Monday, July 18, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.6

In medias res

The last game ended with the investigators rushing to Smythe's automobile and speeding across London having discovered a threat to the Prime Minister.

This game began as they appeared a few buildings from the Mermaid Theater on Drury Lane. 

***

Saturday, June 26, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

The rain began to fall heavily across the city of London as Reginald Smythe drove.  Despite his imbibing, they arrived safely, and he parked his car two buildings from the Mermaid Theater.  As the group approached, they observed several police at the front doors to theater.  After several attempts at bluffing plans - I began using small sand counters (one, two, three, five minutes) with the idea that when the sand ran out something was going to happen.  Here, I planned a walking police patrol questioning them if they did not decide in five minutes.  Interestingly enough, it rarely takes that much time.  - they sent Tali down the alley beside the theater to look for a rear entrance.

When he found stairs down to a subfloor door, he returned to collect the rest of the group.  Though the others weren't as good as Tali in sneaking, the dark and the rain masked their movements.  At the basement door, Tali with some difficulty managed to unlock the door.  He barely failed, so I let him succeed with consequence.  The opposition would have an easier time detecting them by the amount he failed the roll.  As quietly as they could, they entered the building.  Upstairs they heard the sound of clapping.

The hallway they entered in the basement held a series of doors and stairs up on either end.  They decided not to investigate the bottom floor, but to go upstairs.  There they saw Prester Tien and two assistants waiting in behind the curtain.  Several other magicians finished packing their equipment and slid to the opposite wing to watch Chung Ling Soo's final performance.  Harris Benjamin recalled the magician's main act was to catch a bullet.

Here the cliffhanger worked against the group.  I feel if they had come off the information they had discovered at the end of the previous session or if they had taken better notes, then they might not have jumped to the conclusion they did.  

For some reason, they decided Prester Tien was going to shoot the Prime Minister, despite the evidence that Chung Ling Soo's people weren't involved and the mural which depicted a strange summoning.

Had my NPCs' Yellow Peril bias influenced them despite evidence that demonstrated otherwise?  I suspect they didn't do enough research, which is what we discussed after.

Doctor McKinley and Smythe confronted Tien about the act and gun.  McKinley failed his social rolls miserably and Smythe's player realized he needed to add the Diplomacy skill.

In the middle of their side talk and confusion, Tien slipped through the curtain and walked onto the stage.

The four investigators, unable to agree among themselves what to do, decided to watch the performance from the wings.  After Prester Tien shot a bullet at Chung Ling Soo, who caught it, the floor of the stage began to splinter and shatter.  They ran away as a tall black crystal broke through.  Standing twelve feet above the floor and jutting down into the basement, the black crystal then shot out filaments into the crowd pinning some of the audience through the skull.

Our brave investigators decided to run, rushing  back downstairs they found two men leaving a room directly under the stage.  Smythe and Tali decided to stop them with fisticuffs, clocking both of them backwards into the room.  Suddenly, another guard stepped into the basement hall and shot Smythe through the shoulder.  The shock sent him unconscious to the floor.

McKinley pulled his Webley and took cover while Benjamin pulled Smythe out of firing sight.  Tali rushed into the room under the stage only to scream as he saw the base of the crystal.  The two men who had been trying to escape were attacked by filaments.  Another man (William Gabriel though he remained unidentified as Harris Benjamin did not see him) stood before the crystal sweating, chanting, and holding a metal rod.

In the hall, McKinley fired and killed their assailant.  He and Benjamin rushed into the room to help Tali.  Realizing the crystal was present, Benjamin - failing his Will save - turned and ran from the theater.  McKinley retreated and, putting some pressure on Smythe's wound, called for Tali to help.

The other man, Gabriel, escaped while the pair was carting Smythe out of the building.  They managed to get Smythe away and find Benjamin.  Holed up in a building a bit away, McKinley stopped Smythe's bleeding, noting the man would need surgery soon.  Benjamin found a telephone and called Smythe's valet to come get them and the car.  (Adding an ally for Smythe.)

Smythe's valet, Nigel, drove them to the Smythe house in Paddington, where they decided to stay.  McKinley removed the bullet from Smythe's shoulder and sent the man to bed.

***

Tuesday, June 29, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

After a few days recovery, the group made their way to the Gasworks for debriefing.  There they were shown to a nicer room.

Captain David Watson informed them that in the aftermath of the attack on the Prime Minister, the black crystal had disappeared.

The Prime Minister was calling it a German attack on his life.

Though they failed to stop the attack, they did learn more about the Silver Spiral and ended their association with the Society of Conjurers - a bit of consolation prize.  The mood was low.

The Consultant had returned from Sussex to answer a few questions about the crystal.  He told them that it was part of an ancient technology that the Lamplighters were aware of whose origins were unknown.  He noted that black were known to be weapons, purple for transportation, green for life, blue for power/energy.  There were other colors.

The group were all sent home with some reading material on what they called the Horrors - odd creatures somehow related to the crystal artifacts.  They received 1 CP in Hidden Lore (Horrors) from this primer.

***

I wasn't the biggest fan of the Cliffhanger.  Since we play biweekly, I think the group needed to much reminding and lost track of what they learned.

This was my second session in a GURPs game where the characters mostly failed at their task.  The previous was at the end of Fragments of the Last War. Both saw the near death of a character as well.  Hopefully, the current group will rise above their disappointment and continue where the last campaign did not.  It's been a different experience to increase difficulty in a game and then let the events go as they may rather than fudge to move the story along.

Parts of this story arc (Hour 4 to 6) were inspired by the Chaosium module The Vanishing Conjurer. I changed a good portion of the story and made the actual villain William Gabriel.  I also played the Yellow Peril as the biases of the NPCs and changed the title Conjurer to the actual stage magician.  Chung Ling Soo.  

The story continues in Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.7.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.5

This campaign has been more mission oriented than I wanted it to be, but I end most sessions asking what they want to do as a group and as characters the next time. I typically try to have game downtime between sessions.

That said, this game ended as a cliffhanger.  The group liked it, though it's not something I plan to do to often.

The session begins the Monday after the investigators visited the Society of Conjurers.

***

Monday, June 21, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

Working late, Harris Benjamin finished the last touches of his story while the rest of the office left for the day.  As the last office was leaving, the man found a packaged for Benjamin left on the front stoop.  Alone with the packaged, Benjamin listened to the box to see if he heard any sounds, but did not.  He smelt the box and noticed it smelt sickly sweet.

After some thought, he decided to take the box across town to McKinley's flat, where he knew Tali had been staying.  Arriving that evening, he mentioned to McKinley and Tali he had a packaged delivered to him that he wanted their help with.  While Tali and McKinley examined the packaged, Benjamin excused himself saying he had to collect "something."  Benjamin's player noted he was running away in case it was a bomb.

Finally, Tali's curiosity got the better of him and he opened the box where he and McKinley found the severed head of Charles Horse complete with eyepatch.  It seems the magician had not abandoned them at the pub afterall. There was no note.

Benjamin returned soon after and took a photograph of the box and head.

They discussed the package being a warning to them from the Society of Conjurers and McKinley decided he would take the head to the hospital the next day and try to preserve it.

That night as McKinley and Tali prepared for bed, they heard a scuffling and saw a pair of rats watching them through a window.

***

Tuesday, June 22, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

Harris Benjamin continued to work through 1840s police records looking for any information on the Silver Spiral.

Dr. Thomas McKinley took Charles Horse's severed head with him to the Army hospital, found a jar, and submerged the head in formaldehyde.

*** 

Wednesday, June 23, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

After finishing checkups with some of his patients, Doctor McKinley was approached by a fellow doctor who invited him to elevenses. While having tea, McKinley's friend mentioned he had some information about any unusual activities at the Quartermaster's office.  He noted a contact of his said that a ship flying Dutch colors arrived recently from the Dutch East Indies and that boxes were unloaded from the ship and sent directly to one of their warehouses.  McKinley's friend noted this was not the first time this had occurred either.

When McKinley asked what made this so unusual as it could be coffee or tea, his friend told him that the warehouse in question was heavily guarded and unlike other shipments, no one knew what became of those boxes.

Tali returned to his small flat to find Lillian staying there.  She was furious he had been away and the couple had heated words.  Ultimately, she was glad to see him, and he agreed to take her dancing and come back to "their" flat.

Reginald Smythe had spent the days since Saturday's ordeal in a state of dissolution.  However, on Wednesday morning he received word from his father that they were to meet for luncheon.  Readied with the assistance of his valet, Nigel, Smythe met his father at their club.  Smythe II quizzed his son about the events of regarding the Society of Conjurers and let slip he knew Tali's father who had also been a member of the Lamplighters.  He expressed regret that by the time he learned of Tali's survival the Welsh boy had already escaped the orphanage in which he lived, left Cardiff, and disappeared on the streets of Bristol.

Smythe II also discussed Reginald's younger brother, now in India, and at the end of the meal gave him use of the old family Tudor-era home in Paddington. As they were leaving, he told Smythe he needed to begin thinking about marriage.

Late in the afternoon, Harris Benjamin was working through some of the London police records from the 1840s when he found documents describing a raid on a location in Whitechapel regarding a church known as the Chapel of the Silver Spiral.  Also mentioned in the report, one Baronet Reginald Smythe of Paddington provided the police with expert knowledge. McKinley sent word to the rest of the cadre to meet the next day.

That night McKinley heard a squeal and saw a grey cat holding a rat in its mouth.  The cat stared at the doctor for a while then left with its kill.

*** 

Thursday, June 24, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

Late morning, Smythe collected the rest of the cadre and drove over to Whitechapel.  There was some question about what he should do with his car in the neighborhood, which Smythe didn't seem to care one way or another.  Tali figured he could talk some of the locals into watching it - not a bad option since he was the only one from the lower class.

As they waited on Tali to return, Benjamin noticed the Hogan and Sons truck parked down the street.  Once he was back, Tali decided to sneak down to the truck and investigate.  He slunk beside it when the back door opened and a man stepped out of the back.  The driver did the same and held a revolver while his companion insisted Tali get in the truck.  Seeing this the rest of the investigators rushed up; Smythe demanded they let his "man" go.

The man from the back of the truck looked at Smythe and smiled.  "Of course, Mr. Smythe."  He told Reginald that they were Home Office and had been following them since Grove.  He asked who they were with, and when no one ventured to answer, the man smiled and said they would see them.

Examining the tenement built where the old Silver Spiral Chapel had been, they decided to find the basement.  There in the rooms beneath, they found numerous young teenagers sitting in makeshift beds, drinking.  The group eyed the cadre warily.  Finding a boiler room, they noticed one wall was different than the rest.  Tali tried a few ways to break the brick wall, even trying to set the boiler to shoot steam and a rod into it, but all ideas failed.  Finally, they admitted they needed to come back later.

This scene got me thinking that using "Success with Consequences" might be good to add to the game.  That way they get what they want - to get past the wall - which they did not here - but there is a problem that arises.  I used to do this in Fate and was one of the things I liked from that system.

*** 

Friday, June 25, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

The morning of Tali's interview, Harris Benjamin received a telegram from his mother in New York that his father has decided to travel to England - a dangerous venture during the war - and has begun preparations for the trip.

He sent off a telegram discouraging the visit.

That night, the cadre of investigators as well as Tali's girlfriend, Lillian Grey, arrived early at the Society of Conjurers in preparation for the audition.

The first auditioner was a pimply-faced young man who becomes nervous during his act and accidentally smothered his pigeon.  He fled the building in tears.

The second auditioner managed some average card tricks without dropping anything.

Tali decided to put on a huge show with sleight of hand tricks and escaping from ropes tied by Lillian.  She took great pleasure in making them very tight.  His piece ended with a bit of pyrotechnics by Benjamin.

At the end of the auditions, Tali and the second auditioner were both accepted and led away from the others by Prester Tien to see the rest of the facility.  He showed them the kitchens, a dining hall, the lounge and library, and rooms to practice magic.  The first floor, they were informed, was off limits to new members.

He noted that they were welcome anytime, but that the next evening existing members were giving a special charity benefit show.  He regretfully informed them that it was too late for them to attend this function.

The group made plans to visit the next day, though they decided not to bring Lillian.

***

Saturday, June 26, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

When Smythe collected them all the next evening, the investigators headed over to the Society's headquarters.  A man from the kitchen showed Tali in, noting that the club was empty tonight, before leaving himself.  Tali slipped into the kitchen to open the alley-side door.

Sitting in Smythe's care, the other three investigators watched the back alley door.  The night sky began to rain as they spotted a rather fat man making his way uneasily down the alley.  Once Tali opened the back door, the other three climbed out into the rain.  The strange man stopped them and stagewhispered "the King is Coming."  McKinley stared after the pulpy faced man.

Arriving wet inside, Benjamin, Smythe, and McKinley found Tali eating a bowl of noodles.  Thoroughly checking, they found nothing out of the ordinary.  Even the books in the library were popular hobby books.

At the back hall, they found a sleeping guard in front of the stairs up.  Tali quietly made his way up the stairs. There he found another member lounge with good liquor.  Meanwhile, Smythe and McKinley decided to sneak upstairs to join Tali, while Benjamin volunteered remaining downstairs.

There the investigators moved into the private library and rooms of Chung Ling Soo.  McKinley examined the books and found a series of very old books (though they didn't take any of them) in which one was missing.  They pondered this being the book that Rochester mentioned in his diary.

Tali found a handgun in one of the drawers, which he pocketed.  Smythe found a box of makeup on a vanity.  He noted with some surprise there were tins of yellow grease paint and speculated that Chung Ling Soo was not actually Chinese.

Downstairs, Harris Benjamin stood quietly in the hall.  After a few minutes he realized the guard sleeping in the chair was very quiet.  He watched the man's chest but did not see any breath.  On closer inspection, he realized the guard was no longer breathing.  At that, he hurried upstairs to find the others.

Finding them as they were examining the storage rooms upstairs, they discussed the issue.  Smythe concluded that Snodgrass or William Gabriel were probably the real threat and that Chung Ling Soo and the rest of the Society was not.  The other were uncertain.

In one room, McKinley found a box of "jade" dogs like the one Tali had stolen.  He laughed.

Tali found a trapdoor to the attic.  Upstairs, they found a dark room with extinguished, paper lanterns hanging.  Using their torches, they spotted a cabinet with a collection of soiled robes, and a table.  On the table was a emaciated Andrew Rochester.  McKinley concluded the man had been starved, then had his throat cut on the low table, while the bronze bowl on the table captured the blood.

Above the small table and corpse was a painting showing an emaciated man with his throat cut and a strange geometric shape in the air above him.

Benjamin found a playbill for the show that very evening being given by the Society at the Mermaid Theatre.  Someone had written in the margin.  "Prime Minister Asquith attending"

They all glanced at each other and realized.  "They are trying to kill the Prime Minister!"

At this point the game ended with them rushing back to the car and speeding off across town.

***

Just finished reading GURPS 3e Espionage.  What an excellent book.  Lots of good ideas to add to any game.

The story will continue in Its Hour Comes Round at Last 1.6.