Saturday, 19 May 2018

Experiments in Horror - Call of Cthulhu (part 2)


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


Scene 4

Chaos:
Out of control (CF6 - d8)

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

NPC List: Alexandra Bishop

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance


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

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


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

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




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

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

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

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

But enough of that....

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Persuade 75%: 62, success

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


"Now, we have here her diary--"

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

"What?"

"Nothing. Please go on."

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

"I see. You know this Hilly person?"

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

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

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

"Well..."

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

"No, but..."

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

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


Scene 5

Chaos: Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: visit Hilly

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

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

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

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

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

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

Personality: Chivalrous, Artistic

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

"Yes. Horrible business."

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

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

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

"Thanks old girl. I appreciate it."

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

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


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

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

skull - copper - disconcerting]


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

[SAN 0/1 - roll succeeds]

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

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


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

"I need to talk to her."

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

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

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

"Oh, Hilly! How naïve you are!"

[Counting up the Points

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

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

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

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



Scene 6

Chaos: Out of control (CF6 - d8)

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

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

Threads: investigate Alexandra's murder/disappearance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




to be continued...

Monday, 14 May 2018

Experiments in Horror - Call of Cthulhu (part 1)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



My toolbox for the experiment is:

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

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

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


Scene 1

Chaos: Under control (CF4 - d12)

Setup: Ambiguous Event - begin / favour

NPC List: -

Threads: -

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


[Q: What sort of person is Alex?

Personality: Motivated, Nasty

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

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



Scene 2

Chaos: Average (CF5 - 1d10)

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

NPC List: Alexandra Bishop

Threads: help out old friend

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

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

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

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

She waits.

And she waits.

And she waits some more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Scene 3

Chaos: Out of control (CF6 - d8)

Setup: go to Alex's flat

NPC List: Alexandra Bishop

Threads: help out old friend

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

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


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

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

"I have her telegram right here."

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

"What?!"

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

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

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

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

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

[Persuade 75%: d100=47, success]

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

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

"Of course, miss."

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

- - -

Counting up the Points


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


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

ghoul
hound of tindalos
mi-go
byakhee
dimensional shambler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

to be continued...

Monday, 30 April 2018

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


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

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

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

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

"Yes, please!" says Bettina.

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

"It's so dark," observes Terence.

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

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

"I do," says Bettina.

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

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

"Of course you did, dear."

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my three lists:

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

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

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



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

Scene 1

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

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


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

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

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

voices are d6=3,1 both male

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

[Persuade roll 2d6+2=12!]

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

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

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

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

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

"We're going to stop this."

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

"Xanthippe?"

"Who else?"

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

[Persuade roll 2d6+2=10, sufficient

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

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


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

1d6=Intelligence]


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

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

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

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

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

"I'll ask the questions here."

"Wait... Eleanor?"

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Scene 2


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


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

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


Scene 3

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


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

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

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

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

Scene 4

[Setup: Servants' Bedroom - Footfalls - Books]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scene 5

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


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

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

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

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


Scene 6

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Ridiculous," says Eleanor.

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

"What?" asks Eleanor.

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

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

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

Scene 7

[Setup: Study - Special - Special

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[She gains 1d20=7 madness]

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

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

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

"Ewwww," observes Bettina.

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

Scene 8

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

Painting is Happily / Valuable - a stolen Renoir

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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

The others turn and flee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Epilogue

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

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

"Hello?"

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

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

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


~~~   fin. ~~~

Post mortem

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

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

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

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Experiments in Horror - Silent Legions (part 2)


After a night of phantasmagorically terrifying dreams, Leslie calls the others to let them know he's cracked the code, and suggests they convene at Eleanor's for lunch. She suggests they meet at a pub instead; her housekeeper has the day off and she doesn't want to get left with the washing up. Bettina suggests the 'Spoons in Causton as she's a bit skint. Eleanor offers to pick up the tab as a show of esprit de corps -- falling afoul of a conspiracy of murder and silence is one thing, being seen at a chain pub is quite another!

Leslie hides the original diary in his loft before setting out.

[Q: Will it be OK there? Certain (2+): O4 C7 - Yes. (No one s quite onto them yet)]

They read through Leslie's transliteration of the diary in turns, then decide which bit of information within provides the best clue to follow up. The name James Haverdon appears quite often; [1d4=] Bettina has met him before in a professional capacity, and thinks he will probably make a good ally, or at least willing source of information.

"He hired me once," she explains, "to dig up dirt on his brother -- the black sheep of the Haverdon clan -- that would prevent his returning to England, so he couldn't claim the inheritance. It looks like Gerald Frazer was in contact with Haverdon's sister, Georgina. I'm sure James Haverdon is on our side -- call it instinct -- but I can't just turn up on his doorstep asking about his sister's connection to a dead man. He'd think I was trying to blackmail him..."

"Leave that to me," says Eleanor. "The WI is always raising funds for some worthy cause or other. I'm sure I can get us an appointment with the Baronet."

[Eleanor needs to roll Persuade 8+ to arrange a meeting for this evening: 2d6+1(skill)+1(CHA)=12, success.

Other die rolls for the above--

Actor: Baronet C.K. James Haverdon
d6=male
Age: Aged or mature in their position
Profession: Businessman, clerk, banker, or other white-collar job
Memorable Quirks: Remarkably well-prepared for whatever situation they find
Social Standing: A solid and reliable community member
Relation to Situation: A reluctant participant induced by threat or profit
Their Advantage in the Situation: A network of relatives useful in dealing with the problem

He once employed B to (random Mythic Event): NPC negative - lose / distance; find evidence of felony (d8=murder) so black sheep of family cannot return to claim inheritance.

Q: Why does Bettina think the Actor can help? conceal / friendship : diary hints at Frazer's illicit dealings with family member
Q: Can Eleanor think of a reason to ring up the baronet? 50/50 (4+): O5 C7 - Yes.]



Investigation scene 3 - the Baronet


Eleanor leads the group to the baronet's manse that evening, ostensibly to secure his support for a charity drive raising money to combat teenage delinquency in the county. The pretence hardly lasts until the butler shows them into Haverdon's sitting room, but he seems unperturbed by the deception, and strangely relieved when they begin to tell him their story.

[UNE--
NPC Relationship: neutral
Conversation Mood: cautious
insane - chaos - contacts]


"I would like to help you," says Haverdon, "but of course this may have some bearing on the good name of my family. We cannot afford another incident like the one with broth-- well, miss McAdams, I think you know the incident in question. And I've had enough of people coming begging at my door for strange favours of late."

"I see," says Eleanor, "maybe we could help each other then..."

[The Clue from this (admittedly truncated) scene leads to a random Conflict scene--

Conflict scene: The thugs of the Enemy seek out the heroes to intimidate or thrash them into breaking off their investigations. The intended violence is unlikely to be lethal unless the Enemy is confident they can get away with it without stirring up yet more trouble.

It made the most sense to me to invert this, so the PCs are the thugs here.

There are 1d6=4 opponents
All are humans from Bestiary chapter: (1d6)1-3 ordinary, 4 heavy 5 expert 6 leader

I rolled a Cult Tag: Massive Ritual
Scheme (from the Tag options): Create a large-scale "celebration" that triggers the magic]


"It's the Yule Festival planning committee," says Haverdon. "They've been absolutely hounding me of late. Do you know them?"

"I know of them," says Eleanor. "They approached the WI, but we voted not to be a part of it all. The old guard were concerned by the pagan trappings of their celebration. The same ones kicked up a fuss when Mags Fortescue said we should have a Halloween costume night for the kiddies. I just thought it was too American!"

"This is different. Not at all just a bit of harmless fun. They keep saying I must allow the celebrations to take place on my lands. They want me to clear out some of the woods and have a giant bonfire there, that it must take place in that very spot. I'm not a superstitious man, but I tell you, there is something incontrovertibly sinister going on."


Conflict Scene 1


Haverdon has provided the party with a list of names. That night, Bettina sneaks up to the house of the Yule Fire committee chair[d6=]woman, and punctures the tyres of her car. She then posts a note through her door: 'WE CAN GET TO YOU'.

[B needs a Stealth roll of 8+ to puncture the tyres without being seen: 2d6+1(skill)=8, success.
She needs a 6+ Stealth roll to post the note: 10+1=success.]


Leslie hides the transcriptions in his office safe, but the real diary is still in his house. That night, the demon manifests again, but doesn't reach his bedroom before dissolving back to its own hellish dimension. Leslie's dreams are no less troubled than the night before.

[It manifest for 1d6=3 rounds; it needs 1d4=4 rounds to get to Leslie.
Nightmares: +1d6=1 Madness (total now 18)]


The next morning, disturbed by his dreams and another, even more horrible foreboding, Leslie decides to hide diary in his own chimney, just like Gerald had done. He spends the rest of the day in bed [healing 1hp for sleep, +2hp for bed rest].

Eleanor goes into Causton for some shopping. She calls the chairwoman from one of the few remaining phone boxes in England, and asks if the note was received.

[UNE--
NPC Relationship: distrustful
Conversation Mood: withdrawn
knowing - news - equipment]


"Yes, I got your message. I have reported it to the police."

"You don't want them involved. We know too much about you. Cancel Yule or else."

[She needs a Persuade roll of 10+ to make any headway at all: 2d6+1(skill)+1(Cha)=7, failure]

Eleanor's threat is greeted with laughter, and a definitive click. But late that night, Eleanor decides it is she who will have the last word. She slinks up to the chairwoman's house, and is pleased to see four brand new tyres on the car. These she leaves well alone, intent as she is on cutting the car's brake lines.

[Stealth 2d6-1)no skill)=8, success.
She needs a Vehicle roll of 9+ to cut the brake lines: 2d6+0(skill)+1(Int)=10 success

Also that night: the demon appears for 2 rounds, but once again fails to reach Leslie. His nightmares yield 1d6=4 madness.

Q: Does Eleanor's plan succeed? 50/50 (4+): O6 C1 - Yes, and...]


Eleanor calls again from Causton, and repeats her threats.

"I will tell the others we must cancel it," says the chairwoman.

"I suggest you also leave the village."

"We shall see."

- - -

The next day, Eleanor leads the group back to visit Haverdon. She is at first still chuffed with her success in frightening off the Yule Fire committee chairwoman, but by the time the tea is brought into the baronet's study, the feeling has waned.

"We've got them to back down," says Eleanor once the servants have left the study, "but it isn't finished yet, is it?"

"No," sighs Haverdon. "They'll just try some other way."

"How can we stop them?

"Cut off the head of the serpent..."

"I told her to leave town--"

"She's the public face, not the true leader."

"Her name wasn't even in the diary," offers Bettina. "But it does keep mentioning a meeting between 'the leader' and someone known as 'La Belle Dame'."

Haverdon laughs. "That's a very old nickname; I'm surprised Frazer even knew it. It refers to Janice Messing -- professor emerita, St John's college. We did English at Cambridge together. Oh, it seems an age ago! You see, she was obsessed with Keats..."

[The adventure was in danger of wandering all over the place, so I made the decision that Haverdon's information would lead to the final Investigation Scene.

I rolled:

The clue is in a Place in possession of an Actor who has a reason not to admit their possession of it, perhaps due to threats by an Enemy, rivalry with a Friend, or their own actions in obtaining it.

Actor Generation--
d6=F

Actor: Professor Janice Messing
Age: Aged or mature in their position.

Profession: Teacher, professor, or other education worker.
Memorable Quirks: Always forgetting things or fumbling simple matters
Social Standing: A solid and reliable community member
Relation to Situation: The person responsible for hiding it or investigating it
Their Advantage in the Situation: Knowledge of a secret useful to them in opposing the PCs

Q: Does she live alone? 50/50 (4+): O4 C8 - Yes]



Investigation Scene 4


Janice Messing looks suspiciously at the strangers on the doorstep of her semi-detached. "Who did you say you were with again?"

"The WI," says Eleanor. "We've roped our partners into helping, as you can see."

[E needs to roll a Persuade of 9+ to gain admittance: 2d6+2=6, fail.]

"I'm not receiving visitors today"

"Fine. I'd hoped to do this in private, but you leave me no choice. We're actually investigating the death of Gerald Frazer... and related matters. The trail has led us here. I Think you'd rather talk to us than to the police."

[One more try, but at 11+: 2d6+2=4]

"Who sent you? Not that ridiculous old fool, Haverdon? It is I who shall be calling the police if you don't leave this very instant." [UNE: prejudiced - discrimination - contacts]

Leslie pushes through the half-open door and into her house.

[Her STR is 3d6=9. Opposed STR checks: L 2d6+1=9 vs. her 2d6=4, success]

"What are you doing?!" shrieks the professor.

"Quiet!" says Leslie. "We came here for answers and you're going to provide them... or else."

[Q: Anyone else in the house? Unlikely (5+): O2 C1 - No, and... neighbours are out.

Eleanor spends an Expertise point to activate her Folie à deux class ability, allowing an automatic success on her Persuade skill to intimidate. If the target is under supernatural influence, she gets a Mental saving throw to avoid the effect. To preserve suspense, I decided to roll the save first,  using the UNE chart to determine her power level relative to the PCs if needed, and only ask the Oracle about supernatural influence if the save is a (probable success). But I rolled 1d20=1! There's no way that could succeed.]


Eleanor lays the course of their investigations out plainly before the professor, who nods knowingly but says nothing.

"I've fired a warning shot across the cult's bow," concludes Eleanor, "and now the kid gloves are off. You don't want to find yourself on the wrong side of this equation, or you'll find I can do much more injury to an old English teacher than just stringing together mixed metaphors."

"I don't want anything to do with them anymore," says the professor. "They're a bad lot, and up to something nefarious. If you want my help, I will give it, on the condition that you never return here again." [UNE: scheming - plot - current scene]

"Done."

"Good. The cult leader is a [d6=]woman called Xanthippe Deniston. She lives at Dovecoate Manor, near Midsomer Mallow. There's a back way into the house -- I'd come in through the woods, not the road. You needn't worry about any guard dogs; no animals can stand being so close to the corruption. But there may be.... other sorts of guardians."

"Can you offer us any advice?"

"Only that they may be on to you. She sent round some of her lackeys just yesterday, asking if any meddlesome persons had been to see me." [UNE: mysterious - shadows - previous scene]

[Q: Is there an ambush when the PCs leave? 50/50 (4+): O1 C1 - No, and... not being followed, or else followers really inept
+Event:  PC positive (d4=Eleanor)- open / conversation]


Following their interview with Professor Messing, the investigators retire to the nearest pub to plan their next move over lunch and a quick pint (except for Eleanor, who naturally always has white wine). They decide they must follow up the lead this very night, so after lunch they will all rest up and  equip for another nocturnal mission.

Before leaving the pub, Eleanor must excuse herself to go powder her nose. The pub's smoking area is right outside the ladies', and as luck would have it [the Event above], one of the cultists is in this very pub. [1d6=]He has just stepped out to have a fag whilst he makes a call to one of his co-conspirators. Eleanor can hear every unguarded word through the open ventilation window.

[UNE--
NPC Relationship: neutral
Conversation Mood: neutral
scheming - means - relics

Relics? d30=cup]


"I don't know... no... no... She won't let us use the chalice... Yes, I told her... Yes, of course... She won't let it out of the display cabinet... Really, all that power, and she treats it like the good china... Ha, ha, yeah... Ok, catch you later. Cheers... Ha, ha, yeah, Iey'wve'gyg-mah to you too, matey."

to be continued...

Friday, 13 April 2018

Experiments in Horror - Silent Legions (part 1)


Brief Prefatory Remarks

Writers block has lately damned this (and my other) blog to silence. I tried going back to old games, but that didn't seem to spark my creativity sufficiently. I decided something new and simple might be a good idea, hoping that coming to something fresh might provide the necessary spark, but simplicity ever eludes me. So instead I decided the stars were right for dusting off one of the horror game ideas I've always been intending to try but never seem to get round to starting. Of course, picking one proved to be the next obstacle. After no small amount of vacillation and hesitancy, I decided that there were three serious contenders, so I might as well try them all and make a connected series of posts out of it. But I will spare you any further wittering, and jump right into the first Experiment.

Silent Legions

Set Up

I finally invested in a copy of Silent Legions back in October, intending to use the sandbox tools for other things, but after a read-through decided I would like to try playing it as-is. This initial Experiment is actually my first go at Silent Legions; the adventure did stall for several months, but I was inspired to finish it when I came up with the idea for the series.

I wanted it to run it using the Adventure Template tables, but other than that I had no real ideas. I usually avoid modern settings altogether, as I can never think of good characters. There's always the archetype of the scholar hunting down forgotten lore hidden in ancient, sometimes unspeakable texts, but I can play that in real life at the BL.

So I decided to make random characters and use that as a jumping off point. I used a party of four so I could have one of each character class. Stats were rolled 3d6 in order for each, as Silent Legions allows you to increase one stat to 14, based on your class. Everything that could be rolled, was.

Rather than go through it in detail, I will just summarise the PCs, and include their character sheets below for those who are interested (and my own reference).

- Terence Blevins is the Investigator. I rolled Bureaucrat for his background, and decided that he works on the local county council's planning committee.

- Bettina McAdams is the Scholar. Her background is Private Investigator. After uni, she wasn't sure what to do with an English degree, and decided to set herself up as a PI. Shadowing unfaithful spouses doesn't pay particularly well, so she's Struggling to make ends meet (taking the Struggling wealth level gave her a bonus skill).

- The Tough character is a man by the name of Leslie Cavanaugh. I rolled Antiquarian for his background, and decided the combination of that with his character class meant that he owned a military memorabilia shop. He takes fencing classes to stay fit, being nearly 50 (Combat skill 0, Str 16).

- Eleanor Carlisle-Landry is the Socialite. She's a Stay-at-home-spouse (Background), married to an Affluent (Wealth) businessman whose work requires frequent long trips abroad.

According to the rulebook, each player's character should have a relationship with the character of the player to their left (there's a d12 table provided). I made a 4-character sheet, so I rolled them in a clockwise fashion. Thus we find that Terence is Bettina's friend from book club; when Bettina was a teenager, she had a summer job working at Leslie's shop; Leslie once had an affair with Eleanor; Terence was once indicted for corruption, and Eleanor was his character witness in court (he was acquitted).

At this point they were looking more like the cast of a Midsomer Murders episode than a party of occult investigators. So I said 'fuck it' and used Midsomer for the setting. Terence and Bettina live in Causton, the other two live in one of the villages. If I need a map, there's one in the DVD special features, but I decided not to pre-roll Tags for any of the locations and just see how things turned out.

Patrick Robinson as Terence Blevins
Terence Blevins
Male, Age 33
Class: Investigator
Background: Bureaucrat
Wealth: Average
Str 8 Int 9 Wis 14 Dex 12 Con 9 Cha 13
AC 9, Att +1, HP 4
Computer 0, Culture/Home 0, Law 1, Perception 1, Persuade 0, Research 0, Leadership 0
Connection: friend of Bettina from book club


Amanda Ryan as Bettina McAdams
Bettina McAdams
Female, Age 24
Class: Scholar
Background: Private eye
Wealth: Struggling
Str 8 Int 13 Wis 14 Dex 10 Con 11 Cha 6
AC 9, Att +0, HP 4
Culture/Home 0, Law 0, Occult 0, Perception 0, Research 0, Science 0, Stealth 1, Gambling 0
Connection: once had summer job at Leslie's shop


David Troughton as Leslie Cavanaugh
Leslie Cavanaugh
Male, Age 48
Class: Tough
Background: Antiquarian
Wealth: Average
Str 16 Int 12 Wis 11 Dex 14 Con 11 Cha 11
AC 8, Att +1, HP 6
Culture/Home 1, Business 0, History 1, Language 0 (French), Athletics 0, Combat/Primitive 0, Tactics 0
Connection: had affair with Eleanor



Lucy Punch as Eleanor Carlisle-Landry
Eleanor Carlisle-Landry
Female, Age 36
Class: Socialite
Background: Stay-at-home spouse
Wealth: Affluent
Str 11 Int 14 Wis 16 Dex 11 Con 9 Cha 14
AC 9, Att +1, HP 3
Culture/Home 1, Perception 0, Persuade 1, Vehicle/Land 0, Religion 0, Athletics 0
Connection: once was called to court as Terence's character witness


My toolbox for the experiment is:

Now then, on to...

The Adventure

[The rulebook suggests starting to build an Adventure Template by first rolling the Resolution and working backwards. I'm not sure how beneficial an idea this is for solo gaming, but I rolled one anyway and put it at the bottom of my notes in case I needed to refer to it:

Resolution (no time pressure): An Enemy has retreated here to recover after a defeat or setback, and is using a Scheme to further their control of their new home. The investigations reveal both the reason for the Enemy’s flight here and the nature of the tools being used.

I never actually did until now, and I'm kind of pleased at how things more -or-less got to it of their own accord. Or at least it did in retrospect; perhaps it was a subconscious pull.


The Hook

The hook is the initial scene for the adventure wherein the PCs become involved. I rolled:

The Hook: The heroes stumble across the remains of a Crime connected to a Secret at the site, or suddenly find themselves in the middle of the Crime in progress.

The Secret would need to be found out through play, so I left that to one side. I rolled the Crime according to the One Roll Crime Creation tables:

Crime:
A relative or neighbour of the victim discovered it.
Police attitude: Restrained. Someone important wants this hushed up.
Clue: Vehicle identification leads toward the culprit
Gossip: Very quiet, with few people having heard of it.
Seeming nature: Street violence. Beatings, muggings, random murder
witnesses: Malicious. They twisted what they saw to hurt someone.

Now to set the scene...]


It is a lovely English summer's day (24°C, overcast), perfect for the village fete in Midsomer Worthy. In addition to the folk who make their homes in the village, the fete has drawn punters from all over the Midlands, and even some tourists from as far afield as London. All the usual diversions are on offer: ring toss, a "gypsy" fortune teller, morris dancing, a beer tent, a Pimm's tent, another beer tent, face painting for the kids, etc. But unbeknownst to all save a select and scheming few, something sinister is afoot. ..


At their last book club meeting, Bettina had convinced Terrance to go with her to the fete. As our story opens, she is having her cards read in the fortune teller's tent. Terence is waiting outside, as last year "Madame Yolanda" (Mrs. Iverson) made a clumsy pass at him under the pretence of reading his palm.

Bettina finally emerges, and begins to laughingly relate the portentous news from her reading. "She said there would be a handsome gentleman in my future! I think her powers of observation leave a bit to be desired! Now, if--"

Suddenly a scream pierces the air, and blue car tears out of the parking lot in a cloud of dust and gravel, nearly running down several people. Bettina instinctively notes the license plate number. Some police appear moments later, and start ushering people away from the parking lot.

Terence hears a shrill, officious voice behind him demanding to know what's going on. He wheels about to see Eleanor, wearing a stylish sundress and carrying a clipboard, upon which the scores for the WI baking competition are being tallied. Behind her, an older gentleman is struggling to catch up, a drink in each hand and his cane tucked awkwardly beneath his arm.

"Terence! I thought you didn't like fetes." asks Eleanor.

"Not really, but--"

"Did you see what happened?"

"No, I--"

"I'm going to find out. Leslie, wait here."

Eleanor goes over to the police, who at first try to shoo her away, but her inimitable charm wins over the detective constable. She rejoins her friends shortly thereafter.

[Eleanor spent an Expertise Point (of which 1st level characters have 2) to activate her Socialite class ability italFolie à deuxital, allowing her to win  an otherwise impossible (or nearly: 13+ needed) Persuade skill check.]

"You look pleased with yourself," says Terence.

"The constable 'wasn't supposed to say anything', so don't go blabbing, but it looks like Gerald Frazer's gone and gotten himself murdered!"

"He had it coming," muses Leslie.

"Oh, tut. He was a patently absurd little man, but he didn't have any enemies. Not any real ones, at any rate."

"He must've had at least one."

"Why are the police trying to keep it quiet?" asks Bettina.

"And you are...?" sneers Eleanor.

"This is my friend, Bettina," offers Terence.

"Oh?" asks Eleanor, raising her eyebrow and looking Bettina over. "Do tell!"

"My friend whom I told you about. From book club."

"Oh. Of course. I thought she did look a bit sporty for your taste." She turns back to Bettina. "But now that you mention it, it does seem a little odd."

"Not only that," continues Bettina, "but I had a quick wander over that way. And before they turned me back, I overheard one of the witnesses giving a statement. She said it was a yellow Prius that fled the scene. I saw it too, and it was definitely a dark blue Vauxhall. That's not the sort of mistake one makes, even in duress. Strange, don't you think?"

"Did I mention Bettina's a private detective?" adds Terence.

[Bettina needed to make a Perception skill roll of 6+: 2d6+1(wis)+0(skill)=8, success.

I made a few rolls on the Actor generation tables to determine who the victim was: up-and-coming, teacher, bad plastic surgery (pec implants), Formerly honoured but now in less repute (also pec implants).]



Introduction

[The Introduction Scene is where the PCs realise there was much more to Hook scene  than they thought, and it steers them in the direction of the adventure.

Introduction: A Friend is willing to give them leads to the Investigation scenes, which they acquired as part of a recent social or physical Conflict that they won. The Enemy wants a rematch, and the Friend and possibly the PCs will be involved in yet another Conflict related to their strife.

The Friend was rolled up on the Actor generation tables--

Charles Bairstow
Age: decrepit
Profession: Carpenter
Always asking for favors or “loans”, whether petty or large
An outcast, from personal qualities.
Relation: Someone now in hiding, thought dead or silenced
Relation to situation: They feel a great debt of honor towards someone involved

A lot of what I rolled didn't seem immediately relevant, especially as this was the first adventure, but it was still enough to spark a scene.]


The next day, the local papers contain a very subdued report of the murder. The report does state that several eyewitness accounts reported seeing a yellow Prius fleeing the scene, which they believe belongs to Charles Bairstow of Badger's Drift. Mr. Bairstow is currently being sought by the police.

Eleanor's suspicious mind takes over and she rings up Charles, but the call goes straight to voicemail. She gets a call later that day from an unrecognised number, and is surprised/relieved/intrigued to hear Charles' voice when she answers. She tells him everything that happened, and of her and her friends' suspicions. He convinces her that she and the others are the only ones who can save him, but that it may be dangerous for them. She readily agrees to help; this is far more exciting than judging cakes and jams!

A meeting is set for Saturday at The Swan in Badger's Drift. Eleanor reserves the function room for a 'fundraiser committee meeting'.

When they have all arrived, and Eleanor's bought the first round, a private courier enters, hands over a packet, and abruptly leaves. The packet contains dozens of newspaper clippings, a key, a packet of letters, and a typed letter from Bairstow saying that Frazer had been in contact with him about certain unspeakable events which he had discovered to have taken place in the village.

The letter concludes with another tantalisingly cryptic statement: "I may not reveal my involvement in these matters at this time, but if you will help me, I will explain it all afterwards."

[The contents of the packet were just off the top of my head. I left them vague in hopes that it would all make sense later, and details would emerge through play. From a game mechanics perspective, the leads (from the Introduction scene rolled) were going to be a set of three Investigation scenes with associated Challenges.

The scenes rolled were:

-The clue is in an abandoned Place, where one or more challenges lie between the PCs and obtaining it.
-The object is obtained relatively easily, but an Actor is needed to make its significance clear, the situation complicated by that Actor’s motivations and potential challenges to reaching them.
-The clue is somehow dangerous to its possessor, and has been locked away or hidden away not just to keep it safe, but also to keep bystanders from being harmed by it. Challenges face those who would attempt to reclaim it.

I rolled 1d4 to see which class wouldn't get a challenge at this stage. The characters will end up facing--

-Investigator challenge: Find object at home of Frazer - It’s been hidden behind a brick or other structural object.
-Scholar challenge: A diary scripted in a private cipher created by the author. - obvs. above-mentioned object; need help/library to decipher
-Tough challenge: environmental danger: Structural weakness in stairs or ladders.


Investigation scene 1: Frazer's home

They decide that they cannot delay their investigations for another day. After a fortifying pub dinner, they go off to their respective homes and dress for a nocturnal operation, agreeing to meet at Eleanor's house at 1am.

Everyone is dressed in black. Eleanor has found enough balaclavas for the whole group -- she had extras in the attic with her skiing gear. They pile into Terence's car and drive to the house of Gerald Frazer.

Due to her profession, Bettina is unanimously chosen to do the actual breaking in. She doesn't protest, until such a time as it becomes evident that lockpicking isn't really a part of her skill set.

[She needs to roll 8+ on Security: 2d6-1(no skill)=5, failure]

So she takes a stone from the garden and breaks the window in the back door instead.

[Q: Are they spotted? Unlikely (5+): O6 C2 - Yes, and...
Q: By whom? 1 police, 2 thugs, 3 burglars, 4 neighbours, 5 guard dog, 6 guard beast]


Bettina snakes her arm through the broken window and unlocks the door. But she has not gone five steps inside when a largish angry mutt starts barking, and bares its teeth at the intruders.

[Initiative: PCs 5, dog 8]

The mutt snaps viciously at Bettina, but she backpedals just out of its reach [it missed]. Everyone turns and flees out the door. The dog's jaws clamp down on Bettina's calf as she runs away, but she manages to shake it loose. Leslie manages to slam the door in the dog's face the moment Bettina emerges into the garden.

They rush back to the car, and speed off into the night.

[The dog was entitled to a free attack since Bettina fled the combat without taking an action to disengage. It hit her for 1 damage, leaving her with 3hp; she heals the wound with 8 hours of sleep.]

They come back the next night with an armful of raw steaks.

[Q: Does this work? Certain (2+): O2 C3 - Yes, but...]

Whoever has been feeding Gerald's dog has boarded over the broken window, but Leslie manages to jimmy a lounge window open. The dog stops growling when she smells the meat, and happily ignores the intruders in favour of the special treat -- Eleanor only shops at the best local butcher.

They turn over the house, but there seems to be absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Leslie nearly kills himself when the extensible ladder to the loft gives way [the Tough class challenge; he made his saving throw so didn't take falling damage]. When he helps Eleanor to have a look, she reports that it's empty.

[Perception roll 6+ : Terence 2d6+1(wis)-1(no skill)=11, success]

Meanwhile, Terrance has found a strange parcel wrapped in black velvet and secured with jeweller's wire hidden up the chimney. By this time, the dog has finished her repast and has begun growling. They avoid the kitchen and its peevish occupant, making their exit via the front door.

[Q: Are they spotted? 50/50: 03 C8 - No.]


Investigation scene 2: the diary

Back at Eleanor's, they proceed directly to her kitchen for a good stiff drink. Glasses in hand, they turn their attention to their prize. The book itself is a locked diary, but aside from this fact its appearance is wholly out of keeping with the mystery surrounding it, for it was obviously purchased down the local WH Smith's. It is but the work of a second for Bettina to force the lock with a butter knife.

The pages are covered in an incomprehensible jumble of letters. The writing begins very neatly on the first page, but soon becomes sloppier and more frantic.

"What language is this?" asks Eleanor.

"Not a language," says Leslie. "I think this is written in code."

Passing it round and round the table does not bring them any closer to its decipherment, no matter how many G&Ts they apply to the problem. By dawn, no one is in a fit state to drive, so Eleanor puts them up for the 'night'. They decide to each take a day with the diary in turn to attempt cracking the code.

[They need roll of 9+ on Language to break the code.]

Bettina takes the first turn, but she cannot make any sense of the thing [her Deep Gnosis class ability doesn't help, since she doesn't have the requisite skill for the challenge]. Leslie picks it up from her office the next day, and puts his mind to the problem.

[2d6+0(skill)=10, success!

Q: So is it in English? 50/50 (4+): O6 C6 - Yes
+Event:  Horror - PC - appear / presence
Q: Which PC? (1d6): 1 T, 2 E, 3 B, 4-6 L (since it makes sense to come from the diary); d6=L]


Leslie decides to apply the Caesar cipher (A=C, B=D, C=E etc.), and is pleased to find he has cracked the code in no time at all. It is still a laborious task to copy out the diary into a readable format, but the handwriting does become rather large and unrestrained towards the end, so the page count of his transliteration is significantly lessened.

The diary records a series of strange events, brief conversations, wild suspicions, and horrific deductions. "Pure twaddle," says Leslie under his breath as he writes out some of the headier passages, but after a time his flesh starts to creep and he is left with the unwholesome certainty that none of the words before him are untrue, or even exaggerated. Some of the passages lapse into a barbarous tongue, the which he cannot comprehend at all. But they do remind him ever so much of the sorts of primitive magico-religious incantations he once read about in those Jane Harrison books on his shelf. He feels a brief flutter of shame: allowing himself to shudder at the idea of a dionysiac snake-cult or some such rot -- a sensible chap of his age! No, he's been at this too long, and fatigue is making him dreamy. Best to have a stiff scotch, then off to bed.

But his fears, it seem, were all too well-founded. For copying out the incantations, though he understood them not, activated the evil spell, and attracted the attention of a malicious entity on another plane of existence. The thing coalesces that night in Leslie's bedchamber, pouring like smoke out of the accursed diary. Leslie is awakened by a biting cold, as the thing's translucent claw reaches out to grasp his shoulder. He turns with a start, and is confronted by the demonic visage, so much like a man's but twisted and warped into a snarling, toothy caricature. He tries to scream but cannot, as the cold spreads through his limbs. And then the thing is gone.

[For the entity's stats, I just used the Ghost in the bestiary chapter. It appears by the diary or copy nightly, and attacks for 1d6 rounds.

This night it only manifested for d6=2 rounds. In total, Leslie took 4 damage. Seeing the thing earned him 1d8=8 madness.

I wasn't sure if he'd call anyone else so I rolled a d4 with the proviso that if his number came up (it did) he wouldn't reach out. I decided that toughing it out alone would earn him +1d6=3 madness.

Q: Does he get enough sleep for healing purposes? 50/50 (4+): O4 C3 - Yes, but... terrible nightmares.

According to the Scene roll, simply being near the diary is dangerous. So anyone sleeping by diary will gain 1d6 madness per night, whether or not it has been read. Bettina gained 1d6=1 Madness. Leslie gains another 1d6=6. His total madness is now 17; there are no ill effects yet. He heals 1hp by morning, so he's back to 3hp.]


to be continued...