Masks of Nyarlathotep – New York Part one

This is the beginning session of the first chapter from Masks of Nyarlathotep. If you need to catch up, all the other posts are on this site.

In game terms, this follows a number of years after the Peru introduction scenerio so I gave the players a chance to advance their characters based on what they had been doing over the years inbetween.

SPOILERS BELOW

1921 – 1924

After the events in Peru, the new friends of Jackson Elias each headed to their own different parts of the world. They all had their own share of the riches salvaged from the pyramid.

Elias, returning to New York, published the exploits in Peru as “The Hungry Dead” and kept in touch with each of them, sometimes calling on them for assistance in his travels.

James McTavish headed back to Scotland. He spent the next few years studying Archaeology and history in an attempt to understand more about the events in Peru.

Robert Bolan became the chief distributor for Elias books in the UK, even hosting him as part of a tour to promote “The Hungry Dead”. He was also determined to learn how to defend himself incase something similar ever happened again, so took up firearms training.

Guido Constanza used his money to learn to fly so he could travel more easily around Peru, helping out the poorer areas. He also studied forms of mesmerism for reasons known only to himself.

Knut Gerbil returned to Princeton to write several well respected papers on Mathematics.

Pranit Singh Dhillon, in keeping with his faith, gave away most of his money. He kept enough to allow him to travel to war zones around the world where he assisted with medical services.

1925 – January 5th

Four years later, early in 1925, McTavish, Bolan, Constanza and Singh each received a telegram from Jackson. He asked them all to meet him in New York on the 15th January as he had important information about an expedition to Egypt that had vanish a few years before. Gerbil, being in the US, received a phone call from Elias. He was told he should gather the others and meet him at the Hotel Chelsea, Room 410, at 8 p.m. Elias sounded worried and even a little frightened, something that was uncharacteristic of him.

Each of them traveled to New York as quickly as they could, with Bolan and McTavish meeting up to travel together.

Part 1 – My knife slipped

New York 1925

Jan 15th

New York has been brought to a standstill with a two-day snowstorm on January 2, followed by a fresh storm ten days later. Most of the city is under a heavy blanket of snow, with the roads blocks, railways covered and the sidewalks covered in snow.

They managed to gather at The New Grand Hotel at Broadway and 31st Street in South Manhattan, only a few blocks from the Chelsea.

On the 15th, they headed to the Chelsea and arrived at 7:30pm ahead of time and making their way up to room 410. Knocking on the door met with no reply. Listening carefully, there was possibly a faint noise within but after a short pause and another firm knock there was still no reply. McTavish decided there was a problem so proceed to give a heavy kick to the door. The lock broke apart with hardly any pressure and he barreled into room which was in darkness. From the dim light coming through the hotel window, he could see two figures turning towards him. One in the centre of the room and one climbing out of the window onto the snow covered fire escape.

As he entered the room he felt, rather than saw, the blow that narrowly missed his head from the 3rd person in the room who had been behind the door.

Gerbil was next through the door and instantly went for the light switch. Flicking it on, the room was bathed in weak light from the single bulb. The two men in the room were black while the one climbing out of the window was whites, each of them were dressed in shabby suits and wore a headpiece with a strip of red flannel protruding from the forehead. Brutal looking knives sat tucked into sashes around their waists and hands moved towards the hilts of each ones.

Wasting no time, Constanza charged forward and swung his club into the chest of the one in the centre of the room and there was sickening sound of breaking ribs along with the heavy expulsion of air from the mans mouth.

Singh lept for the man climbing out of the window and drew a deep slice in the mans back with his knife.

Bolan, hovering near the door, pulled his pistol that he’d been training with and called out to the room for everyone to freeze. However his voice was lost in the noise of fighting and nobody noticed.

Gerbil, following Bolan lead tried the same trick, pulling his imported Luger from his jacket but again, nobody heard him.

McTavish was locked in a viscous hand to hand fight with the man who had tried to attack him. They traded blows with each one managing to land hits on each other. McTavish, schooled in brawling on the streets of his native Scotland, finally managed to get the upper hand and brought his fist down squarely in the middle of the attackers face with a crack. The man slumped to the floor with a grunt, McTavish standing over him and wiping blood from his own wounds.

Constanza’s club connected again and snuffed his targets life out with another hard swing.

Meanwhile, Singh had physically subdued his target, who was cursing and swearing, and dragged him roughly back into the room where they all took the time to survey the scene.

The room was ransacked. Clothes, papers and other items had been tipped up and thrown about the room but that wasn’t the most shocking thing. They gathered around the bed in the room. Lying on his back with his eyes glassy in death and a grotesque symbol carved in his forehead, was their friend Jackson Elias.

Singh put his knife to the throat of the man he held and demanded to know why they had murdered Elias. The man, in a thick New York accent, told Singh exactly what he could do with that question along with a few other colourful suggestions about what they could all go and do with themselves, their mothers and their sisters. His blood boiling at the sight of Elias’ mutilated corpse, Singh pointed out to the man, they had his friend as well and carefully slit his throat before letting his body drop the floor.

Casually reaching down, Singh takes the head dress from the twitching corpse and, after examining it, pocketed the rough fabric headpiece.

Aware of all the noise, Gerbil quickly darted to the door and checked the corridor. A few floors down he could hear shouting while several faces poking out of doors which quickly disappeared when he looked up and down. He pushed the door closed but couldn’t lock it, the smashed lock was now useless but it held shut with the shattered pieces wedging into the frame.

Bolan and McTavish began to search the room and found a number of interesting items that the three attackers seemed to be trying to escape with. A letter addressed to Roger Carlyle, a business card for an Edward Gavigan, a matchbox for the Stumbling Tiger Bar, a photo of a yacht with some chinese junks in the foreground, a business card for Emerson imports with a name scribbled on the back, a letter to Elias from a Miss Atwright from Harvard University and finally, a flyer advertising a lecture by a Professor Anthony Cowles.

Gerbil could hear heavy footsteps coming up the stairs, suddenly there was a heavy banging on the door shouts of ‘POLICE! OPEN UP!’  They all turned to escape out of the window, fearing to be caught in a crime scene. As the door was pounded again, Bolan, the last to leave, tripped and fell over the scattered items on the floor. As he rose the door burst open and two uniformed police officers came into the room, pistols drawn. “FREEZE BUDDY!” one of them yelled and Bolan raised his hands in surrender.

The two officers secured the room, removing the pistol from Bolan and carefully checking the bodies on the floor. The unconscious attacker was handcuffed, along with Bolan. They hadn’t seen anyone leaving and by the time they had carefully checked, the rest of the group had made good their escape and was heading back to the hotel.

After a wait that seemed to Bolan like forever, a a heavy-set man in a neat but poorly fitting suit arrives. The two officers greet him as Lt Poole and give him a run down of the events as they see it. One explains he saw Bolan making a run for the window when the came in and how they found the three corpses lying in the room, along with the one unconscious guy by the door.

“It looks a lot like the other murders from last year, Lieutenant.”  

Poole walked around the room, pausing to examine the mark on Elias’ forehead.

“Did you do all this?” Poole asked grimly.

“We had come to see Jackson Elias and found him dead with these men in the room.” Bolan blurted out.

Pooles head snapped round. “We? Is this guy a friend of yours?” He pointed at the dead white man with his slit throat.

Bolan stammered out that he hadn’t seen the man before. Poole eyed him carefully then told one of the policemen to go get the receptionist. When she came up, she confirmed she had seen Bolan and some other men arrive at the same time.

“OK pal, start talking. You say you came here by yourself but she says otherwise. You break into the room and single handedly kill two guys and knock out a third.” Poole eyed up Bolans size and looked back at the door.

“You got a lot of muscles for such a little guy. Plus you came packing heat but didn’t need to use it. I think you and I had better have a little chat down the station.”

Turning to the police officer left in the room he gave orders for nothing to be touched until the photographer turned up.

“OK limey, let’s go find a nice cosy room down at the station, where we can have a talk.” Poole led Bolan away and took him to the local police precinct.

After over an hour of questioning Poole finally released Bolan after saying he had nothing on Bolan but would be watching him.

“Something’s not right with your story, you’re not telling me everything but I’ve got nothing to hold you on besides being at the crime scene. You had no blood on you and I don’t believe you have it in you to take out three guys single handed. You’re up to something and I’m goin’ find out what. Get outa here ya mug.”

Bolan scurried for the door and as he left the precinct, he saw the 3rd attacker from room 410 being led out of the building by a couple of police officers and a plain clothed man but he wasn’t able to get a good look at them.

Heading into the cold night, Bolan made his way back to the hotel through the snow.

Jan 16th

The next morning, the group gathered for breakfast to plan what to do next. While reading through the morning paper, there was a brief article by Rebecca Shosenburg about the murder of Elias.

McTavish, taking note of one of the items they found in room 410, phoned Harvard University and manages to speak to Miss Atwright who had written to Elias. He pretended to be following up on Elias’ request for a book and Atwright checked the details. Elias had asked for a copy of Africa’s Dark Sects  but their copy mysteriously disappeared from the Widener Library several months before Elias requested it.

By “mysteriously,” she means that one day it simply vanished. “There was an unspeakable odor in the collection the day we noticed the Sects book was missing.”

Thanking Miss Atwright, McTavish asked if she could try and find down another copy, to which she said she would let them know. He then tried to track down information about Professor Anthony Cowles, another lead from a leaflet one of the men in 410 had tried to steal. Phoning the Schuyler Hall at New York University, McTavish was told that the Professor had given a talk recently but had gone back to the Miskatonic University where he was in residence.

Deciding to split up, Bolan, Constanza and Gerbil headed to the police station to try and find out what was being done with Elias’ body. McTavish and Singh went to the New York Library to do something…

Arriving at the Police station, Bolan asks duty officer at the desk about the body recovered last night. Phoning up for the detective in charge the officer asks them to wait and shortly after, Poole arrives and grunts in annoyance at seeing Bolan.

“You again. What do you want now?”

Bolan inquires about the body of Elias and what is happening to it. Poole, annoyed by Bolans questioning, tells them the body is being dealt with by Jacksons publisher, Jonah Kensington.

Over at the Library, McTavish and Singh spent a few hours digging through newspaper articles. They managed to find a few, all written by Shosenburg, relating to a series of murders around New York. In the descriptions, each of the victims had all mutilated with a symbol carved into their foreheads, similar to how they  had found Elias. A more recent article described how the police arrested Hilton Adams who is now on death row awaiting execution.

The two groups meet back at their hotel later in the afternoon to try and figure out their next move.

Pad’Thulhu

I’ve been a listener to the Call of Cthulhu based Podcast “The good friends of Jackson Elias” for a while now and, every year for their Patreon backers, they send out a Fanzine inspired book. This years cover was drawn by the genius that is Evan Dorkin and before my copy arrived, I thought I’d have a go at sculpting the little chap known as Pad’Thulhu.

Pad'Thulhu
Pad’Thulhu

I managed to get the majority of it done in two afternoons, which is probably the quickest I’ve ever made ones of these things. Sculpted in Super Sculpey firm with wooden spheres for eyes, dowel for toggles and some lolly pop sticks with plastic details for his suitcase.

I don’t have any major WIP photos simply because I was working so fast. I often pause to look at what I’m doing and take photos but I was moving too quickly.

The hardest part was actually the hat, I struggled a bit to get the edge the right thickness and shape but it came out ok in the end.

Baked Pad'Thulhu
Baked Pad’Thulhu

Once baked, he was coated in Macragge blue because for some reason I have loads of it… don’t know why *cough* hashtagmarchformacragge *cough*

Blue'Thulhu
Blue’Thulhu

Once painted in traditional Paddington colours using GW paints and inks, he was based on a nice block of stained wood and his suitcase and luggage tag was added.

Pad'Thulhu front
Pad'Thulhu tag
Pad'Thulhu back

By coincidence, or possibly summoned at the same time, my copy of the Tome arrived the weekend as I painted him.

Tome'Thulhu
Tome’Thulhu

Its at this point I often link to a google gallery of more images. I hate to disapoint and I’ve got most of them here already but heres a few extra if you want to see them.

If you don’t already, I’d suggest having a listen to the Good Friends podcasts, especially if you’re into horror books, films, games or anything Cthulhu related.

Casting Cthulhu

I’ve been asked a few times over the last couple of weeks how I actually mould and cast my statues. So rather than do a project update blog, I’m going to talk a little about how I cast my statues using (appropriately enough) a brass Cthulhu that I cast last weekend.

Before I actually start yammering, I’m going to do another quick link to my Facebook page Castings of Cthulhu and remind you that I’ll be posting updates and random stuff on there on a more regular basis. I’ll be using the blog for posting finished projects and bigger updates.

Ok, shameless self promotion done, lets move on…

When I first cast something many years ago in art college, I used plaster which was messy and not very good for details and then moved onto Vinamold at uni. Vinamold is a rubbery material you heat up and smells vaguely of chicken soup (as I remember) and is reusable so it has some good points if you like chicken soup. Skipping on 15+ years takes us to the point where I hadn’t cast anything in ages but wanted to start casting my Cthulhu. After a wander around the local craft shop I left with a big bottle of latex and a small bottle of latex thickener. This was for the very first Cthulhu mould and I spent a couple of weeks layering latex over the original.

The first few castings where pretty disastrous as I attempted to figure out what the hell I was doing, to the point of dumping £30 worth of bronze powder into the mould with a load of resin and it going horribly wrong. It was a bit of a downer but I’ve slowly managed to refine my technique over the last few years. Not to say everything comes out perfect, but every casting helps me figure out new things and I get it right more often than not now.

lots_o_moulds

From left to right we have the first mould in latex, the second mould also in latex, the third mould in Dragon Skin and the fourth (and current mould) in erm… Dragon skin as well. I think. Probably. Pretty sure it is anyway. There is one missing between two and three which was from a private commission for a Cthulhu in a green stone effect. I tried to use a material with stone in it which pretty much thrashed the mould but I think it was a cockup on my part more than the materials used. I think I miss calculated the ratio of resin to stone and it ended up a slightly crumbly Cthulhu. I just binned the mould in the end as the inside was shredded.

This is the insides of the Cthulhu latex mould.

rubber_mould cthulhu

Cthulhu Dragon skin mould.

dragon_skin cthulhu

and the other one which is probably Dragon Skin. I’m 99% sure its Dragon Skin… well… 95%.

coloured_mould cthulhu

The original latex moulds are still in pretty good shape. The first one has a couple of rips starting to appear as one downside with latex is how little it stretches. Don’t get me wrong, its rubber, it bends and flexes but when you’re trying to peel a skin tight rubber mould from a statue of a great old one, you want something that has a little give in it. A few times I came close to just cutting the moulds and being done with as my fingers would be hurting and I’d be sweating trying to get it off the damn casting. So I did some reading and ended up getting some of Dragon Skin FX-Pro from Bentley. This stuff is wonderful and I now swear by it for my one piece jacket moulds (I’m mainly using Oomoo for my two part moulds and thats also by Smooth-On).

The whitish clear mould was made in a weekend and I made the mistake of not using any pigment in the material which meant it was hard to see where I had applied it, hence why the fourth mould is coloured. Its much easier to see where its been layered on. Dragon skin is applied in layers, like latex, but where latex takes a day or so to dry (the ammonia evaporating) this stuff can be layered up in 45-60 minutes before its fully set. Meaning most moulds can be made in a day and dragon skin stretches like you wouldn’t believe. You can pull it 200%+ of the original item so demoulding is much easier.

So once the mould is done, its time to fill it with something. I’ll just backtrack a small amount and add something about mother moulds. Smallish items can be cast as they are in the mould but bigger items need a mother mould around the main mould to hold its shape. Mother moulds are rigid outer shells that support that floppy inner mould as when you fill the mould, it will sag and bend unless it has something to hold it in place. I’m currently using Plastipaste for most of my mother moulds (it’s by Smooth-On, spotting a pattern yet?) and comes out looking a bit like expanding spray foam only rock hard.

OK, so we have our mould and its snuggled up inside the mother mould, its time to fill it with something. Well, not just yet. Spraying the inside of the mould with some form of release spray is useful at this point.

cups_and_release

I’m not going to point out what make my current spray release is, suffice to say that I get it from Bentley Materials where I get my moulding materials from.

A light spray inside the mould and inside the moulding cups. Yup, it helps to recycle the measuring cups when the resin has set as you can pop the waste resin out and save it for later. While its not vital to have a release spray for moulds, it does help to save on wear and tear.

OK, now we can fill it with something. This is Easy Flow clear…

easy_flo_clear

…and this is brass powder in the Easy Flow Clear.

brass_in_resin

Depending on the casting, I put a specific amount of part A in one cup and the same amount of part B in another cup and then mix the same volume of metal into each cup, mix them up in the cup and then mix the two cups together. Odins, Freyjas and Thors all use the same volumes while Cthulhu takes a much larger amount. Easy Flow sets fast so after mixing together its time to pour it into the mould and roll that thing around to make sure every part of it is coated. I have experimented with just dusting the insides of moulds with metal powder and then pouring the resin in but I’ve never had satisfactory results to be honest.

So now we have a thin layer of Easy Flow and metal powder glooping around coating the insides and after about five minutes the Easy Flow is set enough to leave to fully cure.

brass_in_mould

We now have to fill the void. Remember that mould release we sprayed into the cups? Once the Easy Flow has set we can pull the bit thats set at the bottom out and drop it into the gap along with any other materials we have to hand to help back fill the hole.

This is Polycraft 7450 that I get from mbfg.co.uk and is a nice cheap back fill resin that I mix with black dye and either Aluminium Trihydrate or Fillite to help bulk out the resin. When I first started to cast these I was using Marine grade fibreglass resin as I could get it cheaply, but the stench meant I had to do them outside and also they got really really hot when curing. The volume of resin poured into the hollow Cthulhu meant there was often jets of steam coming off them and the rubber got really dark from heating up. Even filling in stages didn’t help a lot so I quickly shifted onto stuff with no smell (everything I use these days is pretty much odourless) and doesn’t get too warm.

back_fill

Backfilling helps to keep the production cost down as well as the weight for shipping. If I was to fill with either solid resin or anything else then the shipping costs would go through the roof. Anything over 2kg is a shocking price to send signed for overseas from the UK, so in the interest of actually being able to stock Cthulhu at a price that people would be willing to pay for shipping, I try to keep the weight down.

side_by_side

Demoulded the castings look quite dull, so it’s time to hit them up with some metal polish and fine grade wire wool. The outer layer of the casting has a layer of resin which needs to be removed. I use firegrate polish on my casting to help age them and brush them all over with the stuff before buffing with wire wool then buffing with a cloth and the difference is noticeable. Firegrate polish has a high percentage of graphite in which helps to darken down the casting and also sinks into the deeper recesses of the casting giving it an appearance of aged metal. You can mix raw graphite powder into the metal powder at the casting stage but it has to be worked out carefully or else you end up with a very dark finish.

Once the polishing is done I base the Cthulhu with felt to save them from scuffing whatever surface they end up on. One early customer ordered one for his garden so I skipped the felt on that one.

basing_cthulhu

So thats pretty much it. It’s a very broad overview with warts and all and isn’t intended to be an in-depth guide, but if anyone has questions then please ask away in the comments below or on Facebook and I’ll do my best to answer them.