The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep d20

Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #33: Gray Dragon Island


[Alternate title for the session: "We're Gonna Dynamite the Hell Out of It!" Which could have been the title for many chapters]

Part 1: Firm Action


Hans Hazzenbaum, Chad Slambody and Lester Cobblebottom are still sitting with Jack "Brass" Brady at the Autumn Cafe. As of last night, Chang Chin was captured by Firm Action at their warehouse and no one has seen him since. According to Brady, he's still alive. It is now 9:30 am. After nearly a year of searching for the lost members of the Carlyle Expedition, they have a good idea what happened to everyone. Roger Carlyle is in a Hong Kong asylum not too far from Shanghai. Huston is still in the Great City in Australia, and Sir Audrey Penhew is probably fortified on Gray Dragon Island a few hundred miles offshore.

This island, Brady tells them, is Firm Action's target.

Brady has not told Firm Action exactly what they're up against: supernatural cultists. He has left it vague. He wanted their help after all, not to sound like a loony. So Firm Action thinks that they are fighting a corrupt government agency hiding out on the island, financed secretly by businessman Ho Fong. With roughly 150 Firmies in their ranks and plenty of guns, they should be able to put some hurt on the faction.

"And that's the story we peddle," insists Brady, glancing around the cafe. "Don't mention anything else you might have seen before now. And God knows you've seen some crazy stuff." He's fidgety, worried that he has been followed. He nods to a slender Chinese fellow who approaches with a tray of green tea.


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The waiter nods curtly and departs. "That's Chu-Min, leader of Firm Action. He wanted to see you blokes for himself, to gauge you. He might look like an innocent kid, but he's a dangerous man. We've been training Firmies on and off for the past year. They're a bloodthirsty group, I'll grant them that."

But not as bloodthirsty as the Order of the Bloated Woman. Brady says the cultists of Ho Fong use a poisoned sickle as their weapon. Victims are found with their arms chopped off, the torsos washing up on shore, the arms never to be seen again. He doesn't know what they do with the arms, or why. He goes on to say that Ho Fong is a deadly man, probably the most dangerous in all of China, and his mansion is impenetrable.

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Broken glass and spearheads circumvent a thirteen-foot tall stone wall. The investigators glance at each, secretly wondering if killing Ho Fong or Gavigan in a preemptive strike is a wise decision. Or a suicidal one?

The investigators have a few questions of their own, but Brady only grants them about ten minutes. It is too dangerous for him to be out in public like this. Dangerous for the investigators too. Gavigan knows who they are and what they're capable of, and has undoubtedly reported back to Ho Fong. Furthermore, the party has not and WILL not tell Brady about Mei-Ling! His girlfriend has been captured as a hostage by Ho Fong in exchange for the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan. If the exchange isn't made by tomorrow, according to Gavigan, she'll die horribly at something called the Gates of Heaven.

As of right now, it is five days until Doomsday, January 14th 1926. After that, the dead will have a restless sleep until the Great Old Ones return...

The investigators ask Brady about the magical book that he stole. Brady learned about the book arriving via freight ship from another cultist exporter. Brady hijacked the ship with some Firmie buddies and stole the book. He currently has a scholarly friend, Mr. Mu, deciphering the text. When complete, Brady plans to use his half of the Eye of Light and Darkness to create a partial ward on Gray Dragon Island. It will be vastly inferior to a full ward if they possessed both halves, but it is better than nothing. "After that, I plan on placing a ward in The Great City, onThe Mountain of the Black Wind, and finally at the Bent Pyr--Good Christ. What is that dog doing here?"

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And sure enough, the blink-dingo from Australia has mysteriously popped up at Hans's side, growling at thin air. Lester is particularly worried about this; if his assumption is right, the Hounds of Tindalos have their scent, and nothing will stop their pursuit across time and space. As if they don't have enough things trying to kill them already! Hans pets the dog and it starts licking his hand.

Brady is aware of the time crunch. Firm Action will be ready soon and they have maps of the island, the reefs, the tides, and capable pilots to maneuver boats close enough to disembark. If the investigators want, they are welcome to add their input. Brady is about to say more when Chu-Min rushes up, a wobbling plate of rice cakes in his hands, and tosses it to the table. Brady pulls out a small edible note from under the rice cake. His eyes widen.

"GO! NOW! Head back to the warehouse! Don't follow me! GO!"

He springs up and vaults off the balcony, leaving the investigators flustered. They spin around but don't seen anyone approaching. Chu-Min has vanished as well. They are just armed with pistols, so Chad volunteers to return to their hotel and retrieve shotguns and a lightning gun. Hans and Lester will run to the Firm Action warehouse and await for his arrival. Hopefully, the Firmies won't shoot them.

They split up, pushing through the crowded streets, Hans and Lester getting turned around and forced to backtrack several times down dirty alleys...

...when two men armed with sickles cut off their route. "Capture them!" one shouts in Mandarin. Lester understands, and Hans get the gist of it. Hans runs away, but two more men have boxed them in at the other end of the alley, one of whom is a huge, hulking fellow snapping a metal man-catcher! Morty and Hans are both armed with small caliber pistols, and they dont' hesitate unloading on their foes. Man-catcher is shot through the arm, but that doesn't stop him from clamping the metal teeth of his weapon around Hans's waist. Hans is slammed into the wall, dazed, but his gun hand is still free and he rattles off several shots. Bullets puncture the man's chest and he collapses backward, dropping the mancatcher.

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Meanwhile, a few blocks away Chad Slambody hears gunshots, but naturally assumes that it's not related to his friends...

A sickle slashes Lester's arm and he kills his attacker, but is barely able to toss off the other masked men trying to grapple he and Hans. Fisticuffs fly between them, and then Lester leaps across the corpses and into the street, Hans hot on his heels. "Keep running, Lester!" pants Hans. "We got to lose them!"

They run as fast as they can, stuffing their pistols out of sight, throwing back glances to see if they're being followed. Taking a much longer route than necessary, they reach the docks half an hour later and breathlessly limp down the corridor leading to Firm Action's headquarters. Three guards armed with automatic rifles stop them, but they seem to have be expecting them. Hans and Lester are pushed inside where they are quickly frisked, disarmed and led to a locked room with their friend Chang.

Chang is doing a little better now, but he had a rough night in absolute darkness. His pants are still damp. Fortunately, he was SO scared, he forgot to mention anything about Mei-Ling and her impending doom at the Seven Gates of Heaven. They tell Chang to keep it that way; it might drastically change Brady's course of action. About an hour later Chad Slambody arrives at the warehouse with bundled shotguns, ammunition and an ass-whopping lightning gun in a burlap sack. He was able to avoid any cultists in the streets, and none followed him as far as he knows.

Before long, the young fighter Chu-Min comes to speak with them. His smile from earlier is gone, replaced by a scowl that he backs up with angry words. Chu-Min is a volatile, angry young political dissident. In Mandarin (he speaks no English) he tells the PC's that he would not allow them here at all except for Brady's insistence. According to Brady, the investigators are practiced warriors willing to support Firm Action's cause, and they have inside knowledge about the enemy on Gray Dragon Island. And Chu-Min wants them to start talking.

So, with that introduction out of the way, the party is led to a large table under bright lamps, strewn with maps and paper and cartography tools. Predominantly featured on the table is a huge map of Gray Dragon Island. Tapping it, Chu-Min says that they know a primitive village exists near the beachhead. There is a volcano cone on the west side of the island, but all other sides are steep cliffs. The only real entrances are two small black sand beaches.

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Chu-Min says that Brady will not arrive until right before they leave. It is too risky otherwise. The men that hunt Brady do not know about Firm Action and their troops, which will be their greatest advantage: surprise. Well, that and the hundreds of pistols, submachine guns, grenades, detonators and bombs they've been buying on the Black Market. Firm Action is a literal arsenal, and the PC's are overjoyed to hear this.

Although Chu-Min and his lieutenants have already mapped out their route and general plan of action, they ask the PC's for any input. Lester is careful to explain to Chu-Min that the enemy on the island have been seduced by a religious cult. He doesn't mention any magical dangers, but he does say that they are suicidally devoted to their faith. And there very well could be hundreds and hundreds of zealots...

Their final plan: six boats loaded with roughly 150 people will approach the island under cover of dark. There is a good chance that the enemy thinks SOMEONE will come, but they won't expect so many heavily armed fighters. The investigators will stay on a boat with Jack Brady and ten others, hanging back while the others raid the beachhead. They will give the Firmies about half an hour to establish a safe zone, and then the PC's will move in.

They debate several options, going back and forth and changing their minds several times, but ultimately there are too many unknowns about Gray Dragon Island. From what they have experienced in the past, (Lester making an educated guess with his occult and Mythos knowledge) the site at Gray Dragon Island is very likely to follow the same parameters established by previous cult headquarters: There will be a wide area large enough to accommodate hundreds if not thousands of worshipers; there will be a statue representing the local masks of Nyarlathotep, the Bloated Woman, and there very well might be a demonic guardian in the vicinity. Fortunately, they're going to have the firepower to deal with these problems.

The next order of business concerns Ho Fong, Gavigan, Aubrey Penhew, and the Dark Mistress.

They briefly consider raiding Ho Fong's mansion. If they can kill him and/or Edward Gavigan, they'll have two less sorcerers to worry about. But they decide it will be too difficult, will waste time, and might get themselves killed instead. The best plan is the current one: sneak attack on Gray Dragon Island with hundreds of angry Chinamen! (and women) And then there's the whole business with the Dark Mistress. The investigators didn't board this strange ship when they first saw it, and according to Chu-Min, it stays moored at the docks for very brief periods, only a few hours. There is something strange about the ship he says, but Chu-Min doesn't know what. Regardless, they'll keep an eye on the ports to see if and when the Mistress returns again. If she's there, they'll let the PC's know.

As for Sir Aubrey Penhew, Brady has not seen him in a long, long time. It is likely that he never leaves the island at all. It is a fortress of evil solitude.

The last person they talk about is Isoje Taro, the secret agent for the Emperor. This guy wanted to infiltrate and sabotage whatever superweapon Firm Action was working on, but Taro has been misguided. The true danger lies on Gray Dragon Island, but Chu-Min is quick to point out that the Emperor and Firm Action are diametrically opposed. Still, the investigators wonder if there is a way to get their help, but they don't have a means to contact Isoje.

That's about all they can do, and the evening passes without incident as the investigators play cards, talking amongst themselves, and try to steel their resolve for the coming battle. It won't be easy, no matter what happens, and they know that Gray Dragon Island will hold plenty of surprises.
 

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Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #33: Gray Dragon Island

Part 2: Welcoming Party

The next morning a visitor arrives at the warehouse:

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it is Mr. Mu, Jack Brady's scholarly friend and the translator of the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan. He has brought a small scribbled page that Brady wanted the investigators to see, and perhaps judge if it will change their plan of action. It is a copy of the translation which spells out in detail how the ward must be fashioned to seal the island. Of note, it requires the blood of an innocent, which Lester thinks means someone who has NO knowledge whatsoever of the Mythos. Even SEEING a Mythos-elated abomination might taint their subject's blood, so they immediately begin planning how to blindfold, gag, and stuff someone's ears with wax so they cannot possibly see, hear, smell or taste evil!

This unlucky person will be their "innocent" whose blood must be spilled during the evocation of the Eye of Light and Darkness. How much blood? Well, Lester isn't sure about that. Chad Slambody even suggests buying themselves a young prostitute and using her as an innocent, but in the end they volunteer a young Firm Action guerrilla fighter who they'll keep hidden from the fight. Maybe in a trunk. Locked in the boat's hold.

The investigators can't do much more. It is three days until the eclipse over the Indian Ocean, and with the translation complete, Firm Action is ready to roll. It will take at least 12 hours to reach the island, so they will be leaving mid-afternoon, arriving well after dark when the tide is high and try to avoid most of the dangerous reefs. All goes according to plan, and by that afternoon Jack Brady, in another excellent disguise, meets them at the predetermined location. Firm Action has a small fleet of boats, but they depart from different docks so as not to attract attention. Brady is carrying the translation of the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan and his half of the Eye of Light and Darkness.

They'll have just one shot to do this, or they'll have to wait another thirty days until the next full moon. And by then it might be too late.

The winds and waves are calm, and by evening a thick cowl of clouds has obscured the darkening sky. There is no moon to be seen, and the night is black as tar. Anything could be waiting out there. Around three in the morning, after Hans and Chang have been fighting debilitating sea-seasickness, puking their guts out over the railing, the small fleet of Firmie vessels comes to a halt.

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"The island is that way," says Brady, pointing. They can't see anything yet. "The others will approach, we'll hang back as planned and wait for the assault to begin." The other boats putter forward, winding through treacherous waters, bristling with guns, bombs, and fanatically loyal Firmies. The PC's have a squad of Firmies on their own boat (Three 3rd level lieutenants, seven 1st level grunts). Ten minutes later, while watching with several sets of binoculars, they see the first boat strike the shore and Chu-Min rushes out. There are now torches seen glittering in the sand on the beach, forming a shallow semi-circle around the landing area. At a secondary beachhead, they can just barely see a wooden dock jutting out over the water.

As for the Dark Mistress, there is no sign.

Twenty troopers disembark into the shallows and splash to shore. Twenty more land, following their brethren. All is going well...

...until the water around the other boats begin to bubble and froth!

"Ho-lee :):):):)," groans Chad. Inhuman scaled creatures leap from the water by the dozens, hauling people off the small boats or dragging them back into the surf, razor talons and teeth digging into soft flesh. Screams and gunshots begin to immediately echo across the night.

"What do we do?" asks Hans. "Do we help them? Or wait it out as planned?"

"Give 'em time," says Brady. "Although I do feel guilty 'bout not telling my boys more. This is a bad, bad place."

The Firmies take Sanity hits as they encounter Deep Ones and hybrids surging at them like bloodthirsty sharks. Automatic gunfire explodes over the water, punctuated by grenade bursts. But many troops make it to shore, and they're holding their own, mowing down anything green, scaly and slimy under a hail of lead.

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But the investigators have problems of their own. Chang and Chad hear it first. A distinct cracking sound from the hull, followed by muffled creaking. The fishmen are trying to sink their boat! "Full power!" yells Brady, and the driver slams the gear forward. "Get us to the other shoreline! FAST!" Gasoline fumes pump into the air, and the vessel lurches into motion, sputtering through the black water as the sound of damage continues unabated below them. To protect their innocent blood sacrifice from any sort of "Sanity" or "Mythos" damage, they've already sequestered a young Firmie below deck and told him to NOT come up no matter what he hears!

(It's just a guy in a rubber suit! That's all! Nothing to see here!)

The boat finally grinds to shore, but after crowding to the railing, the investigators and their comrades see six scaly, amphibious creatures trying to clamber up the sides. Everyone unloads at once, picking the deep ones off the sides of the boat before they can fully ascend. The last deep one manages to slash over the railing and nearly kills a grunt. Others take him below deck where he'll be safer. At the other beachhead, dozens of Firmies have reached the small village and are rolling explosives into the huts. Explosions bloom in the night, sending geysers of sand and limbs spraying down in a grisly rain. Chu-Min is at the forefront of the attack, swinging his automatic rifle in a wide berth and screaming obscenities.

Now that the investigators are beached, they see that there are several large bonfires, or burning buildings, they're not sure anymore, and a line of torches leading up to the volcano cone. But there is movement and light from a cave entrance a few hundred feet up the side of the cone, and to their dismay, dozens and dozens of people are streaking out, nearly all of them swinging sickles. At least a hundred cultists charge straight toward Chu-Min and his squads, while fifty others veer off and charge south right toward the party.

"Take 'em down!" shouts Chad. Everyone starts plugging shots off, dropping a handful of cultists as they cross the distance between them. But it's not enough, and the next round they're tossing as many grenades as possible. The earth is torn to pieces from shrapnel, and two dozen more cultists are blown to smithereens, but there's still around thirty still clambering toward the boat, about to surround it. And then it gets worse.

They hear splashing and growls from the back of the boat. Chad runs back and sees three more fishmen scaling the side, stabbing their claws into the wood. He demolishes the head of one monster into green mush with his shotgun, but what Chad sees slithering in the water like a nasty black oil slick sends tremors into his knees.

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Something large, tentacled, and meaner than hell lashes a probing tentacle to the boat railing. And then two tentacles. And then three. And then four. It begins crawling up, and Chad screams for help and tosses two grenades off the side...

BOOM! BOOM! Chunks of the thing's body is pulverized, but it relentlessly continues.

Back at the bow of the grounded boat, the Firmies and investigators are having problems. There are too many enemies to simply shoot them all, so they start dropping grenades off the sides, indifferent to the damage inflicted on their own vessel (They might not be leaving this island anyway). Cultists are annihilated as they climb up, although the boat is hideously damaged too. It won't be floating away, no doubt about that. Lester, Hans and Chang offer Chad a hand, and good thing, because more fishmen are trying to scale the rear of the boat. The oily abomination pulls itself all the way up, and slaps four meaty, serrated tentacles across the heroes. The damage is awful, and they stagger back for cover, realizing that concentrated attacks by the monster will easily kill them. They keep pumping shells into it, backing away as they do so.

The last of the cultists attacking the boat are slain, and the investigators retreat from the amorphous monster, stunned by how much damage the thing can absorb. Numerous maws and eyes and twitching limbs morph from its putrid body, but at least it's movement is restrained on the small deck. The investigators swap out with the soldiers, the few that have line of sight with the monster, and Chad rips a backpack of gasoline off the guy in front of him, throwing sight unseen toward the back of the boat. It lands square in the largest mouth of the beast, and the next instant a Firm Action soldier levels his pistol and shoots.

[GM Note: At this point, Leo rolls miraculously LOW damage with 6d6 dice...it's enough to kill or maim three Firmies and launch them off the boat like flaming rags, but it's not enough to kill the shoggoth!]

They have to get off this boat. If this thing can't be stopped, they need room to run. Hans leaps off the side, firing in mid-air and twists his ankle upon hitting the sand. Lester follows, and Chang comes last. But Hans Hazzenbaum, our stalwart German anthropologist who has been introduced to the madness of the Mythos since Port Hedland, is the last to shoot the blasphemous thing in the...head? It's seems all like head and teeth, but no matter, the disgusting abomination stops writhing, the tentacles cease flailing, and the remaining bulk spews out reeking juices and blood and viscera in a wide stinking berth, staining the deck a grisly color.

And in the hold below, their trembling "innocent blood" wonders what the hell is happening up top.



And there we stopped.

[GM Note:That was a 4-hour session. Next time we play COULD be our last Cthulhu game, guys. Although it is possible we might need a "Loose Ends" chapter or an "Epilogue" session. We'll see how far we get our next time. The rest of Gray Dragon Island awaits...]
 

Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #34: The Superweapon

Part 1: Monologues & Mayhem


January 12th, 1926

Thursday, 2:24 am

The initial wave of cultists, deep ones, and hybrids have been repelled by the Firmies and investigators. They stand breathlessly on the bow of their ruined boat and survey the destruction. The village is a mass of burning huts and bodies. Limbs are strewn everywhere from the dozens of grenades rolled to the feet of the enemy. Blood soaks the sand and crimson waves crash to the shoreline. Moans of the injured waft on the wind, but the investigators are only mildly hurt. They were able to destroy the shoggoth before it inflicted serious harm.

But even as Hans Hazzenbaum wipes grit from his eyes, there is an echoing retort of gunfire and a glob of wet brains and blood splatters him! A Firmie to his side has been shot through the back of the head, the front of his face ripped off. He falls forward, gurgling. Hans screams and staggers away, and everyone looks back to the surf:

And there it is, the Dark Mistress churning through the water at high speed, and someone taking shots at them with a high powered rifle. An eerie green light emanates from somewhere below deck.

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"Damn it!" says Chad Slambody. "I knew we should have sunk that thing!"

They immediately leap off and find cover. Not far away, Chu-Min is trotting toward them from the ruined village. A haze of orange light illuminates everyone, making them easier targets for the Dark Mistress. Chu-min is injured, blood streaming into his eyes, and dozens of Firm Action fighters follow in his wake. But then surprisingly, he walks straight up to Jack Brady and cracks him across the jaw!

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" he shrieks in Chinese. "What is this? What...what are these monsters!" Chu-Min has obviously gone off the deep end and lost quite a bit of Sanity. Jack Brady massages his chin, glaring at him, and says,

"Did what I had to Chu. To get you here to help me. Get over it."

The investigators collectively roll their eyes. No, Brady, don't piss him off more! But Hans and Chad don't understand a lick of this conversation, only that Chu-Min is furious. He storms off, taking a large percentage of the Firmies who loyally follow their leader. Many of the others seem indecisive. Everyone has taken some Sanity shocks.

"He's gone mad," says Chang, and Hans gets an idea. Dragging Chang with him, Hans follows Chu-Min, tapping him on the shoulder and trying to offer psychological counsel, but with Chang as a translator the attempt is garbled. Chu-Min cannot be swayed. He says that he's taking as many people from this island as possible, if they can find a boat that will still run. (They don't know how much damage the fishmen inflicted to the hulls). Sighing, Hans admits failure, but Chang spins Chu-Min around and forces him into staying!

"We all die if you leave! The whole world might end! You WILL help us! Fight for your country dammit!" The persuasion is effective, and Chu-Min grudgingly brings his squads back.

Meanwhile, the Dark Mistress is still puttering around offshore, winding through the dangerous reefs and taking occasional shots. The investigators aren't too sure what to do about that, but they definitely keep an eye on the boat, hoping they don't somehow get flanked by more enemies pouring off of her. The investigators reconvene with Jack Brady and outline their plan of action: at this point, they've decided to forgo the Eye of Light and Darkness until the next full moon, assuming they survive this ordeal. The superweapon must be inside the cone of he volcano, so that is where they head.

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There are 75 Firmies left alive, and they have a fair amount of ammunition and grenades. Furthermore, almost every last Firm Action member is carrying a backpack with 1-2 gallons of gasoline. Chu-Min and Jack Brady have collectively brainwashed these young men and women to the point that they are fanatically dangerous, some even so loyal that they will sacrifice themselves for Firm Action's cause.

And having 75 mini-Gas Camels is the player's dream come true.


From ground level, the path winds up the cone for about two hundred feet until it reaches a cave entrance. Torches illuminate the entrance, which is suitably horrible for this island: a gaping mouth, ringed by writhing tentacles and open eyes.

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Four 1st level Firmie scouts are sent ahead. Everyone else begins clambering up the steep path to the cave entrance, but the whole time the wind has been picking up. Sand whips around their feet and stings their eyes. At first they're not sure if it is just blurry vision, or a mirage in the night, but the air above the entrance seems hazy. It quickly grows blurrier and rounder, washing back and forth like swirling liquid in a drain, and to their horror, an inhuman screech erupts from the hole, followed seconds later by an immense flying creature!

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[GM Note: From now until the end, we had to crank out both abstract and individually detailed attacks, saves, Sanity checks, damage, and deaths for the Firmie squads. It was more math than I anticipated, but it worked out pretty well. And over 75 people shooting guns (and lightning!) at one target deals a crapload of damage]


The dragon-ish creature (a Hunting Horror) bats its tremendous wings and swoops down to the ground, lashing a barbed tail around a scout's waist. He is severed in two, both halves of his body falling to either side and cascading down the black rocks. But the Sanity of the Firm Action fighters holds up, and they collectively unleash a barrage of automatic rifles and pistol shots. Chad, Chang and Brady start pumping shotgun shells at the thing, while Hans and Lester pull out their lightning guns and discharge volleys of hissing blue electricity. The hunting horror is hammered by the attacks, metal piercing its unnatural flesh in dozens of places. It staggers under the onslaught, but is resistant to the damage and its wounds quickly begin to heal. It beats its wings and scuttles forward, snapping the head off another unfortunate victim and battering several more away with its wings.

The Firmies and investigators keep firing and moving, firing and moving, scaling back down the path as the hunting horror obliterates those closest to it. But even a demon of its size and wrath cannot withstand so much concentrated firepower. The beast finally launches fifty feet up into the air, its eyes glowing like hot embers, and the hair of a Firmie in the front ranks begins to smoke. He screams, "Agh! Agh! It hurts!"

[GM Note: The horror cast Death By Flames, attempting to ignite the gasoline packs they all carried for a lethal chain-reaction.This could have been a truly memorable end to the campaign as these Chinese gas bombs detonate in a line down the mountainside, sending heroes and NPC's alike to their doom].

A quick-thinking squad leader shoves the man off the side, but horror could not maintain sufficient concentration anyway. The barrage of firepower striking it is just too much. Twisting and turning, it finally disengages and transforms into smoke, jetting over the cliffs and vanishes from sight.

Cheers fill the night air, and bolstered by their success, the assault continues up the slope until the entrance is reached. Squad leaders quickly establish a guard garrison at the entrance. The path inside leads down into the volcano, and it reeks of fumes. Warmth rises from the depths, and the promise of waiting death. But they're come too far to stop now! But they're packed tight into the tunnel, and even the rambunctious heroes can see the danger of their flammable friends in such close proximity. There is a loud speaker mounted near the entrance, and it begins to crackle.

"Do not resist the will of our Lord," demands a voice. "Join us, and live forever!"

As what? Zombies? Well, the investigators aren't too keen about that. They don't recognize the voice though, even thought he is speaking to them in English. But they know that the Firmies are walking on thin psychological ice, as well as the investigators. They have all suffered Sanity loss, and so they decide to rest for a while before continuing, just long enough to calm their nerves. Soon, several more scouts are sent down the stairs, which are coated in slippery slime. Their backpacks are removed for this purpose, and it turns out to be a very wise tactic. Partway down, two of them slip and fall, and roll all the way down through a wall of noxious fumes pumping through a crevasse. Strange sounds emanate from behind the mist, and the investigators hear shrieks of pain. Moments later two scouts clamber back up. They're injured and say that four men with guns that shot burning violet light were waiting for them!

Hmm...Hot violet light...gasoline...combined? [I swear you guys are a bunch of pyromaniacs.]

Chad runs back up the stairs to the entrance. He has an idea. But even before he arrives he hears scattered gunshots and grenades from outside. Surging to the top, he sees the guard garrison raining bullets down on another fishman patrol clambering up the slope, attempting to flank them. But they're just too far away to make it without dying. Chad grabs a corpse and hauls it back down the stairs, and they fit the body with three backpacks full of gasoline, and roll it down the slippery slope. The body plunges through the opaque walls of fumes, while Lester contributes to the trap by shouting in Chinese:

"Oh no! I tripped!" [Very silly yes, but funny]

As hoped for, the cultists at the bottom unleash their violet flamethrowers (or whatever they are) at the booby-trapped corpse, and ignite the gasoline. A bloom of fire flashes up and down the tunnel, sending a small shockwave of force and heat that sears the eyebrows off the nearest investigators. Dying screams echo from below. Noting human could have survived that point-blank detonation.

They continue on, seeing black charred bodies that were carrying some sort of metal contraptions on their backs, hooked to a firing nozzle. It is not exactly a flame thrower, but they're hopelessly damaged now.

The voice echoes over the loudspeaker system again: "The time of the Unveiling is at hand! Do you not wish to witness the birth of a new era? Do not oppose the might of Nyarlathotep! Cease your struggle and join us! Your reward will be great."

The investigators soon see an orange glow emanating from the bottom of the stairwell. It has grown VERY hot, and they hear bubbling magma. When they finally breach the center of volcano, they see Nyarlathotep's superweapon for the first time and are awed by it.

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It is an immense, silvery rocket nearly 80 feet high. Girders support it around a magma pit where a blinding white light emanates from multiple rods reaching into the lava. Nearly two hundred feet away on the opposite side of the cavern is a large dais, with a huge, hideous statue of the Bloated Woman. Dozens of black-garbed cultists are crowded on or near the dais. To the investigator's left is a bubbling pool of foul, greenish water, with a cave entrance above it. To their right is a calmer pool, but the heads of several deep ones lurk there. Scattered around the central rocket are half a dozen more Chinese cultists.

For the third time, the voice crackles over the loudspeaker system. "I know who you are! You have been a problem for a long, long while now. You cannot possibly hope to leave this place alive! I offer you this chance to live forever! Surrender!"

"Who are you?" shouts Hans.

After a moment of silence, the voice crackles back: "Sir Audrey Penhew. Welcome to my evil lair." [Not really, i just had to pretend though]

So this is the man himself, Nyarlathotep's High Priest now and the main instigator behind this superweapon. They aren't sure where he is, but he is probably near the dais. The majority of the Firmies are still crowded into the tunnel, but squads slowly spill out into the cavern. Hans spots movement in the cave above the bubbling pool, and sees a massive fish man lurking in the shadows.

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More fishmen clamber out of the opposite pool, hissing. The cultists on the dais are armed, some with pistols, others with rifles, and the guns are pointed at them.

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Things are about to get very, very messy, very very quickly. But Lester has a plan! "Distract him," he whispers to Hans. "Keep that smug bastard talking for just a minute."

Hans falters. "Ah...how...how will we live forever, Penhew? How...how can we trust you? Or...your god? You've been trying to kill us for months!"

Crackling laughter echoes across the room, tainted by maniacal glee. "Death is but another stage of life," he drawls. "Our plans have been in motion for years and years now. This rocket, the warhead, the staging of the Great Work for the eclipse that comes in two days hence. It is a work of brilliance designed by our Dark Lord. Time and Space shall be ruptured by the radium bomb, and simultaneous rituals will enable Nyarlathotep to fully exist on this world. Not an avatar, not a summoned entity, but a full and living GOD! We on earth are but his humble servants, and shall be rewarded in the hereafter as rules and kings of the planet."

Hans manages to keep Penhew monologuing while Lester throws together a (Talent Tree) plan. Squads are given explicit orders, and most of the gasoline backpacks are removed and placed in the tunnel. Fishmen continue filling the placid pool, their large bulbous eyes reflecting orange in the lava's glow. A very, very large deep one steps out of the cave entrance above the green, bubbling pool, holding a glob of gray slime in either hand. Firmies rank up, making sure guns are loaded and cocked. Penhew's cultists take aim with their rifles.

This is about to turn into a Chinese standoff, with the investigators flanked on three sides.

"Put your weapons down and surrender!" says Penhew again, obviously growing irritated. "You cannot survive! Put YOUR GUNS D--"

"FIRE!" screams Lester.

And Hans shouts to the his invisible blink-dingo from Australia: "If you're here dog, go bite Penhew!" Hans doesn't actually see anything happen (worth a try though).

The good guys win initiative and a hail of bullets explodes toward the large deep one above the green, bubbling pool. Bullets rip through its chest, heart, head, blasting one hand off at the wrist. It staggers and then falls forward into the muck. Lester and Hans unleash jagged voltage from their lightning guns and electrocute a dozen fishmen in the pool nearest to them before they can clamber out, killing them all instantly.

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Squads start shooting at cultists, both near and far, and their shots are returned by enemies on the dais. Bodies are dropping left and right, but the bubbling green pool turns out to be a huge source of trouble. Slime sprays out and a truly massive shoggoth lumbers forth, probably three times larger than the one they killed outside. The Sanity loss for seeing this ten-thousand pound abomination slithering toward them should have been enough to ruin their remaining Sanity, but everyone loses a surprising small amount! [I think I rolled a few 3's] But not all the Firmies are in the room yet, many of them still crowded into the tunnel. Countless bullets puncture the monster, but inflict minimum damage.

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"GRENADES!" shouts Chu-Min, and a dozen Firmies toss hand bombs. Some strike true, but a few others badly miss their mark, roll back, and explode in the middle of their comrades. The shoggoth raises itself up and scuttles forward at tremendous speed, slamming its bulk down onto crates and Firmies, crushing the life out of eight people at once. The sounds of their bones crushing beneath its bulk is sickening. The abomination rises up again, flailing pseudopods and innumerable toothy mouths that yawn and snap, spitting saliva at its next juicy targets...

...the investigators.




And there we had to stop.
 

Nebulous

Legend
The next post will be the last one. Campaign over. It actually ended many months ago and we've been playing Star Wars and D&D ever since, which have their own accompanying story pictorials similar to this one.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #34: The Superweapon

PART 2: ENDGAME!

The immense shoggoth flails toward the Firm Action soldiers, but their Sanity has miraculously held together. Sticking to their (dubious) plan, the squad starts tossing packs of gasoline at the monster. One soldier is unsure of this tactical decision, and looks back at Chang and Chad with no small amount of consternation on his face. But Chad doesn't care, and both he and Chang start shooting at the gasoline tumbling within the membranous folds of the monster. It ignites in a flash of light and heat, ripping holes in the shoggoth, and incinerating every last nearby soldier. Their grenades explode as well, and shrapnel pelts Chang and Chad. The beast roars from multiple mouths, but it is very much alive, smoking and burning and thrashing in even greater rage.

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Chad and Chang run for lives; the creature will annihilate them if it gets closer. Meanwhile, another squad of Firmies runs toward the rocket, priming their grenades to throw at the support struts. The plan is to weaken the metal and ground so that the weight tears it loose. Lester Cobblebottom waddles to the entrance of the support tower and squeezes inside. Spiraling stairs reach all the way to the top, so he starts clambering up. Hans keeps an eye on the pool, but it is filled with two dozen electrocuted fishmen, and no more seem to be coming out. Either they're all dead, or they have learned their lesson and are staying away.

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Firm Action soldiers and Penhew's cultists continue to exchange gunfire, but the cultists suffer severe losses. Bullets drop them dead one after another, and they roll lifeless down the steps of the dais. Penhew and the woman at his side have their arms raised and are chanting toward the ceiling, but their allies give them considerable cover from bullets. Two cultists run at the nearest Firmie squad, trying to ignite explosives in their hands, but they gravely misjudge the distance and explode themselves into chunky pieces.

The previous squad throws their grenades at the support struts, and the metal and rock is torn asunder by roughly ten grenades. The weight of the rocket pulls it down to one side, and hot magma wells up out of the pit. But the rocket is still standing, although the support tower is pulled perilously from its mooring. Lester is inside when this happens, about halfway up, and is thrown from his feet. He starts rolling down the metal stairs until he can catch himself, and then starts climbing down before the entire tower falls.

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But the shoggoth proves unstoppable. It surges forward at incredible speed, mowing over anyone in its path. The last Firmie squad descends the steps from the entrance tunnel and are obliterated. The shoggoth rolls over them like a huge, fleshy wave, and uncountable mouths rip into them. But they too were carrying gasoline packs, and Chad detonates one of these in another lethal round of chain-reactions. Flames explode over the shoggoth again, smearing chunks of its flesh across the floor and walls. Greasy, oily smoke roils off its body, and while the mass is smaller than before, the abomination is somehow still alive, and it rolls after fleeing targets.

[GM Note: The first explosion of gasoline and grenades dealt roughly 150 points of damage, but this son of a bitch per the d20 rules has close to 500 hit points and regeneration, resistance to just about everything, and Damage Reduction on top of that. I didn't add it to the scenario, it's part of it, but i DID add the smaller one outside that you killed].


The Firm Action squad near the rocket readies their last grenades to destroy another support strut, but sparking flames rise from the magma pit in a curious fashion. They have never see a Fire Vampire before, but they throw their grenades anyway. Most of the grenades bounce true, either ripping through the metal or sending gouts of lava up. The second support strut is damaged enough that it cannot carry the weight of the rocket, and it begins sliding into the magma pit even faster, displacing more and more magma, and leaning at a sharp angle.

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But one soldier fumbles his grenade. It slips from his sweaty hands, and as he desperately falls to his knees and tries to retrieve it, the bomb explodes in the middle of the group. It kills or wounds everyone around it.

Two more suicidal cultists run screaming at another Firm Action squad, and this time they are able to gauge the distance correctly. They explode kami-kazi style, taking a large part of the Firmie group with them. The carnage by this point is horrendous. There are only small handfuls of Firm Action soldiers and cultists left on either side of the fray. Jack "Brass" Brady is alive, and Chu-Min is amazingly alive as well after the shoggoth rolls over him, but knocks him aside rather than stopping to kill him. He staggers to his feet, covered head to toe in bloody slime and soot.

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Penhew raises a wall of opaque pink fog that obscures all line of sight to he and the Occidental Woman, but the investigators and other survivors are more worried about the rampaging shoggoth at this point. It approaches to within a hair's breadth of Chang and Chad, the latter of whom chugs the last of his dynamite into the thing's mass and jumps into the support tower for cover.

"Shoot it!" screams Chang to surviving Firm Action soldiers nearby. "SHOOT IT!"

They start popping off shots at the small bundled target, and luckily hit the charge. The dynamite explodes, sending more shoggoth splattering across the room. The blast completely knocks the tower over and Chad Slambody is thrown into a wall.

But the goddamn shoggoth is still alive, albeit severely injured. And the Fire Vampire is spitting sparks across the floor as it floats after horrified victims.

Penhew and his woman run out of the obscuring mist and make a beeline for a hallway. The Firm Action soldiers run for another door, one with a heavy crossbar sealing it. Rather than wondering what might be hidden behind the door, they quickly pry the bar off and surge inside, but find that it is a dead end room. There is a huge cage filled with nearly fifty wailing Chinese prisoners. The bars are locked, but repeated pistol fire destroys the mechanism and prisoners start surging out, only to see the monstrous shoggoth not far away. The shoggoth is quite pleased to see more food.

The rocket by now has slid over halfway into the lava pit, and is positioned at a precarious angle. Even if it were to launch, it wouldn't rise straight up. Somehow, Chang has a feeling that the Yithian Kakakatak is with him in mind or spirit, and Chang knows that the rocket is of Yithian origin, from plans stolen in Australia. There is a chance that it still might launch after it has siphoned enough energy from the lava, but Chang doesn't know if it will detonate or not. If the warhead is primed, as the Yithian knows, the radioactive blast will destroy all of Gray Dragon Island.

Chad, Lester, Chang and Hans grab Brady and Chu-Min, and they all rush for the exit. They've used most of the firepower at their disposal, and the abominable shoggoth is still alive. The lightning gun is their last hope for defense, but would require someone getting suicidally close to the beast. They elect to run instead and detonate the gasoline packs in the entrance hall. The shoggoth starts chasing prisoners and cultists, devouring and crushing anything it can catch.

The investigators cram everything they can find into the hall, including the last two sticks of dynamite, then they climb up the steps to the exit, reconvene with the five guards garrisoned at the top, and roll their grenades down. The gas, dynamite and grenades ignite in an earth-rocking explosion, and the tunnel is collapsed. Dust and fire billows out, but they're already running down the side of the volcanic cone for the beach.

Inside the mountain, Aubrey Penhew is still alive, and it is unknown if he has a route of escape. But they feel certain that the rocket cannot be launched; they inflicted significant damage to it, far too much damage to be repaired by the time of the eclipse on January 14th. They rush to the beach, and are dismayed to see the Dark Mistress still puttering around several hundred yards offshore. Using their last lightning gun, Hans electrocutes the water again, and they kill several more deep ones hiding in ambush just under the surface. They all swim out to the remaining boat and clamber inside, knowing that they don't have a chance in hell of outrunning the Dark Mistress. She barrels at them for a few moments, but before it gets within range of combat, the Dark Mistress veers off and races at high speed to the East, probably for Shanghai.

Where they know Ho Fong is still on the mainland, and that bastard Edward Gavigan.

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The investigators slump to the floor while Chu-Min wordlessly starts the engines. He is covered by blood and slime, his hands trembling so much that he can barely control the steering wheel. He will never be the same again. Jack Brady stares into space, mumbling to himself and clutching the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan to his chest like a baby. He will have to return in a month's time with "innocent blood" to attempt to ritual for the warding spell, assuming that they successfully managed to stop the rocket from launching.

Han's Sanity is healthy enough, but he has seen more horrors than any anthropologist should ever be exposed to. The universe is a fouler place than he suspected. Perhaps if their obligations are done here (you know, saving the world and all that) he will return to Port Hedland, but knows there is nothing left for him there. Perhaps his homeland of Germany beckons, to be as far from the Mythos taint as he can possibly get. Unfortunately, Hans has the uncomfortable feeling that once he is alone his blink dingo will return, for some unseen monstrosity beyond Time and Space waits for the chance to strike, bending and folding itself from interdimensional angles to snap at him...

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Chad Slambody teeters at the edge of madness. His necrophilia is intact and permanent, a psychotic disorder that will continue to plague him for the rest of his life. He is sexually and psychologically very confused, glaring darkly across the water and wondering how to feed his secret addiction. Maybe he'll get a job as a gravedigger.

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Lester Cobblebottom has been on a downward spiral ever since seeing the avatar of Nyarlathotep at the Mountain of the Black Wind. He mumbles to himself as well, and expects at any moment for fish-men to clamber up the sides of the boat and pull him into the water. He doesn't know how he will ever be able to reintroduce himself to a normal career again, for the world as he knew it is merely a convenient facade for a much darker truth.

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And Chang Chin, mafioso, clergyman and Karate teacher, sucks in the cool salt air and ponders how in God's name did he manage to stay alive for the past year, ever since finding Jackson Elias dead in New York City. Would he have come on this horrible journey if he knew the price to pay? He can't really say. And what is this alien presence he feels behind his eyes? Kakakatak is with him, but whether this bodes good or ill remains to be seen. It was Yithian technology that nearly ended the world.

Their little boat limps toward Shanghai to refuel, and they're unsure of what exactly will be waiting for them when they arrive. In two short days they will know if their efforts at Gray Dragon Island have fully paid off. If the dead begin to rise from their graves and consume they living, they'll know that they failed. But they think they succeeded. The rocket cannot launch. It must not. They think they stopped it. They think so.

They...pray so.

THE END



GM NOTE:

Great game everyone, that was a classic campaign!

This isn't a bad place to stop, but if you want to collaborate via some email exchanges, i'm all for that. Such as-- if you have specific plans for your characters, we can add that as an epilogue. The Dark Mistress, Ho Fong, Gavigan, Penhew, Huston, and M' Weru are dangling loose ends, but that's sort of cool too. These are all very dangerous cultists who will continue their unabated worship of Nyarlathotep, perhaps trying to build another rocket for a future eclipse in ten years or so. You've managed to save the world at great personal self-sacrifice, but the war is not won. These individuals will continue to stir up trouble in other, lesser ways, but maybe that is just for other heroes to worry about.
As an aside, this whole chapter would have gone differently if you had captured the Dark Mistress and tortured the Captain for answers about Penhew and the island. He was a half-breed deep one himself, Captain Saryovard.

Oh, and now is a good time to tell Brady about his girlfriend Mei-Ling. "By the way Jack, in all the excitement, we forgot to mention that..."

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As for the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan, in the campaign book they were actually stolen by Brady from a guy named Lin-Tang.

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He was another faction trying to kill Brady, not just Ho Fong and Gavigan. He had a whole section devoted to him, but i condensed it. And there was a red-herring with yet another demon cat scenario i chopped out. And getting into Ho Fong's mansion to rescue Mei-Ling would have been problematic, but possible. It didn't help that Gavigan knew about your presence and all security forces were alerted. Gavigan had deadly spell potential and could have cast Fist of Yog-Sothoth many times. And Ho Fong looks just like the villain from Big Trouble in Little China when he starts casting magic. Again, much of the Shanghai chapter was skipped, but it was fun nonetheless.

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Isoje Taro was not fully exploited, but things were getting confusing enough with Chu-Min and all the Firmies. It is still possible to find Commander Taro if you want, although i'm not sure what you would tell him.

The only member of the party you never met was Roger Carlyle. He is in a Hong Kong asylum under an assumed name that Brady knows.

The warhead is in Penhew's workshop, and was going to be mounted the next day on the rocket. I was a little lenient with the grenades blowing up the support struts, they were supposed to be tougher and require cutting through them with the violet torch guns. The warhead is still primed and is a functional radium bomb that will spread poison over a hundred square miles if it detonates (such as by dropping it in magma). Penhew has locked himself into his private chambers, and the shoggoth will kill everyone it sees and finally return to its pool to regenerate. Tricking the shoggoth into the tunnel when you were leaving would have killed it, the sucker was down to about 30 hit points.

I'm still astounded that none of the core party died or went crazy in there. Luck was really with you (and uh, not with 75 alternate targets). As for Star Wars, we're definitely establishing from Day 1 how much damage explosives do, how much you can carry, and how much you can afford. Fortunately, the book covers that. [thermal detonators are probably the equivalent of dynamite; if you start lashing drums of starfighter fuel to droids and Jawas I might actually cry]

Honestly, in Star Wars terms, I think your sadistic Cthulhu characters would have amassed more Dark Side Points than Emperor Palpatine!
 

Nebulous

Legend
Thanks for reading everyone. This was a really fun campaign and I hope some of that passed off in the recaps. See you around!

Ia! Ia!

Nebulous
 

Dr Simon

Explorer
Gah, you snuck the ending in when I wasn't looking.

Well, I'm sorry to see that they didn't set off the nuclear bomb and blow everyone up in the end, but that James Bond-esque segment was perfectly suited to your players.

Thanks for one of the most amusing Call of Cthulhu tales I've ever read! Looking fowards to the Star Wars one, and I see the stormtrooper minis couldn't wait until the game started....
 

Nebulous

Legend
Thanks for one of the most amusing Call of Cthulhu tales I've ever read! Looking fowards to the Star Wars one, and I see the stormtrooper minis couldn't wait until the game started....

Thank you! It is the first campaign i've ever fully finished, they usual peter out and we move on to something else. And yeah, we were all itching to play Star Wars before the Masks campaign was over. It's been great fun so far.

Nebulous
 

Jasperak

Adventurer
That was an awesome read over the past months. I would have loved to played in that game. Kudos to you Nebulous. I think I need to have a cigarette now. :)
 

Schmoe

Adventurer
I just started reading this today... but I'm already on chapter 12! This is a great read, thanks for posting it. Now I'm itching to find a CoC game :)
 

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