Monday Night Madness

Crimson Letters, ch 1
A New investigation begins...

Meant as an introductory campaign for players to the new edition of the rules, we had a good mix of players covering the spectrum of inexperienced to familiar (from no experience with table-top to fairly experienced with prior editions of CoC). As this was actually the fourth session of “Monday Night Madness” at Games of Berkeley, we first spent a little time concluding the scenario “Dead Light” (with much screaming and running, and jumper-cables), then pushed the calendar from 1920 to 1921, allowing the initial characters to recuperate and make experience checks. Then they (that being an Opium-addicted PI from SF and his ex-burglar secretary) found themselves in the Office of the Dean of Admissions at Arkham, along with a Priest and a Parapsychologist (and the beginnings of a bar joke they are still trying to sort out). After initial descriptions & introductions they went in to meet Dean Fallon and proceded to begin the second scenario in the new core book, “Crimson Letters.” Our fifth player was introduced while two of them were speaking with the coroner and examining the dead professor’s body (player had arrived late and had been hammering out her character up to that point), a medical forensics grad student working for the coroner who had been overly curious about the state of the corpse.the remaining two (the Parapsychologist and secretary) searched the deceased professor’s office, finding a matchbook for the road-house and oddly melted shattered glass. They also interview (and become mildly suspicious of) the professor’s grad student, Emilia Court. Reunited (joined by the corroner’s assistant), they agree to check out the Professor’s house next.

All in all session lasted three hours (which is the planned standard for this group, from when folks can get in after school or work, until just before the store closes). To keep the game wheelchair accessible we are playing in the back-room of the store, and should be listed under events on the Games of Berkeley website.

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Crimson Letters, ch 2
The Investigators make a house call...

We continued with four of the five players from last week (Our opium addicted PI was presumed to be suffering from his drug of choice, bowing out of yet more investigations due to his conceptual nature calling). After lunch the Priest, Parapsychologist, ex-burglar turned secretary, and forensics grad-student all walk over to the murdered Professor’s cottage. They spent much of the session searching the place, finding an assortment of minor clues and earning me multiple thumbs up as I periodically scared them with branches scratching on windows and strange manifestations killing off squerils or otherwise causing unexplained shadowy …things… to occasionally mess with their already off kilter sense of reality. High points included spotting a young college student spying on them, though when the girls attempt slipping out the back to sneak up on him, they prove noisy enough to attract the attention of an old nosy neighbor, who threatens to call the cops. The Priest went over to calm her down, ensuring the young ladies he was “chaperoning” were being kept out of trouble (which earned him some of the best rhubarb pie he’d ever eaten, reaffirming his faith in humanity, and a San Point). The spying student escaped in the noise and confusion however. Having found what clues they could at the cottage, the investigators head over to investigate the roadhouse, where the Parapsychologist gets a drink and notes his waitress’s initials, L.S., matches those found in the matchbook they found in the professor’s office…

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Crimson Letters, ch 3
Drinking games...

We have a new face bringing in a rival historian/professor Hayward from Myskatonic University, hawk-nosed and small of stature, who – as a member of the local temperance league is scouting out the Hibbs Roadhouse for the rumored speakeasy hidden in back – has a run-in with the Priest waiting in the outer room with a soda. Their interaction leads to this routine: http://youtu.be/ySqec8WrEQQ . Upshot is Father Ward leads him inside and introduces him to the rest of the group, who themselves have been attempting to socialize with varying degrees of success to discover who might know the deceased Prof. Leiter. The girls, Carol & Edith, get rather drunk & have fun avoiding the local wolves, while Johnson, in cahoots with his new friend Lucy Stone (and, perhaps a little less willingly, Father Ward), manages to browbeat Hayward into drinking a large frothy beverage of indeterminate origin. The girls, having failed to elicit a response from the gentlemen flattering them with name dropping, return to see what their comrades are up to. Prof. Hayward makes the mistake of badmouthing Edith – referring to her as a harlot – and she cold-cocks him on the spot. When Prof. Leiter’s name comes up in conversation Lucy reveals her surprise, agrees that she knows him and tells them to meet her on break in an hour. Later, as the crowd thins (and Prof. Hayward nurses a black eye with a bag of ice), she talks with the sobering investigators over coffee and agrees to tell them anything they want to know, but only after they let her see the body. With that they relocate back to the Morgue, not spotting the tail they’ve picked up by certain other interested parties. Edith, making use of her keys as Doctor Wheatcroft’s assistant, opens the morgue up and pulls out Prof. Leiter’s body, whereupon his rival, Prof. Hayward, makes the mistake of getting a little too close and the body animates, grasping him about the neck! Meanwhile, Carol (who was waiting outside rather than look at the body yet again), meets the mobsters who’d been tailing them. Escorted inside, they shout “found you at last, Leiter!”, just as Prof. Hayward is again knocked to the floor by the undead Professor rising from the slab…

Quotes for the session: “This is brilliant!” and “Strangle the new guy!”

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Crimson Letters, ch 4
Unquiet dead...

New player joined in as Annie-Anne, recently having taken over her father’s business as an undertaker. Ariving on campus to finalize forms to collect Pofessor Leiter’s corpse, she arrives at the Coroner’s office just in time to see Lucy Stone screaming as Leiter’s corpse knocks Prof. Hayward to the floor. Lucy flees, the Mobsters threaten and end up fighting the undead Leiter, while Edith, Alexander and Franklen wrestle the dying Professor into a supply closet to perform emergency first aid (and hide, of course). Annie-Anne makes Carol’s acquaintance as the later ineffectually shoots Leiter before the to flee the building. In the confusion the investigators manage to lose track of Lucy, the goons, and the zombie. They eventually all meet again in the parking lot, where Annie-Anne gets some muddled explanations (enough that she decides not to share any of it with her two assistants, Frank & Stan, instead sending them back with an empty hearse and a flimsy excuse), and they all either go to the hospital to tuck Prof. Hayward in, or head off to their beds to have a poor night’s sleep.

Music has often been a component of setting the mood for the game, as I bring an iHome to the store to play mythos mood music (such as the Sense Impacts album) or 1920s themed music (a mix of Louie Armstrong and the Boardwalk Empire soundtrack, amongst others), which has been well received. Bemusingly, one of our players has also contributed in this, streaming 1920s music from his iPhone, and brought an acoustic Gramaphone iPhone amplifier which really augments the tone nicely (gives it that old radio flavor).

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Crimson Letters, ch 5
Splitting the party...

With Prof. William Hayward dropped off at the hospital to recover from being nearly killed by Leiter’s corpse, the rest of the Investigators finally pause to get some rest after Anne agrees to forge records with Edith to cover up the disappearance of Leiter’s body. Meeting up the following morning they review what they know of the case so far, and decide to split up to do more legwork. Detective Harvey Wallace (having mostly recovered from his bender) decides to follow up the gambling debt angle by speaking with the local Irish Mob-boss Danny O’Bannion at the Lucky Clover Cartage Co. While O’Bannion had no clue about the goons after Leiter from Atlantic City, he is certainly taking a keen interest now. Frank Johnson uses an old college contact, a poet by the name of Malcome Renolds, as an in to join the Eye of Amara society (since it is invitation only), though they seem to know little about Leiter or the papers he was working on. Anne the Undertaker and Father Ward visit and end up joining the Arkham Historical Society after a nice conversation with the curator, Mr. Peabody. Much of their time is spent reading, as Ward pokes through old newspaper articles in the basement. Anne goes mad from a cursory reading of their copy of Thaumaturgical Prodigies in the New England Canaan (her encounter with the Zombie last week having left her a believer), and she leaves, wandering the streets for hours until coming back to awareness standing outside of the Witch House (the oldest home in Arkham, and former residence of Keziah Mason). Anne hasn’t quite realized that she also has started to mutter to Brown Jenkins when she sleeps or is distracted. Edith and Carol in turn visit Abner Wick’s antiquity shop, Unconsidered Trifles, are are dutifully suspicious of Mr. Wick (and the copious amount of cologne he wears), but prove to subtle in their conversations with him to find much of anything useful from him. They are perhaps not concerned enough of his two assistants, Hector and Carla, as they follow them about the store being “helpful.” Finding no easy access to the back of the store (and noting Wick observing them), they decide against trying to break at this time and take their leave..

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Crimson Letters, ch 6
Plans and actions...

After the investigators little splitting of the party for last week’s investigations, they get together for Chinese at a hidden little restaurant Detective Wallace knows of (his secretary, Carol, having left for a much needed vacation, has left him her notes – as the player of said character has had to leave us for college). They are also rejoined by Prof. Hayward, fresh from the hospital, seeking an explanation about his zombie colleague (still badly injured at 3 hp & with a major wound, he was warned of the risks, but you can’t keep a good mysoginistic investigator down – even if he is described as a young Montgomery Burns). After some discussion they decide to break in to Unconsidered Trifles just after midnight, leaving Father Ward as lookout with Anne (because the good father finds their plan immoral, but not so much as to stop them, and Anne is acting… strange – the player was really enjoying reacting to the funny little Brown Jenkin voice I was making that only she could hear). The job is quickly scuttled when Wallace breaks his lock picks in the lock while trying to get into the store loading bay (he fumbled fairly badly after pushing the roll). Retreating, they make plans for the following day before retreating to their separate homes for the night. The following day Dt. Wallace sees to getting his lock picks replaced, and picks up a telegram forwarded by the dean from Arkham Asylum regarding one Cecil Hunter. Meanwhile Father Ward and Anne visit Unconsidered Trifles for a second recon (having not been in there yet themselves). Anne discovers a book on Billington Woods while looking for information on Arkham Witches, and spots an old photo of the Billington Estate (and a mysterious tower hidden beyond). They both have odd interactions from the staff, but their line of questioning leads to them receiving an invitation to dine with the owner & proprietor Abner Wick the following night. Edith Cordosa and Prof. Hayward decide to do their own follow up at the Historical Society, intending to examine the book that gave Anne such confusion. After spending an hour just trying to find where she hid it, they too sit for a solid look-over of the tome, the Thaumaturgical Prodegies in the New England Canaan, after which Edith shakes herself from a vision of being a Greek Mynaed, and discovers herself throttling the now half-dead Prof. Hayward (requiring immediate first aid and another rushing back to the hospital). She successfully covers his collapse up as a relaps of his prior injuries, but is now also struggling with certain violent urges towards those evil evil men who burnt all her sisters way back in the day…

Quotes for the session…
Anne: “You did something stupid!”
Hayward: “I read a book!?!”

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Crimson Letters, ch7
Chewing scenery...

We spent the first 15-20 min reestablishing the timeline for what had happened so far, along with calendars for October of 1921 (so, amongst other things, the good Father knows when Sunday is). Up to date on that front, the Investigators again meet for dinner, review what they know, and plan for what to do next. Given the mysterious antiquarian Abner Wick has so graciously invited Anne & Ward to dinner, Edith and Jonson plot to break in while he (and hopefully his staff) are away. Until then Edith plans to do research in the MU library, while Jonson intends to do more investigation of the Eye of Amara. Anne and Ward decide to focus on their day-jobs for a bit. That night the girls both dream strange dreams, Edith of being a Mynaed running screeching through the hills, dismembering men, while Anne dreams of being a pilgrim being tempted by the rat Brown Jenkins to come chat with the Black Man out in Billington Woôds (which led to the quote of the day, see below). Hayward gets word from Wallace about Cecil Hunter at Arkham Asylum the following morning, and then contacts the Dean to see about someone handling his classes while he is in the hospital, and Jonson about getting him a gun. Edith, while struggling to find relevant information at MU (her rolls were not good), encounters a homeless mad grad-student named Amelia, who after arguing and name calling in Latin chucks a copy of Calif’s “More Wonders of the Invisible World” at her head before disappearing, leaving Edith to take copious notes on accused New England witches and their accusers for the rest of the day. Jonson fails so spectacularly on a pushed roll with Gaspard, the head of the Eye of Amara, that he falls completely for his mystic guru routine completely. 

Quote of the day:
(Me as Brown Jenkins): “you have the power!”
(Everyone else, more or less in unison): “Who has the power?”
“Who do?”
“You do!”
“The power of the Babe…”
(Thank you Jim Hensen & David  Bowie).

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Crimson Letters, ch 8
Look who's coming to dinner...

This session the PLAN was for Anne & Ward to answer Abner Wick’s dinner invitation, for Edith, Wallace & Jonson to use that time to break into Unconsidered Trifles, and for Prof. Hayward to spend the night resting at the hospital. But short two players, Jonson’s player decided he was unsuited to breaking and entering on his own, prefering to spend the session researching in the Eye of Amara’s library, eventually settling on reading the recently released “The Witch-Cult in Western Europe,” by Margaret Murray (which I had great fun describing the contents of, implying all sorts of subtle hints about the Horned God cult to whom Murray argues medieval Witches worshiped, never once pausing to explain this was an actual occult reference, not a mythos tome, that he was reading). Prof. Hayward struggled with strange manifestations at the hospital, hallucinations (?) that seemed like burning eyes leading his gaze to French Hill and to a mansion outside of town. He then narrowly averted shooting the nurse when she came in suddenly behind him (his gun tucked behind out of view and then replaced under his pillow), who promptly upped his morphine dose. The meat of the evening of course was the dinner, where Annie-Anne & Father Ward met at Arkham’s most expensive restaurant, Crawfords, with Abner Wick. There they were reintroduced to Emilia Court (played by Hayward’s player, who I felt needed more play-time than being an invalid in the Hospital). Pacing the evening with the assorted courses served, Wick’s insinuating conversation got across his interests in the case (that he had been a “partner” to Leiter’s side business in selling antiquities, that Leiter had “encouraged” a bidding war over the Arkham Witch-trials manuscript but had died before selling it, that other “parties” were after the manuscript, that such manuscripts were “dangerous” in the wrong hands, and that Wick would pay handsomely for the manuscript “no questions asked”). He also coaxed some missed information out of Court (principally Leiter’s academic rivalry with Prof. Roach and Prof. Hayward – yes, Haywar’d player decided to stick it to his own character). Ward and Wick had some very good banter about death, resurrection, Jesus & the Bible (Ward knew little of Zombies, but argued Episcopalians were not that literal after all and that he’d really rather not think about it thank you very much). Court also mentioned Leiter’s girlfriend Lucy living near the Roadhouse, and Anne kept twitching and having unsolicited conversations with Brown Jenkins (attempting to entice more advice from her delusion). Anne did warn Wick of the “Burly men from Atlanta” who were interested in the case. After dinner (and away from Wick) Court warned the Investigators of her own rival, grad-student Anthony Flinders before they part ways. Ward & Anne then stopped off to check in on Hayward before turning in for the night, noting his mumbling about the lights he saw, and the damaged window similar to the mirror Ward saw in Leiter’s office.

Quotes of the day:
“Stop rolling badly! Stop using up all your luck!”

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Crimson Letters, ch 9
Fear the Written Word

Oct. 5th, 1921 –
That morning the Investigators (Edith, Anne, Jonson and Ward) visit Hayward at his room in at St. Mary’s Medical Training Hospital and discuss his recent “encounters” (the gangsters’ threats and the strange burning “eyes” he saw over the city). They then spend a good amount of time concocting an elaborate plan to sneak Hayward out of the hospital so he won’t have to face them again (he is to check out, take a cab to Christchurch Episcopal – Father Ward’s church – where an empty coffin awaits for him to hide himself in until Anne’s aids, Frank and Stan, pick it up and transport it to her mortuary home, where he can then sneak out and slip upstairs to her home). Anne mutters an argument with Brown Jenkins (all in her head) that perhaps she should do something naughty with the Coffin. Leaving Hayward and giving a call to make arrangements, the rest of the Investigators head out to search for Antony Flinders. After asking around, they catch up with him between classes. Finding the Grad-student very attractive, Edith chats him up as the others look on with bemusement, and the two agree to make a date for the following evening. That handled, they swing by the MU Library to speak with Armitage to see if the University has an older edition of “_Thaumaturgical Prodigies in the New England Canaan._” Discovering the University’s copy missing, Armitage assures them he’ll see about finding out who may have taken it. Meanwhile, Hayward checks himself out of the hospital, as planned, BUT decides to stop at a nearby café for some non-hospital food rather than catch a cab right away. He is ambushed while eating his lunch by the mobsters, Oaks and Shaunnesy, who bully him discreetly until he pulls out his gun and “persuades” them that he’s had enough and doesn’t care anymore, he’s on the same side in wanting to deal with Leiter – they’re not friends but rivals, after all – and that they’d best leave off and wait for his call if/when he finds the wayward Professor. Agreeing to his terms, the admiring Gangsters take their leave, and Hayward finishes his meal and continues back to follow the plan unobstructed and without further obstacles. Finished with the library trip, the rest of the Investigators decide to search French Hill for strange phenomena, eventually breaking into the abandoned Bayfriar’s Church to get a better view, and note the boarding-house where Keizah Mason once lived is not far from there. Then, inexplicably, they decide they to search for the Bayfriar Church’s crypts (because, of course, it must have a crypt), and begin exploring the basement, where they find many books. While most are too rotted to read, they find one bound in human skin that seems to be sweating. Filled with horrible woodcuts and written in archaic Latin, they use Edith’s electric lamp for light and collectively listen as Father Ward reads select passages to them. Sometime near midnight they stop, and what they’ve read in the Cthaat Aquadingen sinks in, and all but a mercifully ignorant Anne go mad. As Father Ward slips deeper into the basement, away from the light and people (because too many people will attract the Sea-demons), and Jonson runs shrieking into the night through French Hill’s cobbled streets, fleeing that vile BOOK (for books are the tools used by the Sea-demons to return), Edith snatches up the tome and dashes elsewhere (for the Sea-demons whisper to her none can be trusted with its’ secrets but her), leaving poor Anne waiting on the Church’s steps, alone, to await the sunrise.

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Crimson Letters, ch 10
"But the front door was locked..."

Thursday, Oct. 6th, 1921 –When last we left our intrepid investigators three (Edith, Jonson and Father Ward) had gone mad from reading the Cthaat Aquadingen and left Anne alone on the doorstep of the Bayfriar Church on French Hill near midnight. Meanwhile, Prof. Hayward was waiting in the supposed safety of Anne’s home above her Mortuary. But when he wakes suddenly to realize he is not alone in the house, he knows that to be false. Someone (or something, or somethings?) are ransacking the neighboring rooms. Realizing he left his gun in the guest bedroom, he hides behind a curtain before the unseen invaders enter the study he was resting in. Holding his breath he hears them enter, breaking into the desk and knocking all the books from the shelves. Most disconcerting is that they periodically stop to sniff the air, and give low barks to each other. They fail to notice him however, and slip out the way they came. Waiting a good 20 minutes until all sounds of their activities cease, he comes out to find the entire place ransacked, with claw marks periodically demarcating the worst of the damage. The front door is locked, but the trail of destruction seems to come and go through the Mortuary basement. Hayward retreats to rest (lightly) in Anne’s Grandfather’s bedroom, gun retrieved and in hand. Eventually dawn comes and Anne is rejoined by Father Ward, who had spent the entire night praying in the dark to an empty Church. The two return to her place, as does Edith (who awoke in a ditch with someone else’s blood and viscera under her fingernails, covered in bruises). Shocked by the damage to the house (and the gnawed remains in the mortuary cellars), they still deduce whomever ransacked the place did not find what they were looking for, and from that deduce the raiders were likely after the Witch Trial Papers. While the others rest up for the day or focus on cleaning the house, it is decided that Father Ward will show the Cthaat Aquadingen to Prof. Hayward (as he has an understanding of German), which soon puts him in hysterics. His screams bring everyone running, and they have to hold him down and keep him from biting off his own tongue until he regains a semblance of composure. When evening rolls around, the rest of the Investigators decide to follow Edith on her “date” with Anthony Flinders. Flinders spots them and invites them over, sheepishly admitting his awareness that Dean Fallon had retained their services in looking into [[Prof. Leiter]]’s death. On this and other matters he proves to have much to say, accusing Emilia Court of being Keziah Mason’s descendant (and a Witch), and Dean Fallon & [[Prof. Roach]] of performing the Black Mass together in Billington Woods under the light of the Full (or maybe New) Moon. Hayward is so taken with him he offers Anthony a job as his aid. Anthony eagerly accepts, and pushes his willingness to aid the investigation in any way he can. Later that night, once they return to Anne’s mortuary, Edith calls Emilia Court (after finding a note from her wishing to talk among the mail she’d retrieved from home earlier that day) and makes plans for the two to meet for lunch Friday. Exhausted, they hole up at the Mortuary for the night. The next morning they read in the paper that Ephraim Cobb, a relative of the previous owner of the Witch-Trial Papers, fell to his death at Hobbshouse Manse.

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