Category Archives: RPG

Call of Cthulhu – The Derelict – crew

The Derelict is a one shot scenario for a modern era setting of the Call of Cthulhu RPG created by Sandy Peterson for a convention and then bundled inside the book “Peterson’s Abominations” that collects a number of his scenarios together.

The setting follows a crew that find a ship floating abandoned in the middle of the ocean and their efforts to investigate it. The NPC’s that are created for the game are crew and passengers aboard a luxury yacht but I wanted to change that setting and there’s a couple of mentions of a tug crew. 

I prefered that idea, so ended up making my own NPC’s so I could run the story as if they’re a salvage boat crew who are struggling for cash and need to raise some serious money quickly. I let the players pick from the characters but keep the Captain and First mate as NPC’s who I can use to push the story along.

I’ve mentioned my setup a few times in the past and shared the character sheets before, so I thought I’d put them here to make it easy to find in the future.

The sheets are below for anyone to download and below that is my notes on how I run the story. Each one doesn’t have a name or gender specified, I allow the players to pick those. Please don’t read any further if you ever want to play the Derelict as there are possible spoilers.

Characters

NPCs

Background and setup

Now we get to the fun bit, the story. I made a few changes in the setup in the book but feel free to ignore these and go with your own version.

In mine, the captain is struggling to raise enough money to keep the boat. He wants his son (the first mate) to take over the boat and retire soon, this gives him a lot of motivation to try and salvage the derelict.

Each of the PC’s also has a secret on their sheet that allows the players to lean into the characters as much as they want. Some have a good reason to either try to salvage the ship or to escape.

Also, take note of who has silver and who doesn’t, that is important.

When they first get to the derelict, I have the captain go along with everyone who wants to goes aboard. The captain, although slightly lame in one leg, feels he should go as part of the boarding party. When the time is right, I have an explosion aboard the salvage boat, killing the first mate.

This is done by the… you know what on the derelict going onto the salvage boat and trying to kill the first mate.

Obviously if someone stayed aboard the salvage boat, they need to not die at this point or else its a short game for them. When I’ve had this problem, I’ve had them see the first mate waving a shotgun around from the other side of the boat, then get thrown into the water when theres an explosion. I have the first mate shoot a gas bottle which causes a massive amount of damage to the boat and killing him.

This has two effects. Firstly it should drive the captain insane with grief, meaning he can become another problem for the group to deal with. Secondly, it means their way of escape is now cut off as the salvage boat is now dead in the water if not sinking.

Twice I’ve had the captain turn on the crew, blaming them for the death of his son but he is an easy thing for the group to deal with. He can be good distraction, building up the tension until he is killed right infront of the others by the… you know what.

From here on in its down to the players to see how they survive.

Have fun, send me any questions if you want and let me know if you get some use out of these.

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – NEW YORK PART SIX

This is the last part of the New York chapter from Masks of Nyarlathotep. The the other posts are available if you want to catch up.

This session was mainly wrapping up a few loose ends and the motley crew picking where they wanted to go next. We had a bit of fun with the pulp rules when one of the characters had his sanity fried (you’ll see why when you read the session) and developed a new pulp skill.

It didn’t get used in the session but we made sure it fit in with what happened to him and I’m sure we will get some fun out of it in the future.

The title picture is the careful opening of the last New York prop from the HPLHS prop pack. It was sealed and there was an air of quiet excitement as it was sliced open.

Bubbles!

Thursday Jan 22nd

The previous day, MacTavish had caught the sleeper train to New York. He arrived early in the morning, with the news that Gerbil would be staying in Arkham. He had decided to take the opportunity to stay and study several tomes in the university’s library in an attempt to understand what they had discovered during their investigation into Jackson’s death.

MacTavish headed to the hotel, arriving mid-morning, only to be informed the rest of the group had checked out the previous day. The receptionist handed him a sealed letter and a telegram. The letter explained the group had left due to concerns over a pair of ‘incidents’ they had been involved in. He should contact ‘the lawyer’ to find out their current location and get to them as soon as possible.

The telegram was from Bradley Grey, he had spoken to Miss Carlyle who was happy to speak to them and he should contact Grey to confirm when they could meet.

A quick call to Carlton Ramsey gave MacTavish the location of the safe house in Harlem they had hidden in. After a short taxi ride, MacTavish arrived at the address to find Bolan sitting in a worn armchair flicking a headband of grey metal around in his hands. He was attempting to gain some insight into the headbands history but wasn’t getting anywhere with it. With a sigh Bolan gave up and the four of them sat together to decide their next course of action. After explaining that Gerbil will not be joining them, MacTavish showed them the telegram from Grey. They in turn, filled him in on what he had missed and why they now hid in the safe house. The recent destruction of the Ju-Ju house and a foot chase after someone spying on them

MacTavish phoned Grey who gave him a few different dates when Miss Carlyle would be free, including that night at 8pm. MacTavish quickly agreed to this time and made a note of the address before thanking Grey. With a few hours to kill, Singh, MacTavish and Constanza went over their notes. Bolan, after a short rest tried examining the carved wooden African mask they had found in the Ju-Ju house.

The mask had four faces carved around the top and as he focused, he noticed one of the faces was glowing softly. Turning the hideous face towards him, Bolan realised the room had melted away around him. With a start, he found himself trapped in a transparent glowing sphere gliding through a dark void of nothingness. Looking around he started to see countless other such spheres, all slipping and gliding around each other. Half-seen horrors sometimes smashed against his sphere, causing a sound like the breaking of glass. With each one the sphere shook violently and rattled him around, but the sphere didn’t break.

Through the frosted sheen of the bubble, Bolan could see that most of the other spheres appeared to be empty. Occasionally he would glimpse a few distant ones holding strange entities within them. Now and then he would spot a few human shapes within them but they never looked towards him.

For what seemed like an eon, the spheres glided through the void as several titanic bubbles appeared in the distance. Massive beyond measure, only a slight visible curve hinted at them being spherical in any way.

Within the giant sphere Bolan could see events from his past, moving in front of him and sliding away into the distance. Suddenly his sphere lurched violently away. It began to glide away and wander through countless other giant spheres. Each of these contained strange vistas and worlds that defied Bolan’s understanding of the universe.

Slowly he realised the spheres began to wink out one by one until everything went dark and he was left alone in the void.

With a scream, Bolan leapt out of his seat, dropping the mask and causing the other three in the room to jump with alarm. Bolan began to babble about huge spheres and alien landscapes before sinking back into the chair, panting heavily. He was left with the strangest feeling that the spheres were still all around him. He could almost reach out and touch the spheres, if only he could stretch his mind and body to reach them somehow.

The Carlyle Estate

Once Bolan had calmed down, they took a taxi ride out to the Carlyle estate. As they drove through the storm, which was still pounding the city, there was an occasional ominous glimpse of Sing Sing Prison not too far away.

The taxi driver pulled up outside a large gate in Westchester county half an hour north of New York City on the Hudson River. Behind the gate, an elegant three-story mansion loomed out of the darkness. A high iron fence topped with sharpened finials surrounds the vast grounds.

Two guards with their coats pulled up against the snow, stood by the gate watching them cautiously. They introduced themselves to the guards and explained that they had an appointment with miss Carlyle. One of the guards trudged through the snow up the drive to the house. After a short wait he reappeared and beckoned them to follow up to the house.

Inside the warmth of the house, a butler took their coats while Grey met them and led them through to a large drawing room with a fire blazing in the hearth. Sitting next to the fire was an elegant woman in her mid to late 20s wearing a fashionable dress. Her hair was cut short and smoking from a long cigarette holder. She stood up as Grey introduced her as Erica Carlyle.

Sitting at the back of the room, and watching them closely, was a huge man with a face that looked like it had been punched more than once. His huge frame was squeezed into a small chair but he didn’t look uncomfortable. If anything it emphasised his build. Cold blue eyes watched every movement in the room and a large .45 calibre pistol hung from a shoulder holster.

Erica greeted the group with a polite, but no nonsense greeting and indicated they should sit.

“Tell me why you’re so interested in my late brother?” she asked, waving the cigarette holder at them in a lazy fashion. Her face showed no emotion when she mentioned her brother.

The answer she got was that there was the possibility that one or more of the expedition could still be alive. Jack Brady had been seen in Shanghai and there was a chance others could be hiding as well. Erica expressed some surprise at this news.

“Brady had always been totally loyal to my brother. He was his personal bodyguard and went everywhere that Roger went. He would never had left Roger without a good reason.”

Her interest now piqued, Erica explained more about how the expedition came about. Roger had always suffered from nightmares but recently they had become worse. She has pressured him into visiting Dr Robert Huston, a psychologist based in New York that was popular in the higher social circles. Dr Huston had managed to get Roger to open up about his dreams and had been collecting extensive notes about them. Roger had even joked to Erica that every time he went to visit, the folder got a few inches thicker.

Shortly after he began to see Huston, Roger began to disappear for days on end before reappearing dishevelled and wild-eyed. All he would say was that he had been spending time in Harlem. It was after one of these visits that he began to talk about a woman who he referred to as his priestess. Erica described her as “That horrible woman, Bunay”. She began to control Roger more and more. Erica believed that between Bunay and Huston, they had persuaded Roger to form the doomed expedition to Egypt. Why, she didn’t know but she had encouraged it at first, believing it to be beneficial to Rogers state of mind.

Along with Brady, Roger also took Sir Aubrey Penhew, who Erica knew nothing about and Hypatia Masters who she had met once or twice. Masters was a photographer who had dated Roger once or twice, but Erica didn’t understand why she went. Erica also mentioned that Roger had been dealing with a Frenchman called Besson, Beesard or Besart, she couldn’t remember the name exactly.

Up until the end, Erica had hoped that Roger would see sense and drop the whole thing but he stuck to it. She expressed a little relief as he had been busy driving the Carlyle companies into the ground. Since taking over, she had been able to rebuild them a bit.

When asked about any papers that Roger may have left detailing the trip to Egypt, Erica looked confused. She said he had taken his research with him except for several books he had acquired at great cost. She mentioned she had skimmed over one which Roger had left it out one day. It had chilled her and she tried to forget about them until now.

When asked if they could see these books, she led them into a well-stocked library. Walking to one bookcase, she pressed one section and a secret panel swung open. Shooting the group a quick look, she indicated they should look away before she opened the safe. The well-built man, who had followed Erica into the library, stepped between them and the safe, blocking the combination as Erica span the lock.

The safe swung open. Erica pulled four books from inside and placed them on the table. Bolan stepped over and studied each one with his book dealer’s eye. He quickly realised the books were quite old and valuable as the titles of each was known to him. The Pnakotic Manuscripts, Sélections de Livre D’Ivon, Amongst the Stones, and Life as a God. Each of the books has paper markers in different sections that Roger had left as he had been reading through. One even had hand written notes, scribbled along the sides of the pages.

Enquiring about the price and if he could buy them, Bolan received a withering glare from Erica.

“I’m hardly likely to sell them to someone who I’ve just met and told me some wild story about my brother. For all I know you could under value them and sell them on at a much higher price.”

She turned to face Grey.

“Please arrange for Kelsall to come and value these tomorrow so we can set a price.”

Realising they could get nothing more out of her tonight, they left after providing Grey with details on how to contact them via Ramsey.

With the night still drawing in they asked their taxi driver to drop them near the Medical Affairs Board building.

Medical Affairs Board

Arriving outside a new looking, 20 story building on a quiet street, they spent a short time watching the building for any signs of activity. A small number of lights blazed across floors and a lit lobby area, but there were no signs of people. Walking over to the front door MacTavish rapped smartly on the door and peered in. A security guard raised his head from behind a high sided reception desk from where he had obviously been napping and stumbled over to the door. Opening the door he peered out into the cold and asked what they wanted.

After a brief explanation that they needed to go up to one of the offices and a handful of dollars was given to him, the guard cheerily waved them inside. The money disappearing quickly into his pocket. Checking a directory list on the wall they found a reference to a records office on the 10th floor and thought they’d start there. The guard warned them there was another guard up on the top floor walking his rounds at the moment. He wasn’t due to reach the records office floor for about half an hour but his route was erratic.

Reaching the 10th floor they found the door was locked but MacTavish pulled out some lock picks and set to work. There was a tense moment when the lock seemed to seize up, but a second later there was a loud click as it unlocked. Opening the door revealed row upon row of filing cabinets, but it was well labelled and they quickly found Roger Carlyle’s records.

Quickly leaving before the second guard arrived, they headed back to their safe house and turned in for the night.

Friday Jan 23rd

The next day was spent preparing to leave New York. There was still an air of menace over the city and the constant fear there was someone coming to find them after the events of the Ju-Ju house.

They settled on England as the next destination as there was a couple of leads they could follow up. It was Jackson’s last port of call before going to New York and they wanted to look into his last steps.

Bolan spent some of the day reading the Carlyle records and discovered many references to a shadowy man calling to Carlyle in his dreams. One word stood out and caused him to stop.

Nyarlathotep.

Bolan had come across this name before but couldn’t remember exactly where. There was also a feeling that he somehow knew who this was, but that was impossible, how could he know a mythical entity? He realised there was a common theme among many cultures. Each had something similar to this shadowy man. It was probably nothing more than having read references to this character but he felt should look into this further.

In the meantime, Grey got in touch with Ramsey with a price for Rogers books. It was eye-wateringly steep, but not out of the bounds of the money available to them from Elias’ legacy fund. The offer was accepted and the books couriered over to Ramsey’s office.

The next day they boarded a liner and left New York behind them and headed to Southampton…

End of Chapter 1

Epilogue

The storm that had gripped New York for the last few weeks, began to slowly clear away towards the end of January.

Shortly before he was due to be executed, Hilton Adams was taken from death row and moved to the main body of the prison. Several weeks later he was released with a full pardon. According to the newspaper article by Shosenburg, Captain Robson had turned up evidence that cleared Adams. The reports indicated it was mainly through the assistance of Lt Poole. Shortly after Adams was released, Robson announced he was retiring and Poole promoted to running the 14th precinct.

Adams was reunited with his wife and they left New York to start a new life somewhere away from the events that had nearly destroyed their lives.

Meanwhile, something evil still stirred in Harlem. The ruins of the Ju-Ju house became shunned by the locals. Rumours of howling noises late at night persisted. Shadowy figures where spotted digging through the ruins. One night, a large truck was spotted leaving the area with a huge, heavily reinforced crate on the back.

Few of those that lived nearby dared to visit the site with the empty hole that was the cellar mysteriously opened up. Even after the ruin was torn down, the cellar filled in and new apartments built in its place.

In time, the whispered stories of the horrors that supposedly slipped into legend but at night, but for years afterwards legends lingered of the haunted ruin that was once the Ju-Ju house.

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – NEW YORK PART FIVE

This is the part five of the New York chapter from Masks of Nyarlathotep. The the other posts are available if you want to catch up.

The header picture is some minitures I painted up to represent the group. Left to right we have Bolan, Singh, Constanza (and his club) and McTavish. Thet came from North Star here in the UK but they’re originally from Pulp Figures in Canada. I have plenty more which I shall be painting up when I get a chance.

Sadly one of our players (Gerbil) has dropped from the group for a while and due to a last minute turnup, McTavish was unavailable for this session as well. From a story point of view, they’re both in Arkham, visiting Professor Cowles so they can easily rejoin. The three remaining players pushed on with the session and I tried not to have any big a story events happen.

Instead, we had a lot of running. A lot of running.

The Bloody Tongue

Wednesday Jan 21th

Three figures hurried away from the now burning Ju-Ju house, arms filled with bundles of liberated items. Bolan, Constanza and Singh somehow made their way back to the hotel without being seen and packed up their possessions. They now feared that anyone who knew they had been investigating the Ju-Ju house would make them a target for retaliation.

They knew they needed to find somewhere safe. Singh placed a quick call to Carlton Ramsey who answered the phone after a few rings with a sleepy voice, complaining that it was 2am. Singh explained they needed to hide as there may be people after them. Stopping to think for a minute, Ramsey told Singh he had a place they could stay and to meet them at his office in a couple of hours.

Paying for theirs and McTavish and Gerbil’s rooms, the trio checked out in the small hours of the morning. They also left a message with the reception desk to tell McTavish and Gerbil to contact the lawyer to find them.

Several hours later, they settled into a small apartment in Harlem, Ramsey used for hiding people when needed. It was a quiet part of the neighbourhood so they should be well hidden, provided they didn’t make a scene.

It was now 7am and they’d been up all night, the adrenaline was wearing off, so they crashed out for the night and slept through until the afternoon.

After waking, they sifted through the items they’d found in the Ju-Ju house. Constanza leafed through a copy of ‘Africa’s Dark Sects’ while Singh tried to open the small locked money box. Snapping open the lock, the lid swung off to reveal some personal items inside. A couple of them had been engraved with different initials, while other items looked quite distinctive. Singh guessed he may be able to cross reference the initials with the missing people or murder victims in the Hilton Adams case. This may help to tie some of the previous owners to the cult under the Ju-Ju house.

Bolan sat down to examine the headpiece made from a tongue that he had unearthed in Silas’ room. Compared to the rough cloth one, this headdress was a much more ornate cloth band with the dried tongue stitched neatly to the front. Strange symbols and shapes decorated the band. He held the headpiece gingerly and focused on the grotesque mummified tongue that hung like old leather from the cloth.

As he stared at it, he was hit with flashes of a country far from New York and of someone lying squirming in front of him. It was night there with stars shining in a cloudless sky. He saw hands that were not his own, pulling and cutting at the victim and the triumphant cry and the fleshy mass was separated from the head. His vision swam as a wave of pain assaulted him, as if his tongue was being pulled from his head. With a gurgle,

Bolan heard the victim die but he could only see the hands holding up the bloody tongue which had been ripped out. He could see it happening and feel the pain at the same time, as if he were two people at once, the attacker and the victim. The pain passed and he caught sight of himself reflected in the puddle of blood forming at his feet. With a gasp of shock, Bolan recognised the much younger face of Silas N’Kwane reflected back at him from the dark bloody pool.

Bolan felt his mind try to reject the pain and horror he had seen, but it was too much. He snapped out of the trance with a scream of horror which startled the other two and felt part of his sanity shatter away. He let the mummified tongue headdress drop from his fingers and closed his eyes.

Singh went to contact Schosenberg. He knew the items may be of use in her investigation of the Hilton Adams case. She expressed an interest in seeing them but also said she had been in contact with Millie Adams. Millie was trying to leave town and wanted to share some information with her. Schosenberg thought it would be useful for them to all meet up. She suggests the Lafayette Theater at 132nd Street and Seventh Avenue that evening.

After recovering, Bolan noticed the scratch he had got in the Ju-Ju house was now infected. Constanza and Singh seemed ok but Bolan found his was quite sore and weeping puss. The wound he received during the fight had been made with long, dirty fingernails gouging into his skin. Some dirt had got in, either during or after the skirmish but most likely from the ragged nails that had clawed his flesh.

Singh had some medical experience, so tried to clean the wound and dress it. As he wiped the wound it sprayed a thick, oily yellow pus all over his hands and clothes. Wiping the pus from himself with a cloth, Singh told Bolan he wouldn’t be able to do anything further without a medical kit. Bolan and Constanza set off to find a hospital while Singh went out to find food and other supplies.

It took a little while to find a taxi in the quiet neighbourhood of Harlem, but they finally managed to flag one down and to get to a hospital. After a long wait, Bolan managed to see a doctor in the emergency area. There were a few raised eyebrows and questions over the injury but claiming a dog attacked him seemed to be enough for the doctor even if he wasn’t totally convinced. With some cream to keep the wound clean and some bandages to cover it, Bolan thanked the Doctor.

They left and headed along the main road outside the hospital. Constanza had a bout of paranoia and became convinced they were being watched. He scanned the street as they walked, looking for anyone paying too much attention to them. Unfortunately he wasn’t watching his step himself and walked into an old lady on the sidewalk, nearly knocking her to the floor.

The woman began to scream and shout, accusing Constanza of trying to rob her. She was a small woman but she swung her handbag at his with surprising force and her voice was sharp. They tried to calm her, with no luck, her cries of “THIEF!” and “HELP!” attracted the attention of two police officers walking a beat outside the hospital.

Hurrying over, the officers asked what was going on. Bolan attempted to turn on his English charm but it had no effect. The officers exchanged glances at his weak charms. Saying that the pair would have to go for a little walk with them to the precinct to sort this all out one tried to place his hand on Bolan shoulder.

Bolan looked at Constanza, and the pair set off running as quickly as they could. Taken by surprise policemen reacted slowly but took off after them. Constanza quickly took a lead, his early life growing up in the Peruvian hills had given him strong powerful legs. Unfortunately Bolan was struggling to keep up, his more bookish lifestyle meant he didn’t have much physical exercise.

The two beat officers closed the distance on Bolan but one skidded on a spot of ice and tumbled over, leaving just one to try and grab at him but missing. Constanza desperately looked around for some way to escape but he couldn’t see how until he spotted a taxi, engine idling, a few yards away. He dashed for the car and leapt in, leaving the door open for Bolan.

The driver, looking back and seeing the policeman bearing down on the taxi, started to gently roll off and Bolan made one last big push to reach it. He dived into the open door, feeling the fingers of his pursuer snag against his coat but there wasn’t enough purchase and the hand closed around nothing. Bolan, out of breath and slumped in the car, pulled the door shut as the taxi sped off.

The driver, laughing about how he was always being shook down by crooked police officers and it was great to get his own back on them for once, dropped them a couple of blocks away from the safe house.

Arriving back safely, they prepared to see Shosenburg and Millie that evening.

The Lafayette Theater – 8pm

They arrived to see Millie Adams and Shosenburg waiting for them outside, Millie ushers the trio into the lobby into the main theatre and towards one of the rows of seats. Members of staff moved around cleaning and preparing the theatre but none came near them as they sat and talked.

Millie explained how she went to see a friend of hers over the other side of the street and happened to glance out of the window to see a pair of men she recognised from staking out the Ju-Ju house. After Hilton was arrested, she took to investigating the Ju-Ju house after she heard Hilton mention it. She saw groups of men going into the building once a month, often with crates, so she suspected it may have been some kind of club or speakeasy.

The two men came hurrying out of her apartment building when she noticed that it was on fire. Now convinced the men are after her because of some kind of disturbance in Harlem last night. She was planning to leave New York that night and head down the coast to North Carolina where she had some family.

Giving the description of the two men she had seen, Constanza and Bolan recognised one as the man they had spoken to outside the Ju-Ju house a few days before.

Hilton had been arrested after he had been investigating the Ju-Ju house and was found standing over a dead white man by Captain Robson. They found his army bolo knife nearby covered in blood but Millie swears that he never took it out on patrol with him.

A sound coming from above catches Constanza’s ear. He glanced up to see a figure in the stalls overlooking them on the lower floor of the theatre. The figure, shrouded in darkness, realised he had been spotted and ducks back out of sight. Singh and Constanza leapt towards the lobby with Bolan staying behind with Millie and Shosenburg.

The sound of running feet came from the lobby as they burst through the doors, a black man in his late teens or early twenties was just reaching the main door. He turned, eyes widening as he spotted them. Slamming open the main door, he ran into the snowy night with the two investigators close behind him.

As they ran through the streets, the young man screamed he was being attacked but few of the pedestrians took note. Most made the point of ignoring what was happening except to step out of the way when they ran in their direction.

After a hard chase they managed to catch up and pin down the man. He continued to call for help so Singh stuffed a glove in his mouth. Searching him turned up one of the cloth headbands with the red fabric tongues, he was one of the cultists. They discussed what to do with him, reasoning that if they let him go, Millie would be in danger. Singh was all for holding him down and suffocating him or just simply gutting him but it would prove to be difficult to do in public.

He managed to spit part of the glove out of his mouth to which Singh punched him in the face, knocking him out instantly. Dragging the now unconscious form back to the theatre while pretending he was drunk, they tied him up while Shosenburg phoned Lt Poole.

Millie was getting ready to leave, Singh gave her some extra money to help get away for which she thanked him profusely while wiping a couple of tears from her eyes, and left to try and catch a train out of New York.

30 minutes later Poole arrived and they showed him the evidence. He agreed it wasn’t enough to fully clear Hilton and the nature of its acquisition was more than a little bit suspect, but it was enough to put some pressure on Robson. He dragged the now handcuffed prisoner away, promising to keep him out of Robsons clutches.

Slumping into their seats, the group wondered what there next step would be.