Saturday, 14 July 2018

Other Dust solo - Part VIII : Dover


Day 12

Ewa follows the road further, walking on the hills beside it. In the distance ahead, she espies a great, ancient castle. She peers at it through her binoculars, and sees people moving along the battlements. But beyond the castle to the south she sees an expanse of open water: the sea! the sea!

[Then the GM hat had to go on...

There are several adventure locations in Dover, and a lot more up the coast. I have vague ideas about what some of them will be like, and for others I have no opinion whatsoever. I'm not fleshing any of them out until Ewa comes directly into contact with them, and even then, only so far as is required for the current adventure. Partly this keeps things mysterious for me as a player, and partly it just means that set-up time is kept to a minimum and I get to actually play more.

Dover has the following areas: Dover Castle (enclave), Fortress Redoubt (rival enclave), the Port (mysteriously functional), and the cliffs, which contain the Coast Guard Station, Fan Bay Deep Shelter, and the South Foreland Lighthouse. Beyond that there are fields, wilderness, and the ruins of most of the city (a necropolis, as far as the encounter tables are concerned).

At this point it was necessary to figure out the Castle enclave. The random enclave generation tables gave me the following:

Size: small (1d4+1=) ~400 adult inhabitants
Government: tyranny
TL: 2
Tags: expert artisans, secret masters

The castle should be able to support a much larger population (it's huge and in good repair, plus has WWII tunnels). But rather than re-rolling to get a better amount, I decided this would mean that they have recently suffered some terrible disaster.

I had given her (above) a Wisdom/Perception check at 6+ to notice signs of habitation; 9=success

Q: Can she just walk straight into town unseen? Unlikely (5+): O4 C5 - No.
Q: Has she been spotted? 50/50 (4+): O2 C2 - No, and...
+Event: Move toward a thread - Inform / News = get a rumour from random people encountered]


Ewa continues cautiously along the road. In the distance she spots some tall, wooden guard towers flanking it. She disappears back into the weeds and scraggly forest, and decides to try getting closer undetected. She goes up and around through the hills, and pauses often to survey the area with her binoculars. She's not entirely certain that the watchtowers are even manned.

She continues her roundabout approach, and before long discovers another group of travellers lying in the tall grass at the crest of a hill, peering out at the terrain below.

[They are (random encounter): 1d6+2=3 wanderers

Q: The same three as before (day 9)? Unlikely (5+): O1 C8 - No

Reaction roll, 2d6=9]



Two of the travellers are null-strain humans, a man and a woman, both in the prime of life. The third is a mutant, some sort of cat-woman with orange and black fur. All three are laden with equipment, a generous mix of recovered artefacts and post-collapse manufactured items. The cat woman turns to face Ewa, revealing her strange, metallic eyes. "Who's this, then?" she says, and the other two look over their shoulders.

"Get your head down, girl," says the human woman brusquely. "You don't want them to see you."

Ewa crouches low in the grass. "Uh, hi. I'm Ewa. I take it you're not from round here?"

"Hi, Ewa," says the woman. "I'm Sandra. This is Krish, and our feline friend is Niamh. And we most definitely aren't from round here."

[UNE--
Conversation Mood: sociable
inquisitive - suspicion - community]


"We came to see if the rumours were true," says Niamh the catwoman. "It's a working port alright. But why? What's it used for? And who owns it?"

"Let's get a closer look, then," says Ewa.

"That's a bad idea," says Krish.

"No, with these," says Ewa, holding up her binoculars. "I've got an extra set somewhere. They're a bit knackered but they'll do."


Ewa hands over the good pair of binoculars and rummages through her pack for the spare ones she found. They take turns, and get a thorough look at port. There are many heavy trucks arranged in rows awaiting loading on one of the docked ferries, but whatever cargo they contain is locked safely within their trailers. More are off to the sides in various states of repair, with open bonnets, missing doors and wheels, and occasional signs of damage or decay. At least some of the buildings seem to have power, but it can be hard to judge in daytime. Robot sentinels are posted throughout. Only once are humans seen; a small group of people in stained coveralls are led away from one of the less-damaged wrecks and into a building by a pair of armed and armoured robots.

"I don't know what's going on down there," says Sandra, "but it gives me the creeps."

"Everything gives you the creeps," says Niamh.

"And that's why I'm still alive."

"So now what?" asks Krish.

"So, Ewa," says Sandra, "you wanna stick with us? Maybe we can help each other out. Share any spoils, that sort of thing." [UNE: friendly - aid - the character]

"And food!" adds Niamh.

"Uh, yeah, OK," says Ewa. "But maybe we should find somewhere safe to camp out for now. There's too much weirdness here."

[Ewa had made her Mental save against paranoia, so was free to agree with them. So, to flesh them out a bit--

I treated them as Wanderers off the encounter charts (random classes, level 1d4+2). Sandra is a 4th level Survivor. Both Krish and Niamh are 2nd level Scroungers.

I rolled on the NPC charts for group as a whole, so--
Big Problems for the NPC(s): Owes a powerful person a favour they can’t afford
Current Greatest Desire: Safety for themselves or an imperilled friend

Q: Are they forthcoming about their problems? 50/50 (4+): O4 C2 - Yes, and...

Who do they owe? Battered ex-adventurer
Why? Release / Animals: they let [d6=]his livestock get loose
What do they owe? 1d6x100= 300 rations
Where is he based? hex north of 9

Q: Do they make it out of town without incident? Likely (3+): O2 C2 - no, and...
+Event: PC negative - Usurp / Travel]


The four make their way back through the grassy hills towards the road out of the city. As they go, Ewa's new companions become quite talkative, explaining that they come from an inland enclave to the north, but that they accidentally crossed one of the prominent citizens by an accident that involved the loss of some of his herd animals, and they aren't allowed back until they can bring in enough salvage to compensate for the loss. Ewa responds by telling them of her Quest, and her adventures in the wilderness since leaving Eastbourne.

So engrossing is the tale that none of them notice the figures moving in the grass around them until they are completely surrounded by a war party with an assortment of well-made [TL2] firearms.

"Welcome to Dover, strangers. You had best hand over your weapons and come quietly. We don't want to hurt anybody. But you're trespassing on forbidden ground."

They hand over their arms and go quietly. The war party takes them down a twisty old road and up into the castle through the sheepoid pasture and inside the walls via one of the back gates.


They see fewer people within than one would expect to occupy such a great and fortified structure. Even the guards seem stretched thin along the battlements. A sombre pall seems cast over the settlement.

The prisoners are marched into the castle proper and down into the dungeons, where they are put in a holding cell. Eventually a null-strain human official come to see them, with guards in tow. [1d6=] He is bald, and wears strange electronic goggles. His spotless white Old Terran lab coat gleams in stark contrast to his grubby woollen trousers and worn leather shoes. The guards close him in the cell with the prisoners, and he addresses them cordially.

"Normally we just relieve trespassers of their equipment and send them packing, or shoot them if there's trouble. But today is a special day, so we're going to make an exception. The CG station is requesting supernumerary manpower -- and that always means trouble. We can't spare anyone, so we're going to send two of you. The other two stay here as hostages. You could cut and run... but I don't think I need to sully this friendly chat with the rest of that sentence. It's not a long walk from here to there. We'll hear about it if you don't show -- they've got a radio and so do we."

"What if the two you send get killed?" asks Sandra.

"I'd rather like to think that they won't. Maybe you should choose the two least likely to die."

"Um, sir," says Niamh, pointing her claw at Ewa, "we just met her today..."

"That's between you and her. Why don't you talk it over amongst yourselves whilst you enjoy the bounty of our stores. It's stew night. I can't say much for the colour -- or the smell, come to think of it -- but it tastes a treat!"

The official is let out, and a guard brings in plates of stew and bread, a decent amount of water, and a half of beer each.

"So who goes and who stays?" asks Niamh.

[roll for each: 1-2 wants go 3-4 wants stay 5-6 undecided: 4,2,2]

"Well if this is how they treat their prisoners," says Krish, "I volunteer to be a hostage."

"I wanna go," says Sandra.

"Me too," says Niamh. "What about her?"

"I want to go," says Ewa. "I got all the way here from Eastbourne by myself. I don't want to get stuck here when I'm so close to the coast. Besides, I can't really taste the food anyway..."

"Yeah, but... can we trust you?" asks Sandra. "I mean, why wouldn't you just run, since you want to see the coast?"

"Because it would be wrong. Because you wanted to help me when we just met and I can use friends like that out here. Because if I didn't just abandon a bunch of clueless podborn to their fate, I'm not going to abandon you lot."

[Scarlet Heroes reaction table (Friendly NPC) roll at -1 penalty for circumstances: 10-1=9, Pleased Consent]

"You're a bit weird," says Sandra with a sigh, "but you seem genuine. Fine. But who gets to go with her?"

"You believe her?" asks Niamh.

"Call it a gut feeling."

Niamh and Sandra play rock-paper-scissors to decide; [1d2=] Sandra gets to go.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Other Dust solo - Part VII : Back into the Wastelands


The heat of summer always makes me dig out my post apacalyptic games. So, after a long gap, it's time for more of Ewa's adventures in Other Dust. The game picks up as Ewa bids goodby to Tansy, Shelley, and the podborn mutants, and heads east from their enclave in hex 2.

(The campaign began here. The last post was here.)

Toolkit:

Scene 15


Chaos: Out of Control (d8)

Setup: back into the wastes

Threads: the Quest

[Back to the SH Wilderness Adventure tables. I reset the die thresholds for Events and Features since she stayed so long with the mutants.]

Day 1

[back to hex 1, no encounters/features/events]


Day 2

[travel to hex 3.
Feature = ethnic enclave

Random enclave--
Size: average, ~400adults
Government: technocratic
Core: small town (Robertsbridge)
TL 1
Tags: secret masters, trade hub
Complication: rival enclave seeks their ruin]


Ewa travels north east for a day. She finds a small hollow in a grove to sleep in, and the night is so warm she doesn't even need the blankets the friendly mutants sent her off with. The next day she heads off again, this time without travelling back in a circle. By early afternoon she comes upon a town with signs of life.

The town was obviously bigger before the collapse. Now a tall brick perimeter wall has been erected around the new town. An old sign from the times before is hung above the gate, but Ewa can't quite sound out the name upon it.


A pair of guards in metal armour watch over the gate. They lower their poleaxes to for a barrier as Ewa walks up to them. [Reaction=5]

"Who are you, stranger?"

"Just a traveller passing through," says Ewa.

"Uh-huh. Where from?"

"The south coast." [Wis/Perception 8+ to detect leading questions: 8-1=7...]

"South coast is pretty big," sneers the guard.

"I used to live in Eastbourne. You know it? No, can't blame you. Then I left, and I ended up staying with some podborn mutants, helping them get on their feet a little. But now I'm back travelling."

"Yeah, alright. You got summat to trade?"

"I might do. I could use some supplies."

"You can enter. But be on good behaviour! No fighting in the streets. We got a peaceful town here."

Ewa wanders round the town to have a look at the market, which is mostly an agglomeration of stalls in the village square.

[She's not planning on having a full blown Scarlet Heroes Urban Adventure, so I just grabbed the Midkemia press Cities book for random encounters; post-apocalyptic towns are close enough to fantasy ones that it works ok.

Town encounter result: d4=1 beggar/thief/urchin bumps into and tries to rob the character
d6=f, d10=null strain human, 2d4x5=~30years old

random possession=water ration

The thief's Dex/Profession:thief vs. Ewa's Wis/Perception: 3+1 vs. 10-1.]


Ewa is having trouble finding both someone with ammunition to trade and someone who might have a use for power cells. She gets distracted looking at a food stall, when she feels a sudden shiver go up her spine. She looks quickly round to see a woman trying to take the canteen off the back of her pack.

"Oi! let go of that!"

[Q: Do they get away with something? Unlikely (5+): O3 C4 - No, but... they struggle

Str vs. Str. The thief has 3d6=14 str also; contest rolls are 8 vs. 7]


Caught out or not, the woman does not intend to let go. Ewa just barely prises her fingers off the canteen. "Try that again and you'll be spitting teeth," she growls.

[reaction roll - Unfriendly NPC: 2d6=10, Qualified consent]

The thief backs away slowly, then runs off into the crowd.

[Q: Does the commotion draw any attention? 50/50 (4+): O5 C8 - yes.

UNE--
NPC Relationship: hostile
insane - confusion - the character]


An angry man comes out from behind his stall. "Damn thieves, always trying to get things that don't belong to 'em. They're the real threat to this town, if you ask me. Are you hurt? No, didn't think so. Maybe if you weren't walking round like a whole damn shop yerself these things wouldn't happen. I don't know who's worse, you lot with your salvage or them damn thieves or them damn raiders. At least the raiders is honest! And how do I know you aren't the criminal here, with your guns and your blue face... Why, when I was younger..."

Ewa backs away slowly, then runs off into the crowd.

[Q: Can find someone willing to trade for a power cell? Unlikely (5+): O3 C7 - No

One more Cities encounter: local character. This one is suppose to be defined by the GM, as all towns are different. I decided to roll randomly amongst the enclave Tags to see who it is--
50/50 for either Tag: trade hub
50/50 for Friend or Enemy: Friend
1d4 to determine which of the 4 options: Naive tribal

UNE--
NPC Relationship: peaceful
Conversation Mood: forthcoming
prejudiced - bias - equipment]


Ewa finds a long street lined with stalls that leads out of the square. Perhaps, she thinks, she'll have better luck there. As she's looking, she hears a voice call out behind her.

"Wow, you certainly got a lot of fancy kit!"


Ewa tenses, and then turns slowly about. She is disheartened to find that her interlocutor is exactly as she'd feared: young, wide-eyed, a bit scruffy, and wearing leathers that had obviously been made for someone with a sturdier build.

"Hardly," she says.

"For this town you do. Where'd you get that rifle?"

"This one? Found it. But it's nearly empty. Know anyone who sells ammo round here?"

[Q: Does he? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and...]

"That sort of thing isn't generally for sale. We're a peaceful town. There's even raiders what just come here to trade for food and supplies."

"Huh," observes Ewa.

"So you're like a great heroine of the wastes, then?" [prejudiced - assessment - the character]

"Hardly! Whatever gave you that idea?"

"You look the part."

"I look like I slept in dirt. Cuz I did. So if there isn't any ammo stall in this village, maybe there's at least a bathhouse. And a launderer."

The young man's enthusiasm for the Magnificent Heroine of the Deadly Wilderness shows no signs of abating, though her mood towards him becomes ever more curt. He does at least lead her to a lodging house where she is able to trade three flasks of lamp oil for food, a bed, and a bath. She needs to wash her clothes herself, but can dry them by the fireplace for free.

[Q: Uneventful rest of stay? Likely (3+): O4 C4 - Yes, but... can't ditch friendly tribal
+Event: PC negative - Befriend / Weapons]


Try as she might, she can't seem to ditch her would be Squire -- for she must certainly be a Knight. He could be ever so useful, especially if they found a mount. And he can fight -- he's made his own spear!

Ewa finally gives up on the silent treatment, and tells him he needs to stay in his enclave, and that she can't be stuck with a liability. To illustrate the outside world is too dangerous for him, she tells story of the  skewmen ambush, and Assia's betrayal, and ends her speech with a  graphic recounting of the  killer robots and their corpse pile.

[SH Reaction roll to get him to agree to stay home - Friendly NPC  (but -2 penalty: he really wants to go)= Pleased consent]

When Ewa is finished with her tale, she sits back and looks at him pointedly for a moment. "Well?"

"Maybe home sounds nice after all."



Day 3

[travel to hex 4

event: deadfall falls for 1d6= 1hp damage, to 7hp. I rule that this is damage beyond the 2hp you can heal after being injured, otherwise this would be a non-event.]


The next day Ewa sets out from the trading village. She makes good progress at first through the overgrown countryside and forests, but gets caught in a deadfall she was clambering over instead of going round. And this after all her lectures on the dangers of the wilderness!


Day 4

[travel to hex 5

encounter: 2d4=4 Wolfman hunters on the prowl (AC 6, Move 20’, HD 1, Atk: +1/1d6 spear, Skill +1, Save 15+, Morale 8)

reaction=4, hostile]


The next day she proceeds more cautiously. Around mid-day she starts to feel she's being watched, and unlimbers her combat rifle. Moments later, four wolfman mutants appear behind her, and throw their crude spears as she is wheeling about. She takes a minor scrape on the arm [only one hits for 1hp damage] and then fires off a quick burst at the one she hopes is the leader.

[She needs to roll 7+ on Wisdom/Perception to pick the right one: 2d6-1=7, success; her attack hits for 2HD damage]

The creature yelps once then collapses. The other three hesitate for a moment, then turn tail and lope off into the forest.

[Morale 7 (8-1 for losing their leader): 2d6=8 failure]

"Pack mentality," thinks Ewa, as she binds the cut on her arm [regaining the lost hit point]. "But still, they aren't just dumb brutes."

Ewa does her best to disguise her trail for the rest of the day, walking through as many streams as she can come across [wisdom/Survival check of 9+ is required: 8+1=success, so I won't need to consult the Oracle to see if they were following or not].

That night she sleeps with sodden feet, but for all that she sleeps soundly.


Day 5

[travel to hex 6]

The next day is just another slow journey overland. She skirts the edge of a necropolis [Ashford], even though her scavenger's instincts tell her there must still be treasure cached within.


Day 6

[travel to hex 7

1d8= a Feature

Feature: ruin-fortress
Reason built: Stronghold
Past event: Massacre of locals

Current state: Partially buried
Contents: trove type c1 Minor Hidden Treasure

The Treasure Types don't match up between Scarlet Heroes and Other Dust, so I went with G14 Ruin, Single Building (3d6 Random Loot, 1d4 Random Loot+10, 20% chance of Random Loot+20, 1d6 TL4 Parts).]


Well away from the necropolis, Ewa stumbles up on a ruined fortress of some sort. It seems to have been built before the collapse, but shows signs of more recent construction -- and more recent devastation. Most of it seems to have been buried or washed away by a flood, but there is one building still standing.

Divesting herself of her pack, Ewa is able to squeeze inside and dig through the loose soil. Amongst some bones and shreds of ballistic cloth, she finds a small treasure trove:

laser pistol (lightly damaged -1hit/dmg)
TL2 binoculars (worn)
climbing kit (worn)
power cell B (shoddy)
TL4 electronic components x5

She can't carry (or even identify) it all, but she takes the laser, binoculars, and power cell, brushes off as much dirt as she can from them, and stows them in her pack.

That night she eats the last of her rations.



Day 7


Ewa decides to spend the day foraging for sustenance before moving onwards. She collects a decent amount of probably edible food. She doesn't immediately die from eating it, so it must be fine.

[A Wisdom/Survival roll of 8+ yields 1d3+survival skill level worth of rations. Spending 8 hours allows a +1 on the roll. Her Weak Smell mutation gives her a -2. Characters who are "less fussy" are allowed two rolls, but all rations found are Dirty, and eating them gives you Toxin Points. Ewa isn't fussy (though she ought to be; her mutation doesn't help with resisting toxins form eating contaminants on purpose, as I had thought).

Her total modifier is +0 (+1 (skill), +1 (time), -2 (mutation)); she makes both rolls and finds a total of (2d3+2=) 4 dirty rations.

Eating 1 ration that day gives her 1 toxin point. As she's neither hungry nor thirsty at the end of day, she gets a Physical save  to remove one toxin point, but she fails the roll.]



Day 8

[travel to hex 8

Event: weather - Get lost; next movement is random]


The next day there is a sudden cold snap, and a dense fog moves in. Ewa eats more of her tainted food. She thinks it tastes ok, insofar as she can taste much of anything, but that heartburn can't be a good sign...

[+1 toxin point; failed Physical save, so 2 toxin points total]


Day 9

She's not sure which way she's going in the fog, but hopes it's generally the right way.

[random movement is due North]

She soon comes across an ancient road [the A2] in excellent condition, and follows it for a way. It's certainly easier going than tromping through overgrowth, but she can't seem to shake a bad feeling about it; someone or something must be maintaining the road for it to be in such a good state.

[Feature: ruined village

Great Past Event: Outside conquest
Current State:  Surface is in ruins
Contents: roll 2 encounters

Traders seek to reach their hidden stash: AC 5, Move 20’, HD 3, Atk: +3/1d8 Revolver, Skill +2, Save 14+, Morale 9

3 wanderers with PC classes of level 1d4+1 are plundering this wreckage.

Reaction roll between the two groups: 7, neutral]


After a while the road passes through the remains of a village. The surface buildings have been flattened by fire, and possibly worse. Ewa decides to have a look round; it's not such a big place, and might afford decent shelter for the night.


Before long she comes upon a trio of armed and armoured human(oid)s wearing heavy coats, facemasks, and goggles, making a careful sweep of the area. They turn towards her as she approaches them, and she finds herself at gunpoint. "You better keep moving, matey! This is our rubble, innit. Wouldn't want an accident to happen to yous." [Reaction=5, hostile; UNE: insane - accident - the character]

Ewa keeps her hands where they can see them and backs away. She ducks round the first corner she can in the ruined street, and thus it is she happens upon a second group. The five of them -- two mutants and three null-strain humans -- are much less threatening than the others.

"There's some dangerous sorts picking over the rubble," says the lead trader. "They already threatened us if we got in their way. We just want to recover some of our things and get back to civilisation. But we daren't whilst they're still here, lest they try to overpower us and take it themselves. You're more than welcome to stay with us. It'll be safer."

[Reaction=11; UNE: prejudiced - difference - antagonist]

But... Ewa's Mental save against paranoia: 1d20=1...]

The five of them look so innocent: soft faces, tattered travelling garments, only a few visible weapons. It is certainly a trap. No one is that harmless-looking unless they are trying to sucker you into their ambush. Why is the one-eyed mutant staring at Ewa like that? Could she be a psychic? Oh shit, she must know Ewa is on to them!

"I really need to be getting home soon," says Ewa, backing away again. "I strayed too far from my enclave, and I absolutely must get back before dark."

[Wisdom/Survival check 9+ to find safe (and hidden) bivouac in the ruins: 3+1, failure. Normal night-time survival check: 10, success.]

Ewa gets out of the ruined village as quickly and as quietly as she can. She makes a cursory search for a place to hole up for the night, but nothing looks remotely secure. She finds a copse of trees a little way out of the village, and clambers into a hedge to sleep.

[+1 toxin for dirty rations, another failed save puts her at 3 toxin points; she won't get sick until she hits 10.]


Day 10

Ewa decides to spend more time foraging as she has just enough food to last the day. She crosses the road and looks on the opposite side, well away from the ruins. She finds a moderate amount of food, but has eaten half of it by the time night falls.

[8 hours foraging for the +1 to her roll, but she rolled a 12 anyways. 1d3+1=2 clean rations, of which she eats one. She fails her Physical save, so doesn't lose any toxin points.]


Day 11

Ewa follows the road south east [to hex 9]. She still feels suspicious of its good condition, and takes care not to get too close to it. She almost loses sight of it once or twice, but manages not to stray too far.

That night she finishes the last of the tainted food, and, after another night of acid reflux and strange dreams, resolves to be more careful in the future.

[last of the dirty rations; +1 toxin point, but she finally made a Physical save, so still only has 3 toxin points total.]

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? 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. 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...