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  • Far Beyond My Capacity
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  • Far Beyond My Capacity
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  • Far Beyond My Capacity
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 36 - The End.

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And at the last from inner Egypt came
The strange dark one to whom the fellahs bowed;
Silent and lean and cryptically proud,
And wrapped in fabrics red as sunset flame.
Throngs pressed around, frantic for his commands,
But leaving, could not tell what they had heard:
While through the nations spread the awestruck word
That wild beasts followed him and licked his hands.
Soon from the sea a noxious birth began;
Forgotten lands with weedy spires of gold;
The ground was cleft, and mad auroras rolled
Down on the quaking citadels of man.
Then, crushing what he had chanced to mould in play,
The idiot Chaos blew Earth’s dust away.
Nyarlathotep by H.P. Lovecraft.

I knew that this was likely to be the final session of our epic two year campaign, so in an effort to try and give a more entertaining pulpy climax for the players I made a few changes to the campaign as written. First of all, as I had already engineered the arrival of the investigators for the 14th of January 1926, the date of the eclipse over the China seas, I decided to conflate the ritual of the birth and the ritual of the opening of the gate.

Secondly I decided to change the timing of the arrival of Nyarlathotep himself until after the ritual of the birth. Whilst the investigators had taken time to heal during their rest in the Kikuyu village they were still low on Sanity Points and I didn't want drive them all insane before they even had a chance to succeed in their mission.

If they got that far, at least...

"Gentlemen, you must prepare to travel to the Mountain of the Black Wind. Once there you must stop the birth of the son of the God of the Black wind. If you don't the son will rise, and he will open the Gates and bathe the lands in blood. Once you have stopped the birth, you must place the Eye upon his altar, and chain the god forever, stopping the Gates from opening".

It had all seemed so simple. Unfortunately the investigators hadn't counted on coming across 10,000 cultists in the valley outside the mountain, involved in a hideous ritual, that they would have to get past...

Crouching below a small rise, hidden by thorny bushes, the investigators looked out over the terrible scene as the huge crowd disrobed and indulged in obscene and violent ritual with mad abandon. The priestess finished her speech to the assembly by sacrificing a baby and throwing it to the crowd, then walked back into the cave behind her.

Hubert looked at the mountain through his binoculars and thought that they might be able to approach using the bushes and gulleys as cover and relying on the frenzy of the cultists. He spotted a narrow path leading up the side of the mountain to the ledge on which the priestess had been standing, and the group determined to try and reach it.

Okomu's eyes suddenly widened and he pointed at a spot down the hill. The investigators were shocked to see Jacob slowly making his way down the scree towards the edge of the cultists! Suddenly Jacob leaped to his feet and danced around wildly! He had stopped to rest behind a bush and sat on a nest of large driver ants which were now proceeding to nibble at his legs. Luckily the nearest cultists were too engrossed in their rituals to notice.

Jacob crept forwards and stole some of the yellow cultist robes that they had dropped, then carefully made his way back to the rest of the group. Meanwhile Hubert was continuing to look through his binoculars and noticed several large winged shapes circling the mountain. One of them flew down above the crowd and plucked a few unlucky cultists from the throng, tearing them apart in huge claws as it returned to the peak.

It's what all the most fashionable cultists are wearing...
Avoiding the swooping shantaks Jacob managed to get back and handed out the robes. Okomu refused to wear one, but was eventually persuaded to by Hubert. Slowly the group moved out and started to make their way round to the bottom of the mountain path that Hubert had spotted.

Their luck did not hold out. As they were crossing a small open area a group of the cultists spotted them and shouted out an alarm. Luckily the rest of the degenerate crowd did not pay any attention, but the six that had spotted the group gave chase. The investigators ran, dodging through the bushes and gulleys pursued closely by the angry mob, with a lightning storm raging overhead.

As they approached the start of the path up the mountain Hubert saw that the path was guarded by two huge cultists wielding prangas. He dived into the bushes and hid, but the rest of the investigators decided to stand and fight.

Jacob unleashed his shotgun at the chasing pack, taking out one of the pursuers. George took aim at one of the two path guards, but only scratched the cultist. Hubert, still crouching in the bushes, fired his lightning gun, frying the other path guard. Sebastian continued to run forwards, firing his .32 revolver as he did so, and managed to take out the final cultist guarding the path.

The chasing pack had now caught them up however and began to attack with their prangas. The melee was violent but over quickly. With the help of Okomu's scouts the investigators managed to kill the cultists, though George's leg was cut badly by their opponents. After a brief rest they continued on up the mountain path, rain falling heavily from the storm above.

None of the cultists in the valley noticed the group climbing up the side of the mountain. Cautiously they proceeded and eventually arrived at the ledge where the priestess had been standing earlier. Up here it was difficult to make out the details of the crowd below. The ledge lead to a narrow cave which was dark inside. Above the sounds of the storm and the drums and screaming from below they could hear nothing inside.

The entrance appeared to be a creamy-red lava tube leading inside the mountain, though it had been expanded and formed by human hand. Jacob shone his battery torch into the tunnel and reveal a short passage that opened up into a larger cave. A huge pile of bones and rotting corpses lay against the wall, the terrible smell pervading the cavern. Many footprints could be seen in the dust.

The group carefully entered and explored the cavern. Several more piles of discarded bones lay on the stone floor, along with some large, empty cages. At the back of the cavern was a tall statue depicting a strange three-legged humanoid. In place of it's face was a single huge tentacle reaching up to the sky. Hubert spotted an incongruous hardwood box at the foot of the statue. Opening the box he discovered an exquisitely crafted marine chronometer that was set to Greenwich Mean Time.

Not what you expect to find in a cultist's hideout
Hubert explored behind the statue and noticed several, regularly sized nodules in the rock of the cave wall. More by Luck than judgement they managed to press them in the right order to open up a secret door that lead into another tunnel.

The mile-long tunnel curved constantly upward. Here and there a torch flickered. No pictures or inscriptions decorated the walls. Occasionally the stone of the tunnel had been pulled apart by the forces in the volcanic mountain, leaving narrow and deep fissures - or had slumped, forcing the investigators to climb or descend sheer clefts and embankments. After half an hour of steady climbing the passage opened out into chaos and madness, a pounding and fluting sound reaching their ears.

The great temple on which they had stumbled had an irregular, cancerous form. Jagged tentacular and bulbous intrusions shaped the stone, to no apparent purpose. The walls were of a darker, more ominous stone than lower cavern.

A dim brownish glow came from the fungus-coated ceiling. Six enormous columns supported the roof of the temple. Their shapes were those of swollen, suckered tentacles. Iron loops were embedded in these columns and ritual sacrifices were tied there. The walls and floor were from the same primeval stone, carrying barbaric symbols and images referring to no recorded culture.

Many figures could be seen dancing around the columns, and in the centre was a large, bluish, irregular stone altar. Standing around the altar were ten large men, and in their centre the priestess sacrificing some hapless victim upon the altar. As she cut into him with a ritual knife his flesh seemed to melt into the blue stone of the altar.

Beyond this hideous sight lay three large, open pits, and beyond them stood a dais upon which sprawled what used to be Hypatia Masters. Semi-circular steps lead up to her; her beautiful face was still recognisable, but instead of her lithe body her face now sat atop an amorphous, pulsating mass of sallow flesh - little more than a swollen container encasing the Spawn of Nyarlathotep. Two baleful eyes could be seen glaring through the translucent yellow membrane of her belly. Hypatia’s head babbled constantly in sing-song schoolgirl English about college friends and photography, and her metamorphosis to the bride of a god!

Sanity checks were made, some passed and some failed, and Pulp Points were used to save the investigators from madness. The cultists, in a frenzy of madness themselves, did not notice the shaken investigators lurking at the entrance. That is until Herbert decided to shoot his lightning gun across the room at the monster that Hypatia Masters had become. Unfortunately his shot was way off, striking one of the central priestess bodyguards instead!

So they reverted to form, and started throwing sticks of dynamite into the cavern. Chaos was born. Bad throws were made, Pulp Points were used, spears were thrown, and Hubert even got caught in the blast of his own thrown dynamite as the cultists were ripped apart by the violent explosions. Stone and dust began to fall from the ceiling of the chamber as Hypatia Masters screamed.

Hypatia Masters on the dais
The battle took a long time to resolve, though in reality it passed in a blink for the investigators. By the end their ears were ringing from the exploding dynamite and the scene around them was one of carnage. Their attack had been effective but brutal, and amongst the dead cultists lay the torn bodies of their sacrificial victims. The priestess was also dead, having been shot by Jacob, her blood causing her flesh to melt into her own altar.

Silence hung in the cavern only briefly as the dust continued to fall. The baleful yellow eyes within Hypatia’s distended belly began to glow. Her head screamed once in mortal agony, and then exploded, the bloody fragments and pulp flying through the air. The membrane of her belly formed a seam, then ruptured. Slime cascaded down the steps of the dais and atop, in all its awfulness, stood the Spawn of Nyarlathotep.

The Spawn had a huge, roughly-triangular, bottom-heavy body with two yellow oval eyes at the apex of its slithery form. Just below the baleful eyes drooped down a long, writhing, crimson tentacle. Five fanged and drooling maws randomly decorated the ventral side of this thing. The hide was a lurid, blotchy orange. Many nine-inch-long appendages sprouted from it's body, a claw at the end of each. As it slid forwards it left behind a trail of orange vomit.

It stared at the investigators with anger, and a powerful beam of dripping orange energy suddenly shot from one of it's eyes, across the chamber at Hubert! Hubert dodged the blast, which melted the rock he had been hiding behind.

Finally the investigators seemed to remember the gifts that Old Bundari had given them. I had expected them to use Who-Is-Not-What-She-Seems earlier, but it turned out well that they had saved the small lizard. George opened the cage door and the chameleon crawled out. She arched her back, and then started to grow, her skin turning red, splitting as huge spikes erupted around her form, until she was the size of an elephant. With a spit of her tongue she charged towards the Spawn.

Hubert backed up the monstrous giant chameleon with a blast from his lightning gun, the electricity ripping scars into the Spawn's body from which orange slime oozed. The Spawn attacked Who-Is-Not-What-She-Seems, clawing at the lizard and tearing into it's scaled hide. There was only going to be one victor, and quickly Who was bleeding from a myriad of wounds. She had however managed to distract the Spawn, and the lightning guns of the investigators did their work.

Inevitably before things got better they got much worse. The dust and rocks continued to fall from the ceiling, despite the echoes of the dynamite explosions having long since faded. The Spawn might have been close to defeat, but Daddy was about to arrive. With a thunderous crash the ceiling to the temple was simply wiped away, a huge claw tearing the top from the mountain. Above, silhouetted against the lightning storm was a horror from the strangest of aeons.

Nyarlathotep stood on three legs astride the mountain, hundreds of feet tall. The bloody tentacle in place of his face stretching to the sky as he howled in anger. Shantaks and fire vampires flew around his shoulders. He turned his gaze down, to the temple where his spawn was slowly succumbing to the investigators' lightning guns and reached down with his claws, trying to scoop them up. Okomu's scouts fled in fear.

Sebastian was struck by falling rocks (and had no Pulp Points left with which to avoid them) and was badly hurt. Worse, he failed his Sanity Check and was struck dumb after losing all his remaining Sanity Points. The only character who had survived the entire campaign was lost to madness right at its end!

The other investigators continued to fire at the Spawn, which had now finished off Who-Is-Not-What-She-Seems and was starting to advance menacingly on the group. Who had done a great job of "tanking" the Spawn (to use MMO parlance), and had protected the investigators for just long enough. George fired his lightning gun one more time, hitting the spawn at the apex of it's conical body. A moment later the thing exploded, showering the cavern in orange slime.

There was a roar from above. A huge clawed hand reached down and grabbed George, lifting him from the floor. Thanks to a Pulp Point he managed to slip free, covered as he was in slime, and fell heavily to the ground.

Jacob decided the time for heroics had arrived. He grabbed the stone with the Eye of Light and Darkness from Okomu and ran across the cavern towards the blue stone altar. The great claws of Nyarlathotep reached down once more...

Jacob leaped forwards, doing a forwards roll with the stone tablet tucked under his arm, just under the grasping fingers of the god above and came to a stop before the altar. He placed the Eye down on top of it and there was a flash of light, the stone tablet sinking into the altar. Coruscating tendrils of blue light shot out from the altar.

Above them the avatar of Nyarlathotep raised its arms and storm clouds gathered quickly above the mountain. Flashes of lightning coloured the area in strange hues of green and purple. There was a sound like the end of the world.

Rippling blue waves from the altar hit the sky and the atmosphere buckled back. A great rent appeared in the roiling air, an interstellar blackness graced with a single red pulsing star. As the Great Gate opened wide, spheres of light hurtled through. The travellers were returning, Aldebaran and Fomalhaut sending forth their children; the minions of Hastur, Cthugha, and Shub-Niggurath now joining those of Cthulhu and other Great Old Ones, to further turn the wheel toward their re-ascension to the thrones of Earth.

Huge tentacles of shadow began to reach through the tears in the sky, the flashes of lightning revealing them to be darker than the blackest night. In the clouds and horror above, the investigators witnessed a vision - in the skies of the South China Sea a huge brass rocket roared upwards, destroyed in a series of coruscating explosions that tore holes in the fabric of the stars. Above the deserts of Western Australia the skies were torn open by great winds that rose from an ancient city hidden beneath the sands

Ships sank, farms and cities burned, and meteorites struck everywhere as the masters of the Mythos took firmer hold of Earth. The laughter of Nyarlathotep grew louder.

In their minds eyes the investigators saw a great map, carved into stone, the crude likeness of the earth’s continents etched into it by ancient hands. Across the Earth natural disasters occurred – typhoons, earthquakes, tidal waves, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, firestorms and more. The continents subtly realigned to a more propitious pattern. The great shifts stirred strange creatures which dwell deep within the planet. Eldritch forces shook the world.

On the map in their vision the investigators saw a glow appear above the region of China, and another above Western Australia. A blinding line of light joined the two glowing spots, then two other lines moved out from them, reaching towards the dark continent of Africa.

They converged across the map, forming a huge triangle across the face of the earth, then, just as they were about to meet and complete the ancient symbol, they stopped, and blinked out. The universe roared. Above the skies of China and Australia the great tears began to close.

The Crawling Chaos looked up, confusion in its baleful yellow eyes, it’s long red tentacle writhing in agony. The lightning flashed once more, then the rip in the storm clouds started to shrink, the monstrous tentacles that were reaching through now withdrawing.

Across the world madmen and psychics screamed as one.

The tear closed and a great wind rose from the south of the continent, ripping away the storm clouds and revealing the pure light of the stars above.

Then the explosions began.

Nyarlathotep raised its arms once again, but it was too late. Already the fires licked at its knees. The ground shook and the mountain erupted, raining rock, dust and fire all around. The world fell into darkness and the investigators passed out as the Crawling Chaos writhed in agony.

Later, they stared out across the plains of Africa, at the verdant life of the Aberdare Forest. The recent nightmare seemed already like a distant memory. They picked themselves up and looked at the devastation all around, huge plumes of dark smoke still pouring from the broken mountain. Slowly, they made their way down the foothills, beginning the long trek back to civilisation.

A lone eagle screamed in the sky at some distant prey. Life continued.

So, that was it! After two years of playing we had finally reached the end of the campaign. The investigators had saved the world, though consigned themselves to a life of fear and reprisal in exchange.

I then showed them the video below, which I had made in the style of an old-time newsreel, to give a nice epilogue to the whole campaign.

A huge thanks to my entire group who made all the hard work in preparing this epic campaign worth it. There wasn't a single session I didn't enjoy. For now however, it's time for a well-earned rest!

There is an embed of the session below, and I will have a final campaign journal entry up soon, summarising my overall thoughts on the adventure, along with a few amusing anecdotes.


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