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Friday, April 05, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 14 - Shanghai Surprise

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This session saw a major change of scenery for the investigators as they decided to flee the UK following their most recent exploits. A discussion held in the light of the most recent headline in The Scoop, which identified Harry as a murderer, made their decision to leave the country a relatively easy one. Cassandra was more than a little worried about what she had gotten herself into, but was persuaded to continue her help.

The investigators decided to head to Shanghai. They had come across several leads to the city, and suspected that Jack Brady may be hiding there.

Would the investigators end up in big trouble? The answer will come as no surprise...
So it was that with the help of Cassandra's butler, Farnsworth, the group booked passage on a merchant vessel that would take them from nearby Lowestoft round the coast to Southampton. From there they boarded a passenger steamship called The Ineluctable, after managing to sneak Harry past a suspicious guard at the port.

I decided to allow the characters some time to heal and train up their skills whilst on the three week journey to China, as they were going to need all the help they could get. Shanghai would offer a very different challenge to what they had experienced so far.

The journey went by uneventfully, apart from a small detour around some storms in the Indian Ocean which delayed the arrival of The Ineluctable by a few days. The steamship pulled into port on the morning of 18th April 1925, and it was here that the first of several changes I have made to the official Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign came into effect.

In order to tie the various locations in the campaign together a bit more (the campaign can certainly feel like a distinct set of unrelated scenarios if the right clues are not found), and to offer the players some support in one of the most difficult parts of the adventure I took the liberty of making some changes.

So it was that as the investigators left the boarding plank of the steamship they were greeted by an impeccably dressed young Chinese man who bowed low and introduced himself as Li Wen-Cheng, their guide and translator during their time in Shanghai. He seemed to know all of the investigators by name, and asked them to follow him. After a brief discussion the group agreed and were lead along The Bund and the chaos of the Shanghai streets.

As they made their way through the noise and crowd, stepping over bodies in the street and avoiding running battles between strikebreakers and militant workers, Wen-Cheng told them of the history of the city and how it had no organised government, instead relying on a myriad of associations, clubs, political movements and companies to offer some kind of stability.

Wen-Cheng lead the group to the Palace Hotel, where rooms had already been booked on their behalf. After giving them time to freshen up they then followed the young man to meet their mysterious benefactor.

The company soon left the bustling riverside behind and headed in-land down narrow streets, finally entering a dingy bar and then heading down some steps to the basement, when Wen-Cheng beckoned for them to enter a dimly lit room. There was a single desk and several seats in the room, and a large figure sat in the shadows on the other side.

The figure slowly leaned forwards and revealed himself to be none other than Lieutenant Martin Poole of the New York City police department! Poole told the investigators how he had been following them for some time and wanted to aid them in their exploits. He explained how once they had left New York he had lead a team to JuJu House, following up on the leads they had given him, and it was there he saw the things that would lead him to travel half way round the world.

An old "friend"
Under the stone cap in the basement (which the investigators had wisely not opened during their own visit) Poole and his men had found a unspeakable horror. It had taken many shots to put the loathsome thing out of its misery and stop the screaming from its myriad faces, some of which Poole had recognised as those of his own men...

There and then Poole had made the decision to find the investigators again and help them in any way he could. On arrival in Shanghai he had hired Wen-Cheng and was now based in the American consulate should they need him.

The investigators (well, mainly Harry) decided they could do with a drink, so they decided to head to the Stumbling Tiger Bar on Lantern Street. They had found a matchbook from the bar in Jackson Elias' hotel room back in New York, so there may be some leads to be had there. Wen-Cheng was not keen on the idea, telling them that it was in a "bad part of town", a sinful place. That made their minds up for them, and off they went.


The Stumbling Tiger turned out to be a large and dingy room, full of cigarette smoke and the bustle of dockworkers and sailors. Dimly lit and noisy as hell it was difficult to see or hear anything, but the group found a table and ordered some drinks. Whilst Harry was happily dealing with the attentions of a young flower girl, Willard and Hubert went to speak to the barman, a gruff Chinese-Scots fellow with brown-stained fingers.

Their rather awkward questions about Jackson Elias drew no information other than "we get a lot of people through here". They returned to their table, but as they did so Hubert noticed an apparently drunk patron who seemed to be keeping a close eye on them.

The investigators decided to drink up and leave, much to the approval of the straight-laced Wen-Cheng. As they were doing so a fight broke out between two of the bar patrons, and soon a crowd had gathered to watch. One enterprising China man was even running a book on the result. Harry of course could not resist, and placed a bet, which he eventually won.

Leaving the Stumbling Tiger for now the investigators asked Wen-Cheng to take them to Ho Fong Imports, whose name they had come across in a ledger at Misr House. Eager to be away from the den of iniquity that was the Stumbling Tiger Wen-Cheng readily agreed.

Ho Fong's warehouse was a large structure on the north bank of the Whangpoo River. The large double doors were open when the group arrived and the place was a hive of activity. The warehouse itself was full of piles of assorted goods. Enquiring after Ho Fong they were shown to a small waiting room in the offices at the back of the warehouse.

Ho Fong eventually arrived, as did a tray of green tea. He was a balding, overweight Chinese gentleman dressed in a clean white suit. The investigators had decided on an unusual approach (and one I hadn't expected - they always manage to surprise me). Cassandra introduced herself and told Mr Ho that they were a group of auditors from the Penhew Foundation who were looking into why some shipments had gone missing. She introduced the group as her retinue, pointing out Harry as a "Mr Jack Brady". I've no idea why, but there you go...

Mr Ho expressed surprise that so many would travel so far when a cable could have cleared the matter up, but Cassandra explained that they were in the area anyway. Luckily she passed her Persuade roll, but a failed Credit Rating did not help. Regardless, Mr Ho told the investigators it would take some time to find and collate the relevant files and suggested they return the next day, to which they agreed.

It was starting to get late, so the group decided to head back through the sweltering and humid streets to the Palace Hotel. On the way the group made various Spot Hiddens and discovered they were being tailed by at least three different parties. One appeared to be one of the workers from Ho Fong's warehouse. Another looked like the same drunk who had been watching them at the Stumbling Tiger. The third was an old and wizened man in robes.

Harry stopped to ask the drunk for a light for his cigarette. Despite the language barrier he made himself understood, but he got nothing more from the man.

Arriving back at the hotel Wen-Cheng suggested they meet in a couple of hours so that he could take them for an evening meal at an excellent restaurant he knew. The investigators agreed, but decided to spend those hours in the bar, where they saw all three of the tailing parties were now separately ensconced and watching. A plan was hatched. When Wen-Cheng came down they would all leave for the meal except for Willard. When the three parties followed the main group Willard would follow one of the mysterious men and see where they lead him. The hunter would become the hunted!

Of course, things are never that simple in Call of Cthulhu. When Wen-Cheng arrived, still oblivious to the skulduggery around him, he gathered the group and they left, with Willard feigning an upset stomach in order to remain behind. He watched the other investigators leave, and within minutes the drunk and the robed man had separately and surreptitiously followed.

That left the warehouse worker still in the bar. Willard did not know what to do, so decided to remain drinking for a while. After an hour or two he went to visit the lavatory, and it was then that the warehouse worker struck.

Willard would encounter the horror in the toilet...
As Willard was about to relieve himself in the hotel lobby lavatory his assailant entered, and so began a comedy Kung Fu routine akin to the best Jackie Chan movie. The dockworker attacked Willard with a knife, fists and flying feet, spinning and leaping like dervish. It was all Willard could do to dodge the attacks, and rather than fight back against an obvious master of the martial arts he tried to flee.

Every time the warehouse worker struck Willard would dodge, forcing him back away from the door. Still, the attacks were slowly wearing our hero down. It took a couple of Pulp Points (leaving Willard with only 3 remaining) for him to get the chance to run out of the lavatory and back into the hotel lobby, but escape would not be so easy.

A moment later the toilet door burst open as the warehouse worker continued his assault, now in the lobby. Willard's efforts to escape were futile, and he was eventually knocked unconscious, still wondering who his mysterious assailant really was.

And on that cliffhanger we finished the session. Who were the various parties tailing our investigators? Was Willard alive or dead? Why had Harry not murdered anyone in Shanghai yet? All these questions would hopefully be answered in the next session.

2 comments:

  1. I have been following your game posts and thought I would let you know that is sounds like a fantastic game. I hope that you don't mind my reading them. I have never played in or run a CoC game, but you are convincing me that I need to in the future.

    Thanks again for the entertainment!

    Matthew Porter, New York, USA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Matthew, I'm glad you're enjoying the write-ups. If you get the chance you should give Call of Cthulhu a chance, it's a really simple system as far as rules go and has an atmosphere like nothing else :)

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