I am leading off this blog post with a sad, but heartfelt thank you to the life of Adam West. He died this morning at the age of 88.
I grew up watching reruns of Batman. Adam West has always been my favorite Batman. Thank you for the memories.
The party continued on from last week. They were battered, bruised and in general, not in great shape. They realized that their only lead was to continue on to talk to Professor Benjamin Graham at Durham University.
This is where the adventure shows itself. The Shan are on a timeline. The party needs to keep up. If they don’t follow closely, the Shan get farther ahead, and more powerful. The party needs to simultaneously keep up… and have a couple of weeks to heal. They are battered. Their sanity is significantly affected. Their bodies have been messed with.
The Doctor has a healing spell, but using that spell uses 12 magic points, which is pretty much all that he has… more importantly, he loses one sanity every time that he uses the spell. He is down to less than 30 sanity… which means that he is more likely to lose it in a big way. The Doctor also has a permanent malady, where he loses it completely and must fight any flying monsters. That is not a great thing for the party.
The Romani has burned all his luck, or almost all of it. He can restore some luck each session, however, the Romani player is very able to roll 1’s on his d8 to restore luck.
The Skientist in pants is doing well, for now… more on that later.
The actor has been attacked by star vampires, and is severely weakened in strength. The blood loss by star vampire bleeding the strength is brutal.
The nurse started out with the highest sanity, but got hammered with an unsuccessful try at the healing spell. She is still going strong, but she found another spell, Voorish Sign, which she likes… a lot…, but that is slowly sapping her sanity.
The Irish rogue is doing quite well. But that is because the player missed a few sessions. Matt came back this week, and his relatively balanced, normal character now is a super power compared to the other players who are battered and beaten.
The dilettante is doing well. She has kept out of the fray for the most part. Flashing her boobs and drinking is doing well for her. ** Dear reader, that is what Jason does with the character, not my input here **
The “art dealer” is doing well… for now. But lust will affect him in a big way soon, as in this adventure.
So the party takes another bus from the horrific crash near Ugthorpe to Durham University. Thankfully, the bus ride is uneventful. Nobody has any nightmares, nobody tries to stab the passengers, and best of all, the bus driver does not get up and leap out of the bus while it is moving.
That does not mean that the bus ride is comfortable or restive.
While this bus looks quaint and pretty, buses from this era have truck suspensions, and hard seats. Likely something like this:
A long bus trip on semi-primitive roads… Oh, my aching back, hips, knees, feet, elbows, and sciatic nerves.
And you thought that modern airline seats were uncomfortable?
So the party arrives in Durham, and in short order, they find Durham University. It isn’t much of an effort really. The Doctor went to Cambridge, and this is a lesser university after all, so navigation to this lower place of learning is easy from the Doctor’s perspective.
They find the Bursar’s office. The Bursar is full of himself. He attempts to put the others into their place, after all, they are not even students of Durham. Little does he know, the doctor is from Cambridge, and is unaffected by the slights that the Bursar leaves for the rest of the party. The Bursar is very offended by the Skientist. She is an educated woman, in science… and she wears pants. This takes about all of the the little reserve that the Bursar has, to not throw her out.
In the end, the Bursar does make himself feel better, after all, the Doctor did graduate from Cambridge, but the doctor only has an MD and two PhD’s (in science). The Bursar is a man of letters in the arts. Having advanced studies in the arts, of course is much more interesting and noteworthy than any silly “advanced” studies in medicine or science.
And, let’s not forget that the party looks pretty scraggly at this point. They are bruised, battered, and their clothes are worse for the wear. No self respecting Durham man would show up in this condition asking for help. Let’s not forget that all the Doctor wanted was to know where he could find Professor Graham. It is a minor thing, but the Cambridge man did need assistance from the Durham man. Scandalous. Third university, indeed.
The party goes to Professor Graham’s office. They knock on the door, and he calls out from inside “come”. They party enters the small, cramped office. the office has stacks of books, notes and papers. It is a jumbled mess. Professor Graham is stuffy and a little full of himself. He is disturbed when the party tells him the story so far. It is disturbing that all of these things are happening to good people.
Professor Graham doesn’t know anything about the Shan, or any of the other mispronunciations of the other things that the party asks about.
Professor Graham is a historian of British Pagan Worship. He comes across as trustworthy but stuffy and introverted. This makes him fairly isolated, and he is used to people being bored with him,
He knows something of the cult of Azathoth but assures them, as he did with both Elliot and Seth, that it died out a long time ago. It was a cult of great antiquity, pre-roman, and it was replaced by a series of other pre-Christian faiths. He believes that it was concentrated in the South-East of the country, but the only specific place name he knows is associated with it is Lilla Howe, which he also gave to Seth. He tries to convince them that anyone practicing the cult’s rituals now or in the recent past (by this he means the past couple of centuries) has invented them, not unlike the modern druids at Stonehenge; all very silly and sad. He knows nothing of any real revival of the cult, except the things Elliot told him, and he didn’t really believe them.
He is saddened by the news of Elliot’s death but it won’t change his mind.
When the skientist mentions the name Azazel, however, he is startled, as it is also the name of a student group in Durham. He points them in the direction of the Student Representative Council, where they can make enquiries. He believes it is some sort of history society, but isn’t sure as he doesn’t associate with students outside of lectures and tutorials
The Durham Colleges Students’ Representative Council, on the Palace Green, is the best place to find out about student societies. Professor Graham gives them directions.
In the entryway is a notice board giving various society activities. The party notices information on the board about two society meetings. The first is the Music Society, for eight o’clock tonight in the Church across the road from the Cathedral. A closer look reveals that it is a local, rather than student, society.
The “arts dealer” is reminded of the musicians at Bloody Beck. He is not sure what the connection is, but he feels that there must be a connection.
The second meeting is for the Azazel, tomorrow night at seven, in the nearby Buffalo’s Head Pub on Saddler Street. Both notices say all are welcome.
The skientist notices something odd also. It is summer. It seems odd that there are things going on at the university during summer. Most of the students should be gone.
There are about 20 people at the meeting. The party recognize two cultists from the Bloody Beck. They are a flautist and a drummer, and they are not interested in singing.
The music goes on for a while. It is poorly played baroque music. The Romani and Irishman go to find liquor at a pub. The rest of the party stick around. After the end of the music recital, The flautist, Jasmine, invites the party back to her room. Jasmine’s is in the castle keep, As soon as the Doctor, Nurse and arts dealer are in the room, Jasmine starts undressing. Naked, then Jasmine invites the rest for casual sex. At this point, Summer, the real wife of Daron, (Summer is the Nurse character, Daron is the Doctor), well, Summer disappeared. Not sure if she was getting a soda, or what. The Doctor decided not to partake, but while Jasmine and the art dealer were getting it on, in full view of the Doctor, the Doctor decided to check out the room.
To the dismay, or maybe delight of the arts dealer, the sex was completely mechanical and full of lust. There was no passion. It was something that was animalistic, more like pigs rutting than passionate lovemaking.
The doctor realizes that Jasmine’s room is not typical student rooms either. They are too sterile and clinically well-organized; While the grunting, sweating and moaning was going on in the background, the Doctor realizes that the room is arranged more in the fashion of an office than a living space. He sees a calendar note for a midnight choir practice in the Cathedral in two days’ time.
About the time that the art dealer and Jasmine is done rutting, Summer comes back to the table and asks “what happened?” To which Daron said… “I will tell you later on the car ride home”.
This Azazel student group caters for those interested in the history of Durham in general, and its cathedral in particular. They are especially keen on the more esoteric aspects, such as the “square built” pillars and geometrical relationships.
The Buffalo’s Head Pub is quite full when they arrive. The barman tells them that the meeting is taking place in an upstairs room. There are a couple of dozen people present.
When the socializing is over and everyone is sitting down, Amelia Carter stands up and welcomes everyone, including nonmembers. She introduces a guest speaker, Professor Mark Hooke. He is an expert on the geometry of English cathedrals and is quite genuine. He talks for some time, then asks for questions. All in all, the meeting takes about two hours. Once again, the Irishman and the Romani leave and find a pub. The arts dealer sits down next to his new squeeze, Jasmine. She is a little cold and distant, but doesn’t move away.
At the end of the lecture, Professor Hooke offers a tour of the Cathedral, giving access to areas not normally open to the public. The tour will continue after this meeting.
Amelia approaches each of the female characters, and talks with them individually. Eric, the Romani notices that only the female characters are being talked to individually by Amelia, but I point out to him that he is in the bar / pub, and nowhere near.
Somehow, magically, the Romani and Irishman come back in time for the tour. Not sure how that happened, but it was fortuitous. Maybe.
The tour happens right after the Azazel Society meeting. Quite a crowd has gathered at least twenty people, not all from the society. A Cathedral official meets them at the main door, under the famous knocker. The tour takes them around the upper levels, up spiral staircases, through doors to walkways high above the ground, under the stained glass and finally down into a part of the undercroft. They are repeatedly warned to be careful, as some of the walkways are narrow and have no safety barriers. Potential cover and places to hide can be seen by anyone making a special Idea roll. Part of the way through, Amelia suddenly leaves the group. Only the dilettante sees Amelia disappear. She appears to walk into a pillar. Pretty much like Harry Potter, and Platform 9 3/4.
The Dilettante isn’t sure if she actually observed Amelia disappear, or what. She doesn’t bring it to the attention of the rest of the party.
This is where things get bad. When the party is on one of the overhead walkways, you know, the ones without any handrails, that the party was told to be careful on… well, she pushes the arts dealer off. He falls 30-ft, to the hard stone floor. Luckilly for him, he only takes minimal damage because he was fleet footed. The arts dealer sees the look on Jasmine’s face, which is one of complete uninterest, almost vapid in appearance as she watches the arts dealer fall to the ground.
Then things get bad. Well, not yet, but pretty soon.
The tour goes bonkers. Four people are missing, Amelia, the Flautist (Jasmine), the drummer (an un-named character), and another person. Also, one person has fallen thirty feet to the ground.
The nurse decides to make the voorish sign. Another sanity point lost! She is hoping that this will result in her being able to see someone who is invisible. Now, technically, no one is invisible, but I don’t want to make her lose sanity (her choice to use the spell) without any benefit. So tell her that she sees a glowing palm sized area about head height on a column nearby. The nurse goes forward and touches it. She expects something exciting to happen. Nothing does. She feels a breeze blowing out of the column. This is odd, since the column is solid stone. She puts her hand at where the breeze is coming out, and her hand passes through the stone, while her hand is on the blowing part of the stone. Luckily for her, she doesn’t take her right hand off the glowing part of the stone while she puts her left hand into the stone column.
She points out to the other party members that this appears to be a hidden passage. The Irishman goes forward, and smacks solidly into the stone face of the pillar. This appears to be some sort of sick nursing joke on Irishmen.
The party figures out that the person touching the invisibly glowing spot needs to be the one going through. They can’t have one person touching the spot with others going through.
The party leaves via the stone “door”, and finds themselves on a rough cut stairway. The stairway is completely dark, and each tread has different lengths of steps and different heights of steps. The geometry doesn’t work either. They walked through a 4-ft X 4-ft stone pillar and they are now at the top of a stairwell with an apparently unlimited room in size and height.
The party slowly goes down the stairs. It is dark, and the stairs are very hard to navigate. As they get to the bottom of the stairs, they are attacked by four shans. The party can see them, as they glow slightly.
Things go bad here. I won’t get into all of the details, but, the general thinking in Call of Cthulhu is that if you see a monster, you need to run.
This simple flow chart tells you everything you need to know about how to deal with monsters in Call of Cthulhu.
Note that any situation where you interact with the monster results in “You Poor Bastard”.
But in this case, the party decided to engage, and eventually split the party.
The party figured out pretty quick that even when they hit the shan, the shan had nasty amounts of damage reduction, so they didn’t even scratch it unless they did at least 10 damage with a single attack. This meant that it was time to bravely run away.
In the long run, the Romani crawled away and found the exit, tumbling down stairs taking more damage, and falling through another weird door, falling out into a grassy area where cultists were dancing and singing while circling a glowing pyramid.
Soon thereafter, the Irishman followed. They were beaten, bedraggled, and pretty much done for the day.
Next the art dealer, the skientist and the dilettante decided to split the party and go back up the stairway, hoping that they would be able to get back to where they started. The Shan’s attacked and knocked out the skientist. The art dealer was trying to carry the skientist up the stairs. The dilettante was busy trying to get back through the door they came through, but couldn’t figure it out.
The doctor and the nurse were left out in the open. The doctor was being attacked by flying monsters. This meant that he lost his shit and started attacking. His shotgun skills were not holding up to his crappy rolls. The nurse pulled him along, and the shan mercilessly attacked. Eventually, the nurse dragged the doctor along and fell down the stairs. They landed in a lump on top of the Irishman and the Romani, knocked out.
Now the problems started.
The skientist (in pants) was given a single hit point back, as she received some first aid. The skientist, the dilettante and the art dealer decide to make it for the exit rest of the party went out.
Now, I don’t want to pick on any specific players. When a monster attacks a group, I base the attacks on one of several possibilities:
- Has one player become a major threat to the monster(s) over the last few combat rounds?
- Did one particular player just do some major damage to the monster(s) gaining the monster(s) attention?
- Is one player doing something that gains the attention of the monster(s)?
- The only one holding a lantern in the dark
- The only one yelling
- The only one running away
- You get the idea
- Is the monster(s) currently engaged with one specific individual
- If not, then roll randomly as to which monster will attack
In this case, the four flying shan’s were looking for anything juicy. They randomly attacked the skientist. One shan did 28 damage on her, while she had only one hit point left. She was cut to pieces. It was bad.
The dilettante was attacked and the art dealer dragged the body of the dilettnante to the stairway out, and landed outside on the grass, knocked out.
Things were bad. Things got worse.
- One party member is dead.
- Four party members are knocked out
- Two party members are extremely weakened, and they are right in front of the cultists dancing naked around a glowing pyramid at night.
What could possibly go wrong?