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Masks of the Dreamer: The Cult Strikes Back

Following on with the Soap Opera theme of this investigation, I decided on the start of this session to get the main plot ball moving and introduce a new complication: The bride going missing! Naturally this created a lot of consternation at the wedding and the family immediately fetched Damian plus the other investigators. Unfortunately at this session, the players of Damian and Eva had to do something else “IRL” and so there was a distinct derailing in the set up somewhat because of that. Thankfully I had already established most of the narrative in this investigation I needed to in the last session and some facebook questions got things underway later.

Basically Damian and Eva as characters are around during this investigation, but sadly don’t have a lot of agency as their players were away. This is an unfortunate problem when you write an investigation or plot around a character when they aren’t able to come. The way I dealt with this was to shift much of the material I had done to be resolved at the wedding into a future investigation. So instead of binning any roleplaying moments and ideas for these characters, I simply insert them later into the narrative. It’s essential not to waste things you spend time doing as much as possible! Don’t get disheartened or frustrated, just find another way to use it in future and remember to keep flexibility in mind when writing any kind of tabletop game like this!

In any event, the remaining investigators went to see what was going on to discover an argument in the hallway between members of the two families. Fears of rumors of infidelity or even a kidnapping being orchestrated were going around, especially due to the suspicious note found in the room. When the investigators started to look around, they noticed some oddities about the scene. For one thing, while the window was broken and presumably where she was taken, why was the glass on the inside? Most importantly, why was the glass on the outside clearly handled and placed in the garden?

Even weirder was the strange note with the riddle on it, instructing whoever found it to go looking at various odd coordinates for where “Jill” was buried. A note like this made little sense, especially when combined with the information that there was no obvious sign of any struggle in the room at all – the tossed furniture/bedding was deliberate and not the result of a violent confrontation (due to lack of tell tale evidence like marks, blood splatter etc). Everything seemed like a very deliberate set up, possibly in order to get someone to follow the trail of clues to whatever purpose was behind the bride going missing.

Naturally the paranoid players had a long list of suspects for who could have done this, with someone from the Order of Dagon being right at the top. However, VII and various other cults also hated their guts, not to mention that basically a long list of independent sorcerers or individuals had it in for them. One of the players wanted to know where Joseph and Aroha were, but they hadn’t left the dining table where the other investigators were so probably weren’t a part of it. Following the mysterious riddle, they concluded that “Jill” – presumably a reference to the missing bride Joleen – had been taken to the docks.

While the family kept the guests calm and made sure nobody involved too many authorities (as just about everyone in both main families are known criminals or have links to them in some way), the investigators marched up the coast to find the dock where she was supposedly. Upon approaching, they soon caught sight of a huge bearded man in a heavy torn leather coat carrying a lantern and a shovel. The groundskeeper in reality wasn’t a threat, but I was curious to see what the investigators would do when presented with an ambiguous threat. Would they just shoot first and ask questions later? It turns out this time that the “Ask questions first” group won out and poor Willie* was not going to be perforated by bullets today.

They wandered up and had a chat to him, where he confirmed what they suspected: He’d buried something recently on request from someone else (who he refused to name). After growing frustrated with the lack of information other than the location of whatever it was he buried, Anastasia decided to promptly steal his shovel as he walked away. This was met with even further amusement when Maggie then nicked the groundskeepers old fashioned lantern! Honestly, there wasn’t anything particularly special about either item – though the shovel was actually useful – but it was rather amusing, if kind at least, when Maggie then decided to give him back the lantern.

In any event the characters identified where the potential body was buried and then promptly went to dig it up. Inside was something burnt, smelling badly of pork and wet. Once examined though it became clear this wasn’t any human body, but someone had actually stuffed into the bag a burned pig and there was a strange note inside the opened rib cage. Instructions to find the “Old Catholic Smuggling Bay”, which a local history check revealed would be hidden down in a cave on the cost. After successfully navigating the narrow goat track to get down, the players were confronted with a single ominous looming cave with a faint light source coming from within.

Inside was a woman, neatly dressed in practical walking gear and a black leather jacket. The recognized her right away as the bride Joleen and she was obviously expecting them. Turns out the strange scene and note were indeed a deliberate ploy to get the investigators to follow her. This meant she knew something about them and knew they would be capable of finding her, or at least faster than someone who wasn’t one of them could have anyway.

Here is where I had an interesting plan for this session, where from one of my other games I invited one of the other players there to join in for Trail. “Guest” NPCs played by other players is something I have been doing in Trail for a while, often with the regular players if their characters have another reason to be gone (like Anastasia’s player controlling Juscinta in Dead Wake). I typically give the player a roleplaying guide, some interesting information about that character and what I want them to get across/do, but otherwise leave the actual roleplaying and decision making to them. This means I can easily bring a person in for a session or three, without increasing the work substantially for anyone.

Joleen was very confident with the investigators and patiently explained that her plan indeed was to get away for a while, but most importantly see if the investigators would find her quickly enough to have a private chat. She definitely anticipated that the others would come eventually – they aren’t dumb after all – but she was pleased to get some 1on1 time away from everyone else. Here Joleen played by my guest player had one key goal in the narrative: Offer the players her services in retrieving the U-Boat wreck with the essential information about R’leyh, while bolstering her own position against both of the Orders of Dagon.

That’s right, I wrote both, because now was the perfect time to reveal that there isn’t a single cohesive Order of Dagon – but two groups. Joleen needed the information on where to find R’leyh as a bargaining chip against both of the warring groups. Naturally this left the investigators somewhat stunned and entirely confused, because it was the first they had encountered that there were two Orders. So Joleen gave them a primer, which boils down to an Old Order who believed in spreading deep one blood to anyone (hence the warped hybrid mutants of Innsmouth and other places) and the Esoteric Order led by Dentharin and his “Pure blood” Dagon purists who think only specific families should share Deep One blood.

The Interregnum was the main field of blood letting in England for the Old Order of Dagon, as those in the Esoteric Order began to drive them out of their coastal towns and strongholds under the guise of an “Inquisition”. As a result the Old Order of Dagon hides itself very well and only has a handful of breeding “colonies” worldwide (especially after what Delta Green did to them after WW2 if you’re familiar with the backstory there). Joleen is closer in ties to the Old Order of Dagon, but didn’t elaborate as to precisely how or why she needed special leverage against both groups.

During this conversation one of the investigators let slip about the whole thing with the bridesmaid and Romero’s potential child with her. Giving Joleen this information greatly pleased her, because it gave her a great deal of influence and power over her husband (as the ceremony and families are both very religious on this issue). This also improved her attitudes and helpfulness towards the investigators for when she can assemble the resources to lift a certain submarine….

After this they started to head back to the old castle where the wedding was being held, with most of the guests having moved outside to prevent anyone becoming the wiser as to Joleen’s disappearance. Unfortunately as they were getting near, something strange was starting to happen and suddenly all of the lights went out. A massive electromagnetic shockwave took out everything electronic they were carrying and it became very clear what was happening: Someone just did something extremely powerful with magic.

And everyone immediately had a good idea who.

Rushing back, they found a scene of chaos, bloodied bodies and turned over tents. Most of the people they knew seemed to have survived the ordeal, but a few guests had not and the front doors appeared to have been barred. Additionally, weird slimy trails were noted up the side of the house and seemed to disappear near one of the chimney’s on the roof! Getting inside, they heard screaming from upstairs where they caught a glimpse of a tentacled slimy thing heading around a corner, with Aroha following right behind. After a brief, but violent gun and magic fight, Aroha was dispatched with several fortunate gunshots – but the creature remained at large.

Anastasia moved on ahead and shot the thing with her taser, the electricity momentarily causing it to withdraw out of sight. Fortunately they were quick enough to stop it, because Anastasia’s sister was safely in the room along with Dernis. Here Dernis sealed the room and left, with Anastasia telling her sister to stay put as further screams emerged from downstairs. Dernis joined the party and they went into the (now open) men’s bathroom where Anastasia ran into the body of … Yakov! Or at least for a while she thought it was Yakov as the other’s left to give her some time Dernis began to giggle slightly. With Keith and Anastasia immediately figuring out what had happened in the bathroom and why Yakov hadn’t come back out (but this is still somewhat of a mystery to the other PCs…).

Either way, the arrival of Joseph and his tentacled servitor was the final act of the game with another short and violent combat erupting. This time with Damian, Keith and Anastasia taking some damage as the sorcerer and beast attacked. Thankfully the party had enough magic and general firepower to take down Joseph in time, causing the creature to decide that once it had been wounded not to bother sticking around. Interestingly, they didn’t manage to actually kill Joseph and he was carted off to a secure mental facility once Authorities finally did arrive.

However, him still being alive leaves some very interesting story potential in future and the way the investigators interacted with Joleen will be of vital importance as well.

*My players at the time started calling him groundskeeper Willie, so I just decided to keep with the trend for this post.