Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Fateful Call of Cthulhu Campaign

This morning I've been thinking of how our Dime Store Novel series began. Its genesis was insidious and its gestation long and sometimes painful. But that night in 2003 (or thereabouts) when it was conceived will live on, not only in the stories that eventually grew from the planted seed, but also in the minds of the gamers who sat around the table in the basement at Jester's Cards and Stuff while John spun a tale that drew us in and made some go insane. 

Well...not actually insane. You see, we were playing Call of Cthulhu a role-playing game created by Chaosium, based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft. In Call of Cthulhu, you have plenty of chances to die and even more opportunity to go insane because as the horrors of the world are revealed, you need to make a sanity check. And believe me, John filled the campaign with plenty of horrors.

Toledo Cats
I played a character named Toledo Cats, a Jamaican herbalist who had some ability with magic. I also had a black shapeshifting cat named Voodoo.

Our friend Tony played a detective named Hanover Fist. Yes, it was Tony who came up with the name, so anyone who thinks Swampy was cruel to name him that can blame Tony. It was not Swampy's fault at all. In fact, Swampy would not even get the breath of life until several years later.

Hanover Fist
One of the younger players, who was new to horror and easily unnerved, played a cub reporter named Tyler.

A couple other players played thugs -- essentially hired guns. O'Malley made his debut appearance too, but from the grave. He didn't have much of a back story yet and he certainly didn't have a wife and daughter. But he did have a strong enough friendship with Hanover to compel him to call from the grave. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story started with Hanover driving his old black sedan to investigate strange happenings at a house in New Orleans. Toledo, who had been his friend since childhood, flagged him down and told him to take Voodoo. Hanover didn't know Voodoo's powers, and in fact had never liked the cat, but he took her anyway because he knew Toledo had a way of knowing things.

Tyler flagged Hanover down and convinced him to let him tag along on the investigation, against Hanover's better judgment. The thugs met him there. So did Toledo. She appeared by his side just as he stepped out of the car. Tony and I rolled spot and we both saw a young black girl touch an oak tree and then disappear. The air was still, but the rocker on the porch moved back and forth. We both made our sanity checks. Tyler was not so lucky.

He tried the door and it was locked, so he started shooting it. Eventually, we got inside. By this time the thugs had joined us. The phone on the counter rang. Hanover answered it. The caller said, "Hanover?"

Hanover recognized the voice as his friend O'Malley, who had been put in the ground some months earlier. "O'Malley?" Sanity check. Tony's dice were lucky.

"The answer lies below and danger above." Click. Dial tone.

We went to the kitchen to find a door to the root cellar. We were looking for answers, not danger, right? The thugs went upstairs -- ready for a fight. Inside the kitchen, Toledo and Hanover missed their spot checks and were allowed to proceed to the root cellar. Tyler was not so lucky. He sees men at the kitchen table playing cards. One man holds the deadman's hand.

Deadman's Hand -- Aces and Eights
Unfortunately, his face was also missing. Sanity check for Tyler. Again he missed it. Tyler is seriously starting to lose it. He smells something cooking and looks on the stove. Guess what's in the pot. The man's face. Sanity check. He has only a few sanity points left. He looks up. The ceiling fan is spinning. It gets faster and faster until it chops his head off...well, he thinks it does. It's all just a hallucination, right? Well, Tyler won't find out for quite sometime. He sits out the rest of the game, blubbering away, not knowing if he's alive or dead.

Meanwhile, the thugs battle ghosts upstairs and Hanover, Toledo, and Voodoo battle the priest causing all the trouble in the basement.  Funny thing, I don't remember much about the specifics of the battle. The thing we thought had tentacles, but then it's Lovecraft, so that's to be expected. And, of course, we won the fight. Otherwise, the characters would not have lived on to go on more adventures and eventually spark the idea of a book series. But that's a story for later. For now, I'll leave you with a quote from H.P. Lovecraft:

It was from the artists and poets that the pertinent answers came, and I know that panic would have broken loose had they been able to compare notes.


  1. If memory servers right it was only Hanover and Toledo that only could make their rolls for sanity...But there is more details of the story and when I have time I will write it....Enjoy the crack of the open door that shines its light of a Mad Man....

  2. Now that's some game! I think I would be totally lost after a few minutes, but that's normal for me.

  3. It was some game! John is a fantastic game master.