So last Thursday, the intrepid RPG players met once again to play some more RPG’s.  They didn’t learn from the Dark Ages Cthulhu games, they wanted to play more Cthulhu.  I suggested that we play some 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu.  I looked through my collection of Cthulhu books, and found Terror from the Skies.


Now, I am pretty much on board for any number of Cthulhu adventures, but Terror from the Skies has Zeppelins.  I like Zeppelins.  There is something romantic and cool about lighter than air ships.

Except for when the hydrogen burns…


Now Terror from the Skies has nothing on United Airlines.


United Airlines showed the North Koreans, Iranians, and even the ghost of Pol Pot how to deal with people that are a little too full of themselves.  Imagine thinking “I paid for my flight, and I need to be home tonight”, and somehow deluding yourself into thinking that was actually really important to the airline you chose to fly on.

Now all of that is cool and all, but I need to get this out of the way.  This is now my favorite SNL skit that I have seen in a long time

What does that have to do with Zepplins, Call of Cthulhu or anything else.  Nothing.  That is the benefit of writing my own blog.  I can force you, dear reader to put up with whatever crap I want to put on the blog.  You, the reader, are desperately hoping that there is some kernel of information that may possibly be useful in some manner.  Nope.  Just Peter Dinklage and Gwen Stefani hamming it up.  Awesome.

Space Pants.

Now where was I?

Oh yeah, Space Pants.

Or was it Zeppelins?

I wonder if the Hindenburg was torched by Loren, flying invisibly above…

Intergalactic Space Pants.

Now where was I?

Oh yeah.  Six of the eight normal players were there on Thursday night.  Jason and Jeremy didn’t show up.  Not sure what happened, but they missed the overall confusion of the first session.

The six people who did play were many of the usual suspects.  In general:

  • Eric played Harry Brown, a traveler.  Maybe also known as a Romani.
  • Sumner played Florence Monique Davis, a nurse.
  • Daron played Dr. Henry William Davis III, a medical doctor
  • Loren played Cecilia Doherty, a “lab assistant”
  • Robert played Benjamin Nicholous Oakmount III, a former London stage actor
  • Matthew played Keggin O’Conner, a ne’er do well, former traveling circus tough guy and all around bone breaker.

Now starting out an adventure is kind of tough, trying to get everyone to have a reason to be together.  This is specifically difficult when each player is allowed to create what they want to play.  It is easier, if you have a small military unit, where one person might be the medic, one may be the officer, one the sharpshooter…  The individual characters can pull together their individual skills based on the larger group.

Another potential is to have the group all be school friends, or an extended family meeting for a funeral or some such thing.  In this case, I let the players run with it, and then we tried to stitch together the overall group.  This is pretty easy to deal with in Pathfinder or D&D.  “Everyone meets at the tavern answering a call for adventure” or “everyone is summoned by the local {insert Duke, Baron, King, etc}”  or “everyone is knocked unconscious, and finds themselves owing a debt to a local warlord”.

Maybe that does thematically work with Call of Cthulhu.  I kind of feel that it doesn’t.  In a fantasy game, where everyone meets at the tavern, you could easily explain why you have wanderers, fighters, rangers, rogues, magic users and clerics all coming together to find a wondrous pair of intergalactic space pants.  Alternately, every potential party member could have a close relative who was murdered by a magic user who floats around invisibly and fireballs unlucky people.  In any event, you can concoct a reason why everyone would be there.

In Call of Cthulhu, there needs to be some reason, or at least there should be a reason as to why the hobo is friends with the dilettante, and the doctor.  It doesn’t fit that the hobo, dilettante and the doctor would all be going to find the invisible techno-mage who floats and fireballs the unwary family member.  Likewise, it doesn’t follow that the three characters would meet at a dive bar looking for some action.

So how important is the party members have an interlinked back story?  Maybe it isn’t.  After all, once the adventure starts, they start sharing a common goal, don’t die.  OK, they share two common goals.  Don’t die, Don’t go insane.

Even if you don’t need that common thread among the party members, it is a little awkward to pull them together at first.  That is probably why montages are so important to move the game along.

So the party had four members who were of an upper class, the doctor, nurse, lab assistant and former London stage actor.  I decided that the ball breaker and the Romani would be in the village to start with, looking for work.

So Abby Barker is going to be married to Isaac Martin in the village of Shelborough.  Abby is friends with Doctor Davis, so they are invited to the wedding.  The trip to Shelborough takes a while.  The four must leave London via train, travel to Tonbridge, then Ashford finally a local service bound for Rye.  The local service to Rye stops at Appledore, which is near Shelborough.  Abby meets the four at the Appledore train station.

Nurse Davis notices that there is a small poster advertising a “Best Kept Station” competition as a part of the celebrations of the branch line’s 50th anniversary next year (1930).

Abby takes the four to Shelborough via her rented car.  They all end up at the pub, as we know from documentaries like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, every Briton ends their day at the pub.  No one stays at home during the evening.

At the pub, the four are introduced to Harry and Keggin, who are hired help for the wedding.

The locals have all sorts of stories about he church.  Evidently few weddings are performed here.  The new vicar is excited to host the wedding of Abby and Isaac.  In the past, many weddings have ended badly.  However, weddings that involve couples who have christenings within a few short months (under 4 months) of the wedding seem to go OK.  Burials go ok also.  The locals go on about how the church is haunted.

That night, everyone goes to sleep, and finds that they all share the same nightmare.  They all are at the wedding, and a bunch of tree like creatures come in and massacre everyone in the church who are at the wedding.

The next day, the party goes and visits a widow who runs a honey farm.  She bought the farm a dozen or so years prior after her husband died, and she found this wonderful little town of Shelborough on a holiday.  She loves beekeeping, and it happens to help out her late husband’s pension.

The farm has a history of beekeeping going back to 1840.  According to legend, the beekeeping at this business was inspired by some bee hives carved into some grave stones in the churchyard.

That night, the party members have an even more vivid nightmare, all the same as the previous night, but even more gruesome.  nasty, icky stuff.

The party goes to the Reverend Jeffery Peterson to get some information about the church.  After all, why would the locals insist that the church is haunted?

The church records show:

  • Weddings really are held very rarely in this church. There are only seven apparently successful ones from 1846 onwards. Before that all seems normal. Five of the weddings were quickly followed by christenings.
  • The last wedding booked was in 1909, and it was cancelled.
  • Some wedding bookings have odd notes attached to them, e.g. “a mess,” “lost,” “terribly sad,” all of which were cancelled or at least not performed.
  • Several of the people concerned in the cancelled weddings were buried within a few days of their planned wedding date.
  • Bookings for weddings often coincide with the appointment of a new vicar, falling off rapidly thereafter.
  • The wedding on the 18th of April, 1887, has a reference to repairs afterwards, for gravestones. They were sent to Moore and Sons in Maidstone.
  • There is a record of a brass plaque being paid to be put up in 1880, “in memoriam,” but anonymously and to no specific person.
  • There are several deaths recorded as “wandered off into the marsh,” the body not being recovered. These also follow several weddings that were cancelled, except for two: one in 1846
  • There are 100 names in the register, but 104 gravestones.

That evening, the party meets Arthur Egglestone, the local policeman.  He informs the party that:

  • He tells them that the church has acquired a bad reputation, the way certain places do in isolated villages. This seems to go back a long way; the older men have assured him that their grandfathers told their fathers, who told them etc. Most stories are unspecific, however. He admits that he, himself, avoids it at night,
    and it is the only place he has never found tramps sleeping.
  • There is a local saying that “only those marrying unwillingly get hitched here.”
  • People do very occasionally wander off into the marsh and need rescuing, but “once in a blue moon” they simply disappear and are never seen again. He finds nothing particularly suspicious about this, as it usually happens shortly after the pub closes.
  • Anyone living here, and thus supposed to get married in Shelborough, tends to go to
    another parish by special arrangement, or goes through a civil ceremony instead.

That night, the party members try to deal with the problem of the nightmares.  The doctor and the nurse create a concoction and give it to the actor also.  They hope that by mixing some liquor with some powder that they brought (cocaine?) that they will go into such a deep sleep that they will not be affected by the nightmare.  It doesn’t work.  In fact, they are even more affected by the nightmare than the other party members.

The next day, everyone goes to visit the local historian, who lives near Kent.  On the way back, they visit the offices of Moore and Sons.

Julian Baker lives in Rye, near the coast. He tells them that the haunting of the church started in the late 1840’s, and that there have been bad rumors and reports of strange events since then, but not before. He suspects that this is when a cult base for some underground-dwelling demon or monster was established.

This demon or monster seems to require sacrifices and the suffering of non-worshippers, so the curse was enacted. The curse seems to ensure suffering.  He says that any such curse requires a blood sacrifice to start and to maintain it, but he has no evidence of this for St. Mary’s as he has not checked the parish registers himself. He also tells them that,
to be permanent, it requires an object or objects to be inscribed in some way, possibly disguised. In St. Mary’s case, he believes that the curse markers are on one or more of the gravestones.

Baker believes that to eliminate the curse not only must any such object be destroyed, but a happy event must take place in the church itself. Simply destroying the stones is not enough, and if they are not, the happy event itself is unlikely to take place. The most likely event to be prevented is a wedding, and a happy one at that. However badly it might turn out later, on that day a wedding would be a happy occurrence.

He suggests that christenings are of no concern because the child has already
been born, the ceremony is just meaningless mumbo-jumbo to a demon. Deaths are presumably good for the curse, as it effectively makes all the deaths in the parish sacrifices.

He believes that the curses are activated by the publishing of banns. Following
this the curse gives the wedding party increasingly horrible nightmares, hopefully driving them partially insane. Baker claims “the nightmares are enacted if they do not put the couple off. People would be attacked by god knows what, and dragged down to the cellars to be sacrificed”. Thus the occasional rash of burials. It makes sense that this tends to happen most when a new priest takes over, as he may be unaware of the curse if the outgoing priest had not worked it out, died, went insane, or if the new priest simply did not believe him. The priest himself would be unmolested, as the unwitting source of new sacrifices—that is, burials.

The wedding in 1887 was one where the members of the wedding party broke the curse—albeit just in time—but only defaced, not destroyed, the gravestones. When one of the few remaining cult members (Baker believes, that they are all gone now) paid for the gravestones to be re-carved, the curse was re-invoked. The nightmares and other horrors began again, causing the couple to move to Yorkshire where it could not touch them. Julian found and still corresponds with the son of the couple’s friend who still lives there.

They all seemed to lead happy, indeed almost charmed, lives thereafter. As can be seen,

On the way back, the party stops by Moore and Sons… and find out the following:

Philip Moore, the son of the man who owned it in 1887 now runs the business, his father having died some years ago.  He shows them the order in the old books, dated July the 23rd, 1887; about three months after the wedding. The order was to have defaced decoration on four gravestones re-carved. Drawings and, unusually, photographs were supplied. The order is not from the parish priest, however, although he countersigned the completion form as it was his church. The name on the order, Paul Fraus Populi.  The client gave Mercy Hill, Gloucestershire as his address .

His old man didn’t do the work, one of the older workers did. If they ask, he was the sculptural man, i.e. he specialized in carving figures, not words.

He seemed to go a bit odd after. Come to think of it, his father said that there was a strange atmosphere in the workshop when the stones were there, though he, himself, was too young to remember it.

That night, they party is assaulted by the same nightmare, but it is even worse than before.

The next morning, the party checks out the brass plaque that is on the outside of the church.  This is the plaque that was installed by an anonymous donor.  The plaque states:

This plaque is dedicated to the memory of all
those unknown
whose sacrifice maintains this holy place.

After looking at the four out of sorts gravestones, the nurse makes a connection…

sHE’LL ERadicate what
AlfreD OWNS, but the
best parT REMAINEd;
the river meANDERS ON
and on.

Which corresponds to the four names on the extra gravestones.

  • Philip Heller
  • Malcolm Downs
  • Simon Tremaine
  • Adrian Anderson.

Now, the party spends a lot of time trying to figure out what the heck this means.  And I mean a lot of time.  Finally, they wait until night, and decide to dig up some graves.  After all, what else does an Englishman do during the long dark night besides drink in a pub?  Of course, grave robbery.


There are no bodies under the four graves.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.  However, the loam is the easiest digging that they have ever done.  It cuts like butter.

And that was the end of the night’s gaming.