This session finally saw the curtain drawn back (quite literally in fact) and the horrors of the Cthulhu mythos revealed to the investigators. But let me start with as question. Which of the following do you think would pose the greatest threat to my players?
- A horde of ravenous, lurching zombies intent on feasting on the investigators' flesh
- A ancient magical mask that opens it's wearers eyes to the true horrors of the mythos
- A wooden door
|A scary door - more troublesome than Yog Sothoth or a horde of zombies?|
If you know my players the answer may not be all that surprising...
The last session (which you can read up on here) ended on a note of hope. Jonah Kensington, erstwhile editor and owner of Prospero House had agreed to fund the investigation into Elias' death and the completion of his book, and also act as a central point for liaison and organisation.
After this short respite the investigators discussed what to do next and decided that they would head back to JuJu House again that night after doing a bit more investigation work. They are nothing if not determined in the face of overwhelming odds!
Before meeting up to head back to Harlem, Willard and Cutter decided to go and talk to Dr Mordecai Lemming, the folklorist who is helping the New York police investigate the ritual murders in the city. In the module as written Dr Lemming is basically given one line (that he knows nothing of any use).
On arrival at Dr Mordecai's office I made the investigators pay his usual exorbitant consultation fee before being taken upstairs to talk to him. They quizzed him about the murders and the strange symbol that was carved into Elias' forehead. This was one of those situations that seem to crop up a lot when being a Call of Cthulhu keeper - the investigators took a throwaway line and decided to follow it to it's end, which meant I had to make up a lot of stuff off the top of my head. I did what I imagine most good Keepers do in these circumstances - I stole.
So, I ended up with Dr Lemming talking at quite some length about local cults and the relationship of the local Wabanaki native American tribal confederacy. Dr Lemming held forth on the Wabanaki's beliefs and even mentioned a few of them by name. I happened to know all this stuff thanks to playing The Secret World, which is a heavily Lovecraft-influenced game that goes into Wabanaki lore in some depth (it helps that The Secret World is a game that actively encourages you to read all the lore). I knew none of my players had played TSW (though they really should!) so felt free to pinch the game's ideas, and I think I got away with it!
Eventually Willard and Cutter realised that Dr Lemming knew nothing of value and returned to meet with the others. Meanwhile Harry and Sebastien headed out to the Carlyle Estate to interview Erica Carlye (sister of Roger Carlye who had lead the ill-fated expedition that Jackson Elias had been researching at the time of his death). Unfortunately they had not thought to make a prior appointment, and despite their protestations they were unable to get past the guards on the gate to the Estate grounds. A fast talk and persuade roll allowed them to call the house, and they spoke to Bradley Grey, Ms Carlyle's solicitor, who told them she did not wish to discuss the expedition and that a line had been drawn under it several years previously. Dejectedly they headed back.
En route Harry called in to see Lieutenant Poole and discovered that the black Hudson tourer that had firebombed his office had been reported stolen a few days ago by a Mr Thomas Witherspoon of Lenox Avenue.
Mr Yoo used his afternoon at the NY State Library doing some research into African cults, but poor Library Use rolls meant he had a wasted afternoon.
So, the group reconvened after a fruitless afternoon's investigations and decided to head out to JuJu House in order to break in and see what they could find. This time they went prepared for trouble and well armed, but not before a quick stop at the University for a lecture by Professor Anthony Cowles (a lead they obtained from a flyer in Elias' hotel room). On arrival however they discovered that the lecture had been scheduled for a few days prior and that Professor Cowles had returned to Miskatonic University in Arkham.
The group decided to wait until around 2am before approaching Ransom Court. Remembering that there was a boarded up pawnbroker that also overlooked the Court they decided to try the stealthy approach (for once) by breaking in and sneaking round the back to get a good look at JuJu House before attempting their break-in.
As a reward for trying to be sneaky (for once) and for Harry's good idea of faking a news report of his death I modified my roll to see if the evening happened to be a cult night, and luckily for the investigators it was not. Perhaps the cultists had lowered their guard a little after Harry Crum's apparent death in last week's firebombing.
It didn't matter. My attempts to be benevolent for once were scuppered. We must have spent fifteen minutes with the group trying various ways of breaking into the pawnbroker, but every strength roll or lockpick attempt they made was a miserable failure. Eventually Mr Yoo gained entry by shimmying up a drainpipe and breaking through the glass of a first floor window. This awoke one of the neighbours, giving the players an uncomfortable moment, but a flash of Harry's fake police badge and a Fast Talk quelled the irate bystander.
Even with Mr Yoo inside the pawnbroker things did not go smoothly. They still had trouble getting the boarded up door open, but finally Cutter's wood axe did the job. The investigators then moved on to their next obstacle - a chained door at the back of the shop. Again, the dice betrayed them, and Pick Locks and strength rolls failed to open the way.
After at least 40 minutes of trying to open the doors (painfully, that's 40 minutes in real time!) the players eventually gave up and left the pawnbroker, and simply walked into Ransom Court and up to the front door of JuJu House.
|Not a symbol of ancient evil, but no less obstructive... it's a pawnbroker|
It seems that circumstances had conspired against the players and they abandoned their intent of stealth and reverted to type. The glass of the door was put through and entry to the store was gained.
I had some fun with the players as they moved around the creepy shop in the dark. A menacing clawed figure lurking near a bookcase turned out to be a carving of a lion. Someone (Cutter I think) eventually had the idea of lighting their kerosene lamp, and the search of the shop began. It wasn't long before Willard had found the trapdoor hidden behind the counter...
Following the dark stairs down into the basement the group discovered a true horror. Not the disturbing eldritch symbols carved on the wall, but another bloody locked door! A search of the shop did not yield the key, so Harry's shotgun and Cutter's axe did their work (eventually). The group had finally made it into the JuJu House basement, and things went from bad to worse...
A cursory search of the basement revealed the cultists' drums, the strange stone seal and some odd wooden apparatus. Cutter was more interested in the red curtain hanging across the southern wall, and pulled it back to reveal four hideous figures. Flesh hanging loosely from their bones, four zombies shuffled towards the woodsman and chaos ensued.
Some minor sanity loss became the least of the investigators' worries. A long and terrible fight ensued. Here I'll hand over to Mr Yoo's rather panicked notes as his player made them during the fight for the investigators' lives (edited slightly for flow).
The zombies claw at Cutter. Yoo pulls out his lighter fuel and starts to make a small Molotov. Willard grabs a drum stick by way of improvised weapon.
A zombie stumbles across the room towards Sebastian. Harry discharges his pump action - a hideous gash appears, but the beast moves on. A fourth zombie dives on Cutter, sinking its teeth into his shoulder. Yoo throws his burning lighter fuel at the zombie - it misses and shatters against a wall, igniting the surrounding drums.
Cutter sees the way to deal with them and smashes his kerosene lamp against a zombie's skull. Harry releases another barrel of rage and the zombie explodes before him. Cutter's assailant chews another chunk of flesh from his leathery body.
Yoo dashes towards the table in the strange room,. Harry pumps his tube and a zombie's arm flies across the room - now freed from its host's torso. A zombie gouges Cutter with its boney hand.
Yoo reaches the table - a robe, lions claws, mask, a book, a strange metal disk and a copper bowl. Yoo swipes the robe, book, bowl and metal disk.
Cutter headbutts his zombie; Willard swings enthusiastically at his assailant (100!) and swipes Cutter round the back of the head instead. Click-chunk and another blast from Harry puts a small hole in the zombie inches from Sebastian's face.
Yoo picks up the mask to wear it, and it leaps onto his face. The mask wraps around his head and seeps into Yoo's eyes. The room goes transparent and Yoo is sucked into a void - staring into a bubbling abyss of grotesque pink flesh with the words Yog Sothoth echoing around. [Yoo looses 24 SAN, and gains strange insights into the way the world (+11 mythos)].
Sebastian charges in and swings wildly at the final zombie - but instead clouts Willard if the face. My nose! Willards spins round and raps Sebastian round the head with a black jack. Blood trickles out of Willard's ear.
[Keeper's Note - at this point I was worried the players were going to kill each other rather than the zombies - Cutter, Willard and Sebastien were all looking shaky and Mr Yoo and put on the mask and was experiencing terrible visions!]
Harry steps forward and pulls the trigger on his final round. The zombie twitches but plunges its teeth into the juicy man-burger that is Cutter. Harry throws his spent shotgun to the floor and with his left hand pulls out a pistol blasting the zombie in the leg. Angered by the attack the zombie claws towards the fat man. Sebastian leans over the zombie, puts the barrel to the back of its scrawny skull - bang - the nightmare ends...
|What the Chinaman saw...|
The injured and sanity-blasted team decided to flee the basement, carrying the half-dead Cutter. By this time it was getting close to dawn and a failed luck check ensured that Silas N'Kwane was just arriving at the shop as the investigators piled up the stone stairs. Harry didn't hesitate and shot at the venerable shopkeep who turned and fled.
The rest of the group ran back to the car whilst Harry gave chase, trying to capture (or possibly kill) N'Kwane in his madness-fuelled rage. After a brief chase however N'Kwane managed to hide and Harry returned to the car just as the police began to arrive. The group beat a hasty retreat.
They retired to Willard's apartment to inspect their findings (the book, claws, robe, circlet and bowl), but not before dropping off Cutter at the hospital (that's three visits in three sessions now!).
I can't wait to see what they decide to do next. Will they return to JuJu House again, follow up their remaining leads, or flee the country in the hope that doors are not built as well outside of the U.S.?