- Ethan Carrington (jamesbarrett) — A wealthy but rather out-of-touch would-be wizard who nevertheless has some genuine psychic ability.
- Boris Bakalov (hantamouse) — Former college football player and part-time thug, employed as Ethan's bodyguard.
- Elizabeth Grove (laurie_robey) — Archetypal "plucky female reporter," has a fold-up camera in her purse and isn't afraid to use it.
- Phillipe Frye (sirfox) — Profession officially listed as "card sharp," began the game working more as a confidence trickster with his accomplice, "Countess Zolna."
- "Countess Ariadne Zolna" (NPC) — Real name as yet unknown, she puts on a convincing show of being a Hungarian countess gifted with psychic powers, fled from a recent coup in her homeland, in order to gain sympathy and favors from the idle rich.
Session 1: The Auction
I incorporated elements of "The Auction" from The Asylum and Other Tales, "The Rise of Xnaaki" from Issue 0 of The Unbound Book, and "The Reeling Midnight" from New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley. For various reasons of their own, each character was attending a private auction of "rare and unusual items" held by the Gregson-Parker Museum. Ethan Carrington was there because a friend of his had told him about the amazing psychic powers of "Countess Zolna" (and of course, Boris was there in attendance to Ethan). Elizabeth was there because she'd been assigned to track down rumors of "genuine European royalty in town" for "Bayview Ballyhoo," the Beacon-Examiner gossip page. Phillipe and Countess Zolna were there because a mysterious benefactor had offered them $3000 to purchase an item (a black statuette, go fig) on his behalf.
The pre-auction party and mingling provided a lot of nice roleplaying moments, with various characters attempting to chat up "the Countess," or taking great interest in the auction items, or even just taking great interest in the other auction patrons. Once the bidding actually started, the players had fun bidding against the NPCs or even occasionally each other. At the end, Ethan had purchased a lot of magical paraphernalia (wand, dagger, cassock), while Phillipe had purchased an African drum and fetish, as well as the black statuette he'd come for. The proceedings were touched with a hint of the gruesome, however, when the little yappy lap dog of one of the auctioneers, which had been chewing on itself as dogs occasionally do, chewed right through a major artery and began to spray its life's blood all over its owner and anyone in close proximity. Various people attempted first aid, but to no avail — the poor creature rapidly died in a bloody mess. The dog's owner and assistant left immediately, as well as another auctioneer who gave up her seat in order to drive the stricken woman home.
Once all was done, only the PCs and Countess Zolna lingered for the post-auction mingle, so Ethan invited them all out to dinner. Unfortunately, the never made it to the restaurant — as they parked the car, they were attacked by a ghoulish creature, which had apparently been clinging out of sight to the back of the car for at least part of the trip and seemed to be after the statuette. There was a brief-but-intense battle with the monster, which ended with the creature dissolving into a black smear on the pavement, and a lot of very discombobulated PCs. Giving up on the restaurant idea, the group headed straight for the train station, where Phillipe and the Countess were due to take a midnight train to Charlottesville to deliver the statuette to its owner.
To nobody's great surprise, the entire group ended up on the train. More chatting up of Countess Zolna was attempted, but between her natural tendency towards having a few too many and the horrors of the evening, she was in no fit state to be communicative. One surprise did come when Bates, the manservant of Phillipe and Ariadne's mysterious employer, slipped through the bar car, dropping a matchbook in front of Phillipe which contained the note: "Meet in the baggage car in 5 minutes. Trust no-one but DuPont [their employer] or myself."
Phillipe, under cover of wanting to put the crate containing the statuette into the baggage car, excused himself ... only to be followed by Elizabeth, whose reporter's instincts were all a-tingle. In the baggage car, Phillipe found Bates struggling with "a hick in a leather jacket," who shoved Bates out of the loading door at 60 mph, then pulled a gun on Phillipe — who plugged him right through the heart. Much to Phillipe's dismay, the hick turned out to be a Deputy Sherriff from Charlottesville. There was a bit of comic relief when Elizabeth started to take pictures, giving Phillipe even more of a panic attack than he was already having, but the end result was that the dead deputy was also shoved off the train and the two rejoined the party in somewhat of a dither.
The train finally pulled in to Charlottesville and the party was much surprised to see Bates, a bit beaten up and moving stiffly but apparently well enough to function, waiting for them at the station with a car. Phillipe and the Countess went off with Bates and attempted to bribe a cabbie into taking the rest of the party away, but of course the rest of the party would have none of it and bribed the cabbie even more to follow. It was probably fortunate they did so, because as Phillipe drove (Bates claimed to be feeling a bit too beat up to do it safely) he and Zolna suddenly and without explanation found themselves stricken blind. Phillipe brought the car to a quick stop, and Bates grabbed up the crate with the statuette and fled across country.
Boris, eager to finally have the chance to beat somebody up, jumped out of the taxi and gave chase, as did Elizabeth, who discarded her high heels, but was hampered by running across the field with only her stockings to protect her feet. Bates wheeled around and chanted something unintelligible, which caused Boris to be stricken blind as well, and Boris did a faceplant over a tree stump or something similar. Phillipe, who had recovered from his blindness, and Ethan caught up with the slow-moving Bates quickly, and as Boris recovered from his blindness and waded into the fray, a general scuffle began — Boris and Phillipe using blackjacks to attempt to knock Bates out, Bates frothing at the mouth and seeming less and less human all the time as he tried to throttle Boris, and Ethan and Elizabeth scooping up the crate and trying to get back to the cars with it as quickly as possible.
Bates was finally beaten down — only to have his outer appearance bubble, sizzle, and "melt away," revealing what appeared to be a long-dead, shriveled corpse. This was too much for Boris, who succumbed to temporary insanity and emptied every hip flask and smoked every cigarette he could find. The party speculated as to whether the thing was actually Bates, and if it was, how long Bates had actually been an animated corpse wearing an illusion of life, but could find no good answers. In the end, they paid off the cabbie (who had been far enough away from the melee to not see what had been going on), all piled in to the Bates-thing's car, and continued on to the DuPont estate, now quite eager to unload the statuette and be done with it.
Of course, it would not be that easy. The DuPont house, when they arrived, was dark and silent, the power lines having been cut with a machete (which must have been wielded by someone or something with amazing strength). In one of his flashes of genuine ESP, Ethan caught empathic vibrations of two separate entities inside the house, one confused, one in intense pain. Pulling out guns and flashlights, the party carefully entered the old dark house, thunder and rain adding the necessary touch of gloom. They found misshapen, greasy and wet footprints headed upstairs and followed them, at the top of the stairs finding that the footprints went one direction, but there was random thumping and bumping noises coming from the other direction. They following the bumping first, to a study, where Phillipe peeked in to the slightly-open door and saw another shriveled corpse thing bumping around walls and furniture more-or-less at random — the confusion, apparently.
Quietly closing the door ("Eep!") and heading the other way, they found Henry DuPont (the statuette's owner) dying in his office, along with two more of the corpse-things which had been blasted by some form of sorcery. They performed what first aid they could on DuPont, but that essentially allowed him to comfortably bleed to death in a coma, instead of dying before their eyes from blood loss. He did manage to stay conscious long enough to tell them to take the statue and some documents he had near him and get out of Charlottesville. He explained that for 200 years, his family had been guarding a particular stone, hidden inside the statuette, that was required for a ritual that would enable "the buzzing things" to open a gate and swarm across the Earth — which is why it had been so important to him to recover the statue.
What the "buzzing things" might be was not made clear, although the documents did have a rough sketch of a winged, vaguely-humanoid creature with the caption "The Buzzing Angels of Yoggoth." (sirfox, out of character, described the sketch as looking like the Mothman of West Virginia — which pleased me because that's exactly what I was going for.)
Collecting the statuette, the documents, and what appeared to be a spellbook from DuPont's desk, the party evaded the corpse-thing thumping around in other parts of the house, piled back into Bates' car, and fled for Madison at high speed, getting back to town just before dawn and catching some nightmare-filled sleep before they tried to figure out what to do next.
To be continued...
PS: There were two handouts for this adventure, a cover page from the Madison Beacon-Examiner, and the Auction Lot Listing, both of which can be found on my Uncanny Midnight Tales webpage.