Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cthulhu Gaslight: The Stars are Wrong

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

After finding a map in the underground vault, the expedition has a course to follow. They travel through the desert, with an oasis as their temporary goal to top up their supplies. Fox thinks that Kamal doesn't lead the expedition in a straight way, but it's probably just necessary detours to avoid dunes that are too step and such things. The Egyptian workers are nervous because they think that the expedition is cursed.

At the oasis, everyone gets some rest. At dawn, Hayden finds that the workers and most of the camels are gone, together with Kamal. There is no trace to be found of them. After some deliberations, Thomas and the others decide to hire another guide, Murat, and some more workers and press on.

tentacles ahead

The first day passes with nothing much happening. Since Hayden has only six people (including himself) to keep the camp safe, it's decided that everyone will take part in keeping watch. Jasper begins his shift at midnight and spends a very quiet two hours, although he notices a patch of darkness where he's fairly sure stars should be. But it's small and he might just be mistaken.

The second day is equally exciting. On the morning of the third day, Richard is woken by the light of the dawn, although he should have been on watch during the night. A quick search of the camp later it becomes clear that Corporal Miller is missing, with no trace leading away from the camp. His footsteps lead to a nondescript patch of desert just outside the camp and stop there, he didn't even fire his gun.

Thomas and Richard remember the sound of huge wings they heard during the attack on Thomas' friend Emily. When they mention this, Hayden scoffs at the suggestion that a giant bird or monster took Miller, but he's angry that Thomas didn't mention what happened at Emily's before. They bicker for a while until Jasper brings them back on course, accusations are not helping anyone. Jasper also mentions the void between the stars he saw, just in case it might be important.

They travel on and in the afternoon, the scouts come back and report that the expedition is going in the wrong direction. They should be south of the mountain ridge, not north. Hayden takes a closer look at the compass and they find a piece of metal wedged in it, enough to make the compass point just a bit to the west. They make camp, angry and dispirited because more than a day is lost.

During the night, Jasper and Fox (with his omnipresent bag) are on watch when Jasper sees the void between the stars again. But this time it grows bigger, swallowing more and more stars until they are standing beneath a black emptiness. It's hard to see, but something is moving in there and when it grows bigger, they can see a writhing mass of limbs, tentacles and wings. Jasper raises his revolver and shoots at it. He seems to have hit the thing, but he gets swiped by a tentacle and is knocked to the ground, losing his weapon and the use of his right hand.

Fox also tries to shoot and he's wrapped in blackness, let go and then grabbed again, this time for good. Jasper can hear him scream in pain and fear. The others have been woken by the shot and look around to find Jasper and Fox. It takes them a few moments, but then everyone comes running towards them.

Thomas is first and fires upon the thing. He hears its scream and it's like nothing he has ever heard before. Jasper tries to get to Fox's bag where he knows the dagger is. When he is only a couple of steps away, the ground gives way beneath him and he sinks, like he has stepped into water. Unfortunately, it's still sand and he has a hard time keeping afloat, especially since he cannot reach firm ground.

Thomas has reached them, grabs the dagger from the bag and attacks the tentacle that is coming towards him. Again, the thing screams and this time the sound is so loud and so hideous that everyone who hears it drops to their knees. The thing vanishes and the stars return as if nothing has happened.

Jasper is almost buried alive, he has just managed to keep his head above the sand when it turned solid again. Thomas begins to dig him up, with the help of a corporal. Richard is in a state of shock and remains that way for some time, believing himself to be back on London. Craig, his manservant, takes care of him. Hayden and Lieutenant Farnsworth are a bit better off and recover quickly from the shock of seeing and hearing such unexplainable things. Jasper finds to his relief that his hand is not broken, just badly sprained. Fox is gone, without a trace.

No-one sleeps that night and in the morning, they discuss turning back. But again, they decide against it, although none of them have much hope that they will come back from this expedition. Thomas' hand and arm have aged twenty years where the thing touched him and the dagger's blade is covered by a black substance. When Jasper touches it, he still feels the tingling he felt for the first time, so he assumes that it's power is not broken.

He looks up to see a wall of darkness coming towards them - a sandstorm. Everyone scrambles to get to cover. The soldiers start digging, while the workers use their camels as barriers. Thomas and Jasper do both, Craig gets Richard into a hole he dug for them because Richard is still pretty much out of it. And then they wait while the storm descends upon them.


Nothing says: you're fucked! like a tentacled monster from the void between the stars coming for you.

And the mood of the expedition is accordingly, although no-one is turning back. We've come too far to go back now. Things could have been worse, I think we were quite lucky to survive as comparatively unharmed and sane as we did.

Considering that we were almost ready to kill him at the first sign of trouble, Hayden has grown on me. He's becoming frustrated because it gets almost impossible for him to do his job of protecting the expedition. He has already lost three men and now he has to come to terms with the fact that something unbelievably powerful and evil is coming for them. Not that the others are less intimidated by this, but at least Richard, Thomas and Jasper had known already that they would have to deal with supernatural things.

Thomas and Hayden had an uneasy relationship right from the start and just when it began to improve, the attack on Emily came up and Hayden felt that Thomas had been keeping things to himself that were important. And so things when downhill between them again. The dynamics between those characters are among the things I like best about this adventure. I also liked the relationship between Jasper and Fox, but that got cut short brutally. I would have been willing to bet that Fox would be not survive, but I didn't expect it to be quite so dramatic. And Kamal...hm. I'm still not sure about him, but I expect to meet him again actually.

And now a sandstorm. When the GM started to describe it, I immediately thought of this photo and of Sven Hedin, whose accounts of his travels through various deserts I used to devour as a kid. I think I need to read them again, they are quite fascinating. From Pole to Pole can be downloaded from gutenberg.org.

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