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Flotsam and Jetsam - Chapter 2 Play experience

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 First, I apologise for my bad English. I am not a native speaker, as it should be pretty obvious I guess. 

I ran the scenario twice, both times with 4 players. For the first run, I had  a mix of experienced Call of Cthulhu players and newbies,. For the second run, I had a group of experienced role-players, but with relatively scarce experience of Call of Cthulhu.


*First run*

The investigators arrived to Innsmouth the evening before the reading of the will. They drove through the empty dark streets with decaying facades and boarded windows, heard the screams and wails coming out of derelict houses and arrived to the Gilman hotel, where they got a rather unfriendly reception. 

They set about finding a place to dine, ending up in a gloomy tavern nearby, where the other patrons eyed them suspiciously. I decided that the bartender would be somewhat less unfriendly than the others, and they immediately jumped on the chance to ask some questions. Since they were concerned with the longevity of the Innsmouth folk, they came up with the idea of visiting graveyards to check on birth and death dates. Thus they asked the bartender about graveyards. He told him that most of Innsmouth dead were not buried but dropped into the sea, according to a local religious costume. This lead to questions about religion to which the bartender told them that the local church was The Esoteric Order at Dagon, and warned them  not to ask too many questions about it. “Folk around here are touchy about religious matters, you know?” They also asked the bartender about the bulgy eyes, and got the answer that most people in Innsmouth suffered from a hereditary condition that made them light sensitive, and that is why most commerce is open in the evening and not during the day. The investigators visited a couple of stores before going back to the hotel, seeing many shambling figures with bulgy eyes on the streets. In the shops, they were treated with suspicion. They went to bed conveniently freaked out by the place.

They woke up early in the morning with the idea of investigating the Civil Records and the Temple of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. They found mostly empty streets and closed shops. The City Hall was closed and so was the Temple. As they tried to break into the temple, they were found by a group of thugs (hybrids) that walked in their direction shouting threats. One of the investigators lost his temper (Archie) and shot one of the toughs in the leg. At this point I thought that the whole story would be derailed, but they managed to run away, got to the car and drove away from Innsmouth. They had the good sense to stay away from Innsmouth until close to the hour of the reading of the will. They arrived to the reading 20 minutes before it started, and Professor Challenger (the designated descendent) got himself in a chat with Edward, who played as well as he could his suave man of the world demeanor. After the reading, things proceeded with one of the investigators being interrogated (and freaked out) by Wilma, while professor Challenger talked with Charlie Grace. Upon leaving the house, they quickly refused the offers of either the alchemist or Edward, and drove to the bank, choosing the way  through the docks. When the ambush happened, a shot from August’s shotgun, and a couple of failed Drive rolls led to the car spinning out of control and eventually stopping next to the ditch from where August’s goons jumped to attack the car. One of the investigators shot August in the face, making him fall unconscious. Another investigator jumped out of the car, dodging the goons, and ran to grab August’s shotgun. But as he was running, Chastity emerged from de sea. He panicked and was captured by her while trying to run away. Another one was beaten unconscious by the goons while trying to get out of the car (by the wrong side).

In the meanwhile, the remaining two investigators saw the goons advance with clubs to break all windows. One of the remaining two investigators lit some dynamite (yes, they insisted on bringing dynamite with them), and both jumped out of the car. The explosion took care of the goons, and the two investigators ran into the dark alleys of Innsmouth. They had decided to simply steal a car and leave, but at this point the alchemist caught up with them, driving a car, and insisted that they get the deposit box from the bank before leaving. The investigators accepted this, as Professor Challenger was extremely interested in seeing what was in that box. 

They arrived to the bank and descended to the vault with the alchemist tagging along.

In the meanwhile, the two captured investigators recovered their consciousness in the caves. They managed to stealth their way and follow Chastity.

At the bank, in the vault, Professor Challenger found the needle. The Alchemist explained him how the needle worked (well, omitting some important details). At this point, a disfigured August entered the bank surrounded by goons, promising to kill everybody if not given the deposit box. In response to this, the Professor simply broke the needle, immediately causing the alchemist to die in a whirlwind of flames. At that point, one of the walls of the basement collapsed, revealing Chastity, followed by the other two investigators. Together, the investigators dodged Chastity and ran into the labyrinthine caves, finding their way to an exit (a ladder to a manhole). At this point, a couple of Deep Ones found them. Archie went into indefinite insanity at the sight of the deep ones, and attacked them, being quickly killed, but providing time for the other investigators to go up the ladder, back to the streets of Innsmouth, where they finally stole a car and ran away, promising never to come back.

Professor Challenger (who has been studying Otis since the previous scenario) is now studying himself and Otis to try to figure out a cure for their condition.


*Second run*

Main differences with respect to the first run:

-upon arrival to Innsmouth, the investigators went to take a look at the house, but didn’t break in; they visited the same tavern for dinner;

-in the morning, the investigators did try to investigate the Temple of the Hermetic Order of Dagon, but simply backed away when threatened by toughs.

-at the reading of the will, Melissa (the descendent) asked Grace to go to the library, instead of the Conservatory, for their private talk. This led to quite the mess, because another investigator, Mindy, was at that time searching the library for photos and valuables; August, overhearing the interchange between Melissa and Grace, run to the library to quickly hide to listen to their conversation; Mindy hid when hearing August running to the library, and a hidden Mindy thus saw August hiding behind a couch to eavesdrop on Melisse and Grace; Melissa and Grace entered the library, and before they could talk, Mindy jumped from her hiding place to attack August with a blackjack. August dodged the attack and ran away. The conversation between Melissa and Grace took place and she got the key.

-upon leaving the house, the alchemist proposed to join them and they accepted; he drove with them to the Bank

-on the way to the bank, a couple of good Drive rolls got them through the ambush;

-and then everything went haywire. Melissa decided to go alone to the vault. Thus, when August arrived, the others couldn’t join her, as the vault doors were closed behind her. Two were immediately overwhelmed by August’s toughs. Mindy holed up in the office of the bank manager with a gun pointed at the door. Meanwhile, Melissa let the alchemist install the needle in her hand. When he was done, he disappeared. Seconds later, Chastity appeared, Melissa lost her senses, and was taken into the caves by Chastity, never to be seen again.

As for the other investigators: August was about to kill them, but they were spared by Edward’s intervention, as he thought that killing them would attract more attention than letting them leave, after making very clear to them that if they ever told about what transpired they would get a nasty visitation.


Overall, the scenario was quite fun. Not exactly purist...  But I think all of the players really liked it.

-Allowing the investigators to explore Innsmouth a bit before the reading of the will allowed for ta strong contrast between a first moody, ominous half, and a second half of almost pulp-fiction-esque action. 

-The amount of preparation that the characters did before travelling to Innsmouth dictated strongly their capacity to deal with August’s goons and with Chastity. Furthermore, in the second run, the decision of Melissa to go into the vault alone strongly conditioned the options for the other three investigators at the end.

Edited by Nyorlandhotep
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By the way, I forgot to mention that I felt there were minor inconsistencies and potencial issues in this scenario.

A minor one is that it is quite unlikely that August (and even Wilma) would have the time to organize the ambush if the descendent does not stay at the house after the discussion with Grace to talk with either the Alchemist or Edward. Of course, the Keeper can always decide that there was no ambush if the characters move fast enough. This was pointed out to me by the players in the second run.

A more problematic one is that dumping in the cave investigators captured during the ambush is either implausible or unusable as a device. I will try to explain what I mean. The great thing about the caves scene is is that it allows players that were unlucky during the ambush to stay in play, following through the tunnels and finding the rest of the team. For this to happen, they must be free and unguarded (or incompetently imprisoned and/or incompetently unguarded). If not, the characters are just hostages to be used during a final attempt by Chastity and August to get the safe deposit box, but then the purpose of keeping the investigators in play fails, because they become passive props. I opted for leaving them next to unguarded, such that they could follow Chastity and participate in the grand finale. None of the players contested that, but I still find it kind of inconsistent.

Another issue is that, in the bank, the characters are likely to be overwhelmed by August’s goons, and the bank has no other way to ran away than through the basement, if it is opened by Chastity.

Allowing for a way out of the bank that the investigators could find for themselves would be nice. It would give them agency, instead of the appearance of Chastity being an ex-machina way out disguised as a threat.


Edited by Nyorlandhotep
Clarification, typos
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I havent played the scenario but I read it. In regards to not having any other way to escape is because they have the option to bargain their exit.  The module even tells you that the bad guys know there is something in the box but they dont know what it is or what does it do.  So, I think, that is something that you could try the next time, have the bad guys talk more extensively about how they will let them go away if they give the boxed item. I'm pretty sure that most investigators would not agree to give the thing out but, that is the other "exit" option you are given by the module.  Another thing that can be done if they are NOT captured inside of the vault is to have a secondary "emergency exit" somewhere in the back of the office room, I'm not aware how common those were in the 20s.



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13 hours ago, GmApu said:

I havent played the scenario but I read it. In regards to not having any other way to escape is because they have the option to bargain their exit.  The module even tells you that the bad guys know there is something in the box but they dont know what it is or what does it do.  So, I think, that is something that you could try the next time, have the bad guys talk more extensively about how they will let them go away if they give the boxed item. I'm pretty sure that most investigators would not agree to give the thing out but, that is the other "exit" option you are given by the module.  Another thing that can be done if they are NOT captured inside of the vault is to have a secondary "emergency exit" somewhere in the back of the office room, I'm not aware how common those were in the 20s.



In the first run, August dir try to bargain (and this after being shot in the face), but the result was the descendent immediately breaking the needle in two.

And when you decide not to bargain then a Deus Ex-machina new option is suddenly created by the arrival of Chastity.

In the second run, because the descendent went down to the vaults alone, the other characters had nothing to bargain with, and, indeed, no emergency exit (of course, I can make up one myself, but it is not in the scenario). You could argue that they got themselves into that mess, though, so in all, maybe this is not a big issue.

I think the problems regarding the usage of the caves are a bit more difficult to solve. You want the captured investigators to be “in the game”, which means that they should have the opportunity to both run away and get to the bank, in some plausible manner.

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Another thing to consider is that not all of them need to “win” the scenario if things get to hard you just either kill them using a satisfactory sequence or have them “disappear” without a trace. Sometimes investigators Get themselves into situations that they can not escape and that is part of the premise of the game. We just need to make those deaths and disappearances satisfactory. 

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My post may make it sound like I want to give them a chance to “win” no matter what, but I think that my issue is that I tried to avoid a two-track scenario: some investigators running around trying to escape the caves while the others try to survive the bank with no link between the two groups

Writing this, I realize it is pretty viable, but I did not consider keeping it like that to the end as an option, maybe because it is a bit more work to pace it correctly, maybe because practically everything about the caves needs to be improvised by the Keeper. But you are essentially right: there is no requirement for the investigators to always have good options, or for the story to proceed in a linear faction. Also, it is true that the players loved the scenario as is.

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  • 3 weeks later...

My problem with the scenario is that I cannot see how Emily Nolanne could even have carried the Deep One taint. It's pretty clear that she was around 120 years old, so born around 1805. Now, the Deep Ones aren't contacted by Obed Marsh until at the earliest 20 years later, and they don't start breeding with Innsmouthers until the 1840s at the earliest. So how on earth could the deceased woman have been of their lineage? 

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  • 5 months later...

My group always takes their time with things, and stayed true to form with this scenario. We also conducted all sessions via videoconference, so kept them a little shorter than we otherwise would have (2-2.5 hours at a time).

In the first session, I had Elijah Cleaver contact the investigators on a Tuesday, with the will reading occurring the following Thursday at 1 p.m. (I know the obituary handout suggests the will reading would occur on a Friday at 4 p.m., but my worry was that this would create too much of an impetus for the investigators to race to the bank, which would likely close at 5 p.m. until the following Monday. I wanted to make sure they have time to interact with Billy Folde and the Nolanne family, search the house post-will reading if they chose, and conduct interviews per Elijah's request, so I made this timeline adjustment.)

One of the investigators suggested heading to Innsmouth a day early to get the lay of the land. They first went to Emilie Nolanne's house and found it locked. They tried next door and I decided Wilma Martin lived there, but she was curt with them and the lead investigator failed a Credit Rating roll, and so they never picked up on her identity. (They recognized her the next day at the will reading, though.) After renting a room at the Gilman House Hotel, the party went to the bustling New Town Square. They struck out on a few Credit Rating rolls with locals browsing the stands, but had more luck with a food vendor and learned some of the basic information about Emilie and about the Order itself. (I decided Credit Rating rolls seemed more appropriate in Innsmouth than the usual social skill rolls.) The vendor also gave them directions to Edward Nolanne's law offices.

When the party passed the abandoned Innsmouth Courier offices, they decided to split up. Two spoke with Edward, who was gracious but confused by their (fabricated) references to a distant relative in Boston, but he did disclose Emilie had a falling out with the family near the end, and so he didn't know details of her assault mentioned in the obituary. At the Courier offices, the investigators discovered an article from 1865 referencing a philanthropic donation of Emilie's, and another in 1893 referencing her naming as an Elder of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Both articles included photographs, which were nearly identical despite each featuring the fashion of the time.

Picking up where they left off, in the second session the group visited the Esoteric Order of Dagon's temple in town, but I posted a sentry out front, and they were turned away without pushing too hard. Two of them turned in for the night while the other two attempted to break into Emilie Nolanne's home. They both succeeded on Stealth rolls on their way there, and then one passed a Luck roll to find an unlocked window. They then investigated the full house and found most the things laid out in the scenario, including forcing the door of the locked bedroom and going through the personal affects found therein. The next morning, all four investigators arrived at the will reading and explored the library until Edward Nolanne found them and cordially invited them to the dining room. Two of the investigators (including the Nolanne descendant) struck up a conversation with Billy Folde, while the other two sat apart so as not to be perceived as one group. After the will reading, the Nolanne descendant investigator and one other followed Charlie Grace to the conservatory; another followed Billy Folde out into the garden, while the fourth remained in the room to watch the family interact. She picked up on Nolanne family member names and saw Wilma talk quietly to August, who then abruptly left.

The two in the conservatory detected Edward listening at the door and shooed him away, and even though they noticed Billy in the garden, decided not to confront him. The descendant investigator took the news in stride and despite Mr. Grace's encouragement to leave town immediately, decided to get to the bottom of things. The two returned to the dining room where they were first intercepted by Wilma (who discovered she was the investigator's grandmother), then Edward, and finally Billy. The investigator let Billy call ahead to the bank and took Billy up on the offer of a ride, and had the other investigators follow in another car. He also handed the security deposit box key over to another investigator, but failed his Sleight of Hand roll and Billy saw the exchange. However, one investigator decided to hang back so as not to be associated with the group, and succeeded in a Sleight of Hand roll such that he filched the key from his fellow investigator (because he didn't trust Billy). This final investigator decided to make his way to the bank on foot, via the Elliot Street route.

In our next session, the three investigators who rode with Billy ran into August, Chastity, and company. The investigators were able to kill Chastity, incapacitate the lackeys, and send August fleeing. They then discovered their missing safety deposit box key and deduced that their missing party member had it, so went to the hotel to see if they could find him. They encountered him there and after much back-and-forth and broken off conversations, determined Billy was the alchemist but also told Billy they were going to wait until the next day to enter the bank. He told them to be very careful and avoid the Nolannes, but left at their request. They then went directly to the bank, where two investigators went in while two stood watch. The two inside didn't open the clenched fist, so Billy appeared and prodded them to do so. They said they weren't interested in negotiating with him in a locked bank vault where he had suddenly appeared, and rang the bell--at which point I jumped to outside, where the three remaining Nolanne siblings arrived. When those standing watch attempted to engage them in conversation, Wilma broke off while the other two proceeded inside, then down to the vault. Wilma tried to stop the two investigators from entering, resulting in her casting a Shriveling spell on one that left him unconscious, while the other knifed her in the back, then killed her.

In our final session, the two investigators in the bank vault refused to negotiate with the Nolanne brothers, ultimately trading gunshots until the two Nolannes ducked behind the wall. The investigators quickly negotiated with Billy Folde, who said he could help them all escape the vault if they returned his needle. They did so and he teleported the three of them to his car parked in the alley in back. They quickly rounded up their two fellow investigators and Billy drove them out of town, but not before one investigator decided he wanted to go back for his valuables (despite Billy's insistence that their hotel stay would be known to the Nolannes--I had made a big deal throughout about the Gilman House Hotel being the only place to stay in town). So while the other three escaped and Billy explained the possibilities for using the needle, one lone investigator went back for his stuff. He was able to trick two goons smashing his car into stepping away, but they saw him attempting to flee in it and shot after him, causing him to crash his car and then take enough damage to fall unconscious. He awoke in the caves at night and was able to make his way back into town, and then flee Innsmouth on foot.

Meanwhile, the descendant investigator decided not to use the needle, but asked for Billy's card in case he changed his mind in the future. I had the card say, "Billy Folde - Freelance" with his number.

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