Monday Night Madness

A Time to Harvest, Episode 1.2
Settling In

The Investigators

  • “’Just’ Justin Churchill,” Biology major and bird-enthusiast outdoorsman.
  • “Gerald M. Mayer,” F.O.C. Geologist and corporate chaperone.
  • “Leopold Flanagan,” tenured Professor of Religion & expedition chaperone.
  • “Adleine ‘Sunshine’ Fredrick,” cheerful Anthropology major.
  • “Bernherd Whately (of the Arkham Whatelys”), Varsity Football hero and Chemistry major.
  • “Ethan Froam,” dilettante student artist on hard times.
  • “Octavia Franklin,” dour Archaeology student fated to be a crazy cat-lady.

The Arkham expedition heads on in to Joe’s Grill and are just placing their orders when Sheriff Spencer and Deputy Cutter come in. The Sheriff sidles up to the bar, gets a cup of coffee, then reads them the riot act, informing them at length that he will have none of the shenanigans that happened last year. With that he tips his hat and leaves. Deputy Cutter sticks around though, apologizing for his boss and asks if he can join them, offering to give them a tour of the town afterwards. They agree and get to talking with the handsome young deputy (several noting an awkward exchange between him and expedition leader Robert Blaine in regards to the missing members of last year’s expedition). Gerald tries probing deputy and Jim’s wife, Ann, in regards to the missing students, to little avail, but Just takes interest in Ann’s son sketching weird trees in the corner and enjoys (?) a rather odd conversation with young Jason because of it (including the youngster razzing the deputy for getting too old). After their late lunch, true to his word Deputy Cutter gives them the tour and introduces them to many locations and locals about town, including (but not limited to) the Librarian Mable Carruthers and her niece, Amanda Wells, Rev. Wilson, Karner’s Goods grocery story, Dr. Perry’s Office, and the War Memorial (with its fully functional canon!). He warns them to avoid Jimmy Maclearan (a notorious drunk and the Sheriff’s brother-in-law who lost his farm –the same one they’re now staying at – after his wife died) and Richard Wendell (the nosy reporter whom they met earlier). Afterwards he drives back with them to the Maclearan Farmhouse, and sticks around to share a little whisky from his flask (on the down-low! No telling his boss!) while they share ghost stories. When his turn comes around, he tells them of how the neighborhood kids dare each-other to stay in the house because they believe Maclearan’s wife still haunts the place. After he leaves they settle down for the night, and Just and Octavia (along with a few others) are haunted by curious dreams, which they keep to themselves upon waking. After breakfast Ethan has a very peculiar “vision” of a strange bipedal rat slaughtering a hare while transiting from the outhouse earlier, decides to keep the experience to himself, but spends his off-hours over the next day or so sketching the creature. When they are all ready Blaine breaks them all into two groups. The Anthropology & Folklore team drive into town with him to question the locals, while the handyman, Joe Harlow, drives the rest to a dig-site he’d picked out to survey. The town-team hears little of interest save a story about a ghost-hound that haunts one of the neighboring hills, while the other group finds little outside of a single Indian arrowhead. Regrouping that evening at the Farm, the Arkhamites are concerned about the incoming storm (given all the work they’d done), but settle down as best they may, despite the heat. Most sleep uncomfortably, and while both Just and Ethan wake briefly to note Blaine stepping out, only Ethan thinks he hears a strange buzzing noise in the distance, like bees. As the night wears on, Octavia and Just are again haunted by strange dreams…

View
A Time to Harvest, Episode 1.1
Field Trip!

The Investigators:

  • “Just" Justin Churchill, Biology major and bird-enthusiast outdoors-man.
  • Gerald M. Mayer, F.O.C. Geologist and corporate chaperone.
  • Leopold Flanagan, tenured Professor of Religion & expedition chaperone.
  • Adeline “Sunshine” Fredrick, cheerful Anthropology major.
  • Bernherd Whately ("of the Arkham Whatelys”), Varsity Football hero and Chemistry major.
  • Ethan Froam, dilettante student artist on hard times.
  • Octavia Franklin, dour Archaeology student fated to be a crazy cat-lady.

Feedback? One player pointed out the opening scenario seemed a little top-heavy in exposition and NPCs (a complaint many have shared with the recent D&D adventure “Out of the Abyss,” which starts out with even more potentially allied NPCs at the start of the campaign), but he – like everyone else – are excited to play and curious to see where it is going. Though several players took copious (and detailed) notes, I am strongly considering putting together a Dramatis Persona cheat-sheet for the players to aid in keeping track of all the NPCs traveling with them.

I arrived early to assist two more players to make characters for the game, but many of the others arrived early as well, adding to the festive atmosphere and aiding in fitting the group into the already established dynamic. My suggestion to establish one of their Important Persons as missing MU student John Jeffrey was jumped on and developed into a love triangle (John was Just’s rival for Octavia, before John disappeared on the previous expedition to Cobb’s Corners. John asked Just to hold onto an engagement ring he planned to give to Octavia upon his return – now Just’s Treasured Possession – while John was her childhood companion, etc, etc). This should lay groundwork for some fun later on (evil Keeper laughter inserted here. As the group finished up I informed everyone as to how the party would (along with the NPCs traveling with them) be split into two teams for much of the trip: the Anthropology & Folklore group would be chaperoned by Prof. Flanagan, and consist of Adeline & Bernherd, along with NPCs Jason Trent, William Noakes & Terrence Laslow, while the Archaeological & Geological Survey would be chaperoned by Gerold M. Meyer, and consist of Ethan, Octavia & Just, as well as NPCs Clarisa Thurber, Rodrick “Little Rod” Block, Louis Gibbons and Harold Higgins, with expeditionary leader Robert Blaine moving between the groups from day to day, & expedition organizer Prof. Roger Harrold unable to come with them but arriving in a few days to note their progress. There was a little competition over which team Just should join, which went thusly:

Adeline: “come join our side! (Prof. Leopold) can get you a better grade!”
Mr. Meyer: “join the Geological Survey Team. I can get you a job.”

Characters finally finished, the newly-minted investigators gathered in the wee-hours one August morning, where they made introductions with each-other and the assorted NPCs, and played musical chairs to see who would be traveling with who (Bernherd was worried about his driving skill, resulting in Blaine moving Clarisa from his car to the other, leaving Mr. Meyer (who’d hoped to chat with the girl with such exceptional grades about possibly signing on with FOC after graduation) jammed in the back seat with Just & Octavia and giving them all a chance to get to know Ethan better (as he was the one trading places with her). By mid-afternoon they pass through Cobb’s Corners to take residence at the Maclaeran Farm, and are introduced to handyman truck driver Joe Harlow. Adeline encourages the girls to aid in her tidying up the place, and absolutely adores the beautiful flower-garden between the house and outhouse (suspecting faeries, or a kindly vagrant of tending it). After they have settled in, Blaine takes them back into town for a late lunch, where they are accosted by the bland-seeming reporter Richard Wendell, who asks them about their business in town and takes their picture for the local newspaper, before the gang finally has a chance to head inside for a bite to eat.

View
A Time to Harvest, Episode 1
Character building - who are our Investigators?

Investigators:

  • Leopold Flanagan, tenured Professor of Religion & expedition chaperone.
  • Adeline “Sunshine” Fredrick, cheerful Anthropology major.
  • Bernherd Whately (of the Arkham Whatelys), Varsity Football hero and Chemistry major.
  • Ethan Froam, dilettante student artist on hard times.
  • Octavia Franklin, dour Archaeology student fated to be a crazy cat-lady.

Feedback? Folks really seem to like the random tables for filling out Backstory and Name, and found them really helpful for rounding out their characters.

This was our character building session for our first “Official” Open-play adventure path from Chaosium, “A Time to Harvest.” I explained the general premise of the campaign (a 6-episode/month campaign revolving about M.U. students in 1930) and we joked about my initial concerns over it only being released 1 episode a month (This is the group that took 17 weeks to finish the short adventure “Crimson Letters,” which presumes resolution in 2-3 sessions). I also explained the guidelines for characters primarily being students (allowing for perhaps one or two being chaperone characters, which led to the creation of Professor Flanagan). Then we went into character-building proper, with me taking special care to point out elements on the sheet that folks may have missed in our prior runs (principally the Temporary/Indefinite Insanity check-boxes and the Major Wound check-box, as well as making clear distinctions for what happens upon reaching 0 HP when you do/don’t have a Major Wound and how that affects healing). Characters really jelled once they reached the Backstory section, with two of the characters finding their significant persons were fellow party members (Prof. Flanagan’s player having a lot of fun discovering his starchy power-hungry characters’ important person was the Football Hero Bernherd Whately, leading to a whole new spin for him having a betting addiction on sports, and Ethan’s player being bemused by his artist’s creepy obsession with sketching Octavia). Characters mostly done we did introductions and some basic exploration as to how or what they might know of each-other, and why they might be going onto a Field-trip to Vermont.

View
Wealth & Privilage, chapter 5
The Devil Rises!

With the big house destroyed, and a tentacled horror crawling out of the wreckage, things look grim. Helga had fainted behind the barracks, her faithful hound standing over her, while Woodrow watched in shock and fascination where he sat, atop the barn, frozen with rifle in hand. Grampton had just started riding down, while J.C. & Trevor had just arrived to have their horses start bucking like crazy as they neared the Beast. Meanwhile Winthrop is struggling free of the collapsed structure after having shoved the Watts family to safety, while Hans and Ross – both believed dead (Hans having blown up and Ross by a Drover’s bullet) shake themselves awake (Hanz miraculously having found cover behind Grampton’s gnome, and Ross’s whisky flask having caught the bullet). As Ross spots and hustles over to assist Helga to safety, Trevor loses his mind as he sees the creature up close, gobbling cows and the occasional Drover. As the Cows Ross and Helga had earlier set free realize the monster in their midst, they begin to stampede out of the ranch, the mindless Trevor and terrified Drovers along with them…

Quotes: “It is the Call of Cowthulhu!”
: “I will have to write about this in my Dairy.”
: “This is Utter madness!”
(There was much more in this line which I thankfully gave up writing down)

Though Hans (having snatched up one of the Drover’s dropped rifles), J.C. and Father Winthrop all attempt to give it hell, all they do is get it very angry (though the Priest’s sorcery, invoked from his personalized edition of “Alice through the Looking Glass”, seemed to hurt it more than most with the creation of a glowing small sun above them). As such it takes a break from pursuing the cattle to devour Hans and good Father Winthrop, while J.C. is knocked from his horse and forced to flee into the desert. Ross gets himself badly banged up after repeatedly trying (and failing) to climb up to the top of the barn to shake some sense into Woodrow, only for Woodrow to come to on his own and – after climbing down – ask what he was doing in a cow-paddy. The two slip off before the monster notices them. Grampton sees his comrades in flight and decides discretion is the better part of valor, and turns his horse “Sad Bastard” (along with Hans’ camel “Caramel”, and whatever other horses were still under his care) and starts the long ride home. The others also find their separate ways, eventually rejoining him in Devil’s Gulch with their own tales to tell. Helga had been rescued from her wanderings by the Indians of the Badlands and nearly becoming another wife for the Chief before slipping away, while Ross and Woodrow had been rescued by a donkey, Jezebel, who led them to a strange pair of miners who nursed them back to health. Both of them “change” as they heal, and Ross elects to stay with the miners to work their claim, finding himself unable (or unwilling) to go, leaving the frightfully changed Woodrow to make it back on his own. Trevor eventually comes to, and eventually returns, but can never quite recall what had really happened (or believe it, when reminded). J.C. survives his travels in the desert, and like the others decides to keep the story secret, but uses the events as inspiration for the fictitious Penny Dreadfuls he starts to write. And the Demon of the Bar-T Ranch is still out there, free, dragging itself through the Badlands to bedevil what fools it finds.

View
Wealth & Privilage, chapter 4
Shootout at the Bar-T Ranch!

The Drovers & Ephraim reach the safety of the Ranch well before the Posse (with Father Winthrop badly injured). The Drovers hold up in the stables, getting word to everyone else, while Ephraim runs into the main house. As the Posse pauses to figure out what to do next, Helga’s dog, Lammshen, arrives – very tired from having been chasing the Drovers for the last day or two without rest. The Posse makes a plan: a half an hour after dark, Father Winthrop will distract them at the gate with words of peace while everyone else moves into position. Grampton will summon a Gnome to transport Hans close to the Big House through the earth so he can take the house by surprise, while Ross and Helga let loose the cattle and make them stampede. As the Drovers are distracted by all that, everyone else rides in, shooting.

Trevor: “Is it too late to switch sides? Our side is full of heathens!”

Father Winthrop does his best to beguile the Drovers at the gate, and is quickly disarmed while he preaches at them to give up Ephraim, but they intimate his father, Melville Watts, has his own in with the Lord. Hans is spotted the moment he pops up, landing him in a shootout with the Drovers that spot him (though the Gnome makes good cover). Meanwhile Helga and Ross manage to sneak in to let loose the Cows while Woodrow shimmies up the back of the barn to start sniping from the roof. To the Drover’s surprise Winthrop uses his sorcery to leap up onto the roof of the big house after cloaking them in darkness, then slides down to throw himself through an upper-story window. As Trevor and J.C. quickly ride down to join them, Hans’ Inferno-Rifle overloads and explodes, blowing the fabulously dressed Mad Scientist to God Only Knows Where. Inside the house Winthrop hears children crying quietly in one room, while he hears two men praying in Latin in another. Making a quick decision, he seeks out the children and their mother and persuades them to let him escort them from the house to safety and manages to get them out the door just as something answer’s Ephraim and Melville’s prayers, exploding up through the floor and collapsing the whole house around him. To everyone else’s horror, a massive, tentacled Thing rises up, causing many of our heroes to go mad…

J.C.: “So you aren’t going postal – you’re going Pony-Express.”

View
Wealth & Privilage, chapter 3
Race to the Ranch!

The Posse sleep in, then decide to take the short-cut through the Badlands and risk the wrath of possible Indians in the hope of cutting off Ephraim before he gets back to his father’s ranch. Many are amazed (or at least confused) by Hans’s strange rifle, while J.C. awakes strangely optimistic and exuberant. As they get into the Badlands proper, Hans and Father Winthrop feel unnerved, insisting that someone is watching them. Though J.C. and Woodrow spot native fetishes and thus realize they must be entering sacred lands, they press on, and soon, some distance ahead, they spot half-a-dozen Indian warriors sitting and telling stories to each other. With no way to communicate with each-other (and a strange, magical Coyote appearing and disappearing, seemingly egging everyone on to violence) things look grim, but when Ross rides up and dismounts they take that as a sign that his horse is a gift, and seem somewhat appeased. Ross goes along with it, and as each of the posse in turn gives them a gift, they too are allowed to pass (Woodrow gives up a pistol, Trevor gives them a bottle of whisky, Helga gives up her tobacco, Granthom gives them his spare deck of cards, Father Winthrop gives the Coyote a piece of his soul, Hans gives them some of his rings and jeweled buttons from his fabulous clothes, and they let J.C. go along for free as Hans leaves them at a loss for how strangely fabulous he is). Escorted out of the Badlands by the otherworldly Coyote, they spot Ephraim and his accompanying drovers and give chase. Though only a few manage to get close enough to trade gunshots (good Father Winthrop proving to be the best rider amongst the posse, manages to wing a few before his injuries force him to fall back, while eagle-eyed Woodrow manages to snipe Ephraim’s horse, forcing him to catch a ride on the back of one of his company), they still fail to stop Ephraim from escaping to the safety of the Bar-T Ranch.

View
Wealth & Privilage, chapter 2
A posse forms...

Having arrived in town by train earlier that day, Agent Edgar Ross and Hans van Winkle decide they’d best get a drink at the Bulls Head Saloon, arriving just as Ephraim Watts shoots Old Tom. Helga stairs down the drunk cowboys with him from the Bar-T Ranch, persuading Ephraim to give up his gun and turn himself over to the Sheriff. Concerned about a lynching Helga gets the aid of several others (J.C. Whitmore, Father Winthrop & Agent Ross) to escort Ephraim to the Sheriff’s Office, Woodrow and Hans stay behind, preferring to drink and gamble the night away. Trevor takes his leave, the talk of lynching having made him a bit nervous (being an African-American in the Old West), only to be made more nervous when he sees Grampton St.Rumpterfrabble riding into town like Death himself on a pale horse, before reaching the Church to seek sanctuary for the night (where he ends up sleeping on the pews until dawn after a curious conversation with the honorable Rev. Mason). Grampton in turn heads into the Bulls Head Saloon to take part in the card game between van Winkle and riverboat gambler “Ace” Clancy. Meanwhile, back at the Sheriff’s Office/Jail, the rest of the gang are deputized by Sheriff Bishop, concerned that the Drovers, or some of the locals, might try something (agreeing to Agent Ross’s request for information on outlaw Black-Jack McKinney if he does). Ephraim finally comes out of shock over what he’s done and starts making vague threats if he isn’t freed, given how important his pappy is to the town. Helga eventually takes her leave, heading back to the Saloon for a bit more information-gathering from the barkeep, where she becomes acquainted with the strange gamblers at the corner-table with Ace. Near midnight as she is walking back she spots four masked men on horseback, Winchesters cocked, waiting in front of the Jail. Inside the Sheriff & deputies are distracted by community leaders Farnsworth and Hubbard begging them to let Ephraim go before his father finds out and things go badly for the town. Before the others can react, the wall of Ephraim’s is wrenched away and he escapes to a horse and the hollers of more masked cowboys. Seeing him and his masked escort ridding off into the night, Helga tells her hound “Lammchen” to follow them before she rejoins the others inside. The Sheriff orders a posse formed, and they grab whomever will lend a hand at the Saloon (Hans, Woodrow and Grampton being the only volunteers), while Father Winthrop swings by the Church to tell Rev. Mason what has happened (inadvertently recruiting Trevor in the process as the latter realizes this is a good “in” to put him on the right side of the Law and the town). Concerned over her dog, Helga insists they leave as soon as possible, so despite exhaustion (and some being still a bit drunk) the Sheriff quickly marshals up horses and trail provisions for the two-day ride, and they are off in hot pursuit…
_
Quotes: (Agent Ross, to Helga)_ – “You look sauerkraut-y.”
(Helga) – “Who are you calling ‘Sour’?”

Also…

(Hans) – “You let me have a Camel! I’m in!” & “I have a twinkle in my Winkle!”

View
Wealth & Privilage, chapter 1
Welcome to Devil's Gulch

This week we finished up characters, specifically sorting out Powers (introducing the Action Point/Resources rules from Astounding Adventures, and the half-Fae racial stuff from After the Vampire Wars). Characters done, the gang charges into…

Wealth & Privilege, Ch 1: Welcome to Devil’s Gulch.
Five strangers (and a very large dog) make acquaintance on the stagecoach to Devil’s Gulch. Helga Gertrude von Croppe and her hound companion Lammchen (traveling entertainers), Trevor Laurence (a colored out-of-work railway man), Dr. Parfrey (travelling miracle elixir salesman), Father Winthrop (a preacher with a speech impediment) and J.C. Whitmore (newspaper man from back east). Arriving in town they separate. The good Father making his way to the Church, where he makes acquaintance with Reverend Mason, and the two share stories of Monster Hunting and Exorcisms. Trevor manages to stick his foot firmly in his mouth when he attempts to seek respite in the only business run by local colored folks, the Kerns Livery & Smithy (resulting in a fight between himself and the young blacksmith Levi). The others all take up rooms at the Empire Hotel, with Helga making arrangements with Mr. Farnsworth to perform there several times a week. Once everyone is settled in (or not, in Trevor’s case), they all meet up again at the Bull’s Head Saloon as evening rolls around. While they nurse their whisky and try their hands at cards, they note an obnoxious young man, Ephraim, along with his drovers, having a time of it drinking and gambling, and find out about his being the son of the wealthy Melville Watts, who’s Bar-T Ranch regularly runs cattle through town. They don’t think about it much thereafter, until the youngster loses his temper with a card-dealer, Old Tom, and shoots him dead!

View
Devil's Gulch character-build session.

Our heroes:

  • J.C. Whitmore, Frontier Journalist
  • Hans van Winkle, Mad Scientist!
  • Edgar Ross, Pinkerton Agent
  • Trevor Laurence, Railway Engineer
  • Helga Girtrude von Croppe, Showgirl
  • Dr. Woodrow Parfrey, Snake-Oil Salesman
  • Bazil Windthrope, Preacher

So, by agreement we have put the CoC7e games on hold until we actually have hardcopies. In the interim the Games of Berkeley crowd have agreed to give Chaosium’s Basic Role-Playing system a try, and as none of them have ever tried a western, we decided to give Devil’s Gulch a try. This week was mainly character creation, and as it was sufficiently different (and more complex, as it turns out) than CoC7e, the entire session was spent working on characters (the results of which you can see above). To give them a bit more inspiration I allowed them to use the Extraordinary Abilities table from the Aces High monograph (if you ever decide to do a more thorough BRP Wild West game, combining Aces High & Devil’s Gulch might be a good idea), and since not everyone wanted to take a profession that allowed for the usual Powers/Sorcery/Gadgets, etc, from Devil’s Gulch, I decided to let the rest pick Resources from the Astounding Adventures book. We lost time at the start of the session, unfortunately, to a would-be player who proved too disruptive and had to be escorted from the store by the staff (I like to be inclusive, but he managed to insult or upset a number of the other players within 5-10 minutes of joining us, and had already kicked off warning flags with the store management as a possible problem). Next week, we finish characters (mainly just the Powers aspect of character creation), and begin the scenario, “Wealth & Privilege."

View
Amidst the Ancient Trees, chapter 6
From the depths it rises...

Sunday, June. 25th, 1922 – As night falls Hayward finds himself the only one still standing to face three undead union soldiers standing between him and the only exit to Cabin #4 (behind him the missing girl Jane Strong, along with the missing hunter and his son, wait, bound and gagged), Carol’s unconscious body resting nearby. Outside and unaware Edith hobbles as quickly as she can towards the truck, the two dig-site workmen that were in her way lay dead, while Father Ward looks on, his mind slipping ever deeper into paranoia, an unconscious Flinders in a heap at his feet, as is Flinders’ shotgun. Elsewhere in the forest Jonson comes to (despite being doped up on morphine) in the company of the mad Anne-Ann and a worried Emilia Webb. Seeing the smoke and glow from the civil war cabin, he hobbles up and out towards it, Anne-Ann excitedly encouraging and Emilia calling them back without success. Arrival at the burned-out structure brings new terror as the sun finishes setting and two more undead in union blue pull themselves up out of the ruin. Though a terrified Emilia manages to escape back into the woods, Jonson is quickly and easily subdued. Anne-Ann, laughing, strips and goes up to embrace them. Back in Cabin #4, Hayward – still injured and ever an invalid – is quickly subdued by force after the Captain of the undead northerners fails to command him to set down his gun through force of will. He is dragged outside, where Edith manages to make it into the truck, only to be shot by Father Ward using Flinders’ shotgun. Hours later, Jonson, Edith, Carol, Flinders and Hayward come to to find themselves tied to stakes along the beach, along with a laughing Anne-Ann and a wild-eyed Father Ward (along with the other remaining kidnapped victims) as the undead union soldiers wait at the shore, watching as their Captain summons forth something from the lake. As they watch the Old One, Gla’aki, bubbles up from the depths, driving Ward and now Flinders deeper into madness. Though several of them attempt to wiggle free of their bonds, only Carol and Jonson succeed, abandoning their friends to flee into the forest. Those left behind are stung by Gla’aki’s wicked spines, making them its’ undead minions (all save Edith, who bleeds out after reopening her injuries while struggling, dieing before he can stab her, and Anne-Ann, thanks to the warding of the strange, eldritch tattoos placed on her in that strange Opium den back in Arkham). Jonson outlives his friends by only a few hours, falling dead on the trail after his own wounds reopen. Only Carol and Emilia fully escape back to civilization, but tell no one of what they have seen. A week later, only Anne-Ann is found at the dig-site, wandering, completely mad. With a new Gospel on her lips.

Quotes: “I’m taking illiteracy as a skill!”

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.