This was my first session where we were continuing threads from last session. We had 2 major threads to follow up – the collection of strange books, and the funeral of the cousin (second murder?) The scenes felt they were jumping between two genres – a high class victorian manners, and a tense heist.
Mr Jack (Criminal Adventurer 1)
Mr Morton Campbell (Criminal Adventurer 1)
Dr Daisy Nottle (Scholar Expert 1)
* Jack & Morton meet at Morton’s pub with 2 professors (Northcott and Axton) to sell Ellington’s stuff. Horn, Powder, and letters (but the letters were missing!!) Professors were very very eager. Paid 16 crowns for the 2 items present!
* Daisy mingles with the aristocracy (and security) at Ellington’s funeral. Odd servant there (headaches when looking at him). Daisy witnesses the Odd Servant doing some ritual (candle and plate of blood)? Duchess Blackstone screams and faints at the same time. Old Lady (Duke’s mother?) starts moaning dire warnings.. All leave.
* Jack & Morton break into Ellington’s apartment. Evidence of someone else searching the place. Find the missing letters hidden in a secret compartment – correspondences with Professor Orlick of Blackstone University in Aldweald. Strange items in the apartment (fat-candle and plate of dried blood)
* Daisy gets gossip on Old Lady – mother of Duke Blackstone. Scandal about seducing nobles, claims of witchcraft. Investigates the “Black Book” which seems to magically defend itself – Daisy can’t make herself damage the book!
* J&M read letters – Orlick stole “Horn of Nag-Shub” (horn of an unicorn – mythical creature?) Worried about “Watchers of the Wood” and “Sisters of the Chalice” learning about his acts.
* NEWSPAPER ARTICLES: Duke and Duchess of Blackstone murdered while in Endon attending their nephew’s funeral.
*Jack & Morton meet with Daisy and Dr Mildred – they share information that everyone is concerned about the Murder of Charles Ellington – and want to investigate those responsible. All experience the harrowing effect of the Black Book of Llareggub – no one is able to bring themselves to damage it! (and hear/feel its anger). Find image of a ritual in the book – shows candle and blood (which everyone has seen) and a statue and ominous shadow – along with unreadable text.
At the Table
This was a challenge. It really was two separate games that I was trying to guide into being the one game. Daisy & Dr Mildred were in a “regency period drama” with gossip and society issues during a funeral where no one actually cares about the dead person and everyone was trying to gain social status. While the other game was a sneaky murder mystery where Jack and Morton were investigating a crime scene that had already been ransacked.
I had to make the connections more obvious and so made the “murderer” strike at the funeral – using a magic ritual. It almost worked at first – Daisy was very curious, but when the screaming started everyone ran before she could find out much more… But then I described the ritual implements at the site of Ellington’s murder as just “some things you find”. The players connected the dots without me having to point out “magic is being used” and came to their own conclusions. They were certain that all 3 events (The tourists, Ellington, the funeral) were linked and so decided to investigate things they recovered from the dead tourists.
The clincher was, I think, “The Black book of Llareggub”. I had intended it to be a magic book in the vein of a “cthulu mythos tome” – I took this book (and others) from the adventure “The Weird that Befell Drigbolton” by Gavin Norman. I’d originally intended it to be a link to “dark magics” going on in Aldweald (Dolmenwood) and wanted the players to read it… but when Daisy wanted to rip it up I admit I panicked and took a reach – I remembered that a lot of “artifacts” in D&D are immune to non-magical damage! But a paper and leather book isn’t so solid so I reached for that other famous artifact (The One Ring from Tolkien’s tales) and made the book influence people – they literally couldn’t bring themselves to hurt it. So I made a point of asking for a “mental save” when Daisy tried to damage the book – she failed and so learned that the book was magical. This led to a whole heap of new possibilities that come up in later sessions!
The letters they found were another good clue to drop. At this point it was not required to make the players interested (they already were very interested in the origins of the Black Book). But giving them half a conversation (just the letters from Prof Orlick and not Ellington’s questions/replies) let me give out a lot of information without actually telling the players what happened. Now the players have another NPC they want to track down, and are even more interested in the strange forest of Aldweald where mythical creatures roam and secret cults were hunting people down.
The last scene was a lot of fun. Daisy acted like the scientist she is – experimented with the other characters handling the book and trying to damage it – with the result of the book being “quiet” until you try to hurt it. She proposed that the book itself was awake and able to read intentions of whoever was holding it. So the players decided to “look for a particular ritual”. I loved the logical thinking and ran with it – I literally let the characters try to “convince” the book to answer them which they succeeded – and so it showed them the ritual that had been used (the candle lit over blood, and the shadow cast becoming a hunting entity).
Of course, this being a horror story, (and using the madness rules from “Silent Legions”) this experience led to everyone gaining some madness – experiencing a sentient book messing with their minds!
The players now were very curious as to what the “professors” were doing with the smuggled goods from Aldweald (a unicorn’s horn?!), and why the “Odd Servant” (they called it a mage-assassin) was hunting down certain people.
This is why I love to run RPGs. I am not telling a story, even though I have a vague idea of things that might happen. The players are not telling their story, even though they are the protagonists. But the story that come out is a curious mix of input from everyone at the table! This session definitely changed the importance (and quality) of the “Black Book” and changed the tone of the game for me 🙂