Friday, June 26, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Intermission: The Italian Soap Opera Begins



It is at this point that Ron’s player, who has been interested in beefing up their role-playing, tells me that they want to inject a bit of family drama into the Call of Cthulhu game. This creates a nice little B-plot that has nothing to do with the Mythos (for now), and provides reasonable and necessary breaks in the tension from the A-plot. It also will prove to be very engaging for the other players, even those not directly involved with the plot or role-playing in any of the scenes.

This side plot involves a complicated web of NPC characters, which I will now take pains to explain.

You have already been introduced to Ron Deluca, a mob enforcer, and Vivian Bernouse, a mob princess. You’ve also been introduced to Vincenzo (Vince) Bernouse, who is a long-time friend of Ron’s from the old days, Vivian’s father, and the head of a now much more prominent criminal syndicate. Here’s the rest of the rogue’s gallery, along with some representational pictures pulled from the internet by Ron’s player. 

Maria Bernouse (Not Pictured)

Deceased wife of Vince and mother of Vivian. Her death has been left intentionally vague, but it is likely due to a) family business and b) a very, very bad mistake on someone’s part. She has been dead for many years as of the start of the campaign, and her death has made Vincenzo very overprotective of his daughter. Her name is not one that is casually mentioned around Vincenzo for fear of pissing him off in a big way. 

Connie Deluca (nee Macgowan)


Ron’s feisty, loud, and constantly angry Irish-American wife who is fed up with Ron’s Italian business and dangerous lifestyle. She lost all patience for it relatively recently, when Ron was arrested at home in front of Connie and their son, Ron Jr. When Ron got out of jail, after serving a surprisingly light sentence, she told him, in no uncertain terms, that she wanted to pack up the family and move back to Ireland rather than stay here and involve her family in the “business” anymore.

Connie also really hates Vincenzo Bernouse, having met him several times at family (and “family”) functions and parties. She has probably told Vincenzo this to his face. She is probably not too impressed or enamored of Vivian, but her actual feelings on Vivian have yet to come up in game.

Ron and Connie’s relationship, already tenuous, started to spiral.  After one particularly hard night, Ron found himself alone, drunk, and at a speakeasy, where he was approached by a young Italian-American girl named Gabriella. Gabriella took him home. Then Connie found out about it. Now Ron lives with Gabriella.

He has tried to go back several times to reconcile with his wife and son, all to no avail. His continued relationship with Gabriella isn’t helping matters (especially since Ron is 41 and Gabriella is 24). It doesn’t help that Connie has no filter and Ron has no impulse control. 

Ron "Butchie" Deluca, Jr.


Ron and Connie’s son. He is eighteen and is basically a good kid. He works and still lives in his parents’ brownstone in Brooklyn. He has no ties to the Mafia, at the insistence of his mother. Ron has idly thought of pairing Ron Jr. up with Vivian Bernouse, just because it seems really sweet that the kids of two best friends would get together. Both Ron Jr. and Vivian are thoroughly embarrassed and disgusted by this idea.

Ron Jr. is, frankly, exhausted by his family drama. He would love it if his parents would either just fix their marriage or stop antagonizing one another. He has had numerous conversations with his Pop about maybe not coming around the house so often to wind Mom up and get her mad. 

Officer Darragh MacGowan


A patrolman in the NYPD. Connie’s brother and Ron Jr’s uncle. He was born and raised in America, but he affects an Irish accent to make people feel more comfortable (or less on their guard) around him. His relationship with Ron is somewhat complex, as he knows Ron is in the Mafia, and Ron knows that Darragh is a cop. The two do not talk shop much and, mostly, dislike one another.

Gabriella Pugliese


The nice, young, mild, pliant Italian girl that Ron is currently shacking up with. She’s smart enough to know what Ron does for a living and also to never ask him about work. She’s a good cook. She is also, unbeknownst to Ron, an old high school friend of Vivian’s. At this point in the story, she doesn’t know that Ron knows Viv. While she has told Viv that she’s dating this, “hot, older guy, who may be connected,” she has not yet mentioned Ron by name. I like to think that Viv was very excited for the relationship, only because she had no idea who Gabriella was dating.

Some Extra Ingredients

Throughout the game, I add to this backstory, and these characters, to throw Ron's player some curveballs and to keep the stories interesting. I also get feedback from Ron's player, who seems to gleefully contribute to their own character's suffering.

My first big change was the creation and introduction of this guy, who becomes quite the focus of Ron’s rage and suspicion.

William "Billy" Young

 

A nice young man who drives a cab. He picked up Connie one night and listened to her have a nervous breakdown in the back of his cab. After he politely and compassionately listened to her story about her disintegrating marriage, Connie took quite a shine to him. They sometimes meet up for canoodling, and, occasionally, other things. If asked, Ron Jr. says that he’s, “a nice guy, I guess. At least he don’t make Mom mad.”

And now, with all of that properly set up, we can get back into the main story of the game…next post!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Part Three: October 3, 1925



Those of you who have played (or read) Shadows of Yog Sothoth will notice that I have taken certain liberties with the text. Such as setting it in New York instead of Boston. This required a lot of hasty rewriting of the game’s text props on my part. This will also not be the last time that I take liberties with the game to suit my needs.

October 3, 1925
The game begins with a slight retcon. Not only has Vincenzo Bernouse been invited to the Silver Twilight Lodge, but so have Dr. Reese Black, Judge Ezekiel Putnam, and Mr. Kane Eastman. Each of these individuals has been permitted to bring a “plus one,” which was my way of getting the entire party to go.

Meanwhile, across town, Mikhail Dimathias, who is investigating the disappearance of his friend, James, finds an invitation to the same get-together at the lodge. The invitation is accompanied by a note from one Johnathan Scott, the Noble Philosopher of the order. The note, written in stilted and archaic language, asks James Clark, Esq. to pass the invitation along to a man of “impeccable social standing and moral fiber.”

Vivian, concerned about this random social club she’s never heard of before, decides to do some research. She discovers that the Order of the Silver Twilight is not on any social registers anywhere.  Ron, meanwhile, cases the joint itself, and finds it to be a nice, if still under construction, building.

On the night of the soiree, everyone arrives at the Lodge to find that it is staffed by very big, very dangerous-looking men who, despite their very nice uniforms, would not look out of place in a butcher’s shop or on a dock somewhere. Ron also notices that most of them are carrying concealed weapons. 

Vivian Gets Split from the Party
Vivian is immediately turned away at the door, because a) this is a club for boys, b) she is a girl, c) it is 1925. Vincenzo, upon seeing this, offers to forget the whole evening and just take Vivian home. She convinces him to stay and agrees to be escorted across the street to the Silver Twilight Auxiliary hall, where all the ladies who are members of the organization hang out.

This turns out to be the better option. While the men sit around, smoke cigars, eat, and talk about boring subjects, the girls get sozzled, gossip, sing, and listen to the old Victrola. Viv quickly befriends Deb Walsh, a woman about her age who seems to be the leader of this particular group of ladies. There is some discussion of what the ladies are going to do for the upcoming Halloween party, an event that is partially open to the public.

At one point, Vincenzo, after having been insulted by Barry Pollard (see below), comes over to check on his daughter. The ladies of the Silver Twilight Auxiliary all react to this quite favorably.

During the evening, Viv makes the acquaintance of another Auxiliary member, Angelica (also called Angie or Ange) Hutchinson. She is also roughly Vivian’s age. She is also very drunk and very angry. From Angie’s slurred speech and Deb’s vague comments, Viv pieces together that Angie was dating a member of the order who has since disappeared. She is sure he’s a two-timing scoundrel and a heartbreaker, and when she sees him again, she’s gonna kill him.

Meanwhile, Back at the Lodge
The gentlemen in the group are admitted inside and given leave to check their hats and coats. They are then free to wander the foyer and the two front recaption rooms.

Out-of-Game Note: I start showing off the map of the Silver Twilight Lodge, and several members of the party who are Masonic-adjacent in real life tell me that the layout is disturbingly similar to a Masonic lodge they have been in. So that’s weird!

There is a whirlwind of introductions. The group meets John Scott, Noble Philosopher, and head of the order. He is charismatic and friendly, but aloof. They also meet Carl Stanford, and those players who have played Arkham Horror cackle madly, because they now realize where this is going. They note that both Carl and John have matching, silver-tipped canes that they carry everywhere. They are also introduced to several other members (or soon-to-be members) of the order, including.

Barry Pollard: A dried up twig of a man who is the headmaster of an all-girls school. He is apparently very racist. He said something upsetting to Vincenzo which, according to Vincenzo, made him want to, “introduce the man’s teeth to the back of his throat.” Vincenzo was so incensed that he wanted to leave immediately, and wanted to have nothing further to do with the order.

Maximilian Reed: Carl Stanford’s driver and attendant. Basically, the opposite number to Giannis/Johnny Dukas, who serves the same function for Judge Putnam. This becomes pretty hilarious later, and almost looks like I had planned it.

Dr. Edward Call: A jovial surgeon who seems very nice. Upon his introduction, Johnny’s player snarked, “well, I know who’s gonna die first.” He bonded with Dr. Black right away. He also told the players that he had been to three open houses at the Lodge and thought he had finally made the decision that he wanted to join the order.

The group also learns that the order is “old, but new,” and that they have only recently acquired the Lodge hall. They are shown pictures of the state of the place prior to their occupation and renovation (still ongoing). Mr. Stanford tells them that they are mostly done with the renovation, but the third floor is still under construction and is off-limits.

After the initial meet-and-greet, the group attends dinner in the larger reception room. They all sit together at a table with Dr. Call and with Mikhail, who has managed to get himself into the party without anyone realizing he probably shouldn’t be there. There is a moment of awkwardness when Judge Putnam, a judge, thinks that he recognizes Mikhail Dimathias, a lawyer, from somewhere. Mikhail plays his cards very close to the vest, however, and tries to give nothing away.

A spirited discussion begins about occult and historical subjects. John Scott happens to walk by the table during this and seems visibly impressed with both Judge Putnam and Kane Eastman. He hopes that both men join the order and enrich it with their presence. Kane Eastman, who is Black, is a little shocked that “this sort of group,” would want “a person like him,” in it, and begins to become very suspicious.

At this point, membership is discussed. Joining the order costs $100. (it’s actually $1000 as written, but, c’mon, that’s a FORTUNE in 1925). Several members of the group express mild interest, while Dr. Call tells Mr. Scott that he will be writing a check by the end of the night. Kane, having heard of the Halloween party the order will put on, offers to have the Kane Eastman Quartet play there. He is referred to Mr. Stanford, who offers him $50 for the evening. Kane counters with $100. Mr. Stanford accepts without even blinking.

Dinner is served. Judge Putnam complains to Johnny that he is worried his food will be too spicy. He asks Johnny to talk to the servers and make sure they don’t put any of those “nasty foreign spices” in his food. Johnny, who is Greek, talks to their waiter in private. He asks the man, whose name is Jack, to add extra spices to the judge’s food, and gives him $5 to sweeten the deal.

We later learn that this is the equivalent of $75 in modern money. Judge Putnam’s meal is well and truly seasoned. He is in gastric distress for the rest of the night.

After dinner, John Scott gives a welcoming speech to the attendees. Several players notice that he peppers his speech with anachronistic verbiage, some of which are turns of phrase from the mid-1700s. Because they are players in a Call of Cthulhu game, this makes them immediately suspicious. Mikhail’s player is sure that there are vampires involved.

With the speech concluded, the party seems to be breaking up for the evening. The players are once again asked by Carl Stanford if they would, “care to join the order.” All the players say that they will think about it and reply later.

While waiting in line at the coat check, Mikhail spots one of James’ coats hanging on the rack with all the others. He convinces the busy coat room attendant to give him James’ coat instead of his own. The man helps Mikhail into James’ coat. Mikhail succeeds on his Luck roll. The coat fits!

The group steps out into the evening, just in time to see Viv and Deb carrying a very, very drunk and loudly screaming Angie out of the Silver Twilight Auxiliary Hall. Mikhail, hearing Angie screaming about her two-timing, disappearing boyfriend, suspects that she might have had a relationship with James. He hustles across the street to talk to her.

The interaction does not go well. Mikhail, partly out of desperation to find out what happened to James, and partly out of a need to see what Angie knows, presses her very hard. This causes Angie to lash out violently, smashing Mikhail in the face with her purse and breaking his nose. She then vomits all over the front lawn of the auxiliary hall.

This, conveniently, requires Mikhail to seek immediate medical attention, which means that he and Dr. Black get to meet and bond over his now askew nasal anatomy. Welcome to the group, Mikhail!

Johnny, seeing the carnage, decides to leave immediately and drive Judge Putnam home. Since Johnny was also Dr. Black’s ride, this effectively strands Dr. Black in the area.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Part Two: Summer 1925

The gap between the first session of the game and the second was quite substantial, so I decided to write something up for the players in my group to help remind them of what had happened previously, describe what they had gotten up to in the meantime, and setting up for the next scenario.

The next scenario also introduces a new player to our group: Mikhail Demathis, brother in the Masonic Lodge and a New York City lawyer prone to clever problem solving and intuitive leaps of logic. Mikhail is the best friend of one James Clark, also a lawyer, also a Mason. Joining one fraternal organization wasn't enough for Mr. Clark apparently, because he also joined the Silver Twilight Lodge. He found out something he wanted to tell Mikhail, but, before he could do it, he mysteriously vanished.

Before we get to the meat of that particular issue, let's see what the summer of 1925, and its conclusion, provided for our protagonists.

Summer, 1925

Quite a lot happens in the weeks and months following the strange incident of Leroy Turner and his horn.

The Horn
It is buried in some out-of-the-way corner by Giannis, hopefully to never be found again.

Leroy Turner
He briefly becomes an inmate at Bellevue. He is treated and released several weeks later. 

Vivian, Ronny, and Doctor Black
They somehow make it back to Vivian’s house before anyone misses them, where they remain for the rest of the night. All three vouch for one another’s whereabouts. Vivian’s word, being as she is the daughter of the capo, is unimpeachable. This proves to be very fortuitous in the coming weeks.

Geoff's Addendum: This was something I had forgotten to mention last time. I'm not quite sure how, but at some point, before they went up to Westchester to look for Leroy, Viv, Ron, and Dr. Black all wound up at The Burnouse household. Vincenzo, Viv's dad and the boss, told Ron to keep Viv at the house and out of danger. 
When Vincenzo realized that the doctor was there, the conversation started out with a hearty, "who the hell is this? Who the hell are you?!" and ended with a, "you know what? I don't care. You stay here, too. Everybody behave themselves!"
As you may recall from the previous installment, they did not stay there, nor did they behave themselves. This will become important later.

Ronny Pays the Piper
Word on the street is that one of Bonano’s made guys was beaten half to death and left in a rain barrel by somebody. It doesn’t take much for Bonano’s surviving guys to point the finger at Ron Deluca.

While at a speakeasy one night, Deluca is approached by several of Bonano’s men. He eludes them and leaves the area, hoping to lay low in Hell’s Kitchen until the incident blows over. He’s found three days later by Jimmy Bianco, one of Bonano’s most vicious surviving lieutenants. The encounter is brief and unpleasant.

The next morning, Bernouse goes out to get his mail and finds Deluca unconscious in one of his garbage bins. Deluca spends a week in the hospital recuperating, and says nothing about the encounter. When pressed, he claims that he took a few solid blows to the noggin and doesn’t remember a goddamn thing.

The Mob War
Boss Bonano is dead, killed along with several of his lieutenants in what appears to be a grizzly hit. The other families all point fingers at one another. Boss Bernouse, who has quite a bit to gain from Bonano’s death, is heavily implicated. The fact that his men (well, man) had run-ins with Bonano’s crew shortly before the hit did not help.

Luckily, the families believe Vincenzo and his daughter's story (mostly Viv's, if we're being honest), and his family is spared any reprisals. Bernouse takes on a neutral, fatherly persona as the rest of the families carve up Bonano’s territory, and Bonano’s surviving lieutenants fight for supremacy in the power vacuum.

In the end, Bonano’s much-diminished crew is now led by Jimmy Bianco—also known as “Big Grin,” due to a pair of very unfortunate mouth scars. Big Grin becomes capo thanks to a series of incredibly brutal raids that stabilize his territory with heavy casualties on all sides.

Bernouse comes out smelling like a rose, his reputation with everyone but Big Grin’s "family" significantly improved. It helps that he takes advantage of the power vacuum and the mob war to solidify his own ties with the legal and government entities in New York City. By the time mid-September rolls around, he’s practically a pillar of the community.

Small’s Paradise
The club stays closed for months, initially due to the murder investigation, later because it is on the front lines of a mob war and too hot to use. The club eventually falls under the protection of the Bernouse syndicate, and Vincenzo Bernouse uses his connections help Small restock the bars and spruce up the place. This wins him a lot of acclaim with the mayor and several other interested parties, as well as solidifying his power base as one of the strongest capos in Manhattan.

September
Things gradually return to normal by mid-September. The families still eye one another, but after the exhausting weeks of war, no one wants to break the peace. Everyone goes back to their usual routines.

On September 18th, Vivian plays first chair violin in a sold-out orchestral performance. The performance is positively reviewed in the Times and other papers, and pictures of the musicians, including and especially Vivian, start making the rounds in society circles. It is not long before her now upwardly-mobile father starts getting requests from interested suitors.

On September 25th, Vincenzo Bernouse receives another interesting request. As a man of prominence, he has been asked to join a, “society that works toward fostering brotherhood and community between all good, Christian men around the world.
  
The name of the society? The Silver Twilight Lodge





Saturday, June 6, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Part One: Dead Man's Stomp

I'm running 7th edition Call of Cthulhu, and used the quickplay rules in order to generate characters with great speed and alacrity.

I should also note that this part, and likely the next one, are from before I started taking careful notes after game, so they'll both be a lot sparser on details.

I was originally going to run The Haunting, as it is not only a classic, but also a fun, claustrophobic tale set in a haunted house. However, I would up with a lot more players than I was expecting (definitely not a bad thing), and so decided that I needed to run a scenario that had a little more room for everyone to breathe. To that end, I decided to run my second favorite starter scenario, Dead Man's Stomp.

I have to say that Chaosium has stepped up their game for this edition. The scenario is still set in the 1920s (which is a bad time for a lot of racist/sexist/classist reasons), but the writers have fixed it up by setting it in Small's Paradise, a real nightclub in the 20s, as well as the only Black owned, integrated nightclub in Harlem at the time. So props for being awesome about history, folks.

The story begins in July, 1925, in the midst of a brutal heatwave. Despite Prohibition being in full effect, nightclubs like Small's Paradise have no difficulty acquiring top-shelf booze. The owner pays his taxes, as well as other fees, to keep NYC's mayor and the state's governor happy enough that nobody presses any charges or causes any problems.

The action begins with the players all deciding to go out to Small's Paradise one Friday evening. As luck would have it, they are all seated at the same table in the back of the main dining area, near the kitchen. Already seated at the table is Peter Mancuso, an accountant, who seems nervous and not terribly talkative.

Onstage is Charlie Johnson and the Paradise Orchestra, playing the hottest jazz licks for the assembled guests. People are dancing. Important people are pressing the flesh, and the governor and the mayor have just been announced at the door.

At about this point, Leroy Turner, a Black musician, sneaks in through the kitchen and tries to make his way up to the stage. No one is letting him past. Giannis (or Johnny), the judge's driver, respectfully makes way for the man and escorts him to the stage. As they go, everyone notices that Leroy has a strange, silver trumpet with an odd patina and four valves. Giannis also notes that Leroy is drunk, and overhears Charlie Johnson tell Leroy that he's late...again.

Leroy gets up on stage and starts playing the next song, a little ditty he wrote himself called "Dead Man's Stomp." He is on fire. The crowd loves it.

At this precise moment, a mobster named Joey Larson, who works for Boss Bonano, walks up to the players' table, draws his .45, and blows a hole in Peter Mancuso's head. Doctor Black, sitting across from the accountant, gets covered in innards. As people scream and panic, Larson flees out the kitchen door.

The players then realize that Mancuso is tapping his dead fingers in time with the music. They watch in horror as the corpse shambles to its feet and starts making its way for the exit. People scream in terror. It's chaos.

Things get a little hazy here. Some of the players stayed inside, trying to figure out what was happening, Giannis dragged the Judge through the kitchen door to the car, in the hopes of making a quick escape. One thing led to another and, several failed rolls later, Giannis had struck Mancuso's animate body as it was lumbering across the street, smashing it into a light pole and cutting it in half.

Vivian pursued Leroy backstage, only to discover that he had taken the fire escape. She did find a card about a funeral that Leroy (she assumed) was not only invited to, but hired to perform at. A handwritten note informed him that the funeral was in "New Orleans style," and that he needed to be on time.

The rest of the next day was spent gathering information about the victim, the shooter, Leroy Turner, and other strange things that were happening. Ron Deluca, a made guy for the Burnouse family, came into his own by tracking Larson to a Bonano Family front and casing it for evidence. He didn't find any, but he did beat the crap out of one guy and shove him in a rain barrel, so that's something!

Kane Eastman attended the funeral of Frederick Fayette, a prominent Black businessman who died of natural causes. Leroy Turner and Charlie Johnson are also there, along with hundreds of other mourners. The assemblage processes with Fayette's coffin through the streets, while Charlie and his band play some rousing New Orleans tunes.

When Leroy Turner launches into Dead Man's Stomp, however, the now animate Fred Fayette smashes his way out of his coffin and pummels his way through the crowd, to the shock and horror of everyone around. Fred only stops his rampage when he runs into his grieving wife. She calls him by his name and he quietly dies again, collapsing into the street.

Kane pursues a fleeing Leroy Turner, catches up with him, and demands answers. Leroy will only talk if alcohol is involved, so Kane buys him some and convinces him to tell him what he knows. Leroy says that the horn was a gift from Louis Armstrong, which Kane flat-out does not believe.

Leroy eventually leaves, insisting that his story is true, only to be picked up off the street by Joey Larson and some of Bonano's other guys. The players get to live out their fantasies of "following that car," tailing Larson up into Westchester County, to a small garage in the middle of nowhere. Those that have weapons draw them and approach.

Looking in through the garage windows, they see Bonano himself standing there, surrounded by several of his top lieutenants. Leroy Turner has his waist and legs securely bound to a chair, though his hands and arms are free. Bonano is in the middle of angrily questioning Larson, asking him how dragging him out into the middle of nowhere to listen to a jazz musician has any purpose or makes up for Larson shooting Mancuso in a crowded establishment.

"I told you to scare him, you idiot! Not shoot him!"

Larson goes on to plead his case, saying that he's been following Turner and that Turner's music can raise the dead. Bonano draws his pistol from his shoulder holster and says, "okay, let's see a little demonstration."

Larson draws his gun, but before he can clear leather, Bonano guns him down. He then puts the silver trumpet in Turner's hands and encourages him to play. To the shock and horror of everyone involved, Larson's corpse struggles to his feet.

At this moment, the cavalry charges in. Giannis uses his shotgun to blow the trumpet out of Turner's hands (critical success, by the way, so Turner wasn't harmed at all). They also mowed down Bonano's men and killed Joey Larson again.

In the midst of the battle, Ron Deluca, who is setting himself up as a force of unchecked id, knocks Bonano to the ground and smashes his head in with a sledgehammer.

The group is very careful to leave no witnesses. They take a now thoroughly rattled Leroy back to the city and Giannis buries the horn in an undisclosed location.

As they are driving away from the carnage, all of them briefly spot a figure in a hat and coat standing by the roadside. The figure smiles widely at them as they drive away.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

My Call of Cthulhu Game

I have been running a tabletop Call of Cthulhu game for a while now. I initially ran the group through Dead Man's Stomp (a classic that I love) from the quickstart rules, before deciding to have them face off against the Order of the Silver Twilight from Shadows of Yog-Sothoth.

I'm actually using the sixth edition of SoYS, with conversions, because I don't believe that there's a current version of it for seventh edition Call of Cthulhu. It is not the greatest of the Call of Cthulhu campaigns (hello, Masks of Nyarlathotep), and it has quite a few rough spots. It is also not really designed for the beginner Keeper/game master. The first adventure has no rails to speak of and no real suggestions about what the players should do or how they are to find out about the Order's shenanigans and stop them.

The story of the game has gotten super intricate, in part because there are seven players, all with their own interests and baggage, and in part because, since there's no rails, I'm pretty much letting them whatever do what they want, even if they only ever tangentially blunder into the plot. It sounds like a mess, but it's really not. Everyone, including me, is having a great time, is loving the characters, and is really engaged with whatever story it is that we're telling.

Since so much happens each game, and since I am trapped at home due to the pandemic, I have been flexing my writing muscles to provide detailed recaps of each game session. I have also (as of the third game) started to allow the players to take one action between games. They tell me what they're doing and I write up a brief-ish response of what happened. Then they spend the first part of the game speculating and worrying at one another.

The story told through these writings is a surprisingly fun and interesting one. Because I need validation, I have decided to share the story of my Call of Cthulhu game through blog posts. It is my hope that other people will enjoy these stories just as much as the players do.

But first, let us start off with our players. Starting with Dead Man's Stomp, we have:

Dr. Reese Black: A physician and surgeon in his mid-thirties. Has a private practice and sees patients at both New York Hospital and Bellvue. As is typical of most surgeons, he is somewhat socially incompetent.

Kane Eastman: An African-American jazz singer and musician. Leader of the Kane Eastman Quartet. Has a very deep and mysterious interest in the occult. Always has an interesting approach to get around even the most intractable-seeming problem.

Judge Ezekiel Putnam: An elderly, somewhat Puritanical judge in New York City. Lives on a large piece of private property in Staten Island. Cannot abide much in the way of excitement or spices, but is otherwise in excellent health. Will probably outlive us all, so long as no one sneaks anything outrageous (like pepper) into his food.

Giannis "Johnny" Dukas: Greco-American Great War veteran who has been hardened by his many experiences. He currently works for Judge Putnam as a driver, manservant, and cook. He lives on the judge's property, in the carriage house. He keeps a shotgun underneath the front seat of the judge's car.

Ronald "Ronnie" Deluca: An Italian-American who is also a mafioso in the Bernouse Family. Due to being mixed-ethnicity and having a little bit of an anger management problem, he has not risen very high in the ranks. However, he is a long-time friend of family head Vincenzo Bernouse, and is the godfather to Vincenzo's daughter, Vivian.

Vivian Bernouse: An Italian-American mob princess, who knows the ins and outs of the family business despite her father's best attempts to shelter her. She is college-educated and a skilled violinist. She has played a number of concerts in New York City and has gradually begun to make a life for herself outside of the family.

Their adventures begin...in an upcoming post!


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Final Flight of the de la Torre

GEOFF NOTE: This is the introductory text for the Invictus LARP, a rule book that I created for fun. It is meant to take place in the same world as the Mystwood LARP, but many thousands of years in the future, after Humanity has developed space travel and hyperdrive. It's a pastiche of Warhammer 40k and Traveller

This is the flight recording of the final moments of the Dreadnought de la Torre, whose heroic crew won an impossible victory for Humanity. Portions of this recording have been redacted or altered per New Terran Republic Governmental Protocol 1193-1A, for security and safety reasons.

COMANDER VAAL: We have a lock. The package has been picked up. Repeat—the package has been picked up!
CAPTAIN LUMIA: Excellent work. Energize stasis field.

Electrical discharge. Screams. The distant sound of tolling bells. Chanting in an unknown language.

VAAL: Captain, stasis field is collapsing! The Princes are breaking…
LUMIA: Divert all reactor power to the hold. Keep that field up!
BRIDGE CREW: Ma’am, the system’s overloading. It’s shorting out!
VAAL: They’re out! Marines! Ready weapons. Concentrate fire. Hold the line. HOLD THE LINE!

Sounds of battle, screaming, ritualistic chanting.

ALIEN VOICE: SUB-CREATURES! YOUR DOOM IS AT HAND!

INCOMING TRANSMISSION: De la Torre! This is the Arcada! The entire Chaos Fleet has changed course. Heading for your position.
LUMIA: Roger that, Arcada! It’s because we’ve captured their Princes. They’re confined to our hold right now.
ARCADA: What the [REDACTED]! How in the…
LUMIA: We can’t contain them with our stasis field. My marines are trying to take them out.
ARCADA: Understood, de la Torre! We are scrambling to assist. Hold out as long as you can.
INCOMING TRANSMISSION #2: This is the Nedeni. We are en route as well.
VAAL: Captain, we’re giving them hell, but they’re still advancing. We’ve sealed the hold, but they’re…

Interruption by screaming, explosions. 

VAAL: Captain! We can’t stop them! They’re carving their way to the bridge.
ARCADA: De la Torre! Be advised, we are taking heavy fire! Six Annihilators closing fast. Shields collapsing. Wall shields holding, but…
HELM: Captain, I read the six Annihilators and…a dozen other ships. They’ll be on us any second.
LUMIA: Damn it. Helm. Set course for local system point, mark zero-zero-zero.
HELM: Ma’am? That’ll take us into the…
LUMIA: That’s an order lieutenant. Vaal, can you still hear me?
VAAL: I hear you, captain!
LUMIA: You have my condolences. You know I wouldn’t waste…
VAAL: (chuckle) Forget it. I never wanted to live forever.

More explosions. Static. Screams.

ALIEN VOICE: WE ADMIRE YOUR HUBRIS, BUT YOUR RESISTANCE IS IN VAIN. YOUR FLESH IS OURS TO SCULPT. YOUR SOULS SHALL BE THE FUEL FOR…

VAAL: All units, advance! Slow them down! Put your hearts into it! Come on you [REDACTED]!
NEDENI: We’ve sent a general distress, de la Torre. The fleet’s mobilizing and moving to your position.
HELM: Captain…coordinates accepted. We are coming about.
LUMIA: Thank you, Nedeni, but that won’t be necessary. Tell the fleet to pull back and get out of here.
NEDENI: De la Torre, I don’t understand. Say…Oh [REDACTED]. What are you doing?!
LUMIA: What we have to, Nedeni! Tell the fleet to keep those Annihilators off of us just a little longer.
NEDENI: (unintelligible)
HELM: Captain, hyperwarp engines are cycling up, but the automatic safety interlocks just engaged. We can’t…
LUMIA: Disengage safety interlocks. Input override code [REDACTED].

ALIEN VOICE: YOUR DEATHS ARE INEVITABLE. YOUR WORLDS ARE OURS TO DEVOUR.

VAAL: Captain…are you there…We…lost…most of the company…our heavy primordials…I’m sorry…we…
HELM: Safety interlocks disengaged.
LUMIA: No apologies necessary, commander. You did well.
VAAL: Thank you…captain…
LUMIA: Helm, engage hyperwarp on my mark. Three…Two…
VAAL: You want some, you oozing, mutie [REDACTED]? Well, take THIS and THIS! AAAH!

Gunfire.

LUMIA: Mark.

Sisyphus and Tantalus

It was Sisyphus who discovered how to break the system, completely by accident.

Out of sheer, defeated boredom, he started pushing the terrible boulder along different approaches to the summit. The end result was always the same, as was foreordained by the gods, but at least the view sometimes varied.

One such variation saw him pushing the boulder over the loose and yielding scree on the steepest side of the mountain. This earned him taunts and heckling from his minders, but Sisyphus didn't particularly care. He had done this millions of times already, and knew that he would not succeed.

But then, oh, when he at last reached the summit, and the boulder slipped away from his careful grasp, it rolled and bounced zig-zag down the side of the mountain, crashing and scattering smaller stones, until it landed with a splash in Tantalus' pool.

This gave Tantalus a brief reprieve in two ways. The sudden injection of the stone caused the pool's water level to rise abruptly, so that it splashed into the old sinner's parched throat. The action of the water also carried Tantalus up and up, as if he were a ship on an angry sea. There was only one wave, and it was not very high, but it was just tall enough for Tantalus to knock some of the tantalizing fruits off of the bough above his head.

Sisyphus stood at the summit, mouth agape. He was happy that Tantalus had been given a respite, however brief, from his suffering, but he was jealous that no similar reprieve would ever fall upon him.

And then he smiled, because he realized that it had.

Their minders pointed and laughed at Sisyphus, mocking him for his foolishness. Then, when they had at last calmed themselves, they hoisted the dripping stone from Tantalus' pond and moved it over to the sandy field where Sisyphus was foreordained to begin his every ascent.

While they laughed, while they primed his eternal torture so that it could resume, Sisyphus stood upon the summit in the cool sunshine, no longer laboring.