Monday, March 9, 2015

Recap: Islands of Ignorance

Yesterday, I had five players over for "Islands of Ignorance," a Call of Cthulhu adventure of my own design. Well, it was supposed to be CoC: after lots of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to switch the game over to Realms of Cthulhu, the Savage Worlds conversion of CoC by Sean Preston, the guy who did tremulus. But I'll talk about that in a different blog entry...

Though I designed the adventure as a one-shot, I knew while writing it that there was a good chance this could stretch into a two-parter. Turns out that's exactly what happened. Here now is a hasty recap of the first session, so that my players can stay fresh on what happened for when we continue.

There were five investigators. I don't have their names right in front of me, so I'll call them the Soldier, the Inventor, the Con Artist, the Knife-thrower, and the Lady.

The adventure began with all five investigators going about their morning routine. They all picked up the morning newspaper and on the front page was a story about the suicide of a woman named Heather Sparks. I then read this aloud to all the players:

“As you read the article about Heather’s suicide, you feel a growing sadness, as if you are missing her, as if she meant something to you. To your knowledge, however, you’ve never seen her before prior to this news story. Looking at her face in the paper, a wave of deja vu washes over you, so intense you need to sit down for a moment. You wrack your brain, trying to place her, but you cannot recall when...or’ve ever met Heather Sparks.”

So all the investigators seem to recall knowing Heather, though with no clear idea why or where. The Inventor's last name was in fact Sparks, and she had no knowledge of whether or not Heather was even related to her!

The Inventor did discover that she was related to Heather...they were sisters, which she discovered from her father, whom she also didn't remember. They were eating dinner and her father was going on about how terrible this was.

Meanwhile, the Knife-thrower (a former circus performer) was having a drink at the local speakeasy when he was approached by a mysterious man in a magician's outfit. "Did you have anything to do with this?" the man asked, referring to Heather's death in the newspaper. The Knife-thrower never let on to the fact that he had no idea who the hell Heather was or why he'd be involved with her, but he found out from the magician that he was asked by him to follow Heather and figure out what she was up to. The Con Artist, out of curiosity, listened in on this conversation, and ended up getting roped into a plan with the Knife-thrower and his friend, the Soldier (a WWI vet).

The three of them went to the funeral home where Heather was, hoping to examine her corpse for clues. The funeral director was less than thrilled about the idea, and for his reluctance received a knock-out punch from the Soldier! The mortician then entered the room, only to get a gun stuck in his face from the Soldier. The Knife-thrower then rummaged through the director's office and found Heather's address. The Soldier checked out Heather's corpse but didn't find anything unusual. They vacated the area just as the police showed up.

Meanwhile, the Lady, a genius chemist and executor of the vast estate left behind by her deceased parents, discovered from her butler that she was on a "sabbatical" in Zanzibar for three months last summer. She had no recollection of this, and started investigating who told her butler about her absence. She found out one of her assistants received a telegram from her announcing her vacation. A close inspection of the telegram, however, revealed it as a forgery. The Lady went to Western Union to ask about it, but came up with a dead end. She then pressed her staff for more information and discovered (to her surprise) that she was in fact good friends with Heather Sparks. Her butler then reminded her of an incident last year during a summer party when Heather and her fiance (the Soldier!) were making quite a scene of yelling and ranting about "various things, including and not limited to the very end of the world" and had to be escorted out of the party because they were panicking the other guests. The butler then implied that the Lady herself seemed particualrly sympathetic to Heather and her fiance's ramblings, though he is "grateful that my Lady has now come to her senses."

Meanwhile, the three funeral home raiders went to Heather's apartment, where they found a notebook full of random scribblings and notes. Virtually none of them were comprehensible, though a date was clearly written repeatedly in the book: December 20th, 1932, two years from the current day of the adventure. Also in the notebook was a flyer advertising the Amazing Cicirelli, hypnotist and magician...the very magician who approached the Knife-thrower earlier that day! Unclear where to proceed, the three hooligans headed to a restaurant...the same place where the Inventor was having dinner with her father.

The four investigators all recognized each other, though none of them could place exactly where or how. The father then identified the Soldier as Heather's fiance. The father, finally overcome with guilt, explained that last year, Heather and her sister (the Inventor) were acting very oddly, and he was afraid for their sanity. So he had both of them committed to a mental institution for three months last year. He was instructed by the institution that his daughters may have no recollection of their stay, and to please not inform them as it may cause them to relapse into madness. Fearing that that was already happening, however, the Inventor's father came out with the truth, hoping at this point that maybe the information would help.

Together, the investigators went to the asylum but were unable to get access to any medical files pertaining to them. Indeed; it seemed as if no such files existed. Not wanting to take no for an answer, the Knife-thrower hid in the bathroom while the others left. The Soldier returned home to discover the Lady looking for him. They got together and exchanged the information they knew. The Lady, hoping to leverage her more-potent social standing, headed back with the others to the asylum, hoping to have better luck in getting some clues.

Meanwhile, the Knife-thrower snuck through the asylum and ended up in the record-keeping office. Unfortunately, he was unable to find any files, either, and his cover got blown by a wandering nurse. The Knife-thrower was captured, placed in a striaght-jacket and put in a padded room till evening.

The other investigators happened to arrive as the Knife-thrower was trying in vain to escape the hospital. The asylum then was on lockdown, and the other investigators were not allowed to enter. The investigators, with no further leads, waited outside the asylum. This proved to be fortunate, as one Dr. Marcus Stone came to the Knife-thrower's aid. Dr. Stone explained to the orderlies that the whole situation was a misunderstanding, and that the Knife-thrower should be released with no further delays.

As the Knife-thrower was released, the doctor cryptically-warned him to keep himself and his friends far away from the asylum, and that further inquiries here would only lead to trouble and danger for them all.

And so the adventure ended with the Knife-thrower getting kicked out of the asylum, where thankfully his fellow investigators were loitering in the parking lot. Much of the mystery still remains unsolved, and now the investigators have been threatened to keep it that way. Will they heed the doctor's warnings? Or will they see this mystery through to its end? We'll find out next week!

The warm, welcoming halls of the Fisher Institution for the Mentally Troubled...

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