Monday, 11 November 2019

Call of Cthulhu Session 6: Party Crashers

We pick up on a Wintry morning, January 17th on the old docks in New York City. Gretta is shipping Denato's remains back to Brazil. In one hand, she holds the telegram from the Federal Police, requesting the return of his body. In her other hand, she holds a note from Jonas Kensington informing her that Jackson Elias' funeral will be held the morning of January 19th in Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn. She said a few words about the brave Detective and watched the steamer pull away.

  • Dr. Gretta Von Flue- Parapsychologist and occult enthusiast
  • Allen Challenger- Antiquarian and dealer in forged artifacts
  • Artie Gumshoe- streetsmart private eye

The investigators started the session with some some phone calls:

They called Erica Carlyle's associate Bradley Grey, wanting to reschedule Denato's missed meeting. They were less successful than Denato at convincing him that they had embarrassing information about Erica's brother, so he demurred from arranging a new meeting. He did let slip that Erica is due to attend a charity banquet tonight at the Excelsior Dance Hall.

They called Detective Poole about the car found idling at the scene of Jackson's murder. He asked the investigators to come in and talk with him. They were followed by suspicious characters on the subway, but lost them at the Police Station.

The investigators told Detective Poole about Denato's murder in Harlem. The quick Lieutenant connected it with the shooting yesterday, but was not aware of the scene under the curio store. He asked the party to take him to the scene of the crime. Regarding the car found at the scene of Jackson's murder, it was a stolen car owned by a Thomas Witherspoon, stolen while it was parked on Lenox Ave.

The drove with the Lieutenant and a couple constables back to the Curio store. They found the place boarded up so the Police broke-in. Downstairs they observed the blood-stains and fire damage, but the place had been cleaned out, including the pit-monster. Allen stole a bulky wood Masai Shield that he found upstairs. Lt. Poole went to question the neighbors about the Curio Store while the party agreed to check in with him later.

The party decided to crash tonight's banquet in an attempt to meet Erica. They quickly headed out to shop for clothes to wear. Artie managed to find a really great outfit(credit check +10).

They arrived at the Excelsior to see guests arriving in their Limousines, being greeted by a priest with slicked-back hair. The sign said "Fundraiser for the Children of Africa". They eventually snuck in through the back entrance, convincing the maitre d they were delivering an African Shield to be auctioned to charity.

Gretta danced with an elderly financier. She used her reputation to get him to introduce them to Erica. Erica was also familiar with Gretta's work. They discussed the Children of Africa and Dr. Huston. When the conversation shifted to Erica's brother and his expedition, she got uncomfortable.

They also spoke to the priest, Reverend Pat Stephens. His mission had actually hosted the Carlyle expedition for a night. He described some of the expedition principals. He described them as a strange group. Carlyle and M'Weru were clearly together and he seemed quite infatuated by the beautiful Kenyan native. Dr. Huston seemed to be in a daze much of the time. Patty Masters was as beautiful as her reputation said, but seemed sick.

Next morning, they called Harvard Librarian Miriam Atright. She is a big Jackson Elias fangirl and wanted to help. She reported that Elias had sought a book called Africa's Dark Sects(which the party now have in their possession). The book had been in the Library's collection, but had disappeared a few months back. An unspeakable odor had lingered for several days after the book's disappearance.

The players bought fare on a steamer to Southampton leaving the morning of January 21st, planning to follow their leads in London. It's a 4 day trip, assuming fair weather...

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Call of Cthulhu Session 5: Terror in Harlem

Picking up we left off last time, the party met up in the lobby of the Waldorf the morning of January 16, 1924 to plan their next step.

  • Detective Donato dos Reis- hardboiled Brasilian police detective
  • Dr. Gretta Von Flue- Parapsychologist and occult enthusiast
  • Dr. Warren Bedford- Professor of European History
  • Michael Hunt- 45 year old dilettante in search of diversions
  • Dr. Milka- medical doctor with a shotgun
  • Dr. Thomas Thompson- surgeon and occult enthusiast
  • Ms. Carmella Bates- jazz musician with gangland ties
  • Brad Johnson- Golfer/Businessman

They are waiting to hear back from the police and to meet up with one of Erica Carlyle's associates. For now they decided to follow up on the Emerson Imports lead.

This brought them to a subway to Harlem. Carmella ended up finding them a guide. At this point the party split with half of then following the guide and the others continuing on to 137th street in search of Silas. (Except for Dr. Milka who got lost in the subway and wandered off).

Carmella et al ended up eating Good Voodoo soup in a Hatian restaurant and hearing local street musicians on their way to 137th. Meanwhile, Donato, Michael, and Warren had a run in with the Bloody Tongue.

The three couldn't find the store, but noticed some shady-looking locals watching them. Michael, ever the murder-hobo, blasted a guy with his shotgun. Fortunately, the guy turned out to be a cultist. Unfortunately, he had a lot of friends. The three ended up surrounded by knife-wielding cultists and were soon tied up in Silas' basement...

When Carmella and the others arrived, the neighborhood was in an uproar over the shooting. They ditched their guide, Brad knocked out the cultist guard with a golf club, and they entered Silas' shop. They found the secret trap door, descended the stairs, and heard voices behind a heavy wooden door...

A Face of the Chakota
Jumping back to the scene of the first group's capture: Silas sent a couple messengers out(to call the priest of the cult). He began interrogating Michael, then showed him the creature in the pit when he refused to answer. Michael managed to hang on to his sanity. When he dragged Denato to the pit, the cop broke his bonds and attempted to grapple the cult leader. The heroic detective went down under a flurry of cultist knives!

Jumping back ahead to the rescuers' arrival: they busted open the door and came out guns blazing. Only Silas and the priest were there and they were easily dispatched. The party then opened the screen at the back of the room where they were met by the dead eyes of their friend Denato and several other zombies. After ineffectively shooting them, they lit them on fire and fled. Brad and Dr. Thompson lost some sanity from the experience.

The investigators discovered the cult's private stash of artifacts:
  • High priest's robes
  • Lion's Claw Gloves
  • Africa's Dark Sects book- from which several party members learned the Create Zombie spell
  • African Devil Mask
  • Burnished Copper Bowl
  • Wood Scepter
  • Metal Headband

The investigators left the horrors of the Ju Ju House, having saved two of their friends and having dealt the Cult of the Bloody Tongue a serious blow. On the other hand, the creature in the pit was left unmolested and no cult members were interrogated to find out why they had murdered Jackson Elias...

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Heart of Cthulhu

A quick note about the first three sessions of our Call of Cthulhu campaign:

This last adventure was based on Don Coatar's adventure The God of Mitnal. It's a high-quality adventure for a fan-published work, but I found it a bit bland, with all the occult setup coming to nothing and explicit advice to go easy on the investigators. I was thinking how to spice it up and I thought of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. 

I always enjoyed Heart of Darkness, but found the climax to be, well, anti-climactic. After this descent into the semi-mythic underworld in the dark heart of Africa, our narrator finds... Kurtz dying of Malaria and the natives really bummed out about it. I'm sure there's some deep postmodern message in that. No quest object or beloved Eurydice awaits our Hero's at the end of his quest. It was all for naught as there is only a great void at the Heart of Things. That's a powerful theme but makes for a dull plot point. What was rally lacking there is for our narrator to find Kurtz at his prime just as he's about to perform the great ritual to awaken Cthulhu from his eons-long slumber! The ritual goes wrong, Kurtz is left shattered, he is loaded onto the river boat. Denouement continues from there. 

So in that spirit I made Kimbel the Kurtz character. Our slippery gun-runner has met his match in the form of the crystal skull of Au-Puch. He has spent too many hours staring into it's owlish eyes and with the loss of his sanity, it has persuaded him to perform the ancient ritual to break the seal and release Au-Puch, an ancient Cthonian deep under the ground. Unfortunately, Donato's Judo skills foiled that plan before things could really get interesting.

Call of Cthulhu Session 4: The Bloody Tongue

The investigators took a long rest after wrapping up their 1923 adventure in the Yucatan in Session 3.

We return to them in late 1924, when they receive a telegram from Elias:

The Investigators:
  • Detective Donato dos Reis- hardboiled Brasilian police detective
  • Dr. Gretta Von Flue- Parapsychologist and occult enthusiast
  • Dr. Warren Bedford- Professor of European History

The investigators agreed to meet-up on the morning of the 15 in the Lobby of the Waldorf Astoria. Until then, their researches turned up a number of clues regarding the Carlyle Expedition:

They were suspicious about the rapid apprehension and execution of the suspects. They managed to contact and receive a telegram from one Lt. Montgomery of the Africa Rifles who confirmed the gory details of the expedition and praised the speedy justice that was had.

New York, 1925

The party met up successfully at the planned time. Denato managed to contact Mr. Bradley Grey, close friend and confidante of Erica Carlyle, who suggested that they meet for drinks the following day at the Hotel Crowley.

That evening, the investigators converged on the Chelsea Hotel to meet Elias. After failing to rouse him, they found a maid to open the door. The unfortunate lady immediately had her throat slashed by one of the cultists ransacking the place, after having murdered Jackson Elias. The investigators managed to kill two of the assailants and capture a third. Before he passed out he warned them "The Bloody Tongue will get you!"

They collected a number of clues at the scene:

The party were interviewed briefly by police Lt. Poole and gave him their contact info in case he wishes to further question them. They also found a car idling nearby and recorded the license plate number. After leaving the scene they followed up on the NYU lecture handbill, but found out that it took place about a month in the past.

At that point they called it a night.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Call of Cthulhu Session 3: the Subterranean Pyramid

After Session 2, Dr. Milka and Mike Hunt woke up in the morning in their jungle camp to the sound of a passing train. Rising to investigate, they found their friend Daniel Sephenson had arrived, and with backup!

The Investigators:

  • Dr. Milka- medical doctor with a shotgun
  • Michael Hunt- 45 year old dilettante in search of diversions
  • Daniel Stephenson- Boston Dilettante looking to use his education and skills from hunts in Africa to make his way in the world
  • Miss Lily Walker- private eye
  • Dr. Jack Pearson- professor of Anthropology
  • Detective Donato dos Reis- hardboiled Brasilian police detective
  • Dr. Gretta Von Flue- Parapsychologist
The party began going over the campsite again in the daylight, as well as the Mayan monolith from last session. Dr. Gretta recieved a vision of a Mayan ritual atop a pyramid. With the last bloody Human sacrifice, a wave of energy pulsed through the Jungle and with a sigh she knew "the Gate is Sealed!" This vision cost her some sanity points, but gained her some points in Cthulhu Mythos.

Following the instructions of the crony they had captured the night before, our investigators headed down the narrow path through the jungle, towards "Senor Esteban".

Cresting a ridge, they were met with a vista into a wide valley, thick with growth. They espied a small pyramid about 5km away, half collapsed into the tall vegetation. 

Continuing along the path they ran into a gory sight: an eight-limbed figure dried out and strung up on a tree. It took the party's collective skills to cut down, investigate, and dissect the figure. They determined that it was made from Human parts sown together to form some sort of mystic ward. They attempted to replace the ward, but without much luck. As they continued on the trail, they felt mild tremors from deep below the ground.

Reaching the pyramid, the party quickly encountered a pair of local-yokel guards. They fast talked them into thinking that they were gun-running partners. They were brought around to the East side of the pyramid where Senor Esteban's men are encamped. There are signs that they have been excavating the ruin.

Arturo Lopes, Esteban's Number Two, treated our investigators with suspicion, but they reached a sort of standoff with him. Donato would come to meet Esteban while the rest of the party were left to drink Tequila under the watchful eyes of his well-armed men.

Donato was led past the guards by Arturo into the pyramid, winding deeper and deeper into a reverse-pyramid underneath the ground! Reaching what must be the apex of the inverted subterranean pyramid, he found a small room, most of which was occupied by a roughly circular pit bored deep into the ground.  Crouching with his ear to the pit was a man, dressed as an experienced explorer, but with a crazed, disheveled look to him. After Arturo called to him, Senor Esteban a.k.a. Walter Kimbel arose. "Every day I can understand them a little more" he mumbled excitedly. "Soon we will be able to complete the ritual!"

Arturo tried talking to Kimbel about our investigators' guns, but the man was too far gone, preferring to crouch at the pit and listen.

As Arturo prepared to lead him out, a pistol held to his back, Donato managed to grapple him, avoid the point-blank shot(DM's shoddy diceroll) and throw the man into the pit. This woke Kimbel from his trance. He drew a knife and attempted to stab Donato, but he too was sent flying into the pit, a look of mixed terror and ecstasy in his eyes.

Meanwhile, the sound of the gunshot upset the guards outside. They disarmed the rest of the party and led them to a cell in the pyramid where they met Jackson Elias and two local boys. Jackson told them that Kimbel is insane, having gazed too many times into the Crystal Skull of Ah-Puch.

As word spread that "Senor Esteban" and Arturo are dead, their remaining men quickly began looting the site and fleeing into the jungle.

Donato eventually managed to find his comrades and Lily picked the lock to the cell. Jackson Elias quickly led them back to the room with the pit and recovered the relic, a beautiful but ancient crystal Owl Skull. He had Lily take lots of photos with the pyramid, the skull, and the smuggled guns for his next book.

Dr. Gretta stared into the eyes of the skull. She found herself communing with "Ah-Puch" telling her to perform the ritual to free him and break the seal. Her sanity suffered some more and she found that she had learned a new spell "Summon Burrower from Below".

The party left the place with their lives and a few crates of contraband rifles to boot. Back in Campeche the next morning, they found that Jackson had disappeared but left them a letter.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Call of Cthulhu Session 2: Jungle Training

For Session 2, two of our investigators had other business, leaving Milka on her own. Fortunately, she met another American who is staying in Campeche, a bored Dilettante looking for amusement. They made plans to take a train out to Jackson Elias' camp.

The Roster:

  • Dr. Milka- 26 year old medical doctor. She has trouble finding steady employment and so is willing to look outside the standard hospital jobs
  • Maria's story
  • Michael Hunt- 45 year old dilettante in search of diversions. French/Spanish speaker with good drafting/modeling/library skills. Carries a double-barrel shotgun out in the bush

The two began preparations for an expedition into the jungle. They collected their crates of guns, booze, and cigarettes. They bought supplies including backpacks, water, rope, rations. They got a donkey to carry the supplies. With that, the two boarded the slow steam engine out of the city and into the jungle.

After many bumpy hours, with numerous stops and delays, the party reached milepost 126. Maria, a middle-aged woman the party had interacted with on the way, tried to persuade them to return. They bravely continued unloading their gear and the train headed off, leaving them in the dark jungle.

They stumbled around in the dark for a while until finding the path by the river. Once on the path, they found a large Aztec monolith with carvings and hieroglyphs. The carvings showed a demonic entity reaching up from under a pyramid to the people above. The party took a rubbing of the hieroglyphs.

The investigators discovered Jackson's camp. It was destroyed and had been looted. After scavenging some materials, they constructed a tent and bedded down for the night.

The party were soon disturbed by chimes and otherworldly fluting. A gory figure appeared in the Jungle, lit by red lights and holding a skull. He spoke Spanish claiming to be Au Puch and demanding the party leave their goods and flee this jungle. His two skeletal minions lurked in the shadows.

Doctor Milka and Mike replied with some ill-aimed shotgun blasts. Two of the otherworldly intruders fled, while the other fell and was captured by the investigators. He is a drunk villager who works for a gringo named Esteban. Michael paid him to return to his village. He thanked them but warned him to stay away from Esteban. He is violent and mad and will do terrible things if he catches them!

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Call of Cthulhu Session 1: Off to Yucatan

Saturday night, we kicked-off our first session of Call of Cthulhu. I've never played call of Cthulhu before, but fortunately one of our players has, so he was able to provide some quick rules Guidance when things got sticky. The adventure I decided to go with is Don Coatar's "The God of Mitnal", but with my own twist to it. It's a short, straightforward romp into Central America which seemed like a good opportunity to start learning the game rules. It also can transition into a full Masks campaign if things go well.

The Roster:
  • Mac Johnson- 29 year old journalist and photographer. He has done quite well for himself already and is looking for adventures to truly make his name great
  • Daniel Stephenson- 49 year old Boston Dilettante from an uber-rich family. They have disowned him and now he is looking to use his education and skills from hunts in Africa to make his way in the world
  • Dr. Milka- 26 year old medical doctor. She has trouble finding steady employment and so is willing to look outside the standard hospital jobs
Jackson on past adventures
The year is 1923. Mac's friend and mentor is famed explorer and writer Jackson Elias. Jackson made arrangements with him that, if he should need assistance on one of his adventures, Mac will gather a team and come as quickly as possible for $100 a week hazard pay. Today, Mac received a telegram calling in that favor:

The party gathered in Mac's NYC flat and made plans. They collected info on wanted gun-runner Walter F. Kimble. They researched the cult of Ah Puch. They negotiated expenses with Elias' editor Jonas Kensington. They bought supplies. Finally they headed-off to Yucatan.

In Yucatan they had a number of close calls, with a strange, murderous Owl and with a thief trying to steal their rifles. They also heard creepy rumors about Ah Puch's reawakening, thanks to Daniel's translating.

Finally they contacted Guillermo and heard that he hasn't seen Elias in almost a month, but he knows he is investigating a pyramid out in the Jungle. He gave them a note from Elias with directions where to get off the train and how to find his encampment.