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And now the results of Tremulus.

The story picked up not after the group had emerged from the catacombs where Sermon Bishop had been hiding out early the next morning. With police keeping watch on the two entrances, Tommy, Roy, and Skelly had seen some pretty horrible things in the caves, but they finally had a lead on the book they've been looking for: the Caramagos. They figured out that it was owned by one Alexander Pierce, who was also a name on Bishop's hit list. In spite of the early hour, they let rushed to his stately manor to speak with him and convince him to let them have the book.

His butler let him in and Pierce was not pleased to be woken up so early in the morning. He was not too terribly impressed with stories of magic books, insane murderers, and old town legends. Yes, he did have the Caramagos. He had purchased it from the first victim, Nina Williams-Hope several years before. It was the only known copy of the book and was worth far more than what he had bought it for. After some convincing, he did agree to allow them to look at the book but not leave with it. So under careful observation they finally were able to see the book that it seemed everyone in Arkham was after. The book was unreadable though, being in ancient Greek. Pierce admitted to having it translated when he got it, but he trashed the notes after finding it being nothing but a bunch of nonsense about magic and weird religions. He agreed to allow them further access to the book in the future, and accepted their advice for extra protection while Bishop, possessing the body of Henry Atwater, was at large in Arkham. As they left him, he was placing a phone call to some contacts for private protection.

Since they now at least had access to the book, they decided they would return to Roy's shop and contact Henry Armitage, the head of the Miskatonic University Library, so they could arrange for him to come and translate the book. At the shop though, they found an envelope stuck to the door addressed to Roy. The note inside was an insane manifesto from Bishop saying how he was now being forced to accelerate his revenge plot and that he had paid a visit to a second victim overnight
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So here's the premise of Illusion of Gaia.

The main character is a boy named Will. The world is one that's in a weird, hard to define, age of exploration. Like there's planes and gun powder, but the majority of what you see are really primitive looking places. Explorers are specifically after ancient ruins to find wealth and possibly hidden power. Like I said, it's vague but there's sort of a reason behind the world being so ill-defined. As a young child, Will went with his father on one of these expeditions to the Tower of Babel. Something happened and the party was wiped out. But Will survived, just with no memory of what happened. He returned back to his home and life went on almost as normal.

Then one day he discovers a portal to a pocket dimension called the Dark Space where he's told by a vision of Gaia that he must go on a journey to find 8 (maybe less, I forget) Mystic Statues. With them, he can climb the Tower of Babel and stop a comet that will destroy the world. The comet comes once every 1000 years or something and has the power to physically change the world as the one who stands in it's presence desires. Will gains the power to change into different forms like Freedan the Dark Knight and Shadow an energy being. Basically over the course of the game it becomes clear that the world was changed by someone using the comet to make it the way it was and the end of the game is Will restoring the world to the modern era, though he has no memory of it.

The game has stuck with me for a lot of reasons. First, the fact that it managed to dump all these ancient places into a game and truly made it a globe trotting adventure. You explore Inca ruins, Nazca, Angakor Wat, The Great Wall, and made up places like Mu. There's also a real dramatic part to it too. You only play as Will and his transformations, but he's joined by a whole crowd of friends who have relationships and backstories. Most of them are kind of boring, but there's some interactions that have stuck with me. Like one dies very early on and then is turned into a whale. Which was weird. Two of them fall in love. You learn a guy you met in the middle of the desert was hiding out there because he hated the fact that his family were slave traders. Will has a love interest who ends up being key to the end game, which is generic now but for 1994 was some advanced writing for a video game. There's even a pet pig that kills itself to feed a starving village.

It's a really weird game, I'll admit. But weird in a good way when you play the whole game and see the whole picture. It was a top-down action RPG that was more linear than anything, but it provided a great challenge that took many hours from me on weekends.
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Game idea brainstorming.

So my initial thoughts were for a game set in the 1920s-30s AKA classic Call of Cthulhu era. But I like to offer a choice, so I've been trying to think of what I would do for a modern era story. Something that *could* be Delta Green, but doesn't have to be. So me being me, it turned into how can I send them to Silent Hill. Because imma just say, I was promised a Silent Hill game in college that was never delivered.

So the question really was how to incorporate it into Call of Cthulhu, because on the whole in spite of some themes being similar SH doesn't have a whole lot to do with the Cthulhu Mythos. It's far more heavily inspired by Steven King and Clive Barker. And while both of them kneel before the altar of HP, they have their own unique take on weird horror. The most direct things you can connect to Silent Hill and Lovecraft is there's a creepy town, there's a cult, and witchcraft is involved. None of the monsters are particularly Mythos inspired until you get to SH3 and even then it's still the main character's mind fucking with them. It's weird, but nothing you can point to and say, "THAT'S fucking right out of the mythos."

But that's relatively shallow thinking with what Silent Hill as a setting and a story is. The town is as much a character as anything else. And the town is being consumed by darkness we're told. The town cult is trying to call forth their god who will wipe the earth clean and start over. Maybe. Everyone will be dead so there won't actually be anyone to make sure they don't welch on creating paradise. But that part aside, the town is being consumed by it's exact copy from another dimension. They're slowly merging. And the Other World is basically the town only decayed even further. It doesn't just look abandoned, it looks burned out and rotten.

This idea that the town is just decaying before your eyes the closer Dahlia gets to performing her ritual at the end of the first game kind of puts the theme of entropy front and center in the first three games of the series. And THAT seems more like a Mythos theme than anything else in these games. Just not specifically Cthulhu. In 1895, a writer named Robert Chambers wrote a short story collection called The King in Yellow. The stories were sort of framed by excerpts from a play by the same title, about a decadent city being visited by the otherworldly King in Yellow and that city being drawn to and becoming the city of Carcosa on the Lake Hali. The Yellow King is later assumed to be an avatar of the Great Old One Hastur, who resides in Carcosa. The city existing near the star Aldebaran. Where the King in Yellow steps, that place becomes Carcosa and the location and it's inhabitants are drawn into it. So how does all that fit into Silent Hill?

I will do the less obvious connections first. In the Delta Green supplement Countdown, there's an entire section based on an interpretation of Hastur not being this alien entity waving it's tentacles around waiting for someone to call it so it can fuck with Earth. Instead Hastur is an embodiment of the laws of entropy in the universe. Worshiping it is akin to worshiping gravity. But through the actions of humans it can manifest itself. Perhaps in a corrupted town or city for example. Those who become enraptured by the idea of this cycle of entropy gives rise to the King in Yellow actually appearing and taking said area away to become part of Carcosa. Just an endless cycle of it happening over and over and over in one new place after another. But it isn't the actions of an alien entity for unknown purposes. Humans do this. Just like if you consider that everything that happens in the Silent Hill games happens on how the characters do it. There isn't some overarching figure manipulating them. They, like the rest of us bring about our own destruction.

There's also the thematic similarities. Silent Hill sits besides a lake, like Carcosa. There is a strong level of decadence associated with the town, that kind of just hovers under the surface (the cult for starters, Heaven's Night, the numerous other evidence of fucked up shit buried beneath the surface). The appearance of the Incubator in SH1 bears many similarities to how the King in Yellow is portrayed in art. Valtiel is associated with the Yellow Angel Lobsel Vith and acts as the agent ensuring the birth of God (Hastur) onto Earth, much in the same way that The King in Yellow prepares the way for Hastur to come to where it is summoned. This on top of the town being subsumed by another town that's the same, but decayed and different. To the point that at the end of the first game you reach an area just called Nowhere. Who's to say that this area hasn't just been entirely devoured by Carcosa at this point and either stopping the summoning of the King or killing it sends Harry back. Where he's already dead? James being self-destructive as he is, is almost a perfect way for Hastur to manifest on Earth. One of the stories from the original collection even tells of a man who's lover was turned to stone and his quest to bring her back.

Honestly, if it weren't for the fact that the first Silent Hill and Countdown were both released in the same year I'd swear one inspired the other. Maybe they did since the themes kind of got stronger in SH2 and then SH3. But for me, it doesn't really matter. It fits and I want to use it.

So how to set it up? Depending on the campaign frame, they can be Delta Green agents investigating a town given over to a really weird cult. The regular feds just see another case of Jonestown or Branch Davidians. A group of people from the cult were caught leaving the town with some strange implements and Delta Green took the opportunity to swoop in. Especially after hearing tales of seeing, "The king coming down" and "We all had to wear masks, but he didn't have none!" If the game doesn't go the Delta Green route, the players are all drawn to the town for their own various reasons.

Each character would have a secret that they wouldn't tell their dearest loved ones. Maybe it's something they've kept repressed from themselves. But it eats away at them and draws them further and further into the spiral of entropy that comes with Hastur. You play up on this and as they go more and more insane they don't know who in the party to trust. All the while trying to unravel who are the ringleaders of the cult who are for some reason trying to draw the King in Yellow and ascend the town to Carcosa. All the while, reality breaks down and parts of the town are pulled into Carcosa with the investigators in them. Pretty much exactly like how Silent Hill plays out. A little bit more open ended, but I think it could work. It's not an easy concept to work with, but the challenge is what makes it fun I think.

So yeah, gonna be doing a ton of research on Silent Hill and Hastur this weekend I think.
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Recap of our last D&D session. Basically it was a short dungeon crawl with some murder hobo action, followed by minor plot advancement.

Immediately following the events of Wine Wednesday (freeing von Richten, getting him him out of Valaki), the party decided to settle with Fiona, Watcherhaus, and her "book club." So Rolen, Varis, Perrin, Johan, and [Bard character I can't remember the name of]

We were admitted into the house at the appointed time by her butler and asked to wait in the foyer. We however did not wait in the foyer and opted instead to head straight for the basement because where else would an vaguely sinister book club meet? We came across a door adorned with skulls. It didn't seem to open, but after messing around with it we found it needed four people messing around with the door mechanism to get it open. This led us to another set of stairs that led to a dirt floor and additional set of stairs going down even further. Perrin noticed a set of foot prints going through the dirt into the wall. He went down to investigate.

As soon as any of the group set foot on the floor it began shaking and a group of skeletons emerged. After a little bit of adjusting to arrows not being effective against them and being able to reform themselves when broken, they went down fairly easy. After Johan left the last few in flaming ruins, another set of skeletons emerged. This time they were considerably larger and and better armed. They were reanimated minotaur skeletons each with an axe whose blade was the size of Perrin. They did huge amounts of damage, throwing party members across the room and then goring them. After a much harder fight, the three dropped. But the ground kept on shaking again as something even LARGER appeared. Everyone decided that we were probably not going to be able to deal with something worse than minotaurs so we made for the wall where the foot prints disappeared and looked for the exit. We made our escape as a dragolich's head began is come into view from underground. Varis was the last to leave the room and herd a voice say, "Let the dead stay dead." Or something similar. No one caught onto what this meant.

Behind the wall we came across the book club. Four people from the town were seated in chairs around a pentagram in robes. When they rose to ask who we were and why we were there, Varis shot the speaker in the face (because he was talking) and another fight broke out. We ran through these four faster than we did with and of the skeletons and examined the room for a bit. We did find copies of FIona's manifesto about why it's in the town's best interest to side with Strahd and how awesome he was. The pentagram appeared to have no significance, though the cultists definitely believed that it did. We noticed the secret entrance opening behind us but we didn't see what it was. We felt we may as well finish off the entire coven, so we ran through the dirt floor room up to the first floor to search for Fiona on the second floor.

Up there, the party decided to exercise an abundance of caution after we came across a locked door with the voice of a young child saying "Little kitty wants to play." That freaked everyone out so we left it alone. Another room led to a library full of cats who were not happy to see us, so we passed that one for the moment so we wouldn't get mauled to death by cats. Another room had a dead body with the spell Gentle Repose cast on it, for reasons we didn't fully understand though pictures around the room seemed to indicate that he had a relationship with Fiona (I think this was her husband). We couldn't find her though so we went back to the first floor. We finally found her in the dinning room.

She invited the party to sit. We declined and started asking questions about her intentions and trying to figure out her plans. After a lot of dodging questions on either side, she eventually got up and announced that she had more company coming. She left the room while and while the party decided what we were doing to do next (the answer was just let Varis shoot her in the face), she returned. With Strahd.

He compelled most of the party to sit at the table. Perrin resisted for a moment and had some verbal jousting with Strahd, but eventually was forced to submit, to the point where he was willing to follow any commands. Strahd was actually fairly civil with us, serving a pleasant ham dinner. Perrin got a special dish though: Lemmy the Warpig. Served bloody and raw. He forced Perrin to eat some of him. While all this was going on, he formally invited us to visit him in his castle. He was looking forward to seeing us. Additionally he asked if we had seen the vampire hunter Rudolph van Richten, though we didn't give up any information to Strahd. He didn't seem bothered by our refusal and bid us farewell. He, Fiona, and the vampire spawn all left the house and the spell he had on us was broken.

A furious Perrin began smashing every lantern in the house dumping lamp oil everywhere. As part of his path of destruction he dragged the corpse in repose from the upstairs bedroom to the basement and fed it to the dracolich. The rest of the party very quickly explored the rooms for anything we might have missed. We freed the girl from the room. She ended up not being a demon like we had feared, but Fiona's own daughter. She had some kind of mental break and believed herself to be a cat. She attached herself to Rolen and allowed herself to be taken from the house. We also found a trapped box on a mantle that contained the bones of a holy warrior who almost defeated Strahd. They'd been stolen from the church in Barovia, where ghosts would attack Castle Ravenloft every night at midnight. I forget if we found anything else in the house. We probably did.

Once everyone was clear, Perrin burned the house down. It began to rain out of spite, but the house still collapsed as the interior burned. We buried what was left of Lemmy and decided to leave Valaki for a little while. We brought the girl to the local church and the priest there promised to look after her. We decided to return to Barovia for the first time since we arrived in this plane to take care of some business. We needed to warn the burgomaster of that town that sending his daughter to Valaki would not protect her from Strahd and possibly put her in even more danger due to Creepy Guy Isaac. Additionally, we wanted to return the bones to church as soon as possible since having them on us make us a huge target for Strahd's minions.
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The continuation from my previous post. The second tremulus session added Kim playing the traveling salesman Doc Johnson.




The body they had found was called in to the Arkham police, though they chose to omit some of the more extraordinary facts about the case. They decided to regroup at Roy's antique shop. They were met there by an extremely earnest traveling salesman by the name of Doc Johnson (Kim). Doc had recently come into possession of a strange book he got in a trade that he wanted identified. It turned out to be a rather weird Greek translation of the poetry book Azathoth and Others, written by Edward Derby. Derby was a well known resident of Arkham and his book had been written at a young age and he was viewed as something of a prodigy. A weird prodigy, but still a prodigy. He was currently enrolled at Miskatonic University where he still studied weird esoteric writings.

Meanwhile, Skelly had gone back to his office and was met there by a Professor Wilmarth from Miskatonic on behalf of the head librarian Henry Armitage. He stated that He and Armitage were part of a group in the university that shared a common goal and they believed that they could assist Skelly and his friends with their own investigation. Armitage just wanted to meet with them first to make sure of everyone's position. When relayed this message, the rest of the group agreed, but they also wanted to speak with Derby since it seemed as if he might be a useful source for occult information.

They went to find Derby first and found him with a group of students who all had an interest in esoteric studies and magic. They were led in their discussion by Derby's fiance, Asenath Waite. Who did not take kindly to when Doc approached Derby asking him to autograph his extra rare, Greek edition of his book. Derby obliged, and then Doc turned around and tried to sell the book to other members of the group which wouldn't stop until Asenath instructed Derby to buy the copy of his own book that he had just signed. They tried to diffuse the situation, by just stating that they wanted to discuss certain bits of lore to which she replied that they could speak AFTER they were finished with the club meeting. Tommy got really weird vibes off of Asenath, mostly due to her overly commanding presence over Derby and her strange facial features. Though Roy and Skelly, being locals, attributed it as just proof of her having moved from Innsmouth. Her mother had died and her father had gone insane, and she was made a ward of the state.

At their meeting with Armitage, he basically laid out that he was in the business of trying to protect books like the Caramagos out of the wrong hands and had turned Miskatonic's occult book section into a huge, restricted vault. He had an inkling that Bishop had escaped and would offer any assistance, including the use of the restricted books, provided that they gave him the Caramagos once it was recovered. A very easy deal, there.

They decided to check in on another one of the ancestors, Retribution Phillips. He was 100 years old and more than willing to talk about what his great-grandfather had done in imprisoning Bishop. He also confirmed that Roy's ancestor was the Kellog mentioned in the document. He couldn't remember much specific though, but was happy to let them search through his book collection and personal effects for anything that might help.

Phillips was not in possession of the Caramagos, but there were a few pieces of useful information to be had. Skelly uncovered an old trunk and on opening it, they found on the inside of the lid had been carved a strange set of alien looking hieroglyphs and the word "Barzai" labeling it. There were also extensive notes apparently taken by the conspirators who imprisoned Bishop originally and they had noted that he drew his immortality from an entity referred to as "The Treader of the Dust." Of importance right at that moment, they were able to find a map showing the location of Bishop's home from when he was still alive. Some quick research was able to determine the modern location of the house and a visit to the premises confirmed this. It was nearing night however, so they decided to return to Roy's shop first for lanterns as they were unprepared for creepy house exploration.

They found Asenath waiting for them at the shop. She was none to pleased that they did not keep their meeting. But she wanted something from them: she wanted the Caramagos for herself. For her own research purposes. Tommy read her and got another bad feeling off of her, specifically that if she came into possession of the book it was probably going to be bad for a lot of people. She had a vested interest in getting Bishop out of the way as a wizard running around killing people was getting too much attention from people she didn't want paying attention. In exchange for getting the book for her she would help them return Atwater to his own body. There was not a lot of trust in anything she said, but it seemed like an offer they couldn't refuse.

Finally being able to explore Bishop's old house, they found it appearing to be lived in and in the first floor a list of the names and addresses of Bishop's intended targets. One name, Pierce, had a "C" mark next to it leading them to believe that Bishop had found the man holding the Caramagos. Further inspection of the house turned up a hidden doorway with stairs that led underground.

Underground led them to a whole slew of gruesome unpleasantness. At the bottom of the stairs, they came across a candlelit study full of books and documents that would probably be best left unread. And old note was out on the table, showing that back in his era Bishop had been in contact with... like minded individuals in the Massachusetts area. This particular note was warning him that dealing with "The Treader of the the Dust" was not an ideal way to extend one's life as he asked for a "steep price." It also warned him not to make use of some sleeping monstrosity Bishop and his partner had come into contact with expect under dire circumstances. They also found a locked cell in the room and Doc decided to look in when there was a rustling and a tearing noise from inside.

Probably the highlight of the session: the cell contained something vaguely humanoid laying on the floor, dead. Hunched over it was another humanoid, tearing the flesh off of the neck and back of the dead one. The light alerted the living one to the presence of someone looking in and it was here it could be seen that it was a second torso, growing out of the back of the dead one. It had no way of moving and was eating it's dead companion. It reached out an cried pitifully until Doc put the thing out of it's misery. The revelation of the nature of some of Bishop's activities was decidedly unnerving to everyone.

They pressed on through the tunnel and came to a large open area. There were two exits: one seemed to go outside and the other seemed to be another stairway going up. They went up, especially after having an unnerving feeling being in the large chamber. The stairs led to a second hidden door in a house. Looking out the windows told them where they were and they realized that based on their research from where Bishop's house was, this was the former home of his partner Russel. Unlike Bishop's old house this one seemed to have current residents. A quick search found a family of four tied up and each killed with a bullet to the head.

They called the police and warned them as best as they could about Bishop/Atwater without sounding crazy. Apparently while they were underground, Bishop killed again from his list. Jeffery Noyes had been found, seemingly eaten alive from the inside out by maggots. The police agreed to place guards on the old Bishop house and the home they had found the dead family in.

So the death toll is rising. Bishop's spree so far is up to 7, but he will have difficulty returning to his hideout. Everyone is closing in on the Caramagos now, but there's a lot of competing interests vying for it at the end of this affair.

If you made it through all of that, kudos. I have to admit, I didn't expect such a strong reaction to the guy growing out of a dead guy's back. Steven was a good name for him.
hafucurry: (Default)
So a few weeks ago I volunteered to run a game via Skype on a day we couldn't D&D. It was entirely for my benefit because I didn't have a way to print a new character sheet and it's hard to play a card game through video. So we played tremulus. Unlike the classic Call of Cthulhu however, the game is 100% narrative based. The Keeper rolls no dice (bonus for me) and the players direct the action. It's also absurdly easy to set up, instead of a bunch of math all you do is plug in one of a few different sets of number for whatever character you pick. It's easy.

The problem is that I completely screwed myself for when I run my longer game (whenever that will be). For the basis of the game, I used a printed scenario called The Condemned. It's about an immortal wizard from the 1700s who was sealed inside of a bridge near Arkham. A powerful storm destroyed the bridge and releases him. His broken, useless body is washed up where a pair of university students were camping and riding out the storm. He performed a mind transfer spell and switched bodies with one of them. He murdered the other and buried the body and his useless body in a hole not far from camp. I wanted to use this in the bigger campaign in Arkham, but it's very open ended and perfect for a narrative based system. So send the guys off on a mission and let it unfold. Easy. But my group isn't really familiar with Lovecraftian settings, so I'm giving away a few surprises depending on how they approach the investigation.

So we have:
Mike - Tommy Stone, a detective
Dan - Roy Kellog, an antiquarian
Rob - Skelly Hatfield, a doctor (an old joke Mike made on a Star Trek character Rob played.)

So Roy and Skelly are lifetime residents of Arkham and when it was announced that a search party was being put together to find two local college students who were missing after the big storm. Tommy served with Skelly in the Great War and decided to settle down there and open a private investigation agency. He had less civic pride and opted out of joining the search party. He got involved a little while after the searchers left when one of the two missing students, Henry Atwater, wandered into town appearing dazed and confused. The Arkham police let Tommy in on this fact and asked him to let the search party know one of the two had been found.

Roy and Skelly found the campsite along with some debris from the destroyed bridge. Searching around the found the grave containing the corpse of the other student and were supremely freaked out when what looked like another corpse grabbed at them. The living mummy cried out "Henry Atwater" and then collapsed. This body was transported to the hospital as Tommy arrived to let them know Atwater had been found. They were weirded out at the idea of there basically being an extra body on the scene.

They decided to talk with Atwater to find out what happened. Atwater had been moved to Arkham Sanitarium after exhibiting some strange behavior that was attributed to stress. He claimed to have no knowledge of what happened, but seemed to talk in a strange dialect. They urged the doctor to keep him locked up, though he informed them he was only under observation. They attributed his behavior to shock and stress from everything that had happened.

They next opted to speak with the living body that they found buried in the shallow grave. He was delirious, but they managed to glean from him that he was claiming to be Henry Atwater. The body should be dead by rights: it seemed to be hundreds of years old and all it's limbs and spine were broken. They had a vague notion of what was happening, but needed confirmation. So they began some research, starting with the area around the bridge.

They start turning up fluff pieces in the newspapers talking about an old story during the witch trial days. The bridge was known as Bishop Bridge, as the legend claims that a group of vigilante witch hunters from Arkham executed one Sermon Bishop from the bridge. Some accounts claimed it was by hanging, some claimed it was by drowning. Further digging in Roy's antique library turned up the journal of one Ethan Williams, which told the story of how he and a group of six other men stood up to Bishop who was honest to god an immortal wizard. They found they could not kill him, so after stealing a magic tome he possessed (The Caramagos) they learned a way to at least trap him. In the process of doing this, Bishop swore revenge even if it would be on his captor's tormentors. The Caramagos also supposedly possessed the means with which Bishop obtained his immortality and Williams and the rest felt they were damned enough casting the binding spell without making use of an immortality spell.

So this was seemingly confirmation for them of the thing claiming to be Atwater in the hospital was the victim and the man in the nut house was actually Bishop. Unfortunately, their research cost them the rest of their daylight on top of yet another unnaturally powerful storm hitting Arkham. They fully expected Bishop/Atwater to be gone when they returned to the sanitarium in the morning and they were right. Apparently, one of the orderlies had been compelled to release Bishop and walk him out the front door. So now there was a 18th century wizard running around Arkham in a brand new Atwater suit and a bad hangover.

They reasoned out that while Bishop's original body was immortal, he was currently vulnerable inside Atwater's body. Thus, one of his main objectives was retrieving The Caramagos so he can regain his immortality. They also nailed down that Ethan William's descendant was an Elizabeth Williams-Hope, who had written one of the articles about the Bishop Bridge legend they had found. Since Williams spoke of possessing The Caramagos last, they reason that she might still have it. So they made for her home right away.

Too late of course, they found her dead and her library ransacked. A search through her records showed that she did not have The Caramagos, but they were able to find a list of the people who had joined in the pact against Bishop. They now had a way to try to figure out Bishop's hit list, but needed to find the book before he did.

They left off in the middle of a crime scene, but with a very clear goal in mind. Next time we have a free day for a one shot, we'll continue the story. I'll actually embed the podcast (don't mind the inappropriate music) this time around. It's a little rough, but I hadn't exactly slept good enough for getting up at 3:30am to think on the fly lol.





hafucurry: (Default)
Character creation for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

Every character has eight characteristics:
-Strength
-Constitution
-Power
-Dexterity
-Appearance
-Size
-Intelligence
-Education

For the most part these are self explanatory. STRENGTH (STR) measures a character's physical abilities. Forcing open doors, moving rocks, that sort of thing. CONSTITUTION (CON) measures a characters health and ability to withstand physical pressure (lack of oxygen, poison). POWER (POW) is a character's mental capabilities and willpower. It also affects the use of magic. DEXTERITY (DEX) measures a characters physical agility and speed. APPEARANCE (APP) is how physically attractive or charismatic a character is. SIZE (SIZ) is the physical size of the character, whether it's by height or weight. INTELLIGENCE (INT) tells you the a character's inherent logic and observational skills. EDUCATION (EDU) is how well one did in their chosen field of education, whether it's a prestigious university or from a life on the streets.

There are two ways to allocate scores to these stats during character creation. The first way is known as the Standard Array. You basically take a preset group of scores and plug them into each of the attributes. This is mostly so that you can get straight to the next part of character creation.

The eight preset numbers are 80, 70, 60, 60, 50, 50, 50, 40. They represent an average of the possible numbers one can roll.

The alternative is rolling for stats, which requires a formula because nerd hobbies always need math. So...

To calculate STR, CON, DEX, APP, and POW: 3D6*5
To calculate SIZ, INT, and EDU: (2D6+6)*5

There is an additional stat called Luck and MUST be rolled for regardless of whether you choose the Standard Array or roll for stats. This is to simulate the randomness that the stat represents. Luck in play has many uses and mostly exists to give characters a way to work their way out of situations where they need a little bit of luck on their side.

To calculate LUCK: 3D6*5

After these stats are generated, there are derivative stats that come based off of the main eight.

The DAMAGE BONUS is derived by adding the STR+SIZ scores and then comparing the total to a chart in the rules book. I'm not going to put the full thing here, because holy shit. But basically the damage bonus lets you add an extra die to damage rolls if you're big enough and strong enough.

HIT POINTS are derived from (CON+SIZ)/10. HP is easily understood if you've played any RPG ever.

MOVEMENT RATE determines how far the character can move in a single turn of combat. There isn't exactly a formula for it, but it is still derived from three stats: DEX, STR, and SIZ. So...

If both DEX and STR are each less than SIZ then the MOV is 7.
If either DEX or STR are greater to or equal to SIZ then the MOV is 8.
If both DEX and STR are both greater than SIZ then the MOV is 9.

There are two additional stats which are both key to the game: MAGIC and, what Call of Cthulhu is famous for, SANITY. Both are equal to the POW stat and require no additional math.

Each of these stats then is broken down further into their half values and then quarter values. These numbers represent increased difficulty on skill checks.

After you have derived all of these stats, you determine you occupation and assign additional points based on that. In the interest of space, I'm probably going to save that for another post. But the 7th edition book is full of charts and such to help you determine skills and backstory. There are also optional rules for age which can affect physical and mental stats.
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My favorite genres of fiction are horror and mystery. Combine the two and I'm a pig in shit.

So when it comes to horror on the tabletop, I love it. Right now, our group is going through The Curse of Strahd for D&D 5th edition and it's a blast. It's a great throwback to the aesthetics of gothic horror from 30s movies and then the Hammer Horror films of the 60s and 70s. It's creepy, the encounters fit with the theme perfectly. It's refreshing because normally when we do horror or mystery like this, I'm the one running it. I rarely get to actually play in that type of game. So it's been a ton of fun worrying about what's behind corners, reading the right books, and not wanting to be out after dark.

So it is with this in mind I offer a review of one of my favorite horror/mystery games, Trail of Cthulhu.

Trail of Cthulhu makes use of the GUMSHOE system, developed by Robin Laws and this particular adaptation was written by Kenneth Hite. GUMSHOE is a gaming system that seeks to bring a more narrative style of play to investigation heavy games. It's conceit is that other investigative games get it wrong by making the finding of clues a test requiring a dice roll. Meaning that players can fail to find important clues which can grind a story to a halt. GUMSHOE makes the finding of clues automatic. A player walks into a scenes says they're using it and they automatically get it. It's then up to them to interpret what the clues mean and how to use them to progress the mystery forward.

ToC uses a bit more of a complex version of GUMSHOE where character creation is concerned. In the original incarnation of the rules, everything is strictly 1:1 point buying and you decided what you want your character to be good at. ToC takes it a little bit further by allowing you to choose your character's job, which then affects the cost for buying skill points. It makes set up take a little bit longer, but it lets you personalize a little bit more. Different careers actually offer perks to enhance a character's backstory.

To add further background to your character, you will also choose a Drive which is your character's motivation for pressing on in the face of the soul crushing terrors from beyond. I love this aspect, because it gives a mechanical reason for characters to keep putting themselves in danger. Backstory is even further fleshed out with the character's Sources of Stability. These are people who are close to the player's character that keep them grounded and focused on the real world. Rounding this all out are the character's Pillars of Sanity, three intangible things like love of country, religion, etc that the player intrinsically believes in. These will erode as the player loses sanity as they're exposed to true nature of the universe through the Cthulhu Mythos.

GUMSHOE makes use of a system for mental damage, that they call Stability. In other GUMSHOE systems like Fear Itself and The Esoterrorists, the Stability score functions like Sanity in a game like Call of Cthulhu. Trail of Cthulhu, however, uses two separate scores to track mental damage. The Stability score tracks simple mental damage, in a way. So shocks to the system like surprise corpses, monsters, etc affect one's stability and their ability to keep it together when confronting the unnatural. Sanity is affected when you encounter the Cthulhu Mythos, the true force behind the universe. The more you're exposed to this hidden knowledge and the creatures, the more your actual grip on reality is destroyed. This will cause a character's Pillars of Sanity to crumble apart until they're a raving mad person as they embrace the true nature of existence.

I love the amount of depth players can give their characters with this system and let it have mechanical benefits directly applicable to the game. The more you can let players personalize and develop their characters, the more likely they are to try and keep them alive for a longer campaign. Games based on Lovecraftian settings tend to have players resigned to a high mortality rate, but when you're attached to your character you try and do more to keep him or her alive. When you have a vested interest in keeping your character alive, you're much more likely to look before you leap.

The big thing I've had running GUMSHOE systems in general is getting players used to the concept of not rolling for clues. Gamers are so conditioned to roll for something, that it doesn't exactly sink in that when they have the skill Lock Pick they can just say they're picking the lock and it happens. No dice involved. Once the system clicks though, it's smooth as butter. In a one shot or short game, mechanics like Pillars of Sanity or Sources of Stability don't really become a factor. Stability more than suffices in a short game to get all the fun insanity rules. Going insane is actually quite fun, as you have the option of having the player leave the room and then crowd source a mental condition for him.

Trail of Cthulhu progresses the timeline from the 1920s of Chaosium's main setting to the 1930s. As explained in the book, the 1920s up to the mid 1930s were an eventful time in the Cthulhu Mythos. Cthulhu nearly arising, The Dunwich Horror, the Miskatonic University Antarctic Expedition, and the US Government's raid on the Deep One colony at Innsmouth. Trail supposes that all those things happened, but the Mythos begins to creep into society as fascist governments arise around the world. For example, the Nazis have a society that researches Mythos artifacts and books. Yithians begin working with mob connections to better study the current time period. The US Navy founds P Division to investigate the Mythos based off of what they find in Innsmouth. It makes for a very exciting and diverse setting with all kinds of possibilities. The setting is especially perfect when you take into account the game having two modes of play: Purist for more cosmic horror and Pulp for more gun slinging, action packed stories.

In order to link the system with the mechanics of Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, this is the first GUMSHOE title to incorporate a system for magic. It's simple, but like the magic system from Call of Cthulhu, I don't find it terribly interesting. It still serves it's mechanical function, but it's really just there to fill that function. I'd like to see a more fleshed out magic system in a future edition. Though if I'm being fair, magic in Cthulhu mythos games is more for the GM than for players. Players might need to use it occasionally, but using it has more negative consequences than positive ones. Truthfully, if players are trying to become wizards the GM should try to discourage that at all costs. Or if nothing else, turn the wannabe sorcerer into

The simplicity of this game is it's highest selling point. It's easy to run with minimal set up and there's enough supplements that Pelgrane Press has put out several supplements for Trail of Cthulhu that range from collections of adventures to entire books of campaign settings like the Bookhounds of London or Dreamhounds of Paris. If you're looking to run a more stripped down Cthulhu game, you can't go wrong with Trail of Cthulhu. Be prepared for adjusting your style of play for more narrative style. Once everyone settles in, it can be a blast.
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Composing a list of movies and TV that has kind of inspired me in my crafting of my weird fiction horror campaign for Call of Cthulhu. They're all eras and styles, but they're all still applicable.

Penny Dreadful (Cthulhu by Gaslight) - Literally the prototype for running a campaign in this setting. Ragtag collection of investigators (gunfighter, gentleman with a sword, psychic, doctor, and the historian). They run the gamut of trying to find a missing person, solving an ancient riddle, and then fighting the ultimate evil itself. It's all you could want from this era in a campaign.

Banshee Chapter (Delta Green/Modern) - A blend of alien conspiracy and Lovecraft, as it's based on the short story From Beyond. One of the characters even directly references it. The premise is that in the 70s the MK Ultra experiments resulted in the CIA making a psychotropic drug out of an extraterrestrial's brain. It allows for remote viewing, but it also let's the alien hijack your body like a transmitter. A woman goes looking for her friend after he goes missing while investigating MK Ultra.

Pod (Deltra Green) - This is a weird movie, but it is straight up a DG scenario. It's just that the agent shows up after the majority of the movie's action has passed. A brother and sister head out to a cabin where their youngest brother is holed up after coming back from a PTSD related mental break. He starts off incredibly paranoid ranting about an alien in the basement. It's never said what exactly he has and it's very much implied it's something other than just an alien. My interpretation is a ghoul.

The Borderlands (Any era, Severn Valley) - Ancient church basement in the English countryside has an eldritch creature living in the basement. It's straight out of Ramsey Campbell.

Manos, The Hands of Fate (any era) - Honestly as shitty as the movie actually is, it's Lovecraftian in a big way. Hidden place in the wilderness, evil mystery cult, worship of some weird concept rather than an actual thing... Yeah, it really just needs some coherent connecting points.

The Witch (Dark Ages, Gaslight) - Lovecraft's Arkham Country is based on the idea that the witch scares in Salem were real. And the witches weren't gaining their powers by making deals with the Devil, but The Great Old Ones instead. The Witch is a movie from that tradition, though it's ambiguous as to what's happening.

I'll add more later. I'm falling asleep.
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In this moment, I am overcome with joy.
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At some point or another, I plan on making a more professional looking blog (literally anything other than the various LJ clones) and turning it into exclusively a page for tabletop gaming reviews and stories.

This is more or less the only thing I've got interest in any more these days. There's only a few TV shows that interest me, video games are a sad state of open world wanking (they're called "map games" now), and I'm a boring person otherwise. I kind of feel like I need to do something with it, since it was one of the few things that kept me sane over these last few years.
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Shit that makes Warhammer 40k so dark that it's hilarious

-The official religion of the Imperium was founded by one of it's greatest traitors. Lorgar was a primarch who wanted to worship the Emperor as a god. The Emperor said "Knock that shit off," and destroyed one of the planets that had been made into a giant church to him. But the religion took hold in the 10,000 years since the Emperor more or less died. And yet they're all following the teachings of a big fucking demon.

-Human life is such a non-factor in this universe that destroying a planet of a billion humans doesn't really register as a blip. Humans are at best renewable resources and at worst locusts.

-Space travel follows Event Horizon rules. Faster than light travel is achieved by folding time and space, punching a hole in it, and then literally traveling through hell. If you're lucky, the psychic navigating the ship won't start spewing demons out that will kill everyone on the ship.

-Psychics in general. You're more or less an average human you can just do shit with your mind. Well doing shit with your mind turns you into a portal for demons. So one day you could just get possessed and turn into a giant, rampaging, blob of whatever like in Akira which will just cause more demons to appear until the entire population is dead. If you're lucky, you'll get picked up by huge ships that just make stops to pick up psychics where you'll be taken to Terra.

-Did I say lucky? Maybe I'm being a little sarcastic, because if you survive the trip to Terra you'll go before the Emperor (who is literally a wasted skeleton on a throne that lets him project his mind into space to guide ships traveling through hell) and he'll suck out your soul so that he can keep doing the shit he's doing to keep the entire human species from collapsing in on itself.

-"But there's got to be a better way!" There totally is, humans are just to fucking ignorant to figure it out. All technology is controlled by a Mars cult that worships machines and hoards all knowledge about it. In truth they don't know how most of the shit works and "repairs" are ritualistic holy acts. The human civilization from like 20,000 years prior to the Emperor taking over Terra had technology that absolutely dwarfed anything in the Imperium. Most of it was lost and the machine cults barely know what to do with the stuff they've found.

-The Eldar, the space elves of the setting, basically raped, fucked, and snorted enough drugs to birth a demonic god of hedonism that destroyed their civilization. The ones that are left are either a society of warrior monks who train themselves to not screw up so badly a second time or live in giant city in a pocket dimension of a pocket dimension where they keep on with the murder, torture, rape and drug abuse but can't be found. They sustain themselves off of torturing other species.

-The downfall of the entire setting, The Horus Heresy, was started because The Emperor didn't tell his sons that he was working on an important project that would eliminate the threat posed by demons. The entire galaxy is fucked because of bad parenting.
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This journal is almost entirely devoted to my campaign notes so it's going to stay that way. I'll write out every possible scenario I can think of to add to my Call of Cthulhu campaign. When I get back from Japan (or if) I will be running it for the group. So this is based off of the caveat that the players have accepted the invitation from let's call him Sir John of the Society of Esoteric Studies and have agreed to work for him.

Through his sources at Miskatonic University, Sir John has been trying to locate the notes of Herbert West's experiments from when he was a medical student. They contain the scientific method to his serum that helped him reanimate the dead, though the actual formula is hidden in a code within these notes. A current Miskatonic grad student just so happened to rent the room where West had been a student and discovered the Re-Animator's personal journal. The journal contained the cipher for West's code and the student was able to see the truth behind his experiments. Wishing to try it for himself, he stole the notes and made a batch of West's serum and with the help of his lab partner gained access to Miskatonic Teaching Hospital's morgue to test it. The corpse of a man recently dead from cancer was their "freshest" option and the serum worked. However, the corpse returned to life as a violent zombie and killed the lab partner. The student fled and the reanimated corpse was killed by campus security.

These events occurred the night prior to the investigators' meeting with Sir John. The university is trying to keep the incident quiet for now and the Arkham police are willing to comply. There were deaths similar to this back when West was a student and the authorities know that the town would panic if news got out that they were starting again. Sir John will have gotten word from one of his contacts in the Arkham police. Since this bears the hallmarks of West's serum, he can put two and two together especially since the Society is familiar with West's handiwork.

The student has fled and taken West's notes with him. Terrified and paranoid over what he witnessed, he has taken refuge in an old barn outside of town where West used to perform some experiments. There's a few left over in a hidden basement laboratory there. And the local ghoul population is not happy that someone is taking residence in the home of someone who tainted their food supply years ago.

No one in Arkham suspected West's involvement in any of the deaths at the time. He was directly responsible for only two while living and working in Essex County, though his experiments caused a great deal of damage. The reanimated corpse of a school dean for example killed a young girl. But to this day, West was never even implicated in any of the events that happened during his time at Miskatonic. He had a partner, but he is currently confined to a sanitarium in Boston. No one has heard from West since he returned from The Great War.

When sending the investigators to the scene, he will not disclose his suspicions about the unusual events, preferring to see how they react to the situation and go about resolving it. If pressed, he will share some background. The police or hospital staff could provide information on the past incidents as well if the appropriate gestures are made.

Scenes

The Morgue
If the investigators head straight there from their meeting with Sir John, the Teaching Hospital Morgue will still be an active crime scene that they'll have to talk their way into. Asking for Sir John's contact will get them into the crime scene and access to the evidence for as long as they want.

The scene is a bloody mess. The hallway leading from lift to the morgue itself has a corpse with a collapsed skull. This is the body of the recently deceased terminally ill patient that was used as a test subject. He is naked and the only identification on him is his toe tag. Cause of death would be complications from a lung tumor, but the body in the hallway has multiple gunshot wounds in the torso and the head is caved in. The guard on duty emptied his all his bullets into the shambling zombie, but it wasn't until he smashed its head in with his truncheon that it stopped it's attack. When examining the corpse, investigators will find that it is still twitching, despite being dead (twice).

There is a desk at the morgue entrance where doctors and students sign in. This two is a bloody mess as the attendant had her head caved in by the thing in the hallway. She heard the commotion from inside and when she found it locked called for security. The doors to the morgue itself have been broken down, but from the inside. The desk contains an important clue: the student and his partner both signed the log book. They weren't terribly concerned about covering their tracks in their excitement.

The log book might actually be the only way to identify the victim inside the morgue which is basically washed with blood. The frantic attempt by the reanimated corpse to escape saw him first break the next of the partner, then use his body as a flail smashing him all over the room. This not only pulped the poor young man, but also some other bodies being stored in the morgue. This entire scene calls for several sanity checks.

Questioning the security guard gets his story. He did not see anyone in the hall besides the monster in the hallway and he immediately ran back to his desk to phone the police. He does recall another student entering the hospital with the morgue victim, but never saw him leave. He wouldn't be surprised if he were hiding out terrified somewhere on campus. He gives a vague description of him, mostly because he wasn't paying attention.

The syringe used in their experiment is in the morgue still. There is a residue of the solution used, and investigation into it will reveal some very unorthodox components. Some do not appear to be from Earth. This realization calls for a sanity check. Evidence can be removed from the scene as long as they make it clear that this is related to Sir John's business. The officer in charge will allow it as he is being paid a fortune by Sir John to look the other way on his behalf.

Should they not go to the scene directly, Sir John can arrange for them to view the evidence at a later at the police station.

Searching
So armed with at least the leads of the student's name, his partner, and the strange syringe they should plan on hitting the Miskatonic Campus to try to find some information.

The partner's dorm reveals little. He did keep a personal journal that a few weeks ago makes mention of his friend wanting to share a discovery with him. It is not mentioned again. The medical student keeps a diary hidden inside a secret compartment in his dresser. It talks in more detail about his discovery, initial experiments, and plans for the future. He specifically notes the day he found West's journal, finding the records of his work in the library, and the date of their planned test. West's journal and his notes are not there.

This should then lead them into looking for information on Herbert West. He was very well known during his time at Miskatonic, just as much for his wild ideas as he was a brilliant anatomist. Teachers remember him fondly for being so intelligent and staff remember his somewhat strange tendency for staying out all night. Henry Armitage in the library remembers him as a student as well and will recall that he acquired and fixed up an old farmhouse outside of town with money from his father. West would be in his 50s in the current time period but has not been heard from since he disappeared from his Boston practice four years ago. His assistant, also a graduate from Miskatonic, is in a Massachusetts asylum after an apparent nervous breakdown. When awake he screams constantly about armies of the dead. If calmed under the influence of drugs he only mutters how West is dead and gone. Exploration of his former practice turns up a ruined home, where the first floor collapsed into the basement.

The House
When they track down the farmhouse that the student is hiding in, the first thing that they will probably notice is that it's not far from a very old cemetery. West chose this spot for the obvious grave robbing potential, but gave it up when the local ghoul colony became overly aggressive due to his tampering with their food supply. The student has been coming here to test his attempts at the formula and the evidence of that is found all over the house. Investigators will find disembodied but still moving body parts throughout the first floor. The basement contains larger portions of his experiments, but nothing as dangerous as the creature from the hospital. Nothing was... fresh enough. If they get out though, some of the more complete specimens will attack.

All of this has again roused the ghoul population, who have very long memories of West's initial experiments and the night after the murders in the morgue when the student is hiding there, they will begin tormenting him at night, trying to get him to leave. If it gets to a third night, then they will outright attack and destroy the property completely. 50/50 chance that West's notes and journal survive the attack. If the investigators approach at night before the third night, the ghouls will hide and not risk being seen by outsiders. If they determine that the investigators can solve their problem for them, they might even actively assist them.

The main threat in this stage is sanity loss. Seeing ghouls hurts sanity. Being attacked by reanimated torsos hurts sanity, even if they can't hit hard.

Sir John doesn't really care what happens to the student. He's fairly useless to his mission and all he wants are the notes and the journal.

Names and items will be put in when I'm ready to go with this. Stats too. But in general this is kind of straight forward. If the player characters are new to town, they get an idea of the weirdness of Arkham. And if they weren't on their guard over Sir John before, they ought to be now. But at the same time, if they're successful they'll get $500 each for the individual items they recover.

If they make themselves known to Armitage during their investigation phase and somehow mention that they are working for Sir John, he may or may not warn them to be wary of him. Sir John offered an obscene amount of money to buy the entirety of Miskatonic's restricted section of occult books, which put Armitage on his guard. If he realizes some people working for Sir John are asking questions around campus he is naturally suspicious. However, if the players are somewhat respectful toward him or he senses that they don't know the full picture he'll warn them that they might be patsies.
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Perhaps there might even be some explanations in here. Right now I'm just listing. I'm going to sort them the game they originated from.

D&D
-Team Awkward Silence - When being introduced to a vampire count who was saving humans from an undead plague, no one knew how to respond. It devolved into silence and nervous giggling.

-"What a noble sacrifice" - Rob's paladin charged into a church full of cultists without warning anyone else and starts getting his ass beat. When asked what the party wants to do, Mike says close the door and says the line.

-"It's getting dark" - The one campaign featured massive amounts of zombies so once the sun went down the party always wanted to go back find shelter. We still refuse to do any activities at night in other games.

-Horse Barge - A barge made of horses

-Slave Tin Mines - In an effort to avoid a tropes, Justin had us exploring tin mines. We took it and ran with it, but also turned it into a giant concentration camp where apparently miners are molested in the lower depths.

-Wizards are Awful - We encountered a wizard tower that had living poop monsters in the sewers and dick fog.

-Farming Nomads - The party ended up helping out a tribe of nomads who lived in a city and had an agrarian culture because Justin didn't know what nomads were. They also worshiped water and used it as currency because they lived in a desert, but their settlement was 3 days from a fresh water lake of unlimited water.

-Varis is Horrible at Everything - Rob's ranger is notoriously inept at everything he's supposed to be good at. He sucks at hunting, can't lead us through the woods, and wasted a one-hit kill magic item on a minor foe that was near death.

Star Wars
-Darth Chokey - The first time Rob's Jedi uses the Force he does so to choke an unarmed guy running away.

-Door Knob - My character ripped a door down in the first session, killed someone with the door, and has carried the door knob around since as a souvenir. He'll be adding it as a piece of his lightsaber when we get to that point.

-Justin Can't Engage in Illegal Arms Sales - Pretty much self-explanatory. Justin tried to buy some illegal guns, but flubbed the entire thing to the point where the party almost got into a fight in an alleyway.

-"We Need Saws" - We hide out on an uncharted planet and decide to rough it. So we spend a week building a cabin. Kim forgot that lightsabers can cut through anything and spent 10 minutes arguing about whether we could do it or not.

-"Lazy Jedi" - I was very much against buying a speeder for the Jedi master we'd saved.

Worlds in Peril
-Captain Wayne vs. Smallville - My giant, heavily armed super soldier crash landed into Smallville and left with most of the town thinking that they were part of a huge government experiment.

-Everything Omega Did - I actually could probably give him his own section, because Rob's Omega was incredible. From pissing off Lex Luthor by being an idiot and almost killing everyone by turning off containment fields holding unkillable monsters.

-Lord Batman - Dan's character was a sorcerer from a Victorian era, but everyone always directed questions about super science and modern technology to him.

-RACIST - Rob's character in our super villains game was awakened by knowledge that there was a black president. Much to his dismay.

-"Kill Me" - Justin's character's power was that people had to obey his commands compulsively. At one point he was tired of being carried so he wanted a jet pack. Cliff's character was possessed by numerous mythological deities and said Hades had winged shoes he could ask for. Justin says to kill him and he obliges, but after this point remembers that it was Hermes with the flying shoes not Hades.

Call of Cthulhu
-Rob is Evil - Rob always wants to play a magic user, but in Call of Cthulhu learning magic turns you slowly evil. Despite being told this he continually used magic to summon a monster that usually did more harm than good for whatever situation they were in.

-"Burn it All Down" - The defacto strategy is to just burn down whatever creepy thing they're exploring. This had bled into D&D where we're currently dealing with monsters and vampires.

-Salt - They discovered a monster was weak against salt. But they didn't seem to think how expensive salt was so they began plotting to rob every home in town of their table salt. Ignoring the fact that even today it's fairly cheap to buy salt. When Dan, who in character was in a fear induced coma, pointed this out everyone felt dumb. Since then, salt has become number one commodity (after tin).
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When I eventually get back from Japan (if I come back from Japan), I will insist on running a longer Call of Cthulhu game. In it's classic 1920s-30s era. And I'm going for a straight up Arkham Country campaign. At least at the start.

The frame work for the player characters will be that they are all interested in the paranormal to a degree. And their careers have taken a downward turn because of them. Maybe some of them have touch the Cthulhu mythos, or maybe some of them are just into Spiritualism and ancient books on the occult. They will be hired by a man freely admitting to be representing the London based Society for the Study of the Esoteric Sciences. They are a group who sees the revelations of the Cthulhu mythos not as doorways to the unseen horrors of the real universe that are beyond our understanding, but scientific knowledge lost from ages past that can be put to practical uses to advance modern sciences. While this understanding of it does technically acknowledge that the Mythos is the actual natural order of the universe that humans cannot perceive, it does not give full awareness to the dangers involved with this study. As such, Society members engages in grossly unethical scientific studies in several fields that are currently causing a great deal of harm in London and if they lose total control could cause a huge disaster.

The Society originally began it's research based on the findings of their leader's copy of The Book of Eibon. Making the connection that such occult tomes likely contain similar formulas among the superstitious nonsense, they have made it a priority to acquire further books. For this reason, they have sent one of their agents to Arkham to collect additional tomes for their collection. He has a bottomless checkbook due to Society members all being of the upper echelon of London's elite and has decided to contract out some of the work. He realized fairly quickly that Arkham had many hot spots where mysterious tomes were likely about and that collecting them would be dangerous and possibly calling for illegal activity. If he doesn't need to get his hands dirty, then he won't. He will not attempt to deceive them in the potential dangers to the work (My employers will pay all funerary costs, as well as ensure payment of earned funds to next of kin), but will not expressly say what they might be up against. Or whatever the knowledge they collect will be used for. The Society's public face in London is one of just genuine scientific study, so research into it on the surface shouldn't cause any worry. When they start understanding the true nature of what they're up against, the players might push a little harder, which might cause their contact to decide they've outlived their usefulness. Which then might become a battle against the Society itself in London.

But there will be plenty of threats to contend with in Arkham country. They'll probably be given a "Want-list" of items that the Society has been interested in finding.

-Convince Miskatonic University to part with their Restricted Collection of Mythos tomes. This is all but impossible and would set them up against the Armitage Inquiry, the extended Lovecraftian universe's group that actively opposes the cults of the Mythos.
-The Gospel of Caramargos, a book purported to be used by a wizard named Sermon Bishop in Arkham to gain eternal life. Bishop is actually sealed away in a bridge crossing the Miskatonic River. He will be freed at some point and possess a local student and seek revenge on the descendants of those who imprisoned him.
-There was an incident to the west of Arkham near the site where they are currently planning a dam. A meteor fell to earth and stories tell of strange vegetation and mutations in the wildlife in the area.
-There was a man purported to be a powerful sorcerer named Ephraim Waite who lived in the port town of Innsmouth. Supposedly he had a library full of ancient books with notes that would be valuable to the Society's research.
-Also from Innsmouth, the locals appear to have some strange disease that causes birth defects. If they could find a local to "donate their body to science" that would be an excellent object of study. (The Society is aware of Deep Ones and how they cross breed with humans. What they really want to see is if there are differences with ones off the North American coast and the colonies found in Europe)
-There are rumors of a cult in Kingsport along with other strange activity. See what can be found there.
-Investigate the fungus reportedly growing in the wilds near Dunwich. Perhaps it's what caused a mass hallucination regarding an invisible monster roaming the woods.
-Supposedly, the brilliant doctor Herbert West left behind his extraordinary notes on life and death in the Miskatonic Learning Hospital. These are of great personal interest to the Society's leader as he was in direct correspondence with West and they had even met during the Great War. West has been missing for years, but his notes are a treasure trove of scientific information.

For all intents and purposes, this can be viewed as a "Bookhounds of Arkham" campaign. They can play this any way they like, being as noble or self-serving as they like. Be a hero or a bastard. The Society will pay whatever they ask and as long as the players don't make any trouble for them, they'll be happy to keep them on the payroll.

If they choose to go after the Society if/when they turn on them, then it becomes a bit more far flung. Traveling to London will put them in their enemy's backyard potentially without a lot of friends. And the British Isles are teeming with all sorts of mysteries on their own. It has a lot of potential to be epic.
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Henry "Hook" Booth, Private of Her Majesty's Army, 45th Penal Battalion. Convicted of treason for his participation in the Thames Riots in 1891. Honorably Discharged in 1899 after being injured during the Second Arfican War.

Hook is in his late 30s living in a tenement in the Whitechapel section of London. In the war he lost his right arm during a major German offensive on the Rorke's Drift Redoubt, which was a site of massive British military pride. The army replaced it with a crude steel prosthetic. Since outfitting a non-commissioned soldier with an intricate hand replacement was too expensive and improper the appendage ends in a hook, which earned him his nickname when he returned to London. It's an antique and was not installed with a great deal of finesse. He has since become an adept mechanic, performing self-repairs on the arm's mechanism and improving it's dexterity in some regards. He hasn't quite mastered making a true hand for himself, mostly due to not having the equipment and materials necessary for such a delicate project.

Hook receives a monthly stipend for his service and medical discharge, but is far too small to make ends meet. In spite of his skill as a mechanic factories and garages will not hire him because of his criminal record. There is also a judgement that since his replaced limb lacks a hand he's incapable of working at the level needed. Hook is extremely bitter about this, especially since he's sure he could craft something for himself but can't get work that would help him pay for his own upgrade. He gets by doing odd jobs on the street. Repairs, grunt work for small merchants, and the occasional bodyguard job. Hook just radiates intimidation. He was a strong man to begin with, but now that he's carrying the extra weight of his steel arm around he's become even stronger. Add that to the fact that his hooked arm is powerful enough to punch holes through solid brick walls and he finds himself in very high demand. However, bodyguards or "tour guides" for the aristocracy wanting to see how the other half lives are a dime a dozen and the pay is as lousy as it comes. Add onto the fact that tour guide jobs in general are rare. High class Londoners are easily able to outfit themselves with top of the line weapons and armor that make them more of a danger to Whitechapel residents than the criminal element of the city.

Body modification is something common in this modern London. It is not unusual to see the highest forms of personal technology throughout the city, especially the higher up the social ladder that one goes. The aristocracy and rich of the Empire will go so far as to have body modification as merely a way to show their status. Clockwork eyes that allow people to see great distances, machine limbs that make one stronger and faster, and the surgical techniques to make it possible have been perfected by the British for the last century. Queen Victoria herself is said to not have aged a day since she took the throne. The lower rungs of society subsist on the scraps of this progress, while the lowest of the low make do with whatever is left. Men like Hook are common. Metal legs and arms and jaws are frequently given to wounded veterans of the Empire's many wars and the rich pat themselves on the back for bestowing such wondrous but dated gifts. Hook is one of the lucky ones as his arm has a great deal more dexterity than most cheap, older models.

In the current day, Hook is viewed as the neighborhood jack of all trades. He'll sweep your store front in the morning and bounce trouble makers out of your pub at night. He'll deliver a love letter for you or take a package of opium uptown to some curious art students. He would be you're turn of the century Shadowrunner if that was the universe we were in. There's other people like him in the underworld of London: black market tech dealers, mechanics making illegal modifications, guys who rob others of their technology, hitmen, gangsters, gamblers, you name it. They're all trying to get by in a world that is increasingly looking them over. And in some ways that does suit them.

In this world, the Crown rules all. The British Empire spans all it's old territory: Canada, India, parts of the Middle East and East Asia. France is comprised of all the French speaking nations: Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Alps region of Italy, and portions of North Africa. Germany is the main competition for the British Empire as they comprise Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungry, and the traditional German bloc. The Russian Empire makes up their eastern boarder, absorbing all Slavic peoples as well as Central Europe. Italy is under the complete control of the Catholic Church which operates under an Inquisitorial Council. The pope is just a figure head. It is a theocracy and treats nations like Greece, Spain, and Portugal as fiefs to itself. Japan, China, and Korea have united in the East Asian Entente in response to the growing might of the European Empires. They have effectively closed their borders and cooperate fully with each other while attempting to advance their technology to catch up fully with Europe.

Africa, the Middle East, and South America are effectively carved up by Europe. Italy and their allies are currently at war in the Middle East trying to retake Israel from the British Empire under religious pretenses. The EAE is at war in Mongolia with Russian armies attempting to expand their influence. The United States exists, but has closed itself off from the rest of the world. Following a horrific war with Mexico where Italy allied itself with the Catholic backed government there, the populous of the USA demanded extraordinary measures be taken to defend the boarders. The entire country has become a super fortress that none of the vast armies of the great Empires could break.

Aside from the Empires, the other great powers of this world are the government licensed companies. Their nation will grant a petitioner full autonomy almost as if it is a nation unto itself. Almost like privateers in the age of piracy, these companies have extraterritoriality and answer directly only to their nation's leader. They are free to make trade arrangements with any foreign power they choose and will often put their company's financial welfare ahead of national pride. In this way, entities like The East India Trading Company have gained undue global power.

So the planet is in an almost constant state of war. Technology strides forward at a faster pace thanks to huge advances in mechanization. The rich are super rich and the poor are super poor (which is always true). None of the European empires shows any signs of waning. As long as the wartime economy thrives very little will change.

This ended up being a lot more than I thought it would be lol.
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If I don't go off of my original idea for a one shot I'm probably going to use the following scenario from Delta Green: Eyes Only.

In the 1920's the alien Mi-Go made a local moonshiner into one of their servants as he lived on the mountain-side where they were performing experiments. He served them loyally and they eventually made him the subject of one of their early human experiments using a proto-matter they had developed. They increased his strength and stamina and he no longer needed to eat, sleep, or even breathe. The proto-matter just made him run non-stop which obviously drove him mad. In the course of protecting his master's work on the mountain, he killed some hikers and was institutionalized. He escaped when his medication was forgotten one day and fled back to the mountain. The Mi-Go had left and he was alone. With nothing else to do he kept his vigil on the mountain until modern era. A surveying group looking to start logging on the mountain and the ageless protector killed members of the group.

This drew Delta Green's attention because several years prior, there had be a similar incident on a neighboring mountain where a group of surveyors from the same company had destroyed a shrine to Shub-Niggarath built by the Mi-Go and awakened a Dark Young. Think a four legged, cloven-hoofed, tree monster made of razor blades and blood sucking tentacles. Cell I was sent in and the cell's leader made the town's sheriff's office friendlies to enlist their help in taking care of the huge monster. This resulted in most of the party being killed and only three survivors: Agent Irene, a deputy, and a Native American guide. Cell A shut down the operation and had the National Forest Service declare the mountain too hazardous for the logging project. The Dark Young has gone silent since, but Cell A monitors the area for any sign that it has become active.

The new killings on the opposite mountain have raised concerns, especially since this particular mountain is outside of the creature's known area of operation. They are unaware of the circumstances of the mutated human on this mountain or the Mi-Go operations that happened there. The Mi-Go have all but forgotten everything from this region. The players' cell is being sent in to evaluate the area and determine if the creature from the previous massacre is responsible for the new killings. If they decide yes, then Cell A sends in a team to try and deal with it that ends up leading to a massive gun fight on the mountain, dead agents, and most likely MJ-12 getting involved.

It's a challenging scenario for a couple of reasons. First, the players go into a situation where they're being told to expect one thing. But the thing they're expecting isn't the culprit in this case. The wrong move could lead to a lot more death than necessary. The trick is to gently hint that trying to research past events on the mountain will get them the story about the mountain man and people who have gone missing there over the years. Then it's determining what the fuck to do about the situation, because they're caught between two really hard to kill monsters.

The best case scenario for them in this situation is to actually determine what is going on with the mountain man and find a way to actually contact the Mi-Go. They have no clue who the agents are, nor do they care at the end of the day. But if they can learn the spell required to summon them and somehow explain what it is that they want to have happen, then they can clean up everything with a nice bow and that's the end of it.

It's not quite as action packed as fighting down hordes of mutated humans and capped off with battling a god at the end, but it is a bit more free form in it's mystery. There's more than a few ways it can end and they have a lot of options to go about exploration. The trouble has always been trying to get the group to play an investigative game as investigators. We're very very very used to resorting to violence as a group and that has kind of worked against them in CoC games. Like our last game, I dropped plenty of clues implying that there was something intelligent behind the wave of weirdness they were investigating but they went in a very straight line and ended up killing everyone. The game before that, they actually got what they needed to defeat the monster but because they rushed to the fight forgot to actually learn what it was that they had.

Previous sessions where they had been more careful were far more successful. They correctly figured out that salt was effective against a slime mold monster after I left multiple obvious hints around. They still somehow believed fire was effective and burned down the entire house while pelting it with handfuls of rock salt. The first adventure I had to guide the only person trying to actually solve the mystery through the finale, but he had at least done the investigation work in the first place. Everyone else had just said fuck it and abandoned him (it was actually really funny).

So I'm hoping that this works out. I'll admit, I'm better at weaving a game around an existing adventure than I am at doing one from scratch. While it makes sense in my head, it doesn't always work out as planned. Plus with this, I can practice doing Mi-Go voices.
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The odds of actually getting a campaign of any type of game off the ground before I leave for Japan are staggeringly low. So since we're entering one shot season, I am formulating a Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green scenario in my head.

I'm going to leave it up to them what they want, but I'm actually leaning more towards a CoC/DG scenario. Just because I know the possible systems inside and out. Either the BRP or GUMSHOE. Probably leaning toward GUMSHOE because I can get everyone involved with character creation.

The game will revolve around one of the lesser, but more dangerous Great Old Ones, Y'golonac. The creature is trapped in a wall of an unspecified ruin somewhere on earth, but through a spell bound into the twelfth book of The Revelations of Glaaki, it can be summoned by anyone reading the passage containing his name. Y'golonac can possess the reader and act through him or her, transforming their body into it's own monstrous form. Y'golonac appears as a large, morbidly obese human, though headless. In the palms of its hands are mouths layered with razor sharp teeth that it uses to devour it's victims.

It is particularly drawn to sentient beings that revel in depravity. Any depravity, no matter how small can draw it towards someone. Like extra cheese on your pizza? Too bad, you're demon chow. I have a prevailing theory that the creature is ambitious, wants to raise it's own power on earth, and will make every effort to do so since it's essentially unknown if not for having it's acolytes writing the 12th volume of The Revelations for it. Think The Ring or The Grudge. The more it's able connect itself with others, the farther it can spread.

Four things can happen when it appears: it can possess its victim, offer to make the victim it's priest (which eventually leads to possession), turn it into one of it's servants, or just outright eat it. The last two are the worst options since they inevitably end the victim on the spot. Being a priest to an Old One has perks, but usually ends in grisly death as well. There aren't necessarily a lot of perks that come from serving a lesser Old One that's more interested in spreading human depravity than anything. Unless you like scat jobs and baby eating? If you don't, you will by the time Y'golonac is done with you.

The story revolves around a series of murders in run down neighborhood of any generic American city. Take your pick. I will probably pick a more specific one later down the line. But it's in the middle of a gentrification movement as hip young people come into conflict with older residents. People have been going missing for several months, but it wasn't until a body turned up that Delta Green took notice. The Great Old was seen in it's form by a local wino while finishing off it's latest victim. The drunk barely escaped with his life and fled to the local police station to report what he saw: a headless monster eating a woman with the mouths in his hands. He was locked up in the drunk tank while officers were sent to investigate. They found the scene, with the partially eaten remains of a middle aged woman and a message written in blood on the alley wall "PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE DEFILER." Forensics showed some unknown animal's teeth marks, possibly two of them. The detective assigned to the case is a Delta Green friendly, and seeing enough weird to last him a lifetime calls it in to Cell A.

The Delta Green cell is dispatched to act as FBI investigators looking into the killings. Currently, the drunk is being held by police as the best subject. The alcohol content in his blood should have killed him so his story is not viewed with any kind of credibility by anyone other than Delta Green. From the information available on the ground, Alphonse suspects a ghoul cult has made it's way to the surface due to shrinking supplies of corpses in city cemeteries.

What is actually happening is a priest of Y'golonac, acting on it's orders, has opened a used and rare book dealer in the neighborhood. While it contains books of all varieties, it specializes in turn of the century erotica and banned books of that nature. Y'golonac has been feeding on customers and has chosen a local priest as his host. The store owner will usually offer the Twelfth volume of The Revelations to customers and the monster does the rest. For the majority of them, they have become it's servants and traverse under the streets through sewer tunnels accessed through the bookshop's cellar. They make their nest there. There are 10 servants currently. Y'golonac's host is corrupting locals who come to the church, suggesting things like suicide to the depressed and killing loved ones over minor quarrels. Chaos is spreading through the community as more people give into their depravity. This represents the ticking clock of the scenario: the community will gradually start to tear itself apart and the perpetrators will transform into servants of Y'golonac to spread this beyond the confines of a single neighborhood.

So time line of events is
-Store opens
-First victim vanishes
-Priest enters store looking for something to his tastes. Becomes possessed.
-More disappearances from either visiting the shop or victims of the priest himself
-Servants all but wipe out the population of rats and mice in the sewers
-Drunk catch Y'golonac in the act
-He is arrested following his report, Delta Green is called in
-The high priest begins efforts to eliminate the witness
-The police are distracted by a major domestic violence call
-While out on the call, the witness is torn to pieces in his cell
-Violence continues to rise in the neighborhood
-Various citizens change into servants and begin attacking everyone in sight
-The priest will offer to hide survivors in the church where they will be slaughtered. The city will become a charnel house and a citadel to Y'golonac.

The hard part will be placing the clues, because they should lead to the bookstore and the bookstore should lead to the priest. The priest could make an appearance, perhaps the murder took place outside the rectory. The trick will be getting them the book, because that will cause Y'golonac to act against them.

This needs to be fleshed out more, but yeah I like where this can go.
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So yesterday, I kind of thought up the rough outline of vampires in this game/story/whatever it is that I'm creating. Going over the guidelines for vamps in Night's Black Agents, the ones I am thinking of fall somewhat into two categories: supernatural and damned. I actually think more supernatural, because I see them more as something that has always been there. An off-shoot evolution of humans that couldn't attain the numbers that humans got because it was difficult for them to reproduce. They might appear like they are damned and there's legends that sort of reflect the fact that they existed from the time of creation. So there can definitely be some religious flavor too, but perhaps as a feint.

In some ways, these types of vampires seem to function more as mutants as described in the book. Where vampirism is a disease rather than an evolutionary thing. In some ways, there does need to be a biological component to it since they are a species the reproduces by changing humans. So let's look at the biology and how it works

Vampire Biology
Vampires as a species evolved alongside human, but due to their reproductive cycle never became as populous. In order for a vampire to reproduce them must consciously desire to transform a human into a vampire. Some catalyst of venom in the vampire's mouth and it's own blood is required. Basically we're talking a bite and sharing of blood kind of scenario. A vampire can drink from a victim, with the same venom in its fangs acting almost like a paralytic which induces sleep and short-term memory loss. A victim may not always be killed outright, though through the laws passed down since the Purge of Alexandria it is not advised to keep food alive unless you are hiding it or considering making offspring. Both are rare circumstances as vampires heavily regulate themselves on reproduction.

They must drink living blood to survive due to their bodies' own mechanics. Vampires are not undead, though even to a trained doctor they might appear it. Even with fresh blood inside them, their heart rates are so slow that it appears as if they will have no pulse. Their skin tone has the look of a corpse. Their internal organs would look entirely alien as the heart functions more like the stomach, processing blood into the nutrients needed to keep the body going.

I don't know enough about how biology to give a reasonable explanation on how this works. So I'll need to look that up. Basically, their hearts don't beat the same way a human's would. It might even have additional organs to function as ways to keep the body going. On thermal cameras they would show up as extremely cold sources unless they had fed recently.

Vampires would essentially need to drain a victim completely once every two or three days in order to maintain full body functions. Essentially a full blood transfusion. If they are extremely active and using their powers, they will use up the nutrients faster.

A vampire who does not feed enough goes into hibernation and become easy pickings. They can be killed in extremely mundane ways if they become weak enough. Only the very oldest or the very wealthiest willingly choose to enter hibernation as they can afford the protections necessary to keep them safe during this time. A vampire in hibernation looks and behaves just like a corpse. A vampire that entered hibernation on the streets might be mistaken for a dead vagrant and be buried/cremated with other homeless.

Vampires police themselves, with the leader of each cabal in each city having the final say. Those found reproducing without authorization are swiftly killed as are their offspring and any human servants they might have.

The conspiracy that will be at the heart of this story hinges on a faction of younger vampires who have amassed enough support that they can't be wiped out in one fell swoop. Their activities need to be so well buried that they can't be sniffed out.

Powers
First and foremost, vampires are functionally immortal. There are some that have existed since before the rise of Rome. All trace their bloodline from one of the original 12 leaders of the great cities.

They are extremely strong and fast. A vampire appearing like a slim teenage girl could easily tear apart any human. They also have heightened senses, to aid in their hunting. They can hear a heartbeat and smell a cut from miles away like a shark.

Because their senses can so easily overpower new vampires, they are taught extreme mental techniques to dampen their senses. Especially skilled vampires develop a mind over matter level of control, to the point that they can even train their bodies to resist sunlight by essentially willing their body to resist the damage caused by it. Their mental control is such that they can assert their will and dominate humans, effectively turning them into thralls. It takes at least a century for a vampire to master such feats.

Vampires sometimes choose human servants (called in the rule book Renfields) who exhibit some of the strengths and reflexes of a vampire while still remaining human. This is done by offering vampire's blood to the human, though the effect will wear off. Renfields become hopelessly addicted to the rush and are slaves to their master's will because of it. They remain loyal to the point of death.

They cannot change into bats, change to mist, or anything like that. However, some in more remote areas might go out of their way to encourage these myths.

How to Kill a Vampire
While some myths have been cultivated by the vampire leaders on how to destroy them are false, some legends do hold true.

Beheading or destroying the brain of the vampire is a surefire way to put them down permanently. However, their bone density is much greater than a human's so a great deal of force must be behind such a blow. A vampire's skull can survive most small caliber rounds. A high powered rifle shot to the head will drop a vampire, but it's a good idea to double tap to make sure. Beheading requires a lot of time to hack through spinal cord at the neck, so hand to hand weapons need to be almost otherworldly sharp. Unless the spinal cord is severed, the vampire can still heal itself given enough time. However, it might have a nasty scar in the meantime.

While they can regenerate, it does require a fair bit of time and concentration to do. So if you can't kill him in a single hit your best bet is to incapacitate him and carve out his heart. While they have a tougher than average chest bone, their skeletal structure is still the same as a human's and it is easy enough to go in underneath or between ribs to attack the heart directly. Hammering a wooden stake straight through his heart might be too time consuming if attacked from the wrong angle.

Something about their body chemistry makes vampires extremely flammable. Incendiary rounds would do massive damage.

Vampires have a severe allergy to garlic. It can be fatal to young vampires and causes parts of their system to shut down when in skin to skin contact with it. All the typical human body responses to an allergic reaction take place: hives, closing of the airways, etc. It is so severe to younger vampires that it will even cause muscle spasms which are what cause death in them. Older, stronger vampires will still break out into hives and have immediate reactions, but only extremely high doses will cause death. Powerful vampires who have mastered their mind over matter techniques will be able to teach their body not to react to any exposure. While they may still react out of instinct to the herb, it will not cause them harm.

Silver is often held as an effective weapon against vampires in myth, but it is no more effective against them than any other metal. Crucifixes, holy water, and the like have no effect on them. These are merely works of fiction created by religions like Christianity to calm the nerves of the uneducated masses. This led to many corpses being dug up as described in history books, but any local vampires knew well enough to move on once a town had a vampire hunter pay them a visit and stake a couple of fresh corpses in the cemetery.

Tomorrow I think I will try and talk through the vampire society's social hierarchy and start fleshing out the conspiracies that keep it hidden as well as the conspiracies that go on within it's own population.
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I'm going to use this now for notes for a Night's Black Agents game that maybe (just maybe) could flourish into an actual story. This post is specific for the origins of vampires in the world and perhaps a portion of how they are organized in the world. It's hard to be original with vampires, so right now I'm feeling like we're going to end up with a cross between World of Darkness and some Warhammer.

Origins
The curse of vampirism first appeared in pre-Biblical times in the Middle East. Some attributed these creatures as the offspring of Lilith or Cain. While there may have been creatures around that time who possessed those names, there is no Biblical connection. Lilith wasn't Adam's first wife, Cain didn't murder Able (well he might have). They passed into myth and legend and their true origins were lost. But the blood drinkers existed throughout history, side by side with humans with few ever noticing their presence. Around the time after the death of Christ, the Roman occupation discovered a cabal of vampires who had made their home in Alexandria and wiped them out when they realized what they were dealing with. Much of the Christian persecution after this time was a result of that since Christians of the time drank the "blood" of Christ.

Leaders throughout the major cities of the world took note of this and joined together in a synod to discuss what they should do. Though weak, humans were too numerous to take over completely and as had been proven in Alexandria in enough numbers with enough time learn how to properly destroy the vampires. Some wanted to retaliate desperately, but it was decided on it being far more prudent to try and avoid direct conflict with humanity. Instead, the elders of the cabals of the 12 largest cities in the Roman Empire would consolidate their populations to no more than 200 vampires within the city limits. Any excess would be killed off. Strict rules were put into place where new vampires could not be created except with the death of one of the 200. This self-imposed purge proved successful and the cities were considered more manageable now that the populations had been so drastically reduced. However, not every vampire was killed in these purges and stray bands found themselves escaping into the wilderness and hiding among smaller human settlements. Many of these were quickly found out and were killed by superstitious villagers. A few came to rule over some human tribes and became adept raiders.

As history marched on, the world began to shrink. But new cities grew and soon settlements like London, Paris, Warsaw, Mardid, Moscow, Beijin, and the like soon had their own vampire settlements. Synods were continually called throughout history to address the changing world. Cities have vampire populations relative to their size: whatever the food population can bear. New York might have thousands, while a small town might have the 200. But all vampires trace their lineage back to the original 12 city leaders from the ancient world. They still live, though a few have migrated from their original homelands due to various reasons. A few vampires old enough to remember the purges hold a deep grudge against them and some have successfully overthrown the ancients. These vampires pursue a much more aggressive stance against humanity. They see no reason to hide among the herds when biotechnology has ways of artificially creating food for them. Why shouldn't the predator species be dominant when they can clone an infinite food supply?

Obviously needs some more work to make it fit into the historical context, but I think that I have my plot hook: the agents are contracted to make deliveries for vampires. Turns out they're transporting clones for experimentation. And they get in the middle of a global vampire turf war.
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