Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cthulhu Gaslight: Through the Desert

Cast of Characters:
Thomas Roquefort, American, archaeologist and adventurer, recently arrived in London after an expedition to Egypt
Richard George Thomas Lumley, second son of the Earl of Scarbrough
Jasper Burnside, physician and in the last two years something of a hermit. It's common knowledge that he has lost someone close and there are rumours aplenty for those willing to listen (he's my character)

last time

In the last hours of the year 1890, Thomas, Jasper and Kamal start their journey to Thoth's Shadow. They have been given just about enough water and food to last them one day, some tools and a camel that looks like it is going to die at any moment. They are left to go alone, but under these circumstances and with Sir Jeffrey and Thomas Kincaid still in the hands of Meheret's Heirs, they are not going to escape anyway.

When dawn breaks, they have found their goal. The ruins of an ancient city lie before them, half covered in sand. Even from a distance they can see a tower in the middle of the city, built on a hill. That's where they head since it seems a good place to start. Making their way through the quiet streets, between crumbling buildings and over ruins, they have the distinct feeling that they are being watched, but cannot see anything or anyone.

find the book

The tower is made from stone and is in much better shape than the rest of the city that that has been built with clay bricks. The door has long since rotted away and they can easily climb over the sand that has blocked half of the opening. Inside, Jasper and Thomas turn around to see a monster snarling directly behind Kamal. Jasper pulls Kamal aside while Thomas strikes at the monster with his torch. He hits it and at the same moment they notice that it's just a statue of a baboon, but an incredibly lifelike one.

A bit of searching reveals a shaft with steps leading down and they follow it, walking for quite some time. At last, the shaft ends at a steeply sloped tunnel with only enough room to walk bent over. Suddenly, they hear a shot from upstairs and then another - hopefully, Sir Richard has managed to get help. But they decide that they will not go back or wait for the outcome of the fight and follow the tunnel. It's uncomfortable and slow and finally, Jasper loses his footing and slips. He takes Thomas with him and they both tumble down the slope and land, unhurt at least, in a chamber below. Kamal follows them much more elegantly.

They take a look around, but before they can decide what to do, they hear someone else sliding down the tunnel and get ready to fight. The person does a belly flop right into their middle and luckily, they recognise Sir Richard before they attack. Jasper is not surprised, but very glad to see him. Richard has indeed brought the British army to the ruined city, but when he left, the fight with Mehert's Heirs was not yet decided. And so the group presses on.

A short tunnel brings them to a much greater vault, where the floor abruptly gives way to a dark chasm. There is a way across in the shape of several pillars, just wide enough to stand on and close enough together to reach each one with a big step. They cannot see how deep the chasm is or how far it is to the other end. Thomas goes first and all goes well until he can already see the far side of the chasm. Then he slips and falls. To his surprise, he lands hard after only a short fall on wet sand, but he quickly finds out that he will sink if he moves to much.

Before the others can come to his aid, they hear a loud rushing noise and an enormouse flock of bats swarms all over them. They manage to keep their balance and wait for the bats to fly off which they do after a time. Richard throws a rope to Thomas and they pull him up again. After a short break to catch their breath, they continue and make it all safely to the other side.

Here they step into a chamber decorated with hieroglyphs and with a huge portal flanked by four empty nooks. They realise that this is probably why Meheret's Heirs have killed the women in London, to get the organs for the canopic jars that will open the door. Originally, it were Meheret's organs kept by Tezud which would have opened this door. This brings them up short since of course they have brought nothing of that sort with them and they cannot discover a mechanism that would open the door without the canopic jars.

"Let us try and see if we cannot open this door together", they hear a voice from behind them. It's Thomas Kincaid, in much better shape than when they last saw them, well-dressed and obviously highly satisfied with himself. He has brought company: Meheret's Heirs, who aim a couple of guns at the group and who bring Sir Jeffrey with them or rather haul him in on a chain. Kamal is forced to his knees by them, they take Richard's revolver and Kincaid asks Thomas to open the door for him. He has brought the canopic jars with him.

Thomas flat out refuses. Even more than Richard and Jasper, he's shocked and deeply hurt by the betrayal of the man he saw as one of his closest friends and whom he thought he knew. Kincaid is not very impressed by Thomas' reproaches and holds the revolver to Sir Jeffrey's head. Thomas gives in and places the jars in the nooks. He knows that he cannot win anything by refusing, Kincaid knows very well how to open the door - he just doesn't want to risk being killed by a trap.

The portal opens slowly and reveals another room, even bigger and much higher than the antechamber. Thomas, Jasper and Richard are send in first. Thomas reads an inscription on the doorstep that says that it's only possible during one month to enter this room without peril. He knows that the first month of the Egyptian year is dedicated to Toth, but it doesn't coincide with January. Jasper cannot read the inscription, but covers it up with some sand since Thomas didn't say anything about it.

In the light of their torches, they see that all over the walls of the room scrolls are stored in pigeonholes - this is like finding the library of Alexandria. But they are not in the mood or the situation to enjoy their find. At the far end of the room is a statue of Toth, with a small altar in front of it where an open scroll is placed. Jasper and Richard see a glinting of light high up and Richard calls Thomas to him under a pretence to tell him. Jasper walks up to the altar and sees that the scroll is empty.

Kincaid rushes up to the altar, while Meheret's Heir enter the room much more slowly and awestruck. When Kincaid bends over the scroll, furious at finding it empty, Jasper pulls the dagger he still carries and attacks Kincaid. He strikes at the man's throat and cuts it. Kincaid collapses over the altar and Jasper drops his torch on the scroll. For a moment, he can see hieroglyphs on the burning paper, then it's gone. The blood soaking the scroll and running over the stone starts to boil.

The guards need a second to recover from their surprise and then attack, but none of the shots fired hit. Kamal uses to opportunity to attack the men holding him and Richard and Thomas get into the fight as well. Jasper makes a step towards them when he feels a cold draft and he just knows that there is something behind him. He turns, dreading what he will see.

Milton Fox has appeared on the pedestal where Toth's statue stood. He looks just like the last time Jasper saw him, but he's deathly pale and his eyes are completely black. In a deep voice, he starts to chant in a language that none of the others can understand. They just know that they would do anything to make it stop, that they would kill anyone if it meant that they could leave this place. Richard simply collapses, as does Sir Jeffrey and they both flee into their minds to escape the horror.

Meheret's Heirs are just as affected, one of them charges the Milton Fox-Thing, another starts to bleed from his ears. Jasper and Thomas start to run, while the portal starts to close. At the same time, a blindingly bright light floods the chamber from above - now it can be seen that there is a opening in the roof covered with highly polished metal discs that guide the sunlight into the room. But it's not only light - it's getting dangerously hot in the room as well. Jasper grabs Richard and drags him outside, then he and Thomas help Kamal and Sir Jeffrey. In the few second this takes, the air in the room is already almost too hot to breathe. They simply run, as fast as they can. A last glace behind them shows them the Milton Fox-thing, screaming soundlessly, swollen to twice its size.

When they arrive at the chasm, they hear the sound of its body finally exploding and then a rumbling that tells them that the chamber has probably collapsed. But none of them feel any urge to investigate, they just want to see sunlight again. The chasm can be crossed without much problems because Meheret's Heirs brought planks with them that make a walkway across the pillars. When they leave the tower, they are met by Captain Hayden and some hussars who have won the battle.

Thomas and Jasper decide that Lady Kincaid does not need to know what her father did. They will keep it a secret and tell her and anyone else that Kincaid has been killed by Meheret's Heirs when he refused to open the chamber for them.


That was unexpected. I'm as paranoid as any Cthulhu player, but I really did not see it coming that Thomas Kincaid would be behind it all. It took a bit of waiting for him to come close enough, but I highly enjoyed killing the man. Jasper did not - he has never killed anyone on purpose before and I'm not sure how he will deal with it. But it may have been their only chance to stop Kincaid from getting his hands on the Book of Toth.

The adventure has run much longer than we planned. Partly because we only get to meet once a month or so, but also because we simply took our time. It would have been possible to cut or shorten a lot of scenes, but with hindsight, I'm fairly glad that we didn't. There has been a lot of fluff and I enjoyed it. Although I probably would have enjoyed the adventure without it as well.

Once again we have all survived - I did not see that coming, either. I was fairly sure that we would all die or at least go insane. Richard did, since he lost ten sanity points all in one go, but he should recover with time. But we had more than enough opportunities to die in the course of the adventure.

I coined the term Swashbuckling Cthulhu for my playing style. Yes, I'm paranoid and I don't have a death wish. Neither have my characters, but they are not as paranoid as me and they don't have the time to ponder their decisions for five minutes before they act. They just do things, they act rashly. I won't do things just because they look awesome - not in Cthulhu. But I've started to take risks and to not overthink what my characters do. So far it has served me well. I'm sure it will get me killed one day, but I'm just as sure that it will be worth it.

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