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

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!"


"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."


"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

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...


  1. Very clever! Using d30 tavern tables to come up with dream imagery. You often use that resource in ways I would never have dreamed.

    1. It's really one of the most useful tools in my toolbox. I can't think of a genre I haven't used it for!