This was a “surprise session”. I had only intended to make characters in our “session 0”, but it went so quickly that I was left with a few scheduled hours and not a whole lot ready. Thankfully I’ve enjoyed movies and books in this genre and period and so was happy to improvise (and having my players happy to improvise right alongside helped immeasurably)
Mr Jack (Criminal Adventurer 1)
Dr John Mildred Esq (Physician Expert 1)
Dr Daisy Nottle (Scholar Expert 1)
* Mr Jack is paid 2 shillings to clean up a murder site (bits of bodies, blood everywhere) He hires a few urchins to help mop up. Asks around for info, and learns the ex-inhabitants were from “foreign parts” and surprisingly rich, and stupid. 3 beds, 2 bodies.
* Drs Mildred and Nottle are having breakfast and reading the newspaper – a sensational article about bloody murders and disappearing bodies in the poor district. Daisy is unimpressed by the “rag-trade journalism” but Mildred wants to investigate.
* Dr John Mildred Esq visits the “murder scene” with Inspector Lestrade. Spots Mr Jack in an argument with a inappropriately dressed woman. Appears a normal (if messy) flop-house apartment. No evidence of murder (bodies etc). Mildred finds thin streaks of dried blood (cleaned up?), some broken furniture and full suitcases. One was full of exotic books! Since the landlord claims no-one was renting, the Inspector “allows” Mildred to take the bag of books (for a hefty bribe). The Police claim there is “no evidence of a crime”.
* Mildred corners Mr Jack and buys the information about the real (horrific) murders. Hires Mr Jack to dig up information on the deceased people – who they were, where they were from etc. 1 shilling downpayment, 3 more on delivery.
* Drs Mildred and Nottle peruse the books.
-“An Illustrated Guide to Plants and their Uses” published by the Loxdon University Press.
– A handwritten account of interviews titled “Collected country remedies”
– A (fictional?) publication “Encylopaedia of Stellar Anatomy” by Calcidius the stargazer
– Illuminated manuscript (bound in human skin!) “The Black Book of Llareggub” (no one wants to actually read this)
* Some days later – Mr Jack is summoned to another crime scene at the docks. Constable Anderson wants to remove “undesirable objects”. Constable wants 60% kickback. Jack spots a mutilated body in the apartment.
* Drs. read obituary of Mr Charles Ellington Esq, Navigator. (distant relative)
At the Table
The Worlds Without Number system (and all Kevin Crawford’s work) is really easy to run. Its familiar to anyone who’s run D&D or its related systems – 6 stats, hit points, some special abilities, and d20/d6 dice clattering. The Foci in WWN do something like this. But the bit I am loving (and was in Wolves of God) is the 2d6 skill system. For most things (everything other than combat) this is what is used.
This session was a “hey, character creation went fast, lets play!” from the players and I was somewhat unprepared. I wanted this to be a intro to the city and its goings on. All I knew was
* There is a conspiracy/Secret society war going on.
* Murders being committed by “occult means”.
* The first murder victims are in possession of “occult books”, and were running from the Secret Society.
* It all ties back to an old “Lady Harrow” who is a distant relative of Dr Mildred.
Why I loved the simplicity of “2d6+skill” was that I could concentrate on improvising and tying together story threads rather than stats and complicated mechanics. I was pulling liberally from various books I had in easy reach, as well as recent tv series I’d been watching. To wit, this session was heavily inspired by:
* Penny Dreadful (TV series for atmosphere and city)
* Magical Industrial Revolution (rpg by Skerples for prices, the city of Endon, along with society and class divisions)
* The Weird that Befell Drigbolton (adventure by Gavin Norman, for the magical books)
This session ran surprisingly well, and thanks to me taking lots of notes as the players and I were making stuff up and I was able to try reintroducing names, places, and things back into the story as I was going. Still have some work to do, but it feels like there is a solid base for a horror story developing!