2nd January 2008, 04:59 PM #1
The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep d20
What follows are the details of our lengthy Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign, including the Australia chapter.
Each session has taken roughly 3-5 hours to complete. The investigators started at 1st level and ended at 8th.
We started with using the Wealth System out of Grim Tales (and d20 Modern) and used that all the way up to the beginning of the Cairo chapter – and then I dropped it. I didn’t like it, the players didn’t really like it, and they usually had enough money to get what they needed within reason. After that money was never an issue.
Masks is a modern adventure set in the year 1925. It deals with only one aspect of the Cthulhu Mythos, the soul of the Outer Gods: Nyarlathotep! Beginning in New York, the adventurers continue onto London, Cairo, Kenya, Australia and China for a world-hopping extravaganza of horror and action.
If you ever plan on playing in the campaign, keep in mind that to continue reading these notes will completely ruin the story for you. If you plan on RUNNING this campaign, read on, and make sure your players don't see it!
Here is a list of the sessions:
#1: The Death of Jackson Elias
#2: Don't Push The Shiny Red Button!
#3: Massacre at the JuJu House
#4: Onward to London
#5: Castle Plum
#6: The Paintings of Miles Shipley
#7: The House in the Marsh
#8: Hello, Cairo
#9: Ambush at the Broken Camel
#10: The Drunk Dutchman
#11: Mad Warren Bessart (1st adventure recapped in story-form)
#12: The Black Pharaoh
#13: A Fatal Mistake (or, The Cotton Plantation of Omar Shakti)
#14: Beneath the Pyramids
#15: The Ritual of Nitcrosis
#16: Coming of the Black Sphinx
#17: Cats in the Museum
#18: Desert Assassins
#19: Flames on a Train
#20: The Night Lodge of Colonel Endicott
#21: Vampires, Fires, and Tea
#22: Old Bundari
#23: Mountain of the Black Wind
#24: The Spawn of Nyarlathotep
#25: Escape from the Mountain
#26: Onward to Australia!
#27: An Unexpected Detour
#28: City of the Great Race
#29: Huston's Headquarters
#31: Out of Time
#32: Mr. Chang's Miraculous Escape
#33: Jack "Brass" Brady
#34: Gray Dragon Island
#35: The Superweapon
TECHNICAL Notes concerning the characters:
We used the d20 Call of Cthulhu book to generate characters, and spliced them with d20 Modern Talent Trees and an Action Point system from Grim Tales. Characters all had a Massive Damage Threshold equal to their Constitution. Simple example: if you have a 17 Con and a +3 Con modifier, you are Disabled between 0 and -3 hit points, Dying at -4 hit points, and Dead at -17 hit points. Characters were made tougher so they would live longer.
If I have any regrets about this campaign, they would be:
A) I didn't flesh out NPC's as well as I could have, and wasted some opportunities for memorable people and encounters. Others though i feel that i nailed pretty darn well. Most it worked out perfectly.
B) More roleplaying would have been nice. Their descent into madness was sometimes not as profound as it could have been.
C) The horror aspect was undermined by their unceasing bravado. Not a bad thing, but hardcore CoC players will balk at some of what they see here. You would be surprised by how many problems gasoline and dynamite can solve (especially if you have a camel).
I want to note that this particular Cthulhu campaign is being played (and run) by experienced D&D players, some of whom are comfortable with Epic Level play, and none have ever played much Call of Cthulhu (the Keeper has played the most). Therefore, understanding the nature of my players, I decided to refrain from too much Library Use and Research in this game. It's still there, but the party does not spend days and days snooping around for clues in musty books. It did happen initially in the earlier chapters, but that tactic was dropped later on in favor of shooting their problems to death. The emphasis is much more on action than roleplaying, for better or worse.
Thus, the tone of this adventure has become (even more so than written) "Indiana Jones and the Masks of Nyarlathotep". It is a pulp-rollercoaster ride across the world, with the PC's pulling off some fairly unlikely stunts. But do not think that they are immune to Death or Insanity! They are not immune, just more resistant than your typical CoC players.
Last edited by Nebulous; 19th July 2008 at 12:29 PM.
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The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep d20
Adventure #1: The Death of Jackson Elias
It is a cold and blustery January 15th, 1925, in New York City.
The adventure begins with the popular song I'm Afraid playing in the background of a coffee shop. Ice coats the buildings and gales whip through the streets, as our four disparate friends sit together for hot drinks.
Here were the main players at the start of the campaign:
Jason: The Keeper (GM)
Leo: playing Huey, a quiet bookseller in NY. He worked with his father in a small occult bookshop.
Jeff: playing a Private Investigator named Morty.
David: playing Chang Chin, a Chinese ex-mafioso/ex-karate teacher, now with the Catholic robes.
Kent: playing Arnold Silvermine, rumrunner and general bad apple.
Huey has recently received a radiogram from an old friend, a popular writer named Jackson Elias who has been well known for a few years from penning non-fiction books about obscure religious cults around the world. He’s a sensationalist writer with a penchant for wry writ and astounding bravery…and cynicism. Huey, the owner of a small occult bookshop on 5th Street, has long been a friend and keeps stock of his many books, such as Skulls Along the River, The Way of Terror, and Sons of Death. Huey knows that Jackson is friendly, feisty, and above all, fearless.
In fact, Chang, Huey, Morty and Arnold Silvermine all knew Jackson at one time or another. The details as to how each character (besides Huey) specifically knew Jackson are never brought up, but Jackson was the lynchpin between the group members. When Huey receives the radiogram from sea, Jackson tells him that he has AMAZING information regarding the Carlyle Expedition, and he needs Huey to gather together a small group of accomplices. The radiogram was received a month ago, and just two hours ago, Huey received the anticipated phone call from Jackson at his bookshop.
Jackson sounded irate, panicky, and cryptic on the phone, but he offered Huey (and whoever else he could scrounge up) some work, and he offered an undisclosed amount of money. Once again, it has to do with the ill-fated Carlyle Expedition.
Huey’s bookshop, co-owned with this father, is in dire financial straits, so the offer of money comes as a welcome incentive.
Chang, the ex-Chinese Mafioso and current man-of-the-cloth and Karate Teacher, has little need for money as he has seen the sin of corruption one too many times. But he is happy to help in whatever way he can.
Morty Jones, the Private Investigator, has been short on funds for some time and is willing to do anything for extra cash. He’s just not very good at his job.
Arnold Silvermine, the rumrunner, is a step above a common thug and plans to milk this cash cow for whatever he can. HOWEVER, he is an exceedingly rich thug with Wealth feats from illicit operations.
As the investigators sit in the coffee shop, waiting for 8pm to roll around so they can meet Jackson at his 410 hotel room at the Chelsea, they discuss the Carlyle Expedition, and what Jackson could possibly need them for.
Five years ago, as the investigators recall, the Carlyle Expedition was an extravagant group brought together by NY socialite and millionaire, Mr. Roger Carlyle. The entire expedition was heavily documented, and Huey has even done a little research into the matter while waiting for Jackson to arrive in the States. In 1920 Roger Carlyle gathered together a group of six persons who embarked on a journey across the world in search of fabulous artifacts.
They went to London, Egypt and finally Africa, but it ended as a massacre in Kenya. The party was wiped out by savages, or so the story goes, and their remains devoured by wild animals. But from what Jackson Elias has hinted at, there is more to the sordid tale, and he needed to tell someone. Quick.
Around roughly 7:45 pm the investigators leave the coffee shop and tromp through the snow to the Chelsea Hotel. Rapping on Jackson’s door at Room 410, they receive no response. Chang listens at the door and faintly hears movement within. They knock again, but still no answer. It’s about 8:03 pm.
Morty Jones, the PI without any clients, quietly unlatches the safety on his holster. He’s got a bad feeling about this.
Chang sees Morty arm himself, and Chang also happens to be carrying a small Walther 6mm pistol, a carryover from his days with the Mafia. He never leaves home without it.
Huey sees Morty and Chang pull out guns, and he steps back, hands raised and says “Guys, hey wait a second! What are you doing?”
Arnold Silvermine, rumrunner and general bad apple, sees their guns and he whips out a concealed knife, which incidentally, he never leaves home without either. He regrets not having brought a shotgun, an oversight he is sure to never make again.
The investigators don’t bother with any more subterfuge; something is wrong, they can smell it, so without further delay Chang SLAMS into the door! He bounces off, the hinges hold, but the second strike cracks the molding and Chang spills inside, with Morty and Arnold hot on his heels, Huey hanging back and wringing his hands.
The sight greeting them instigates instant Sanity Checks:
Jackson Elias is sprawled on the bed, his entrails ripped out, a grisly spray of fresh blood on the floor, the walls, his face. A devilish rune marks his forehead and blood drips to the floor. But there’s movement! A black man is climbing out the second story window, and another is hiding right behind the door! A cruel hooked blade stabs down at Chang, but he ducks, and plants a bullet in his attacker’s gut. The negro man, wearing a bizarre headdress sporting a long red tassel, staggers back, blood blooming through his fingers. He hits the wall, when Morty steps in and fires twice more, one bullet puncturing the plaster, the other punching through his heart. He collapses, dead, but the second negro man has leapt out the window, the flutter of paper items falling into the room behind him.
Huey and Arnold rush to the windowsill just in time to see a black Hudson roadster waiting at the bottom. The murderer launches into the backseat and the car peels away, but it is too dark to see the license plate. Already, the investigators are hearing screams of surprise from the three gunshots that have echoed through the hotel.
Huey leans over Jackson Elias, stifling a sob. His friend has been hideously mutilated, and so recently that the body is still hot. Still, he takes the time to scribble down a replica of the rune scribed on Jackson’s forehead. Arnold and Chang rifle through the dead negro’s clothes, including an empty leather pouch, while Morty hesitantly straddles the doorway, his pistol shielded beneath his overcoat. Numerous residents poke their heads into the carpeted hallway, peeking tentatively around.
“Nothing to see here!” says Morty with false authority. “Police business!”
But they all know that the real police will be arriving very soon, and depending on how the investigators handle this situation, they may or may not be implicated in the deaths. They decide to stick around, which gives them a few more minutes to search the room and—
A black mamba slithers out from behind the dresser, sending everyone into a tizzy. Further gunshots are refrained from, so the highly poisonous (and foreign) snake is squashed with a dresser drawer before it can bite anyone. They gather up the dropped clues, wondering who the hell so maliciously killed their friend Jackson? And WHY?
1) a letter from someone in Cairo named Faraz Najir,
addressed to Jackson
2) A Penhew Foundation card, with the name Edward Gavigan
3) A matchbox for the Stumbling Tiger Bar in Shanghai
4) Emerson Imports card, with the name “Silas N’Kwane”
written on the back
5) Letter from Miriam Artwright, a Harvard Librarian
6) The bloody symbol on Jackson’s forehead
The police eventually arrive and the investigators are initially cuffed and taken downtown for questioning. The cooperate, and are very carefully interrogated by Lt. Marvin Poole, a taciturn homicide officer who has also stomped on Morty’s toes in the past, and ruined some perfectly good jobs. Poole has also clunked heads with Arnold Silvermine over illegal business, but the police can’t find a connection with the investigators in this case. Wrong place at the wrong time, it seems, and they aren’t charged.
The party has nothing to hide (not yet anyway; their cooperation with authorities over the campaign will quickly downslide) and their guns are registered, and it was seemingly in self defense. The police know that something bad is brewing in Harlem; however, when Morty tries to glean more information out of Lt. Poole, he botches his roll rather badly and only infuriates the detective!
“Get outta here, ya bottom-scrubbing amateur. Leave the important stuff to the Big Boys. I don’t wanna see you and your friends involved with this anymore. We had too many killings of this nature already.”
The next few days feature headline articles in the Observer noting the death of Jackson Elias in the obituary and his funeral date. A little more digging around in the local newspapers unveils some leads above and beyond the scraps of paper they’ve already found (and kept hidden) from Lt. Poole. (and this more or less ends the involvement of Poole in the campaign).
They find references to the Prospero House, Jackson’s publisher, and Huey gives Miriam Artwright a call, asking about the book she failed to find for Jackson, Africa’s Dark Sects (Dark Sex! Which spawned a juvenile campaign-long joke that has never gotten old). It mysteriously vanished from the Harvard library a few months ago. They also tell Miriam that they want to drive up and show her the peculiar symbol found on Jackson’s head. She agrees to a future meeting.
The party decides they should next go to Prospero House, the publisher of Jackson’s books on religious cults, and speak directly with Jonah Kensington, the editor-in-chief. Maybe he can shed some more light on what is going on, and what exactly happened to Jackson Elias.
And there we stopped.
Last edited by Nebulous; 17th January 2008 at 07:21 PM.
The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep d20
Adventure #2: Don't Push the Shiny Red Button!
The Prospero Publishing House is located in a towering highrise on Lexington Avenue.
The four investigators take the lumbering elevator to the top floor on a chilly Thursday morning and step through the doors. The decorations are modest, and Jonah Kensington, the chief editor, is a busy, busy man in his early fifties, sleeves rolled to his elbows and a sheen of sweat decorating his face, but he figuratively stops the presses when he hears that the investigators have come asking about Jackson Elias.
“You must be his friends! Huey Fulton it is, right? Jackson told me that he would be recruiting some help with his project. This is a damn shame, his death. The world was a better place with Jackson in it, but I guess you know that. And if the police are half right, this was a cult murder of some kind. As sure as the sun shines. Jackson finally got himself in too deep.”
Jonah thinks that some old enemies finally caught up with Jackson and silenced him, and the investigators tell him about what happened at the hotel: the two negro men with dangling red tassels on their hats. Jonah nods gravely during the story, listening carefully, and concedes that Jackson Elias’s new project might have been even more important (and deadly) that Jackson was aware.
“Jackson believed that he had found evidence that not all of the Carlyle Expedition were dead, that in fact, it might have been a cover up for the past five years. Here, take a look at this.”
He shows the investigators a letter from Jackson, stating in clear terms that he believes at least some of the Carlyle principals are alive, and that the inquest and trial of their “murderers” in Kenya was contradictory to the facts. Jonah wired him money in Hong Kong, and again in London. Jackson had told Jonah that he had discovered amazing things, and mentioned a conspiracy of world wide proportions. He said there was a timetable, and that he needed to find the missing pieces.
“Once Jackson finally arrived back in New York recently he handed me a whole stack of letters. But…well, boys, I don’t think Jackson was in his right mind. This stuff was crazy talk, most of it mish-mash of ramblings that didn’t make much sense at all. It was like he had gone crazy, or was keeping the real facts stuffed in his brain with this paper trail as a codex. I don’t know. Ever since Jackson started telling me about this, I’ve been combing through the old newspapers and accumulating everything I could find about the old Carlyle Expedition. There’s quite a bit.”
Jonah Kensington shows them a small box of papers, including Jackson’s Nairobi notes, and multiple articles detailing the Carlyle Expedition starting from the departure in New York, through London and Cairo, and finally to their demise in Kenya. They spend time poring over these clues (Nyarlathotep Papers #3-10) and the investigators come away with a slightly better idea of who these people were:
Roger Carlyle, playboy millionaire and leader, Dr. Aubrey Penhew of the Penhew Foundation in London, (assistant leader of the team in charge of excavations); Dr. Robert Huston of New York (a fashionable “Freudian” psychologist who accompanied them to research ancient pictographs); Miss Hyapatia Masters (acting as photographer and archivist); Mr. Jack Brady (Carlyle’s personal bodyguard), and a mysterious negro woman whose purpose is not publicly known.
Jonah Kensington also tells them about Carlyle’s rich socialite sister, Erica Carlyle, who has gained control of the estate since his death.
“Supposedly for the better,” Jonah says. “I hear that Roger was running the business into the ground.
“Oh, imports and exports I believe. Transport, munitions, stuff like that.”
“Maybe we should speak with her,” suggests Morty Jones, the PI. “She might be able to tell us some more about her brother.”
Jonah Kensington taps his fingers, flicking his gaze between the four men standing before him; a down on his luck Private Investigator, a fidgety pale bookkeeper (who looks suspiciously like HP Lovecraft, a stocky Chinaman, and a shifty fellow with a 5 o-clock beard who looks like he wants to steal something when nobody’s looking.
“I’ll tell you what, fellas. Jackson was a good friend of mine, and probably you too. If you want to start snooping around and asking questions, I’m all for it. Furthermore, if you want to help finish the book, to find out what Jackson knew, I’ll even pay you for it. If you even need to go abroad, I’ll finance it. This means a lot to me, and money is no object.”
The investigators like hearing this, and they each shake hands with Jonah Kensington. It’s a deal. Kensington will act as a financier (within limits) and support their backs. Kensington offers to make a few calls to the Carlyle Estate and see if he can set up an interview with Erica Carlyle, but no promises. She is reclusive and only the upper echelons of society see her much. He says he’ll contact them later.
That’s fine with the investigators. In the meantime, they have some clues to follow up on, and the stack is getting bigger by the day.
Emerson Imports was a card in Jackson’s pocket, so Morty and Chang decide to check it out. Meanwhile, Huey and Arnold drive up to Harvard to meet with Miriam Atwright and see if she can identify the symbol that was scrawled so horribly on Jackson’s forehead.
Emerson Imports turns out to be a long narrow building with a sock at both ends. It is a warehouse full of freight, run by a fellow named Arthur Emerson. Morty and Chang ask him about Jackson Elias, and Emerson claims to remember the visit, and offers his condolences. Elias had been checking the import roster to find connections in Mombasa. When further pressed, Emerson says that the only Mombasan exporter he accepts is Ahja Singh, whose only U.S. account is the Ju-Ju House on Ransom Court, in Harlem.
Chang turns the card offer and asks him about the name on the back: Silas M’Kwane.
“Oh, sure. That’s the fella the runs the Ju-Ju house. I tell ya boys, those darky fellows are trouble. I done told Elias the same thing. I’d leave ‘em alone if I was you.” Chang and Morty thank Emerson and leave the warehouse.
Meanwhile, Huey and Arnold question Miriam Artwright about the symbol. After some research, she confirms that it is a symbol from an African tribe known as the Bloody Tongue. Thanking her, they leave and head back to New York.
The next day is the funeral, so everyone gathers at the frigid site. There aren’t too many people, but Jonah points out Erica Carlyle to the investigators. She’s an attractive young woman in her twenties, accompanied by a burly bodyguard named Joe Corey.
Jonah says that he was able to arrange a meeting with her at 9am the next morning, under the pretense that they have valuable information concerning her departed brother, and that it is too sensitive to relate over the phone. Jonah even insisted that her brother’s death is related to a recent rash of murders. Although not pleased with the news, Erica agreed to speak with the four investigators, with the caveat that she can end the interview at any time.
And forcibly expel them from the grounds if she so wishes.
So Huey, Morty, Chang and Arnold show up the next morning at 9 am sharp at the Carlyle House at her Westchester Estate. Guns are stowed away (including Arnold shotgun in the trunk) because an amiable approach will be best in this case.
A butler allows entrance to an extravagant mansion where the investigators are asked to wait in a lavish library parlor. They immediately begin snooping around, and against all odds, Arnold Silvermine pulls a book of Poe’s poems that conceals a hidden panel. They can hear footsteps approaching the door, and with a second miraculous roll, Arnold fumbles with the panel to reveal a RED BUTTON.
Erica and her bodyguard Joe Corey glide into the room and Arnold hastily replaces the book without pushing the button. It gnaws at him though, what might lay behind it, and he continually throws glances at the shelf throughout the brief interview. Corey looks mean as a snake and they spot the bulge of a pistol beneath his waistcoat.
“Very well, gentlemen, what do you have to tell me that is so important. I would not have granted this at all except for Mr. Kensington’s insistence. I owe him a favor and consider the debt paid. What do want?”
After some small talk (and sweet talk), the investigators ease into their purpose. They think (with no evidence whatsoever) that Roger Carlyle is STILL ALIVE. And to prove it, they want more information from Erica.
The millionaire inheritor of the Carlyle Estate is shocked into silence, and her bodyguard Joe Corey nearly throws the investigators out right then and there for such pretentious , but Erica stops him.
“Tell me what you know.”
They offer what they have, which isn’t much, mostly the details about Jackson Elias and some of the clues he found. They don’t mention the attack in the hotel or how they killed anyone. More than anything, they want to hear Erica’s opinion of the rest of the expedition.
What Erica Reveals:
1) Roger’s African Expedition was not ordinary. He was fascinated to the point of obsession with the “Negro Woman” whose name she does not know. Erica thinks such a relationship is depraved. Roger began having strange dreams soon after he met the Negro Woman, but would never discuss them.
2) Erica talked Roger into seeing Dr. Robert Huston, and she believes that Huston talked Roger into going on this wild expedition to other countries. However, she thinks the Negro Woman caused Roger to lose his grip on reality.
3) Roger said that M’Weru was queenly, a priestess, and that she held secrets he must have. For a while Erica encouraged this insane expedition, hoping that Roger would see how stupid the idea was, but then it really happened. She blames the Negro Woman for the whole ordeal.
Erica ends the interview soon after, claiming that she has urgent business. Arnold Silvermine is about to implode from curiosity as to what lies behind the bookshelf. But Joe Corey and his pistol are a strong deterrent, and the investigators are escorted out after thanking Erica Carlyle for her time.
Afterwards, they briefly considering breaking back in that night and pushing the Red Button, but the grounds are fenced, walked by armed guards and dogs, and very difficult to infiltrate. They’re not sure why so many precautions were taken (GM Note: because cultists broke in previously trying to find and steal Roger’s rare Mythos book collection behind the secret door!) and they never find out.
And they never pushed that red, red button.
Last edited by Nebulous; 17th January 2008 at 07:22 PM.
The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep d20
Adventure #3: Massacre at the Ju-Ju House
After their interview with Erica, the investigators decide to check out a clue in the local area: Silas N’Kwane and the Ju-Ju House. It’s Saturday now, and they enter Harlem via taxi just as light snow has begun to fall.
The Ju-Ju House is hard to find, located down a dirty, narrow alley. The driver parks on the curb, obviously uneasy with this part of town, and they trot down the alley, the bell on the door tinkling as they step inside and shake the snow from their boots. Along the way they’ve been discussing their options, and the consensus is that they need to reveal as LITTLE as possible about themselves and Jackson Elias. The catch is that to learn about Elias they have to mention him. Still, after Emerson’s warning, and after their run-in with the fellows at the hotel, they’re cautious.
An older black man sits nonchalant behind the counter. He smiles at the investigators and nods. “Can I help you?”
The Ju-Ju is an odd assortment of foreign goods and unidentifiable odds and ends from many countries.
Chang is quick to see a knife in the display window similar to the one that nearly eviscerated him at Jackson’s hotel a few days earlier.
“There,” he says. “What is that called?”
“A pranga,” answers the old man. “African hunting weapon.”
Arnold Silvermine inspects a large artifact that is reminiscent of the Giza Sphinx. He has a nose for valuable items, and his nose starts to tingle. He can tell at a glance that this thing is worth some money, and probably inlaid with real gold. Still kicking himself for not pushing that Red Button, he casually inquires about the statue.
“What’s that thing? How much for it?”
The old man’s expression (who they assume is Silas N’Kwane) noticeably darkens. “It is the Black Sphinx from ancient Egypt. 4th Dynasty of Sneferu, and it is not for sale.”
Sensing a lie, Arnold presses him. “But I’m wealthy as King Solomon. I want to buy it. How much?”
“Not for sale!” Silas stands, and about that time two black gentlemen enter the Ju-Ju House. There is a moment of unspoken tension as they all share glances. Huey places a hand on Arnold’s shoulder and tries to diffuse the situation.
“Ignore him sir, he has no manners. We’re just…looking around. We’re…we’re collectors of rare antiques. I’m sure there’s something else here to interest us.” Huey knows that something is up, and the dark looks from the Negro men who just entered don’t make him feel any better. The investigators look around for a few more minutes, then bid farewell and quickly leave.
“What the hell was that?” asks Morty, slapping Arnold’s arm. “You weren’t going to buy that weird junk.”
“Junk my white ass. It’s worth a pretty penny, sweetheart.”
“I would rather not get a “pranga” between my ribs,” mutters Huey. “Those guys were hiding something…”
So, they decide to return that night.
It is bitterly cold by the time they return long after dark. New snow has fallen and covered the world under a glistening white sheet. A taxi drops them off quite a few blocks away, and they shuffle through the snow, but rounding the corner, they spot a familiar black Hudson roadster!
Sure, it could be another car, but they don’t think so. Several black men get out, heavily bundled beneath coats, and trudge through the dirty alleyway. The Hudson slowly drives away.
The investigators have a plan, however crazy it might be: they have to get inside the shop, and Chang is a pro at picking locks. They move down the alley and sneak into a boarded building they saw on the way in. It looked like it led into the back of a derelict pawn shop. They are able to pry the boards off the door and then place them back once inside. Sure enough, it’s an empty pawn shop that opens onto 138th Street. From there, they observe anyone approaching the Ju-Ju House.
An hour later the roadster pulls up the head of the alley, but this time the men exiting carry a bundled sheet with them that looks suspiciously like a body. The three black men carry the “body” into the Ju-Ju House. The four investigators wait about 20 minutes, discussing all of their options, including CALLING THE COPS, but finally decide to act on their own. Like Lt. Poole said, if they’re caught in the middle of any more murders there’s going to be trouble. Bullets are loaded into pistols, shells into Arnold’s shotgun, buckles are strapped and secured, and they scamper across the open courtyard to the front of the shop. As suspected, it is locked, but Chang is able to pick it.
“Isn’t this terribly illegal?” hisses Huey, but Morty tells him to shut up.
The bell jingles as they enter, and the four quickly scamper into the darkness and duck. There are a few doors leading out of the main room, but almost immediately, they hear footsteps from around the corner!
Silas N’Kwane appears, but Chang is standing right there. The old man barely has time to release a half-hearted whimper before Chang smashes him in the nose with the butt of his pistol. Silas crumples, blood pouring from a broken face, and Chang lands a knee in his gut and presses the muzzle to his temple.
“Make a sound and you die.” Silas is bound and gagged, giving them a few minutes to search the Ju-Ju House. There is a small restroom (where Silas emerged) and a larger store room, replete with a long table decorated with items from around the world, as well as several large glass cases filled with obscure cultural knick knacks. They search everywhere, finding no trace of anyone else…
…until Huey’s foot creaks on the rug. There is a trap door beneath.
Arnold takes the gag out of Silas’s mouth. “Who’s down there?” he asks, but Silas spits in his face. Arnold gags him again, but Huey thinks he’s a liability and a threat. The others agree, and with little remorse (beginning a campaign-long trend) someone slits Silas’s throat while the others look away. There’s group-wide Sanity Loss from this violent act, and then they move the table and roll back the carpet.
The handle for the trapdoor is recessed in the floor. They pull it up, revealing a steep stairwell. They have no idea what to expect, but these guys are prepared for the worst. Huey is handed a pistol even though he doesn’t know how to shoot it. Morty shows him how to take the safety off. They listen, and hear below the muffled beat of drums.
Bong da da dong bong da da bong da da da da BONG da da dong…
Chang descends the stone stairwell first, sniffing the acrid air, twin pistols at the ready. (In perfect honesty, he was never very good at karate and I don’t even think David even took the right Feats for his character!). It stinks here of sweat and things hidden from the light. A kerosene lamp illuminates their path, and at the bottom they reach a stone floor. The tunnel stretches thirty paces left to a closed wooden door, crisscrossed by thick iron bands. Arcane runes decorate the door, and Huey, owner of the occult bookshop, recognizes some of them from the myriad tomes he and his father collect. They are signs representing “Evil Lies Here.” Huey doesn’t much like that.
The drums are louder now, clearly emanating from behind the door.
The investigators are terrified, but know that they have to do something. The white sheet they saw earlier possibly contained a living captive. They regret not doing something earlier, but that’s water under the bridge. Now’s the time to stop Jackson Elias’s killers from taking any more victims!
And time for some payback.
Arnold Silvermine jiggles the knob. Surprisingly, it is unlocked. Licking his lips, he pushes it open a smidgen, and through the crack sees a sliver of horror:
Two naked Negroes beat fervently on drums, a hideous blood red tassel dangling from crude headdresses. There are more people here judging from the sound of instruments. The PC’s know that as soon as they reveal themselves they’ll be swamped by enemies (as any D&D player knows!) so they Ready Actions. Counting on surprise, Chang KICKS the door in and fires at the two nearest targets!
Chang plants a bullet between the eyes of a drummer, splattering his brains on the wall. Chaos ensues, but the investigators take advantage of it. Morty, Arnold and Huey all takes shots into the room, now revealed to be a medium sized chamber with a stone pit in the center, partially covered by a stone slab. A wheel and pulley system off to the side manipulates the slab.
But there are at least TWENTY more stunned naked Negroes in this room! Bullets and shells fly, dropping two more before they can gather themselves. Even when they do spot the intruders they are slow to respond. Morty, Chang, Huey and Arnold alternate positions in the doorway, blasting away as fast as they can, mowing down everyone they can see in a hail of lead and buckshot. Cultists surge at them, trying to grapple guns away, but stumble over corpses blocking the exit. One yanks Chang’s pistol from his hands, but he shoots a hole through his neck, blasting him backward.
Four other cultists begin cranking the pulley system attacked to the slab, and the stone slides aside…
Horrible inhuman screams begin wafting up from the pit, so horrible that the investigators stumble away from the sound. Something unnatural dwells down there, something the cultists are letting out!
Ten cultists are dead by now, or nearly dead. Huey, trembling with the pistol, shoots an attacker in the arm and sends him spinning toward the pit. The man stumbles and slides, falls partially in, and screams in AGONY as something in the pit YANKS him down.
At the back of the room a curtain opens and for the first time the investigators witness the source of this madness:
The High Priest of the Bloody Tongue Sect in New York City:
They never learn his name, only that he was dressed in flowing ceremonial feathered garb. Lion’s claws adorn his hands on makeshift gloves, and his lips peels back in a snarl. With a wave of his hand, two previously unnoticed curtains fall away, and out stumble four hideously ROTTING CORPSES.
It is the first time any of the investigators have seen a zombie and the sight nauseates them. Huey is overwhelmed with terror and starts clicking madly on the trigger, not even noticing that he has to reload.
In the meantime, the horrible wailing from the pit grows louder. It strains the Sanity of everyone who hears it, so Huey and Arnold rush toward the winch, attempting to shut the lid. Chang and Morty keep shooting at anyone who isn’t taking cover, and within several rounds they’ve eliminated the majority of opponents in the room by herding them into the doorway, taking minimal damage themselves.
But Mukunga is no ordinary opponent. His zombies absorb bullets while he crouches behind them, chanting a spell in a hideous unknown tongue, and pointing his finger, a rippling ray of black putrescence streaks out!
The ray strikes Chang, rotting his pinky finger to the bone, the skin blackening and falling away. Chang shrieks in pain, falling to his knees, and Morty the PI rushes to his rescue, clicking mercilessly with his pistol until the chambers run dry.
Morty is out in the open, and the High Priest unleashes another Shriveling Spell straight into Morty’s face. His cheek and lip buckle under the chaotic magic, sloughing away in a gruesome wet glob of fleshy matter.
“Run!” screams Arnold. “Run! Run! Run! RUN!”
Chang finishes closing the Chakota Pit (another detail the investigators never understand or see) and stumbles out of the room, even as a zombie swipes at him. Morty holds a hand to his mangled face and follows, but Huey is already down the hallway running for his life. Arnold fires once more, hitting Makunga in the shoulder and spinning him around. The zombies converge on the doorway, climbing over the dead mounded nearby.
Chang grabs the kerosene lamp from the ceiling and tosses it, flames licking and spreading immediately. Huey reaches the top, breathless and terrified, and knocks everything off the table, shoves it over and rolls up the carpet. Chang painfully exits the stairwell, followed by Morty and finally Arnold, pumping shotgun shells behind him and splattering a zombie’s head into black goo.
They cram the carpet down the stairwell and light it with a second kerosene lamp, and then close the trapdoor and pile as much junk on top as they can find. Flames crackle beneath for a while and smoke wafts through the cracks, but they try to keep it sealed. They wonder if anyone heard the battle; gunshots zipping back and forth underground, the screams of the dying and injured and insane.
They debate leaving but decide they can’t; not if someone still needs to be rescued down there. There was an alcove in the back, from where the zombies appeared. Morty is in terrible pain and has swathed his mangled face with a cloth; Chang has trouble holding his pistol with a missing pinky finger.
After a while they haven’t heard any police sirens, so they open the door. The rug has burned to a crisp and sooty smoke chokes them all, and two zombies trying to clamber over the rug have burned too. Arnold leads the way, bursting back into the room, and this time they catch Makunga by surprise!
The priest, coughing, has been busy trying to complete the sacrifice. A nude and unconscious woman dangles from her wrists above the Chakota pit while the priest manages the winch, but he has trouble considering his wounds. Arnold shoots Makunga point blank, killing him instantly.
The woman is alive, but barely, so they wrap her up in something warm. The rest of the basement is inspected, uncovering several items that they don’t understand, and that frankly frighten them, but all are confiscated as loot:
*Makunga’s feathery robes
*The Lion’s claws
*A book called Africa’s Dark Sects (stamped as belonging to the Harvard Library, and
this book entered permanent play as “Africa’s Dark Sex” and a longstanding
source of silly humor belying our ages)
*de Vermis Mysteriis (not part of the scenario but I threw it in there)
* A copper bowl engraved with runes that no one recognizes
* A metal headband of indeterminate metal
* A short staff that has a distinctly African origin.
* A wooden African-themed mask with no apparent means to attach it to your face
* The big Black Sphinx statue! Yes, they somehow carried it out with them.
The investigators stumble out of the Ju-Ju House early in the morning. It is well below freezing outside, snowing heavily, and they’re somewhere in Harlem without a car. Morty and Chang are severely injured, and once they start taking Subdual Damage from the cold, Chang falls unconscious. They drag him by his armpits, staggering through the drifts, trying to find a safe haven somewhere, anywhere, before at least one of them dies, or the cops pick them up on any number of serious charges.
And there we stopped.
Last edited by Nebulous; 17th January 2008 at 07:28 PM.
The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep d20
Adventure #4: On to London
The investigators reach Huey’s shop, Fulton Books, and hide there. Over the next few days Chang and Morty recuperate, and they check the local paper, and sure enough there’s an article about a massacre in Harlem. The murders are blamed on a death cult, but most of the pertinent details are left out of public scrutiny. Some eyewitnesses claim to have seen four men leaving the vicinity late at night, but no confirmations could be made.
The investigators seem to have gotten away.
They pore over the items taken from the Bloody Tongue priest: the books of dubious origin (one which may be bound in human skin), the bowl, the staff, the mask, and the peculiar metal headband. Huey has some basic skills in the African language he learned in college, and words on the staff translate to say something like “Nyambe Be My Power.” Whatever that means.
There is no way in HELL any of them will try on the African mask.
[Later on I taunt them about the powerful magic they have at their disposal and have never used]
They stow the items away, although Huey continues to pore over Africa’s Dark Sects and de Vermis Mysteriis every chance he gets. He is fascinated by what they contain, but he has a hard time with the Latin in the latter book. The former is written in Old English and he reads about a powerful spell called “Create Corpse Walker.” Obviously, this is what created the abominations in the Ju-Ju House.
While Chang and Morty are resting, Huey and Arnold decide to snoop around and unearth a few more clues. If they want to reach the bottom of this mystery, and learn what Jackson Elias wanted to tell them, they’ll have to know as much about the Carlyle Expedition as possible.
Roger Carlyle holds the key to everything.
Huey remembers reading a snippet about Dr. Robert Huston in one of the many newspaper articles. After his death, all of his professional records were turned over to the Medical Affairs Board of New York City…but not destroyed.
After talking to Erica, Huey knows that Huston treated Roger Carlyle professionally, and maybe a record of his descent into madness exists. Maybe there’s a clue there somewhere. They find their way to the Medical Board Office, and after being coolly rebuked by the secretary, Chang and Huey try a more covert approach. Huey is able to sneak in after using Chang as a distraction. The file room holds all of Dr. Robert Huston’s records in nearly labeled cardboard boxes, and Huey steals a handful of relevant files that he stuffs down his pants.
The secretary, suspicious, ends up calling security, but Chang and Huey run for the hills. The notes reveal Huston’s psychological analysis of Roger for over a year. In summary, Roger was having vivid dreams and hallucinations, addressing himself in the third person with his second given name of Vane (which Leo amazingly jots down in his game notes for later retrieval). A tall gaunt man addresses him in the dream, a blazing inverted ankh on his forehead, who asks Roger to “become a god with him.” Huston also says that Roger is impulsive when concerning the Negro woman “M’WERU”. The last entry states that if Huston does not accompany Roger Carlyle on the expedition, then Huston will be threatened with “exposure.”
The notes only baffle the investigators and prompt more questions than answers. But at least they have the name for the sixth member of the expedition: M’Weru.
Several days after the incident at the Ju-Ju House, the investigators return to Jonah Kensington at Prospero Press. Kensington is glad to see them, and asks if they’ve turned up any more information. “Not enough,” is the answer, and the next leg of the journey begins.
They discuss their options with Jonah and decide that London is the next logical step. London was the last place that Jackson visited, and there are some people there that he perhaps spoke to. One of the clues in Jackson’s pocket was a business card for the Director of the Penhew Foundation, Mr. Edward Gavigan. Jonah tries to conact the Penhew Foundation on the phone, but after being on hold for an hour he gives up. Transcontinental communication can be problematic.
“Get in touch with a fella named Mickey Mahoney at The Scoop in London. He’s a publisher of a tabloid rag there. The sort of stuff that Jackson would have loved, corpses floating in the Thames and all that. Maybe he knows something. Hell, maybe he knew Jackson.”
So Morty, Huey, Arnold and Chang put their affairs in order. Bills are paid, deeds scribbled out, and friends and relatives told that they’ll be out of the country for a short while. They all expect to return, but it doesn’t hurt to be safe.
A week later, around the beginning of February 1925, they find themselves aboard The Lucianda, cresting the Big Blue between America and England. They have brought several TRUNKS full of weapons, ammunition and supplies. Huey dives headlong into Africa’s Dark Sects and De Vermis Mysteriis, their dark words turning somersaults in his fevered brain. He learns the ritual to Create Corpse Walker, and by placing a black opal in the mouth of the recently dead, he can animate a subservient being. The secrets of the Mysteriis are much harder to unravel, and Huey begins to have unpleasant dreams. And waking nightmares. The book whispers to him sometimes, and once he even sees blood dripping from the pages onto the gently rocking deck of the boat.
[GM Note: I had a crib sheet of rules taken from the d20 rulebook, spliced with the BRP spell rules, with a dash of my own flavor. Learning spells could take a long time, and required multiple rolls. As the campaign progressed, and players didn’t really use magic that much, or they rolled up characters who were already practiced sorcerers, I dropped the initial system for something easier].
The Bible in Huey’s cabin is found in different places, always emitting a strange mildew stink. Long before the Lucianda docks at a London port, Huey packs the tome away and doesn’t look forward to seeing it again.
The investigators, when not combating sea sickness, gambling, reading or contemplating what lies ahead, try to piece together their clues. There is a naval telegraph aboard, and Jonah Kensington is contacted. They have already established a plan:
At every junction possible, Jonah will be telegraphed and mailed copies of their current position, status, and any clues they have accumulated. [GM Note: this is a meta-game precaution as well as a practical one; this campaign can be difficult to integrate new characters who have any idea of what is going on, or incentive to continue the quest others started months ago].
Ten days after leaving New York the investigators reach London. It is the first time any of them have been here and the bustling chaos overwhelms them.
The first thing they do, after checking through customs and finding a hotel, is to seek out Mickey Mahoney of The Scoop, as Jonah suggested. They find the climate of London chill and damp, so long overcoats seem appropriate. And coats adequately conceal their pistols and shotguns, an issue that will come back and bite them in the ass later on.
[GM Note: I remember once that Kent’s character Arnold couldn’t even sit down because the shotgun would poke right up out of his jacket; I think he sawed the end off after that. Their killing everything that moved with loud projectiles really caused them some trouble in London, and…well, you’ll see.]
The Scoop on the third floor of Fleet Street is a hubbub of tapping typewriters and flying paper. The investigators ask if they can meet Mr. Mahoney, and a short, red-haired, cigar-chomping energetic man with an electric buzz of impatience soon greets them.
“What ya Yankies want? Make it fast or get the hell outta ‘ere. Time is money, blokes, and I’m a busy buster.”
The Americans explain their situation: how Jonah Kensington of Prospero Press gave them his name; and that they are here regarding the death of their friend and author Jackson Elias.
“Oh, bloody hell,” mumbles Mickey, his face falling. “Ayup, I heard about that on the wires. A shame. Bloody goddamned shame. Mr. Elias came to me a few months ago. Smart chap he was, keen as a knife edge, although a little shaky. He promised me up and down that he had a story ‘bout a death cult here in London. I never got the story, ya see, Jackson skipped town. What ya know about it?” He rubs his fingers together. “It’s worth a penny or two.”
The investigators don’t spill the beans to Mahoney, not knowing how much they can trust him, or anybody really. Mahoney is intrigued though, sensing that these boys know more than they’re letting on. It’s journalistic instinct.
“Oh sure,” adds Mahoney slyly, “Elias poked around in some back issues of The Scoop. Found several articles that interested him. I still got ‘em laying around. Want a looksee?”
Of course they do, so Mickey shows them the articles, all written by Mickey himself:
1) “Police Baffled By Monstrous Murders!”
2) “Slaughter Continues!”
3) “Shocking Canvases Bring Recognition”
The investigators read over the articles, scribbling down notes and even taking copies. The details are dubious at best, and don’t seem related to Jackson at all. They wonder why Jackson was interested in any of these in the first place, but don’t express their bafflement to Mahoney.
“Well,” he says, disappointed with their lack of enthusiasm, “if something strikes your fancy let me know. The Scoop is always lookin’ out for the strange, weird and bloody. Emphasis on bl-uuudy. If you can actually bring me quality pictures, I’ll TRIPLE the pay.” Morty likes the sound of that. As a private detective, even a poor one, he always carries photographic plates and a camera with him.
The investigators leave the publisher and decide to check out the Penhew Foundation, following the direct lead from Jackson.
The Penhew Foundation is a monstrous stone structure located between Regents Park and the Thames River. The connection between Aubrey Penhew of the Carlyle Expedition and the Penhew Foundation is not lost on the investigators.
Gavigan comes to greet them soon after their arrival. He is a crisp British man in his fifties, meticulously dressed with not a crinkle or crest out of place. He escorts them to his lavishly paneled mahogany office and offers them cigars and brandy.
“How can I help you gentlemen?”
“Well,” says Huey carefully, “We’re here on behalf of a friend of ours. A deceased friend. Perhaps you’ve met him. Mr. Jackson Elias?”
Almost imperceptibly, Chang notices that Gavigan’s eyebrow twitches; the Mafia taught him that trick, 101 Ways That A Man Can Lie.
“Ah, yes. Met him once, I did. He came here asking questions concerning a dark period of Egyptian history that Roger Carlyle had obtained from some Negro Woman. Sir Aubrey had long been interested in this same time period, when a terrible sorcerer, The Black Pharaoh, was reputed to have ruled the Nile Valley. Unfortunately,” says Gavigan, smiling ruefully, “it was a hoax. The Negro Woman stole the expedition’s funds and disappeared. The loss greatly hurt the expedition leader, Mr. Carlyle. Not the funds itself, but the lack of trust. He had hinged so much on…the truth, as he thought it. Gentleman, let us walk. These rooms can be so stifling and there is much of the Foundation I would like to show you. Do you enjoy history?”
Chang wants to search the office after suspecting that Gavigan isn’t telling them the whole truth, but there’s no way to avoid joining the others.
The group leaves Gavigan’s office and proceeds through the extravagant corridors of the Penhew Foundation, laced with glass exhibits featuring thousands of year’s worth of rare artifacts from ancient Egypt and the Middle East. They engage Gavigan in further conversation, trying to draw out more clues about Jackson Elias and the Carlyle Expedition.
“After the loss of M’Weru and the funds, they sought a cooler climate in Kenya. But as you know, they met with disaster. Nearly all their records were lost in Kenya as well. Aubrey Penhew had taken them along. We DO have several letters of interest that Aubrey sent us, but I’m afraid those are confidential.”
The party presses Gavigan to let them see these documents, but Gavigan sternly rejects them, and continues their tour through ancient pottery, shards, and bas-reliefs for another hour. They suspect that Gavigan is hiding something, and although a cool customer, he finally gets angry and insulted at their constant prying.
“Good day, gentlemen! I’m sorry about your friend. Good bye!”
The investigators leave the Penhew Foundation, somewhat perplexed. It is late in the evening by now so they take time to tour the city, drinking some dark beers and sampling the local cuisine. Morty thinks they’re being followed, but can’t be sure, and they end their dinner abruptly and return to the hotel. That night they discus what to do the next day, and decide that maybe they should either go back to the Pehnew Foundation, or see Mickey Mahoney again and take another gander at those three articles that interested Jackson Elias so much.
After packing away their trunks of artifacts and weapons as safely as they can, and latching them with heavy padlocks, they go to sleep, but Huey is awakened late that night by a quiet click. In the dim light he sees his door open a sliver. Chang is snoring loudly on a cot, and Morty and Arnold are likewise resting. The crack widens a little bit more, and Huey feigns sleep, watching with growing terror as someone enters the room!
Huey finally shrieks and bolts up, but two thugs have slid inside their room like thieves in the night. They both brandish knives, and the one closest to Huey takes a vicious swipe at him, drawing a crimson gash across Huey’s palm. The room is thrown into chaos as a fight begins in the gloom, shouts and bumps and moans as two killers try to silence the investigators. In the havoc, the gas main on a wall-mounted lantern is knocked off, and flammable gas begins seeping into the chamber.
Morty finally plugs one of the killers with a bullet, but he’s not fast enough to stop the other from lighting a match! WHOOSH! Flames spark and spread up the curtains instantaneously, and the group begins a mad dash to drag their belongings out before the hotel burns down. The thug flees, shouting, “Fire! Fire! Arson! Fire! There! I saw ‘em!”
Cursing their luck, the investigators throw what they can out of the window and jump to safety, joining the confusion as dozens of people flee the burning building. It’s not the last time that fire in a public place will accompany the PCs. Firefighters and policeman have arrived, and the investigators slink away before they get compromised for a murder or a fire. They haven’t been in town long enough to get arrested!
Dragging their belongings down the street, the investigators start taking random alleys, pushing through viscous fog until they find a cheap hostel to stay at. They think they were possibly followed yet AGAIN, so this time they devise a trap.
Using himself as bait, Huey takes a walk along the Thames. It’s dark out, and sure enough, the same thug from before eventually catches up to him. But Chang, Morty and Arnold are waiting, and the thug is overpowered.
“Who are you? Who sent you?”
The man is reluctant to answer, and to continue their trend of silencing the enemy one at a time, Huey HIMSELF cuts the man’s throat and drops the corpse into the Thames.
Shaking from equal dread and delight, Huey wipes blood from his trembling hands with a handkerchief, telling himself, “I’m a good man. A good man. I know it. I know I am. I know. I know it. I know it…I…I…I know it! I’m…a good man.”
He has trouble sleeping that night.
Last edited by Nebulous; 17th January 2008 at 05:06 PM.
The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep d20
Adventure #5: Castle Plum
The morning paper has an article concerning the destroyed hotel, and several Americans are suggested as suspects. Feeling that they have been specifically targeted, the investigators decide to cool their heels outside of London and let the heat die down. The article entitled “Police Baffled by Monstrous Murders!” centers around a small town called Lesser Edale a hundred miles outside of London. If Jackson Elias had an interest in events there, then maybe there are further clues.
The take a bus and arrive the next day, bringing with them just the bare necessities: guns, ammunition, and black trenchcoats. They look like friggin’ gangsters traipsing across the London countryside.
Lesser Edale is a picturesque, quaint little town of rolling green heath and open blue sky.
The townsfolk are welcoming of the guests at the local pub, the Laughing Boar, until the investigators start dropping questions concerning the Scoop’s newspaper article. There is clearly an aura of tension in the town concerning the murders, and when Constable Tumwell arrives, he corroborates the general fear. He thinks it’s a wild animal at large, and the folks in the pub still say strange things are heard around the full moon.
[As soon as the full moon is mentioned (and the general description of “hairy monsters” tearing up folks, the players immediately suspected they were dealing with a werewolf. So, I changed that aspect of the story slightly.]
[I do recall that Leo had scribbled the name “Vane” in his notes, but I never connected the subplot (although I did reward him an Action Points for astute notekeeping).]
After thoroughly questioning everyone, they find that Lawrence Vane is a suspect, and that he can be found at Castle Plum, an imposing stone edifice located several hundred yards above the village on a rocky bluff.
Sir Arthur Vane is the senior head of the family, with his son Lawrence Vane and his twin daughters, Eloise and Alyssa Vane.
A servant answers the door, and the investigators introduce themselves as American “specialists” seeking information about the murders. They’re able to Bluff their way inside and get an audience with the older Sir Arthur. After some time smoking cigars and sipping brandy, Arthur’s distrust is eased, his tongue is loosened, and the investigators find out that the man is truly, truly frightened.
…of his daughter Eloise.
He tells the investigators that his family suffers from a curse put on them by a witch as she burned at the stake in 1682. Since then, some female daughters turn into vicious were-creatures, and there is no known cure, none that he and his son Lawrence have been able to find. They are the only two who are aware that Eloise transforms on nights of the full moon because the servants are sent away. Her twin sister Alyssa suspects she is sick, but Lawrence and Arthur do not openly discuss it with her.
This very night is the full moon, and Arthur invites the investigators to stay…if they dare. He and Lawrence typically lock Eloise in the dungeon and wait for dawn as her howls echo throughout the countryside.
She recently escaped however, and committed atrocious murders that Lawrence was barely able to conceal.
Photographic evidence of a genuine werewolf transformation is EXACTLY what Mickey Mahoney of the Scoop would pay dearly for, so Morty primes his camera. Arthur lets them speak briefly with Eloise and Alyssa, but Eloise seems quiet and distracted, unwilling to talk. Alyssa is more sociable, and secretly tells the investigators that she worries about her sister. “Can you help her? Is that why father brought you here? Can you?”
They have no idea what they can or can’t do, and we have to separate meta-game player knowledge from character knowledge concerning werewolves.
Later that day all the servants are sent away, the gates are closed and locked, watches are set, and Eloise Vane is heavily sedated with opiates in her wine. Her brother Lawrence gently carries her to the basement.
“I cannot watch,” Sir Arthur tells them. “It…pains me too much.”
The dungeons of the castle are located off the wine cellar. It is dark and moldy, and Lawrence points them to the cell. Eloise can be seen lying prone on a bed of straw. She is manacled, but Lawrence says that she gains supernatural strength, so much that he fears she might rend the bars aside one day. He does not stay either, retreating to the study with his father, so Morty sets up his photographic equipment and they wait for the moon to rise.
Two hours later, Eloise begins to twitch.
Although careful to conceal their guns from the father and son, Arnold and Chang have pistols loaded and ready in case the thing somehow breaks free. Clicking the shutters on the camera, Morty starts taking pictures of the terrifying sight:
Her body warps and buckles, hair poking through her flesh, and Eloise suddenly jerks up, her face warped into a snarl, canines jutting from her jaws. The investigators are completely freaked out by this event and take some Sanity hits, but not enough to send any of them nuts. It’s not until they hear the screams from somewhere upstairs that they realize something has gone horribly wrong.
Chang, Arnold and Huey race from the dungeon to the main level, leaving Morty alone (and terrified) as he watches Eloise grow in size, muscles rippling beneath a coat of shaggy black fur. Her muzzle elongates, and she suddenly SLAMS against the bars, bending several outward in her insatiable bloodlust. Morty’s presence is sending her into a rage, and Morty glances at the lantern hanging on the wall, and at the bed of straw in the cell…
The study is empty, Lawrence’s and Arthur’s cigars and brandy only partially touched. Immense stairs wrap up to the balcony, and the investigators carefully creep up, calling their names, guns cocked and ready.
There is no response, just an odd shuffling sound from behind a door at the top of the stairs, and peeking in, Chang sees a huge black shape hulking in the room. It whirls around, and Chang begins screaming bloody murder.
It is a seven-foot tall half man/half boar, its tusks bathed in blood and entrails, Sir Arthur Vane’s eviscerated corpse dangling from its hands. Allysa Vane’s shredded nightgown hangs in tatters about its hoofed feet.
Chang starts shooting his twin pistols, but the bullets glance harmlessly off the beast’s unnatural flesh. It lowers its head and CHARGES in a mighty pounce, and by pure, pure luck, Chang falls flat and the wereboar soars over his head and crashes through a door across the hall. It would have killed him instantly.
They’re in over their heads. The run screaming down the stairs, Arnold pumping shotgun shells at the thing, but it does minimal damage. The boar slams into Arnold, bowling him down the stairs where he comes to a painful halt at the bottom. The wereboar leaps off the balcony and crashes into the floor, cutting off Huey’s escape route.
In the meantime, Eloise the werewolf is tearing her cell to shreds. The manacles have snapped, and she is bending the bars apart. Morty is at his wits end, and decides that he is going to burn her to death. He throws the lantern onto the straw, and immediately flames shoot up, catching fire to the wolf’s matted fur. Unholy wails rip through the dungeon as Morty stumbles back, still trying to click off some pictures through the smoke.
Huey, Chang and Arnold are having a rough time. The wereboar is impervious to damage and swipes at them, nearly killing Huey. He’s saved at the last second by Lawrence Vane who stumbles to the balcony, blood streaming from a head wound.
“Alyssa! Alyssa! NO! What have you done to father?”
The boar is distracted, staring up at her brother with a mixed expression of rage, recognition and distraught, when Chang sees a godsend hanging above the massive front door:
It is the Vane family heirloom: twin silver-plated axes. [Totally not part of the written scenario but I couldn’t resist throwing it in there]
He leaps up, snags an axe off and plants it into Alyssa’s back. The silver blade cuts through flesh and bone, and blood splatters Chang’s face. Alyssa bellows in pain and explodes out a window to escape. Arnold grabs the second axe and they give chase, even as Morty stumbles up the stairs with thick smoke coiling behind him.
“The castle’s on fire!” he shrieks. “I…I think I did something bad!”
Lawrence begins shrieking and crying and pushes past Morty to run down to the dungeon.
The investigators stumble outside and give chase to the beast which has leapt with incredible speed up into the hills. But it is a full moon and the night is bright, and they can see the creature…and they can see a mob of villagers carrying torches, pitchforks and rifles!
Sure enough, Lesser Edale has armed itself to the teeth this night, and after hearing so much commotion from Castle Plum, they’ve come to investigate.
“There! Get the beast!” screams Arnold, and he spearheads the lynchmob of drunken commoners as they surge after the creature’s footprints and blood trail. Behind them, flames have continued to devour Castle Plum, and the clean night is soon bathed red with heat and soot.
Alyssa the wereboar bloodily plunges through three more villagers before she is finally cornered by two dozen people with torches a top a hill. And braving her wrath, Arnold and Chang bring the Vane family curse to a vicious end, and cut her down in a blur of sharp silver blades.
Soon afterward, there is a group of shocked villagers standing around the corpse of a mangled nude young woman, while the crackle of flames and crumbling stone on the hill behind them….
The evening did not go as smoothly as the investigators had hoped, but they do manage to loot some quality rifles (and silver axes) from Castle Plum before it is razed completely to the ground. Constable Tumwell is barely able to believe what happened, and insists that the investigators might need to stick around and fill out some paperwork.
They politely decline, and then get the hell out of Lesser Edale before anything else goes wrong, taking the earliest Omnibus as possible in the morning. The last thing they see is poor Lawrence Vane crying on the shoulder of a sympathetic soul, his entire family and fortune gone in one terrible night. He might recover one day, but he’ll be spending some quality time in a mental institute for a long, long while.
And so the investigators return to London, realizing that they are leaving a trail of chaos in their wake. Three American Caucasian men and a Chinaman in trenchcoats, blazing a trail of vigilante justice against the Mythos! (and whoever else gets in their way!)
Last edited by Nebulous; 10th January 2008 at 01:32 PM.
- Join Date
- Jul 2004
- Blog Entries
I'm sure Call of Cthulhu isn't meant to be funny, but this is hilarious stuff! I'm reminded of Belkar's comment in Order of the Stick - 'If in doubt, set something on fire'.
Dr. Simon, it gets even better. By the end of the Cairo chapter, my group coined a new term: The Gas Camel.
Last edited by Nebulous; 19th July 2008 at 01:00 PM.
The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep d20
Adventure #6: The Paintings of Miles Shipley
February 21, 1925
The investigators take the omnibus back to London and return to The Scoop to see Mickey Mahoney. They tell him they found zilch relating to Jackson Elias, but boy did they get some good pictures! Many of Morty’s photos of Eloise’s transformation are blurry, but tantalizing nonetheless. Mickey’s eyes grow saucer-wide and he whistles, telling them “This stuff is ace, boys!” and pays Morty handsomely.
[GM Note: this is when we were still using the d20 Wealth System and Arnold Silvermine wanted to buy an airplane. I think the goal was to dropship guns and supplies into new locations across the globe. It didn’t work].
“So, boys,” says Mickey after paying them. “There’s word on the street ‘bout some fellows fitting your description. I’m not saying it was you or not, but…well, you might want to be a tad careful. Misconceptions and all that. Inspector Barrington of Scotland Yard even stopped by yesterday, wanting to know if I’d seen anything particularly interesting that might make it into the Scoop. Just so ya know, all this Lesser Edale business is classified. Professionals like myself don’t release our sources.”
“Oh, one more thing,” he adds. “I forgot to mention this, but Jackson Elias interviewed Inspector Barrington. Don’t know what they talked about, but he might tell you. Or he might not.”
The investigators discuss their current options and leads: Inspector Barrington knows something about Elias and the London Murders (called the Egyptian Murders by the presses); there’s the possible Mythos painting that Jackson Elias was interested in from Miles Shipley; and Edward Gavigan of the Penhew Foundation has acted suspicious, but for what reasons they don’t know. He has otherwise been generous with his knowledge.
The investigators attempt to stave off further illegal accusations by going straight to Inspector Barrington of Scotland Yard in an act of goodwill. They find Barrington just as he is leaving his office one fine drizzly morning. In his early fifties, Inspector Barrington looks these four Americans up and down as they approach, obviously unsure of their motives.
The PC’s say that they were supplied his name by Mickey Mahoney of The Scoop, and that they are professional investigators working for a private firm in the States. They believe that the rash of twenty-four cult-like murders might be related to a similar series of deaths across the Atlantic.
Lighting a cigarette, Barrington begins walking slowly in the rain, the investigators tagging along. While they hold an umbrella over him, Barrington begins jotting notes, asking their names and ages and other personal details.
“Private firm, eh? You know, there been people fitting your description turning up around trouble. You know anything about that?”
The PC’s deny any involvement in fires, murders, and burning down castles full of werewolves. But they DO supply Inspector Barrington with enough knowledge for an exchange of information. He’s informed about a death cult in New York called the Bloody Tongue, which is only a branch of its parent cult in Kenya. And they hint that this has something to do with a man who interviewed Barrington several months ago: the deceased Jackson Elias.
Mentioning the murders and Elias gets Barrington talking. He’s desperate to solve these so-called “Egyptian Murders” because most of the victims were Egyptian.
What He and Jackson Talked About:
1) Jackson said that the murders in London were conducted by the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh, an Egyptian death cult from ancient times. Elias interviewed Edward Gavigan of the Penhew Foundation, who finances Egyptian digs, but Gavigan denied that any such cult existed to his knowledge.
2) A favorite Egyptian club is the Blue Pyramid in Soho. Many of the victims frequented this place, but the police haven’t been able to make a connection.
3) A spice dealer named Tewfik al-Sayed had once guided a Penhew Foundation expedition to Egypt. Barrington was suspicious of this man and had him tailed, but turned up nothing. He’s still on their “suspicious” list.
Barrington and the investigators reach Traflagar Square as the rain beats down harder. Barrington ends the interview by giving them a warning:
“We can use the help, but I would refrain from any illegal activities. Overzealous foreigners can find a mess of trouble. Consider yourself warned. Have a good day.”
Barrington leaves, and the investigators have New Clues added to their growing list of Things To Do. Jackson Elias had certainly homed in on some problems here in London, and the investigators think they’re getting close. They decide to talk to this Tewfik al-Sayed fellow who owns a spice shop.
A few hours later, they find him, a chubby Egyptian fellow behind the counter of a two story building in Soho. Tewfik sees amiable enough, but denies knowing anything. He admits to knowing Edward Gavigan, and yes, he was hired a few times as a guide on an Egyptian dig. The current dig is being led by Dr. Clive of the Clive Expedition, a competent man who doesn’t need Tewfik’s services.
The investigators don’t get any more useful information out if Tewfik al-Sayed, so they leave his shop and continue their search for clues.
1. Return to the Penhew Foundation and search for clues.
2. Snoop around this Blue Pyramid nightclub for clues
3. Check out the “Shocking Canvases” newspaper article that interested Jackson.
They settle for the last option and head to the house of Miles Shipley. On the way they see an issue of the Scoop and read the cover story:
“DERBYSHIRE DEMONS!”Last night in Lesser Edale the disturbing rash of murders in the area met a horrific conclusion. A dozen witnesses saw and hunted down a huge hairy beast seen departing the residence of Sir Arthur Vane. Armed with torches, pitchforks, guns, and—amazingly—two silver axes, the citizens of Lesser Edale and several visitors chased the monster and killed it, only to find it was the daughter of Sir Vane IN DISGUISE, as admitted by local Constable Tumwel. There were a number of deaths involved with this incident, including Sir Vane himself, his daughters, and several townsfolk…
By Mickey Mahoney
Shaking their heads at the memories of that night, the investigators continue to the residence of Miles Shipley and knock on the door.
His mother, Bertha Shipley, opens the door and inquires if they are here to purchase paintings. Lying, they say YES, but Arnold Silvermine gained the Wealth Feat early in the campaign and has been supplying everyone with money since the beginning. A little extravagant spending on New Age art is nothing. Hell, Arnold wants to buy a plane!
[GM Note: The short-term goal is still to contact Jonah Kensington in New York as often as possible, mailing and telegramming him their current whereabouts, persons whom they’ve met, and clues collected. They succeed at this reasonably well in London, taking the time after each chapter (or during) to contact Jonah and keep him abreast of their progress (or lack thereof). The party is VERY worried about a TPK and the difficulty of story continuity. I happened to agree with them.]
So masquerading as art dealers, the investigators easily talk their way inside and are led to the drawing room. Bertha is plump and likable enough, and talks about current art deco trends and her son’s fantastic progress and fortune as she leads them to the waiting area.
Stacks of paintings lean against the walls, and while the investigators wait for Miles to arrive, they casually browse through the collection. The scenes are horrible, horrifying Mythos-related abominations, and everyone suffers Sanity loss for the unprepared shock, especially Arnold Silvermine who thumbs through about ten pictures! One particular painting features a towering black mountain with a manlike creature standing over it, as large as the mountain itself, waggling a hideous red tongue…
Miles Shipley finally arrives. He is a thin, pale young man with hollow cheeks and vacant eyes. He mumbles a greeting and asks if they have come to purchase his masterpieces?
“Dark beauties. Ancient lust. Sinful yearning of the flesh and soul and pain and pleasure. I can share it with you. For a price. Yes, always a price…”
He talks like a loony, but the investigators want to learn what he knows, so they end up buying six works of art. Only Arnold has the balls to view each one, and after the resulting Sanity bash the others carefully roll the paintings up.
[GM Note: Included were multiple CoC pieces depicting various aspects of the Mythos unrelated to this adventure, although Arnold picked up ranks in the Mythos Skill. Much of it had an Egyptian flair, which fueled their expedition to Cairo]
[GM Note 2: the d20 cthulhu mythos skill is inaccurate. The character’s Sanity is percentile based, while their Mythos Skill is d20. I never fixed this problem really, but the EASY solution is this: make the Sanity and Cthulhu Mythos skill all percentile. Don’t let PC’s gain ranks in Mythos. They gain small increments of percentiles, at the GM discretion. Their max sanity goes down an equal rate.]
Morty notices a stairwell with a padlock on the door at the bottom, but when asked what is down there, Miles says that’s his secret project, and no one can see it.
Temptation is deadly, and the investigators try to talk him out of his decision, but the man is adamant. Miles gives them a receipt for the paintings they bought and callously waves them off, even as he strips naked and begins to paint with his fingers a new blasphemous creation.
On the way out, Chang notices a funny smell in the kitchen as the Bertha closes the door behind them, but can’t quite place it. Bertha carefully watches them leave…
The investigators naturally want to return and scope out the Shipley residence in more detail. Returning after midnight, they sneak in under cover of London fog, and Chang picks the lock. It is deathly quiet inside, and Morty sees Miles Shipley asleep in bed. The door to his mother’s room is closed.
They sneak to the vaulted art room and Chang picks the lock on the door to the basement. Beyond is a small chamber housing a single large painting under a canvas. Fingers twitching, Huey volunteers to peel the canvas back, knowing that something horrible and Sanity draining surely lurks beneath.
The painting depicts a jungle setting from a prehistoric era. Hundreds of serpents writhe in false motion around a black stone altar in a swamp. In the background, hints of large dinosaurs peek above the trees, and lizard eyes glance through the branches. Huey stares, mesmerized, and continues to stare…
…and the serpents begin to truly wiggle! He feels a part of him detach, but through supreme willpower Huey pulls away, and averts his eyes from the painting.
“Cover it!” he gasps. “Cover it!”
Chang whips out a knife and cuts away the back of the painting, rolls it up, and stuffs it inside an empty cardboard tube. This is the only painting they actually steal.
But on the way to the backdoor in the kitchen, they are met by Bertha Shipley standing by the exit with a cup of coffee in her hands.
“Did you forget something?” she asks in a strange, husky voice.
Huey tries to stammer out a lie, but is cut short by a serpentine rasp from Bertha. Her tongue flicks in and out, forked, as she hisses:
“I will devour you meddlesome humans! You DIE NOW!”
Bertha’s transforms in a heartbeat, her fat skin sloughing off to unveil the true creature beneath: Ssathasaa, a huge serpent-man sorcerer who has encased himself in Bertha’s flesh. The investigators are taken completely off guard, and the serpent person flings itself into their midst, clawing and biting with sharp poisonous fangs.
Huey and Morty are both ripped across the face, blood pouring into their eyes, and they stumble backward shrieking. Arnold is flipped over the kitchen table as it cracks beneath his weight, and Chang unloads both barrels of his pistols into the snakething’s abdomen.
Green blood splatters, and then it’s atop him in a flash, poisonous fangs gnashing at his throat, but Chang barely manages to keep them from piercing his jugular. Huey slams a kitchen chair onto the serpent’s head, and Morty pulls out his pistol, clicking off rounds.
Arnold recovers, and whips out his shotgun, planting buckshot in the thing’s back as soon as he has a clear shot. The serpent staggers under the blow, then backhands Arnold, knocking him into the wall where he crumples, dazed.
About that time, Miles Shipley stumbles into the kitchen, screaming “Leave Mother ALONE!” but Morty tackles him to the floor and starts raining punches on his head to knock him unconscious.
The serpent man staggers away, chanting the words to a spell, and Chang thinks these words sound familiar-- he heard the same thing in the basement beneath the Ju-Ju House when he lost his pinky finger. “Nooooo!” he screams, and plants two more bullets in each serpentine eye.
Brain matter explodes out the back of Bertha’s inhuman head, and she slowly crumples, her scales flaking off, green froth bubbling from her mouth. Stinking fumes rise from her corpse, even as the investigators hear the WAIL of police sirens outside.
They’ve been busted.
Last edited by Nebulous; 16th January 2008 at 12:59 PM.
This is Leo (the guy who plays Huey - spoiler: ...for now. Neville Thornbottom and Chad Slambody later). This was a pretty gung-ho campaign...and I've played a LOT of RPGs, but coming up with The Gas Camel (TM) is one of my proudest gaming accomplishments.Originally Posted by Nebulous
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
-Necronomicon (HP Lovecraft)