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

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

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."


"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

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

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

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.

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

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...

Monday, 14 May 2018

Experiments in Horror - Call of Cthulhu (part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My toolbox for the experiment is:

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

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

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

Scene 1

Chaos: Under control (CF4 - d12)

Setup: Ambiguous Event - begin / favour

NPC List: -

Threads: -

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

[Q: What sort of person is Alex?

Personality: Motivated, Nasty

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

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

Scene 2

Chaos: Average (CF5 - 1d10)

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

NPC List: Alexandra Bishop

Threads: help out old friend

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

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

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

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

She waits.

And she waits.

And she waits some more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scene 3

Chaos: Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: go to Alex's flat

NPC List: Alexandra Bishop

Threads: help out old friend

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

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

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

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

"I have her telegram right here."

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


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

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

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

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

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

[Persuade 75%: d100=47, success]

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

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

"Of course, miss."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- - -

Counting up the Points

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

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

hound of tindalos
dimensional shambler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to be continued...