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21 March 2016 @ 12:57 pm
[CoC: HotOE] Sweet dreams  
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman

I didn't write about the last session because much of it was ~~magical Dreamlands adventures~~. On their first night on the Orient Express, the investigators fell asleep and awoke in a quaint village filled with cats. The cats were all going in one direction, and following them revealed a rail platform labeled Ulthar Station, at which a "train" made up of cars on the back of horrific tentacled things pulled up and everyone got on board. There, the group was met by Henri, the conductor from the 1890s period, who had died in a fire trying to save some passengers and, like Kuranes of Celephais, lived on in the Dreamlands. He had forged the Dreamlands Express out of his hopes and made it a refuge for travelers on the real Orient Express. In addition, those willing to travel all the way to the end of the line could cast one of their secret fears or negative personality aspects into the Gulf of Nodens, where it would vanish. Henri suggested that each traveler work on a totem that would represent what they wished to cast away and then left them to the comforts of the train. The Men's salon, the Ladies' lounge, the baths, and the dinner, at which much moon wine was drunk. And then, the investigators awoke on the train, and the next day they arrived in Lausanne.

Lausanne had a strange feeling of unease hanging over the city, but it didn't prevent the investigators from eating in a cafe until the businesses opened up a bit and then checking into a hotel before heading out to find Edgar Wellington, the man who wrote to the Loriens about the Sedefkar Simulacrum, and met his brother William, who either had some very offputting mannerisms or was a Deep One hybrid. The investigators beat around the bush for a while--mutantur has commented before on our tendency toward extreme timidity--but eventually let drop that the Sedefkar Simulacrum was real, they had a piece of it, and they were looking for the Sedefkar Scroll which Wellington was in possession of. Wellington said there was another buyer and that they could all meet up at the Seven Thirty Club, an informal discussion club, and around then the Duc des Esseintes arrived. Wellington begged off, saying he had things to accomplish, and the Duc showed the investigators around town for a few hours until he also left. He was polite and charming, but the group got the sense that he was putting on a facade and that his real self, whatever that is, remained hidden.

At the Seven Thirty Club, an associate of Wellington and the Duc, Maximillian, ordered a lot of expensive wine and assaulted the investigators with obviously fabricated tales of his deeds until around ten, the investigators grew worried about the other parties not showing up and went to Wellington's taxidermy shop. On arriving they found that the front door was slightly ajar. Demir went in first, with Gianni and Rosaline following closely behind, and the three of them searched the lower floor for a moment before Demir headed upstairs and almost immediately found William's body next to a bloody knife! He failed his SAN roll, and his cries brought the others upstairs, where they also found Edgar dead of a morphine overdose on the bed. Strangely, he had needle marks in both arms...

While looking around, the professor and the countess found Wellington's Diary and a strange green bottle labeled "Dream Lausanne" while Rosaline found a sealed scroll, but, with a closer examination, she determined that it was a forgery. The professor pointed out the second-to-last entry and Rosaline suggested that this may be something like the Dreamlands, and the investigators determined that they must go to this Dream Lausanne and find the real scroll. After escaping out the back and informing the desk attendant at their hotel that the police might be interested in some goings on at the Wellington's shop, they reassembled at Rosaline and Gianni's room and the two of them, as well as Demir, took the potion while the professor and the countess watched over them.

The three explored the dream hotel and then the dream city, which was strange and uncouth. A brief search of Wellington's shop did not turn up anything, and after a fruitless search (and a hint from mutantur about splitting the party), they realized that they would do better if everyone was together. Demir began choking Gianni, and as his body in the waking world began thrashing around, the professor shook him awake. Then they all took the vile-tasting Dream Lausanne drug, went to the dream hotel, and met up in the Wellington's shop. They noticed outside that there were people moving in a single direction in the streets, and so the investigators followed them. On the way, they found a woman serving a cannibalistic stew, a giant chasm emitting an icy, howling wind, and other strange sites, but they eventually reached the cathedral square where they found a bound Edgar Wellington and the Duc des Esseintes, here calling himself the Jigsaw Prince and demanding a trial be held. The crowd roared their approval, tore one of their own limb from limb, and offered the skin to the statue on stage, after which it began to breathe. The investigators would speak for Wellington, who had no idea why the Prince had turned on him, and the Prince would make three arguments, the group three rebuttals, and the statue would decide.

The arguments:
  1. Wellington struggled and cries out when the guards came to fetch him, an obvious sign of guilt. A true subject of the Prince would have come gladly without struggle.
  2. Wellington is a foreigner and thus polluting the purity of Lausanne and is inherently guilty.
  3. Wellington hid the scroll that was the Prince's by right, and this duplicity is evidence of his guilt.

The rebuttals:
  1. Wellington had no idea why he was summoned and was taken from his home without warning. Even a completely innocent man would be unsettled in such circumstances.
  2. Purity of whom? The Helvetii? The Romans? The Franks? Furthermore, Wellington was unmarried and was planning to leave, and he had been drawn to Lausanne by its beauty and grace, which surely did it, and its Prince, much credit.
  3. Wellington intended to sell the scroll to the Prince, but determined too late that it was a forgery. Passing off a forgery would obviously be a grave insult, which is why he hid the scroll so that no insult would be drawn by those who didn't know the circumstances.

Here's where the dice failed me. The professor made the rebuttals since he has Persuasion 76%, but I failed two of the rolls. The first with a 96, which I spent Luck to make, and the third with 100. Fortunately, we used CoC 7e's Push mechanic on the second roll, using Rosaline's expertise to point out the problems with the forgery (much to Wellington's distress, which we ignored), and on the second roll I got a 48. The statue judged in our favor, Wellington was released, and we left. And then the Prince called for the foreigners' heads, so we ran.

In the shop, Wellington retrieved the scroll, having hidden it in a rotting bear carcass, and then the group ran for the hotel. As they passed over the threshold, Wellington began suddenly to fade away, until he disappeared with a strangled gasp and a cry of, "I don't understand! You just...wake up..." Maybe we should have told him...

In the waking world, it was morning, and the investigators hastily packed their bags, told the desk attendant that they had urgent business in another city and would not be able to speak to the police and it would be very convenient for all concerned if they had simply left before he was able to deliver his message, then waited near the station and boarded the Orient Express at 6:45. Their trip was interrupted only once, when they sat down to lunch and the Duc walked in and sat at their table! He ordered them to turn over the scroll under threat of destruction, and while Gianni and the professor refused, Demir relented--and turned over the forgery. The Duc made a comment about being nearly out of range, took a braided, looped rope out of his case, and threw it over his chair and himself...and vanished.

After lunch, the investigators opened the real scroll:

Well, one of the scrolls. This was the scroll of the head, and came with a translation from a metaphysics journal. The professor and Demir would need some time to really read and understand all of its contents, though the professor quickly skimmed the materials first (gaining Cthulhu Mythos 1% from the knowledge therein!) and they resolved to study further while on the route to Milan and their Night at the Opera.

A minimum of faffing around this time other than not going into Dream Lausanne as a group. I had to work around my OOC knowledge this time to prevent us from hanging around the Wellington's shop or otherwise affecting things, but it turned out well in the end. I especially liked the "disagreement" in front of the Duc, which probably helped sell the scroll as the real one.

It does show why I hate flat distributions, though. 76% seems really high, and in CoC it is really high for a skill, but that's still 1 out of 4 rolls that fail. 7e's inclusion of Luck and the Push mechanic goes a long way toward solving the problems of percentile systems for me, but it's pretty frustrating when your talky character that you've built around talking screws up the talking. At least I got to do some grandstanding when presenting the arguments!

In the post game, we also determined that Demir would teach the others self-defense (I failed the Improvement roll. Apparently the professor is already good at stabbing people) and that the professor and Demir would engage in language exchange, Turkish for French. It's definitely in the professor's interest, but as someone who (badly) speaks a foreign language, I hadn't asked because I figured a few days on a train isn't enough to learn much of anything even for a professor of linguistics. But mutantur okayed it, so hopefully by the time we get to Constantinople the professor will be able to understand some of what's going on.

If he lives that long...
Current Mood: weirdweird
Current Music: The Twilight Histories podcast