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Masks of the Dreamer: Hellfire Auction (Part 3)

When I left you yesterday, the investigators had cut off someones hand and were now – just 3 days later – attending a fancy auction where many of the most powerful occult groups in London would be gathering. Security at this event was heavy and the players were not easily able to bring in weapons – rather deliberately. Keith, Damian, Maggie and Jenn attended, while Anastasia chose to do something else behind the scenes at the time (which I shall reveal much later down the track…).

Here the players had a few options for bidding on different things, but their main goal was to get the Pnakotic Flute. Also on offer – more or less as bait – was a copy of one of the necronomicons pages (supposedly) and a copy of the King in Yellow (a powerful mythos tome, which Randall, their ally in this auction, wanted). These items would be useful to the characters in some way, albeit the King in Yellow is one of those infamous “Brain melting” tomes in Cthulhu roleplaying, but they didn’t take the bait on either of them and try to win them in the auction.

This was a good decision, because doing so would have meant making potential enemies out of the other characters in different orders going for them. Plus Randall would have taken it deeply personally if the characters had tried to interfere with his auction for the book! At this time, one of the more powerful members in the room who leads the Resurrected Order of the Holy Knights Templar (providing security for the event as well) was mysteriously stabbed by an unknown assailant. This helped make the characters life much easier, because he was also going for the flute and Damian plus Maggie searched the grounds, finding that their main opponent for the flute, Lysdia Van’Anderson was getting some private communication financially and coordinating with others at the auction to rig it from outside. Naturally stopping this, combined with Randalls help and some other factors meant that the characters were unopposed in retrieving the flute.

Now the question was really interesting: What did they want to do with it? Research into the origins of it indicates it was a strange artifact, dated to well before human history (1.8 million years old in fact, albeit disputed) and had been involved in weird disappearances or murders. Most notably, those who have owned it had either completely gone missing or were found torn into bloody chunks with no obvious sign of entry or murder suspect available. Further poking indicated that the group associated with the name, the Pnakotic Brotherhood, believed that mankind was already doomed and that their only hope was to fling themselves forwards in time using techniques taught to them by the “ancient ones”.

None of this sounded positive and was handing such a powerful artifact over to a potentially hostile entity really a sound idea? At this point though, the spells required to call and then bind the creatures servant (the previous Haunter of the Dark, which appeared first in Rending Box) were probably too great. Here is actually where a more immediate consequence of the whole mess with the hand in the apartment came to fruition: The amount of stability that had been damaged or drained simply from the attempt had made it so the characters couldn’t easily bind the creature.

Binding a creature is rather like announcing you are up for a fight and are trying to subjugate it to human will through magic. No mythos entity appreciates this and immediately begins the process of tearing apart the caster limb from limb. The way I’ve designed such contests is that the caster (or casters) spend stability – the main caster takes the lead with others cooperating – on their roll versus. the creatures inertia roll. Whoever gets the higher total “damages” the others stability or inertia by the difference, with the losing party being whoever ends up dead (usually in the case of the investigators), insane or a drooling wreck (0 sanity or stability) or successful bind the creature by reducing its inertia pool to 0.

Haunters are difficult to bind and the overall Paranoia hanging around makes it even more difficult. Minding you, as the keeper I entirely expected the investigators to make a fight of it and they were seemingly going that way. Preparing UV lights, buying magnesium (makes a very bright burn) and so on. The amount of damage they had taken – Keith got caught in the explosion while rescuing Brian – combined with the major stability hits to over half the party during the drama in the apartment I think put the investigators off this. A direct confrontation was avoided and the Haunter called, with the flute being handed over without any of the expected fight I was anticipating.

With the acceptance of the Flute, the Haunter was gone and the threat to Jasmine now firmly ended once and for all. The only question was: How do I react to such a powerful artifact falling into mythos hands (or tentacles or… whatever) for future sessions?