Home / General / GM-Blogging #4: Masks of Nyarlathotep – Bad Luck at Ju-Ju House

GM-Blogging #4: Masks of Nyarlathotep – Bad Luck at Ju-Ju House

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Hey folks! As you know from last time, I’m blogging my Call of Cthulhu campaign, because at least in Call of Cthulhu the mad idiot gods have the decency to stay “beyond angled space.”

When we last left off, our intrepid investigators got their hands on some unpleasant books formerly belonging to the estate of Roger Carlyle, Esq. and started down the inveitable downward spiral of psychological entropy that is the Cthulhu Mythos Book Club…

1.23.25:

Agent Cameron paid a visit to Lieutenant Poole of the NYPD to share some information, and found out that two teenagers were kidnapped off the streets by a group of unknown assailants, with the only clue being that the same Ford Model T was seen driving uptown in both cases.

When the Agent shares with the group, they realize with a sickening feeling that there’s a solar eclipse occuring on the morning of the 24th and that the two teens are probably going to be sacrificed that night in conjunction with the celestial event. Which means that the group needs to head back to Ju-Ju House towards some confrontation they know not wot of…

Thanks to Killian Digby and Rabbi Joey Irons, the group manage to disguise themselves as Consolidated Edison repairmen and break into the abandoned pawnshop that shares the courtyard at 1 Ransom Court with Ju-Ju House.  There they watch throughout the morning as Silas N’Kwane opens up shop in the morning, and watch three guardsmen disguised as winos show up to guard the courtyard in advance of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue’s meeting.

After some business with Digby strategically rigging the Model T (which Sheik Horus had found stashed five blocks away), the somewhat strange Irishman decides that the best way to draw off the guards is to stage a rip-and-run of their dice game. This does not work very well, because the dice game is only a cover and the guards know their business. As a result, Digby gets shot and runs out of the courtyard, bleeding from a nasty torso wound.

…at this point, the dice curse hit in full force. In the gunfight that ensured, there were no less than six missed shots, and other six dodges, to three successful hits: Ricardo the WWI vet manages to hit only one of the guards with no less than three close-range blasts with a shotgun, the Rabbi and Agent Cameron couldn’t manage to plug anyone, Doctor-Professer Danger (!) once again displays an unsettling ability to cooly kill people with her carbine by dropping the guard in the doorway of Ju-Ju House….and Sheik Horus somehow manages to botch a throw and hit poor Ricardo in the back with a throwing knife, and then rolls max damage. Meanwhile Digby runs back across the courtyard entrance, grabs the “Consolidated Edison” truck, tries to ram it into the guards and fails, manages to dodge getting shot by the guards he’s now right next to, successfully hits one of them with a car door, and then misses a point-blank shot against a prone traget.

Finally, the Rabbi blows away the last guard, and the courtyard is theirs.

basement

The investigators (with the exception of the pacifist Professor Thistleblossom, who’s staying in the pawn shop until the shooting is done and there’s Cthulhu Mythos books for him to steal repossess, under the logics that it’s a good strategy to “shoot the moon in Call of Cthulhu”) proceed into Ju-Ju House, wary of the fact that if they don’t manage to get out before the ritual starts, their exit will be blocked by the cultists arriving on the scene. They easily manage to find the trapdoor down to the secret basement that they had expected would be there, and make their way down to the ritual chamber.

…which is where the dice curse comes roaring back, just as as six zombies emerge from the curtained alcove, shaking the party’s sanity badly. Ricardo, Digby, and the Agent  shoot at the zombies to not much effect (it doesn’t help the players’ sanity much either when they realize that guns do minimum damage to zombies even when they manage to hit), while the Rabbi grabs for a torch along the wall and Sheik Horus and Doctor-Professor run to to cut the two teens down from where they’ve been tied up.

This is when Mukunga M’Dari, High Priest of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue reveals himself and begins to seriously fuck up the party with his command of dark magics to punish them for “defiling this holy place!” First off the bat, Ricardo Fuentes (the party’s best fighter) gets mind-blasted and experiences a nasty flashback to the Somme, whcih causes him to flee in a panick. Then the zombies grab Digby and begin advancing on the party, with some of them tasked to open the Chakota Pit and drop the teen sacrifices inside, and others to wipe out the interlopers.

The next round goes from bad to worse: the grappled Digby insists on shooting his way free despite pistols doing basically nothing to the Zombies, and the Rabbi promptly botches his attack roll with the torch and drops it on the floor. While Agent Cameron tries to cut the winch mechanism and Sheik Horus manages to cut through one of the teen’s bonds as the other is being zombie-hauled over to the pit, Mukunga calls down the Dread Curse of Azazoth on Sheik Horus, draining his very soul (for seven points of Pow) before Doctor-Professor Danger (!) plugs him with her carbine.  Mukunga vows revenge and the zombies (with the exception of the one grappling and trying to bite Digby) turn on Doctor-Professor Danger (!)…

Out in the corridor, Ricardo finally snaps out of his war hallucination and manages to run back into the room to grab a torch…which he’ll promptly drop on the floor in the next round. Meanwhile, a bizarre spate of misses ensues, with five zombies failing to connect with anyone, and Doctor-Professor Danger (!) managing to jam her carbine and getting grabbed by the last of the zombies. (Although she does manage to avoid being Withered due to some very good opposed Pow rolls…) The only people managing to get anything done are Sheik Horus, who manages to cut through the second rope and drag the kids out of the room, Agent Cameron who’s given up on the gun and is instead trying to wreck the winch mechanism so that the heavy stone lid stays firmly on the Chakota pit, the Rabbi, who finally connects with a torch and sets one of the zombies on fire, and Digby, who finally decides to break the zombie’s hold instead of trying to shoot his way out.

In the penultimate round, Digby manages to put another wound on the High Priest before getting grabbed by the zombie again, the Rabbi torches his zombie to death, and Agent Cameron manages to sever the winch rope rendering the pit useless ((much to my disappintment). The Doctor-Professor (!), meanwhile, is surrounded by zombies who are beginning to bite her despite her best attempts to break free. But while her physical efforts are in vain, her mental powers continue to wax, as she manages to avoid Mukunga’s attempt to jump into her body with Mental Exchange. (I was having a lot of fun with the High Priest’s extensive spell list, and was quite enjoying the emergent storyline of the Doctor-Professor’s (!) unexpected psychic powers)

Finally, Ricardo makes a daring running-back charge through the zombies to give High Priest Mukunga both barrels of his shotgun. The High Priest roars out a last prayer to “NYARLATHOTEP!” causing the party to sink to their knees at the psychic onslaught, but when they open their eyes, the zombies have collapsed like puppets with their strings cut….

With the Cult of the Bloody Tongue purged, the group loot to their hearts content: Sheik Horus gets his hands on some real magic regalia (the High Priest’s robe, claws, and scepter), Doctor-Professor Danger (!) gets her hands on the extraterrestrial Mask of Hayama and a mysterious grey metal headband, and Professor Thistleblossom gets his hands on the stolen copy of Africa’s Dark Sects. (Oh good, the insane academic now knows how to cast Raise Zombie…)

The party emerges from the basement to find that Bumpy Johnson’s men have pulled a Valentine’s Day-style massacre on the cultists who would otherwise have arrived in their rear. Bumpy reminds them that he doesn’t like people who are bad for his business and that he was never there, before disappearing into the darkness…In the end, Agent Cameron calls the cops to clean up the scene, and the decision is made to let the NYPD take credit for the raid.

Thus, in the the strange twilight of the morning solar eclipse, the group realize that they have begun the first step in avenging Jackson Elias and bringing the cultic conspiracy that he was investigating into the light.

Next stop…London! (where I will break these now overconfident fools like weak reeds…)

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  • The Nyarlathotep Presidency: putting the infra in infrastructure for boundless æons!

    • wjts

      The stars are yoooooge.

  • If they put any of that magical gear on, I’ll know your players have never been in a CoC campaign before.

  • Owlbear1

    We tried three times to get a Call of Cthulhu campaign going but our GM’s zeal for the Mythos invariably left us all insane by the end of the night.

    I swear WestEndGames used CoC as the basis for Paranoia. At the least the first addition, before “Send in the Clones” became the gist of the game.

  • Reading these accounts and remembering the first time I played MoN is the best thing I’ve read in months.

    “You’re a sixteen-year-old nihilist pretending to be a forty-year-old professor out to save the world by learning soul-destroying magic pretending to be a telephone repairman while trying really hard not to pretend to be Egon Spengler.”

    • ZakMcKrackenAndTheAlienMindbenders

      “Which reminds you to find your policy debate coach after lunch tomorrow to try to cajole her again into letting you run those Disad cards you wrote synthesizing Oswald Spengler and Toffler.”

  • Nepos

    When I played MoN, I was a professor with a squad of replaceable grad students. Whenever things got dicey (or the sanity got a little low), the Professor would send a grad student in his place. As a result, the character survived most of the adventurer (with acceptable losses among the grad students), until a really unfortunate fumble when throwing a stick of dynamite.

    Hints for players of MoN: 1) stare deeply into any weird paintings you find; and 2) be sure to sit on the Throne!

    • Well, that’s accurate to academia.

      • ΧΤΠΔ

        Something I’ve always wanted to ask you that’s admittedly OT: Does the basic conceit of Dark Reign look a lot better in retrospect (i.e., the “idiot plot” of the gov’t & ‘Murican people giving Norman Osborn free reign of SHIELD no longer detracts in any way from the event’s strengths)?

        • HAR HAR. I mean, Norman Osborn is more competent, but it’s still not great.

          • ΧΤΠΔ

            I find it otherwise decent, but before November 8th the conceit was by far my biggest problem with the series.

  • David Hunt

    So Steven, does it feel different running now that the new aeon has come?

  • Mayur

    What joyful escapism there is to be found in these tales of sanity-blasting Outer Gods!

    Man, at least Sir Aubrey Penhew seems like a classy guy.

  • Murc

    Ahhh, good times.

    One of the best roleplaying stories I know comes from a friend of mine, John Biles, who ran this module way, way back in the nineties.

    His groups confrontation with the Cult of the Bloody Tongue was rather… louder and messier than yours was. I don’t remember the precise details, but it ended with said party, a group of very well-heeled and well-dressed white folks, hauling the corpse of a prominent black businessman out of his burning shop in the dead of night. While covered in blood. In front, of course, of the usual crowd that gathers when something is set on fire.

    A mostly black crowd.

    The group tried to talk themselves out of it, and botched horribly. The GM ruled that they had basically said “you’ve just made the case that you should all be trusted to have done the right thing because you’re white folks who have the best interests of everyone at heart.”

    It was at this point the crowd turned into a mob.

    I’m hazy on what happened next precisely, but it involved running and a series of rolls to try and find help, official or otherwise… which also horribly botched, leading the GM to rule they’d run smack into the arms of one of only fifty black cops in the entire NYPD at the time, while pursued by a mob howling about how they’d just lynched a guy and burned down his shop.

    Yeeeaaaaaah.

    Your guys did… better.

    • Yikes…yeah, my group made a good call reaching out to the NYPD and Bumpy Johnson.

  • Brett

    So Jealous. I wish my friends had been into this growing up instead of just Warhammer 40K.

  • I just did chargen last night for a run of MoN at my Tuesday night meetup; we’ll be using Trail of Cthulhu for this run, and I did my usual “use a Fiasco playset to generate backstory among the PCs” maneuver which continues to strike gold. In the course of it we discovered that the railway brakeman and explorer had both played major league baseball in 1917 (“I remember you! Ya took dat double away from me back in ’17!”), the professor hit on the psychologist, but the psychologist and the explorer finally decided to tie the knot and take a quick expedition to Egypt. Aaaaand Louise “Jax” Jackson (pen name: Jackson Elias) dropped some hints about her next book: it will be about the Carlyle Expedition…

    Fun!

  • Stephen Reineccius

    My group is heading to the Ju-Ju House for their raid in our next session. They decided they needed to visit Erika Carlyle first. They stole the Mythos books from the library, which the body gaurd decided to read, promptly went insane, and lept through the window screaming and running to the car with books in hand. They are in for a treat tryign to take on the House next. Muahahahahahahaha

    • I have to say that, as problematic as High Priest Mukunga is, getting to play around with his repetoire of spells and his gang of zombies was both my most successful moment at scaring the hell out of my players (I can’t wait to ratchet up the paranoia and terror in London) and my most personal fun – all those opposed Pow checks were like playing roulette with my players’ lives/sanity!

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