SHOCtober [A crime at the river – A weird noir fiction D6 adventure] Summary

Introduction

Inspired by SHOCtober, I decided to delve in a horror themed solo rpg investigation.
I began with a basic crime scene of a murder (it wouldn’t be horror if I there wasn’t at least one) and built it up from there.
In order to keep the surprise element I went above and beyond to not ask the Oracle any metagaming questions and did not use any story generators for the set up, even though it’s harder this way.
Link to the rule set for Solo RPG Investigation Framework

WARNING SPOILERS
If you want to read the story first check the following entries on my blog here: S1E00 S1E01 S1E02 S1E03 S1E04 S1E05 S1E06 S1E07
Spoilers from here on.

What I liked: Overall I felt that the adventure was not scripted. It was freeform, but still within a framework not totally free. The Recluse Oracle was a very welcome addition that breathed new life. Whenever I had a False Presupposition, I had to stop and reconsider the story path! I liked the fact that the story built itself from the ground up, and when I reached the end, it did not crumble to a totally different direction, but stood.
Careful readers may have noticed that in the final scene, when the party entered Verner’s office and met with the deep one, I did not ask the Oracle if the figure in front of them was a deep one or a human. The story was set and we were at the end, I didn’t care for another surprise that may have ruined everything. So many Oracle rolls led to this result, I wasn’t going to allow one roll overrule them. So I decided that the creature was a deep one and went on.
Regarding the D6 system choice, I’m so glad I used it. The skills were so easily used and blended with the Oracle without effort. Most importantly, balancing the final encounter was a piece of cake. I know what the base attributes are, and I upped the stakes just enough to make things challenging and I was rewarded with an enjoyable fight. If I had used his fate point, Malkowski might still be alive, but oh well wrong choices lead to death in pulp horror games.
Where it succeeded: The crime scene investigation was performed successfully. I set up clues with witness testimonies, evidence, autopsies and managed to combine everything. A long time ago I used to be a huge fan of police shows, CSI, Law and Order, etc. This helped me think in what I needed and frankly, the questions led the investigation on.
Where it fell short: Building up the Horror aspect. Maybe if I had a dark room with candles and music, everything would feel different, but being player and GM at the same time and fleshing our the creature, kinda killed it for me. Maybe for the readers it was different, and that’s why I didn’t share the results of the SSSS monster generation, to keep things interesting and unknown. Nevertheless, the slimy tentacles with seaweed hair is a gross picture!
Also I think I didn’t capture the ’20s feeling well. Even though the setting was in that time period, in my head the images better fit the next decade or two. Not much of a problem, just something to consider.
What I did against my better thinking: Once more I did not flesh out my protagonist’s character. At first I delayed it for a session or two, but then I decided against it. I didn’t want the adventure to be about Malkowski, I wanted it to be about the crime investigation. In all those shows that I watched, the protagonist’s stories were irrelevant. What made things interesting was the crime and how it was solved, so I did this as well. I fleshed our a basic stereotypical male detective figure, who’s a bit of a hardass, doesn’t follow orders well, and smokes like a chimney. Typical noir detective. I could have written the notes in first person, but it’s not my style.

Brief Adventure Summary

The theme is weird noir 1920s.
The protagonist is Police Detective Stanton Malkowski. His partner is Wade Norman.
Malkowski is the lead homicide investigator in the death of author Latimer Tilton.

During the investigation, Malkowski found out that Latimer Tilton had financial differences with his editor Joseph Verner and was also experimenting with the occult arts with his girlfriend, Emily Browne.
In every second step of the way, Malkowski faces the nearby church priest, Pierre Tillman of St. Mark’s. He’s even found him in Tilton’s houseboat, where we tells Malkowski a story about Tilton’s half-brother, Benjamin Kingston. Tillman now has entered Malkowski’s suspects list.
Autopsy shows that Tilton died from brain implosion, and a weird stinking black goo was found in his nose and in the crime scene.
The detective finds contradictory statements between Tillman and Browne, but the evidence seem to suggest Browne’s more likely to be telling the truth.
A forged birth certificate is a dead end, leading to nothing definitive and a fire breakout in the forensics lab delays the processing of evidence.

After a second, more thorough search, Malkowski recovers an occult tome from the public library, the Enchiridion of Bilamma, which was in possession of both Tilton and Browne. Norman is removed from the investigation and Malkowski is warned by the police captain, Falkner to stay away from Tillman.
A couple days later, going after a dead end lead provided by Tillman, regarding the supposed half-brother, Benjamin Kingston, Browne is found dead at her home. Signs of occult ritual are the main theme of the scene. Norman is brought back to the investigation.
Norman and Malkowski head over to St Mark’s church to gather statements regarding Tilton and Tillman. Malkowski sneaks in Tillman’s office, but finds nothing that could incriminate him.
With the delays on the autopsy report and the damages on the forensics lab, the next day, Malkowski faces Tillman and gives him his hypothesis, based on his evidence so far.
Tillman died trying to cast a summoning spell that merged consciousness between him and an unknown entity, which attacked Browne later on. Tillman agrees with Malkowski’s hypothesis and the two of them proceed to solve the mystery and hunt down the entity.

They meet up with an old friend of Tillman, brother Robert Atwood, who translates some of Browne’s notes. They realize that the ritual markings in Browne’s residence were a failed attempt to protect herself from the entity, and deduce that the next possible targets are the people that in life, were closest to Tilton.
They head to Joseph Verner’s office, where find him dead and they come face to face with an unspeakable creature. Crablike, with tentacles and seaweed. It brings down Malkowski and a neighbor who joined in to help until finally Tillman decapitates it with Verner’s cavalry saber.
Tillman sets the remains on fire after getting the downed men to safety. Unfortunately they contracted an unknown disease and perished in the next weeks, leaving Tillman the only survivor.

Tools

MUNE
Light, few page oracle with fast resolution and low bookkeeping.
Pros: Easy, Fast, Intuitive
Cons: The ‘buts’ can be difficult to narrate all times, regressing to simple Yes/No

Recluse
Oracle with Yes/No, But/And and also False Presupposition. Once I found out about it I switched to this resolution for the MUNE.
Pros: The False Presupposition helps reduce bias greatly and can give very nice twists to the story. It’s like there is a GM telling you what is there.
Cons: The resolution uses 2-3 dice and can take a bit getting used to regarding the different combinations. Also the false presupposition just doesn’t fit in certain cases, so a couple times I just had to reroll.

UNE
Universal NPC emulator. Worked great for the cases I turned to it.
Pros: NPC on the fly, NPC backstory
Cons: The result may not fit the NPC.

GMA from beta Alone release bundle
Had to print it out to use it, but it was worth the effort. It has great potential and is a quick assist at hand without having to search my online bookmarks for tools.
Pros: No need for dice, no need for online portents, tailor-made for rpgs, solves multiple issues with one card.
Cons: I don’t have the entire deck 😀

donjon
This site has a ton of resources from fantasy to cyberpunk to scifi. It’s my go to resource when I want something generated. I only head elsewhere if I don’t find what I need.
Pros: Generators for almost every need
Cons: Some generators enhance metagaming (System generators)

Simplenote
A cross platform note taking app that I use as an intermediary from paper to publishing.
Pros: Cross platform (web, windows, Linux, iOS, Android), Note sharing, Markdown, publishing, export function.
Cons: There are no folders so browsing can be a hard.

SSSS Addendum
This is the addendum for the free Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells OSR sword and sorcery rpg. It has a great pulp feel with tons of tables and it’s great for inspiration.
Pros: Lots of tables. From adventure downtime to monster generation and adventure titles.
Cons: Had to reroll a few times to find something that fit my adventure.