Category Archives: RPG

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – ENGLAND PART TWO

This was our last session of 2019 and sadly the player who is Singh couldn’t make it. Fortunatly the others managed to not die without him around to keep them under control.

Unlike New York they managed to complete a break in without a full strength team, without setting fire to half of the city as well. I think thats a good result to be honest.

All the previous entries for the campaign are tucked away on the blog as well.

Sunday February 1st – The evening

After the events at Miles house, the group agreed to split up. Bolan, MacTavish and Constanza would go and check out the Penhew Foundation when it opened up on Monday. Meanwhile Singh would help dispose of the lizard person corpse, the remains in the cellar and the paintings in his studio.

Monday February 2nd

The Penhew Foundation

Shortly after it’s opening time, Bolan, MacTavish and Constanza arrived at the main door of the Penhew Foundation. They were greeted by a cheery doorman who smiled and held the door open for them. Enquiring about the possibility meeting with Edward Gavigan, the doorman pointed them towards the reception area and told them to speak to the front desk.

The lobby of the foundation was a large open space with display cases and statues from Egypt arranged around the room. Several bookcases lined the walls filled with books and the occasional small statue. Off to each side was a collection of tables and chairs with several people stitting at, leafing through books. Behind a desk in the middle of the floor, a young woman watched them approach and greeted them with a smile.

“Good morning gentlemen, we can we help you?” she enquired.

Explaining they wanted to speak to Gavigan about their friend Jackson Elias, Bolan asked if he was free at any point today. Asking them to wait, she picked up a phone on her desk, and spoke to someone explaining there was a group of men wanting to speak to Mr Gavigan. After listening to the reply, she turned back to tell them that Mr Kinnery would be along to speak to them shortly.

Taking the time to examine the artefacts in the lobby area, MacTavish tried to identify some of them but struggled to recognise any of them. Constanza gazed wide eyed at the exotic art around him with amazement. Bolan was looking longingly at the books on the bookcases. He leafed through a couple at random but didn’t find anything that captured his attention or interest greatly.

Presently a small, thin faced man in his 30s walked down the corridor from the back of the building. He paused to speak to the receptionist, who pointed out the group to him, and he scuttled over to them.

“Hello, I’m Thomas Kinnery, Mr Gavigan’s personal secretary. I understand you wish to speak to Mr Gavigan. May I enquire the nature of your request?”

Bolan made introductions before saying they understood that Jackson Elias had come to speak to Gavigan a few weeks earlier. He explained that they are currently following up on his movements. Kinnery, his face a constant beaming grin, nodded along as Bolan talked.

“I think we can find a space in Mr Gavigan’s diary. Please follow me.”

He led them down a corridor and to a small office with a waiting area. He asked them to wait there while he went into another office beyond. Coming back a few minutes later, he told them that Gavigan was in the middle of something but would see them shortly.

Kinnery sat behind a desk in the room and began to sort out papers and writing a letter. After about 10 minutes of waiting, a slim, well-dressed man came out of the main office and greeted them warmly.

Introducing himself as Edward Gavigan, he ushered them into his office and instructed Kinnery to hold his calls and not to disturb them.

Gavigan’s office was large but sparsely furnished. A simple desk at one end with minimal clutter on the top, a photo frame and some paper and pens neatly arranged on it. The walls had a pair of paintings hanging on them, showing different views of Egypt. One wall also had three small doors which looked like storage cupboards built into it. The most unusual feature was a small floor safe in one corner of the room near Gavigan’s desk. Each of them spotted the safe as it stood out due to the door being slightly open. The door raised up against the flat of the floor made it obvious, but Gavigan seemed to have not noticed.

Sitting down behind his desk, Gavigan indicated they should all take a seat in the luxurious high-backed chairs that faced him.

“Now, what can I help you with regarding Mr Elias?”

Bolan explained about Jackson’s death and how they had been looking into the Carlyle expedition since his murder. Gavigan seemed shocked at the news but went on to explain that he had only spoken to him once.

“He came to visit me late last year as he was looking into the Carlyle expedition. He wanted to know about the background of the Penhew Foundation and its relationship to the funding of the expedition. It was a short meeting and he had arranged to see me again, but he never made the appointment.”

When asked about the Penhew Foundation, Gavigan explained that Sir Aubrey Penhew had started the foundation. He was using it as a way of exploring further into the mysteries of Egypt. Penhew had a specific interest in a period of Egyptian history which wasn’t well known about so most of his personal research was into this time. When Roger Carlyle came to Sir Aubrey with information about this era, Sir Aubrey was eager to not only fund the expedition, but also join it.

He mentioned that most of the background information for the expedition had come from some ‘African woman’ that Carlyle had met. Rather scathingly he felt this woman seemed to have a hold over Carlyle.

Gavigan also talked about each of the different members of the group, but only in vague terms as he had only spoken to a few briefly. He touched on their roles in the dig and how they seemed to have moved on from the dig when Carlyle became ill. Gavigan concluded that Carlyle, being a rich American playboy, wasn’t as tough as the British members of the group so couldn’t stand the heat. He didn’t have the British spirit that Sir Aubrey would have had.

Throughout the meeting, Bolan could tell that Gavigan was hiding something and that he wasn’t telling the full truth. Gavigan seemed eager to push the conversation back towards Elias a few times and he was quick to skip other points.

They discussed further about the foundation’s involvement with the expedition. How some artefacts had been discovered as part of the dig but nothing of significance. Most of the items had gone to the Egyptian museum in Cairo, a few trinkets had been put on display in the British Museum. A small number were also at the foundation.

Offering to give them a tour of the display pieces, Gavigan stood up and headed for the door. MacTavish was interested in what the picture on the desk was so made a point of saying that the safe was open. He walked around the desk to where he could point to the open door. Gavigan, not expecting this, went over to shut it while MacTavish got a quick look at the picture. It was a large stately home with the name ‘Misr House’ in small letters in the foreground.

Gavigan thanked MacTavish and then led them on a tour around the building. He was quite thorough but to the point of dryness when explaining each of the items he stopped at. Even to the point of spending 10 minutes explaining the history and production technique of half a clay pot that had been found at a dig site.

After what felt like a very long hour, Gavigan led them back to the reception area. As they had shown so much interest, he suggested that if they wanted to come back to examine anything further, they should join the foundation.

MacTavish said he would love to join as he was an amateur archaeologist. He was directed to speak to the receptionist who would give him the paperwork to join.

As a sudden thought, MacTavish mentioned that there was a rumour that one of the expedition members had been spotted alive in Shanghai. At this suggestion Gavigan’s face cracked for a second.

“What do you mean? Who is it? That’s not possible.” he said in a shocked voice.

Dismissing it as a rumour, MacTavish waved off questions of how he had found out while promising to tell Gavigan if he heard anything further.

By this point, Gavigan had regained his cool and aloof air. He bid them farewell with a polite nod and then headed back towards his office.

Quickly filling in the paperwork for membership, MacTavish took the invoice and they left.

The British Library

They spent a few hours in the British Library looking into Misr house, finding that it was in Essex and was listed as Gavigan’s family home. They also planned to have a look around the Penhew Foundation building after hours if they could break in.

The Penhew Foundation

Heading back to the Foundation before it shut, they found a darkened area to loiter in. They kept watch for a few hours until it was closed and deserted for the night. After 6pm the building emptied of most of the staff and a cleaner went in along with a security guard. Gavigan wasn’t spotted leaving but they figured he was mixed into the bigger knot of staff as they left.

After plenty of time had passed and the cleaner was spotted leaving, they headed round the back and found the rear. A large loading area with a door and a small coal chute could be made out through the gloom and MacTavish went to check the chute. A padlock held it closed so he hunkered down next to it with his lockpick set. In the dark he struggled to open it and, in the end,, he only managed to jam the mechanism inside.

Constanza lifted his club and jammed the base of it under the padlock before pushing slowly. With a low groan, the metal twisted and popped off, dropping to the packed earth with a quiet plop.

Shining a torch down the chute, they could see a mound of coal below them, but the drop seemed wide enough to climb into. One at a time they slide down and found themselves in a small coal storeroom with a low wall holding the coal in place. Beyond the wall the room opened into a large boiler room filled with pipes of hot water and steam running throughout it. The low roar of a furnace filled the room and the soft glow of the boiler cast flickering shapes over the walls.

There was a door at the far end and near where they stood a narrow set of stairs ran upwards. Checking the door, they found it unlocked and there was a small the small room on the other side. It was packed with broken furniture covered in dust sheets and other assorted bric-a-brac. MacTavish realised that this room was too small and that the room they had entered only covered half of the floor space of the foundation. Searching around turned up nothing. The walls sounded solid and there was no sign of any hidden doorways.

Leaving this area, they took the stairs cautiously upwards and found themselves in a small staff room. A lit stove warmed a kettle on top. A couple of old chairs sat next to a table covered in newspapers. Bolan resisted the temptation to spike the water in the kettle with the drug he had found at Miles house.

Leaving the room brought them to the main corridor running the length of the foundation. Opposite the staff room was a solid metal door painted red. Checking it wasn’t unlocked, MacTavish tried to pick it, but again failed.

Leaving this door for fear of being caught in such an exposed place, they headed down the corridor into the building. Finding both doors that lead into Kinnery’s office and then into Gavigan’s office unlocked they slipping into Gavigan’s office. Carefully shutting the doors, they began to search.

MacTavish went to examine the floor safe while Constanza examined the desk and Bolan went to the closets.

Constanza found a few notes and bits of paperwork but nothing of note. One desk drawer wouldn’t open, and he realised it was locked.

With a little bit of patience, MacTavish finally managed to open the floor safe. It swung upwards to reveal a couple of large bundles of one pound notes but nothing else. MacTavish shut the safe and turned his attention to the locked desk drawer. With some luck, MacTavish was able to snap open the lock but the only item inside was a telegram mentioning a dig at Mycerinus.

Bolan meanwhile, had found a secret door in the back of one of the closets. Two of them had been filled with a drink’s cabinet, books and assorted items but the third was empty. Bolan spotted that the far wall had a panel that seemed out of place. Pushing it open gently he found it swung open silently into a large storeroom at the back of the building. One side was blocked off by wooden crates, but they could see through the gaps that they had entered the room with the locked red door. The side they had opened into lead to a battered and damaged sarcophagus. Kneeling by one side, Bolan cautiously peered in, but it was empty. He examined the top and noticed the face was free of the thin layer of dust that covered everything else. MacTavish and Constanza joined him just as he noticed the eyes could be recessed into the head.

As the eyes slipped into the head, there was a soft whir of a motor. The whole sarcophagus slid to one side, revealing a set of steep steps going into the basement. Shining torches into the darkness below only showed a few wooden boxes and a switch in the wall at the foot of the steps. The faint smell of burnt candles floated up from the room but there was no sound or movement from the dark. Cautiously, Bolan climbed down the steps. Fearing the worst, he braced himself before he flicked the switch but the only thing to happen was several electric lights came on.

As the others joined him, Bolan looked round. A desk stood at one end of the room with a small study area and some chairs arranged for meetings. Crates, boxes and bookcases lined the room, what little wall space was left had paintings filling the gaps.

MacTavish rummaged through the desk, turning up a .32 revolver with a box of bullets, some passports and more money. Under the desk he spotted a box filled with paperwork so started to dig through it, looking for anything useful.

Constanza examined the artwork on the walls. The paintings seemed to be strangely hideous creatures that drove a shiver down his spine. Leathery flying monstrosities, hulking beasts, prowling humanoid figures and burning figures who seemed to embrace the fire covered the paintings and seemed more hideous than anything he could imagine. A small statue in the middle of them was of a pharaoh-like figure but his face was a mass of squirming tentacles.

Bolan was drawn to the bookcases which was filled with a dozen or more books as well as scrolls and a small jar. He checked a few at random, his heart racing as he realised the value of just one of these books alone. Most seemed to be in either French, Latin or some other language, but he found two in English. The first was a series of seemingly insane ramblings about outlandish gods and theological questions that didn’t make much sense. The second book was called the ‘Book of Dzyan’ and was bound in a soft goatskin. Bolan pocketed the book and went to look at the paintings that Constanza was examining.

MacTavish was finding a few interesting things in the paperwork. There were various receipts for goods and services, including deliveries to Henson Manufacturing, Derby for wood and coal, iron ingots, copper wiring, and an expensive cast iron safe, a receipt from Ferris & Sons of London for the six-month hire of a truck, and a letter from a Mr. Puneet Chaudhary of Ropemakers Fields, Limehouse, relating to the warehousing and shipment of “sundry antiquities” to Shanghai onboard a ship called the Ivory Wind.

Underneath the pile of receipts, a business card was wedged into one of the box’s corners. Pulling it out, MacTavish could see it was addressed as “Empire Spices” in Soho.

He was distracted at one point by Bolan giving a shout of shock at the contents of the paintings. They proved to be too much of a reminder of the events at Miles house the previous night and he had turned away with a stifled cry.

Constanza meanwhile had moved on to examine a couple of the crates at one end of the room, all but two are open and empty. A tall, closed crate was stencilled “Ho Fang Import/Export, 15 Kaoyang Street, Shanghai, China,” in both English and Chinese. In smaller letters are the

words “Attention Honourable Ho Fang.” Prying the top off Constanza found a huge corroded brass statue of a bulbous thing wearing an Asian rice hat; a snake pit of tentacles seemed to be bursting forth from beneath the hat.

The second crate of interest was stencilled “Randolph Shipping Company, Port Darwin, Northern Territory, Dominion of Australia”, along with a curious symbol that seems to show a stylized deer’s head or winged creature. Again, Constanza removed the top of the crate and inside was a 16 inch (41 cm) high representation of a fat, dragon-like figure, whose evil-looking head is fringed by tentacles.

MacTavish brought out his camera and started to take photos of the two statues and other parts of the room.

They tidied up as best they could, setting things back to how they had found it and went back up to the storage room above. Carefully pushing the door open to Gavigan’s office they were shocked to see the surprised face of a young security guard looking back at them. There was a moment of quiet as both sides sized each other up and then the guard stuttered out a confused question.

“What are you all doing in Mr Gavigan’s closet?”

MacTavish slowly walked towards the man, pulling his wallet out. He presented the guard with a large handful of notes while reassuring him that they hadn’t been up to anything bad. They just got lost and he should forget about them.

The guard cautiously took the notes and watched them climb out of Gavigan’s window one by one into the night before stuffing the notes into his jacket and continuing his rounds.

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – ENGLAND PART ONE

This is the first part of the England chapter from the Masks of Nyarlathotep that I’m running. The the other posts are available if you want to catch up.

This session was a little late running. We had planned to run it a few weeks ago but due to unforseen circumstances, we couldn’t. As a result we missed running it during the WeAreAllUs event being run by Chaosium in memory of the late great Greg Stafford.

I still ran this game with the Sartar Rune on the table in Greg’s memory. I hope he enjoyed the game because we did.

Grabber Granny

Prelude

On the Atlantic Ocean, a cruise liner ploughed through the angry sea on its journey from New York to Liverpool. A storm raged overhead, making the floors sway like the room of a drunk after a six-hour binge.

In four cabins below decks, Bolan, Constanza, MacTavish and Singh had each taken one of the books they’ve bought from Erica Carlyle. The books had been delivered to Kensington’s office and collected in a dash before boarding the first available ship heading for England.

Hearing they planned to head for England, Kensington provided them with the contact details for Mickey Mahoney. The editor of ‘The Scoop’, Mahoney was the last person that Kensington knew Elias had spoken to in London, so seemed like a good place to start in their task to retrace his steps.

The books seemed important somehow. The investigators wanted to understand what use they had been to Robert Carlyle. Four of the five books were in English, with the fifth in French. As none of the group could read French, that was put to one side. Bolan took the copy of ‘the Pnakotic manuscripts’, Constanza took ‘Among the stones’, and MacTavish had ‘Life as a god’. Singh had the copy of ‘Africa’s dark sects’ they had collected from the Ju-Ju house.

Bolan struggled with the archaic translated text. He managed to piece together some fragments that suggested there was another meaning hidden within the words. He could see that there was a deeper power hinted at if he could study it further. He also realised that books contained more information than people knew, he should study every book he could get. He would now take the opportunity to gather as many books as possible in case they had secrets within them, no matter the cost.

As Singh read through his, he was disgusted by what was within the pages. The book was about the writers travel within Africa, but had graphic details of the bloody and obscene practices some tribes carried out. There was also an almost step by step explanation of the creation of the soulless monstrosities they had fought in the basement of the Ju-Ju house. This horrified him further. Singh, a deeply religious man, refused to read this practice and after finishing the book, put it to one side, swearing he would never touch it again.

MacTavish had a similar reaction to his book. The exploits detailed within also many blasphemous and unspeakable acts committed in Egypt. These had performed in the name of something called ‘the Pharaoh of Darkness’. Finding the content nauseating, he carried on and found information about something called ‘the bent pyramid’. The unsettling text made the dour Scotsman even more moody and he began to withdraw further from interacting with the others. He preferred to find solace with his own dark moods.

Constanza struggled with his book. Not being a native English speaker he couldn’t follow the strange poems he was reading. There was a couple about faraway lands he had never heard of, including some country called Egypt. The book confused him and he ended the journey with a terrible headache and feeling deeply troubled, but couldn’t place why.

England

Friday Jan 30th

Arriving in Liverpool, the group quickly slipped through customs with no problems. Finding their way to the train station, they headed to London by the fastest train they could get.

Bolan, owned a flat in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden so offered to house the others for their time in England. They agreed and settled into Bolan’s apartment then made plans for the next day to visit the Penhew Foundation and offices of the Scoop the next day.

Saturday Jan 31st

Their first stop was the Penhew foundation, located on Devonshire Street in Central London. The building was hidden away down a couple of winding narrow streets. It was surrounded by a high iron fence and the gate to get in was locked firmly. A plaque to one side indicated the building was open to the public from Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Looking over the building, Constanza noticed a single figure walk by a couple of windows inside. It was a smartly dressed man in a crisp formal uniform of almost military style. The guard glanced out at them as they stood there but gave them little notice.

Realising that they may be drawing attention to themselves standing there, they headed for Fleet Street to find the offices of The Scoop. All the time as they travelled through the bustling streets, Constanza felt a sense of awe at this city. It was nothing like anything he had seen before and it was all captivating to him.

The Scoop

The office of the scoop was located on the third floor of a shabby building in the middle of Fleet Street. Climbing the stairs, they saw a bustling office with staff trying to all talk over each other as they tried to assemble the next issue of the paper. They were greeted by a flustered receptionist at the desk who was trying to juggle a stack of papers, a telephone and being talked at by two other people. When they mentioned they’re trying to speak to Mickey Mahoney, she turned and bellowed into the office with a voice that cut through the noise.

“Mickey! You got another bunch here!”

A mop of red hair popped up from the middle of a scrum of bodies clustered around a drafting table. A plump, stubble covered face looked out from below the hair, a large cigar gripped firmly between the grinning teeth. Smoke wafted around the face as the eyes studied them. Pushing through the crowd, the man moved quickly towards them despite his overweight frame. Reporters and staff scattered to get out of his way as he bore down on them.

“Got a story for me? Follow me boys.” he said as he approached the group and guided them towards an office in one corner of the room. Flopping into his chair behind a desk, Mahoney beckoned them in and waved at some seats.

“So, what can I be doing for you? Something juicy I hope.”

Between them they explained about Jackson Elias and how they had come to see him about his last movements in London.

“A real shame about that guy. Nice fella. I heard about his death just afterwards as it was all over the news wires.”

Mahoney told them about a couple of stories that Elias had been interested in and that he had been asking about The Penhew foundation. Sadly there wasn’t any juicy gossip about the bunch of dry and dusty Egyptologists. He gave them the headlines of the stories that Elias had pulled from the papers archives.

In exchange, Mahoney asked them to bring any interesting stories to him. He explained that Elias had offered to bring him some before he disappeared back to New York and he felt he was still owed something. Mahoney also hinted at buying any kind of sensational story he could put in the paper. Glancing around the office, candid photos along with news articles could be seen pinned to the walls. It was obvious that sex and violence were the two main selling points for The Scoop.

Spending a couple of hours in the archives searching the papers clippings, turned up the three articles that Elias had been interested in.

The first was about Miles Shipley, an artist who had been painting savagely monstrous scenes. These had captured the imagination of all who saw them and caused great interest in the art world. His art had become something of a sensation in London where it was hailed as a new form of art movement to rival anything being created on the Continent.

The second was about a series of murders and attacks that had taken place in Derbyshire. The article was short on details, more aiming at the shock sensationalism that The Scoop was known for. There was a brief note about the attacker by the sole survivor of the last attack. It was described as a grisly creature that had been driven off by the victim through luck more than anything.

The last article was about a body found in the Thames and was linked to a series of so-called ‘Egyptian murders’. These had plagued London for the last three years and this article offered a reward for anything which helped bring in the killer.

Mahoney confirmed that Jackson had gone to speak to the inspector in charge of the Egyptian murders, Inspector Barrington.

With these articles and some hints about what Jackson had been up to in London, they headed back to Bolan’s apartment for the day.

Sunday Feb 1st

New Scotland Yard

Arriving at New Scotland Yard they were ushered in to see Inspector Barrington. Barrington was a tired looking man in a worn suit who greeted them politely but with an air of tiredness. Explaining they had come to see him in connection to the death of Jackson Elias, Barrington expressed regret at hearing of Jackson’s death. He revealed that Jackson had come to see him with some story about a cult operating in London which he scoffed at. London was a modern, civilised city and Barrington hadn’t believe this crazy American when he was rambling in his office. Now, after the details of Jackson’s death, he wasn’t so sure.

Barrington made them a promise, bring him something he could use and he would help them. At the moment his hands were tied as he didn’t have anything solid to work on but he had a few leads he was following. He could provide officers if needed for a raid but only if there was proper evidence.

The plan now was to look into this mysterious painter. Bolan was determined to find out more about him so set off with MacTavish to visit some art galleries to try and track him down. Constanza and Singh wanted to search for any useful information about the Egyptian murders, so went to see what they could find in a nearby library.

Finding a large gallery that was open was easy enough but, walking into the gallery, Bolan was distracted by a collection of rare books on display. Succumbing to his new compulsion, Bolan wandered over to the books and tried to stuff a number into his pockets. An angry member of staff stormed over and confronted him when he was spotted. Trying to talk his way out of having the police called didn’t work. They left quickly with a confused MacTavish dragging Bolan away from the books and out of the gallery.

Nearby Singh and Constanza searched for anything that may be connected to the Egyptian murders before they stopped for a break. Constanza started idly flicking through a magazine, trying to understand more about the culture of this country he was in. One of the articles was about Miles Shipley, the very artist they wanted to find.

The article was thin on details about the artist himself was overflowing with praise from others who had bought his work or had seen it. Finally, at the end of the article, it listed his address.

Taking this information, Constanza and Singh found Bolan and MacTavish and they headed for Holbein Mews.

Chelsea

The area of Chelsea they found themselves in was run down but clean and quiet. The occasional passer-by on the street was dressed in Sunday best after church or visiting the pub. It was a far cry from the bustle of the inner city areas they had been in already.

The address was on a terrace row, the house stood out due to the barred windows and skylight in the roof which appeared out of place. The street was quiet and there was no sign of life as Bolan walked up to the door and rapped smartly on it.

A quiet shuffling noise inside followed before the door opened and a kindly old lady smiled at him. Introducing himself to the lady, Bolan politely asked if they could speak to Miles Shipley about buying one of his paintings.

The old lady beckoned them to enter and guided the group into a small parlour just inside the house. She introduced herself as Bertha, Miles mother. She offered them tea and then disappeared upstairs to speak to her son when they had been settled.

Returning after a long pause, she said Miles was quite busy and didn’t want to be disturbed at the moment. MacTavish brought up that they wanted to buy one of his paintings and cracked open his wallet. At the sight of the money, Bertha trotted upstairs at what seemed like a slightly faster pace. Returning quickly, almost pushing Miles in front of her.

Miles was a skinny, almost gaunt figure who glanced around the room with a nervous energy. His eyes kept darting back to his mother as if he was afraid of her in some way. He looked like he had been rolling in paint rather than using it to make art, his clothes and hands seemed to be caked in the thick layers of colour. He wiped at his hands with a rag and stuck it out to shake Bolan’s hand when Bolan asked him about buying one of his paintings. After a pause, Miles realised that Bolan wasn’t going to shake his hand and get it covered in paint. Withdrawing it, he waved vaguely towards the door, indicating they should follow him to his studio.

He led them upstairs to a loft room which had been converted into his art studio. The room was lit from several lamps hanging from the room and the skylight was painted over from the inside to block out light. Even with the lights burning the room felt dark and heavily oppressive, as if shadows formed by themselves.

In the centre of the room stood a large easel with a newly started picture resting on it. Pencil marks and blocks of colour covered the canvas. Next to the easel was a table. Paints, brushes and other paraphernalia covering the wooden top. The only other furniture in the room was a table in the far corner which was covered in more painting materials.

There was one door to a small cupboard opposite this table, a large gleaming padlock held the door closed. Two of the four walls held five finished paintings which Miles swept his hand towards with a wave.

The four investigators studied each of the paintings while Miles and his Mother stood nearby watching them. Miles continued to wipe at his hands with his rag while his mother simply stood watching them with a kindly smile on her face.

Each of the paintings was more graphic and horrific than the last. The first was some kind of alchemist’s lab, smoke spilled from vials while scientific equipment filled the background. In the foreground a reptilian humanoid was posing mid dissection of a cadaver on the table in front of it. The body it was cutting up wasn’t recognisable but the detail in painting of the entrails and blood that flowed seemed horribly realistic.

The second show a scene in ancient Egypt. A golden chariot was passing through a huge mass of people who had fallen to their knees. The pharaoh in the chariot was adorned in black and gold but his face couldn’t be seen as it was turned from the viewer. Behind the pharaoh was a pair of men, impaled on stakes, their internal organs spilled down to the ground and a pack of jackals fed on them.

Third was a night-time woodland scene. A yellow moon cast its light onto a group of naked men and women cavorting around a bonfire. Rising from the flames of the bonfire, a goat headed man seemed to be conducting the frenzied figure below.

The penultimate canvas showed a man being cut open by a silver dagger being held by a black-robed figure. There was an occult looking sigil carved onto his chest which seemed to twist and move while looking at it.

The last painting was a towering mountain, possibly in Africa, over which a monstrous creature was rising up. At the base of the mountain, a temple like building could be seen with figures gathered around it. Each of the figures had their hands raised to the god-like entity in worship. From each head, a red tongue or tentacle seemed to hang down.

Bolan’s mind reeled as he looked at the paintings. He stepped around each one, his vision swimming with each step until, with a shriek, he realised he had gone blind! He stumbled forwards toward the nearest painting, almost crashing into it when a strong, vice like grip grabbed his arm and guided him away.

“Careful now deary, you nearly had an accident there. I know his paintings are quite shocking. They’re not really my thing either. Come downstairs with me and have a nice sit down with a cup of tea.” the old lady cooed as she guided him with a firm hand towards the steps down. Singh, suddenly wary, followed them both downstairs to watch Bolan. MacTavish and Constanza stayed in the studio with Miles as he checked the painting hadn’t been damaged.

When they got downstairs to the parlour, Bertha settled the still blind Bolan on a sofa and pottered over to the teapot.

“Would you both like a nice cup of tea?” She said as she bent over the teapot.

Bertha picked up the teapot and then, with a speed that belied her aged appearance, swung the teapot in a tight arc at Singh’s head. With years of fighting experience, Singh was able to dodge the blow at the last second and the teapot swam through the air where his head had just been. Reaching for the knife at his belt, Singh realised that the old woman had been replaced by a tall lizard like creature. Its head had an almost crocodile like snout appearance and a fat tail swished behind it.

Its mouth hissed wide as it lunged again towards, claws raking the air where Singh had been seconds before. Once again he had dodged aside but now he was ready. Pulling his ceremonial knife from its sheath he cried out an alarm to the others upstairs.

“TO ARMS! TO ARMS!”

He swung his knife and was rewarded with a deep cut across the creature’s body. Hot blood spurted out of the wound and splashed across the floor.

Constanza and MacTavish had been trying to make conversation with Miles but the painter just muttered and didn’t engage with them. The faint cry from Singh came up the stairs and at first nobody seemed to respond. Constanza and MacTavish looked at each other, one hearing the shout, the other not fully understanding what it was. Miles responded faster. He began to try to distract them by suddenly becoming quite animated and to point out details in the paintings. It didn’t work. Both men headed for the stairs to help their friend, only for Miles to try and stop them. He managed to grab Constanza, stopping him but MacTavish was already past him, leaping down the stairs.

In the parlour Singh and the creature circled each other, wary and sizing each other up. The creature had expected to take Singh easily when he was distracted with Bolan but hadn’t realised he was armed. Snarling it swung again and a claw caught Singh drawing some blood but it was a light touch on him. Singh retaliated by driving the knife deep into the monstrosity. He was rewarded with a loud cry and his target slumping forwards, dead before it hit the ground.

Just at that moment Bolan’s eyesight began to return and as he blinked a few times, he began to make out details through the fog of his blindness. He blinked again and saw a hideous scaly face with glassy eyes looking at him. With another scream he jumped and nearly fainted again before realising that Singh was standing over the thing with his knife in his hand.

At that moment MacTavish burst in and saw the corpse on the floor as well. Realising that Constanza may be in trouble, he turned and ran back upstairs to find Constanza still struggling with Miles. Grabbing Miles from behind, he was able to separate the two.

Miles crawled away and sat in the corner of the room muttering and rocking leaving the pair to search the room. A small key lay on the floor where Constanza and Miles had been struggling. Scooping it up, Constanza realised it would fit the padlock on the cupboard door in the studio.

The padlock unlocked with a satisfying click and dropped off the door. Swinging open the door carefully, they could see a large sheet draped over a canvas inside the cupboard.

Constanza reached forward and pulled the sheet away to reveal a nearly finished painting below. The scene in the painting was a swamp with a small island in the middle. A stone altar sat in the middle of the island and all around the swamp, serpents massed on the ground and through the undergrowth.

The painting seemed to move and swim before their eyes. MacTavish felt himself being drawn, not just towards it, but into it. He could hear and smell the swamp around him. Constanza could feel the draw as well. At the last minute he snapped his mind back to the small loft room in London and grabbed MacTavish’s arm, whirling the Scotsman away from the painting.

The cloth was thrown back over the painting and the door shut quickly.

Leaving Bolan to recover, Singh searched round the ground floor of the house but there was little of interest. A search in the cellar revealed a hidden area filled with powder, potions and what looked like the unidentifiable animal parts. One corner of the basement was filled with a large stone tub with a metal sheet over the top. Singh approached cautiously and lifted the corner of the sheet.

In the middle of the tub, the decapitated head of a woman looked up at him. Singh, his mind already hardened to the horrors of war, wasn’t affected. He lowered the lid back onto the tub and carried on searching the basement.

Miles came back to his senses once he knew his ‘mother’ was dead. After Bolan and Singh joined them upstairs, he explained that a few years before he had been approached by a man in the pub one evening. The man offered him the ability to paint more interesting scenes than the ones he already had been creating. This strange man created a powerful drug and used hypnosis to send Miles’ mind exploring in other times and locations. After he had demonstrated this power and had Miles under his influence, the man had revealed his true form to Miles.

Using his influence, this creature had forced Miles to bring him a steady supply of victims who it would then eat. The paintings brought in money and Miles brought meat for it so he could keep getting the drug. Miles told them he had a few doses left which he kept in his room.

They agreed to help Miles dispose of the body downstairs and, after checking around the house further, they stopped to figure out their next steps.

To be continued…

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.