Monday, November 21, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.11

The most recent episode followed the events in England with Smythe and Tali.  Continuing the events of Its Hour Come Round at Last 9, much of this episode follows that part of the Lamplighter team stuck in medieval France of the early 13th century of what may be a journey to a parallel world instead of time travel.

We started late, but spent quality time on roleplay. I brought out my battlemat from my Dungeons and Dragons 3x days to draw the village encounter at the end. We did not use movement points as such, though the Basic Move of each character did determine how many spaces they could move. 

Player characters for this session:

Reginald Smythe III - English dilettante and son of wealthy baron.

Doctor Thomas McKinley - English military doctor from Yorkshire with strange dreams and shell shock from the Front.

Bertrand Merriweather - English squire following up on his inheritance and now severely out of place.

Jeffery Llywellyn - English law student of Welsh descent.  Avid fan of pulp fiction, he considers his current predicament an exciting opportunity.

Harris Benjamin - American journalist from New York with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th thoughts about leaving all this occult business behind.  This episode Harris Benjamin is on NPC Status.

Pierre le Chien - Parisian criminal turned soldier in the army of King Charles Augustus.  Played by Reginald Smythe's player

The Zoog - A strange rat-like creature with musical nose tentacles.  Played by poor dead Tali's player.

***

Wednesday, August 25th, 1915 - London, United Kingdom.

We began with a short aside following Reginald Smythe in London.

A little over a week after his rescue from Kent, Reginald Smythe the III drove across town to Reginald's club for dinner and drinks.  He noticed his driving had become noticeably worse over the past few months. No doubt from the shocks he had received.

With both teams of Lamplighters, dead, missing, or in an sanatorium, Smythe felt it best to avoid the Gasworks for the time being.  He still intending to travel to Paris at the end of September - despite German U-boats - to attend a highly exclusive auction.

Parking beneath a street gaslamp, Smythe noticed a nicely dressed young English girl, about seven years old he thought, skipping rope along one the sidewalk.  She wore a strange old fashioned pink dress, the kind he'd seen his mother wear in photographs.  Wondering why she was out that time of the night alone, he approached the child only to hear her singing as she skipped.  "I heard the scratching a hundred rats make.  How many kids will Barnabas take?"   Smythe recalled a story from when he was a child (1897) about a child abductor know as Barnabas.

When the child looked at him, she smiled and turned to run.  Smythe decided to follow after her and as she darted into an alley, he turned quickly as well and rushed into the dim alley.  Failed Overconfidence disadvantage check.  A number of rats rushed quickly away from him as he reached a dead end.  There he saw written in chalk, the words:  "Waiting to be born"

Concerned now, quickly left the alley and walked briskly to his club.  He checked his cane and hat, then had a fine meal and numerous drinks with an old college friend, Davies. 

When it was time to leave, he retrieved his things.  The man gave him his hat, cane, and a small wrapped parcel.  Smythe drove home with some difficulty.  And at his flat, he poured himself another drink and opened the parcel.  Inside was an early nineteenth century German book about the Piped Piper of Hamlin, complete with lithographs.  Flipping through he saw a black and white picture of a young girl in an outfit quite like the one worn by the child on the street earlier.

Reginald decided it was time for a bath and bed.

*** 

Thursday, September 7, 1206 - Auvergne, Kingdom of France

After several weeks of basic practice in weapons and language, most of the Lamplighters acquired a rudimentary skills with a sword or crossbow.  Merriweather, being the only one who'd spent any amount of time outdoors and who had spent his time at Oxford with sports, and McKinley, who was still in the military, took to the training easier.  They all made some progress learning Middle French.  Llywellyn and McKinley, already fluent in Modern French, learned quicker and spent time picking up rudimentary Occitan.

Harris Benjamin, in a coma for the first week and ill for the next two, suffered the most and learned the least.  He also kept telling everyone he wanted to go home. Which his companions found less than helpful.

McKinley helped out in the makeshift hospital - and found himself dismayed by the medical standards.    They had no physician, but the barber surgeon disagreed with everything McKinley told him about cleanliness and medicine.  McKinley realized there was no morphine or opium to be had and limited his intake so as not to run out as quickly.

Merriweather discussed is idea of returning to England, perhaps by first walking to Aquitaine, but Llywellyn informed him that it wasn't an England he would recognize and that their English would be far more different than any of them were prepared.

Pierre le Chien took the opportunity to learn some Modern English from the Lamplighters that he might better communicate with (and spy on) them.  The Zoog was kept in a wicker basket, though he played his songs and bolstered the morale of some and led a few to despair.

Talking with the village's Catholic priest and the Cathar prefect, Jeffery Llywellyn learned of a monastery three days west of Les Hiboux.  The group hoped there might be some kind of records that would help them find a way home.

As they were discussing a journey, Althea Vande heard they wanted to leave the village and approached them.  Expecting they might go without her leave, she asked the group to travel west to check on a village and the monastery as she had heard nothing from this area since the Risen outbreak.

On the morning of the 7th of September, the weather still warm but cooling at night, the Lamplighters, supplied with horses and food, set out to find the monastery and scout the village.  Three soldiers - Stephan, Lozoic, and Hew - accompanied them.   Stephan came from further north near the border of the Brittany. Lozoic (Louis in French) was Occitan from Auvergne and had lost his family to the Risen.  Hew was from Scotland.  He had been in Auvergne, while it was part of the Angevin Empire, and remained behind after the peace treaty which returned the province to the French.

Packed and ready, the Lamplighters and their accompaniment, rode west.  As they left Les Hiboux, a few young children chant-sang "I hear the scratching a hundred rats make.  How many kids will Barnabe' take?" At each count, they threw a screeching rat into a fire.  Pierre spotted - Perception - a grey cat watching them leave.

Their ride west along the dirt roads were uneventful that day as the morning wore on.  Merriweather commented on how the shadows seemed to lengthen as the day approached noon.  Pierre and his soldiers were nervous, but with no sign of the Risen all but Lozoic began to speculate these "walking dead" were really bandits.  Pierre suggested they were probably just English and laughed.

Finally as night approached, they found a hollow to make camp.  After eating - and the English bemoaning the lack of tea - they set watch and retired.  As they slept, the Zoog played a soft tune making the watch drowsy.  Merriweather succeeded in his Survival (Woodlands) roll at the start of the trip.

***

Friday, September 8, 1206 - Auvergne, Kingdom of France

In the middle of the night, while Jeffery and Lozoic were sitting by the fire, the Zoog serenaded them both to sleep and gently unfastened its wicker cage and scrambled away into the trees looking for something to eat.

Later near dawn, the Lamplighters woke to the fire having been burned to coals and no sign of Jeffery nor Lozoic.  Pierre realized the Zoog was also missing.  Merriweather decided the Zoog was responsible for what had happened.

Merriweather found signs of struggle - Tracking - and, after some searching, Llywellyn where he had been drug from camp and left.  Lozoic seemed to have been carried out of the camp by five people.  As for why they were not attacked while they slept, no one could say.

They packed camp and rode on.  Pierre had no idea the name of the village, but soon near mid-day they spotted outlying pastures. 

One of the first things Merriweather noticed were the lack of noises - animal or human.  An awful silence hung over the fields and houses.  McKinley told them to leave their horses at the tree line.  Hew, Stephan, and Jeffery remained behind to guard.

Creeping slowly toward the nearest house, they spotted the wolves ripping open a corpse. Guns drawn, Merriweather, McKinley, and Benjamin spread out while Pierre followed close behind them.  The wolves raised their heads, spotted them, and then slowly backed away snarling.  Merriweather fired his shotgun into the ground scaring off the pack.  Pierre approached the body, realizing it had been an old woman.

As soon as he was close, the woman, despite her obvious mortal wounds, snatched at his leg.  Pierre screamed and began chopping the woman with his axe. Failing his Fright Check, I had Pierre All-Out-Attack. The back wall of the nearest wood building fell open and several more dead villagers stumbled out toward them.

We found the shotgun - using the actual rules from the GURPS Basic Set: Campaign book was highly effective against living creatures but not so effective against the Risen.  That said, Pierre's axe proved quite effective.

At this point the party realized they were facing the Risen. Harris Benjamin freaked out and fired wildly into the house before running toward the trees.

From the trees, the Zoog spied its recent captors and decided it would help them with a song to rally their emotions - Critical Failure - but its version of this ended up as a powerful lullaby that put everyone but Merriweather into a blissful sleep.  The Zoog has Control Emotions as a power advantage tied to a skill Musical Instrument (Nose-Flute).  This power also costs fatigue and only effects living creatures who have emotions.

Merriweather, now suspicious of the Zoog's music for a second time, beat the pair of Risen, who emerged from the house, to second death with the but of his shotgun. He himself was uninjured.  He then woke his companions. 

Quietly, he, Pierre, and Thomas McKinley crept into the center of the village, while the other Risen ignored them for the moment.  Near the village well they saw a corpse hung to a cross with an iron band crushed into its head.  As they approached, they realized it was Lozoic.  Around its neck it wore a sign written in Latin.  When McKinley took the sign, Lozoic's corpse struggled and Merriweather shot the new Risen in the head.  The other villager Risen turned towards them, so they quickly fled.

Back at the horses, the group rode off toward the monastery.  Stopping to break an hour later, Llywellyn translated the sign from Latin, which read "Woe to you who are crowned with the King's Crown."

***

The story of the Lamplighters will continue in Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.12.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.10

Continued from episode 9.

Reading How to Be a GURPS GM, I have come to realize based off Chapter 6 "Combat", I am using up to Light and Quick for rules - though I don't think my players are using enough maneuvers.  I have decided to print the GURPS Combat Cards for us.  How to Be a GURPS GM is a great read, especially for someone like me who has only been running GURPS for the past year.

In this episode, we return to London during the First World War.  Tali and Smythe are joined by other three Lamplighters.

Fedora Philander - (played by Harris Benjamin's player) a Greek born in the Anatolia of the Ottoman Empire, Fedora trained in demolitions and participated in acts of terror against the Turks before fleeing to Greece and later England.  He was recruited by the Lamplighters for his knowledge of explosives, fighting abilities, and encounters with mysterious things in the Anatolian highlands.

Francis Philbeck - (played by Bertrand Merriweather's player) an American born in eastern Kentucky, Francis was a skilled hunter and tracker and only surviving member of an attack of what he called.  "Awful big varmints."

Alfred Church - (played by Dr. Thomas McKinley's player) an Anglo-Indian student of the occult and mathematics, Alfred is the first player character to possess "magic" abilities.  A student of illusion, he learned through ritual movements, writing in Enochian, and complex mathematics to alter the perceptions of others. 

***

Friday, August 13, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

Tali and Reginald Smythe the III rested the next two days, while Captain Watson contacted other Lamplighters.  By mid-morning on Friday, they gathered at the Gasworks to prepare for the return to Kent.

The two remaining members of the team (though Smythe had informed Watson of his and Tali's dreams) met with their new team members.  All three had previous experience with some kind of Horror. 

Having discussed the cave system they were to explore and the possibility of retrieving Benjamin, Merriweather, Llywellyn, and McKinley, Captain Watson informed them that should it be necessary Fedora would destroy the complex.

They agreed to travel by train the next day where they would take a pair of military trucks to the house.

Tali asked what the gear-machinery was, and Watson told him that to the best of his knowledge - he would have to bring in their Consultant to inquiry further - what they found was part of a complex that could open doors to other worlds.  He also knew such complexes were very ancient.

***

Saturday, August 14, 1915 - Recluver, Kent, United Kingdom

A day of uneventful travel, the rain had slacked to a drizzle that morning. The Lamplighter team arrived at the house in Recluver by early afternoon, and immediately set up a base camp inside.  Fedora and Francis covered the floor hole in the fireplace room and sealed the attic.  Tali helped bring in cots and supplies while Nigel started a fire.  Smythe sat on a camp chair sipping brandy and staring out the window to the sea.

Having taken an early evening meal, the Lamplighters camped for the night stationing a lookout in operating in shifts.  Nothing occurred, but I was surprised they decided to camp in the house.  Then again, no one but Tali knew what had happened and he tended to confused the account.  That said, the group did well with player vs character knowledge. The next morning, they packed backpacks (well everyone but Smythe who took a small satchel and instructed Nigel to remain with their camp.)

***

Sunday, August 15, 1915 - Recluver, Kent, United Kingdom
At first light, Tali and Philbeck cleared the rubble in the cellar that blocked the tunnel to the caverns.  After a hearty breakfast and armed with Fedora and Tali's rifles, Philbeck's shotgun, and revolvers for Smythe and Church, they headed off into the tunnels.

With Tali leading - and everyone who had played characters in the first expedition refusing to remind him where to go - they became lost in the tunnels until Tali finally found the waterfall.

Inspecting the drawings on the cave walls, Alfred Church expressed surprise at how well they had survived the damp conditions of the cave.  He noted to the group the similarities of the paintings to the Spanish Altamira caves dating back to the last ice age.  Archeology.  They find the painting of the gigantic, bloated figure with strange long ears  emerging from a dark circle  Strange black blobs and crab-like creatures surrounded it.  Figures, whom Church interpreted to be people, took other people-figures to the pit with the bloated creature. Anthropology.  Alfred Church concluded these pictures represented sacrifices.

Further along the other side of the waterfall's pool they found a pile of bones, a skull with a dagger in its eye, and a stone carved into a wolf head.  Alfred Church recognized it as a shrine to Wotan - History (England)- probably dating to the pre-Christianized Anglo-Saxon period.

As they continued beneath the waterfall, Francis realized - Geology - the pool should not exist as an underground stream moved away from the pool from behind the falls.  Fedora found - Perception - blood and sighs of violence - including a spent shotgun shell.

Additionally in a nearby alcove, Tali found the smooth alcove with the great silver spiral, the circle of gold, and the crystals of various colors implanted in it. He recalled trying to remove a crystal and being shocked.  No one knew anything about the alcove and decided to leave it alone.

Further along, they found an opening where the underground stream poured over the edge as a waterfall to a great pool below.  Shining their torches about, they saw they were at the edge of a large domed room with hundreds of small holes like warrens in the ceiling and sides.  Below a gravel beach circle one side of the pool and a dim purple glow came from a cave across the great dome.

Fedora decided to light and drop a stick of dynamite into the pool.  The explosion and their lights caused a cacophony of chatter and screeching.  They saw thousands of human-like figures clinging to the walls of the great dome and heading towards them.  Below, the water churned.

Alfred Church did some quick math and wrote equations and words in Enochian on the clothing every member of the group.  Taking them to the alcove, he finished his words as the strange rat-faced creatures rushed by.  Illusion power.  First player character magic in the game.  Alfred had the Illusion advantage and a skill that goes with it.  It required a roll and Fatigue Point expenditure. I don't know if long term I want to use the Powers as Magic model, but it worked. 

The creatures ignored them and after a few minutes had rushed past into the tunnels. Fortunately, Alfred did not pass out from the strain.  He soon ended his illusion, and told the group they should make their way down the stone carved hand and footholds to the gravel below.  Carefully, they climbed down.  Unknown to the group, but fortunately for Nigel he was walking around the chalk cliffs when some of the creatures reached the house.   As the sun had not set, they did not go outside but returned to the tunnels.

At the base of the waterfall, they stood by the churning water. Philbeck failed a Geology roll to realize they were below sea level.  Fedora - Explosives (Demolitions) - expressed concern that one stick of dynamite should not have caused such a lasting effect to the water.  Guns drawn, all but Tali crept carefully along the gravel to the purple light.  As soon as they had begun walking, Tali slipped into a nearby cave.

As they entered the purple-lit cave, Smythe, Philbeck, Church, and Philander saw thousands of purple shards littering the room. Embedded into an obsidian base, a shattered purple shard stuck out several feet. Philbeck realized - Observation - the small shards were slowly making their way across the room and fusing with the purple crystal in the obsidian.  As each one did, the crystal grew larger.  He reached down and picked up a shard - at this point he failed a HT - 5 roll and his hand vaporized.  He managed to make another HT roll to avoid shock and a Fright check. Around the room silent gears of various metals waiting unmoving.

Philander began setting his dynamite charges.  "Just in case."  Smythe gave Philbeck some gin, while the Kentuckian stared in shock at his missing hand.

Meanwhile, Tali crawled through a low tunnel on the opposite end of the gravel beach from his companions.  I still do not know why.  He turned a corridor and saw a group of the rat-faced things.  Fright Check succeeded, I gave him an unmodified score as they had not killed him last time.  He tried to talk with them, first in English, then in Welsh, asking why they had spared him.  Finally, one approached him and said, in a raspy and archaic English, he was their kin.  Marked by the Mother.  The creature stopped and hissed, then the things rushed toward the central cavern.

As Fedora Philander finished setting his charges and Alfred Church finished bandaging Philbeck's stump, Smythe realized that dozens of human-like creatures were watching them from the entrance of the cavern.  Everyone made their Fright Checks this time.  Bracing his shotgun, Philbeck tried to scatter several of the creatures, as Philander rushed to finish setting his demolition.  Alfred Church began chanting in Enochian and drawing mathematical equations on the ground in front of himself.  Illusion, he worked out a illusion to cause fear among the creatures.  Smythe took removed his flask and took a drink.

The creatures charged them but shots killed a few and wounded the rest, so that the rat-faced things withdrew.  In the pool they saw the water was now churning and sloshing onto the gravel.  Something the size of a locomotive with black green skin emerged from the water.  Looking quite like the cave drawings.  Philander screamed - failing his Fright check - and rushed back into the room screaming looking for an exit.  Church and Philbeck reloaded and prepared their weapons.  Smythe decided not to stay - though he passed his Fright check as did Philbeck and Church - but rushed after Fedora. We debated what Smythe might do.  He's Overconfident but also Selfish.  So I had the player roll two self-control rolls and he failed the Selfish one so decided he would save himself.  Had he failed both, we would have compared the degree of failure.

Philbeck and Church shot at the creature as Smythe found Philander pounded on a metal door resembling something from a ship or u-boat. Opening it, Smythe ran after Philander along the long metal corridors - themselves not unlike a u-boat corridor.

Tali, hearing the gunshots, climbed back through the tunnels trying.  Reaching the gravel shore, he saw the Horror - also a successful Fright check - and readied his rifle.  He was quickly halted by a sticky tar that pulsed around his legs.

The Horror grabbed Church with its tongue - grappled but minor damage. However, when Philbeck tried to shoot the tongue to release the occultist, Church was sprayed by the creature's blood which burned him like acid.  Soon after, the Horror swallowed Alfred Church and crushed him in its gullet.  First player character dead in this campaign.

Failing to break free, Tali bashed the tar with his rifle butt, yet found his arms trapped.  Meanwhile, Philbeck rushed the creature and unloaded his shotgun into it at pointblank range.   The Horror bent over to bite him - Philbeck failed his Dodge - and swallowed the Kentuckian whole.  Second player charter dead

The Horror now turned to Tali, who tugged at the black tar and trying to get away.  In his mind he heard a screeching voice that said.  "You are the Mother's.  I will not eat you.  Go."  And the Horror sunk back into the pool.  As it did, the black tar flowed into the pool as well, taking Tali's rifle.  Tali decided he could somehow rescue Philbeck and Church and dove into the water after the Horror.  I informed his player it such a task would be difficult and that he'd have to Swim.  He insisted on going.  On his first Swim check, Tali's player realized Tali couldn't swim.  He made the roll though and I told him he could just head back to shore but he insisted.  Making Swim roll after Swim roll - Tali swam after the descending Horror.  He soon failed a Swim check and I had to collect by GURPS: Campaign book from my office.  We had the chance to go through drowning checks for the first time any game I have run.  Tali cramped and struggled.  Then unfortunately blacked out from the lack of oxygen.  With no one around to save him, Trahearn Taliesin drowned in a fetid pool beneath Kent. Third player character killed.  That is a record for me in any one session.

***

Tuesday, August 17, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

Two days later, Smythe and Fedora emerged filthy and injured from a cave several miles away.  Fedora was still in mental shock, but Smythe talked a farmer into taking them to an inn where he contacted their Lamplighter control - David Watson.

Soon, Smythe and Nigel returned to London and placed on rest-leave.  Fedora was sent to a sanitarium for care.  Captain Watson informed Smythe they were currently understaffed within the Lamplighters, but will preparing some kind of group to return to Kent.

The story continues in Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.11 where we return to medieval France.