Regardless, this session was a lot of fun, and saw the investigators rapidly getting in way over their heads, barely escaping with their lives, and finally starting to uncover some of the barest outlines of the plot. Here's a summary of what happened, and you can read Chapter 1 of the campaign here.
|At the first sign of cult activity: Run Away!|
The last session saw the players separated by events. Cutter was recovering from a bloodied nose and a dislocated shoulder in hospital, Harry Crum and Sebastian Cribbins had been released by the police following their statements about events in Room 410 of the Chelsea Hotel, and Mr Yoo and Willard Arnold were laying low at a local speakeasy.
The session started well enough, with the gang getting back together at Harry Crum's small office to begin their investigations into the death of Jackson Elias in earnest. Leads were discussed and a couple of phonecalls were made; one to Miriam Artwright, librarian of Harvard University, and another to Dr Mordecai Lemming, consulting folklorist. Unfortunately neither were available to take calls (it was early morning and they failed their luck rolls) so messages were left.
The investigators decided to head down to the city docks and check out Emerson Imports, whose business card they had found in Jackson Elias' hotel room. The proprietor, Mr Arthur Emerson, remembered Jackson Elias and told the investigators what he had told him. That his only Mombassan client was an Ahja Singh, and that Mr Singh's only New York client was a Mr Silas N'Kwane, manager of Ju-Ju House, an African bric-a-brac store in Harlem.
So far so good. The investigators decided to drive over to Ju-Ju House there and then, and it was at this point things started to take a turn for the bad. First of all Sebastian went into the shop alone to scout things out, then left without doing anything. A moment later Harry and Willard enter. This time Harry decided to intimidate a customer into leaving and then approached the septuagenarian shopkeeper (Mr N'Kwane no less).
He introduced himself as a private detective named "Crum" then, rather than take the subtle approach the first thing he did was to show the shopkeep a picture of the cult symbol that was carved into Jackson Elias' forehead and then demand to know what it meant. Silas N'Kwane denied ever seeing the symbol before, and a failed psychology roll left Harry none the wiser. Harry then threatened Silas who in turn accused Harry of being a racist and then asked him to leave the shop. Harry and Willard left the shop, only for Mr N'Kwane to lock the door behind them and put up the closed sign.
One of the great joys about being a Keeper for Call of Cthulhu is knowing everything that your players don't, and seeing them wander blindly into dangerous situations either through stupidity or naivety. This was one of those situations. It's like if James Bond accidentally wandered into a S.P.E.C.T.R.E base, told Blofeld he was a British secret service agent, and then asked him if he'd heard about the mysterious criminal organisation he was investigating. This was too good an opportunity to let go...
Like a dog with a bone Mr Crum wasn't going to be deterred so easily. He walked over to a couple of men who were sat in the court playing dice and showed them the symbol. This time he criticaled his psychology role and saw that they did indeed recognise it, despite their protested ignorance. In response to being told a pack of lies Harry Crum then did what Harry Crum does best - he tried to punch the guys lights out!
|This is how Harry Crum solves a problem|
And so ensued what I thought at one point was going to be my first (TPK) Total Party Kill. Unlike the last session the dice deserted the players this time, and a brief but violent scuffle ended up with the two dice players unconscious, Harry stabbed in the front and back and shot in the arm and Cutter shot in the knee.
During the ensuing melee more assailants had joined in the fight, meaning there were six in combat and a larger group assembling at the end of the alleyway. Things were looking grim for the investigators. Finally Willard had a good idea, in fact what is normally the best response when facing the minions of evil - run away! During the fight he had opened the trunk of Harry's car and pulled out a 12-gauge which he discharged above the heads of the remaining combatants. A quick POW check showed that he had cowed them for at least one combat round, and the investigators used that time to scramble into the car and make a daring getaway.
Despite chasing gunshots and a close Drive Automobile roll the group finally left the area and headed back to Harry's office to recuperate, dropping Cutter off at the hospital on the way. Two sessions and two visits to the hospital for the big woodsman. He'll have his own room at this rate.
Back at the office the phone rang and it was Miriam Artwright returning the call from earlier. Harry, still obviously in shock at his poor dice rolls, stumbled over what to say and passed the phone to Willard. After a brief chat Mrs Artwright revealed that a book Jackson Elias was after, Africa's Dark Sects, went missing mysteriously one day. She could offer no explanation, but did agree to have a look at the strange symbol and see what she could find out, if Willard posted a copy of it to her.
Willard hung up the phone and it immediately rang again. He picked up the receiver but there was silence for a moment before it went dead. Perhaps Harry should not have given his name and profession out so easily...
The investigators realised their danger and retired to a restaurant across the street from where they could watch the office. Shortly after a black Hudson touring roadster sped past, something flew from the car, there was a loud crash, and a few seconds later the front of the office exploded in an orange fireball. The investigators stayed to watch the police and fire departments arrive, but there was little they could do to save the small office from being destroyed...
In a rare flash of brilliance Harry decided to call a contact we'd agreed upon before the campaign started, a newspaper editor. He got a story planted that Harry Crum had been killed in the fire for the next day's paper. The cover won't hold for long, after all there were no bodies, but such a good idea deserves to be rewarded (for a time at least!).
Mr Yoo decided to head back to Ju-Ju House to stake it out (I know!), but failed his sneak and hide rolls so miserably that I took pity and let him escape the chasing mob (but not before giving him a scare or two of course).
The group retired for the night to Willard's apartment, but none of them slept well, waking at every creak of the floorboards outside.
The next day was the day of Jackson Elias' funeral, so the group headed there after going to discharge a very sick Cutter who could only get around with the help of crutches. Willard and Sebastian went to the service whilst the others hung back to watch from a distance. This allowed them to see Lieutenant Martin Poole watching the group from a distance. Apart from a few journalists the only other person at the funeral was Elias' editor, Jonah Kensington, and at last the group's luck took a turn for the better.
|This man offers some hope...|
He then offered to fund their investigations as a way to make Elias' death meaningful if they would agree to finish writing his book. I made this slight change from the official published scenario for a few reasons. It gives an NPC central character to co-ordinate things, and somewhere the players can send information for collating. It also gives an easier route for new characters to enter the game with motivation if any of the existing characters die - Kensington can just send a replacement. I have often found coming up with a genuinely good reason for new characters to join the fray after a character death to be a little difficult, so this should help. Kensington can also help with some of the logistics should the group decide to travel overseas, but the main reason for his offer was to give real motivation to the investigators to carry on in the face of high danger.
And on that slight glimmer of help and hope we finished what had turned out to be an eventful session! Will the players head back to Ju-Ju House to find out what's going on, or will they follow up other leads? Will their enemies learn that Crum survived and attempt to finish the job properly? We should find out in a couple of weeks, and I can't wait!