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Flotsam and Jetsam - Chapter 3 play experience

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I am running this scenario twice, this is a report on my first run. I must say that the players liked this scenario a bit less than the previous ones. Maybe it was my incompetence at running it, but, overall, the criticism I collected was:

-perceived plot and motivation inconsistencies (more on that later);

-somewhat predictable solution from the beginning (doctor in the spa), with a lot of somewhat inconsequential legwork in between. I noticed this could be a problem when reading the scenario, and thus I didn’t distribute the handout with the list of names, which prominently refers to the Mud Lake Spa, but even then it came up too easily too fast (due to Anna’s link, and the fact that all the older women must mention it if asked about ever visiting Northport).

-I scheduled the scenario as a one-off, as intended, but the amount of available legwork (interviewing all the women), investigating the Brethren, etc, makes it difficult to fit it in a 4:30 hours session- now, I did a lot of editing on the “interviewing the women” part, allowing only for a collective interview with the girls, and an extensive interview with the oldest of the pregnant woman, while summarizing the rest of the (varied) results in trying to contact the others.

Now, going into deeper detail, I will point out some of the specific issues I encountered and how I propose to solve them.


First, I think there are issues with determining whether the women are truly pregnant, and establishing the date of impregnation.

There are no reliable pregnancy tests in the 1920s, and lack of menstruation is not proof of pregnancy, especially in older women. So they would all have to be in a late state of pregnancy to be fairly certain. It is suggested in the text that some of the women could be late in the pregnancy, but there are no dates.  On top of that, in my run, the investigators found it important to try to establish a chronology and this was hampered by a lack of ready information to guide the Keeper; this was pretty tough for me as I am not an obstetrician. The written scenario cannot be exhaustive, but some guidance here would help, especially a timeline with the impregnation date for each woman.

Since Anna worked at the spa, It is very likely she would have recognized the names of the women in the list as clients of the spa, and that she would have made the association for the investigators.

Rose is assumed by the factions to be a focal point for information about pregnant women. Maybe I don’t understand American bureaucracy of the 1920s very well, but why would the hall of records have information about these pregnancies for Rose to obtain? This would make more sense if the babies were already born, as their birth would probably be recorded. Maybe this is an artifact of a previous draft of the scenario?

And some other issues derived from this one: 

-Why would the Hybrids expect to figure out where the pregnant girls are by following somebody who works at the city hall? Even more importantly, if they have already been at the boarding house, they know where the girls are, or at least where Anna is, so why are they still following Rose when the scenario starts? 

-Same for the Brethren: how did they get to Rose? The only connection is through Anna, but if they know about Anna, why do they follow Rose and not Anna, whom is much closer to the girls?

Also, Rose’s motivations are problematic. She steals confidential records to sell them along with the identities of some desperate runaway girls to a sensationalist magazine. Moreover, she only came across this stuff because a friend of hers was trying to help those desperate girls. Sounds like a terrible person. But, on the other hand, her description in the scenario as written tends towards depicting her in a positive manner.

My proposal on how to solve most of the problems mentioned above is to remove Rose from the story. There is only Anna, and she is a medical doctor. She met the girls at the hospital in Northport where she worked, and decided to help them. She moved the girls to the boarding house in Traverse city in secret, and moved to Traverse city herself to be close to them (but she does not live with them, to avoid being followed by the Brethren to their hiding place). From the records/stories at the hospital where she now works, she started to realize there were all these other virgin births in Traverse city. And then she started being followed by the Brethren and by the Hybrids, who noticed that she suspiciously left Northport at the same time as the girls. She contacted ”Strange but True” because she thinks nobody else will believe her, she is being followed, and she needs help. Maybe she knew Cleaver before and knows that he is a good guy. On top of all this, she needs money to help resettle the girls. Moreover, she never worked at the Spa, and the health center in Northport has no link to the spa. This is necessary to make the spa connection to the events somewhat weaker. In my first run of the scenario, the players complained it was too obvious from the beginning that this would end up at the spa.

Editing out Rose also cuts some time in running the scenario, condensing two scenes into one and reducing the  number of NPCs, without losing any of its challenge/mystery.


-Probably it should be established that all the wealthy women are at a rather late stage of their pregnancies... otherwise, at the age of most of them, the pregnancy would be assumed to be something else. And/Or (some) of the babies could be already born... that would solve several problems.

Other stuff:

-Why were the girls so afraid to stay with the Brethren? To run away like they did and hide is only explainable if they were in grave danger. The scenario does not make it feel as such, as the pastor when confronted with one of the pregnancies only makes some judgmental remarks, and the two stalkers are real pushovers. Maybe you don’t want to portrait or even hint at violence from a religious group against women, but it is somehow inescapable if you want to make the scenario work. You need to at least make the threat of violence very real.

Also, this lack of threat on the brethren side makes them a very unconvincing red herring. The way Rose dismisses her stalkers as written in the scenario made the investigators quickly lose any interest in them. The Brethren need to be a lot creepier.

-The agenda of the Hybrids is unclear: they already found the girls by the time the scenario starts, so what are they up to now?

-I find the offer from Dr Grey of a gold brooch to each of the impregnated women a bit too conspicuous... and expensive.


Edited by Nyorlandhotep
Typos, clarification
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Second run

I made most of the changes I mentioned in my previous post:

-no Rose, just Anna, the doctor who wants to help the girls, worked at a health center in Northport, does not live with the girls and does not have any link to the Spa;

-Anna is afraid of both Brethren and Hybrids;

-I prepared before the game a detailed list of dates for pregnancies; the young girls 2.5-3 months, all at the same time; the older women, dates spread from 7 to 3 months (pregnancy isn’t visible before 10 weeks);

-I also added that the broaches are delivered by the Hybrids, not personally by doctor Grey (to further weaken the link to the spa).

Overall, my feeling is that the dynamics  improved with the changes. I think the players had a lot of fun, although that was in part due to their own antics.

A small detail with major consequences for the second run was that I told the descendent (from the previous scenario) that he was starting to show some signs of his Innsmouth ascendancy, especially an accentuated Innsmouth look. He used this persistently with the Hybrids to try to convince them he was a visitor “from your Innsmouth cousins”. This resulted in often getting a confused, vulnerable reaction from the Hybrids (inc. doctor Grey)

In this second run, the Brethren were still largely left alone by the investigators, although this time the investigators took their time to interrogate the young girls on the details of the Brethren rituals and faith - it would help if the scenario would define some of it: their farm, how many they are, a little map of their farm, and a list of rituals and beliefs. To make them an effective red herring you need to detail them a bit more. Experienced players recognize the lack of detail as indication of a red herring.

Both times the scenario ended up with the characters driving from the spa, trying to evade the Hybrids after a confrontation with Dr. Grey.

In the first run, Mindy the thief managed to get into the private quarters of Grey and ran away with the tablet.

In the second run, the investigators tried to convince Grey to explain them his hydrotherapy machines. Grey convinced them to spend a night at the spa, offering a hut for then to stay. He then drugged two of them with drinks (the others didn’t drink anything out of suspicion). His intention was then to take out  the other two with spells during the night, but they actually managed to kill him. They then run to the car.

The first run ended with the players defeating the Hybrids in a shootout after the Hybrids rammed the investigators’ car out of the road trying to retrieve the stolen tablete.

The second run ended when a chase was cut short when one of the two cars the Hybrids brought  to the chase crashed after the driver failed a Drive roll, while the other hybrid car also crashed due to the driver’s death - caused by an extreme success on a triple-penalty revolver shot (I know - what are the odds) by one of the investigators.

The second run had a better rhythm. Maybe because the investigators did weirder stuff - for instances, they outright walked to the kiosk, kidnapped and interrogated the hybrid - but also because I knew the scenario better and my little changes did solve some of the small inconsistencies I noticed in the first run. 

In any case, this second run was very successful, and I am sure that the players had a great time. Thanks, Chaosium people!

Edited by Nyorlandhotep
Typos, clarification
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My game went... well, interesting. I used some of the suggestions above and trimmed the scenario down a bit  - in the end, they killed Dr. Grey by ambushing him, but not before he cast the drowning spell on my hybrid investigator, after previously appealing to him to help the colony survive. The hybrid investigator didn't survive, but used his Luck stash (I allowed them to use their Pulp characters for this campaign) to survive and embrace his hybrid heritage a bit more, allowing him to up some skills and yet... more trouble on the horizon. In addition, my one female investigator is now pregnant, thanks to the hybrid investigator becoming infected and then the intaint spreading to the poor woman when she tried to render medical aid... so now we're dealing with that traumatic event in my investigator's life!

Looking foward to the last chapter in the campaign and seeing how this affects the team yet again...

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I agree that the scenario as written has major problems. I just don't think a handful of unintended pregnancies would seem that unusual, especially since they wouldn't know for sure they were pregnant yet, as you pointed out.

I changed it from pregnant women to men and women both who were ill with some undiagnosed parasite. Like the alien xenomorph that just uses humans as hosts, except that it changes you into a deep one. That way, both male & female investigators were at risk, and it avoided all the questions of real-world pregnancy. I made it a fast-working thing that either killed you or changed you in a matter of days or weeks. I changed a couple of the victims to be male, and removed the home for unwed mothers from the scenario. It was all the sanitarium, which I changed to a "Wellness Spa." The spa and town were trying to cover it up so as not to hurt the tourist trade. Dr. Gray was doing all this without the deep ones' knowledge. I also removed the jewelry since it made no sense. The deep one hybrid gang were dispatched by Deep One HQ to find out what was going on; I treated them as a rival group of investigators. We ended up with one (male) investigator infested at the end of the scenario, so we'll see what, um, develops. ...  Dr. Gray was taken back for "interrogation" by the hybrids, who also set the spa on fire. My players never looked into the Lake Brethren at all.

Edited by David Howard
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  • 6 months later...

I'm currently running Insanitarium for my players (one experienced, three newbies whose first dips into CoC is this mini-campaign) and the one-shot seems to fall flat compared to its predecessors. I inserted Dead Light immediately after Inheritance to give players the option to use the coffer to provide abortions to the pregnant women if they so desire. I've left a summary of my thoughts at the bottom of the post.

As mentioned earlier, there's a long grind when it comes to interviewing all the pregnant women and close to no information about how far along in their pregnancies they are. They've also made the mistake of asking Evan for directions to the older women's residencies. Unfortunately, they continue to split the party or make rash decisions and have blundered multiple interviewing attempts. 

My players are thankfully on the less historically-knowledgable side and aren't aware that pregnancy tests in the 20's were unreliable at best. They have, however, immediately cottoned on to suspecting Doctor Gray. He's a predictable culprit and I'm hoping that I can use the coterie to further scare them or at least distract from him. 

I wish I read this thread earlier and included some men in the pregnancies (who would die after delivering a full-term hybrid child), merged Rose and Anna into one character (plus weakened the link to Mud Lake), made the Brethren a stronger source of horror, and further obfuscated the gold brooches from Dr Gray by making the coterie deliver them.

I'm thinking of including some of the Nolannes after the party botched Inheritance and lost both the hybrid investigator and the needle to Innsmouth.



  1. Interesting inclusion of the hybrid investigator (assuming they're still in play) though not as well done as Inheritance
  2. Some evocative language in the actual descriptions.



  1. Predictable resolution and faulty premise weaken the storyline a lot
  2. Insanitarium doesn't provide much new insight towards Deep Ones that wasn't already covered in The Star Brothers or Inheritance
  3. The layout of the one-shot is on the messier side. Information for certain characters are scattered throughout the entire document and both Victoria and Floyd are mentioned only a handful of times without much in the way of plot hooks despite being integral to the coterie. There's also at least one instance of copy-pasted information on the Brethren being undemanding neighbours. An irrelevant Elder Sign is pasted into the corner of one page (for what reason?)
  4. The scenario tends to drag on with fewer than desirable horror elements.
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  • 8 months later...

Just wrapped up this one with my group. It took a marathon 9 sessions for us--we keep our sessions to 2.5-3 hours, and my group is always on the longer side with scenarios, but nine sessions is even long for us. Given we play every other week with a few cancellations in there, that means we've been playing this one since late November!

Unfortunately, I lost my hybrid investigator to a "Blackwater Creek" interlude and debilitating madness. But, because he'd decided not to take the needle, we narrated an epilogue where he continued his life in Arkham, but kept waking up in the middle of the night on the streets of Innsmouth. Until one night he woke up there, felt the call of the sea, and just... went for a swim.

I made a few changes to the scenario based on feedback in these forums. I made Rose Perry a nurse in Traverse City who went to nursing school with Anna Samuels. Anna worked at a clinic in Northport (no connection to Mud Lake Sanitarium) and brought the girls to Traverse City to help them, and is staying with her old classmate Rose while she helps the girls and picks up sub nursing shifts at the clinic. She took the girls to St. Ursula's, but she and Anna have been followed around since then (she's been in town maybe a week), so she's been nervous to go back to St. Ursula's. None of the Northport girls have been able to receive medical care due to Anna's fears, so the Coterie is still trying to figure out where they are.

I made Rose something of an unscrupulous friend who sold this story to Elijah Cleaver. Evelyn Hide and Marjorie Donald are patients Rose has seen, and she was considering selling the story of their geriatric pregnancies to Strange but True! all by itself. Once her friend Anna showed up with a bunch of "virgin pregnancies," Rose went through the clinic's records to assemble a full list of strange pregnancies and then almost immediately called Elijah (which is why it's been only a week or so that they've been in town by the time the investigators arrive).
Play Experience:
When the investigators met with Rose, it came out that Anna didn't know she'd sold the story. She told them Anna was staying with her and they could interview her nonetheless, just not to let them know Rose had turned them onto the story. During the conversation, they noticed the not-so-subtle rubber-necking of James Carver and Nathaniel Gilbraithe. Rose laughed them off, but when the investigators read her initial nervousness and asked her about it, she disclosed that some other people had been following her and Anna around, too.

When they got up to leave, they saw James and Nathaniel flee, and quickly split up, with two investigators racing off in pursuit, and two going to meet with Anna.
The two who met with Anna learned some basic information, while the two who followed James and Nathaniel enjoyed a Car Chase before eavesdropping on them at the Bayside Auto Camp. They pieced together that the Lake Brethren were a local religious community, and at this point considered them a strong lead.
The two who spoke with Anna went on to interview Evelyn Hide, who gave some basic information about Mud Lake Spa and flirted with the male investigator.

All four regrouped at the hotel (non-alcoholic) bar and caught up. The group was spinning its wheels some chatting, so I put Victoria Maybury on the end of the bar, nonchalantly listening in. When they confronted her, she flirted with them some, trying to figure out what story they were working on. They got a suspicious vibe from her and suspected she was after the pregnant girls from Northport, so when she left the bar, one of them followed her. She immediately went and checked in with Evan Evers.
As the day is turning to evening, the group decided to speak with Rose Perry again. Two went into the Traverse City Clinic while two staked out Evan Evers outside. At the clinic, they learned Rose was helping to deliver a baby for Elizabeth Madison. One snuck around and was able to speak with Rose, then got a good look at the baby, which of course had Deep One features (I even gave him flippers for feet). Then Evan caused a distraction outside while Victoria Maybury slipped inside, and the investigator inside eavesdropped to hear her explain she represented the Friends of the Orphans, which adopted children like Ms. Madison's with debilitating physical deformities. Ms. Madison agreed to give up the child for adoption, and Victoria left with him in tow.

One investigator pursued Victoria while another two followed Rose Perry home--and saw another figure follow, before noticing them and breaking off--and the fourth remained in the clinic speaking to Ms. Madison. The one who followed Victoria saw her joined by Evan as the two proceeded with the baby down to the lakeshore, where a waiting fishing boat took them out and away under cover of darkness.

The next day, the group drove up to Northport and plowed through most of their remaining rumors via a visit to the Leelanau Diner, then extended conversation with Leonard De Vries, and then library research via a key procured by De Vries (for a price, of course). They'd begun to suspect the Lake Brethren were a red herring, and were surprised they couldn't find a connection between them and the Mud Lake Spa (my timeline did suggest both came to Northport around the same general timeframe--perhaps the Spa is intended to be newer than that?). They got a big kick out of interacting with De Vries, who was exceedingly transparent about his desire for money in exchange for information, and then exceedingly willing to supply what he could when that money was offered.

When the group bedded up for the night at a couple of bed & breakfasts in town, I decided one of them was run by Victoria Maybury as a way to reintroduce the coterie. The group left and had dinner at the Leelanau Diner, then two of them sneaked off to explore the Lake Brethren's farmstead. Mostly they overheard after-dinner prayers and Bible reading, then saw the young men and women file into separate barns/barracks for light's out. After a bit more snooping of the grounds to find only farm-related equipment, they decided more firmly that the Lake Brethren were likely a red herring. Upon returning to their lodging, the two at Victoria's place called up to her but received no response. They went upstairs and found she wasn't home, and so searched her bedroom and bathroom. The bedroom was fairly typical, though I had them come across (1) a couple of Deep One-style necklaces, (2) an earring carefully placed on a blouse in her dresser to detect if her things had been gone through, and (3) a medicine cabinet in the bathroom full of some fairly potent makeup.

One investigator awoke up early the next day and attended the Lake Brethren's 7 a.m. Saturday morning service. He found it mostly run-of-the-mill fire and brimstone, but did take note of Pastor Graves's reference to re-baptisms in Deepshine Cover. Chatting after, Pastor Graves told him they'd be holding a re-baptism ceremony the next day after Sunday service and that he would be welcome to join. Then the group made their way up to Mud Lake Spa and scoped things out. At the Hydrotherapy building, while Dr. Grey was in with a patient, one investigator slipped into his residence (Luck roll found it unlatched) and another into his research laboratory, while the other two stood guard. The one in his apartment found the makeup but failed the POW roll and missed the painting, leaving him inexplicably nauseous. The other found his journals and ceramic jar, but on a pushed roll she broke the jar and spilled the residue all over her hands. It turned into rash but she was relieved to learn on a Hard CON roll, the rash dissipated. (Heh heh heh.) She made off with one of the journals and read it while two of the others went to the mechanotherapy building and found a workroom of Dr. Yetta's with half-assembled mechanical devices and some blueprints.

Around noon, one investigator had a consultation with Dr. Grey. Things were fairly straightforward until the end, when she asked about fertility issues--he said he had an experimental fertility treatment he could try, but he would need some supplies that he wouldn't be able to procure until early the following week. While this happened, another investigator re-entered Dr. Grey's lab and stole the remaining journals. A different investigator went to Dr. Yetta and also said she had fertility issues; Dr. Yetta gave her a chiropractic examination and worked on some misaligned joints, but said she didn't see anything she could correct that would help with fertility.

The group poured over the journals and learned that Dr. Grey felt the secrets he had learned from his new friends, coupled with what he had learned of the latest scientific advancements, could prove useful. There was then an opaque scientific discussion about the difference between saltwater and freshwater, followed by notes that tracked scientific progress without documenting what was being done--noting improved success over time culminating in "not perfect, but very usable." The final journal included a list of about a dozen women, including all the high society women of Traverse City the group was aware of, plus some that weren't local and some names entered quite a bit longer ago. There were no references to the Lake Brethren young women.

One of the investigators then sought an appointment with Dr. Shelby for fertility issues. He prescribed a bottled drink of some kind that he said would do the trick with a 70% success rate, but if it didn't solve the problem, she should come back to the Spa in 3 months and they could try a different treatment.

They stole one orb and dissected it on the floor of the gazebo, then swam out to grab another. On the investigator's swim back, he was attacked by two fully submerged Deep Ones, ultimately reducing him to 3 HP before he could escape. After patching up their damaged investigator, the group staked out Dr. Grey to see how he'd behave for the evening. Not long after wrapping up his appointments for the day, he stormed out of the hydrotherapy building to the main hall and found an office with a phone. Two investigators eavesdropped to hear him complaining about his broken ceramic jar, and agree to meet someone at 11 p.m. Dr. Grey then proceeded to the kitchen, where he procured a glass pitcher before heading back to his residence. The stakeout continued until 11, when Dr. Grey left his residence with the glass pitcher in tow and met up with Floyd Parker. The two proceeded to a car with Evan Evers behind the wheel, who took them down to the Deepshine Cove. My investigators split up, two following and two breaking into the residence.

This time, one succeeded at her POW role and and located the painting. She failed her SAN checks while the other investigator gazed at it; with Grey out doing the ritual with the tablet, I had the webbed claw extend open-faced as if asking for something. After the SAN damage was done, the two slashed the painting with a knife, tore it off the wall, and upon a successful Luck roll that put a fireplace in Dr. Grey's living room, started a fire and chucked the painting in. I had it spark a bit when it first ignited.

Meanwhile at the lake, the other two investigators watched Dr. Grey swim out and conduct the ritual while Floyd and Evan stood on the shore, keeping watch. The ritual built to its conclusion, and as Grey scooped up the seedpods, a few spilled into the lake. My investigators decided they'd had enough and attempted to jump Floyd and Evan. They were able to kill both Floyd, Evan, and a Deep One who emerged, while Dr. Grey fled in their car back to the Spa. He found his apartment broken into (though the investigators hid), then stalked off and captured Virginia Freeman, who was at the Spa. Dr. Grey stole the spa shuttle, but was forced off the road in a Car chase before the Investigators apprehended him. They took him back to the Spa, Virginia called the police, and then they interrogated him and got most of the story before the police arrived.
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