Thursday, June 12, 2014

Masks of Nyarlathotep 1: Party Crashing and Harlem Fires

To the Library!

Boy, where to begin... Well, we had our first session that was officially set in the masks of Nyarlathotep campaign, and it was a beast. I don't know how anyone (character or PC) might have fared if we hadn't come up with the fantastic idea to have the whole session over a dinner consisting entirely of brunch foods. After everyone had a plate full of quiche and a glass of orange juice, we settled in for our nearly five hour session. And I'm going to re-cap this as loosely as possible, because a lot happened. I might not get all the details right, but the only way you'll know that is by listening to the entire session starting with part 1 right here.

So, to start things off, Dr. Epsteen was unable to attend to the unfortunate events that occurred throughout New York. All the other regulars were there (introduced in the first campaign we ran) as well as a fellow by the name of Jefferson S. Ship. A con-man and colleague of Jackson Elias. Jackson had sent a telegram to Harriet Oslow, informing her that he needed a crew of investigators to aid his search for truth in regards to the, assumed murdered, Carlisle expedition. This motley group, you'll remember, was headed by a rich, albeit naive New York socialite, who had ideas of grandeur and went to Egypt to seek only he knows what. The story goes that after spending some time in Egypt, Carlisle and his gang headed for a nice little vacation in Africa. Once they arrived, they spent a little time relaxing, taking in the scenery and getting horribly murdered by a death cult.

So, naturally the investigators interest was piqued when Elias claimed to have information about a long closed case. Dick Shmee, Jefferson Ship, Wilhelm Schonewetter, Colette Blue, Elly Mists and Harriet Oslow got together for a little planning Pow-wow in New York. In the midst of the mindless prattle, Harriett received a frantic call from Jackson Elias. The short and the long of it was that Elias wanted the crew to meet him at 8:00 pm in his hotel room. The gang obliged; only to be met by a locked door. Jefferson led the charge in attempting to pick the lock. This failed, options were weighed, even the idea of shooting the lock was considered. So, while Jackson's corpse was being mutilated on the other side of the door, Harriet Oslow attempted to convince the concierge to let them in the room. Yes, unbeknownst to the investigators, Jackson Elias was in the process of having his innards strewn about the room while his murderers ransacked his belongings. The concierge was being less than co-operative, particularly with Dick's unsavory demeanor. For this reason, Dick decided to solicit illegal alcohol to the kitchen staff. After which he was promptly kicked out into the cold by two police officers.

In the meantime, Elly led the way back up to Elias' room to knock a little louder. This meant that Elly and Colette combined their considerable girth to politely knock the door off of it's hinges. Upon entering the dark room the investigators see a man's head duck below the outside window as he descends the fire escape. Harriet, Elly and Collette wasted no time to pursue the strange man with a funny hat down the fire escape. They took absolutely no notice to the poor structural integrity of the emergency staircase. It rips away from the wall.The three investigators and the mysterious, dark skinned man fall to the ground. This all unfolds directly in front of Dick, who has been staring at a car idling in the alley. Dick threw a molotov cocktail to try to stop the car from escaping. This failed, so Collette attempted to chase it down. This also failed.

Jefferson and Wilhelm and  aka: those that had not exited the hotel, either by throwing themselves out of a fourth story window or being escorted by police officers, were treated to the far reaching horror of Elias' death. It reached from about the bed post to the dresser, which was about as far as his intestines were stretched. Those that saw this took a nice little hit to their sanity. They noticed that Jackson had a strange rune carved ever so delicately into his forehead. The police arrive and ask the usual questions. Sure some of the group had a gun, but as Elly so eloquently put it "I didn't shoot his intestines out." Among the leads gleaned from the crime scene were an address for an Emerson Imports in New York and a bar in Shanghai. After attempting to take a cab to the address in Shanghai, and not ever making it to their intended destination, the tired group called it a night.

Bright and early the next morning the gang split up. Half headed to the library to study death cults in an attempt to identify the mark left in Elias' head. The other half decided to head off to Prospero press, the publisher of their deceased friend. The library provided a little information, namely that the symbol stemmed from "The Cult of the Bloody Tongue" stemming from Africa. Meanwhile, the other half of the gang head to the publishing company to speak to Jonah Kensignton, Jackson's editor. They waltzed in and Dick promptly told him that his biggest asset and close friend had been gutted. Kensington was shocked, naturally but offered to give them any information that he could, which included more information on the Carlisle case, including hints that some of the party may still be alive and that those that were punished for the murder could be innocent. Kensington and also offered to pay the investigators should they agree to finish his work.

At some point the investigators headed over to Emerson Imports to follow up Elias' train of thought. Here they learned that Emerson Imports sends a good number of brica-brac to an establishment in Harlem called "The Ju-Ju House". The group of white investigators barged into a small curios shop in the heart of Harlem and began demanding questions of the small, old African man that ran the shop. The shopkeeper had a small key on a leather strap around his neck like a necklace. "What's they key go to?!" Colette immediately asked him, and continued to ask until he gave a satisfactory answer. "Nothing, it's a good luck charm". They left, but only after Dick Shmee bought a large amount of tribal masks and a shootout was narrowly avoided by an unusual stroke of common sense.

Other leads led them to investigate the Penhew Foundation. What they gleaned was that it was founded by one of the members of the Carlisle expedition, is based in London and is a massive curator of Egyptian historical artifacts. Those at the museum offered to write the investigators a letter of itroduction, should they ever find themselves in London.

Following a new line of investigation, Miss Oslow attempted to use her social standing to gain an interview with Roger Carlisle's sister, Erica. Erica now runs the estate. While Erica was unnavailable, the woman who answered the phone promised to have her call back as soon as she could. Harriet Oslow, however, was on the guest list of the party that the secretary was sending out invitations to that very moment. So Harriett and a plus one were invited to the Carlisle mansion. Naturally, everyone else was going to try to get in, one way or another.

So, while some members of the party decided which dresses to wear to the party at the Carlisle mansion (or how to break into it) Others spent their night breaking into The Ju-Ju House in the middle of the night.

Jefferson S. Shipp and Dick Shmee took it upon themselves to stealthily break into the tiny shop in an attempt to catch someone in the act of something! But they weren't entirely sure what.  To their surprise, they located a trap door behind the counter. Following it downwards, they reach a door with light shining through the cracks. What had started as a faint drumming sound was getting louder and louder as they approached the door. After some minor discussion about burning the place down and leaving, the decision to open the door won out. On the other side of the door is a frenzied mob of cultists, all dancing around in a frenzy to the beat of the drum. being the only ones with clothes on, Jefferson and Dick were certain to be noticed sooner rather than later. After an extremely brief attempt to fit in, the cultists notice the two strangers. Everyone screamed, including the two investigators and a chase ensued. The two investigators narrowly dodged (most of the) spears and knives being thrown at them. In the dead of winter, the two men are chased through Harlem by a mob of angry naked cultists. Shmee was able to convince the people watching from their windows to call the police by shouting "They're murdering virgins in there!". Due to the cold weather and the circumstances of being completely undressed, the mob dispersed and by the time the police arrived there was nothing to be seen.

Once things settled down, it was time to get ready for the shindig at the Carlisle estate. And while one thing was certain, everyone was going to go, regardless of if they had an invite or not. Jefferson attempted to whip up some phony invites, a truly brilliant plan. Unfortunately the results were less than desirable and they ended up looking like used napkins with illegible writing scribbled on the front. Harriet assured everyone that once they made it inside that they would be fine, but invites would certainly be checked at the door.

Harriett and Elly are let in with no complications simply because they had an invite. Dick was able to finagle his way in by impersonating a member of the press and offering the guard a role in an upcoming film. Jefferson and Colette meandered to the back door to attempt to sneak in through the kitchen. Colette considered attempting to flirt with the head butler when he questioned them, but her large size and low level of physical attractiveness couldn't even hope to be inconspicuous. They dropped that plan. Wilhelm stood back and observed the situation as it unrolled. The Dutchman walked up to the head butler informing him (in broken English) that there was a truck blocking his car. He impersonated being a chauffeur to one of the wealthy families. It was truly a brilliant plan to lure the butler away from his post, unfortunately he sent another of his staff to look into the situation. Colette sprang into action, pretending to be a horribly intoxicated guest of the party that had wandered outside and now demanded entrance to the kitchens. But the butler, ever the intelligent one, was not about to let these ruffians in. So, they walked up the fire escape.

Harriett caught up with Erica, but it was evident that they were on less than friendly terms. Their conversation was laced with underhanded insults and eye rolls. Dr Huston, another member of the doomed expedition was mentioned. He had accompanied Roger on the trip in order to continue his psychiatric care. Shmee then took a few photos and then asked to use the phone. He then proceeded to use it to establish more "business deals" directly in contrast to current prohibition laws. Dick then meandered his way up to the second floor where he found a library. To his right he noticed shapes lurking outside the window. Further inspection showed it was a con-man, a large woman and a Dutchman. He let them inside.

It didn't take long for the lot to find a hidden safe behind one of the library shelves. They found the combination and looted it. It contained a number of books and scrolls all relating to various dark cults. Quickly grabbing dust covers from other books, they disguised the contraband books as more reputable and well known ones. As security drew closer, panic struck and they each rushed out in their own time and fashion. In doing so they left one of the volumes from the safe behind.

After things cooled down a bit post party, (which took a few days after reading some sanity shattering volumes) Erica extended an invitation to Harriett to speak privately. It was a somewhat unexpected invitation, but a welcome one nonetheless. After tea and crumpets, Erica got down to brass tacks. She informed Harriett that she had been robbed the night of the party. It was clear that she just wanted to know if she had seen anything regarding the crime. Harriett gave a description to a police sketch artist. She then dug deep to find the courage to head up to the library and retrieve the last book that had been hidden in a different dust cover. She failed to find that courage, however, and retreated back to her hotel and the rest of the investigators. This was more than Dick Shmee could take.

Dick, by all counts should have been killed in his attempt to single-handedly infiltrate the Carlisle mansion alone and steal the last book. He was not. He bypassed all security, to enter the library, found the book he needed and dodged every bullet that they slung at him. The display would have made Robin Hood gape in astonishment.

Burglary not being enough for this lot, they decided to arm themselves to the teeth and extract the truth that rested in the basement of The Ju-Ju House. They chose high noon to walk into the store, lock the door and force the elderly shopkeeper to let them into the basement. Reluctantly, he led them down the staircase and into the room that once contained countless nude cultists. The room was large, it had a giant round stone that seemed to be covering a hole in the ground and was movable by a winch. The only other feature seemed to be an alcove with curtains obscuring what was held within it. As it turned out, it contained a crazy cultist priest and four zombies. The priest, who was using lion claws as weapons swiped furiously. Colette attempted to threaten the man with her single shot derringer. He was not in a reasoning mood.  As the zombies showed themselves, Jefferson literally could not handle it anymore and ran for the door screaming. Wilhelm and Colette were on the front line, firing away, but Wilhelm was getting bit left and right, and swiped at by the crazy lion-paw-wielding priest. Harriett ended up getting in a sword fight, Shmee and Elly shot from a safe distance, and Wilhelm gave it his all as he shot from the ground up at the attacking undead. Once the battle was done, everyone was still alive (technically) but Collete, with her insatiable curiosity, decided to open the pit and have a glance inside. There they found a monster that looked like a giant slug with dozens of faces. It was horrible and disgusting.

In the end, the crew survived the attack, but at a cost. Wilhelm nearly succumbed to his injuries, hanging on to life by only a shred. Jefferson, although temporarily regaining his sanity enough to join the fray, lost his mind entirely after the adrenaline died down. He will almost certainly have to spend a good amount of time in a sanitarium before he's back fighting zombies again.

Part 3