Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Haunting of Pamphelgoat Manor

Yesterday we started on the second chapter of the Directorate of Esoteric Affairs campaign.  The Limehouse Chinatown chapter was all urban, foggy, and wet.  The Haunting of Pamphelgoat Manor, as a contrast, takes place on the Scottish moors in the middle of a December snowstorm.

First off - I have no idea what a Pamphelgoat is.  While perusing Scotland in Google Earth, I stumbled across Pamphelgoat Wood and fell in love with the name.  Research into the word came up with nothing, but my first instinct was something to do with evil, Satanic rituals.  Of course.  So I went with it and the adventure just kind of wrote itself.

(Now watch as some blog poster lets me know that Pamphelgoat is some Gaelic name for the Christ-child's talking animal friend at the Nativity, completely messing up the adventure.)

Anyway, the players, and their characters, are nervously researching Baphomet now.   They don't seem thrilled with the idea of meeting old Baphy. :)

On a mechanics note, I am still quite happy with the performance of GURPS Fourth Edition.  Yeah, staring the big book in the eye can be intimidating, but once you nail down a genre, a tech level, and some campaign boundaries, it's easy.  The players are only four session into GURPS, and they are working away on their characters like old pros.  Heck, the biggest problem for the players seems to be figuring out how to do research in 1935 without the Internet. :)

I'm using the Bear Wood Mansion in Berkshire as a model for Pamphelgoat Manor.  The thing is huge.  Take a gander at the floor plans down there.  It's a college nowadays.

- Ark

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Limehouse Notes

(This is a little exercise in game planning archaeology.  Below in black are the notes, verbatim, that I wrote out for myself before the three session adventure started.  Things that I clarified, added, or changed during the adventure are in red.  See the previous post, A Limehouse Tale: GURPS Horror Noir in London's Chinatown, for an intro.)

A Limehouse Tale

Dramatis Personae

Beornsson, Captain Jan – the captain and owner of the steamer Loki, a tramp steamer that frequents the Baltic, North Sea and English Channel area. (Who I ended up describing as a Swedish Captain Okita with a sing-songy voice.)
Carlise, Constable Clarence – a foot constable in the Metropolitan Police who works in the Limehouse district. (This poor man was forced to be the PCs lackey and was shanghaied into cleaning up all of the PCs' messes inside Limehouse.  The PCs rewarded Constable Carlise by getting him reassigned to the Directorate of Esoteric Affairs so he could continue to be their lackey.  It was almost impossible to NOT call him Constable Clitoris, but somehow I avoided it.)
Feng, Doctor Cornelius – Father of Maximumus and owner of the Golden Lotus Health Clinic.  (This unassuming, kind man was the leader of the local tong, and single-handedly stopped the gang war that erupted while the PCs were busy fighting the undead.)
Feng, Maximus – Dr. Cornelius Feng’s son and assistant at the Golden Lotus Health Clinic. (Maximus was the boyfriend of the murder victim, Mei Ling, and later assassinated her uncle Henry Ling after she was found murderer, initiating the gang war.)
Jewel, Billy – Foreman of the Limehouse London Underground construction crews.  He’s staying at the Rasmussen Hotel. (A wee, Irish, red haired Leprechaun of a man.  I got SERIOUSLY called out on his name.)
Ling, Henry – Owner of the Green Plummage Tiger Nightclub and head of the Broken Dog Triad in Limehouse.  He’s a fat man who likes cigars. (The PCs never got around talking to him before he was murdered.  Some of them did hang out at his nightclub and saw him, though)
Ling, Jiang – Mother of Mei Ling.  She sells trinkets at the Ling Butcher shop. (The true villain of the story, I eventually came up with the nickname 'The Dragonlady' for her to obscure who she actually was from the PCs for a s long as possible.)
Ling, Mei – A sixteen year old Chinese girl living in the Limehouse district of London.  She had an affinity for the French and Christianity.  (Poor girl - murdered by a Chinese Zombie controlled by her mother before the story even started.)
Ling, Zane – Father of Mei Ling and owner of the Ling Butcher Shop.  ('THE BUTCHER OF LIMEHOUSE' was, or course, innocent of any crime.)
Rasmussen, Ingrid – wife of the owner of the Rasmussen Hotel, a run-down inn near the edge of Limehouse Chinatown.  (This prime and proper old lady turned out to be a complete klepto, stealing anything from her customers that she could get her hands on, and even going so far as to steal evidence off a dead teenage girl.)
Salisbury, Margaret – Commander Watson’s secretary and chief contact for the player characters. (The group communicated to her only by TARDIS, er, I mean, big blue police box.)
Wang, Rufus – A Chinese monk who runs the Ashen Lion temple. (Rufus turned out to be the only Chinatown native that the PCs trusted, which was good, because he was a wealth of information on spooky things.)
Watson, Commander Quentin – the player character’s handler and an administrator in the Directorate of Esoteric Affairs.  (Completely absent from the game - just a name, really.)

Introduction – Gun Lane Traffic
The characters get an assignment to investigate a murder in Limehouse from Commander Quentin Watson.  Traffic holds up the characters, who have to get out of the paddy wagon and walk a block, seeing the sights.  It is a drizzly day, full of fog and smog, with stalled traffic due to noisy construction of a new London Underground line.  Nearby they see a blue police box, and beyond that, the Rasmussen Hotel.  Constable Clarence Carlisle of the Metropolitan Police is there to meet them, believing they are with the Special Branch. (Again, the poor constable had no idea what he was getting into.)

First Stop - Rasmussen Hotel on Limehouse Corner
·        The front of the hotel is blocked off due to construction, so the group must enter from the alley.  Constable Clarence Carlisle shows them to the room and explains what he knows.
·        Inside room 114, Mei Ling, a 16 year old Chinese girl is in bed, dead, with a horrified look on her face and a green, decaying hand clenched around her throat.  Rigor Mortis has set in, and the top part of her body is pale.
·        The constable indicates Ingrid Rasmussen, the wife of the owner, as a witness.  Ingrid heard strange noises around 5:00 am that morning in the hall, but did not see anything when she investigated.  Mei Lei was not discovered until it was time to check out, at 11:30 am. (This is a partial lie.  Ingrid investigated around 5:15 am, found Mei dead, and stole her jade necklace.)
·        None of the rooms around 114 were rented, as few are staying at the Hotel Rasmussen while all of the construction is happening.  (In fact, only the upper floors are really occupied, and they are occupied by longer term tenants, which are all Underground workers.)
·        There is mushy, cooked rice around the doorway and on the floor near the window.  A lot of it has been walked on and tracked around.  There is a paperboard oyster pail of cold white rice on the nightstand.  On the Box is written ‘The Happy Eel.’    The Constable knows that it’s a restaurant on Ropemaker’s Field Street.  (Mei asked Maximus for rice to protect her against her mother's evil magic, and he picked up some stemaed rice, not knowing it needed to be uncooked.)
·        On the nightstand is a Gideon’s Bible.  Two tickets mark a page, and a passage, Zechariah 14:12, is underlined: ‘This will be the plague the Lord strikes all people with who warred against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.’  (This freaked out the players more then anything else.)
·        The two tickets are for passage on the Swedish steamer Loki, departing that evening.  The Loki is at the Lime-Kiln Dock, off of Lime House Corner Street and South of the Fore Street. (Rufus bought the tickets for the kids.)
·        An ashtray on a table has two different cigarettes – the French Gauloises with lipstick stains, and the luxury cigarette Dunhill without.  Near the ashtray is a pack of matches with an endorsement for the Green Plumage Tiger Nightclub on Fore Street.  (Mei was a Francophile, despite her mother's objections and desires for her to be a proper Chinese lady.)
·        Three suitcases are under the bed, filled with clothes, cosmetics, French books, and two packs of Gauloises, money to the value of about 100 dollars, and a passport for Mei Ling, listing her address on Fore Street.  The books (by Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Gaston Leroux) are stamped with the King George Book Shop inside each cover.  There is a duffle bag with men’s clothes as well.  (These were pulled out by Ingrid and she had started to go through them, but she didn't get very far as other guests were beginning to wake up.)

Follow-Up Locations
1.     The Happy Eel – a Chinese restaurant of Ropermaker’s Street.  Lady at the Happy Eels says that a man came in an ordered the rice.  She knows him as Maximus Feng, Dr. Cornelius Feng’s son.  He bought the rice around 9:00pm.  (The party never made it here.)
2.     The Loki – a Swedish steamer located at the Lime-Kiln dock.  The Captain, Jan Beornsson, sold the tickets 3 days ago to a man known as Rufus Wang and has his address listed in the records.  While not spelled out on the tickets, they are for passage to the port of Calais, France.  (The party also met Erik Eriksson here, the first mate and keeper of THE BOOK OF RECORDS.)
3.     The Green Plumage Tiger Nightclub – a Chinese nightclub servicing sailors down of Fore Street.  Mei Ling works as a waitress there, and Maximus Feng used to visit her there.  The place is owned by Mei’s uncle Henry Ling, head of the Broken Dog Triad in Limehouse.  He knows that the two had been seeing each other, and he ran Maximus off from her with triad violence.  Mei did not show up for work last night, and Henry is upset with her.  (Only a few party members showed up here, and no real investigation happened.  They did meet a flirtatious opium addict here named Eddie Chan.  One of the women in the party lifted his wallet, and used his ID to latter frame Eddie for numerous crimes.)
4.     King George Book Shop – This is a dusty old used book store on Ropemaker’s Street.  The proprietress, and French woman, has known Mei Ling since she was a little girl and helped her procure many books in French.  (The party never came here.)
5.     Mei Ling’s Address – Mei lives with her parents at the Ling Butcher Shop in a small alley off of Fore Street.  Her father is Zane Ling, and her mother is Jiang Ling.  Zane does not know that Mei is dead , but knows from his brother that she had been seeing Maximus.  (The party never actually went inside of this place, being distracted by the crumbling old opera house next door.)

Tertiary Locations
1.     Golden Lotus Health Clinic –  A nice, clean health clinic along Ropemaker’s Street.  It’s run by Dr. Cornelius Feng and his son Maximus.  Dr. Cornelius went to medical school in Edinborough, but is also well versed in traditional Chinese medicine.  He has made an agreement with Billy Jewel to collect any Chinese coffins discovered during the excavations, lock them up in a safe place, and let the Doctor and Mr Rufus Wang know so he can arrange their transport back to China.  He knows that Maximus had been seeing Mei Ling, but forbade the relationship as the Ling family was mixed up in organized crime and black magic.  Maximus acts as assistant and secretary at the clinic.  Maximus is there and he has the remnants of a black eye, around a week old.  (Actually, the players arrived here somewhat late, so they never got to see Maximus - who had left for the Loki after work.  They did talk to Cornelius and two party members were treated by him for wounds they received in an alley by Triad Blue Lanterns, but Cornelius didn't like the group very much and they did little to warm him up to them.)
2.     Ashen Lion Temple – a small temple on Ropemaker’s Street run by Mr. Rufus Wang.  Mr. Wang mixes Buddhism, traditional Tao philosophies, and Christianity in his teachings.  He bought the tickets to Calais for Maximus and Mei, as he thinks that Mei’s parents are dangerous to her and supports and elopement.  He is a good friend of Dr. Cornelius, but feels that helping the kids is the right thing to do.  He also has been working with Dr. Cornelius and Billy Jewel to prepare and transport Chinese corpses back to the homeland so that they can rest in peace.  He has coffins in the back of the temple.  He knows some magic and can create paper scroll spells to stop Jiangshi from moving.  (The players really liked Rufus and were respectful of the temple, and in turn he was very kind and eventually spilled the beans about everything.  He allowed them access to his library and made a scroll for them - but only one - since it took two hours to produce.)
3.     London Underground Construction Site – The main entrance to this site is near the Rasmussen Hotel.  Billy Jewel, the Foreman, is staying at the hotel, but has some underground work areas as well.  He shows the PCs to a room where he has been storing dead Chinese bodies, but the bodies are gone and the locks have been broken. (The players made it here with Billy and found a Qin dynasty burial hat in the foot of water that had been accumulating in the tunnels.)
4.     Ancient Catacombs – these old tunnels are underneath the Ling Butcher Shop, and can be gotten through the trap door underneath Jiang Ling’s Trinket stand.  The tunnels lead all the way to Hotel Rasmussen and the construction site.  Jiang Ling stole several old Chinese corpses from the construction site to create her Jiangshi, in order to kill her daughter who she knew was about to embarrass the family.  (The Ancient Catacombs never went into play - mainly because I decided early on to avoid a D&D dungeon crawl feel, and instead have the grande finale elsewhere - namely the Limehouse Opera House.)
5.     The Limehouse Opera House – I decided early on that I wanted a bigger ending, so whipped up the old, decaying, boarded-up Limehouse Opera House right next to the Ling Butcher Shop.  Jiang Ling and some of her Triad Lackeys had set up shop there, keeping their five Jiangshi in a freshly dug out pit - dug out in the old orchestra pit.  This set up enabled them to release the Jiangshi through the underground tunnels to kill people that upset the Dragonlady - namely her daughter.  The final showdown happened here, with the PCs killing of the Jiangshi and the Triad members, and capturing the Dragonlady, Jiang Ling.  I named her Jiang as it sounded just like part of the zombie name, Jiangshi.  The boy actually noticed and commented on that - which made me proud.  

In the end, the party didn't piece together the real motive, which was that the Dragonlady hated her brother-in-law, so she killed her own daughter, convinced Maximus that Henry had done it, and then convinced Maximus to kill Henry in revenge.  The story did eventually come out in post-game interrogations of Jiang and Maximus.  But they got very close and solved the crime and destroyed the evil by burning down the Opera House.  Yay fire!

Dangerous Things

Blue Lanterns
"Blue Lanterns" are uninitiated members of a Triad, equivalent to Mafia associates and, as such; do not have a designation in the Triad numbering system.  They are also known as “Blue Paper Lanterns.”
30 points.
ST 10; DX 10; IQ 10; HT 10.
Damage 1d-2/1d; BL 20 lbs.; HP 10; Will 10; Per 10; FP 10.
Basic Speed 5.00; Basic Move 5; Dodge 8.
Cultural Familiarity: Chinatown (Native) [0].
Language: Mandarin (Native) [0]; English (Accented) [4].
Wealth: Poor [-15].
Advantages: No Other.
Disadvantages: No Other.
Area Knowledge (London)-12 [3]; Brawling-12 [4]; Carousing-10 [1];
Filch-10 [2]; Holdout-10 [2]; Intimidation-12 [8];
Melee Weapon (Knife)-12 [4]; Melee Weapon (Shortsword)-12 [8]; Running-10 [2]; Stealth-10 [2]; Streetwise-10 [2];
Thrown Weapon (Knife)-10 [1]; Urban Survival-10 [2].
DR 0.
Brawling 9 (6 vs weapons other than thrusting);
Melee Weapon (Large Knife) 8;
Melee Weapon (Baton) 9.
Brawling (Punch) 12/1d-2 cr;
Brawling (Kick) 10/1d-1 cr;
Melee Weapon (Large Knife Swinging) 12/1d-1 cut;
Melee Weapon (Baton Swinging) 12/1d cr;
Melee Weapon (Baton Swinging) 12/1d cr;
Thrown Weapon (Dagger) 10/1d-3 imp.

A "49er" is a soldier or rank-and-file member in a Triad.  These soldiers have sworn an oath to protect the triad and its members with their lives.
50 points.
ST 10; DX 11 [20]; IQ 10; HT 10.
Damage 1d-2/1d; BL 20 lbs.; HP 10; Will 10; Per 10; FP 10.
Basic Speed 5.25; Basic Move 5; Dodge 8.
Cultural Familiarity: Chinatown (Native) [0].
Language: Mandarin (Native) [0]; English (Accented) [4].
Wealth: Struggling [-10].
Advantages: No Other.
Code of Honor (36 Oaths) [-5]; Social Stigma (Criminal Record) [-5];
Quirks [-5].
Area Knowledge (London)-12 [3]; Carousing-10 [1];
Driving/TL6 (Automobile)-10 [1]; Fast-Talk-10 [1]; Filch-10 [1];
Holdout-10 [2]; Intimidation-12 [8]; Karate-13 [8];
Melee Weapon (Knife)-12 [2]; Melee Weapon (Shortsword)-13 [8]; Observation-10 [2]; Running-10 [2]; Shadowing-10 [2]; Stealth-11 [2]; Streetwise-11 [4]; Thrown Weapon.(Knife)-12 [2]; Urban Survival-10 [2].
DR 1 (cloth/leather, except head).
Karate 9;
Melee Weapon (Large Knife) 8;
Melee Weapon (Baton) 9.
Karate Punch 13/1d cr;
Karate Kick 11/1d+1 cr;
Melee Weapon (Large Knife Swinging) 12/1d-1 cut;
Melee Weapon (Baton Swinging) 13/1d cr;

Thrown Weapon (Dagger) 12/1d-3 imp.

Red Pole
"426" refers to an enforcer or military commander in a Triad, also known as a "Red Pole.”  They are charged with overseeing defensive and offensive operations that Blue lanterns and 49ers carry out.
88 points.
ST 11 [10]; DX 11 [20]; IQ 11 [20]; HT 11 [10].
Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 24 lbs.; HP 14 [6]; Will 11; Per 12 [5]; FP 11.
Basic Speed 5.50; Basic Move 5; Dodge 8.
Cultural Familiarity: Chinatown (Native) [0].
Language: Mandarin (Native) [0]; English (Accented) [4].
Wealth: Average [0].
Advantages: No Other.
Code of Honor (36 Oaths) [-5]; Social Stigma (Criminal Record) [-5];
Enemy (Police, Watcher, Fairly Often) [-5]; Other Disadvantages [-29].
Area Knowledge (London)-12 [1]; Carousing-11 [1];
Driving/TL6 (Automobile)-11 [2]; Fast-Draw (Pistol)-11 [1]; Fast-Talk-12 [4]; Guns/TL6 (Pistol)-13 [4]; Interrogation-12 [4]; Intimidation-13 [8];
Karate-13 [12]; Leadership-11 [2]; Melee Weapon (Knife)-12 [2];
Melee Weapon (Shortsword)-13 [8]; Running-14 [2]; Stealth-11 [2]; Streetwise-12 [4].
DR 1 (cloth/leather, except head).
Karate 9;
Melee Weapon (Large Knife) 8;
Melee Weapon (Baton) 9.
Karate Punch 13/1d+1 cr;
Karate Kick 11/1d+2 cr;
Guns/TL6 (Revolver, .38) 13/2d-1 pi Rcl 2;
Melee Weapon (Large Knife Swinging) 12/1d cut;
Melee Weapon (Baton Swinging) 13/1d+1 cr.

Limehouse Jiangshi
A hopping vampire or zombie of Chinese folklore.
99 points.
ST 20 [100]; DX 10 [0]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 10 [0].
Damage 2d-1/3d+2; BL 80 lbs.; HP 14 [8]; Will 10; Per 13 [15]; FP 10.
Basic Speed 5; Basic Move 4 [-5]; Dodge 8.
Cultural Familiarity: Chinatown (Native) [0].
Language: Mandarin (Native) [0]; English (Accented) [4].
Wealth: Average [0]
Claws (Talons) [8];  Detect (Breath) [10]; Doesn’t Breathe [20];
Extra Arms (Tongue, Extra-Flexible) [15];
Immunity to Metabolic Hazards [30];
Injury Tolerance (Unliving) [20] pg 380;
Night Vision 5 [5]; Unaging [15];
Unkillable 2 (Achilles’ Heel: Fire and Virgin Male Urine, -50%) [50];
Vampiric Bite [30].
Compulsive Behavior (6) (Count small objects) [-10],
Dependency (Coffin with soil of homeland; Daily) [-60];
Draining (Human Chi; Illegal) [-5];
Dread (Consecrated Incense) [-5]; Dread (Salt) [-5];
Nocturnal [-20]; Social Stigma (Monster) [-15];
Supernatural Features (No Body Heat*, Pallor*) [-10];
Uncontrollable Appetite (12) (Human Blood) [-15];
Unhealing (Partial) [-20];
Unnatural Features (Greenish-white hair; Long fingernails) [-2];
Weakness (Sunlight; 1d/minute) [-60].
Skills: Brawling-10 [1].
DR 0.
Parry: Brawling 8
Attack: Brawling Claw 10/2d-1 cut/imp.

Jiangshi Lore

(The players discovered the following information in Rufus' library, although some of it is inaccurate to the actual jiangshi that they encountered.)

Lore: Like Western folklore of vampires, Jiang Shi can arise when a person dies from suicide or through a violent death, such as murder. Also, if the proper burial rituals aren't performed then the deceased may arise as a Jiang Shi as well.

A Jiang Shi hunts by hopping with its arms outstretched due to the stiffness of being dead. Because of such, Jiang Shi have been given the nickname of 'hopping corpses'.

The longer a Jiang Shi lives, the more powerful it becomes. The Jiang Shi also goes through a form of metamorphoses in which in its final form appears covered in white hair, gains the powers of flight and shape-shifting, and has incredible strength.

Powers: Jiang Shi possess supernatural strength, virtual immortality, and in its final metamorphoses can fly and shape-shift.

Defense Against Jiang Shi: Jiang Shi are blind and track their prey by their breath. Holding one's breath may provide protection from a Jiang Shi. Also, Jiang Shi cannot cross running water. Since Jiang Shi are nocturnal creatures, travel by night is best avoided. Garlic and salt repel the creature. Sprinkling magnetic sand, rice, or red beans will prevent a barrier in which they cannot cross. A broom can also be used to drive the monster away. The urine of a male virgin will burn the vampire as if it was acid, much akin to the Western use of holy water to repel vampires. Taoist & Buddhist priests can also provide protection by the creation of talismans which will prevent a Jiang Shi from entering a home as well performing exorcism rituals to destroy the vampire. Jiang Shi can be killed by a nearby clap of thunder, by shooting them with a gun, or by burning the corpse.

(Final notes: The jiangshi were attracted to certain amulets and items that the Dragonlady had cursed and given to her intended victims.  The players bought some from a vendor in the employ of the Dragonlady, which attracted the undead creatures.  Also, the players loaded up shotgun shells with salt and virgin male urine to use against the jiangshi - which actually worked quite well.  Whodathunkit?)

- Ark

A Limehouse Tale: GURPS Horror Noir in London's Chinatown

The gaming group's first foray into GURPS went quite well.  They are playing as agents for the Directorate for Esoteric Affairs, a paranormal intelligence branch of the British government in 1933.  Their first mission was to solve the murder of a 16 year old girl in Chinatown - a bizarre strangulation that left a putrid green disembodied hand wrapped around her throat.

The mystery led them through a tale of star-crossed lovers, gang warfare, construction of the London Underground, ancient Chinese mortuary rites, snazzy nightclubs, opium dens, a rotting opera house, a dragon lady, and a one-handed, hopping, undead, chi-stealer.  What else does a story need?  While I intended for it to last only one game session - I clearly don't know where to trim - so the adventure took three times as long.  It turned out to be very fun.  Well, at least I enjoyed it. :)

The adventure focused a lot on the investigation of the murder and the piecing together of what happened, and whodunit, by the players.  I don't know that I've ever done so much planning for this type of game.  There were only two combats during the three sessions.  Well, there was a third, but it was over in a second (really - ONE SECOND) with two punches to the face.  GURPS can get nasty like that.

I found an old map from the 1700's of a section of the Limehouse district, studied it, compared it with the Google maps of the same area, and did some extrapolations of how the area might have looked like in 1933.  Then I did some downright 'making shit up' by deciding that Ropemakers' Field Street would be a more middle class area controlled by the local tong, and The Fore Street would be a more lower-class dock area controlled by the up-and-coming Hong Kong controlled triad.  The whole rival gang thing screamed 'Montague and Capulet' to me, so I had to add in a pair of unfortunate lovers, and the story just kind of wrote itself.  Well, that and discovering that the whole area was being dug up for expansion of the London Underground that year.  Improperly handled Chinese corpses have a nasty tendency of causing havoc, doncha know.

I'm going to be posting some of my notes on the game - notes I wrote before I started, as well as annotations about where my ideas changed as the game progressed.  So stay tuned!

- Ark