+): O4 C2 - No, and... unearthly language]

First she turns her attention to the incantation that Molly Lasher wrote out for her. She's read it out loud dozens of times in her hotel room, and can barely get her tongue round some of the words. Her Greek is shockingly poor [25%], but she's convinced the incantation isn't Greek at all -- not even one of the rustic dialects.

[Q: Clue about mystery cults? 50/50 (4+): O4 C3 - Yes, but...]

So she dives into the books on the Mysteries, and whilst she learns a good deal on the subject, there's nothing shocking or even particularly titillating in the accounts. Even the account in Livy tells her no more than she already knew -- though the allegations of secret murders do arouse in her an uncomfortable dread.

[Language roll for 2nd clue (1d4 for which): 1 French, 2 English, 3 Latin, 4 Greek: 3
Latin 60%: 46, success]


In a strange and dusty tome, one De Daemonibus Gentium by a certain Gyraldus Lilliensis, Julia finds a strange reference to the ancient voces magicae containing the names of demons of various pagan peoples of an earlier age. This gives Julia the idea to look again critically at the incantation. It costs her most of the afternoon, but by comparing the monstrous words to the entries in Dr Inman's Ancient  Faiths Embodied in Ancient Names, she does light upon the name of some terrible entity.


[Clue--
Location crafter: Threateningly/Macabre. Unhelpful, but sounds nice. Try again--abnormally/glorious...
Maybe the d30 tavern names will help: scarlet spider]


The old demon or spirit is said to be a threateningly macabre beast, which appears in the form of an abnormally glorious spider. Julia isn't sure what to make of this at all. She makes a cursory survey of religious history, to see if the thing ever had devotees in antiquity or the middle ages, but the hour is growing late. There is nothing more she can learn here today.

[History 40%: 81, failure.

Counting the points:
The abnormally glorious spider might refer to a byakhee (+1), but seems even more likely to be a mi-go (+2); the dimensional shambler's total is now 6 less than the mi-go's, so it is removed from the list.

New totals
----------
5 hound of tindalos
8 mi-go
6 byakhee
]


perhaps I should have had Deep Ones on the list...


to be continued...

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Experiments in Horror - Call of Cthulhu (part 2)


Julia barely remembers leaving the flat or the taxi back to her hotel. She does, fortunately, recall that she had a bottle sent up. She pours a stiff nightcap, then a second, then a third for good measure, and soon drifts off into a thankfully dreamless slumber.


Scene 4

Chaos:
Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: 1d10=3, Altered (was: ring detective)

NPC List: Alexandra Bishop

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance


She wakes quite early the next morning (quarter past eleven), and rings Belgravia police station, asking to speak to the detective in charge of the Bishop murder. When she gives her name, she is told car will be round to collect her; DI Randolph Mitchell is eager to speak with her in person.

At the station, Julia is surprised to find out that she is a suspect. But she is even more surprised to meet DI Mitchell. He's young, tall, athletic, and very dashing.


Investigator Name: DI Randolph Mitchell
Occupation: Police Detective
Birthplace: London
Sex:Age: 30

STR: 16  DEX: 11  INT: 12  Idea: 60
CON: 14  APP: 17  POW: 11  Luck: 55
SIZ: 16  EDU: 15           Know: 75
HP:  15  SAN: 55  Damage Bonus: +1D4




"Well, hello Detective Inspector!" says Julia, extending her hand. "I hope you won't be too hard on me in this... interrogation."

DI Mitchell seems unmoved by the display. "So much the better," thinks Julia to herself. "I'd never respect a man who fell for it that easily!"

Julia pouts and takes her seat across the table from the detective inspector. She roots through her purse to find her cigarette case, and ostensibly her lighter, which mysteriously evades her grasp. He finally catches on, and both offers and lights a cigarette for her.

[So this got all Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries really fast. I blame the 17 Appearance that Byakhee spit out for the detective. Only too late did I remember that I actually own a copy of Terror Australis --  the setting could easily have been changed to Melbourne, and Flying Polyps added to the potential enemies list.

But enough of that....

For the interrogation, they will be matching POW vs. POW on the Resistance Table, as DI Mitchell tries to get Julia let on what she knows.

His POW 11 vs. her 13 = 40% chance for him to succeed; d%=92, failure.

She in turn gets to make an Idea (65%) roll to notice what he's doing: d%=82, failure.]


She shows him the telegram, answers several questions evasively, confides that Alex had a knack for getting on the wrong side of people, and tapping them for money when her funds were low. But whenever she tries to ask him something he ignores her, and continues on his own line of questioning.

"I feel like I've been sent to the head teacher's office," says Julia, lighting another cigarette with malice. "IS my skirt too short, sir? Was it I who threw a rubber at Mabel Jones-Fortescue's head, sir? Look, I've a solid alibi, having just arrived in Town yesterday evening. See? I still have my ticket from Cardiff. I sat at the station for two hours waiting for Alex and when she didn't arrive I went to check up on her. She said there was trouble, and needed my help. I want to help! Why won't you let me?"

"This isn't a pulp romance. Leave the investigation to the police."

"But I must be involved, mustn't I? How else could you have me down as a suspect, despite my starting the day 150 miles distant?"

[Persuade 75%: d%=44 success. She's teased out a clue.
The clue is (via Location Crafter): Abnormally / Natural]


"Alright," says DI Mitchell, carefully weighing his words, "we found a box amongst her effects. Inside were about a dozen glass bottles variously filled with hair, blood, a used --ehem-- a used  prophylactic, and an old plaster. Each one was labelled with the name of one of Miss Bishop's acquaintances. There was one with your name, but it was empty, and the stopper was missing."

"That's your evidence against me? What rot! Surely if I were interested in reclaiming my own trophy, I'd just take the whole bottle. Really!"

"Well, I suppose... But tell me, do you have any idea why she would have such a collection?"

[Both have Occult 5% (default), and unsurprisingly fail their skill checks.]

"Ugh! I've not the faintest idea. It's all rather disgusting, if you ask me. Perhaps some sort of paraphilia...?"

[Idea roll 65%: 99, fails. Julia doesn't even seem frightened by the implication.]

"Now," she continues, "is there anything else you found which you'd like to quiz me about? It may not be about me, but I am one of her oldest friends. It might save you some time, you know, since I'm not a -- how do you say -- hostile witness?"

[Persuade 75%: 62, success

Clue is (1d3): 1 person, 2 place, 3 thing: place
direction 1d8=south; 1 wilderness, 2 village, 3 town; 1d3=3, so Brighton]


"Now, we have here her diary--"

"Oh, that's why I couldn't find it!"

"What?"

"Nothing. Please go on."

"It's mostly just names and lunch dates pencilled in, the usual sort of thing. But inside were two first class tickets to Brighton for the 18th of this month. On the 19th, she'd pencilled in... well, I'm not sure what it is. Here, why don't you have a look?"

[What did she pencil in? 1d4: 1 word, 2 phrase, 3 initials, 4 symbol: phrase

The phrase is 1d4+1=3 words long. I was at a loss as to how I might generate a sensible phrase, but there's a pile of language dictionaries on the shelf to the left of my gaming space. I took one at random (German-Latin) and opened up somewhere in the middle, reading down the page until I found a phrase of three words: e custodia emittere. It doesn't make sense to leave the verb in the infinitive, so 1d6=2nd person singular, 1d2=passive. Julia's 60% Latin skill is sufficient to translate without a roll.]


Julia takes the proffered diary and reads aloud. "'E custodia emitteris.' That's odd. Who've you arrested, Detective Inspector? Not Alex..."

"We've made no arrests in connection with Miss Bishop. Why do you ask?"

"E custodia emitteris: you shall be released from prison. What a queer thing to write. None of our lot are banged up just now..."

Julia looks at the open diary and sees who else's name has been pencilled in.

[1d3=2 of note
Q: Does J know them? Likely (4+): O1 C8 - No.]


"This is odd," Julia remarks. "I don't know either of the two people she's had her last appointments with: Molly Lasher and Janet Evans. Alex wrote their second names in her diary, so I gather she doesn't know them all that well either." She turns the page back.

[Q: Any names she knows? 50/50 (4+): O4 C4 - Yes, but... only one.]

"Now here's a name I do recognise! Hilly! I wonder what she had to do with him..."

[Q: Does she have an inkling? 50/50 (4+): O5 C1 - Yes, and... Mythic: follow / desires = they had a thing]

Julia hands the diary back to DI Mitchell. "I think I'll look him up."

"I see. You know this Hilly person?"

"Of course. Gerald St. Hillyer. We go way back. Well, a few years at any rate."

"Miss, I must insist you leave the investigation to the police. This isn't a pulp novel--"

"But I'm the best lead you have, so far. You don't know all our friends' nicknames, nor, Detective Inspector, does your Latin seem particularly up to the challenge."

"Well..."

"And you can't very well stop me from seeing my friends, now can you?"

"No, but..."

"Then I suggest you take advantage of my help. After all, the 19th is just [1d10=] five days from now."

"I'll take that under consideration. Since you do intend to help, Miss Quigley-Ffoulkes, I suggest we take this from the top: do you know of anyone who has cause to harm Miss Bishop...?" [inquisitive - request - antagonist]


Scene 5

Chaos: Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: visit Hilly

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

In the end, DI Mitchell agrees to let Julia interview Hilly on her own whilst he tracks down other persons of interest. She tells him that she intends to be in Brighton on the 19th, and she would be happy to share a compartment on the way down.

[Random occupation = pilot; Hilly doesn't have to work]

Name: Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer
Occupation: Idle rich (Pilot)
Birthplace: St. Albans
Sex:Age: 27

STR: 12  DEX: 10  INT: 14  Idea: 70
CON: 10  APP: 11  POW:  5  Luck: 25
SIZ: 11  EDU: 12           Know: 20
HP:  11  SAN: 25  Damage Bonus: -

Personality: Chivalrous, Artistic

Motivations:
1. institute justice (a bit of a leftist)
2. burden the elite (always borrowing money)
3. advise pride (brags of own exploits)

[Q: Is he at the airfield? 50/50 (4+): O1 C3 - No, but... he's expected.]

Julia takes a taxi, and arrives at the private airfield [1d6: 1-2 first, 3-4 same time, 5-6 later] just as Hilly is getting out of his Rolls. She runs out of the cab towards him, making an overdramatic fuss, waving her scarf like a standard to get his attention.

[J rolls against Psychology (40%) to get a sense of him: d%=24, success
He seems: Fully / Feeble]


"Julia! I hadn't heard you were in Town. I hope you haven't come looking to get a jaunt in the skies, old girl; I'm only here to watch today, myself. Deucedly annoying fatigue. The doctor says I oughtn't even to be driving."

"Well I'll let you off easy this time. But only on the condition that you have dinner with me at the Claremont. I can even drive the rolls back to Town. Deal?"

[Persuade roll with +20% bonus: d%=77, success]

Julia keeps conversation light whilst they watch some planes take off & land. Hilly certainly doesn't look well, notes Julia. It seems more than a physical fatigue; she's never seen him so skittish. Before they leave the airfield, Hilly excuses himself for a bit to get some papers from the office.

[Q: Is he cagey about his business? Unknown odds, 1d6=4+: O4 C3 - Yes, but... no more than usual.
Q: Does he bring up Alex? 50/50 (4+): O1 C7 - No.]


Julia feels a certain privilege, as Hilly doesn't let just anyone drive the rolls. Especially amongst their set, there are one too many daredevils to be trusted with it. And it's not like he can afford to have it in for repairs just now. But he knows she is more than capable behind the wheel [Drive Auto 60%].

Conversation continues much in the same vein as it had begun. Hilly seems uninterested in anything of greater import, so Julia takes the initiative.

"You've heard about Alex, I gather?" she asks.

"Yes. Horrible business."

"And you're the last person I know who saw her alive."

"Yes, I... wait, what's--"

"The police brought me in for questioning, would you believe? I saw your name in her appointment book. Don't worry, I won't tell on you. The police have no idea who 'Hilly' is."

"Thanks old girl. I appreciate it."

"It's not like you have anything to hide! Or tell them... you don't, do you?"

[Persuade: d%=28
Q: Does he? Unknown 1d6=3+: O6 C2 - Yes and... a clue!]


"She... she had some mad scheme going. Not sure exactly what it was this time, but I agreed to join [UNE: friendly - alliance - rewards]. Some social club or the like. I thought it would be good for a laugh; you know how jolly one gets at these soirées in their fancy dress. But then she said the queerest thing to me afterwards: 'When the fetters are loosed, you will be glad you were there to help.' [Mythic: Assist / Victory] I assumed she was just quoting something and I had not gotten the reference. Now I'm not so sure. She gave me this awful medallion to put on, said that it's not only the invitation to be presented at the door, but that I must wear it always and not take it off. I keep it under my shirt of course. Here, just look at the hideous thing!"

[form (1d6): 1 animal, 2 monster, 3 skull, 4 symbol, 5 object, 6 roll twice
material (1d6): 1 gold, 2 silver, 3 copper, 4 lead, 5 stone, 6 unidentifiable substance
other quality (1d6): 1 highly stylised, 2 inscription, 3 warm, 4 disconcerting, 5 translucent, 6 normal

skull - copper - disconcerting]


Julia pulls over into a lay-by so she can get a proper look at the amulet. At first glance it seems to be a small copper skull, but the way it leers up at her gives her half a fright. The metal itself seems almost liquid, and when Julia touches it, she feels as though it is about to drip from her hand -- though when she focuses her attention, it looks perfectly solid again.

[SAN 0/1 - roll succeeds]

"How vulgar!" says Julia, quickly handing it back. "Say, there were some odd names I saw in Alex's diary. She didn't happen to mention a Molly Lasher or Janet Evans, did she?"

[Q: Did she? 50/50 (4+): O6 C8 - Yes (1d2=Molly)
Q: Is Molly involved? 50/50 (4+): O4 C2 - Yes, and...]


"Oh, yes. I know Molly. She's actually the one who got Alex interested in the society, it turns out."

"I need to talk to her."

"You're not seriously thinking of joining up, are you?"

"Well, you seem to be a member short, so you can't tell me there isn't an opening."

"I-- I doubt the party's even going ahead now. So soon after Alex... I mean it would be tasteless. Don't you think?"

"Oh, Hilly! How naïve you are!"

[Counting up the Points

'E custodia emitteris': Something fettered being released seems unlikely to involve ghouls, Mi-go, or a Hound of Tindalos as either allies or adversaries. Byakhee & Dimensional Shamblers are summoned entities, and since sorcery is definitely indicated, +1 to each.

Skull Amulet: The alien metal only seems likely for mi-go, so +3 to them.

New totals
0 ghoul
2 hound of tindalos
5 mi-go
3 byakhee
2 dimensional shambler

The lowest is now 5 less than the highest, so ghoul is taken off the list.]



Scene 6

Chaos: Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: d10=5, Interrupt (was: call on Molly Lasher)
Interrupt: Horror - PC

NPC List: DI Mitchell, Gerald "Hilly" St. Hillyer, Molly Lasher, Janet Evans

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

Dinner at the Claremont is merely tolerable. Julia cajoles Hilly into giving up Molly Lasher's address, but is reticent to speak any more on the subject of Alex or her new friends. The rest of the conversation is confined to stale gossip and endless droning on about aircraft. Julia pleads a migraine to cut the evening short.

When she gets back to her hotel room, Julia surprises even herself by opting for an early night. But she has, she reasons, a rather important visit to make come the morrow. So she orders up more scotch, and lets it soothe her off to sleep.

But she wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, and must clap her hands over her mouth for several minutes to keep from screaming. Such a terrible nightmare she has never before known. A skeletal leering wolf, its oversized maw still dripping with the blood of its latest victim, had oozed out of the walls of her hotel room and chased her down the corridor to the street. She sought sanctuary in a church, but the stoic faced priest merely led her behind the altar, where a plodding, hybrid, winged beast was waiting to carry her off into the frigid black sky.

[Psychology roll succeeds] Julia cannot believe these images were conjured up by her own subconscious. What can Alex have been involved in?

[For the Horror event, I made the usual roll on the d30 Sandbox Companion's Adventure Generator - Phenomenon table. 1d30=sleep.

The Nightmare spell in the rulebook seemed appropriate. It caused Julia to lose 1d3=3 SAN. The nightmare must reflect caster's life, but as the caster is a sorcerer of some sort, mythos abominations are likely, even if they've only been encountered in the blasphemous pages penned by the Mad Arab.

Q: Is there a Clue in the dream imagery? Likely (3+): O6 C8 - Yes.

I rolled two names on the d30 Sandbox Companion's Tavern Name Generator to generate the dream imagery.

1st roll: bloody wolf
only hound of tindalos +3

2nd roll: gargoyle & hippogriff
sort of Byakhee +2, kinda sorta mi-go +1

New totals
5 hound of tindalos
6 mi-go
5 byakhee
2 dimensional shambler]




to be continued...

Monday, 14 May 2018

Experiments in Horror - Call of Cthulhu (part 1)


In an old Lone Wolf thread about preserving the mystery for the player in a solitaire Call of Cthulhu adventure, I hit upon the idea of one or more entities, and using these totals to eventually determine what monster the PC is facing. This experiment will be putting that into practice.

Rather than front-loading this post with tons of set-up, I'll leave the mechanics of the experiment to be explained at the bottom, when the first clues are found.

I decided to use a single investigator. Since I had no idea about the adventure other than the above-mentioned Experiment, I rolled up a starting PC and even randomised (1d6: 1-3 his, 4-6 her) her choice from amongst the most likely Occupations.

Investigator Name: Julia Quigley-Ffoulkes
Occupation: Dilettante
Colleges, Degrees: Trinity University College Carmarthen, MA
Birthplace: Cardiff
Sex: F Age: 25

STR: 10  DEX: 10  INT: 13   Idea: 65
CON:  8  APP: 16  POW: 13   Luck: 65
SIZ: 12  EDU: 19            Know: 95
HP:  10  SAN: 65  Damage Bonus: none

Credit Rating 80%
Dodge 20%
Drive Auto 60%
Hide 30%
History 40%
Other Language: French 80%
Other Language: Greek 25%
Other Language: Latin 60%
Own Language: English 95%
Persuade 75%
Psychology 40%
Sneak 40%
Spot Hidden 75%
Shotgun 55%
 

EquipmentContents of cloisonné handbag: pretty little gun*, compact mirror, lipstick, eye pencil, monogrammed hip flask containing good gin, naughty salt, passport, mostly empty gold cigarette case, half-used matchbooks from several fancy hotels, chequebook, Parker no. 15** & ink, datebook, £20***

*   .32 Automatic: Skill 20%, Damage 1D8, Ammo 6, RoF 3, range 15yds,
    Misfire 99, HP 8
**  a ladies model with a mother-of-pearl barrel and covered in gold-filled
    filigree
*** worth approximately £820 in 2018



My toolbox for the experiment is:

As this was to be a typical horror tale (as opposed to the more hybrid/exploratory/D&D-esque ones I've been running), I wanted to use the Horror Theme rules from Mythic Variations, but they didn't quite fit with the changes in my MCSV. I decided to track the CF as in Mythic, and roll 1d10 for scene set-up according to the horror theme (1-3: Altered Scene, 4 or higher within the CF: Interrupt). For consulting the Oracle, I used my MCSV chaos die normally, with the following equivalencies:

CF  Chaos         Chaos Die
--  -----         ---------
4   Under control   d12
5   Average         d10
6-7 Out of control  d8
8-9 Madness         d6

According to the Horror Theme, the first scene always starts on an Ambiguous Event, so...


Scene 1

Chaos: Under control (CF4 - d12)

Setup: Ambiguous Event - begin / favour

NPC List: -

Threads: -

[Maybe it was messing about with Byakhee, but the first thing that came to mind when I rolled the scene start was a telegram (there's a template for making them as props). Using UNE to decide what it says:

NPC Relationship: neutral
Conversation Mood: neutral
mysterious - secrets - enemy

The sender is an old friend: Alexandra Bishop (Byakhee has a random investigator name function. Unless otherwise stated, assume all NPC names were generated with it, which saves me the trouble of noting it each time.)

Also--
The year is 1919+1d10= 1924
The month is 1d12= October]



Julia Quigley-Ffoulkes is sitting in her aunt's parlour and pretending to listen to Geoff Grantham's story about his latest safari in Kenya when the arrival of a telegram gives her the excuse she's needed to leave the room.

JULES DARLING STOP HAVING TROUBLES IN TOWN STOP
NEED RESCUE STOP COME SOONEST XXOO ALEX

Alexandra Bishop isn't the sort of person to need rescuing, so what, Julia wonders, could have her so agitated as to request it? Or perhaps the troubles are nothing more than the usual sorts of dramas that dear Alex is wont to find herself embroiled in. But then, Alex's boy troubles would be ever so much more distracting than that miserable Geoff Grantham's takes of shooting zebras or wildebeest or whatever it was he was droning on about.

Alex throws some things into an overnight bag, and her favourite handbag [see equipment list] and has Jones call her a cab to take her to Cardiff Central Rail Station at once.

Julia wires Alex to pick her up from Paddington, and is on the next express train to London.


[Q: What sort of person is Alex?

Personality: Motivated, Nasty

Motivations:
1. seek lies (a blackmailer)
2. communicate dissonance (loves nasty gossip -- about other people)
3. secure military (always chasing after Capt. Simon Rudge)

The Chaos Factor increases due to Alex's involvement. If you have to ask why, it's obvious that you don't know her very well, darling.]



Scene 2

Chaos: Average (CF5 - 1d10)

Setup: 1d10=2, Altered (was: meet Alex at station)

NPC List: Alexandra Bishop

Threads: help out old friend

[Q: Does her train get in on time? Doubtful (6): O5 C3 - No, but... only 1d20=17 minutes late.]

Julia glances at her watch as her train arrives at Paddington. "Only a quarter of an hour late," she thinks.  "Alex is probably not even here yet."

With exceeding nonchalance, Julia collects her bag and waits until the crowd has left the platform before getting off the train. She wasn't expecting Alex to meet her on the platform itself, so she wanders into the station proper, but Alex is nowhere to be found.

"Late, as always," sighs Julia, and proceeds to the station café. She finds a table with a view of the concourse, orders a coffee, and vainly wishes she had rum in her flask; the gin is lovely, but wholly unsuitable for jazzing up one's coffee.

She waits.

And she waits.

And she waits some more.

There's only so long one can nurse a cold cup of coffee, so in the end Julia finds a phone box and rings Alex's flat.

[Q: Is there an answer? Doubtful (6): O1 C2 - No, and... ]

"Sorry, ma'am," says the operator, "but that number's been disconnected."

Julia sighs. "Trust Alex to forget to pay her telephone bill."

Julia notices the last of the station shops has shut, and glances at her watch. [1d12+12=] "Eight o'clock already!" She digs through her bag to find what coins she has at the bottom, and begins ringing up every mutual friend in Town she can think of.

[Q: Anyone answer? 50/50 (4+): O4 C3 - Yes, but...

UNE--
NPC Relationship: friendly
Conversation Mood: neutral
inquisitive - interest - last action]


She tries Roo (Sir Rudolph Dailly), Gingy (Rebecca May), and Tuppy (Tim Richardson), but none of them are in. Finally she gets through to Chuffers (Karl Dobson), but he hasn't any good news.

"Sorry Jules, haven't seen her lately. I heard she has some new scheme or other, very hush-hush. Can't really say more. I've late dinner reservations before the opera, must dash."

Julia sighs again, and goes to find a taxi to take her to a hotel.

[Q: Any unusual problems? Unlikely (5+): O2 C10 - No.

In that case she needs to make a Credit Rating (80%) roll: d%=13, success.]


She was expecting that Alex would put her up, so hadn't made a reservation anywhere. She explains her little plight to the concièrge at the Ritz, who of course cannot countenance that a Miss Quigley-Ffoulkes might stay anywhere beneath her station. Right this way, mademoiselle!

[CF increases again as, other than the hotel, nothing went her way.]


Scene 3

Chaos: Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: go to Alex's flat

NPC List: Alexandra Bishop

Threads: help out old friend

Julia dumps her bags on the bed, has room service send up a bottle of scotch, powders her nose (in both licit fashion and otherwise), then sets out in another taxi to Alex's flat in Belgravia.

[Q: Anything unusual about the building from outside? Unlikely (5+): O1 C1 - No, and...
+Event:  NPC action - declare / Corse (it didn't seem that Alex, currently the only real NPC, was the appropriate Actor for this Event, so I interpreted it thus:]


"I'm here to visit Miss Bishop," says Julia to the doorman. "No need to ring up, she's expecting me."

"But... but miss," stammers the doorman. "She can't have..."

"I have her telegram right here."

"Sorry Miss, haven't you heard? Miss Bishop is dead!"

"What?!"

"Yes, it's... it was awful."

"There must be some mistake. Out of my way! I'm going up to see her. Out of my way this instant!"

"You can't, miss. The police said--"

"I don't give a damn what the police say, or what you say, or what anyone else says for that matter! I'm going up straightaway to see my friend."

"Her flat's been cordoned off, miss. It's a crime scene. No one is allowed--

[Persuade 75%: d100=47, success]

-- oh, please, miss, don't cry. There's a guard on her door and he won't let anyone near, not until the inspector comes back."

"Please," sobs Julia, "may I talk to him. Just a few words..."

"Of course, miss."

[She'll need a Persuade roll at half skill level (38%) to get past the copper: d%=15, success.]

Julia's slightly flirtatious tears are more than a match for the police constable guarding the door to Alex's flat.

"I really shouldn't be allowing this, miss..."

"Don't worry. I won't touch a thing."

[N.B. She just means she won't disturb any items. Fingerprinting doesn't yet exist in 1924.

Q: Is the body still there? Doubtful (6): O5 C3 - No, but... lots of blood and a random body part (via https://www.randomlists.com/random-body-parts)
Q: Other than blood, is the flat a disaster? 50/50 (4+): O2 C6 - no
Q: Is the window open? Unlikely (5+): O5 C1 - Yes, and... wide]


When Julia slips into the flat past the constable and switches on the light, her first reaction to the sight that greets her eyes is shock, and incredulity: the flat is perfectly neat and tidy, not a thing out of place. For the briefest moment she allows herself a glimmer of hope. "There must be some mistake; this can't be Alex's flat. She could still be alive!" Then the familiar lines of the furnishings and the posters stuck up on the walls settle into Julia's brain, and hope vanishes. It is Alex's flat; the housekeeper must have just been.

Julia shivers a moment, then notices the window has been left wide open to admit the cool October breeze. She pushes the heavy curtains aside, and looks out at the landscaped courtyard and the windows on the far side. "Too bad everyone here keeps themselves to themselves, or somebody could have seen something. Oh, for a block full of gossips! But I suppose that's why Alex loved it here."

Julia goes from room to room, and everywhere there reigns the same unusual order. "Alex can't have been home long before..." Julia cannot bear to finish the thought. She was expecting to find a chalk outline on the rug in the bedroom, but all she sees there is Alex's green velvet shawl and Chinese silk handbag -- the one she always carries with the shawl and won't believe doesn't go even though Julia, and everyone else for that matter, has been telling her for years -- tossed casually on the floor so very near the bed. She's smiling, almost laughing at the marks of a very-much-alive Alex when she walks into the kitchen.

Blood has splashed from floor to ceiling. Sticky, congealing streaks have dripped down the walls, and still-wet pools cover the ground. There is no body, and the confused smears and splashes give no indication of where it might have lain. A little lump of meat sits in the perfect centre of the little oval table, the one where Alex and Julia were wont to share a 7am nightcap after an evening on the town. Julia recognises it as a human tongue.

She feels faint, and puts a hand out to steady herself against the wall, then stops short lest she touch the gory wall. She steps back into the parlour, slumps in an armchair...

[According to the rulebook, being surprised to find a body part calls for a Sanity roll, with a SAN loss of 0/1D3. Julia has SAN 65; d%=28, success, so she loses 0 SAN points.]

...then takes a long pull from her flask. The gin burns on the way down, but redoubles her resolve. "Right. I'm going to get to the bottom of this. Alex, darling, to you." Julia takes another nip off the flask, then sets about a methodical search.

[There will be three potential clues, so I'll interrogate the Oracle to see what they might be:
Q: Is there diary? 50/50 (4+): O3 C4 - No.
Q: Are there footprints? 50/50 (4+): O6 C2 - Yes, and...
Q: Is there something unusual? Likely (3+): O5 C1 - Yes, and...
Q: Is there something obviously missing? Unlikely (5+): O6 C5 - Yes.

Julia needs to roll Spot Hidden (75%) for each to find it. 87, 74, 40: She doesn't spot the footprints, so I won't ask the Oracle about those. For the other two clues, I rolled on the artefacts table in the adventure creation section of the d30 Sandbox Companion.
unusual: d30=wand
missing: d30=mirror]


Julia isn't sure what she is looking for. The housekeeper has spent so many years cleaning up after Alex that the place barely looks inhabited once she leaves. Julia makes a quick survey of Alex's bedroom, rifling all the drawers in the armoire and finding nothing but folded linens. She thinks to check under the bed, but there' nothing there at all. She then lifts up a corner of the mattress, and giggles when she sees the long, slender black rod there concealed. "Been shopping in Soho, have we, dear Alex?" She is about to let the mattress fall, but a closer look at the thing sheds a shiver up her spine. It seems to be a horn of some sort, twisted in a loose spiral, and incised with all sorts of strange figures or symbols. And not at all, ehem, the other thing. Julia is loathe to touch it, but knows instinctually that it must be a clue, and quickly conceals it under her coat.

She is about to leave when she notices one strange fact which up to now had escaped her notice. She even rechecks the powder room just to be sure she's not mistaken, and is somewhat bewildered to find her suspicions proved correct. There isn't a single mirror in the flat. They've all been removed. Julia allows her consternation to come to the surface -- it's easier than she'd like to admit, so shaken are her nerves --  and goes back into the corridor with the nervously-pacing policeman.

"It's all too horrible! Why oh why did you ever let me in there, you beastly man! Tell the doorman to call me a taxi at once."

- - -

Counting up the Points


This experiment was to see how my points-based mechanism for determining the Ultimate Horror would work, but I was essentially making it up as I went along. I hadn't quite figured out how the points would be tallied or how the final result would be decided at this stage of the adventure, but as I write this the adventure has already been played through to conclusion. I have compiled the rules HERE in a PDF, which includes some (untested) options. But now it's time to attend to the first lot of Clues.


Before starting the adventure, I flipped through the monster section of the CoC rulebook to pick five potential enemies:

ghoul
hound of tindalos
mi-go
byakhee
dimensional shambler

Each Clue will grant a number of points to one or more of these monsters according to the following schema:

only vaguely related +1
related +2
if only 1 is possible +3
if all or none, +0
if none seem likely, but one is definitely improbable -1
if none seem likely, but none are particularly counter-indicated, then it is a red herring.

If lowest total is ever 5 points less than highest, that entry is removed from the list.

So, to look at each Clue in turn...

Open window: Byakhee and Mi-go both have wings, so this relates to them; they get +2 each. A ghoul could conceivably climb in and out of the window, which seems vaguely related enough for a +1.

Wand: I actually looked at all the summon/bind spells for the creatures, and none of them require a wand. Since it doesn't really seem to be for or against any of them, +0 (no points for any).

No mirrors: Could Alex have been afraid of extra-dimensional forces? Hound of Tindalos and Dimensional Shambler +1 each.

Tongue: This also doesn't hint at any of them, but a ghoul certainly wouldn't leave a snack behind, so -1 point for ghouls.

The totals after this scene are thus:
0 ghoul (+1-1)
1 hound of tindalos (+1)
2 mi-go (+2)
2 byakhee (+2)
1 dimensional shambler (+1)


The CF remains unchanged as she got a fright but came away with some clues.

to be continued...

Monday, 30 April 2018

Experiments in Horror - Silent Legions (part 3 - final)


Eleanor parks the car on a partly overgrown lay-by off the twisting forest road, then turns to address the others.

"Right, team, if there's one thing season tickets to the RSC has taught me, it's the value of silence, so mobiles off everyone. And digital watches too -- we don't want a chorus of chirps announcing our presence on the hour."

"I, uh, I'll just leave my watch in the car," says Terence, fumbling with the dial.

Leslie reaches into his coat pocket and produces a silver hip flask, from which he takes a generous swig. "Dutch courage," he says. "Any takers?"

"Yes, please!" says Bettina.

The flask makes a full circuit, then they pull on their balaclavas and step out of the car.

"It's so dark," observes Terence.

"It won't stay that way if we don't get going soon," says Leslie.

"Who's got the map?" asks Eleanor.

"I do," says Bettina.

"Are you sure you can get us there through the wood?"

"I can navigate. I used to be a girl guide."

"Of course you did, dear."

[To set up the final scene, I made a quick list of the equipment the PCs would be bringing for their assault on the cult's headquarters. None of the PCs is sufficiently rural/outdoorsy enough to own a shotgun, but I asked the Oracle...

Q: Does Leslie (illegally) own a WWII pistol? Unlikely (5+): O1 C5 - No.

So then:
T torch, cricket bat
B maglite, knife
E torch, kitchen knife
L torch, swordcane

I finally got a copy of Word Mill's Location Crafter, which seemed like the right tool for a low-prep cultist manor investigation. I even used one of the example locations as a jumping-off point. I filled out the rest of the lists in about as much time as it took to type them up, intending to use the Oracle (Mythic & the Location Crafter's) and the d30 Sandbox Companion as usual to figure out what everything means.

For each scene, 1d6 is rolled on each of 3 lists, with a modifier of +1 per Progress Point in the category (generally +1/scene after the first, until you roll off the top of the chart). The first 4 Locations on that list are exterior; thus the grandeur of the manor's grounds will depend on how low I keep rolling. Entries marked (U) are Unique, and can usually only be encountered once.

Here are my three lists:

LOCATIONS
---------
Expected
Garden Shed
Fountain
Statue
Expected
Expected
Study
Dining Room
Servants' Bedroom
Kitchen (U)
Library (U)
Special
Complete
Attic (U)
Random
Secret Chamber (U)

ENCOUNTERS
----------
None
guard
None
guard
None
Sounds of conversation
Footfalls
Special
Creaky floorboards
butler (U)
Eerie sounds
Special
1d3 cultists
Xanthippe (U)
Random
horror (U)

OBJECTS
-------
None
Bear trap
None
Expected
Expected
Special
Bloodstains
Sacrificial dagger (U)
Painting
Books
Revolver (U)
Special
Chalice (U)
Special
Random]



It takes about half an hour to traverse the gloomy woods by the light of a single torch. They daren't use more light, for fear of discovery, and Bettina switches it off as soon as they espy the manor's lights through the trees. When they come to the edge of the tree line...

Scene 1

[Setup--
Location: Garden shed
Encounter: Sounds of conversation
Object: Special

The Special result requires a roll on the Location Crafter's Special table: d%=random element, Bleakly / Abandoned]


...they find a convenient groundskeeper's shed to hide behind as they survey the landscaped grounds leading to the back of the manor house. Beside the shed, half-hidden in the overgrowth, lies a rusting piece of 1950s farming machinery; the sight of the spiky, corroded hulk gives all four investigators pause, as they try to remember if their tetanus jabs are up-to-date. Then the sound of voices reminds them they have a more immediate problem, as two cultists are having a private conference inside the shed.

[They each need an easy (6+) Perception roll to overhear the conversation:
T4+1
B9+1
E8+1
L3-1

UNE--
NPC Relationship: distrustful
Conversation Mood: neutral
prejudiced - difference - fame

voices are d6=3,1 both male

Q: Any reliable way to tell them apart? Unlikely (5+): O4 C7 - No.]


Everyone strains to hear the voices, but only Eleanor and Bettina can make out what is being said.

"She didn't pick you for the honour," says the first man, "because you haven't done enough to raise our profile in the county!"

"This Yule scheme is ridiculous!" says the second man. "We should be working in secret, not trying to trick the WI or whoever into performing the sacred rites."

[Q: Does the argument continue for a while? 50/50 (4+): O3 C2 - No, and...]

"I don't know why you're talking to me about this," replies the first man. "I side with the high priestess, and she with me. As far as I'm concerned, the matter is closed." So saying, he leaves the shed and walks towards house.

[Q: Does the other follow directly? 50/50 (4+): O4 C4 - Yes, but...
+Event:  NPC negative - seem / fear]


The second man starts to follow, but pauses after only a few steps. He clumsily shakes a cigarette out of the pack, and tries to steady his shaking hands long enough to get it lit. By the time he's realised that he's been trying to light the filter, Bettina has crept up behind him and put her knife to his throat. "Scream and I'll kill you," she whispers.

[Her Stealth roll was 2d6+1=11 vs. his 2d6+0=5]

She drags the terrified man back into shed, and her accomplices slip inside. Terence keeps watch out the door, as the rest surround cultist. Leslie holds the man's arms, and Bettina shines her torch in his face. Eleanor makes a point of showing the man her carving knife before beginning the questioning.

"So," she says, "we need to discuss your boss."

[Persuade roll 2d6+2=12!]

"I'll talk! I'll talk! Please don't hurt me!"

"Firstly, I was told Yule was being cancelled."

"Someone had made threats. We were going to find out who they were and eliminate the problem before the next meeting. The plan is still going ahead, you can be sure of that."

"But you don't like it. Why not?"

"Giving the uninitiated such a major role. It's beyond foolish. It's... it's blasphemy!"

"We're going to stop this."

"You lot? You can't! She's too powerful."

"Xanthippe?"

"Who else?"

"What about the chalice. Where is it? What does it do?"

[Persuade roll 2d6+2=10, sufficient

Q: Does he know? Likely (3+): O5 C5 - Yes
+Event:  PC negative - perceive / name

Silent Legions has good magic items generators, so I rolled on Miscellaneous Effects (p.87).


Internal Effects: They gain +1d3 to an ability modifier.

1d6=Intelligence]


"The chalice increases the understanding. If you drink from it, you can think like Einstein, or Stephen Hawking, or Da Vinci. For a time."

"What does the cult plan to do with it?"

"We're going to use it to win University Challenge. What  do you think?"

"Don't be sarcastic, Roger, you're not very good at it."

"How do you know my name? Just who are you?"

"I'll ask the questions here."

"Wait... Eleanor?"

"No, I'm-- I've never heard of her."

"Oh, bollocks, Eleanor. I'd recognise that bitchy tone of voice anywhere."

Eleanor responds by plunging her knife into the man's stomach. The surprise in his expression is reflected in the eyes of her companions, staring wildly out from their balaclavas. The man goes limp, and Leslie lets him drop to the shed's filthy floor. Everyone takes a step back as the life gushes out of him.

[Everyone is nervous, and new to this adventuring lark besides, so I didn't rule the attack an automatic hit. The +2 bonus for the target being held cancelled Eleanor's -2 penalty for no skill, but 1d20=14, easily hitting AC9. The knife's 1d4=4 damage exceeded the cultist's 1d4=2hp, so the wound is mortal.

Silent Legions characters start out as normal people, so casual violence comes at a cost. The first time a PC kills another human being, they gain 1d20 Madness. That being said, it seems like Eleanor really is as cold and heartless as the procession of her discarded ex-lovers would have you believe, for she rolls a mere 2.]


"He knew my name," says Eleanor. "I couldn't risk him alerting the others if we let him go. Besides, the little tosser had it coming."

[+1 Progress Point in each category, so 1d6+1 is rolled on each list to set up the next scene.]

Scene 2


[Setup--
Location: expected
Encounter: none
Object: none]


Once everyone has collected their composure, they leave the dead or dying cultist in the shed and begin slinking up towards the house, using the ornamental shrubs and flowerbeds for cover as best they are able.

[+1 Progress Point in each category, +2 total (1d6+2 to set next scene)


Scene 3

[Setup--
Location: Fountain
Encounter: None
Object: Sacrificial dagger (U)]


They soon come upon an ornate fountain, in the form of a Nereid surrounded by sea monsters, from whose mouths bubble streams of water into a low, circular pool. The moon peers timidly out from the clouds, and a glint on the pool's stone rim catches Eleanor's eye: a sharp, oversized kris knife with a twisting goat horn handle rests in a chalk circle, surrounded by various sigils and Hebrew letters. Eleanor takes it up without a moment's hesitation, and examines it in the feeble moonlight.

"How ghastly! How absolutely ghastly. Still, it's probably better than fighting with my good kitchenware."

The others scarcely doubt that she looks forward to using it.

[+1 Progress Point in each category, +3 total. It was useful to record this in my notes to remind me where things stood when I had an interruption (making more coffee, etc.), but I'm going to excise the increase in Progress Points from the rest of the narrative as in my experience it just tends to clutter the post. I will truncate the scene set-up notes from here on in as well.]

Scene 4

[Setup: Servants' Bedroom - Footfalls - Books]

"Look there," says Terence. "An open window."

One by one they run up to the house, crouching as low as they are able. The window is for a basement room: at ground level and just big enough for a person to squeeze through. Bettina peeks down through it, and finding the small bedroom below to be empty clambers inside. She is about to help Terence through when she suddenly hears heavy footsteps outside the door. She motions for him to go back, and crouches beside the bed, ready to hide beneath it, but the footsteps go right past and disappear further into the house.

When she is sure the coast is clear she motions for the others to come in, and examines the overflowing bookcases with her torch as her companions drop through the window.

"What have you found there?" asks Leslie. "Books of black magic?"

[Q: What are books like? Ruthlessly / Lacking]

"Worse, replies Bettina. "Some cultist is really into E. L. James!"

Scene 5

[Setup: Kitchen (U) - Special - Bloodstains
Special d%=Return]


They switch off their torches, and Bettina hazards a peek out the door. She sees a long, narrow corridor with a few stairs at one end. The corridor is itself unlit, but light spills in from either end.

The stairs lead to an enormous and -- other than the ancient brick hearth -- thoroughly modern kitchen. A glass door leads back out [Encounter: special, Return] to the lawn. Bettina goes over to unlock it.

"what are you doing?" whispers Leslie. "we've just come from out there."

"In case we need to leave in a hurry."


Scene 6

[Setup: Servants' Bedroom - butler (U) - Special
Special d%= Add element; cultist robes are present, and added to the end of the Objects list.

Q: Is the butler asleep? Likely (3+): O3 C1 - yes, and...]


Going further into the manor, the investigators are confronted by another narrow corridor. Trying a door at random reveals another bedroom, this one a bit less cramped than the first, but currently occupied. Fortunately, the sleeper within does not awaken when the door is opened. Bettina goes to close it softly, but [1d4=]Terence notices something an unusual garment thrown over the back of a chair, and takes it before they close the door on the snoring butler.

He holds it up and shakes it out to reveal a scarlet robe embroidered all over with arcane symbols in golden thread.

"Well?" asks Eleanor, "Not going to put it on?"

"Might as well," says Terence. "If we find enough, we might blend in better. Especially with these hoods up. So, how do I look?"

"Ridiculous," says Eleanor.

"Like my 5th level magic-user," says Bettina.

"What?" asks Eleanor.

"Uh, nothing. It's a private joke."

"Perhaps we'd best get on with it," huffs Leslie.

"Yes," says Bettina, winking at Terence. "There's a lot more to this labyrinth."

Scene 7

[Setup: Study - Special - Special

Encounter special: d%=random element, Frantically / Delightful
cultist rolling on E. d6=male

Object special: d%=Multi-Element: bloodstains + chalice (U)]


They come next into the darkened study. The flickering light of a widescreen television glints off the plastic DVD cases filling the shelves, and a forgotten stereo glows in one corner.

As they move through the room, they are suddenly aware that the pile of blankets on the sofa is actually concealing a person, a young man with a glazed but euphoric expression, apparently watching Star Trek Voyager with the sound turned off.

Bettina looks down at the cultist, trying to think of an excuse for their presence. The man squints up at her, and his smile widens.

[reaction roll, +2 modifier for pills: 2d6+2=8, neutral]

"Hey," says the cultist, "who are, um, yoooou?"

Bettina panics, and hits him over head with her maglite. [+2 advantage, -2 no skill, but still hits, damage 1d4=3, hp 1d4=1]

Everyone winces when they hear his skull crack. Bettina looks suddenly even more dazed than her victim had just moments ago, before falling back with a dented head.

[She gains 1d20=7 madness]

"He'll... he'll be out for a while," she says unconvincingly. But thinks to herself, "Oh god oh god oh god what have I done? Now they'll think I'm like Eleanor..."

"Look at this!" says Eleanor, seemingly unperturbed by the event. "I think you have to drink blood to get this thing to work."

The others look over to see Eleanor holding aloft a bloodstained chalice of beaten silver.

"Ewwww," observes Bettina.

"We should take it all the same. Leslie, I believe antiques are your department."

Scene 8

[Setup: Library (U) - Xanthippe (U) - Painting

Painting is Happily / Valuable - a stolen Renoir

UNE--
NPC Relationship: hostile
Conversation Mood: guarded
knowing - effects - rewards]


The library is packed floor to ceiling with costly antique volumes and objets d'art. A Renoir hangs on the wall above an overstuffed armchair. Bettina absently recalls reading in the paper that it had been stolen from the Louvre by a gang of international art thieves. But she hasn't time to recollect the circumstances, for the woman in the armchair reading a vellum manuscript is rising to greet the intruders.

Xanthippe Deniston is a tiny woman, standing just under 5 feet tall, but somehow her presence fills the whole of the room, and the investigators stop short.

"I surmise by these preposterous get-ups that you four are the ones trying to stop the Yule celebrations. If you only understood the powers with which you are contending, you'd fall at my feet this instant and beg to be received into the bosom of our petite cabale."

"My friends and I have had enough of your murderous schemes," sneers Eleanor. "We have your precious cup, and we aim to--"

"Hand it over right now, or face the consequences. I will not tell you twice."

In reply, Leslie twists the handle of his cane and draws the long thin blade from its concealment.

[Q: What does Xanthippe have up her sleeve? 1d6: 1 recently cast spell, 2 summoned beastie, 3 cultists within screaming distance, 4 evil artefact, 5 gun, 6 unearthly power

d6=2, beastie. I used the SL alien generation tables to determine its appearance, and the Average Stalking Hunter stats from the bestiary chapter as a base. Its form suggested 3 attacks instead of 2, so I dropped the damage by a die size.

Horrible Summoned Beastie (AC 6, HD 3, HP 9, Attacks 3, Att. Bonus +6, Damage 1d6, Move 40', ML 8, Skill 4, Madness 1d8)

Initiative rolls (1d8): party 1, Xanthippe 2]



The investigators are surprised when Xanthippe turns about and runs out the room's back door, but they give chase without further hesitation.

The corridor beyond is already empty, but they can hear her running footsteps round the bend. But as they turn the corner, they find not Xanthippe, but a beast vomited up from the darkest recesses of Hell itself.

[New initiative rolls: PCs 2, it 3.
1d8 Madness for all: T3 B4 E2 L8]


The thing has the size and general outline of a malnourished bear, with four sinewy, bifurcated limbs ending in doubly-cloven hooves. It has no skin; pulsing black organs appear between knots of raw pinkish muscle and taut yellow tendons, and a colourless slime coats the whole. Four lidless eyes stare out of the confused mass of tissue that answers for its head, and three grasping tentacles write from below them, each ending in a fleshy, almost human seeming mouth.

[Round 1]
As their minds struggle to comprehend the sight before them, the beast springs at [1d4=] Terence. The three tentacles strike in unison like a trio of cobras, a blur of motion followed by a triple spray of blood as they plunge into Terence's chest, tearing off hunks of flesh and bits of bone. He crumples with a choked gurgle into a bloody heap [3 hits, damage 6+1+3, drops him to -6hp, dead].

The others turn and flee.

[Q: Does it gives chase? Unknown 1d6=3, Likely (3+): O3 C1]

[Round 2]
But the creature is faster than its quarry. It bears down on [1d3=] Eleanor, and the tentacles lash out again. Only one makes contact, but it tears a huge strip of flesh from Eleanor's shoulder, and she collapses [1 hit, 3 damage puts her at exactly 0hp].

Leslie and Bettina are cornered by the library door, and have no hope but to turn and fight. Leslie takes an ineffectual swing at it with his swordcane [miss], but Bettina manages to slam her maglite down on its head, putting out one of the staring eyes with a satisfying pop [natural 20! and d4=4 damage, leaving it with 5hp].

[Round 3]
The three tentacle mouths hiss with pain or rage, then dart out at Bettina. One only rips away shreds of her heavy coat, but the other two come away trailing mouthfuls of viscera [2 hits, 3+3 damage drops her to -2hp, dead]. Bettina falls into the beast, giving Leslie an opportunity to advance and plunge his blade into the creature's flank. It shivers in pain as he retracts the glistening sword [hit for 1d6+1(str)=4 damage, leaving it with 1hp].

[Round 4]
The things is pulsing and writhing from the dolorous wound, and clumsily tries to twist and lunge at Leslie. The tentacle mouths bite too soon, and merely thud heavily into Leslie's sternum [technically, a single attack hit for 1 damage, leaving Leslie with 4hp].

Leslie slashes at the beast, but his swordstick just whistles through the air before its head [He missed, but he can spend an Expertise point to re-roll the attack (Tough class feature), and does so: d20=a hit! and it only has 1hp!]. As it pulls back to spring at him again, Leslie summons all his courage and rushes right up to the thing, bringing his sword up and plunging the point into its neck. The thin blade slide right up into the beast, stopped only by the top of its skull. It goes limp, and crashes to the floor, leaking goo.

Leslie rips his sword free, then turns and runs back through the house, leaving by the glass door into the kitchen that Bettina -- poor slain Bettina! -- had so wisely unlocked. He sprints into the woods, and can hear other cultists shouting behind him.

[Q: Clean escape? 50/50 (4+): O6 C4 - Yes, but...]

Leslie climbs a tree and hopes no one looks amongst the foliage. He waits there for several nervous hours. It's almost 9am by the time he's convinced the cultists have given up their search. He stumbles through the woods and along the country roads until he comes to the nearest village, and calls a taxi to take him home.

[He takes 1d8 Madness (each) for watching his friends fall. 3d8=20, but as it was more-or-less a single event, the loss is capped at the maximum for an individual die roll; he thus only gains 8 Madness, bringing his total to 38.]


Epilogue

Leslie is too terrified to open his shop, or even leave his house. He scans the morning paper with unease, and finding nothing about the night's awful events begins to search news sites on internet with ever-increasing fear, until at last he is sure the police won't be looking for him. He isn't sure about the cult, but perhaps they don't know who he is, he reasons.

After three days his mobile rings. The number is Eleanor's!

"Hello?"

"Leslie! Thank god you're alive! I think we're the only ones left. Bettina's number goes straight to voice mail. I can't get hold of Haverdon at all. I played dead after the monster... well, I ran off when the coast was clear. I've been hiding out in a B&B in Canterbury, of all places. We should flee the country. I've taken as much money out of the cashpoint as I can, Stephen has cut off all my cards. I need to get as far away from here as I can. Do you still have the key I made you? When Stephen is at work, go to my house and get my passport. Let's  go away together. France, Italy, Australia, I don't care, just away!"

It's a chance to rekindle their old affair, the prospect of a life with Eleanor -- on the run from God knows what,  but that just makes all the more exciting, doesn't it. Leslie packs a bag, sneaks into Eleanor's house to get her passport and some of her jewellery (she hadn't said, but he knows she'll miss it), and rings her back to finalise their plan. They agree that it would be best to take the ferry from Dover, and figure out where to go from there once they've reached the continent. He books a hotel room for one night in Dover, under the names of Mr. and Mrs. Cavanaugh. He takes a train to Dover that same day.

Leslie whistles a happy tune as he climbs the steps up to the hotel room. He is never seen alive again.


~~~   fin. ~~~

Post mortem

So that was a good first go. I think the basic premise of rolling scenes with the Adventure Template tables is sound, but if I do it again I will definitely do some things differently. And since SL is supposed to be all sandboxy, I should remember that not every scene needs to come off the tables, if sometimes my PCs have something they want to do on their own. Perhaps a hybrid structure between Mythic and the Adventure Template...

Some other observations in no particular order:
  • I should have made a character map of NPCs on paper, as they started multiplying beyond my ability to keep track of them all. Or remember their name, half the time.
  • The plot got slightly incoherent towards the middle, probably as a result of the point about NPCs above.
  • I kept forgetting to use Location Tags. They might have helped with background and hint at possible directions for the plot.
  • The Location Crafter worked very well for exploring the manor. But what I should have done (it occurs to me this very instant as I am typing these final notes) is stock the Lists with entries from SL Location Tags.
  • Out of habit I used my revised Mythic Event Meaning tables, based on word frequency in Matthew Lewis' The Monk. They were ok, but I feel like a more modern horror story would have been better suited and easier to interpret.
  • The TPK didn't bother me as it was not only horror game, but I was a little uninspired by my PCs; a campaign would need better (or simply more interesting, to me) PCs for a better focus and staying power. A boring PC is a dead PC, at least the way I solo.
  • It did seem that the only real motivations the PCs had for investigating was that they were PCs in a horror game. The next Experiment has another more-or-less randomly generated PC, but she has a personal stake in the plot from the first scene. For Experiment 3 I made a PC who is explicitly interested in occult matters. So at least I've learnt this lesson.
  • I really should have reigned in the silliness. Some humour is fine, as the contrast throws the horror into higher relief, but too much...
  • Eleanor turned out to be my favourite PC, though I was expecting it to be Bettina, as the scholar/PI mix. Eleanor might show up in future SL game as NPC villain, if I figure out what the cultists did to her after her capture.
  • Tags & Templates refer to lots of past/pre-existing circumstances, which in the blank slate of my beginning solo adventure didn't yet exist. I need to keep better records of these results as they are rolled so they aren't all forgotten. Perhaps making a worksheet with blanks to be filled in or something would work.
  • Again, taking notes on paper is always better for me than trying to keep it all electronically, and I should prepare accordingly.
  • Finally, the morris dancers (mentioned only in passing at the fete, as the adventure opened) should have been key to the Cult's schemes, or at least a major red herring. How, I ask you, can one do rural English horror and not have evil morris men?

Here endeth the first Experiment. Next up, Call of Cthulhu...