A crime at the river – A weird noir fiction D6 adventure S1E07

Tuesday noon, April 12th, 1921, Emily Browne’s residence

Tillman: Scholar (Occult) (5D/M): 4/3: Success
Q: Are the ritual drawings for protection?
A: False presupposition

The drawings aren’t there anymore. They have been swiped clear.
“Seems we’re out of luck father. The scene was released and it’s been cleaned up. If we’re lucky forensics may have a photo shot.” Stan says disappointed.
“Would it be alright if we looked for any notes regarding the occult detective? Maybe we could find something else that will help us” the priest proposes.
“You really aren’t the law abiding type, eh father? Sure, let’s do a search.” Stan agrees.

Stan: Search (for occult notes): 4+
Q: Are there any notes on the occult?
A: Yes, and they may include spells and rituals
Intervention: 5: Regress Plot
I decide that the notes aren’t in English but in Greek/Latin/Aramaic/Egyptian/Sanskrit. I roll and get Sanskrit.
If it was Latin, I’d have the priest be able to read them, but now they have to find someone else.

Note to self: seriously? first a false presupposition and now a regress plot intervention? This GM Oracle really makes the protagonist’s life hard.

I’ll try to do what I can with the stuff at hand.
Q: Is there any drawing in the notes similar to the one that was drawn on the floor? (Likely)
A: No, and there are no drawings at all.
Q: Does father Tillman recognize the language?
Knowledge (4D/M): 4/3: Success
A: Yes it’s Sanskrit
(Small metagaming mistake here. When I deemed that it was another language, I should have rolled Tillman’s knowledge check before asking what language it is.)
Q: Does father Tillman know anyone who could translate it?
A: Yes

“Found these, tucked behind a book in the bookcase. They’re handwritten but I don’t recognize the language.” Stan brings a document bound with strings to father Tillman.
“That’s Sanskrit. I don’t speak the language but I have a friend who does. We can take this to him.” The priest replies.
“Let’s go then, father” the detective says and they set off.

Now, since up to now I was giving 2-3 scenes per day and it’s getting late already, I will ask.
Q: Is there enough time to go to the contact before the end of the day?
A: Yes, but, no time for anything else

I roll for UNE for the contact and I get: righteous missionary.
Sometimes the dice fill in perfectly. This one is a devout priest.

The duo parks the car outside a small chapel and get off.
Sitting on a plain bench next to the entrance is a man with trimmed silver hair and grey eyes, wearing a dark suit and a priest’s collar.
“Brother Pierre” he says to father Tillman as he approaches.
“Brother Robert” he replies.
“What brings you here?” Brother Robert asks.
“This is detective Malkowski. I’m assisting him in a murder investigation and we could use your expertise in a piece of evidence in Sanskrit.” Father Tillman says.
“Please, come in then. I’m always happy to help the police” Brother Robert says.

Brother Robert Atwood: Languages (Sanskrit) (6D/M): 4+/3: Success
He translates it and has an easy chance of understanding what it it about.
Knowledge (4D/E): 3/2: Success
He realizes what this is about, must do a sanity check.
Sanity check: Willpower (6D/E): 8+/2: Success, and he won’t be needing another sanity check for this subject matter.

“What have you gotten yourself into? This is heresy!” He says furiously.
“Calm down brother.” Father Tillman tries to defuse the situation. “The woman who presumably wrote these was found dead. We need to find if she was the victim of an entity and tried to protect herself from it.”

Tillman: Persuasion: 3+/2: Success

Brother Robert sighs and nods in agreement, after taking a deep breath.

“Are there any protection spells? Using the pentalpha magic symbol?” Father Tillman asks.

Q: Is there a spell of protection with a pentalpha ritual?
A: False presupposition

“There are no spells in the notes. Only wards against detection from entities of the abyss. This one requires a full coal circle around the warded area.” Brother Robert says.

“Does it refer to the Enchiridion of Bilamma?” Stan asks.

Q: Is there any reference to the Enchiridion of Bilamma?
A: Yes
I decide to get a portent from UNE using the NPC motivation nouns and verbs. Learn, Peace.
And another one: Opress Slavery.

Brother Robert looks at the detective with worry. “It says that to cast the spells described in the Enchiridion, one must achieve a trancelike state of peace of mind, otherwise the summoned entity will set itself free.”

“Is there anything else that might help us, brother?” Tillman asks.

Q: Anything else of note?
A: No

“Nothing that I can tell. You should burn these once you’re done with it!” Brother Robert persists.
“We will brother, thank you.” Father Tillman replies and they leave.

The detective drops the priest back to his church and he leaves. Hopefully tomorrow he can find a photo of the scene to complement their knowledge.

Q: Does anything happen in the downtime?
A: No, and it’s unlikely anything will happen tomorrow

Wednesday morning, April 13th, 1921

Q: Is there a photo of the crime scene depicting Browne’s ritual drawing?
A: Yes, but it’s not perfectly clear. The focus was on the corpse. Increase difficult by 1.

With the photo at hand, Stan drives to St. Mark’s and shows it to father Tillman.

Tillman: Scholar (Occult) (5D/M): 3-/3: Success, Complication, photo is ruined after the examination.
Q: Is a ward depicted? (Likely)
A: No
Q: Is it a summoning spell?
A: No
Q: Is it to keep something from escaping?
A: False presupposition
Another series of questions overridden by the Oracle. I decide that no spell was depicted at all.

“I can see the occult drawing, even though it’s hard to tell, being out of focus, but everything is plain wrong. I have seen plenty of such drawings, and always the lines seemed to connect, and the candles would be at the star edges, which isn’t the case here. Also this can’t be coal. Some kind of dark chalk maybe? Brother Robert had mentioned coal in the Sanskrit notes. I presume that Ms Browne May have wanted to do something, but either she did it in a hurry and messed it up, or she had no idea what she was doing.” Tillman puts the photo down on his desk clumsily and spills the ink holder next to it, ruining the picture. “Oh no! I am sorry detective” he exclaims.
“No worries father, I trust the boys still have the negatives. We’ll print another if needed.” Stan says not losing his cool. “So father you’d say that Ms Browne was trying to protect herself, and considering her knowledge of the occult, she did so in panick and failed miserably? The thing that killed her, what do you think it wants? If she didn’t summon it, why did she end up dead?” Stan monologues.

This could be a rhetorical question but for the sake of storytelling I will ask
Q: Does father Tillman answer Stan’s monologue?
A: Yes

“The notes described the blend of two minds. Could the entity have Mr Tilton’s memories? Desires? Passions? More?” Tillman replies.
“Could he become the creature? A transfer of minds? We should read the Enchiridion, father!” Stan proposes.

With that realization, a Sanity check is in order.
Stan: (4D/E): 5+/2: Success
Pierre: (6D/E): 5/2: Success

Q: Is father Tillman willing to give the Enchiridion of Bilamma back? (Unlikely)
A: No
Intervention: 3: Entity Negative
Q: Is the intervention about someone else?
A: Yes
So something negative has happened to someone else that we already know of in the list of NPCs, but it will be revealed in the next scene.
Father Tillman opposes the persuasion roll of Stan, and I will give him a bonus of 1 since he has the item in his possession and it’s up to him essentially.
Stan Persuasion opposed: 4/4: Draw

Tillman disagrees. “No! This item is evil. It must be destroyed!”
“It could tell us what to do!” Stan counters.

Stan Persuasion opposed: 0-/4: Failure

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions detective. I’m sorry but no!” Tillman crosses his arms in a definite denial. “Solve it like you solve any of your other cases. Think!”.

Stan sighs in defeat. “Given that Ms Browne was attacked, I would suppose that the next possible targets are the late Mr Tilton’s close acquaintances. According to my sources these would be 3 people. Mr Verner, his editor that they had differences. Ms Marian Taylor, an antagonist author, and, well you, father Tillman. Given that, father, are you willing to stay with me until this is resolved?”.

Q: Is Father Tillman willing to stay with the detective?
A: Yes, and he proposes that the detective sleeps at the church

“Certainly. I can even prepare a bed for you at St. Mark’s if you are willing to sleep out of home, detective.” The priest responds.

I did a mistake and doubled back to this point. In general my rule is that until it’s posted, the session is in draft. If mistakes are made they can be corrected, and maybe I can change the order of a question or two to the Oracle, to make more sense.
So the mistake would be that I presupposed that they would go to the precinct to ask for a security detail for Verner. A few lines down, I realized that it wouldn’t make sense for Stan to do it. No one would believe him and even if he lied and made up a story, the suspect would have to fit. Since that would be a lot of trouble, I went ahead and asked the Oracle to switch gears.

Q: Is it in Stanton’s power to request a security detail?
A: No, Verner must be warned in person.

“Alright father, let’s go. We must warn Mr Verner.” Stan says.

Wednesday noon, April 13th, 1921,
Mr Verner’s office

Since the story fits possible next victims, I want to see if the intervention was about Mr Verner being attacked. 5 points in the score board, means the answer is Likely.
Q: Was Mr Verner attacked? (Likely)
A: Yes, and he’s dead.
Q: Is there police on the spot?
A: False presupposition
So I was about to go into a spiral of metagaming. The false presupposition saved me. The police isn’t aware of Verner’s death, so I need to start the scene from there.
I also made the mistake of asking if the attack was made recently because I wanted to see if the attacker could be around, but I realized that’s metagaming, so I will ignore the question and if it appears in the future (e.g. in coroners report, I will roll again in the Oracle).

Stan enters Mr Verner’s office, followed by father Tillman. The first thing that catches the detective’s eye as he enters is Mr Verner, lying motionless in his desk chair, mouth open, eyes staring blank, a horror painted on his still face.

Perception: 3+: Finds up to concealed items.
Q: Is there anyone else in the room? Since Mr Verner died at his office, the attack must be recent, so I give this a Likely.
A: Yes
With Stan’s success, he can see whatever it is. I will roll though to see if its in plain sight, behind something or concealed: I get behind something.

The commotion of their entry seems to stir something. A figure moves behind the desk.

I will use the Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells Addendum on Humanoid creatures to flesh it out.
After some re-rolls on the random tables, I have the following.

The creature in front of them defies explanation. A couple of slimy tentacles that drool black goo crawl on the desk as the thing writes about and rises. Red seaweed covers the tentacles that sprout from a hard carapace. The head isn’t visible at all, being a indistinct mass of seaweed drooling black goo.

They must roll a difficult Sanity check.
Stan: (4D/D): 2/4: Fail. 1 Corruption Point. I roll and get Phobia. Of course its a phobia of any body of water.
Tillman: 1-/4: Fail. 1 Corruption Point. I roll and get Depressed.

Initiative: Deep One: 3
Team: 1
Q: Can the Deep One attack in one move?
A: Yes
Q: Does it attack the priest?
A: False Presupposition, it will try to escape
Q: Is the way in, the only way out? (Likely)
A: Yes, but, they are standing in the way
It will try to push them past.
Q: Does father Tillman have holy water with him?
A: Yes

Round 1:

Deep One: 1/2 Move
Stan: Draws his revolver
Tillman: Draws his crucifix and a holy water bottle
Deep One: Pushes Tillman aside: 0-/0-: Failure
Stan: Shoots: 3+++/1: Hit: 2/3: No damage
Tillman: Splashes it with holy water: 3/1: Hit
Q: Is it affected by holy water?
A: No
Deep One: Pushes Stan aside: 3/3: Failure

Stanton draws his service revolver as the thing moves towards them and tries to push the priest aside. Father Tillman cries “BEGONE VILE CREATURE! BACK TO THE DEPTHS FROM WHENCE YOU CAME” and splashes it with holy water.
It doesn’t seem to bother at all, but as Stan shoots at it, it lets of an eerie cry and tries to push him aside, with its tentacle, without success.

Round 2:

Q: Does it attack? (Likely)
A: Yes, and it’s angry after being shot at
Intervention:1: New Entity
So the shot was heard, and the next door neighbor came to investigate.
UNE: addicted professor

The doctor next door appears in the hallway. He sees the creature from the door opening.

Sanity: 2/4: Fail
Q: Does he ran away? (Likely)
A: No, and he will try to fight the creature with the fire axe.

Deep One: attacks (randomly, it’s Stan): 4+/2: Hit: 3/4 (Stan Spends 2 CPs): No damage
Stan Shoots: 4/1: Hit: 1/5: No damage

Father Tillman will look to find a makeshift weapon
Q: Is there a makeshift weapon?
A: False presupposition
There is a regular weapon
Q: Is it melee?
A: Yes, it’s a cavalry saber, from Mr Verner’s time in the war.

The neighbor attacks with the fire axe: 1/2: Miss

The creature lashes out at the detective, furious that it was shot, and grabs his leg, but Stan manages to let go before it wounds him. He shoots at the thing, failing to do any significant wound.
Father Tillman runs behind Mr Verner’s desk and grabs the cavalry saber on display, as the neighbor, still not believing his eyes, cries out, and tries to hack at the creature with a fireaxe he grabbed from the hallway, but missing the swift tentacles.

Round 3:

Deep One: attacks Stan: 2/2: Hit: 4/2 (Stan Spends 2 CPs): Incapacitated!
Stan: Resist Disease (4D/M): 2/3: Failure
Q: Does the blessed crucifix assist the detective?
A: False presupposition, He doesn’t have it with him
Neighbor: attacks: 3/2: Hit: 2/2: Stunned
Tillman: attacks: 3/2: Hit: 2/2: Stunned
Deep One: attacks neighbor: 2/2: Hit: 4/2: Incapacitated

The creature grabs Stan and the neighbor at once with its tentacles, and thrashes them about, with such strength, that they lose consciousness from the concussion. Not before it has received slight slashes from the axe and the sword, but none penetrated the strong carapace.

Round 4:

Deep One attacks Tillman: 2/2: Hit: 1/2: No damage
Tillman attacks: 3/2: Hit: 3/3: Stunned

Round 5:

Deep One attacks Tillman: 0-/2: Miss
Tillman attacks: 3/2: Hit: 2/4: No damage

Round 6:

Deep One attacks Tillman: 1-/2: Miss
Tillman attacks: 0-/2: Miss

Round 7:

Deep One attacks Tillman: 1-/2: Miss
Tillman attacks: 2/2: Hit: 4/0: Dead!

After exchanging a few blows with the thing, father Tillman sees an opening. He swings the saber with all his might and decapitates the creature, it’s head falling down a few feet further, black goo covering the floor. The carapace falls on the floor with a big thud.
He then proceeds to drag the two incapacitated men out of the building and returns with a canister of petrol. He douses Mr Verner’s office, and lits a fire. As the blaze starts to cover everything, he rings the fire alarm and gets out.

In the coming weeks the detective and the doctor perished quickly from an unknown disease, unlike anything the doctors had ever seen.
Father Tillman sunk into depression. Questioning his beliefs and how the holy symbols of faith couldn’t help him in his task to defeat evil, and he had to resort to swords and violence.

Session Background: I enjoyed this episode so much! Even though I made more than a few mistakes, especially as the mechanics increased in complexity with every step of the way. At some point I expected a TPK, even with the random assistance from the neighbor, but the priest had luck on his side. Unfortunately my protagonist perished by a disease (it was the creature’s power according to SSSS).
Following up, I intend to clean up and write the ruleset as well as an adventure summary detailing tools used and what worked and what didn’t.