The Unanswered Question (a Tatters of the King remix) [Trail of Cthulhu]

Greetings!

Following on my previous Post-Modern Masks of Nyarlathotep and Eternal Lies campaigns comes The Unanswered Question, my remix of the modern classic Tatters of the King set primarily in the United States during the 1950s.

The campaign sees the return of two characters from prior campaigns: poor Jimmy Wright, last seen walking off in the distance to the sound of sad piano music at the end of Eternal Lies; and Charleston Chiu, last seen stabbing an avatar of Nyarlathotep in The Post-Modern Masks of Nyarlathotep.

Two other players from Eternal Lies return, one playing the daughter of their previous characters, and the other a brand new character. Finally, we have one new player, although due to scheduling we've only seen them once so far.

I've tried some new tricks in this campaign, but as always I'm tinkering with stuff as I run it. (One day, maybe I'll get things right...)

Below is the teaser trailer I made for the campaign, and once again there's an Obsidian Portal site.



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  • edited December 2016
    Character and Rules Introduction

    Let's meet our characters! They were built using a modified version of Night's Black Agents chargen; given that these Investigators weren't spies but were playing in one of my games, I gave everyone a free Interpersonal skill. Languages worked the same way they work in NBA (a bit more realistically, IMHO) and once again I use Symbol and Solace rather than generic Sources of Stability.

    I started right away with the Statements rules I used in the last third of Eternal Lies; that is, for Solace, Symbol, and Drive the player writes a brief statement that describes what it means to them. These statements can be challenged in much the same fashion as Statements in Smallville can be; they grant a refresh of General points.

    You can have a look at the initial character sheets here.

    The Characters

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    Jimmy Wright
    Player: JP
    Drive: Duty

    Jimmy's been trying to walk away from his past for twenty years now; except for a stint as a supernatural phenomena fighter for the government during WWII, he's largely been forgotten, allowing him to tramp the dusty highways of America along with a mournful basset hound that started following him around. He calls her Betty.

    image

    Charleston Chiu
    Player: CP
    Drive: Survival

    Charleston has been running too--from himself and his history. He's put aside sorcery aside from a few tricks that allow him to navigate the world as a blind man a little easier. He's hoped he dropped off of everyone's radar...but he hasn't.

    image

    Temperance Murphy
    Player: TP
    Drive: Thirst for Knowledge

    Temperance's player previously played Ruby Fitzgibbons Cuevas in Eternal Lies; here she plays her daughter with "Captain" Ashley Murphy, Temperance. Miss Murphy is much more cautious than either of her parents, and has a profound spirituality and somewhat old-fashioned Catholic outlook, even though she frequently has dreams about an old South Pacific warrior named Charlie.

    image

    Candace Heartbrooke

    Player: HP
    Drive: Art

    Candace is a professor at Wellesley College, where she met her best friend and writing mentor, Vladimir Nabokov. Her husband died during WWII; she wrote a novel based on her experiences as a war widow which was very well received. Since then she has struggled to find a new novel worthy of its predecessor, although she continues to crank out hard-boiled mysteries under a pen name.

    image

    Dr. Samuel Acererak

    Player: SP
    Drive: Thirst for Knowledge

    Dr. Acererak is a chemist who currently specializes in self-medication. At the end of the war he was in Operation Paperclip; an almost fatal encounter with a "dead-ender" sent him into a coma. During that time he wandered a strange dreamlike land, visiting cities like Hlanith and Dylath-Keen. He hopes to return there some day.


    THE FIRST SESSION

    Instead of my usual Fiasco playset, I tried something new this time--mostly because I wanted the background generator to be a frame story wrapping a mysterious encounter in Las Vegas. So I imported some tech from the wonderful Fall of Magic and made a set of cards with little sub-locations on them; we used the same basic rules as Fall of Magic to do scenes with them. This worked well enough, although there was a bit less interaction between the characters than I would have liked, and I didn't quite make the supernatural section creepy enough. Here's a link to the cards I made.
  • The Unanswered Question: Prologue 1 (Before the Wedding)

    The wedding of James Francis Grey, the son of the current governor of California, Bradley Grey, to Ariadne Wright Devilliers, daughter of a family friend, was held on the shores of Lake Tahoe in September of 1955. Ariadne's college friend Temperance Murphy was there as a bridesmaid. The bride's uncle, Jimmy Wright--freshly scraped up from whatever ditch he had been living in all these years--was there too, folded and spindled into a tux.

    Candace Heartbrooke, a professor at Wellesley, pushed her way through the reception crowd to the bar. Behind it a Chinese-American man wearing dark glasses was mixing drinks, relying on his sense of smell to find the right bottles. He had a long pointed beard and a rather hang-dog expression that occasionally was enlivened by his brilliant smile.

    "Why Mr. Chiu! What a pleasure to see you!" said Candace.

    "Thank you," said Charleston. "Wish I could say the same. What can I get you?"

    "You know what I like," she said, smiling.

    "We're off to a hot start then." He poured her a scotch, neat of course. "There will be dancing later, but I don't think they let the help join in."

    "Oh, maybe we can sneak one in."

    "We'll see...or maybe we won't!" He chuckled and Candace laughed louder than she wanted.

    "How is the job treating you?" she asked, watching him continue to mix drink orders.

    "Fine so far."

    "You are a man of many talents."

    "I'm a man of a very specific talent that I use in a variety of ways. They seem satisfied with the results so far." He nodded at the overflowing tip jar. "You should be out there flirting."

    "I don't know these people that well. The bride's my cousin but we're not close. My mother was so disappointed when I told her I was declining the invitation...eventually I had to give in to her."

    "You never know, maybe you could find somebody."

    "Among all these uptight rich people?"

    "If they were so uptight, they wouldn't have hired Charleston Chiu as a bartender."

    "Perhaps they don't know you very well."

    "Probably it's a combination of both. If you dig underneath the surface, you'll have a lot to write about. You still do that?"

    "Oh yes. Keep an ear out for me, I'd love to meet up later and find out any tidbits."

    "Oh you incorrigible flirt! Have another drink," said Charleston with a smile.



    Jimmy Wright stood on a rise by the shore, looking out over Lake Tahoe. The deep blue waters lapped the shore and the breeze on his face was refreshing. He fingered something in his pocket.

    It had been a long road. So much blood on these hands, he thought. Such a long time since he'd been to a party like this.

    He stood there a long time, until the strains of the orchestra brought him out of his reverie. He checked one last time that the old diamond ring he had been turning over in his hands was tucked back in his pocket, then turned away from the lake and walked back toward the lodge.



    Charleston remembered:

    He was running through the mountains. This was somewhere in China. Somewhere in 1944. He stumbled over the stones, shouting out "Jimmy! Jimmy!"

    Jimmy Wright stepped on his cigarette and raised his rifle at the sound of someone crashing through the brush. "Who's there?"

    "It's me, Charleston! I can't see in the dark! I can't see at all!"

    "What are you doing here?"

    "It was me who burned the village in the mountains! It was my village, I could do what I wanted with it. We've got to get out of here..." Charleston swung his head around nervously, as if afraid that someone was following him.

    "There's a place nearby..." began Jimmy.

    "Did you say place or blaze?"

    "Francis is in the area. But place." He pulled Charleston's hand to his shoulder. "If you weren't so heavy I'd carry you."

    "I don't know why you want me to watch behind us, I won't be any use."

    "Why are you here?" groused Jimmy.

    "Why are you here? I came here to burn down and put an end to what I started."

    "Government."

    "Do you always get caught up in everything the same way?"

    "Yes."

    "Someone calls you up with a job nobody else can do?"

    "Yes. Yes."

    "I guess I shouldn't complain. I'm asking you to do a job nobody else can. We've got to get out of these mountains..."

    "Yup. By the way, take a deep breath..."

    "Why?"

    Fortunately the drop down to the river was less than thirty feet.



    Temperance was finishing getting dressed up in the bridesmaid's suite. She remembered another wedding, when she was a little girl. This was only a few years after her father had brought her to live with him. But this was a memory of her mother, of the time they had gone to a wedding together, with her other family: her stepfather and half-siblings.

    She had finished putting on her new party dress and went to find her mother, walking through the hallways of the old hotel her mother's friends had rented. She came to their suite and peeked in through the door, which was open a crack.

    Ruby was sitting on the bed, dressed in her fancy gown. But her artificial arm was unbuckled and cast to one side. The vanity was a wreck; it looked like Ruby had swept everything to the floor and smashed the mirror. Her mother was facing the wall, scratching it with her good hand as she was seized in some paroxysm of anxiety. For a second she caught Temperance's eye and tried to freeze her face back into a mask of respectability.

    She didn't quite succeed.

    Temperance blinked away the memory. She put away her makeup neatly in her carrying case and headed out of the suite.
  • Jimmy didn't walk off by himself at the end of Eternal Lies. Ruby and the others intercepted him, Ruby dangling the keys to her plane, as he was slipping off to answer a Call of Duty, so of course, everyone was coming, whether Jimmy intended that or not.
  • a) I just checked; my poetic license won't expire until 2019 ;-)

    b) Actually, he did walk away at the end of Eternal Lies proper in late 1937; five years later he got roped back into helping the US Government deal with the supernatural aspects of WWII, and promptly went on the lam again after the war ended, it seems.

    In any case I am not a stickler for strict continuity. I generally consider the write-ups to be "canon" for determining the course of previous events, which means sometimes things that I elided a bit or added post-session are now the "official" version of events, if that even means anything. Like a movie or a long running TV series, sometimes this means looking the other way--like, how old is Governor Grey? I had him tagged as early 40s, I think, in PMON, which wold make him about 70 in UAQ. That isn't completely out of range, of course, and might be why he loses or doesn't run against Pat Brown in 1958. (Removing the Brown political dynasty from California is too big a timeline divergence for me, unless I come around at some point to mapping the Carlyle/Grey family onto the Browns; that's a bit dicey, given that Bradley Grey is a Republican, but OTOH having a moonbeam Carlyle as governor of Cali is fun.)
  • The Unanswered Question: Prologue Part 2 (Las Vegas, 19 June 1953)

    Las Vegas, 1953. June 19th in fact. The big story is the Rosenberg's execution, which will happen around sunset. Freddy Blakely had invested in a new casino, the Duke, which was opening that night. Most of the people attending the opening were excited about being able to watch the atom bomb test which was also scheduled for sunset.

    Temperance stepped off the bus. She dragged her suitcase behind her down the strip, her bible tucked under one arm, a long rosary swinging around her neck as she walked past the Duke Casino. Almost against her will--she really was a nice, upright young lady--she glanced inside at the gaming tables.

    She stopped. So many tourists. So much ignorance. From here she could see at least four betting mistakes just at the nearest blackjack table. Without quite realizing why--not at a conscious level, that is; as you might suspect with a half-pirate father she had been playing cards since she was old enough to hold them--she walked inside the casino and drifted to the poker table.

    "Would the lady care to play a hand?" said the dealer consolingly.

    "Oh...it's been such a long time...I wouldn't want to lose my money..."

    "Please, madam. Here's five dollars on the house."

    Temperance tucked her rosary into her blouse and slipped her bible into her suitcase. "I suppose I could stay for one hand..."

    Three hours later, one of the casino executives sidled up to her. "Perhaps madam would like to stay in the Presidential Suite tonight as our guest."

    She put down her hand and tidied up one of the tall stacks of chips in front of her. "If it's open, I suppose that would be nice."

    "Oh, it's open. We would like to keep you here long enough to win back our money," said the exec with a grimace.



    The bellhop unlocked the door and led Candace and her companion into a sumptuously appointed guest suite. "Right this way, ma'am. You'll see that there are multiple bedrooms, a balcony here overlooking the pool, and a brand new 14" console television with a built-in Hi-Fi set."

    "How decadent," murmured the man standing behind her. "It reminds me of when I was growing up." He had an odd accent, not-quite British, but something else.

    "We deserve to treat ourselves, Vladimir," she said.

    "Yes, I tried to treat myself in Russia and look how that turned out," said Nabokov, frowning. "This is very nice, though. I suppose it was the least the awards committee could do for you. I can't say that it makes me think any more of your prize. Unless you could put in a word with the Pulitzer people..."

    [TP: If he has Mexican for dinner, he can have a bu-ree-to, the tip of the tongue making a trip of three steps...

    Me: Stop it. You get that one time.]

    "Just relax. Have fun."

    "I have so many lecture notes to write. It is impossible to teach Russian literature to these children."

    "That's what you're here for. We need you!"

    "We should have a drink first. Shall we head to the bar?"

    "Absolutely," said Candace with a grin.



    Outside the casino a weatherbeaten old man stopped. He was covered in dust. He could make his own sandstorm just in the breeze from the A/C. Next to him was a sorry-looking basset hound. The dog looked mournfully up at him.

    The man clapped the grit off his hat and stepped into the casino. He limped to the bar. "How much for a glass of water? It's for Betty," he said, jerking his chin at the dog.

    "Buck fifty, old-timer," said the barkeep, clearly trying to give him the bum's rush.

    The man started to claw through his pockets. A big-hatted Texan in a western jacket with sequins and the shiniest cowboy boots anyone had ever seen sauntered by, two amazing blondes clutching his elbow. "Hey, fella, you look like you could use some luck," he said, and tossed a $50 chip to the hobo.

    The dusty man sighed, and limped into the casino. "Pardon me, miss," he said to a pretty young lady who was carrying a tray of chips over to the cashier's window. "Do you have fifty for a chip?"

    "Sir, keep the chip," said Temperance, brushing the dust off her sleeve. "Here, take fifty dollars. Do you have a place to sleep tonight?" she asked with the combination of condescension and cluelessness only the privileged can pull off naturally.

    "Under the stars," said Jimmy.

    "Sir--" she began. The basset hound gave a low moan. "Oh. You have a dog."

    Betty sniffed at her feet.

    "I have a room in this casino," she continued. "Here, take this, they'll let you right up. And the dog. Just give them my name. Temperance Murphy."

    Jimmy paused a long time. "Temperance..." he muttered.

    "And what is your name?" she beamed.

    "Uh...Jack Jackson."

    Betty rolled her eyes.

    "And this is Betty, my companion,' he said.

    "What a lovely dog," said Temperance dubiously. Betty gave another mournful howl.

    [Me: Awwwroooooo...
    HP: What is she, a wookiee?
    Me: Betty, lock in auxiliary power!
    TP: I know pal! I missed you too!]

    "Temperance Murphy, eh?" said Jimmy. "What a lovely rosary you have on."

    "It was a gift from my stepfather. He gave it to me when I was a young girl. It was an auspicious night. He was saying goodbye to an old friend of his. He felt he needed to give me a gift. What was that man's name? It was something with a J as well...John? Jeremy? Ah, Juan. Cousin Jaun from Spain. Lovely party."



    The blind man tapped his way across the casino betting floor with his white cane until he pulled up at one of the blackjack tables and perched himself on a stool.

    The dealer boggled. "Sir is clearly pulling our leg," he said.

    "Relax. I've done this before. I have a plan." He turned to Candace, who was sitting next to him. "Please, if you could read the cards for me, I promise you'll be visited by Lady Luck."

    "Sure," she said, sipping her drink. "Candace."

    "Charleston."

    The dealer slid out some cards. "Ten to the lady. Four to the blind man. Hitting or staying, Kreskin?"

    "Hitting."

    Behind her, Vladimir groused at Candace. "We should play baccarat. Much more civilized."

    “Hit again,” said Charleston when Candace whispered in his ear he’d been dealt the King of Hearts.

    "The gentleman is busted," said the dealer. "Twenty for the lady, a winner."

    "I told you luck follows me everywhere I go," said Charleston to Candace.

    "But unfortunate for you."

    "Don't worry, life's a series of peaks and valleys. I'm just glad to be helping other people out."

    "I'm sure Vladimir would find your case interesting and poetic...bringing other people good fortune but never sharing it..."

    "Yes, I would know nothing about that," said Nabokov, draining his martini.

    "I suppose that's one way to look at it," said Charleston. "But you're assuming losing one hand of blackjack is enough to make me miserable."

    "No...I'm wondering what kind of luck you brought to others in the past."

    "A potpourri of circumstances and outcomes. After a few hands I'd love to take you over to the bar and tell you about some of my stories."

    "I'd love to hear them," she said, elbowing Nabokov. "Good material for my other work."

    "I don't know why you write those trashy detective novels," sighed the Russian.

    "I have to write something happy and light...well, not so dark. Not like my other book."

    "You're a writer?" asked Charleston.

    "Yes. I'm here to receive an award for my first novel." She shot Nabokov a glare.

    "Very impressive. I wrote a book once."

    "How nice to meet another author. Are you here for the award ceremony?"

    "No, but I'd love to attend. I'm always jealous of those whose written works are appreciated. Mine didn't go over so well."

    "Don't give up! Keep writing, you'll get better. Trust me, it took seven years to finish my book."

    "In a way you're giving me hope."
  • Aviatrix,

    Have you described before how you use the Fiasco playset in this context?

    Sounds like a fun game, in any case! Thanks for the writeups.
  • edited December 2016
    Paul,

    Here and there. But I can link you to the prior uses!

    Post-Modern Masks:

    Initial Fiaso run: France, 1918

    Fairly uninspired playset, but to be fair it was the first one I ever wrote

    Second Fiasco Run (to jump in two new PCs)

    Started out as a general Jazz Age New York City playset that I sharpened into a Gatsby-eque party; probably needs to be rewritten in light of the wedding playset in the Fiasco Companion and its "moments"

    Third Fiasco Run to jump in another PC, who sadly was only there one session

    Somewhat proud of this one, the locations were all specific points in Jackson Elias' life


    Eternal Lies:

    The Casting Call of Cthulhu

    Slightly silly but endearing run of a playset I based on "The Final Cut" in Shadows Over Filmland

    I also convinced Lisa Padol to use another one of these to set up the 1894 section of Dracula Dossier


    I discuss the results a bit at the links, and a bit more here. Generally, it's consistently churned out decent backstory that has one huge advantage: it's been lived by the players. Also, since I "tame" Fiasco (so characters don't wind up dead or emotional shells), it's a nice low-pressure way to explore character personality before the game actually starts.
  • edited December 2016
    The Unanswered Question: Prologue Part 3 (A Sandstorm in Las Vegas, 1953)

    They all gathered on the terrace that evening. The radios were crackling with the news that the Rosenbergs had just been executed at Sing-Sing. Everyone stared out over the purpling desert.

    There was an intensely bright flash on the horizon. For a moment people could have sworn they saw a green flash just as the bomb detonated, but they could never be sure. A few minutes later, the awful CRACK of the shock wave rolled over them, and they turned to go back into the building.

    An hour later the sandstorm swept in, harder and faster than anyone had ever seen. The sky went black. Soon the casino was a tiny island of light in a sea of darkness.



    Things began to happen. None of the people there would ever fully remember what happened in the inky blackness. Some remembered that the TVs scattered around the hotel--so that the gamblers could watch I Love Lucy while at the blackjack table--began to show some strange kind of Playhouse 90 drama. Something really bizarre though, stylized, unrecognizable.

    Other people saw things...or people...



    Candace woke with a start. Everything was still so dark. The wind wailed outside. She got up and walked into the living room, clutching her nightgown close to her. She went over to the bar to get a glass of water.

    Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw something. Some darkness darker than the rest of the room. Something animal...she could feel the heat of it.

    "Vlad, are you awake?" she called out. She could hear the Russian's gentle snoring from the other bedroom.

    She picked up her glass of water and walked over to the window. There were no stars out. She felt the same sort of presence behind her. She turned.

    It looked like the silhouette of a man. He was tall, the shade of his head bent down as if looking at her. He was wearing an army uniform. She blinked. The figure was still there.

    She saw a flash of light from his wrist. The...thing...was wearing a watch. The same watch she had given her husband before he left for the war.

    She walked, as if in a trance, into her bedroom. Not like this, she thought. I don't like to remember him as a soldier. The presence was following her. He was close enough that she would have felt his breath on her neck, if he had any breath.

    She climbed into bed and pulled the sheets up and rolled over to face the wall. She felt the bed sag under weight, as if someone was sitting down on it, then swinging his legs up to spoon her.

    She screwed her eyes shut. "I love you but I need my rest!" she said.

    The weight lifted off the bed gently, as if it was ice melting away rapidly. She opened her eyes and wept.



    Jimmy lugged himself out of the bath and wiped steam off of of the mirror. He took out a cutthroat razor and lathered up. The lights flickered for a moment.

    He paused, the razor held up high. Nothing is going on, he said to himself. All that's over. The lights flickered again, and Betty began to bark.

    He shook his head and leaned toward the mirror. Again the lights flickered, for a longer time. He began to scrape his cheek. He turned his head one way to get a better angle.

    The face in the mirror turned the opposite direction.

    Jimmy lowered the razor. His...reflection? stared out at him. "Hello, Jimmy," it said suddenly. "You killed me. That's pretty hard for a guy to get over. And don't think I didn't try!"

    The other Jimmy began to crawl out of the mirror. He was getting paler and paler, as if drained of blood.

    "Go away! Go away!" cried Jimmy. "It was twenty years ago! This is not happening! No! NO!"

    "We all have a part to play, Jimmy," said the other one. "It's all one big script." Blood was staining his shirt. Jimmy looked down and saw he was bleeding now as well.

    He ran out of the bathroom. Standing in the suite's living room was another version of himself, clean-shaven, wearing an expensive suit. He was younger looking somehow. He was wearing a wedding ring on one hand.

    "You could have had all this," he said to Jimmy. "What's wrong with you?"

    The pale version of him came into the room. He and the well-dressed version began to circle around Jimmy. "You can't hide!" they said. "You can’t run away!"

    Jimmy fell to the ground and covered his eyes with his forearms. "Go away, go away," he moaned as the other two began to yell, louder, louder, and louder...



    Temperance was walking down the hall to her room through the flickering lights of the casino's failing power. She saw a Chinese man swatting at the air. He was wearing dark glasses and holding a white cane.

    Charleston could only hear a high pitched hum. He felt something slimy crawling under the skin near his cheekbones. Something slurped its way upwards...

    Temperance saw him claw his glasses off his face. She was shocked to see he was not just blind--he had no eyes, just empty sockets. She ran up to him. "Sir! You're going to hurt yourself worse! A lot more!"

    Charleston felt hands on his wrists. "Go away, Anna! Go away!"

    "Sir! I'm just a guest at the hotel..."

    Charleston wrenched her wrist around and swept his foot behind her leg, throwing her down onto the carpet. He began crawling away. "Anna! No! I got rid of you!"

    Temperance felt the hallway begin to swirl around her. She stumbled to her feet and ran blindly through the darkness.

    Ahead she finally saw a dim pool of light. Standing in it was a man dressed in the clothes of a Polynesian chief. She approached in disbelief. "Charlie?" she said. "How can you be here? You're just a voice in my head..."

    Charlie turned and gave a half-smile, the tattoos on his face moving luridly in the shadow. As she began to move toward him, he shifted and became a tongue of flame. As she got even closer, the flame shifted and became a small boy, who rapidly grew into adulthood.

    Suddenly she realized she was walking on the palm of his hand, the palm of an enormous giant human figure. It grasped her tightly. It felt like continents crushing together.

    The man regarded her with a face that was all too human and yet somehow alien. "Not worth our time," it said, and flung her into the darkness...
  • I love the 1894 playset. Wanna buy a Monet?
  • (If I can figure out how to do 1977 DD, we may want a playset for that, but way premature to wonder about that now.)
  • Ooooh...1977 would be a Le Carre style thing. I might be able to pull that off :)
  • I love the 1894 playset. Wanna buy a Monet?
    Manet ;-)

    (I like Manet better than Monet. I think when we did that playset, the Manet ended up having been actually painted by Victorine Meurent, his most famous model.)
  • edited December 2016
    The Unanswered Question: Prologue Part 4a (The Night of the Wedding, 1955)

    Night fell slowly over Lake Tahoe. The wedding party was winding down. Most of the guests were bussed back to California or Nevada, but some stayed; as family friends, in the case of Candace and Temperance; somewhat involuntarily in the case of Jimmy and Charleston.

    It turns out that the governor's wife wanted to talk to some of them.



    The worst you could say about Erica Carlyle Grey was that the years showed on her. Not in any obvious way; Carlyle money paid for the army of stylists she employed for public appearances. But there was a tiredness in her gaze, even if it could melt steel when she needed it to, as a few board members had found out when they challenged her.

    Still; she was on the far side of sixty and could be forgiven for being a little short for weariness' sake with Jimmy.

    "So Jimmy--is it still Jimmy? Not Jake or Jack or Jan Johannson?"

    Jimmy shifted uncomfortably as he looked around the opulently decorated office the Governor used during his retreats to the lake. "James or Jimmy."

    "Over the years you've caused Bradley a lot of grief. Bailed him out a few times too. I haven't said anything, because you brought my sister back. Though that was a little hard to come to terms with at first."

    "I'd say it wasn't my intention to do that, but those are just words."

    "And I know you looked after Millicent. Although I think you're also responsible for Mirabelle. So that's kind of a push." She shook her head and sipped her brandy. "Bradley has brought you back for a reason. I don't know what it is yet. But you're not allowed to run away this time, Jimmy."

    "I just wanted to see my niece get married. I'm done with this life. It's taken everything from me."

    "Don't take that tone with me."

    "I'm sorry. What have you lost?"

    "My brother."

    "I lost my best friend, my fiancee--"

    "She's here you know. We told her you were coming. At first she was surprised, since we'd heard you died in Burma or China...actually, Bradley had a very reliable report that you'd been killed in Kansas. I was inclined to believe it. Kansas is a good place to die."

    "I was under a barn, and it collapsed, but the thing was--"

    She slammed down her glass. "Ever since you came into my family's life it's been one crazy thing after another. But now you're family. So I expect you to start looking after my family like you did yours. I need you to help my boy. Not Frank, he's Bradley's son. Roger. Well, Van. Van Carlyle he calls himself--I convinced Bradley to let him use the Carlyle name so it doesn't die out. He's a lot like Roger--"

    Jimmy turned pale.

    "Not in the research department. A dreamer."

    "I think I've earned the right to avoid my responsibilities for the rest of my life."

    "We could all die tomorrow!"

    "I've already died."

    "At least hear Bradley out. And for God's sake talk to Janet! Nut up, Jimmy."



    Charleston was still tending bar; he couldn't see the state policeman who was following him. He grabbed a tray of drinks and made his way to the parlor with its enormous stone hearth. It was lit; September gets cold even in Tahoe.

    He handed out the drinks until he only had a flute of champagne left. "Who's this for?" he said politely.

    A voice like a shriek of a violin spoke nearby. Over here, Charleston.

    Anna Mae, he thought. The tray shook in his hands. You're here.

    Yes, Charleston. You didn't think burning down that two-bit village would chase me away, did you? I still need you. I'm like your daughter. I need you to survive. You need to feed me...or I'll feed myself.

    "I'll never do it!" he said out loud. "You were a mistake. It was never supposed to turn out this way."

    Just because it was a mistake doesn't mean you don't get to take responsibility for it. Or are you going to run away again?

    "Yes I am!" He dropped the tray and bolted out of the room. He felt someone grab him.

    "You ain't going anywhere," snarled the state trooper in his ear as he fastened the handcuffs.




  • The Unanswered Question: Prologue Part 4b (The Night of the Wedding, 1955)

    Temperance walked into the governor's office. "Erica--my goodness! Jack?"

    Erica frowned. "This is Jimmy Wright, Ariadne's uncle," she said.

    "I met this man in Las Vegas two years ago, the night of that sandstorm. He said his name was Jack Johnson."

    "Jimmy was a friend of your mother's, and your stepfather's...and your father's, I suppose."

    "James Wright? He's real? I thought he was a tall tale. I mean, my father likes to embellish..."

    "I'm sure he did," said Jimmy. "As you can see, I'm just an old man."

    "The tiger," said Temperance breathlessly. "Did that really--"

    "That was all your mother."

    "She actually did that? What about the sword? The one Geronimo got from the old priest--"

    "Oh, yes."

    "He also burned down a lot of warehouses in the twenties," said Erica drily.

    "Maybe we can stop talking about my past and move on," said Jimmy.

    "Why didn't you tell me who you were? That you knew my mother? Is the dog's name really Betty?"

    "Yes. Her name is really Betty. I...I'm trying to keep things simple...instead of...well, it's complicated...I've been running away. And you're Ruby's daughter. And she lost her arm because she got caught up in the chaos of my life."

    "You were in the car when she had the accident?"

    "The accident...er...no, but I set her on the path to ending up...in the car."

    "I'm assuming you're part of the secrets my parents like to try and keep from me. Although the Colonel's stories are a bit more colorful than the ones Geronimo and my mother try to keep from me..."

    "Murphy," muttered Jimmy.

    The door burst open and "Colonel" Ashley Murphy, late of the US Marine Corps (where he helped design landing boats) and currently head of Murphy Recreational Vehicles and Trailers, Ltd. (Ask about an upgrade to the Commodore model!) stepped in. "Ah, darling, there you are!" he said in his trademark staccato style. "Jimmy! I hear you're a wandering bum. I could put you in a motor home!"

    "Hello father," said Temperance.

    "Murphy," muttered Jimmy.

    "You don't get to call me 'Murphy', old man! It's Ashley! Or Colonel."

    "Murphy."

    "Same old Jimmy!" He shot a glance at Temperance. "I never said he wasn't real..."

    "I got the impression that he wasn't. I mean, anytime someone mentions the komodo dragons somebody starts weeping. I thought it was a joke..."

    "Well you're in the middle of something," said Murphy, backing away from them like they were Omaha Beach.

    "I should go too," said Jimmy. "Thanks for the...conversations. Have a pleasant evening. Come on, Betty."

    The basset hound moaned at him.

    "You can sit in front of the fire." He slowly made his way out of the office. Erica buried her face in her hands. "You wanted something?" she said at last to Temperance.

    "Just wondering if you'd found my earring...oh, there it is," she said and beat a hasty retreat.



    Candace sat in front of the fire, sipping her whiskey. She remembered another time, sitting in front of a fire with her husband, talking about visiting California, going to results...

    And here she was: alone. It seemed to call for a toast. She knocked back another gulp of her drink.

    It had been two years since she had written her first novel...well, first literary novel; she'd published a couple of her mysteries in the meantime. (She usually banged out several a year, when she didn't have more difficult work.) So far, while she'd been able to write, nothing had jelled; her "serious" work was unfocused, lackluster. It didn't have that spark that separated the quick from the dead.

    If Andrew was still here, he'd help her work through it; she just knew he would. But he wasn't, and she felt alone and tired.

    She wanted to go home. To talk to Vlad, who always helped her work through her rough patches. She wanted to get back to her work.

    She finished her drink and stared for one long moment out at the moonlight lake. Then she went to bed.

    Everything would change the next morning...
  • (I like Manet better than Monet. I think when we did that playset, the Manet ended up having been actually painted by Victorine Meurent, his most famous model.)
    Yes, it did. But, that's all right -- Earnest bought Roxanne something by some guy named Van Gogh, right?

  • No, Mr. Wright, it wasn't your fault at all! It was mine!
  • Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 1)

    Charleston awoke. He was lying on a couch in the sitting room of the Grey's lodge in Lake Tahoe. From another room he heard the sound of someone playing piano--something Baroque, maybe Bach.

    He stretched and stood up, then grabbed his white cane and tapped his way into the room the music was coming from. As he stood in the doorway, it abruptly stopped.

    "Excuse me. Didn't see you there," said a man's voice. He sounded young.

    "I didn't see you either."

    "Oh," said the man. "Right. Sorry, man."

    "It's okay."

    "I didn't think anyone else was up."

    "What time is it, anyway?"

    "About seven."

    "In the morning?"

    "Yeah. I wouldn't have played if I had known anyone was listening."

    "It's all right, just proof that I'm alive," chuckled Charleston. "Are you just an early riser, or is this the end of your night?"

    "Kinda the end. Just going the with the flow." Charleston felt the man take his hand and shake it. "Roger Grey, but call me Van. Van Carlyle."

    "Charleston Chiu, but call me Charles."

    "Charleston Chiu? Interesting name, friend. Probably take a lot of guff about it."

    "Only from my friends. I guess we're friends now."

    "Far out. Like music, friend?"

    "I love it. I used to fool around with a violin...but not so much now. The piano sounded lovely."

    "Thanks. That Gould kid has been running with that piece...I dunno, learned it when I was a kid. Bach. Goldberg variations. But I like modern music, Thelonious, cats like that."

    "Keen man, you're hip!"

    "Trying to be, trying to be. Hey, you're that cat the deputies were hanging around. I think my dad wanted you to meet him."

    "Let's go get some coffee and then see the Governor."



    Jimmy woke up in his guest room and got up quietly. He cracked the door and Betty ran out, snuffling. A servant gently tapped and handed him some coffee.

    He finished getting dressed and then took the cup with him out onto the deck that wrapped around the second story of the lodge. Sitting at a redwood table at one corner of the house was a woman. She had dark black hair with just a few hints of grey. She was smoking and looking out over the lake. As he approached she turned to face him.

    "Oh my god," said Janet Rogers. "It's..."

    "Janet," said Jimmy. "Hello."

    "I heard you dead. In Burma, and New Guinea, and--"

    "Kansas?"

    "No, Bohemia."

    "Turns out being dead tends to solve a lot of problems...temporarily."

    "I won't say you're looking good," said Janet with a wry grin. "And you always were a keen judge of your own character. Have you read any of my books? I based Willie St. James on you, don't know if you noticed."

    "I plead ignorance."

    "It's been thirteen years."

    "Has it? Feels like fifty."

    "Listen, I'm...sorry about what I said. Thirteen years ago."

    "Drinks were flowing, emotions were high."

    "I hope you could look back...I hope you didn't hate me, Jimmy."

    "I could never hate you."

    "I hated you. About five, seven years. Then the war came, and things didn't seem to matter so much."

    They fell silent and let the wind playing over the lake wash over them.

    "I think Bradley has something for you," said Janet finally.

    "Pretty sure he has eyes on me 24/7," said Jimmy.

    "If there was anything I needed to worry about, you'd tell me, right?"

    "Cross my heart."

    "You always were a damn poor liar."

    "Guess it's just one of my charms. We should talk again."

    "Sure give me your number...oh, right."



    Temperance was sitting in the dining room. It was cleanly and expensively furnished, with spotless linen tablecloths spread over the little cabaret and larger trestle tables. She was looking at the paintings that had been strung around the room. The Rembrandt was obviously a fake, she thought.

    Governor Bradley Grey came into the room and sat across from her at one of the larger tables. "Like that? Genuine Rembrandt. Erica got in England after the war."

    "I hope you didn't pay too much for it...er...I mean, Rembrandts..."

    "We'll donate it to the state at the end of my term."

    "How are you this morning, Governor?"

    "I invited Jimmy Wright to a wedding," he said slowly, as if the words caused him pain. "You know he used to work for me...then I think I worked for him."

    "I don't understand."

    "I had to do a lot of favors for him, and your mother and stepfather...and your stepmother and father..."

    "How generous. If I may say, you don't look like you've had much sleep."

    Grey sighed. "I'm not a young man anymore. I became governor because it’s time to think about my legacy--I'll do my eight years in office and put my stamp on California, before they elect some damn fool actor or something ridiculous like that. Plus I couldn't say in Congress after they started electing pricks like Dick Nixon to the senate! You know what it was like sitting with that guy in the cloakroom? And McCarthy, what a clown."

    "I try to stay away from politics."

    "You a Republican?"

    "I'm a Catholic."

    "So a Democrat. Where do you live now?"

    "New York."

    "I used to live there. I liked it, but Erica wanted to come out here." He fell silent for a while. "Temperance, I asked you here for a reason. You were in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, right? Something happened, didn't it?"

    Temperance blanched. "The sandstorm..."

    "There's someone I want you to meet. And, well, just hear her out--"

  • Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 2)

    Candace came down the stairs and headed for the breakfast buffet. She took her plate into one of the front rooms. It was on the east side of the house, and brilliant sunshine filled the room. Sitting at the table was a blonde woman in her mid-thirties; she was wearing tortoiseshell glasses and had a troubled look on her face. Across from her was a skinny, excited man in wire-rim glasses, slurping up coffee. They were talking animatedly.

    "--They'll be getting everyone together soon, Sam, and then we can tell them about Percy," said the woman. "Oh, hello."

    "Hello," said Candace.

    "You're Candace Heartbrooke, aren't you? The professor?"

    "Yes, I teach literature at Wellesley."

    "Where are my manners. Lisa Schicksal."

    "Candace Heartbrooke."

    "Yes, we established that. This is my colleague--" she turned to the man. "Do you prefer Sam or Samuel?"

    "Doctor."

    "Doctor Sam Acererak."

    Candace sat down next to them. "How do you know the family?"

    "To tell the truth, I don't know them that well. But an odd thing happened to me a few years ago, and I think my husband Percival may have been involved...actually, let's just all get together."

    "That would be for the best," said Sam.

    A short while later Temperance, Candace, Charleston and Jimmy were gathered in the governor's office. Bradley Grey was sitting behind his desk; sitting on chairs next to him were Lisa and Sam. "Everyone, this is Dr. Schicksal and her colleague. You were all in Vegas two years ago. She was too. I really want you to listen to what she has to say...you seem to be the right person by temperament or happenstance to help her out. Even you, Chuckles."

    Lisa stood up. "My name is Lisa Schicksal. Ph.D., if you want to make a big deal out of it. I studied anthropology. I met my husband Percival in England during the war--I was doing translation and he was studying the V-2 rockets. He's a physicist...well, maybe a bit more. Percy was into a lot of...interesting stuff. The occult. Alistair Crowley stuff."

    Candace busily took some notes.

    "I haven't seen Percy in several years...I guess I have to be honest about everything," Lisa said to Sam.

    "That would be best."

    "Percy's interests extended beyond occult research. He believed in free love, and I tried to be open-minded...but I couldn't, and some of the people that tracked into our house in California...Anyway, I took a job back East. We were still friends, maybe even in love a bit. The last I heard, he was starting some multi-disciplinary think tank in Nevada. The corporation that fronted him found some ex-government space--"

    "The last you heard?" said Charleston.

    "Well, he started to get into some hush hush stuff around '52. I would get the occasional phone call. Then that stopped. So I headed out to Vegas to see if I could shake up the brass and get back in touch with him...and then that night happened. And some very strange things...and I don't know, but maybe...Percy had something to do with it. He saw...things...sometimes. He and his friends...did things. Things that worked...I try to keep an open mind but I'm still a scientist."

    "Science doesn't explain everything," said Jimmy.

    "So you're looking for Percy?" said Charleston.

    "I found where the place he was working was located. It's closed down and on private land, so we can just go there."

    "Let me ask a little more clearly. Do you want to find him, or his group?"

    "I want to find out what he was working on. If he was doing something dangerous--"

    "So your romantic relations aren't important."

    "I don't think we're that close anymore."

    "I knew Percy," said Sam. "And whatever he's working on, it's important."

    "I know you all saw something in Vegas," said Lisa. "I sent out a lot of questionnaires, and the governor was helpful--"

    Jimmy glared at Bradley. "You know what this is?" said the governor hotly. "This is you being jealous because normally it's ME doing this kind of favor for YOU. Now I'm doing it to you. How's it feel?"

    "This is all fascinating!" said Candace. "A mystery gets my blood flowing! But what are we doing here? Why not the police?"

    "The police and the government can't help us," said Lisa. Jimmy nodded vigorously. "And you were there in '53."

    "What were they working on anyway?" asked Charleston. "Wasn't your husband a rocket scientist?"

    "They were working in psychology. Percy wanted to bring disciplines together--artists, writers, social scientists...because if you only allow physicists to make things, they'll be things only physicists understand, and likewise artists...so he wanted to give them a space to be together." She gulped. "And, well, the government wanted him to do some directed psychology."

    "Brainwashing?" said Candace.

    "I don't want to put a label on it."

    "Damnit," said Charleston. "Not again. I've been known to dabble in this kind of thing. Usually with disastrous results."

    "It's true," said Jimmy. "About the disasters."

    "Well, who better than people who have been burned?" said Lisa. "And I know you all saw things. And that you have to wonder about what that was."

    "I don't," said Jimmy. "I've learned it’s better that way."


  • I'm a little confused -- the write up starts in 1955, not 1953, correct? But the PCs had SOMETHING happen in 1953, which would be the Fall of Magic hack you did? Or do I have that wrong?
  • No, that's precisely right; the Fall of Magic hack was a frame story with a flashback--the first and fourth part take place in September, 1955, at the wedding of Ariadne Wright Devilliers to James Francis Grey; the second and third parts of the prologue take place on the night the Rosenbergs were executed in 1953.

    The main writeup starts on the day after the wedding, September 1955.
  • Ah, gotcha. Thanks.
  • I took yesterday off to mourn an unsung member of our gaming group: my beloved old tortoiseshell cat, who had a brief but severe illness that left her in steep decline. Yesterday I said goodbye to her at the vet, holding her and singing Leonard Cohen. She's made a few guest appearances here (mostly by disrupting the mood via being cute!) but she was loved by all the players in these pages.
  • Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 3)

    Temperance grabbed Jimmy as they left the office. "Mr. Wright, a word in private."

    They walked outside and stood under a tree. Temperance lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply, and blew the smoke out her nose. "The way you talked to the governor, it sounds like you have a lot of history. Not just with him, or this family, or the man named after a candy bar, but also my family. Is this true? You lied to me last night."

    "Yes," said Jimmy. "I've been involved with a lot of people."

    "This sounds like it's something very strange. We're not just going to find a body in an empty building...things are going to spiral out of control."

    "Yes we're going down that rabbit hole."

    "I read that book...it's...cute."

    [Me: Or she could have read Eternal Lies, Janet's novel, about "amoral mercenary Willie St. James who breaks the heart of one of the heroines." She was really mad when she wrote it.]

    "Yeah."

    "Is this kind of thing what broke my mother?"

    "If she hasn't told you about what we did, it's not my place to tell you."

    "What is to be expected by helping you?"

    "Insanity."

    [Me: But was it worth it?
    JP: NO! Well, maybe saving the world...
    Me: OH! SAVING THE WORLD! ]

    "The things that we saw in Las Vegas, that's what we can expect?"

    "Every endeavor is different. I don't know what we're going to come up against. But whatever it is, it's not going to be pretty. It will most likely break you. It will destroy you, it will kill you, and then spit you out again as a mangled shadow of what you were."

    [Me: Not everybody is as bad off as Jimmy. Freddy came out of it just fine!
    CP: Freddy came out of the box broken.]

    Temperance blinked.

    "It is a decision that you have to make yourself," said Jimmy. "But once you start, there's no turning back."

    "Fine. Two conditions. One, be honest with me from now on. And when I ask you a straight question, I expect a straight answer. None of this iffy-piffy 'don't we all' nonsense. Understood? Good. Two, I'm not a huge fan of dogs. Make sure it doesn't touch any of my things."

    From the house came a mournful howl.



    "Before we go," said Jimmy to Governor Grey, "Does this have anything to do with Van?"

    The governor poured himself another drink. "You know how many years of piano lessons and tutors I paid for that kid? Then he has a 'breakdown' and drops out of conservatory. Next I hear he's bumming around Europe."

    Jimmy shrugged. "Something similar happened to me and I turned out fine."

    "I don't know about fine. Doesn't have a job. Doesn't perform. I don't know...he's a good kid...you know, Erica insisted he use the Carlyle name. Can't say it didn't hurt; he's my son, he should have my name. But...he's a Carlyle, not a Grey. Maybe that's good. They're richer than the Rockefellers."

    He sighed. "Look, the kid may be in trouble."

    "Did it have to do with Vegas?"

    "I don't know. He's spacey. He's an artist...I don't know, Jimmy. Something's up. You can feel it. McCarthy, all these JDs running around knifing old ladies, and the Reds...something's in the air. And it's not just the war."

    "I think the whole world is trying to figure out what it's going to do with itself."

    "I think it's more than that. I know you don't want to get back in this game, but who can I turn to? Francis? He's working for the government, won't give me the time of day. Freddy? He's a broken reed. The only two people left are you and that nutcase."

    "To be fair, he seems a bit more sane. I'd kind of thought he'd died."

    "Look, Sam and Lisa did extensive psych profiles on everyone they could find out. Temperance and Candace came up very high. Don't know why; maybe it's the artistic temperament, in Candace's case."

    "And Temperance has her parents."

    "Tell me about it. You know Colonel Murphy sold me a motorhome last night?"

    "You bought it?"

    "It seemed like a good deal! Maybe I can give it to Van, he can live in it. Just...take him with you and keep an eye on him."

    Jimmy nodded and turned to go. "Something odd," said the governor as Jimmy started to open the door. "When your name was mentioned, Lisa didn't seem surprised somehow."



    They flew to Las Vegas that evening. And that night, in their hotel, they all had terrible dreams.



    Sam went back to his time in Operation Paperclip. He and Percival were sitting in the PX, talking about the dream world Sam had found himself in--the ancient cities of Dylanth-Keen, the forest of Shar and its gugs and zooks, Hlanith and unattainable Kadath. He was about to explain to Percy how he escaped when he realized that Percival had vanished. Instead he was beholding a hooded, masked form, who towered against the cold stars, blacker than night, the tattered flaps of its robes hissing in the wind...



    Temperance was in a tropical valley. The sea breezes whipped through the haggard, withered trees, and the vegetation seemed somehow angry. Far down the blasted valley she saw a pinprick of white light. As she took a step forward and heard a horrific noise.

    She turned to run and saw Charlie, his face an impassive mask. "He comes," he said, and stabbed her in the chest with his kukri.



    Candace dreamed she was at her writing desk, surrounded by notes and reams of typing paper. She was writing swiftly in a journal, but as she looked at the lines on the page, they seemed like gibberish. Still she kept writing, asking herself "what is the story? What is the plot?"

    She finally stopped writing. The words seemed to be in some foreign language. As she tried to sound them out, her dead husband appeared in front of her, wearing a porcelain mask that covered his entire face. He began to read the words with her. They pushed forward. She was unable to stop. Her husband's voice got louder and louder until it was deafening. She cowered in pain and suddenly there was a deafening crack, and she woke with a start.



    Jimmy dreamed he was walking down the street in a pleasant, ordinary American small town. A stranger walked up to him. He was wearing a Mardi Gras mask, but this didn't seem to bother him or Jimmy.

    "Mr. Wright, I need your help," he said.

    Jimmy nodded. "All right--"

    A woman walked up. "I need your help too."

    "Okay--"

    More people showed up, all demanding help. He saw people he knew--Temperance, Bradley Grey, Van Carlyle--all surrounding him. The crowd began to press in on him. He struggled through them, trying to escape. As he was pressed into the side of a building, he saw an axe leaning against the wall.

    He grabbed it and began chopping away at the people around him with gleeful abandon.
  • (Sorry to be responding so slowly, but I just got to the Fiasco stuff - it's wonderful, thanks! When you refer to "taming" Fiasco, do you just mean a softer Aftermath table, or something more drastic?)
  • (Also, the Jackson Elias playset is really interesting! Lots of cool stuff in there.)
  • Paul: I use both the "Soft Tilt" from the Fiasco Companion, and what I called the "killed virus" version of the Aftermath :) Basically I chopped off most of the upper levels of the aftermath to avoid the ruined shells of themselves effects of standard Fiasco. I think I included both the soft tilt and reworked Aftermath in all the playsets.
  • And thanks for the compliment about the Jax playset; it's definitely not recyclable, but it does point out an interesting way to link to an important NPC. (Looking at the results, there were probably too many time jumps, but that's something that could get ironed out.)
  • Have you ever written more on how to incorporate this Fiasco one-shot technique into a campaign? When to use it, how to use it, how to lead into it, and then how to work that information back into the game?
  • I have not, other than the campaign notes, but lemme ponder this--am swamped with prep work I need to do (for next session of UAQ, and I need to run "The Dying of St Margaret's" soon to prep it for Dreamation)--but I'll see if I can gin up something.
  • (Also Lisa could talk a bit on it having participated in these as both GM and player.)
  • I took yesterday off to mourn an unsung m
    ember of our gaming group: my beloved old tortoiseshell cat, who had a brief but severe illness that left her in steep decline. Yesterday I said goodbye to her at the vet, holding her and singing Leonard Cohen. She's made a few guest appearances here (mostly by disrupting the mood via being cute!) but she was loved by all the players in these pages.
    She was awesome. Also cute.
  • (Also Lisa could talk a bit on it having participated in these as both GM and player.)
    As a player, there's a bit of disorientation because you're not pacing scenes and session the way you're likely to the rest of the campaign. But, you also get to play out the backstory, which is fun. And things will change because of the playset -- while we never went into great depth with it, the Millicent-Dr. Orange relationship made a lot of things crystallize for me -- Millicent as the Mad Scientist's assistant and as translator between folks even more out there on the lack-of-social-graces spectrum and relatively ordinary people.

    As a GM, you want enough of a focus so this set up goes places -- but you don't want to be so focused you'll be disappointed when whatever plans you have (or realize you sort of had) do not survive the first scene. With Dracula Dossier, before we even started playing, my idea of a Lucy Westenra type for my PC-for-the-game and the focus of the 1894 leg went way, way out the window and turned into a brilliant but untrustworthy con man type who was capable of debating different properties of soil and dyes while trying to sell fake Manets. And this was before we even get to bulls charging PCs at Buffalo Bill's circus, Buffalo Bill threatening to sic Annie Oakley on a PC, and the PC creating a bomb just to scare him -- and getting invited to join the circus as a result. It created a normal (if farcial) baseline before all the supernatural stuff started happening.
  • Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 4)

    Charleston dreamed he stood on the shores of a great lake. Waves of fog rolled in towards him. In the mist ahead, he saw a woman, elegantly dressed in some vaguely medieval way. She turned to face him and with a start he realized it was his long-dead assistant, Noor, arrayed as a queen.

    "I must be dreaming," he said, "because if I wasn't dreaming I couldn't see you."

    "Hello Charleston."

    "Sorry about the whole inside-out thing..."

    "I've been dead for almost thirty years. I got used to that after a while."

    "I haven't."

    "So you're back in the game, I see?"

    "We'll see about that. Not sure I was ever really out of it."

    "No. You never were. You'll be happy to know this time it's not the Dark Lord out to get you."

    "That doesn't make me happy. You know why? Because you just told me somebody is out to get me."

    "Perhaps. Who knows? You haven't become acquainted yet. But you're such a friendly guy, I'm sure you'll get along just great."

    "Usually people I get along with aren't people who mean me any good."

    "I have missed you."

    "I missed you too--"

    "You really haven't, have you?"

    "I...don't know. I miss the things that happened when you were around. And I can't tell the difference between missing you, and missing the illusion of control. Because ever since you've been gone, I've been missing the illusion as well."

    "Perhaps I should show up more often."

    "As you will. I can't say that I'm really in control of my own life."

    "Yes. In fact, I think this time you don't get to tell me what to do. I think I'm going to be telling you a few things. But not tonight. I'm dead. I have to keep up a reputation for being...grave."

    "I must be hallucinating. You never used to tell those Charleston type jokes."

    "I've had thirty years to learn to tell jokes."

    "So the dead can learn?"

    She began to fade away. "If they're dead like me..."



    Lisa had no plans to go out to the site; she gave Jimmy a map and detailed instructions. They piled into their rental car. Charleston was turning something over in his head: he had just remembered that Percival Schicksal had some connections to a man named Nathan Quincy Lund, author of Diametrically Opposed Analysis: The New Science of the Soul and the organization that spread its precepts, Neurotology. He remembered Schicksal and Lund had lived together for a while in California. Supposedly they had been both involved in performing magical--excuse me, magickal--rituals of the Crowleyite kind.

    [CP: Okay, so I know that if something happened it was most likely they inverted themselves or something.
    Me: Sure, turned inside out, who knows? Lots of possibilities.
    CP: So this should be in and out--go in, find some evidence, leave. Unfortunately I can't find anything out, so I need some rubes to help me. Fortunately I've put the most manipulatable rube of all as team leader. Cheers, Jimmy. Never change.
    Me: It's really true, actually. (In Monty Donovan voice) Oh, Mr. Wright, would you mind coming over tomorrow? I'd like to assassinate you. Come alone, yes. I won't have a guy with a sniper rifle across the street.
    JP: Yeah, but here's the thing: I'm still going to kill you. I just let you make the first move.]
  • edited January 2017
    Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 5)

    The trip wasn't too long--about an hour up US 94 to a little crossroads service station, Clare Medford's Gas 'n Go. They pulled up at the pumps and a dusty man in coveralls came out of the small storefront. "Howdy folks, Clare Medford. How can I help you? Need gas? We got tacos, Hershey bars, bathroom out back..."

    "We do need gas," said Sam, getting out of their rented Caddy.

    "You came to the Gas 'n Go. You can get gas, then go."

    "I was also looking for someone who may live around here--my friend Percival."

    "Can't say the name strikes a bell. Unless he was one of them government fellows? There used to be a place up the road a piece, but they ain't there no more."

    "Anybody hanging around the place?" asked Jimmy.

    "Well," said Clare, removing his hat to scratch his head, "It's on the old Jennings ranch. Government took it from him back in '43. After they were done, they leased it back to him. He lives up there in one of them Murphy trailers. Government pays him to keep an eye on the complex for them."

    "Does he ever come around with stories of strange things happening?"

    "Not that I've noticed. He comes down about once a month to get supplies. Got an artesian well up there."

    "Can I get a taco?"

    "Sure. Green chili or red?"

    "It's for the dog."

    "Oh. Y'all headed up that way?"

    "Maybe," said Sam.

    "Well, good luck. Hope your car can navigate it. Harold uses a jeep when he comes down."



    They left Clare and drove up through the Nevada desert. Scrub plants covered the sandy plain. The road was little more than a dirt track over the ridgelines, but it was dry now and they didn't encounter any areas they couldn't navigate.

    [JP: Let me know when we get the flat tire.
    Me: Okay, I'm going to have to ask you to make two pulls from the tower.]

    Eventually they saw, shining like the evening star, the aluminum siding of the Commodore-style trailer that must be Mr. Jennings' home. Beyond that they could see a chain link fence surrounding a couple of industrial style buildings: a cinderblock garage big enough to house a few trucks, and a single story office building of some kind; a cinderblock tower, probably a water tower of some kind, loomed over the far end.

    They pulled up in front of the trailer. Jennings was sitting under an awning, drinking a Lone Star beer. He ambled up to them, grabbing the shotgun that was leaning against the trailer as he did.

    "We're not thieves," said Jimmy.

    "Didn't say you were," said Jennings. "Don't take names that don't belong to you."

    "You have a shotgun."

    "Yup. I live out here. What y'all doing?"

    "My apologies for coming unannounced," said Temperance.

    "Not like you could call, I ain't got no phone."

    "We are looking for someone who went missing. A friend of a friend, Percival Schicksal." For the first time, she reflected on the meaning of Schicksal in German: fate.

    "Ain't been anyone here since '53. Don't know what they were doing up here. Some shrinks in a think tank."

    "We think he was working up there. Could we have a look?"

    "Don't see why not."

    "Can we bring the dog?"

    "Hell, lady, not my land; government just pays me to keep an eye on it. You ain't thieves. You're friend told me that."

  • edited January 2017
    Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 6)

    Jennings walked them up to the gate, which was just a section of the fence on wheels that could roll back. There was a small gatehouse there. They walked through and looked at the shabby building in front of them. Sand had drifted up against the walls.

    It looked like any number of anonymous government buildings that the War Department had built: a low quadrangle with dust-covered windows. They pushed the glass doors of the entrance open and walked into the reception room.

    Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust and grit. The walls had been stripped bare, and the room had the dismal look of a failed company after the movers have come and gone. Temperance found a few yellowed glossy pamphlets on one deck, describing the "Hali Institute" and its programs. Sam glanced at it, sniffed, and moved past the desk into the rows of offices beyond.

    "Just propaganda," he muttered. "Sales pitch."

    Temperance picked up the pamphlet Sam had dropped. "The Hali Institute", she read. It was pretty anodyne; praising the new personality tests and memory improvement techniques the Institute was pioneering. "The fantastic new chemicals will unlock the hidden potential of the human mind!"

    They followed Sam through the office complex. Jimmy halted in front of one of the offices in the back.

    "D12," he read. "Director Schicksal."

    Temperance and Candace went inside. Like everything else, the office had been thoroughly and professionally stripped. However there were boxes stacked against one wall, with labels that looked very much like some kind of government filing system, although there was nothing to indicate which agency they belonged to.

    Candace opened several boxes and went through their contents; mostly books and filing records. She found a largish water color that resembled, vaguely, one of the cards of the Major Arcana in the Tarot. At the bottom is was labeled "#0: Le Mat," which she knew was the French name for the card called The Fool in English. The imagery, however, was bizarrely altered; instead of stepping off a cliff, a figure in a long, hooded robe and wearing a bone-white, almost featureless mask stood on the edge of the cliff. Behind him a mushroom cloud was blooming, casting a sickly yellow light on everything. The masked figure had a dog standing next to him; it cast its gaze back along the winding road that had led them here, where in the far distance a tiny figure in yellow was approaching.

    It was signed "Amadou Lalin". Candace knew the name, vaguely; a young avant garde artist in the New York demimonde.

    [Occult for the imagery of the picture, and a one-point Art History spend to know Lalin (I also would have accepted Counterculture.)]

    Temperance found a 1953 date planner. Most of the dates were blocked off through the year; but she noticed several blocks crossed out and written in again around the dates of 17, 18, and 19 June--coinciding with the movement of the date of the Rosenbergs' execution...and the strange night they had experienced in Las Vegas.

    Candace found a sealed note. She opened it. "P, I cannot stay. If I could pray, I would pray for you. Love, A."

    Temperance dug out a photograph of some men; one was Schicksal, and the other was of a man in a tweed jacket. There was also a note from an S. Molinari to Director Schicksal in 1952, requesting time off to visit Israel. A note was penciled on the page: "When did you start getting religion? --P"; below that was a reply:

    "When you started playing God. --Sol."

    There was also an unplayed copy of Walter Winston's Cello Concerto #2 "For Erich Z."

    [In my run of Eternal Lies, Walter Winston was a composer; that concerto is dedicated to Erich Zann, whom he met in Geneva.

    Candace dug into another box. There was a typed report about "Binary Stars in Taurus" by Dr. Carl Simon. A watercolor of some desert flowers signed by a Juliet. And two signed copies of Diametrically Opposed Analysis: The New Science of the Soul, by N. Quincy Lund. She pocketed one of them.
  • edited January 2017
    Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 7)

    Jimmy and Charleston followed Sam through the rest of the offices; they all showed signs of having been professionally searched and, well, cleaned, as in cleaned out. Beyond the end of the offices they found a large cafeteria.

    "This is way too big for the number people we saw," said Jimmy. Charleston shrugged and tapped the ground with his cane. Sam was already opening a door on the opposite wall. Beyond it was the facility's physical plant: a boiler, tool racks, ducting leading up to the ceiling.

    Jimmy pointed an old oil tank out to Sam. "That was moved; see how it was taken down from the wall over there? Looks like it got dragged over that area."

    "Why would somebody do that?" muttered Sam.

    "I think because it was heavy. There's got to be something under it."

    Temperance and Candace arrived in time to help push the oil tank away from the wall. Under it was a pair of stamped metal doors. Judging by the hollow noise they made when Jimmy kicked them, there was some kind of deep shaft below them.

    "Be right back he said," and began to trace some wiring conduits. In one corner of a room he found a console that someone had smashed up. Using his penknife he spliced together some wires and then pressed a green button.

    From the bottom of the shaft, an elevator platform rose up. Jimmy rejoined the rest. "Shall we?" he said.

    They rode the elevator about twenty feet down. They came to a large chamber, walled with cinderblock, that smacked of U.S. Army construction from the war. Lights flickered overhead, illuminating a dusty space.

    Charleston sniffed and felt around on the ground, and then drifted over to the wall. "There was as struggle here," he said. "Bullet holes in the wall. From military rifles." He felt the ground. "Something was dragged here. Bodies, I think."

    Candace was staring at an unusual symbol that had been painted in yellow on the wall. It resembled some kind of Chinese character, although at the same time it didn't look Chinese in the slightest. It had been scratched out in places. Someone had spray painted "DON'T LOOK!" over it in red, obscuring some of the symbol.

    image

    There were other writings in different hands around it. "HE COMES" read one. "WOE TO YOU WHO CRO" started another before breaking off.

    Sam was already pushing through the room's single exit. There were several rooms in a warren of narrow corridors. Almost all of them were chemical laboratories of some kind. He pushed into one and began looking around. "LSD, LSD-25...mescaline...I don't know what that is..." All of the drugs were unusual...and all were powerful psychotropics.

    The rest of them spent some time exploring the complex. Charleston began to hear things. Not strange things--the sound of people chatting or asking women for cups of coffee; the perfectly ordinary sounds of workplace communication.

    The thing was he couldn't sense that anyone was there.
  • Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 8)

    Sam flipped angrily through notebooks, throwing them on the ground. "Ridiculous...useless...I know about these...what's this?"

    He began to read. Compound N: a highly addictive, non-synthesizable drug. It was listed as locked in a safe. He raced to that corner of the room and pulled open the cabinet to reveal a weathered old safe.

    He heard the sound of whistling behind him. He glanced up a man in a white lab coat who sauntered in and looked around the room. "Damnit, I told them to clean this room up."

    "Are you real?" said Sam?

    "Somebody say something?" the man said, glancing around. He shuddered. "This place gives me the creeps." He walked out.

    "I hate when that happens," muttered Sam.



    Temperance walked into a lab room and stopped. "Guys...I think you want to look at this." Charleston and Candace gathered behind her and stared at one corner of the room.

    In it a ten foot high effigy of some kind had been built, mounted on stacked tables and chairs. The frame was built of desert trees and broomsticks taped and nailed together. Several white sheets hung from the framework like robes; the edges were scalloped and tattered, although it was impossible to say if they had rotted into that condition or been deliberately made that way; they had faded to an ugly pale tannish yellow, as if they had been discolored by the sun. The middle of the sheets had been defaced by cutting out a large section; there were some traces of yellow paint around the cut, as if some symbol had been drawn there. Hanging off the top of the thing was a Punch mask.

    Charleston kept glancing into the hallway. Somewhere he could faintly hear the sound of panting.



    Jimmy had noticed, unsurprisingly, that all the rooms in the complex had microphone pickups. He traced the conduits on the ceiling to a room in the northeast corner of the underground space. Banks of electronic equipment filled the room; the machinery was on but the circuits had been pulled so that most of the microphones weren't live. He found a tape still in one machine; he spooled it back a little and listened to the recording.

    It seemed to have picked up something in one of the conference rooms; he could tell from glancing around the decks that the place had been wired so that the mikes came on when they picked up a loud enough noise.

    [Telecommunications use by JP.]

    There was the clomping sound of booted feet walking into the room. He heard a voice talking; it sounded like one side of a radio conversation. "Yes ma'am," the voice said. "We're moving out now."

    "Hey sarge, what was that?" said another voice.

    "Shut up everyone!" For a long moment there was silence. "See it was...WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!"

    There was the sound of gunfire, then a heavy crash like a side of beef being thrown at a wall. The tape spooled out shortly after.

    He rewound the tape and pocketed it. He looked around and saw a film cannister sitting on top of a filing cabinet--a reel from a 35 mm motion picture. He opened it up and held the film to the light. He recognized it--this was the same crazy show that had come on the television in the hotel in Las Vegas, back in '53.

    The cannister was labeled The Unanswered Question, or the Stranger and the Queen.

    Just then he heard Temperance calling and slipped out the room to find her.



    "Mr. Wright, would you know what this is about?" demanded Temperance when he entered the room.

    "Holy shit," said Jimmy.

    "Do you recognize this...symbol? Do you know why a government funded group of artists and scientists would create something this..."

    "Let's start a little smaller," said Charleston. "How does a facility like this go from making funtime happy drugs to...this..."

    Sam came in, visibly frustrated, and stopped dead. Whatever the effigy was, it looked somehow familiar to him. "That's...that's..." He glanced away.

    Standing in the doorway was Percival Schicksal. He saw Sam looking at him and loped off into the darkness.

    Sam took off after him.

    "Did anyone find any books?" continued Charleston.

    "The doctor just left," said Candace, who had only seen Sam run out the door.

    Jimmy groaned and stalked off into the corridor.


  • Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 9)

    Sam flicked on his flashlight and ran through the shadowy hallways. He could see Percy limping stiffly up ahead, although he moved quite quickly despite the jerky movement of his legs.

    "Percy!" shouted Sam. The figure stopped.

    "Sam?" he said heavily, panting. Slowly he turned around.

    Sam gasped. Percival's face was a frozen mask of ecstatic horror; if it was possible to torture a man to madness and death by giving him an orgasm, that is what it would look like. His skin was desiccated and dried.

    "What are you doing here, Sam?" said Percy.

    "Looking for you. I guess you found something?"

    "Yes. Would you like me to show you?"

    "Yes!"

    [Me: SP, make a Health test against a TN of 5.
    SP: If I make it by four, good things happen, right?
    Me: Yup.
    JP: Be careful spending--it's still your hit points.
    SP: I spend five.
    TP: You're the new Ruby.]

    Percy reached out and grabbed him by the arm. Sam had visions of ecstasy flood through his consciousness. Bliss! Greater than anything he had ever known, even in the Dream. But there was horror...because he knew he would never recapture this feeling, and it would haunt him the rest of his life.

    "Let me share my joy with you," said Percy.

    Sam fell to his knees and cried out.



    Jimmy tore up the corridor, the beam of his flashlight bobbing up and down. Behind him ran Candace and Temperance; Charleston was holding tightly to her hand.

    In the pool of light of his flashlight, Jimmy saw a figure clutching the hand of Sam, who was on his knees in front of him. The figure looked up...

    ...and Charleston saw it. For the first time in a long time his third eye opened and he could see the mystic force of the creature in front of him.

    "Hello, Percy," he said with sang froid. "I've heard your work sucked."

    "I don't have to worry about you," panted Schicksal. "You're already like me. You will be like me...soon enough."

    "Sam, should we leave?" said Jimmy.

    "You can't leave," said Percy.

    "We should stay," said Sam. "This place is a miracle."

    "Is this normal?" said Temperance.

    "Enh..." began Jimmy.

    "This is actually pretty standard," said Charleston.

    "I think we should leave," said Candace. “Now.”

    "You cannot leave," said Percy.

    "Does anyone have a gun?" shouted Jimmy.

    "What?" said Temperance.

    "Why wouldn't you have a gun?" said Sam, touching the pistol he had under his coat.

    Jimmy pushed forward and yanked Sam to his feet. "Come on, we're going."

    "No!" said Sam. Percy reached out with a gangly arm and smacked Jimmy hard on the face.

    Visions flooded into his mind...horrifying ecstasy. A moment where everything worked out right. Janet and Betty were happy. Everyone was safe. He dropped to his knees, weeping at the horror that haunted his days.

    Charleston ran up and took a flying leap at Percy. It had been a long time since he had used his techniques, kept sharp through Tai Chi, on a living target; but his reflexes were still sharp. He slammed a kick into Percy's chest, throwing him off of Jimmy. He felt a rib give, but he also felt how hard and leathery Percy's skin had become.

    Percy growled and grabbed Charleston, throwing him to the ground. Visions flooded into his mind...visions of temptation, of all the ways he could have used his sorcery to keep his power, his body intact, his life in order...he fell to the ground shuddering.

    [CP failed the TN 5 Health check and was Shaken.]

    "Percy how did you do this?" said Sam.

    "I made a Promise."

    "How did you contact them to make the promise? You must tell me!"

    Temperance ran up and grabbed Sam in a headlock the Colonel had demonstrated on her many times. She dragged his protesting body down the corridor. Candace sprinted after, followed by Jimmy, who tugged Charleston along.

    They ran together--well, all except Sam, who protested and whined the whole time--through a large, empty space. They gasped as they ran--the room was full of bodies, bodies who had suffered terrible violence, gunshots, broken limbs...some in lab coats, some in uniforms. Some had been shot in the head.

    Just past that room they entered the water tower. Jimmy and Charleston shoved the protesting Sam between them as they clattered up the spiral staircase just behind the women. When she pulled level with the ground, Temperance gave an access door two or three swift kicks until it snapped open. Sand spilled through the doorframe and cascaded softly to the ground. The sunlight was blinding after so long in the dark.

    Below them, standing in a square of light thrown by the doorway, they saw Percy. His face contorted even more terribly as he glared up at them. "Woe to you! Woe to you! Woe to you who crown yourself with the crown of the King in Yellow!"
  • ...I should mention at this point that I hadn't told the players what I was basing the campaign on or who the big bad was gonna be, so this was a bit of a nice revelation :-)

    Plus, of course, a nice Chambers reference.
  • Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 10)

    They stumbled out into the sand. Charleston banged the door shut behind them. Jimmy jackknifed over and wheezed. "I'm too old for this."

    "Cigarette?" said Charleston.

    Candace and Temperance walked forward. They found a set of obelisks half buried in the sand.

    "King in Yellow," muttered Temperance. "That was an obscure European play in the late nineteenth century. An American named Robert Chambers wrote some short stories about it."

    "Really?" said Candace. "You should be able to find the play at a good used bookstore. I think Penguin came out with a good new scholarly edition a few years ago. 1947, I think...I mean, it's not a very good play."

    "This could have gone a lot worse," said Charleston. "On the plus side, we fulfilled our obligations."

    He and Jimmy stumbled up to the monoliths. Some had toppled over. Beyond them Jimmy could just make out the outlines of a depression or basin, perhaps an ornamental pool of some kind; it had long ago filled with sand and dirt.

    Written on the monoliths were verses of a poem, a single different line on each of the monoliths:

    Expectant we raise our muzzles to smell the air for hatred
    We strain our ears for the sound of love
    We the mute, the lame, the stupid, the dull, the weak
    We turn our blind eyes to the Hunter's killer
    We raise our hands in voices and prayer for an answer
    Nine teeth jut up in the maw of the living Earth:
    Return, Hastur! Heed us!



    "Do you think that Mr. Jennings had anything to do with this?" said Temperance as they trudged back toward the gate to the complex.

    "No, he's just a patsy," said Jimmy.

    "Doesn't mean he won't shoot us," said Charleston.

    "You two have a lot of experience with this," continued Temperance. "How do we save the man?"

    "Percy? Trust me, Percy's gotten everything Percy wanted," said Charleston. "That's how this works. Percy doesn't need to be saved. He's happy with the outcome. Everybody who wasn't happy with the outcome? Those are the guys with their brains blown out."

    "This is true," said Sam. "Why would you want to leave?"

    "That's who Percy was," said Jimmy darkly.

    "Why did you want to stay?" Temperance asked Sam.

    "There's knowledge there!"

    "There's knowledge everywhere," said Charleston. "Pick somewhere else. We can put you back in...but you have to stay down there with him."

    "It's okay, there's other ways to get there."

    "Is there any way to save him?" persisted Temperance. "Or save his soul?"

    "Kill him?" said Jimmy.

    "I'm not sure I understand the question," said Charleston. "World's a big place. Not everyone wants to read the Good Book and lead a good life."



    As they came through the gate they could see Mr. Jennings standing next to two men in dark suits. Jimmy thought immediately that they had the look of government agents. Jennings looked up and pointed at them. His face was petrified with fear.

    One of the agents grabbed him and threw him against the side of the trailer, so hard that he left a deep concave dent in the wall. Jennings' body slumped to the ground and blood pooled around him.

    "Run," said Jimmy, gritting his teeth. He and the rest stumbled over to the car and hastily piled into it.

    Temperance looked back and muffled a shriek. The "agents" weren't casting shadows. Jimmy cranked the engine and slammed down the accelerator.

    "They don't cast shadows," said Temperance quietly. She looked behind them as the car bounded down the dirt road. One of the men in dark suits was jogging behind them, easily pacing them. And even though Jimmy had the engine revving against the redline, she could hear their pursuer say--quite calmly, and even at this distance:

    "He comes."

    But when Jimmy looked back in the rearview mirror there was nobody there...
  • Episode I: A Crack In Everything (Part 11)

    They reached the Gas N' Go and skidded to a halt. Clare Medford came out of the office.

    "How y'all doing? You find what you were looking for?" he said jauntily.

    "We sure did," said Charleston with a toothy grin.

    "I didn't expect to see you back. So soon," Clare hastily added.

    "We found what we were looking for," said Temperance in a silent, terrified voice.

    "Y'all have a nice time, ya hear. Enjoy your trip."



    They drove in silence back to Las Vegas. They rode the elevator up to their suite. Lisa came out to meet them.

    "Oh my God," she said, looking at their faces. She silently poured everyone a drink.

    "I don't drink," said Temperance, tossing off her Scotch.

    "Did you...find anything?" said Lisa anxiously. "It's Percy, isn't it? He's dead?"

    "No," said Sam brightly.

    Jimmy spluttered.

    "He's alive?" said Lisa. "We have to go get him--"

    "He's in a better place," said Sam.

    "I don't understand."

    "He's...the Percy you know is dead," said Jimmy.

    "Is he in any danger?"

    "No...but whoever goes near him will be."

    "Is there...any other danger?"

    "What do you know about the King in Yellow?" said Sam.

    "I've never heard of him," said Lisa.

    "He's a literary figure," said Candace.

    "No he isn't..." muttered Jimmy.



    Later that night Jimmy called the desk for a movie projector. "No problem, chief," said the desk clerk. "You want a live show too? Just know you can't charge admission; don't wanna get in dutch with the vice squad."

    "Just get me the bloody projector," sighed Jimmy.

    The reel of film he had recovered was about fifteen minutes long and quite confusing. Candace immediately recognized that it was obviously based on The King in Yellow, and probably Poe's "Masque of the Red Death"; the plot was similar. But the set design was extremely unusual and rather Expressionistic.

    It was enough, however, for Temperance to track down some details on the film. It was produced by someone named Talbot Estus, who seemed to be dead, and directed by a New York artist named Amadou Lalin--the same person who had painted the picture in Percy's office.

    Meanwhile Candace went through the items they had plundered from Percy's office. Lisa recognized one of the men in the torn up picture.

    "That's Sol," she said. "Solomon Molinari. He was a noted mathematician. Italian. He was Jewish so he fled to England in the late 30s. We used to have tea with him."

    Armed with that, Candace was able to find out that he was currently in a "mental rest facility" in Georgia called Joy Grove. Jimmy thought he recognized the name from somewhere; it turned out that Molinari had been a mountaineer in his youth and part of an Italian expedition that illegally entered Nepal in 1929...in fact, Molinari was the only survivor of the expedition.

    [Outdoorsman use by JP.]
  • While it's not as awesome as the famed Biology spend, I like that use of Outdoorsman.
  • Thanks; I thought that would be a nice alternative use of it--Outdoorsy people might keep track of that sort of thing.

    Though it's a spend, not a use, at least according to my notes.
  • There may be a brief pause while I sort out the best way to convert the writeup to format; I'm experimenting with getting it in a form I could use to make an ebook from.
  • Nod. I'd been wondering if you might be able to novelize some of this. (No idea what permissions would be needful if you wanted to make actual money, mind.)
  • Pretty much impossible! I've often thought about doing a "Jimmy, the lost years" webcomic but it gets hinky figuring out which characters actually belong to us.

    I was thinking of doing the writeups as ebpubs/mobi for my players as the Obsidian Portal site is a pain to navigate for this stuff, and since they're so bloody long the ebook is a more manageable way to read.
  • Episode II: Angels, Demons and Saints (Part 1)

     

    Oh tangle of matter and ghost

    Oh darling of angels, demons and saints

    And the whole broken-hearted host…

    --Leonard Cohen, “The Window”

     

     

    "Jimmy?" said Candace.

    Jimmy Wright heaved a huge sigh. "Now?"

    "You really should."

    He sighed again, then picked up the hotel telephone. "I need to place a call to Bradley Grey. Yes, the Governor. Yes, I have the number."

     

    Everyone huddled around the phone in Jimmy's room. "Jimmy!" said a rich baritone voice from the phone.

    "Mr. Grey."

    "That's Governor Grey to you. What do you have?"

    "Not much."

    There was a pause. "Then why the hell are you calling me?" shouted the Governor, loud enough to make Temperance wince.

    "In my line of duty, not much means something different."

    Through the static of the long distance lines Jimmy could hear a tinkling like a couple of ice cubes falling into a glass, followed by the glug of something being poured over the ice. It sounded like a very stiff drink.

    Jimmy sighed once more. "There seems to be a lot of occult involvement."

    "Again with the occult."

    "I agree. We found Dr. Schicksal."

    "He's alive?"

    "He's...doing well for himself. He's content. I don't think anyone should go look for him."

    "You're trying to disconcert me. What does Lisa want? Is she gonna follow up?"

    Jimmy looked at Lisa. "I think we have to get to the bottom of this...the lost time, the mind-control..." she said.

    "It's gonna be one of those things, Governor," said Jimmy.

    "Marie! Get me the Jimmy account," said Grey to someone. "What do you need?"

    "We're going to a place called the Joy Grove Mental Rest Facility in Savannah."

    Grey sighed. "All right, I'll appoint you as a temporary mental health inspector for the state of California. Good luck. Don't call for a while."

     

    "Ah, Candace, how lovely to hear your voice again. I am trying to teach Anna Karenin to moronic freshmen."

    [Nabokov preferred that version of the name, since most translations don't follow Russian declination for last names. Except that one.]

    "If anyone can, it would be you."

    "Have you found anything for your book?"

    "It's been...fascinating. I think I'm going to stay. We've come across some strange things...I could write volumes of novels."

    "I advise you as an artist to continue to make time to get this all down."

    "I'm going to take a sabbatical, I think. I...don't know what I would do without you, Vlady."

     

    "Temperance, is this going to be a thing we do for a while? With Jimmy?" asked Van Carlyle.

    "Yes, Van. With Jimmy."

    "So when I was a kid my parents always kept things on the hush—lotta secrets in the Grey household. But I was an adventurous little tyke, and I broke into my dad's files. There was a lot of stuff on Jimmy. I think we are gonna need to go incognito a little bit. An excuse to travel around that people won't question. Let me lay it on you, if you're hip."

    Temperance tried to figure out what that meant. "Sure."

    "I was thinking of putting together a little trio and going around the country, like a tour."

    "A trio of—"

    "A Bop, trio, man, me on keys, a guy on bass, another on skins..."

    "Are you saying you want to go around the country as a band..."

    "Yeah."

    "...with Jimmy Wright? And the novelist?"

    "I figure that she could say she's writing an article, and Jimmy and Charleston are helping with the band. And you can be in the band. Can you sing?"

    "Charleston is going to be a...what's the word? Roadie? He's blind."

    "He can run the board. But the thing is we need some kind of large vehicle. You know anybody who could get one?"

    Temperance frowned. "Give me a moment to make a call."

     

    "Darling, so good to hear from you!” said Colonel Murphy. “In the middle of making a big sale. Hollywood! They say they need food trucks! Could be a good market for us!"

    Temperance held the phone away from her head as the Colonel continued in his usual speaking voice—he hadn't needed to learn how to shout when he'd been in the Marines; he always talked loud enough to be a drill sergeant. 

    "That's wonderful, pops. I was wondering...well, you wouldn't happen to have any more of your deluxe prototypes? There are a couple of people in the Grey family."

    "Are you still travelling with Jimmy?"

    "No. Nooo. No."

    "Temperance..."

    "Mr. Wright may be around."

    "I'll be right out."

    And a day later an enormous camper pulled into the parking lot of their hotel with Murphy at the wheel. He proudly showed off the impressively detailed interior.

    "I'm so proud my little girl finally asked me for her adventuring car," sniffed Murphy. "See, here's the dinette. Table folds up for space. Galley kitchen. In the back is a bedroom. And if you close the door to this cabinet, tap twice, and open it up again, it reveals the gun rack."

    "Gun rack..."

    "I took ideas from a lot of different places. Maybe you didn't know this, but Jimmy used to have an armored limousine. I'm not gonna say this thing will stop a tank shell. But it should stop small arms fire. We took the engine out of a Kraut tank, and then I had my Germans work on it to make it work with good ol' American parts."

    [HP: Diesel, I assume.

    TP: This thing is gonna have its own personal trail of pollution.

    CP: We're rolling coal!]

    "I don't know what to say," said Temperance. "Thank you? But is this necessary?"

    "Well, pumpkin, I always hoped you'd get into the family adventure line. So I had my boys design this a while ago. I was hoping to give it to you when you got married."

    "I clearly need to talk to Mr. Wright. Why is there garlic and holy water in the gun rack?"

    "Just saying you can never be too safe."

     

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