So last Thursday we played the second installment of the Call of Cthulhu Terror from the Skies, called “A Whitby Vampire”.
I need to give some information in advance of writing (I started with “writhing” instead of “writing”, which may be appriate…). I am buzzing from a coffee and Monster buzz. I have been at PDXAGE for the last two days. Up at 6 AM, gaming from the early morning to midnight, two days so far. Today is the third and final day, but I am kind of sleep deprived at this point. We got through with last night’s Call of Cthulhu episode after midnight, I was home at about 12:30 AM, then I spent time talking with my wife and kids, of course the dogs wanted to see me and I was buzzing from caffeine. Up again this morning at 6:00, since the dogs needed to water the lawn. They don’t care that you have stayed up late.
So here I am, tired, a little twitchy, and starting on the caffeine binge again.
I will talk more about PDXAGE in another post, later on. But long story short, I have gone every year it has been in place so far. I like it a lot. It has a nice vibe to it.
But back to our intrepid investigators again and “A Whitby Vampire.” I won’t be blathering about a bunch of stuff, as I need to get the game information across in short order, since I have a third session of Call of Cthulhu to run today at the con.
The party starts out again in London. The Doctor gets an unsolicited letter. The letter states:
Firstly, I would like to thank you for solving the terrible mystery surrounding St. Mary’s church that I witnessed in my youth.
I must now ask you for help regarding an old friend of my father’s and mine, Elliot Elder. He also researched the events at the church and, although less successful than yourselves, became intrigued in the strange and occult. Together with a group of friends he became convinced he had found some connection between the church and other strange events. I thought this harmless enough until recently, when Elliot, although obviously trying not to worry me, intimated that this had rebounded on him. He claimed that whatever he had been investigating was now investigating him, and he feared that his life could be in danger. I might have dismissed this, if it were not for the recent series of killings that you may have seen in the papers.
Whatever the truth of the matter, I am worried for my friend and I would be extremely grateful if you could take a look into this matter, at least by talking to Elliot as a disinterested party and reassuring me if all is well. I know this is a great favor to ask but I believe you are the only people who can help me.
Looking forward to receiving your reply,
This of course, interested the Doctor. The doctor and the party do some research, and find the following news clippings in the library for background information about the goings on in town. These sensationalist stories appear to be written to scare people as opposed to providing factual information. After all, what 20th century person believes in the supernatural?
Northern Town – In State of Terror
Whitby, made famous as Dracula’s haunt by Bram Stoker, seems to have got itself a real vampire. Local police are investigating a series of murders in which the bodies have been drained of blood. A local contact told the Daily Mail that the attacks only happened
at night and under a full moon. “The whole town is in a state of fear” he said, “people are afraid to go out into the streets at night.” Garlic sales have more than doubled, one stall holder told the Mail, and the local church has been inundated with requests to borrow crucifixes. Local carpenters report requests for stakes “for fencing” and are doing a roaring trade in crosses. The tourist trade has been unaffected, however, as local hoteliers report a boon in bookings as brave souls flock to see if they can be the ones to track the vampire to his lair. House prices in Whitby remain stable, so far.
– The Daily Mail, June 12th 1929.
A Murderer at Large in Whitby
Recent reports from the Northern seaside town of Whitby suggest a multiple murderer is at large. Several bodies have been found, all with the same wounds and in similar circumstances. The modus operandi of the culprit seems to be to break in through an upstairs window at night, somehow drain the victim of blood, and leave the same way.
Nothing is stolen, there appears to be no connection between the victims, and no apparent motive for the crimes. There are always signs of a struggle. Whitby is the location in Bram Stoker’s famous novel where the ship carrying Dracula arrived, and the bloodless bodies have lead to sensationalist reports of vampires.
The famous criminal psychologist, Professor Herbert Morrison, in an interview with the Times, suggested that there may be a more mundane connection. “The vampire legend inspires certain types of psychotic criminal to imitate those murders and this may be what is happening in this case. There have been past instances of just this type of behavior, for instance the 1889…(Continued on p.14).
– The Times, June 14th 1929.
The Whitby Gazette
The town is in a state of fear tonight as the Whitby murderer appears to have struck again. The victim, Steven Mason, 38, was found in an upstairs back bedroom next to a fire escape. There were signs of forced entry and a struggle suggesting a bungled
robbery, as may have been the case before. Certainly the murder was a violent and bloody one, the victim having lost a lot of blood. The investigating officer,
Inspector Needham, described the murder scene as “horrific” and “the most awful I have ever seen, worse than anything in the trenches.” There still appear to be no useful leads and this, along with the paucity of eye witness statements indicates a psychotic professional thief from outside of the Town.
– The Whitby Gazette, 17th June 1929.
The stories seem related because the bodies have all been drained of blood, and this was of course, the location that Dracula landed in the book by Bram Stoker. The deaths have been dubbed “the Vampire Killings”. News of this has reached London, as evidenced in the newspaper clippings, but there doesn’t seem to be much credence given in the civilized world to the idea that a vampire would be roaming the English countryside.
The party also investigates the history of the town to see if they can find anything that may help in their mystery. They uncover the following:
Whitby is a famous northern seaside town. Formerly isolated by its location and accessible only by sea, the coming of the railway in the 19th Century opened it up to the burgeoning holiday trade. Although tourism is well established, Whitby is still a bustling fishing, trading and ship building port. It also produces jewelry made from jet (a type of coal).
Tourism began with an almost snobbish, middle class atmosphere. Many famous authors came to stay, most notably Bram Stoker. Many hotels were built to accommodate this trade, mostly on the increasingly prosperous west side of the River, giving rise to a division between it and the old fishing port under East Cliff. By the 20’s, the great British
seaside holiday is well established, with all the usual trappings: sticks of candy rock, walks along the pier, donkey rides and sandcastles on the beach, fish and chips on the sea front, all in the “bracing” easterly wind whipping off the North Sea. Holidaymakers
take rowing boat trips up the River Esk, and there are motor buses to take people to the outlying beauty spots. Steamers also take passengers up and down the coast, particularly to the more prosperous seaside resort of Scarborough. Consequently there many boarding houses, often providing vital income for widows from the Great War.
The party leaves London, headed to Whitby. The doctor takes several people in the party, including the nurse and the scientist (in pants, but not intergalactic space pants). The rest of the party takes the train. The doctor’s car just isn’t big enough to take his entire entourage. The doctor likes his car. So far in the journey, the doctor hasn’t been able to make use of the car much. Cars in 1929 are not really ready for the roads of 1929. Do a search on Google for “Roads in the 1920’s” and look up pictures, and many of them are like:
In some cases, you get pictures like:
but the highway systems in the 1920’s were incomplete at best. Many roads were being built, but most roads were dirt tracks, and were not well maintained. The assumption that I am making for this campaign is that cars may have been used, but most people would use trains to move from one place to another. Many of the roads would be in varying states of primitive repair.
So I asked Darin, the doctor, to make three driving rolls. He fails the first one. He pushes, and fails it again. He hit a bump too hard, and broke something. A leaf spring. He wants to see if he can fix it. I ask him to make a hard mechanical roll (since he probably doesn’t have a spare leaf spring on him). He doesn’t make it. The nurse tries, and does not do any better.
Luckily for the doctor, the nurse and the scientist, they are near a town that has a railroad station… and that station is in line with the train car that the rest of the party is on, on their way to Whitby. Coincidences do happen in real life, don’t they? They aren’t just easy constructs made by lazy authors who try to keep the story moving?
The Party arrives in Whitby (by train) and are able to make it to Frederick Davis’ house. Now Mr. Davis must be a very fit man. He lives in a house on a bluff above Whitby. The party must climb 199 stairs to get to the house.
Now, the intrepid reader or party member may say “Stairs? 199 steps? That sounds important… what else has stairs… I know!!!! the entrance to the Dreamlands”
That may be something that is worth looking into, but I will cut that red herring out right now. The entrance to the Dreamlands includes 70 steps of light to get to to face the judgment of the gatekeepers named Nasht and Kaman-Tha. If judged worthy (i.e., able to survive the dangers of the Dreamlands), the dreamer is allowed to descend the Seven Hundred Steps of Deeper Slumber and emerges in the Enchanted Wood.
There, take roll your sanity and 1/1d2 sanity damage. Give your self an equal number of Cthulhu mythos points. Yes you, I am looking at you.
Where was I. Oh yes, I was dealing out damage. Elder gods I love my job.
The party makes it to Ms. Davis’ house knocks on the door and Mr. Davis answers.
Davis greets the investigators with enthusiasm and thanks them for coming. He
says that Elliot is away at the moment, visiting a friend up on the moors, one of his group he thinks. He has arranged for them to meet Davis when he returns, which should be the day after tomorrow.
They are welcome to stay at his house for their visit; he has two guest bedrooms with double beds and there is also the sofa. Some of the prty will need to stay in town in an inn, as he doesn’t have enough room to house everyone. He assures them there are plenty of Inns in Whitby, He then leads them into the dining room. Here they find a table groaning with food; Davis is a generous host and has ordered his cook to provide a feast When the investigators talk to Davis over dinner, he tells them the following.
Elliot Elder is someone Davis knows through his now-deceased father. Davis’ father knew Elder from work, and after Davis’ father’s funeral Elliot and Davis became friends. They only see each other occasionally, however. Yes, Elliot should be keen to talk to them, as he is to anyone who will listen. “Gets a bit obsessive if you ask me.”
Frederick told Elliot what he remembered about the Shelborough affair during a pub session about ten years ago, and the next day Elliot came back to his house and took notes. Elliot then talked to one or two other people who had known his family at that time, went down there to take a look around and then wrote it up. Later he told Frederick that, though he couldn’t solve the riddle, the investigation had sparked an interest in the unusual. He built up a circle of like-minded friends, and once or twice claimed that they were onto something. Frederick says he saw no sign of it himself and anyway wanted to let sleeping dogs lie. Whatever it was, it kept Elliot busy. He doesn’t know the names of any of Elliot’s friends.
About three weeks ago, just before the murders started, Elliot told him he felt as though whatever he had been investigating may have started investigating him. He wasn’t specific, but was obviously uneasy. A few days later, after the first murder, Elliot told him he thought he (Elliot) might be a target and that his life was in danger. That’s when Frederick started to get worried and contacted the investigators. He last saw Elliot briefly a few hours before the investigators arrived, when he passed him in the street, which is how he knows he was visiting his friend on the moors. Elliot seemed very intense and distracted and he couldn’t get much sense out of him.
Frederick has no other useful information to impart, but chats happily about the town, his life before he got here (he opened a sweet shop specializing in toffee, became successful, got married, and had kids who have since moved away) and the move: “I fancied some sea air and a good view, had been here many times on holiday and liked it.”
He has opened a shop here selling jet and local fossils and bought this house: “do you like it?” His wife is away visiting relatives in Scarborough.
The next morning, the party goes for a tour of Whitby. The seaside town is a very nice town on the North Sea. Towards evening, the party is making their way down Henrietta Street, past the east pier via the old spur. It is starting to get dark. Robert fails an initial SAN check, and wanders off to the beach. The rest of the party continues on, oblivious to Robert’s plight. They continue up the stairs. The stairs are narrow. I ask everyone to make a San check. Several people fail. The people who fail fall off the stairs, and into the sea and are quickly washed out towards sea. Now this is where the party members start thinking something is wrong. After all, why would you need to make a SAN check to keep from falling? Well, something is messing with their heads, and the party members are trying to keep from being overwhelmed. Dex has nothing to do with it.
The party members who went into the water start experiencing hypothermia and may start drowning soon. The rest of the party has a good idea, and decides to have the doctor tie a rope around his waist and jump in to save the drowning party members. The doctor finds that the North Sea isn’t just bracing, it is really damn cold. Now, Daron is English / British in real life. He is playing the doctor, so him jumping into the North Sea to help an ailing member of the party means that he really wants to save the poor wretch who fell in.
Long story short, as the Doctor is being drug into the water, he is being drug in a slightly different direction than the other members in the water. This is not going per plan. At least not to the plan that the party thought of. The members in the water start losing CON points from hypothermia.
Just as things look bad, maybe worse, the members in the water feel something grab their heels and start pulling them towards the shore, very quickly. The members of the party on the cliff above the water see the people in the water moving faster than they could possibly swim towards the rocky shore. Whatever is grabbing their heels feels slimy and cold.
It ends up that everyone is on the land, and no one can explain why they are on the shore. Several members are cold. Damn cold. More than bracing. Robert swears that he sees a large group of seals in the water.
As the party is trying to figure out just what happened, several party members hear the sound of horses approaching from the road behind them. If they keep watching they see a funeral procession approaching the church. It consists of a black carriage pulled by six black horses with black-clothed drivers. It is flanked by two outriders, also dressed in black on black horses. The procession stops, the carriage door opens and a group of black-clad mourners get out and walk into the graveyard. They stop when they get to a
freshly dug grave walk three times round it and then get back into the carriage.
Once they are inside, the procession sets off again towards the steps then down them, at breakneck speed, turning right along Henrietta Street, finally disappearing round the corner, plunging over the cliff as it does so. The participants act throughout as though the party is not there.
The party runs after the crashing sound, and finds nothing out of the ordinary at all. No crashed carriage, no bodies, no horses. Nowhere on the street, nor on the rocks below. Upon checking the grave, they see the name “Gabriel Ward” with no dates on the headstone, and the freshly dug open grave has no coffin in it.
Upon entering the nearest inn, and asking about the carriage with the locals, the locals confirm that this is a normal thing.
The party goes back to their lodgings for the night, as they want to see Mr. Elder in the morning.
They go to Mr. Elder’s house in the morning, and find the house locked. A quick search around the property shows that someone has broken a second story window. The Doctor wants to get a constable. The private investigator, Brian, wants to pick a lock and enter. He is completely unsuccessful at picking the lock. The “Antiques dealer”, Robert, climbs up and into the house through the broken window. He finds the house to almost be empty. A man is dead on the first floor living room, drained of blood, with a shotgun next to him.
Robert opens up the house. He may, or may not have taken stuff. Only Robert and I know. The rest of the party only knows that Robert found a diary. He gave that to Jeremy.
About the time the party tromps around the house, a constable shows up, asking what is going on. So does a perky, rather irritating newspaper reporter, Tom Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins seems to be well connected, and knows a lot about everything.
The policeman escorts the party to the station. While at the station, Jeremy and Matthew try to do something. I think it had something to do with a credit rating roll. Matthew got a 100. Long story short (too late), the police decided that Jeremy and Matthew’s investigators looked like a local version of Bonnie and Clyde based on reviewing some WANTED posters, and escorted them to a jail cell.
While this was going on, the Robert and Brian decided to go and check out the flat of Gabriel Ward. They find the flat. It doesn’t end well for them. but more on that in a little bit.
The rest of the party is busy talking with the inspector, and Tom Jenkins, perky reporter keeps chiming in. They find out the following:
Victim 1 – Jake Pearson, killed on June 5th, address 12 Esk Terrace
The Police’s witness: Sean Palmer, No, 13, next door neighbor. Heard and saw nothing, in spite of the way in and out being in view of his window all the time.
Jenkins responds that the witness was asleep throughout.
Victim 2 – Alex Hunt, killed on June 7th, address 55 Sandgate
The police witness: Claire Powell, same address, flat downstairs. Heard the window smash, looked out, saw nothing. Convinced she would have heard anyone climbing up or down inside or out as she has the flat below, but didn’t. She did hear the sounds of a struggle, though, and when she looked out straight afterwards she had a fleeting impression of something. However it may have been the reflection of a light, as it was gone almost as soon as it appeared and she is adamant she would definitely have seen it if anything was there.
Jenkins responds that the window was broken as part of the struggle; the killer simply used the stairs and she understandably doesn’t like to think she didn’t hear or see them.
Victim 3 – Michael Green, killed on June 12th, address 18 Wellington Terrace
The police witness: Claire Powell, No. 20, next door neighbor. Saw nothing but heard a ghoulish “tittering” sound.
Jenkins responds that she heard manic laughter, backing up the psychotic burglar theory.
Victim 4 – Steven Mason, killed on June 16th, address 99 Cleveland Terrace
Witness: Molly Robertson, 4 Park Place, who was passing by on her way home from the pub at the time.
Jenkins responds coming home from the pub, no more need be said.
Jenkins is a breath of fresh air, with a logical answer for everything that happens. The party doesn’t seem to appreciate his assistance, though.
Things don’t go so well for Brian and Robert at Gabriel’s house. They break in, and start rummaging around. As they are in the home, they are attacked by three froglike creatures that are incredibly strong.
Long story short, these three creatures box Brian and Robert in the room. Robert goes into vapor lock from seeing these unearthly beasts. He is unresponsive. Brian is trying to figure out how to get out of the bedroom, where the three beasts are pounding on the door trying to get in. Maybe they want to sell Boy Scout Jamboree tickets? Maybe not. Brian can’t figure out how to get out of the room without letting the frogbeasts in. They are strong and are dealing punishing damage to the door.
Lacking any better options, Brian bravely throws Robert through the plate glass window and follows. Robert takes massive damage which mercifully knocks him out. The good thing for Robert is that he is no longer vapor locked by seeing the beasts. The bad thing for Robert is that he is now unconscious.
In the end, two of the frog beasts take Robert’s mangled body away, and Brian gets into a gun fight vs. a slapping match with the third frog beast. Brain makes his getaway, hoping the best for Robert’s character.
And that wraps up that session.