Monday 22 May 2023

Idea for Modular Kzinti Base

 TT Combat makes a really useful box set of bits that can be used to construct space station models:

It occurred to me this would be useful for my embryonic Star Fleet Battles collection. I want each power's stations to have a specific look to them and I have now finally completed my Kzinti stations:

This is my attempt at a Battle Station. The plastic can be a little difficult to glue properly, so after several attempts I settled for a sort of "Y" shape as opposed to equidistant. Multiple tries were starting to obscure the details, so I cut my losses. There are still a few gaps, but at tabletop distance you can't really tell.

Three extra pods. Add them to the Battle Station and it magically transforms into...

... a Starbase. From pod to pod across the length is eight inches. At the nominal scale of 1/3788 that makes it 840 yards or around 770 meters end to end for those of a metric disposition.

To get an idea of the relative size of the thing, here is a Strike Carrier with accompanying Escort Frigate. Starbases should be big, after all.

Eldritch Rabies

Yesterday evening saw the latest installment in our Call of Cthulhu campaign. The protagonists:

Scott: early-mid 20s, served in WW1

Isobel: early 20s, journalist with a "colourful" background

Morris: early 20s, waste of space dilettante

Violet: Morris' other body (it's a long story), 18 years old

The characters return to Morris' family mansion outside Grand Rapids for some much-needed downtime and to catch up with the family druid (another long story). There is some debate about what to do next: should they go and confront Mr Blobby, aka Eihort, and try to banish it using a ritual Morris found in his copy of Nameless Cults, or should they see if anything needs doing in Michigan? There has been a lot going on in Arkham, their other main base of operations, and they feel like a change of scenery.

It still feels odd conversing with a house that talks back, but the disembodied voice of their druid fills them in on local happenings, confirming that indeed something odd has been happening. He has detected an especially malevolent presence out in the wilds, a few days' drive away to the north west, something that feels shamanistic, but twisted and powerful. So they call in a favor from the Gorgon Sisters and acquire a WW1 surplus truck for all their camping equipment, weapons etc. Suitably tooled up, they head off with Violet driving because he/she has the best skill; Morris' body is left sleeping in the care of the druid. Basically, if it looks as though physical adventure is on the cards, Morris switches to Violet because she is much more co-ordinated than him. Time for me to use "The Hills Rise Wild" from my venerable original of Arkham Unveiled, re-purposed for Michigan. The druid has noticed the strangely invisible acorn insignia imprinted other left palms, saying "That's Nodens' work, that is" and then filling them in about that particular ancient deity/being/whatever.

The further they go, the wilder the country becomes, the worse the roads, and the more sullen and unfriendly the people. Violet makes every single Drive check, so there are no untoward accidents. On the third day of driving things are becoming really slow, which gives them time to look around at the scenery. They spot a group of locals waving pitchforks and shouting a lot, then stabbing something on the ground. One of the lads sees the truck, waves, drops his pitchfork and wanders over. He asks if they want to see an abomination, so off they troop. The thing they have just killed is a newborn two-headed baby calf; the excited locals babble about "Weird things happening, strangers" like there being suddenly too many fish in the rivers then not enough, or a massive gathering of crows and so on. Scott says this sounds interesting; do they know of anyone who might be able to tell them some more? It turns out that, yes, there's the Stone family. They live right out in the wilds and mostly keep themselves to themselves, which is good because nobody likes 'em.

Violet drives very carefully along the rutted path that passes for a road around here and eventually spots a slightly beaten grass trail leading off in a northerly direction; this must be where the local outcasts live. Violet coaxes the truck into the wilds and then suddenly they find themselves in a lovely little valley, with a homely log cabin tracing smoke lazily into the sky. The door is flung wide open and out strides Levi Stone, a bear of a man with an overbearing personality: incredibly expansive and relentlessly cheerful. He hollers "Howdy, strangers!". 

Violet is heard to mutter "Eldritch rabies". The other two look at her: what!? "Eldritch rabies," she repeats. "He's either a foaming mad cultist or is going to be Victim Number One." Someone's been playing too many role-playing games! By the way, this is their default setting: extreme paranoia punctuated with lots of humour.

Levi tells them to stow their stuff and park their truck; he looks a bit surprised to see a young woman driving a truck, but doesn't say anything. He motions them towards the small hay barn. "It's going to be dark soon, so you might as well get comfy; you can bed down in there. I'll tell Hannah and 'Zekle that we have visitors. Dinner in half an hour!" And off he trundles. Violet's opinion is unchanged.

Dinner is enormous with Levi dominating the room. Hannah is very meek and mild and says little; their 12-year old son 'Zekle says even less, sullenly whittling away at some piece of wood. Isobel decides that they are probably normal enough: one overbearing parent plus one very quiet parent = withdrawn son. Besides, they probably don't get to see strangers very often out here. Conversation turns to what the three city folks (although Scott is actually from a farming family) are doing here. They discuss the tales being told by the locals and Levi agrees; "There's definitely something odd out there," he says. "But if you're determined to take a look regardless, I can guide you. Nobody knows these woods and hills quite like I do;" he helps himself to another side of hog. They agree to meet up for breakfast - "Well, first breakfast anyway," says the irrepressible Levi - and then go and tramp across some hills.

After breakfast, Levi casts an appraising eye over their equipment; he obviously realizes it's worth quite a lot, especially considering the truck. He then leads off at a merry pace (for him) and soon has Isobel in particular falling behind. By early afternoon she's beat (low CON with a poor roll) and Levi agrees to take her back to the homestead and then return for the other two; they'll meet at a good camping spot where they had lunch. In the meantime, Scott and Violet can scope the terrain a bit more.

As the other two leave, Scott and Violet consider their options. Their weird acorns are giving off even weirder vibes, acting almost like a directional beacon; their hands want to keep pointing in a north-westerly direction. Their own sense of direction makes them feel that Levi has been keeping them away from that area. It's difficult to tell if it's deliberate or unconscious, but they definitely feel something is out there. 

A few hours later they make their way back to the agreed rendezvous. Levi comes running not long after; "Is she here?"

"Isobel?" asks Scott.

"Yes. She went to lie down in the barn and when I went to tell her dinner was ready she had gone. I figured she was feeling better and came out here to find you two."

Scott and Violet exchange glances. "Eldritch rabies".

After some discussion Levi heads off home while the other two camp here, the plan being for Levi to come and meet them again in the morning. As night falls, they let off a flare, the agreed sign if they should become separate, but there is no answering light. They settle down.

Explanation: Isobel went back with Levi and had lunch at the homestead, falling unconscious from some "herbal tea" specially prepared for her. Levi then ran off to lie to the others before returning home and carrying the supine Isobel off towards his favorite place, a dodgy bit of swampland in a bowl-shaped depression, which is exactly the location the characters' directional acorns have been pointing towards.

Isobel wakes up with her hands bound behind her back and her feet tied together, with Levi merrily setting up camp at the edge of his swamp. He hasn't noticed that she is now awake, so she plays possum. This is just as well because he comes over and checks her. Deciding to keep her under, he dribbles some more of the special tea into her mouth and heads off to sleep. Behind his back, Isobel is able to spit the stuff out and then has a good look around; Levi is snoring already. 

Isobel notes the strangely regular shape of the depression and also sees quite a few jaggedly sharp stones lying around the place - "Meteorite impact" she thinks. She wriggles over and grabs an especially large, sharp stone and starts worrying at her bonds. She does enough damage to them that she will be able to  free herself quickly, but decides against making a break for it. Levi has made sure she has no boots and she doesn't fancy her chances out in the wilds on her own, with the obviously dangerous cultist/serial killer/whatever over there. Her inclination is to act, but she decides to bide her time and has a rather uncomfortable night.

Cut back to Violet and Scott. They wake up in the morning and, surprise surprise, there is no sign of Levi. They have some trail rations and then head determinedly towards the area Levi was avoiding, guided surely by their palm prints. Toting rifles, of course.

Cut to Isobel and Levi. He wakes up cheerily enough and chatters away to Isobel. He says he won't bother drugging her again because after all she and her friends don't have much longer to live anyways. He keeps up the cheerful banter as he carries her across a safe swamp route he has obviously long since memorized, happily pointing out the various traps he has laid to keep interlopers away. Isobel sighs to herself; this guy just won't shut up. Must be the cheeriest cultist she has ever met. He dumps her on the ground on a central island and then waits happily for the others to arrive.

Which they do. Scott and Violet manage to avoid the traps, which delights the watching Levi no end. He has arrayed his own weapons on the ground - two hefty cudgels and a couple of well-used and exceptionally sharp wood axes. Now that it is daylight everyone can see the results of Levi's work:

Foolish investigators find Levi's garden at night. Probably previous victims...

Insults are exchanged, although Levi is too polite to say anything truly nasty. He just asks the other two to "Come quietly, now. I have your friend. Just throw your weapons into the swamp and then I'll take you to my god back there in the trees. Don't worry, I'll make sure your deaths are quick and painless. Of course, if you don't do as I say I might have to hurt your friend here a little." He obviously thinks he has the upper hand; he doesn't even bother to look at Isobel.

Big mistake. She's mentally tougher than she looks, a result of her rather interesting past among the bootleggers. She makes her move, quickly slicing through her last remaining bonds and then jumping Levi from behind. She slams into him with her jagged stone and with a bellow he throws her off. However, this is enough of a distraction for Violet and Scott to put two bullets into him, one in the right arm and another in the stomach. Levi goes down, out of it but somehow still alive. Isobel gets up and dusts herself off. At least he isn't talking any more!

Violet checks Levi but fails to do any proper First Aid; the guy is just going to have to bleed to death, then they can dump him in his own swamp. There is a wave of pure hatred being directed at them from the centre of the grove and their acorns are going crazy. They decide that Violet is probably going to be the person least able to see whatever is back there and keep her sanity, so they decide to blindfold her and lead here there, trusting in their Elder Signs to do a repeat of the trick they pulled in London. They are not going to let whatever it is fester and maybe ensnare more victims in the future.

It's just as well Violet doesn't see the thing. Half-buried in muck is an ancient totem; it looks possessed or something because it has an incredibly malevolent face that silently beams evil at them. This doesn't bother Isobel or Scott too much, so they present Elder Signs and get Violet to do the same. Instead, though, their left hands raise themselves and green light flashes at the thing in the bog. It slowly pulses green veins from the inside and then cracks and falls apart, disintegrating completely. Their palm acorns return to their normal invisible state.

Keeper's Notes
The acorns appeared on the palms of the characters after they encountered a druid back in Norman England as part of their recent Hastur cycle; I decided at the time this would come in handy, something to be used in an appropriate environment. I only have three players, so they need the occasional bit of help to deal with the Mythos. 

Levi was fun to play - the world's most cheerful homicidal maniac. I decided he was too confident and this is what led to his doom; he underestimated Isobel. Beth had a real crisis when Isobel was able to loosen her bonds. As an investigator, she is used to taking action, but decided against her natural inclinations to do a runner during the night and stayed instead. This worked out brilliantly in the final confrontation; Levi simply was not expecting an attack from that direction. He was so sure of himself that he didn't even check her bonds. 

The players have no way of knowing this, but basically the meteorite was carrying Something From Beyond The Stars that possessed the main totem of the local folks; fortunately, though, they managed to deal with it. At least, that's my interpretation; I changed the hook to suit the characters. The scenario as written does end in a major disaster with the thing going on a horrific rampage, but I wanted to give the characters a fighting chance. Removing Levi without any blood going onto his "god" stopped this from happening. And, finally, they were able to rescue Hannah and Ezekiel, who were completely dominated by the horrible patriarch. Talk about toxic masculinity.

Eldritch rabies!

Saturday 20 May 2023

Fly Me to the Moon

 With a Shapeways omniscale Battle Station in orbit:

The moon, planetoid or whatever is over 6 inches in diameter.

Monday 15 May 2023

The Vanishing Conjuror

 Now that our initial series of interlinked scenarios is over (at least for the moment!) I'll try to post a bit more often in shorter bites. The three characters' ship, the Mauretania, docks at Southampton and is boarded by a group of police from Scotland Yard. They are led by the rather stolid and ineffably boring Inspector Henry Long, who insists on questioning them personally in private. In a monotone, he thanks the Captain for his time.

 Once inside, the Inspector throws off his external demeanor and turns out to be incredibly quick-witted and incisive. He says the Gorgon Sisters gave him advance warning to look out for the investigators, but he had no idea of the things they would end up doing on board the liner. A conversation ensues about Bolsheviks and cultists before he thanks them for doing their jobs and saving the three academics from Miskatonic University. He also says he will be their main contact in London from now on, giving them his card with direct telephone number. He then resumes his persona as the efficiently dull inspector and leads them out onto the deck. He tells them in trademark monotone to stay in London for a couple of weeks in case he has any further questions, but they are free to go. 

Once they have settled into their rather lovely hotel (courtesy of the Gorgons via the Inspector) they receive a handwritten note from the concierge. It's from Howard Horne, one of their favourite drinking companions from the trip. He is a theatrical agent and entrepreneur and his note is asking them to go to a performance that evening at the Mermaid Theatre; he will join them at the interval.

So off they troupe and boy is it dull: a series of mediocre conjuring acts topped off by the rather middling "Amazing Karl". Afterwards, Horne treats them to a visit to one of his well-known Soho haunts, a bar where another American is waiting for them. Horne introduces him as one of his acts, an up and coming stage magician named Will Crowther. He is from Boston and has been living in London for the last two years.

Horne asks the characters what they thought of the evening's entertainment and the consensus is not a good one. This pleases him because the one he really wanted them to see was Karl. One of his promising acts, Philip Leclair, mentioned to Horne that he was working with Karl on a new apparatus designed to revolutionize the vanishing act. However, on returning to London Horne has found that it is Leclair who has vanished and the police have found nothing. The thing is, there's quite a major charity gig at the same theatre in two nights' time and Karl is due to perform; Horne wants to know if he has stolen Leclair's ideas as well as finding out if the man is still alive.

This is where Crowther comes into the picture. Along with Karl and Leclair, he is a member of a gentleman magicians' club, rather a fine one run by a Chinese conjuror going by the name of Ching Lung Soo. The club is situated in the lower floors of a large townhouse owned by Ching Lung; the upper floor is his apartment. It's a big house for London, so Ching Lung must have made a lot of money abroad at one point. Crowther apologizes to Violet and Isobel and turns to Scott (Thomas' character), asking him if he has any sleight of hand tricks that he might be able to use to gain entry for himself to the club as a performer. Scott has a relatively high skill at throwing things, courtesy of his time in the ancient Roman army, so he shows Crowther a possible way to sleight his way through a performance of the throwing knives trick. His new found friend tells him to be at the clubhouse at 11.00 the next morning for an audition. If he fails, the group will just have to rely on Crowther to do some snooping on their behalf.

Scott gets in with no problem and is in fact complimented on his technique by one of the members of the admissions committee. He spends an amiable afternoon wandering around the place, although as a new first level member he is not entitled to go upstairs. He notes that all of the flunkies are Chinese members of Ching Lung's personal staff. They all wear a robe with a dragoon motif on the back, which is incidentally also inscribed on the plaque at the front door:

After a while, Crowther appears and falls into conversation almost naturally with the newcomer. Scott has found a storage room while wandering around the ground floor; it contains lockers for the use of members, one of which has Leclair's initials on it. He wasn't able to pick the padlock, though - could Crowther perhaps oblige? He does so surreptitiously and returns. The two of them converse for a while under the guise of Crowther showing Scott around the main library, then decide to go to the pub where they met the previous evening, which is going to be the rendezvous point while they are in London. Crowther passes Scott a notebook belonging to Leclair that includes more notes for his mechanism and mentions that he has been working on it with Karl. which makes the young German a possible accessory if indeed a crime has taken place.

In the meantime, Isobel and Violet have decided to pay a return visit to the theatre to see if they can find anything interesting or indeed incriminating in relation to Leclair's disappearance and/or the upcoming charity event. Isobel fails to pick the locks on the exits to a side alley, so Violet forces one of them. Unfortunately, this makes a lot of noise, so Isobel runs into the lobby of the theatre to warn the bored woman she meets there that she heard something at the side entrance. Violet slips inside while Isobel keeps their day manager talking and makes her way to the back of the stage and down into the large basement area under the stage. She finds an impressive dressing room with the name of one Ching Lung upon it, along with several smaller rooms, including one for Karl Weiss. 

Ching Lung's room is surprisingly empty, but Karl's contains three large packing crates. They are not locked or anything like that, so she lifts the lids to see what is inside: three stone components that will fit together to make an impressive archway (a gate), with a Chinese dragon sigil carved into the lintel. The room goes decidedly cold all of a sudden and this is what she sees:

Poor old Leclair is suspended in midair, surrounded by blue flames and in agony. He catches sight of her and manages to squeeze out a warning, something about releasing him by opening the gate and also needing to stop the Chinese man. He then fades from sight. This costs Violet a point of sanity.

She replaces everything and makes her way back upstairs. She definitely feels spooked by what she has just seen and makes quite a bit of noise on the way. Fortunately, though, Isobel covers for her with the manager until Violet has safely left the building. The two meet up again and head off to their rendezvous pub.

Everyone fills in everyone else on their various escapades that day. They have dinner in the pub and then head off to their hotel. Violet has no knowledge of gates from her Mythos knowledge, but starts to look through the various books she was given on the Mauretania. This is going to take a while, so she sets the morning aside to do more research while the other two head off to Leclair's lodgings (address obligingly supplied by Horne), but this turns out to be a bit of a dead end. Returning to the hotel, they find that Violet has enough information to realize that the archway she found is a very particular form of gate, one that is keyed to a specific place or creature and that requires a ritual to open correctly. This is completely unlike the gate they found under an abandoned house in America. Violet thinks that Leclair must have been shoved through the gateway without the ritual and so is stuck between worlds. This tallies with Scott's ideas about the magic circle he has just joined - it really does look like a front for a cult. Maybe Leclair found out something a bit too sensitive?

The implications are worrying - if the Chinese magician is really the leader of a cult, and if his summoning arch is at the theatre, then presumably his act is only going to become rather too real. They call Inspector Long and he agrees to infiltrate the theatre with armed police on the grounds of subversive activities. The plan is for his people to wait long enough for Leclair to materialize and then take out the magus; subordinates will apprehend the rest of the cultists and shepherd out the crowd. This is a rather well-known charity occasion, so there will be some of the aristocracy present, even perhaps minor royalty. The presence of armed police there will not be too unusual, even for Britain. It will be the job of the investigators to use their Elder Signs to stop whatever is coming through that gate.

In the event, it actually works. The Inspector and his two armed compatriots wait until the gate pulses ominously and then put three bullets neatly straight into Ching Lung's torso. He goes down and out. Panic breaks out but the players, whose seats are nearest the stage, manage to rush up the stairs and force back whatever that thing is. Leclair's smoldering yet strangely unburned body is lying in the middle of the floor, twitching, so at least he's alive. Something very large but, fortunately, as yet unseen, is trying to slurp its way through the gateway, tittering obscenely. However, all three characters make it in time to present a united front and whatever it was returns whence it came.

This is the second time in quick succession that the group has foiled a ritual summoning. They still don't know exactly what either thing was, and probably don't want to know. In her books, Violet manages to find an illustration of a blobby thing with lots of tentacles and mouths, about twice the size of a human, that can apparently only be seen once it starts to feed on the blood of its victims...

Monday 8 May 2023

A campaign rationale

 An ongoing campaign of Call of Cthulhu can be rather an episodic affair, which makes it really good for running over the net. Published campaign supplements can of course be inserted as you like, but keeping player involvement and interest fresh (and I do mean the players, not the characters) requires something more than simply "This is what you're doing this week".

I remember a conversation with the dad of a prospective student at a university where I worked previously. His daughter had mentioned her love of tabletop roleplaying and we had a short conversation about our various games. We were joined part way through by her dad and it turned out he was a very experienced Cthulhu GM. He said something that stuck with me: "I've put a lot of effort into turning Cthulhu into a worldwide sandbox, where the players decide where to go." I was impressed - it sounded like a lot of work, and a whole load of fun. 

Ours is now becoming something like this, pretty much due to player choice. Following our fun time with "Dead Man's Stomp", I ran another one-shot, "A Mother's Love" from New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley, which they enjoyed immensely. It ended with Isobel (Beth's character) shooting the main bad guy in the arm; he spun around and fell into the water in Innsmouth, which he found most welcoming (I'm avoiding spoilers as much as I can!). Suffice to say, no body was ever found...

I then ran "The Pale God" from my old copy of The Great Old Ones. The hook was a certain Captain Harvey Walters (ret.), Scott's old commanding officer from the war. This started what has become something of a habit for me now: slipping character links into different scenarios in order to give the move from one to another a bit more coherence. Scott (Thomas' character) lost contact with the Captain after being reassigned to some R&R behind the lines along with the rest of what remained of his regiment. It turns out that Harvey and a group of soldiers had encountered something horrible in the basement of a bombed-out house and the few survivors formed a group against the Mythos that they call the "Wipers' Pals", which is based on some ideas from the 7th Edition Investigator Handbook. After seeing the rather spectacular death of one Harvey's men, the characters found out what was going on, but needed more research time to decide how to deal with it. 

Morris, Cate's character, contacted their rather ghoulish bookstore "friends" in Arkham to ask if they knew of a tome that might help. They were pointed in the direction of a certain Mr Corbitt, who had purchased an English translation of Nameless Cults. Normally the bookstore wouldn't give out the names of its rather peculiar "select" clientele, but this was one guy they really disliked. They had some acquaintances keep an eye out for Mr Corbitt in Boston, and these said the guy really stinks - as in, he's a sorcerer. 

In terms of the scenario, Corbitt has barricaded himself in his house and has hasn't been seen for days. Time to run "The Haunting". They managed to end the thing they encountered, snagging a rather nice dagger enchanted with an elder sign for their trouble, as well as the copy of Nameless Cults they were looking for in the first place. I deliberately enhanced the dagger; I reckoned an elder sign would be a very useful thing for them to have.

This led to some downtime for Morris to read the thing, so I had Dr Armitage introduce them to an old friend, Dr Henry Call, who has joined a gentleman's club with a sophisticated air of the occult: the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight in Boston. Dr Call met with the characters and said there was something odd about the place, especially the man leading the group, a certain John Scott, who "Looks as though he had a bad case of acne when he was a teenager". Being the only man in the group with high enough social status, Morris joined the Order, sponsored by Dr Call, with the idea of infiltrating it over the longer term. He'll need to use its library to improve his Occult skill in order to move up the ranks.

Morris was then disturbed by a separate development, a series of newspaper reports on the current New Orleans Mardi Gras season, with a feature on the rich sponsors of one particular "Krewe" - their chosen badge is the Yellow Sign, a symbol that flashed before his eyes when he previously encountered a dream version of Louis Armstrong with black, smoking eyes - the "person" laughed malevolently before disappearing. This happened in relation to the nasty trumpet from "Dead Man's Stomp", which Armitage has identified as associated with a certain entity called Nyarlathotep. Even he shuddered when he told this to Morris.

Off to New Orleans, then, for "Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign?", another offering from The Great Old Ones. Again, I'll try to avoid spoilers, but in the course of their investigations they found a bookshop with an Elder Sign carved into a tree trunk outside its door. Morris spotted a copy of the dreaded King in Yellow with an especially malevolent Yellow Sign on its cover and went into a trance. Isobel waved her enchanted dagger over the sign, and all three of them ended up in a small town on the Bay of Naples in Roman times. They foiled the plan of a bunch of Hastur cultists here and were then whisked off to Norman England, where they saved an entire region from being sucked into Carcosa. After this, they woke up again back in the bookstore in New Orleans a second after they had blinked out; nobody else in the place had even noticed that something had happened. The two scenarios were from Tatters of the King

I had made the main protagonist of each time swap, or whatever it was, an absolute dead ringer for one of the sponsors of the Krewe being investigated, and strangely enough the characters had played themselves in the past - previous lives, or something. Except they remembered everything, including the skills they had at that time: they are all now very good at Latin, for example, and have also acquired some rather useful melee skills, especially Scott. He is very good with a pilum. They realized that Hastur's cultists were planning Attempt To Do Something Nasty number three, which they foiled. Their timeslip experience remains unexplained and slightly weird, which suits my idea of how Hastur does things.

This is where the players invented something I didn't foresee.  They assumed there must be some sort of link between their experiences, and sort of triangulated the locations on a map based on the whorls of the Yellow Sign. They pinpointed a location: the Azores, specifically Flores Island. Fully expecting to find something really nasty festering there, they reported back to Henry Armitage by telephone, asking him to find out more about Hastur and the Yellow Sign for them. He promised to do so, and also swung some first-class tickets for them on the Mauretania, due to leave New York City in a week's time for London, with a two-day layover in the Azores.

Dr Henry asked them to pick up a donation to the Orne Library from a family not far from New Orleans: scenario number three for them from The Great Old Ones, "Still Waters". It took them a while to investigate this one because they were being really careful, having realized very early that whatever the big nasty might be, it was seriously powerful. So they did not actually meet their enemy. They did, though, pick up the donation for the library as well as quite a lot of Mythos-related items. Morris had a weird vision of Great Cthulhu striding across the world in triumph, with a sort of Aztec-looking shining disc behind his head in place of the sun, a carved representation of a stylized phoenix surrounded by glyphs and sigils. And yes, this will matter later. They also come across a puzzling letter referring to the Silver Twilight as a powerful organization with great occult resources of their own.

Interrupt. The characters are interviewed by three brilliantly intelligent, no-nonsense women working for a shadowy part of the FBI called the "Unusual Incidents Unit" (Beth's idea!). Their codenames are Stheno, Medusa and Euryale, the names of the Gorgons (my idea; after all, why not?). Their group has only recently been formed, and they work by trying to play off elements of the Mythos against one another. For example, they know that Hastur's and Cthulhu's cultists don't exactly see tentacle-to-tentacle. The three agents are obviously very knowledgeable about the Mythos, and offer to cover up the aftermath of events in "Still Waters" for them. They tell the characters that their contacts will be Dr Armitage (surprise, surprise); their field agent will be their old friend Matt Peabody, an investigator who helped them in Innsmouth, taking out a gang member with a tommy gun by the simple expedient of shooting him in the head. Matt is now going out with Lucy Stone, another acquaintance from Arkham ("Red Letters"). The Gorgons give Scott and Isabel an Elder Sign each of their own. End of interrupt.

The characters finally made it back to Arkham and Dr Henry gave them their tickets for the Mauretania. He asked them to watch over a group of three academics from Miskatonic University: a professor and two of his graduate students who are on the run, funnily enough from the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight. It seems they stirred up a lot of trouble there and are now on the first part of a trip to Jerusalem to escape the organisation's clutches and to do some research into them in a special archive. 

This led to the scenario on the liner from The Asylum, with Morris as Violet this time so that she wouldn't be recognized - Morris might be a problem due to being a member of the Silver Twilight. This initially seemed mostly like a break from the Mythos, although the group met another occultist, a retired history professor from Harvard. He showed them an item he had found, leading to Isobel and Scott experiencing exactly the same vision of Cthulhu previously seen by Morris: the same vision for all three of them on two separate occasions. The professor was shocked into forswearing the occult ever again and gave Violet his paraphernalia and books.

The next event was their foiling an assassination attempt, which provided a distraction for the obligatory group of cultists to kidnap the academics from MU. The characters managed to intervene by the simple expedient of interrupting some sort of ritual summoning. The cult tried to swarm whatever thing was starting to come through the void, so the characters dragged the three academics out of the room and held the door shut from the outside. Various horrible screaming noises were heard from inside the room they had just vacated, but strangely enough whatever it was that was causing the grief made no sounds of its own. Opening the door after a sensible wait revealed the mangled bodies of the cultists, apart from their leader, who was nowhere to be seen; all that was left of him was a foul stench and the ritual dagger he was using in the summoning, which actually belonged to the professor on the scene - presumably he was going to be sacrificed first. This was the item they had taken from the Silver Twilight. The crime scene was very odd: all of the cultists had been killed by something very strong with unfeasibly sharp claws, but every single wound was inflicted from behind - on all six of them at pretty much the same time. The only casualty for the good guys turned out to be one of the graduate students who rolled 99 on SAN of 40, so he will be spending a bit of time in a nice quiet room in London with lots of rubber wallpaper. Good thing nobody actually saw that thing! The professor confided afterwards that the enigmatic John Scott talks like someone from 150 years ago or something; his English is definitely not in the contemporary idiom.

Flores Island provided more Hastur-related weirdness, which appropriately enough remains entirely unexplained. The characters experienced some extreme paranoia in and around a single tower in the middle of a clearing - exactly the one that Morris/Violet remembered seeing in their visions of Norman England. Passing through a feeling of great malevolence, they found a room at the top after encountering the squished remains of a Roman legionary and a medieval knight, reminders of their time in past. In the room was a pedestal holding a rather large, unadorned wooden box; Violet could see silver filigree filaments running down the pedestal from the box and disappearing into the floor. She was the only one who could perceive them, probably as a result of her earlier visions of this same tower. After a lot of deliberation, Violet opened the lid of the box and found a beautifully disturbing golden filigree ornament. A concave covering over two feet in diameter and around four inches deep. It has obviously been designed to go on top of something else and consisted of three interrelated sets of glyphs: a large, powerful Elder Sign intertwined with an equally impressive Yellow Sign, superimposed on a representation of the sun disk the characters remembered from their vision of Cthulhu triumphant. The whole thing was made of delicately unbreakable gold filigree. Violet shut the lid, grabbed the box and ran.

The characters fled the disintegrating tower, with Violet lagging behind (a spectacularly failed DEX roll). The other two trend around to see her emerge unscathed as the tower fell on top of her, disappearing block by block into nothingness as it did so. There was no sign the place had ever existed.

Any resemblance to a Fritz Leiber short story is purely intentional!

A useful map of Miskatonic Repository scenario locations