Monday Night Madness

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."

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!”

Amidst the Ancient Trees, chapter 5
Darkness Falls...

Sunday, June. 25th, 1922 – Carol and Emily finish resting and hustle to catch up with the rest of the Search Party. Spooked by the unseasonal golden leaves covering one of the paths where it branches off the main one (similar to a dream Carol had recently had), they see smoke, and decide to investigate. Finding a burning cabin, they do not stop as screams from the nearby beach add urgency to their continuance. At the beach they find five dead bodies, holes in their chests, at least one with their throat cut, near poles, cut rope and strange metal barbs. Before they can examine these things more carefully, gunshots further down the beach spur them onward, and they soon catch up with the other investigators and two dead surveyors (whom they claim were more undead who’d attacked them with knives). Howard and Edith manage to stabilize an unconscious Jonson before others tend to Edith’s own severe injuries (Hayward’s hands won’t stop shaking). The others unbury and wake Father Ward and calm the clearly delusional Anne-Ann. Finding Jonson’s stash of morphine, they decide to drug him and Anne-Ann and leave them hidden in the woods with Emilia babysitting, while they head onward to see if they can steal the truck from the dig-site to drive their injured back to town (Jonson in clear need of immanent surgery). A brief backtrack to the dead artists on the beach allows Edith to puzzle over the organic nature of the metal barbs, until Ward recalls reading something about the Old One Glaaki and how he makes servants to aid him in gaining his freedom. Continuing on, they reach the dig-site near dusk. Spying it out with binoculars, they note only two workmen, so Edith sneaks up to take cover behind one of the five cabins (this one having its’ windows boarded up, they suspect it to be the holding-place for the missing individuals). The others attempt to follow, but Ward trips and is spotted so Edith begins laying down cover-fire with her rifle while Antony Flinders and Ward charge the two surveyors. Meanwhile Carol and Hayward rush to pick the lock on the cabin door and slip inside. When Flinders blows a hole in one of the mineralogists, Ward loses his mind (again), realizing he is contending with yet more undead. Antony is knocked unconscious with a well-placed shot from a shovel before Ward clubs one down with his sand-filled shotgun and Edith can finish off the other with a well-placed shot. Edith sprints across to the truck while Ward looks on, overcome with a sudden wave of paranoia as to what his so-called friends will do now. Meanwhile, Hayward and Carol make their way into the boarded-up cabin where they see beyond the small office two doors. Each open one and enter (though only Hayward has an electric torch). He smiles, seeing the missing girl, Jane Strong, as well as the two Halls, but turns when he hears a disturbance from behind. Turning, he finds Carol, unconscious, three walking corpses in civil war garb stepping over her to block his escape. One smiles, and gently shuts the door…

Quote (Edith): “My weapon next week is a truck!”

Amidst the Ancient Trees, chapter 4
Blood at the Beach...

Sunday, June. 25th, 1922 – Edith awakes deep in the forest with Antony. Striking out northwards in hopes of eventually finding the others, they come across a devastated camp-site by mid-morning. Blood, ripped tents, and weird scattered paintings unnerve Edith, as do the familiar descriptions of dreams in a notebook she finds. She realizes the camp-site belonged to the Boston Artists they’d heard about. Soon they come across a Texas cowboy hat, and a rifle, which she deduces belonged to the other pair of father & son hunters, the Halls. Following the trail where they were clearly dragged off, they eventually come across the rest of the search party. Carol and Emily have had enough for now, deciding instead to rest a bit on the trail while everyone else continues on. They eventually come to a split in the road, and several suffer from deja-vous when they see the lesser trail covered in unseasonal yellow leaves. Following the smaller path they find an oddly familiar Cabin. Inside they find evidence of the undead civil war soldiers (coats on hooks, rusted rifles, etc), and note a strange blue glow coming from beneath the floorboards. Emptying their cooking oil they set fire to the place and leave. Soon they reach the edge of a lake, where they are horrified to find the missing artists, bound to poles, each with a large metal barb shoved through their chest to pin them in place. Worse, they should be dead, but are still somehow barely alive. Shaken, Hayward takes a swig from the flask he swiped from Edith the previous evening, resulting in a fight with Edith and Jonson. Father Ward in turn gives the sufferers the last sacrament, while Anne-Ann, sliding ever deeply into her madness, unties them and starts yanking out the spikes in their chests. Breathing his last, one Artist whispers they had been abducted by undead union soldiers, then held with several others (a man, a boy, and a teenage girl) at some sort of dig-site before this. The men at the site were using dynamite and shovels to dig something up. He begs them to kill him, as something in the water is coming, the same thing that infected them and won’t let them die. Anne-Ann does so, yanking out spine after spine, so that the hills echo with their dying screams. Shaken, the Investigators continue along the water’s edge towards the dig-site, when they encounter James and Dean, two workers from the dig-site, coming to investigate the screaming. Unsuspecting, the Investigators reveal what they found and what they have done, and are caught flat footed when the men whip out knives and begin stabbing them. Antony hits one so hard his neck snaps loudly and tilts to one side, and the Investigators realize the workmen too are dead. Ward faints, Hayward flees screaming, and Anne-Ann finally snaps for good, wondering over to the unconscious priest and burying him in the sand, muttering “and now we will bake you into a new god!” Though they manage to dispatch the undead workmen with much hacking and shooting, the Investigators are in bad shape! Father Ward and Hayward are badly shaken, Jonson is unconscious and dying, and Edith close to it. And poor Anne-Ann is now completely mad!

Amidst the Ancient Trees, chapter 3
Cabin in the Woods

Sunday, June. 25th, 1922 – Awoken at midnight by a mysterious explosion some miles to the north, Ward and Jonson (on watch at that point) spot a weird lingering blue glow that lingers for a few moments afterwards. Edith and Anne-Ann, tormented by horrid nightmares, both awake screaming. Before anyone can stop her, Edith runs shrieking into the woods, Antony in pursuit. Anne too is hysterical, but Father Ward manages to calm her down. In the confusion Hayward steals Edith’s hip-flask from her tent (Jonson sees him poking about her belongings, but not the theft itself. Hayward lies, stating she said he could have some, then pretends to put it back (though instead pocketing it). After debating going after the sniper, the corpse or Edith & Antony, they decide against it and return to bed. In the wee hours of the morning they break camp quietly and attempt to sneak up on the sniper, only to find him long gone. Before they continue on, Father Ward holds an abbreviated Mass. Carol, a loudly proclaimed Atheist, sits out on watch, while Hayward asks if they can just skip to the communion. Afterwards, Hayward marks the campsite with “WH” carved into a tree, as well as on their map (best guess as to location). Carol takes point and manages to again find their trail. As they travel, Ward, Emilia and Anne realize they can hear no sounds of local wildlife. The looming silence terrifies Anne-Ann and runs shrieking into the woods, ranting about Brown Jenkins and a Cabin in the Woods, surrounded by golden leaves. Ward, Carol and Hayward manage to catch her and calm her down, and retrace their steps to the rest of the search party and the trail. Around noon they find a Cabin in a clearing, outside of which a man hangs impaled on a tree. Catching them by surprise, someone starts firing at them with a shotgun from the Cabin. Anne freaks out and begins shooting wildly back, until Ward wrestles the gun from her, then talks the man in the Cabin down as well, giving them the chance to give Hayward some desperately needed first aid (having been caught in the crossfire. In talking with the man (who proves to be Harris, one of the kidnappers caught in the shootout with the police a few days ago), they find out about how he’d retreated to the Cabin (their hideout) yesterday, only to find the member of their gang left to watch their captive impaled on the tree outside, and the girl, Jane Strong, missing. Then, last night, the Cabin came under siege by dead men dressed as civil war soldiers. He managed to drive them off, but is otherwise too terrified to leave. The Search Party decide to pause for lunch, before setting off again, this time to trail the undead kidnappers…

Amidst the Ancient Trees, chapter 2
Dead Man walking

Saturday, June. 24th, 1922 – Father Ward awakes screaming near midnight. Others are roused, also complaining of vague and troubling dreams. Hayward complains about not having alcohol, leading to a debate over the quality of what Edith keeps in her flask while Jonson plays his new accordion. Later, as they are all again struggling to return to sleep, Hayward and Ward hear a truck in the distance (Hayward attempts to get a better idea of distance but fails, nearly getting lost in the forest – upon his return he persuades the good Father to give him a little whiskey the priest has tucked away “so he can get back to sleep”).

Quotes: Father Ward: “Whenever you have four Episcopalians together, you have a fifth…”

Edith awakes to the sound of gunfire and wakes Anne-Ann, who also hears it before the echoes end. Failing to discern where it is coming from (only that it is far off), they again drift back to sleep. Over breakfast the following morning they discuss the sounds they heard, as well as whatever nightmare had caused Father Ward so much distress.

Quotes: Father Ward: “Nothing to worry about; I was dreaming of the old church choir.”
Hayward: “Surely it was more than that!”
Father Ward: “You haven’t heard them sing.”

They set out, attempting to be stealthy. Mid-morning they find a new trail covered in recent blood-splatter, and decide to back-track it. They lose it after a few hours, so they return to where they had been before and return to their original trail.
Meanwhile, Carol Cliffe, Antony Flinders and Emilia Webb (all part of a different search party some miles to the west of our Investigators) encounter a truck, but let it go unimpeded and without comment. A couple of hours later they run in to our main protagonists and decide to join them (the rest of their party ready to turn back because of their own distressing dreams). Near dusk Edith, Antony and Emilia spot a glint of reflected light from a nearby ridge, giving them enough warning to dash for cover when someone starts shooting at the search party. Retreating further back into the woods, they establish camp and make plans for watches that night, as well as possibly sending scouts later to sneak up on the sniper. While on watch Edith and Hayward realize someone is spying on them from the tree-line, and they manage to pursue and capture him – shocked to find he is a mummified corpse in a civil war union uniform. After handcuffing and tying the body to a tree they settle down for the night, only to be awoken near midnight by a loud explosion miles to the north. They are also distressed to find the corpse has slipped his bonds and escaped.

Amidst the Ancient Trees, chapter 1
Into the Woods.

Friday, June. 24th, 1922 – the Investigators (Edith, Anne-Ann, Jonson & Ward), along with Antony Flinders, are reunited in Bennington, Virginia, to pick up their old associate, William Hayward, from prison (getting out early for good behavior). When they hear about the recent kidnapping of Jane Strong, and the failed ransoming at a shootout between gangsters and police the evening prior, they decide to see what aid they can be in the manhunt being formed (especially given the reward being announced sounds very attractive to the still-in-debt Hayward). At the meeting the Sheriff gives details of the abduction and subsequent shoot-out, to which the girl’s father, Lucas Strong, adds an offer of $25/day to aid in the search, as well as a $5,000 reward for her rescue (and if the kidnappers end up dead, his personal thanks). After the announcements but before being paired into search-teams, the Investigators split up to work the crowd and see if they can’t get some additional information. Questioning Lucas adds little more, except that he is heading the Water-board for Billington and responsible for a major dam project for Southern Vermont, and the Kidnappers may have mistakenly heard rumors that the surveyors he sent out had found rare metals. Local hunters also there for the manhunt tell the Investigators that game is bad near the heart of the forest, so it’s relatively unexplored. Besides the survey team, the Investigators also hear of a group of Artists, recently up from Boston, out in the woods. Assigned to the same team (except for Flinders), the Arkhamites decide to split up before heading out to start the manhunt to get supplies and see what they might find out about town. Father Ward hears from the parish priest of haunted Indian burial grounds, while Hayward romances the librarian, who mentions a missing company of civil war deserters that supposedly haunt the woods on moonless nights. Edith questions Jane’s best friend, but the frightened girl has little to add except that her father had been upset about something work-related well before the kidnapping. By noon the team again assembles and sets out, assigned to the trail the gangsters had taken when they fled into the woods. Except for a brief encounter with a man teaching his son to hunt (Alistair & George Lawson), they encounter no one in the woods. The hunter tell them of another pair (Brian & Arthur Hall) out doing the same thing further in the forest. That evening the Arkhamites set up camp and settle down for the night, only to be tormented by strange and frightening dreams…

Crimson Letters, chapter 17
No good choices...

Wednesday, Oct. 12th, 1921 – Having agreed to trade Cecil Hunter for Antony Flinders, the Investigators retreat from Unconsidered Trifles to acquire the target of their exchange. Edith, finding everyone gone from St. Mary’s hospital, desperately sets off in search of them, eventually ending up at Hobbshouse Manse herself, where she finds both Cecil, and the Horror (in a mirror), before going mad. When the rest of the Investigators arrive at the Mansion, they find Edith dancing in a trance with a badly beaten, unconscious Cecil. She comes to, and they are gratified to discover Cecil still alive, but all are forced to flee when the Horror manifests in an explosion of glass that pursues them out to their cars where they race back to Arkham before the Horror dissipates. Returning to Unconsidered Trifles, they meet the assistant, Mr. Fademan, and are led back into the labyrinth of tunnels bellow the store. The trade goes smoothly, and with the unconscious Flinders in their possession they take their leave, struggling to ignore the screams of poor Cecil as Wick sacrifices him to rebind the book.

Epilogues: Father Ward takes a sabbatical, returning to his favorite seminary upstate in order to get his head straight. Professor Hayward attempts to steal other artifacts to pay off the Atlanta Gangsters, but is caught, arrested, loses his post at Arkham, and sentenced to a year in prison. Anne-Anne Luskstrom focuses on her business, but continues to study her tattoos; this leads to her learning a number of Asiatic languages (though, none of them particularly well). Lacking conclusive evidence, the murder charges against Edith are eventually dropped, but the lawyer fees leave her and her father poorer for it. Edith and Antony continue dating and researching the occult; both join Jonson in the Eye of Amara society, where she reads through all the volumes of the Golden Bough. Mr. Jonson continues his lecturing at Arkham, and his studies with the Eye of Amara, where he fails to read and truly comprehend (for better or worse) their copy of the Sussex Manuscript – his playing of the Accordion marginally improves. Unconsidered Trifles burns down in an unexplained fire not long after the strange events of October, 1921, though Anne-Ann continues to get occasional postcards from Abner Wick, inquiring as to her health and well-being. Dean Fallon, dismayed at their failure to retrieve the manuscript, settles matters with the Hobbshouse estate out of court.

Crimson Letters, chapter 16
Desperate Action

Wednesday, Oct. 12th, 1921 – The following morning, while Edith is away filling out depositions with her lawyer, the rest of the Investigators discover from the Hospital staff that Mr. Flinders is missing. Going on the warpath, Hayward and Anne-Ann acquire shotguns; while Jonson buys himself an Accordion (he also joins the National Accordion Society while he’s at it). Anne carves crosses into the heads of her shells, and has Father Ward bless them. Thus armed, they drive over to the antiquities store, Unconsidered Trifles, where Jonson uses his Accordion to cover the noise of their attempts to break in. After failing to shoot the lock off the back door, they head around to the front to shatter the main shop window before climbing in. Hayward finds Flinder’s patient robe (he stops to “smell” it, because he is at this point accepted himself as a self-described pervert). Ward thinks he hears faint chanting from below, so they seek out the cellar (but not before grabbing the petrol-can from the garage). The cellar proves empty, apart from assorted store-related items, but they do find a trap-door hidden beneath some crates, and continue further down. This sub-basement, much larger than the one above, is a dark labyrinth filled with bones and older antiquities. They sense movement in the shadows, and realize they are surrounded by dozens of dog-like humanoids lurking mostly out of sight. When one of them makes the mistake of suggesting they retreat for dynamite, the monsters charge, howling. Two or three ghouls seize the stairs, and Jonson fails to dislodge them with his hastily made bone-torch. Hayward goes mad, firing wildly into the crowd, before running, screeching further into the labyrinth in his desperate search for Flinders, friend and foe alike hot on his heels. They soon find Flinders, tied and unconscious to a board hanging over a well, Abner Wick nearby, wearing nothing but an ornate robe, holding a knife as he conducts some strange rite, a strange aura of St. Elmo’s fire floating above (like what they had seen at Hobbshouse), dim roaring echoes coming up from below. Wick greets them pleasantly, until Hayward attempts to shoot him. The other Investigators struggle to throw off his shot (successfully) when they realize there are still many ghouls lurking about in the nearby tunnels. Anne-Ann rips open her bodice to show off her tattoos, and begins dancing, while Jonson attempts to accompany her on his Accordion (badly). A Ghoul seizes his instrument though and starts up a proper tune, while Wick, his interest piqued, agrees to negotiate with the Investigators, rather than have them killed out of hand. He tells them that the Entity trapped in the Manuscript is nearly free, and to seal it away he needs to sacrifice one “familiar with the book.” If they can get him a more suitable subject then Flinders (and if Anne promises he can have her body when she’s done with it) he’ll let Flinders go. Hayward initially offers himself, but after some discussion they agree Cecil Hunter, the mad artist responsible for unbinding the book in the first place, would be ideal. With that Wick agrees to hold off finishing the rite until the Investigators return with the wayward forger, but they’d best not make him wait long…

Crimson Letters, chapter 15
Going in Circles

Tuesday, Oct. 11th, 1921 – Jonson awakes to find the mad artist Cecil Hunter slapping him awake, wanting something to drink… and his manuscript, of course. Jonson agrees to “take him to his manuscript” but instead attempts to take him back to the Sanitarium. Cecil catches on though, so he takes him to Hobbshouse instead, promising him the Papers are in there… somewhere. Afterwards he goes to the Police station, just in time to pick up Edith as her lawyer is getting her out on bail. Ditching the car somewhere inconspicuous, they visit Hayward and the others at St. Mary’s Hospital, where they end up congregating (and commiserating) in Anthony Flinder’s room. A police officer arrives to take down statements from those injured at the Billington Estate (Animal attack? Or individual? And why were they there, illegally, in the first place?), discovering in the process that the current owner, Ambrose Dewart, has returned home to discover the mess (and apparent theft of his some of his books). Some fast talking persuades the flat-foot it wasn’t their doing, but an animal, and he warns them civil charges may still be filed before taking his leave. Leaving Hayward and Anne to continue their recovery (along with Flinders, still in a coma), Ward fills Edith and Jonson in about the fight at the Billington Estate (and that it was the two from the bookstore, who had claws, that caused their injuries). They swing by Unconsidered Trifles, only to find it closed and locked up. Returning to the Church to switch out Edith’s beat-up car for the church van, they then travel back out to the Billington Estate, where they find workmen changing the locks and making repairs. Leaving Jonson watching from a safe distance (and hidden), Ward and Edith go to the house and speak with Ambrose Dewart. They end up revealing some (but not ALL) of what had transpired, before retrieving Jonson and heading back into town, and discuss how they might break into the antiquities shop (regret is made of the missing PI and burglar characters, not seen now for many, many sessions). Getting bolt-cutters and leaving Ward on watch, they attempt to break into the back, but a bit of bad luck results in being caught by a policeman doing his rounds. Luck and fast-talk persuade him they merely “found” the bolt-cutters, and the true thief ran off. Sans bolt-cutters, they return to the hospital, where they visit Flinders again, pray over him (or just whisper sweet nothings), and are rewarded by his brief mumblings “so much to do, so much to do!” before sliding back into his coma. Edith swipes his library key, and the three visit the Miskatonic University Library to research more about the Billington family. They eventually find a thesis about the rivalry between Rev. Ward Philips and Ailigah Billington over things the former wrote about Ailigah’s ancestors. When weird breezes begin blowing the book’s pages about and they hear chanting and a dim roaring on the wind, they decide they’ve had enough for now and retreat again to the hospital.


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