Eternal Lies – Session 3

NOVEMBER 1, 1934: Having wrapped up their interviews with Douglas Henslowe and Edgar Job, the Investigators decided to leave the Joy Grove Asylum. On their way out, Dorothy was accosted by a heavyset, disheveled patient who identified herself as the movie star Olivia Clarendon. She appeared to be delusional, as Clarendon is a sleek, polished Hollywood icon, but Dorothy humored her. “Olivia” signed autographs, and the group left for Henslowe’s ancestral estate on the outskirts of Savannah.

While driving along the marshy roads, the Investigators convoy of two cars was approached by the sedan that had been tailing them earlier. It moved to ram Dorothy’s car, but Chantelle fired a very large pistol at it. The car went off the road, and the Investigators escaped, shaken, but unharmed.

The Investigators arrived at the Henslowe estate, a decaying plantation. Various outbuildings stood in disrepair, and the grounds themselves were overgrown and being claimed by the nearby swamp.  To be cautious, they approached on foot, but they were detected by a trio of guard dogs. In the ensuing scuffle, Luke Davis was badly mauled. The elderly groundskeeper, JOHN CORUTHERS appeared and called his dogs off.

After speaking with the Investigators and reading the letter of introduction Henslowe had given them, Coruthers escorted the Investigators to his shack. There, he tended to Luke’s injury. He also answered a few questions about the Henslowe family. Douglas and his mother are the only surviving members of what was once a very powerful family. As the Investigators already knew, Douglas has been in and out of Joy Grove since 1924, when experienced some sort of breakdown. Coruthers expressed disdain for Douglas, while also making his obeisance to the family clear. They Investigators warned Coruthers about the men in the sedan, as they noticed it was parked up the road.

On the basis of the letter of introduction, Coruthers escorted the Investigators to the main house. The house itself was largely dilapidated, with some sections being closed off entirely. Coruthers asked the Investigators to keep away from MOTHER HENSLOWE, who was resting on her sun porch. The Investigators looked around a bit, finding a dusty gothic interior. They made their way to Douglas’s room, where they found an old shovel standing by the door, caked in old dried mud. Looking around a bit more, they also found a basket full of a strange mix of stuff, including twine and purple ink.

Using a photograph of the house that they found in a book Douglas had mentioned, (indirectly,) the Investigators determined that he had buried a cache of materials from 1924 in the family graveyard, here on the estate. They dug up a box holding, among other things, a key to the safe deposit box Douglas had mentioned before. It is at the First Bank of Long Beach in California. Meanwhile, Tick Tock had put in a call to an associate back in New York. He was trying to identify the men in the sedan that had been following the Investigators. Aside from finding out that they appeared to be Asian and had been seen in Tick Tock’s neighborhood back home, the contact was unable to tell him much.

A heavy downpour began falling. The Investigators turned to leave. Despite their attempts to sneak away—and to use Coruthers as a distraction—they were set upon by the thugs from the sedan. An altercation broke out, with guns drawn, but no shots were fired. The thugs seemed to be speaking a strange alien tongue and who were made up of a peculiar mix of White and Asian men (peculiar for the time and place). They threw a typed sheet of paper at the Investigators, and then left. The paper read “DROP THIS CASE. GO HOME.”

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Eternal Lies – Session 2

I’m late getting this updated, but I’ve got sessions 2 and 3 ready to go. This one is a long one.

NOVEMBER 1, 1934: The Investigators arrived at the Joy Grove Asylum, finding themselves bumper-to-bumper with another sedan. Its driver, JAMES “TICK TOCK” COHAN was also sent by Janet Winston-Rogers. Tick Tock is a Murder, Incorporated enforcer.

It isn’t clear if Janet knows exactly what his job is, but she seemed to be aware of his capabilities—and of the fact that he was mentored by VINCE STACK, one of Walter Winston’s companions during the 1924 massacre. Vince was stabbed to death during that bloodbath, and Janet is hoping that she and Tick Tock can work together to find out what led to her father’s collapse and Vince’s death. Janet requested that Tick Tock make his way to Savannah and look for the group she had already sent there.

The Investigators compared notes. Tick Tock had noticed the car following them and was interested in meeting the only surviving member of the 1924 group, DOUGLAS HENSLOWE. The group headed inside to speak with Henslowe’s doctor, JONATHAN KEATON, who was impressed by Chantelle Perreault’s French charm and her connection to the Winston name. Keaton revealed himself to be a desperate careerist—willing to share information about his patients if he thinks doing so might improve his fortunes.

While Keaton was showing the group around Joy Grove, a patient charged down the hall and attacked Dorothy Howard. FRED CULVER was hulking and irrational. He seemed intent on biting Dorothy. Her companions moved to protect her, with Arthur Rowe speaking to Culver casually. Culver was caught off guard by this unexpected attempt at conversation. Orderlies stepped in and restrained him. While all this was going on, Luke Davis once again saw a strange mouth like form emerge out of the wall. It leered and drooled at him. Elsewhere, Luke noticed that someone had painted crude symbols in the plaster around a few water damaged areas. These were shaped like Hamsas, protective amulets worn by some in the Middle East.

Apologizing for the attack on Dorothy, Dr. Keaton led the Investigators to a room that had been set aside for patient interviews. Here, most of them met DOUGLAS HENSLOWE, the lone survivor of the 1924 massacre that led to Vince Stack’s death, as well as the nervous collapse of both Walter Winston and Henslowe. Arthur had long been an admirer of Henslowe and was deeply influenced by his work. Henslowe acknowledged their esthetic bond, before introducing himself to the others.

Henslowe appeared to be late middle-aged. He was sad, distant, and a bit druggy. He spoke with a gentlemanly Southern accent. The Investigators questioned him about the letter he sent to Walter. He answered, filling in some blanks around what happened on August 13, 1924 in Los Angeles. Henslowe said he was a part of a group, led by Walter Winston that was monitoring the activities of a dangerous cult of “fornicators.” All but Winston and Henslowe died. The group included:

  • WALTER WINSTON – Philanthropist and student of folklore and the occult.
  • DOUGLAS HENSLOWE – Cultured artist. Sensitive esthetically and otherwise.
  • VINCE STACK – Tough private investigator. Good as muscle and as an all around fixer. Stabbed to death.
  • KATHERINE CLARKE – Young, idealistic and clever. Good at manipulating people and learning secrets. Decapitated.
  • F.C. KULLMAN – Occult scholar and expert in the paranormal. A cynical authority on spiritualism. Shot.

Henslowe also shared the following about August 13 1924:

  • Katherine Clarke directed the rest of the group to a farm on that night. The cult was moving ahead with something sooner than expected, because “the stars we re right.”
  • Winston’s group came hastily armed, prepared to do whatever might be necessary to stop the cult. There was a shootout and a fire, with many people on both sides dying.
  • An unspecified “thing” appeared, perhaps summoned by the cult. It may have been responsible for some of the deaths.
  • Winston and Henslowe panicked and fled. Henslowe saw Stack shoot a man before being stabbed to death.

Henslowe seemed to sympathize with the Investigators. He directed them to his family’s estate, nearby. He’d stashed a notebook there with his observations on the time spent with Walter. He also mentioned that he’d stashed a key there for a safe deposit box. The box is at the First Bank of Long Beach. Henslowe said he placed some items from the 1924 Investigations in the box.

Doctor Keaton suggested that the Investigators speak to another one of his patients. This man had also been at the 1924 massacre, but had been participating in the cult ritual. His name was EDGAR JOB, and he was responsible for stabbing Vince Stack to death, after Stack shot the cult leader RAMON ECHAVARRIA.

Job was willing to talk to the Investigators about his past. He joined the Los Angeles cult after his friend and fellow student GEORGE AYERS introduced him to Echavarria. In 1923-24, Job attended drug- and sex-fueled parties thrown by Echavarria. Job said that Echavarria recognized that there was something special about him—perhaps his fascination with mathematics. Job is obsessed, in particular, with set theory.

Job mentioned that on the night of the ritual, the cultists were to be gifted with power. He had been singled out to be the focus of a spell, which Echavarria intoned over him. An entity was summoned that “screamed from its hands.” Many people died after Henslowe and Stack showed up with their friends. When questioned by Tick Tock, Job acknowledged that he’d killed Stack and claimed to feel remorse.

Job also bonded somewhat with Arthur, who drew him out by pretending to have attended Echavarria’s parties in the twenties. Arthur also claimed to have used a strange drug enjoyed by Job and the others in the past. It was called Nectar and seemed to serve as an aphrodisiac and as a mild-altering substance. Arthur promised to bring Job some Nectar, if he could.

Job spoke of finger-painting, a hobby which he said he’d taken up in collaboration with Henslowe—despite their profound differences. It became clear that Job was referring to the hamsas. The two men had been painting them in the runny plaster around the asylum. Job said they hoped they would be protected by them.

Eternal Lies cupcakes from my first time running the campaign.

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Eternal Lies Session 1

OCTOBER 31, 1934: The PCs (hereafter referred to as “Investigators”) were all invited to the Rogers Building, a 700’ tower in Manhattan. Janet Winston-Rogers, a young corporate executive and socialite was requesting their help in determining what drove her father, Walter Winston, into decline and death. At one time, Walter was a world-traveller and avid scholar of the unknown, but he suffered a nervous collapse in 1924.

The Investigators who attended the meeting with Janet are:

  • LUKE DAVIS, 29 y.o., American occult archaeologist, NYU. Consulted with Walter in the past. Janet is hoping he can provide insight into her father’s drive toward the esoteric.
  • DOROTHY “DOT” HOWARD, 23 y.o., American socialite and occultist. Walter served as a father figure as she began her occult explorations.
  • CHANTELLE PERRAULT, 28 y.o., . She is Walter’s secret daughter and Janet’s long-lost half-sister. Janet is hoping that she might have some insight into the part of Walter’s life that his family was unaware of.
  • ARTHUR ROWE, 28 y.o., American painter. He was the student of Douglas Henslowe, a former associate of Walter, who escaped the strange events of 1924, before suffering an emotional collapse. Douglas is the scion of an old Southern family, and artist, and socially progressive.

Janet mentioned her father’s interest in the occult and the mysterious traveling he took up as a result. Walter worked with a group who were somehow opposing “bad people,” as he put it. Apparently his efforts in this area led to some sort of disturbance in August, 1924. Neither Walter nor Douglas was ever the same after. Walter retreated to his mansion in Aylesbury, Massachusetts, where he fell into a state of depression and paranoid anxiety. He died in July of this year.

Other details that arose during the meeting:

  • Janet’s mother died in 1932. Her death may have been linked to alcohol abuse.
  • Janet recently inherited two fortunes. Her husband, Horatio Rogers died in February 1933. Then Walter passed.
  • Walter refused to discuss the events of August, 1924.
  • Over the years since then, Walter received a handful of letters from Douglas. These remained unopened until his death, when Janet decided to read them.
  • The letters from Douglas pled with Walter to corroborate a narrative about the events of August, 1924. Lacking word from Walter, Douglas (and his doctors, apparently) will never be sure of what really happened.
  • Douglas mentions the possibly meaningless loss of someone’s life. He also mentions someone engaging in immoral behavior.
  • In the last ten years, Walter felt he was being observed by unseen agents. Janet reluctantly admitted to occasional similar feelings. In particular, she noticed strange movements in the mansion’s shadows.
  • Luke Davis scrutinized the office and noticed a mouth with jagged teeth emerge from a wall. It licked its lips and smiled at him. Then it disappeared.
  • Between them, Dorothy and Luke intuited that there might be some sort of occult voyeurism at work. Locations might be “tagged” to allow someone to look in on the amorous behavior of someone else. The entire practice is reminiscent of ancient sex cults.

The Investigators agreed to help Janet determine what happened to Walter. They compared notes in Dorothy’s car, noticing another automobile, whose passengers seemed to be watching them. Janet gave them the use of her private plane, the Silver Sable, which is piloted by Frank Kearns. He is a cheerful man, who appears to have a deep devotion to Janet. After the Investigators de-briefed, he flew them to Savannah, Georgia. Janet had suggested that they go here.

The Investigators took up residence at the DeSoto Beach Hotel, just outside Savannah. Dorothy and Luke checked in with people back home, while Arthur asked a bartender about his deepest fears. Everyone set out for one of the addresses from which Douglas sent his letters. It turned out to be the Joy Grove Asylum, an institution where Douglas has lived, on and off, for the last ten years. His ancestral estate is the other address from which he sent mail. It is nearby as well.

When they left the DeSoto, the Investigators noticed they were being followed by a fairly nice car. It was full of people in suits and fedoras. It pursued them through rural, swampy territory. The Investigators pulled up at the asylum, ready to question Douglas.

My online gaming setup…tiny room, everything in reach

Another installment in a week or so…

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Account of an epic campaign (RPG, not political)

Eternal Lies 2020

I thought it might be fun and interesting to keep a record of the game I’m just beginning to GM with my Saturday group. Pelgrane’s Eternal Lies is a lengthy campaign with enormous depth, especially if you factor in a very thoughtful online community that’s grown around it. I myself have run the game once in the past, (2018-19,) and benefitted enormously from the past efforts and online counsel of other GMs.

It’s a particularly interesting time to be running the game, as I have no other choice than to put it out there online. I’m lucky enough to have a patient and stable group who’ve stuck with me as we’ve all transitioned to the internet. They are experienced, proactive players, and they’ve already done some pretty hefty gaming since the pandemic changed all our lives. I thought a running GM’s account might be especially revealing under these circumstances.

I plan to keep my updates here pretty brief, like 2-3 paragraphs. We meet once a week, so a lot will happen, even if we don’t finish. (Always a possibility when you run something of this scope.) For this go-around, I just wanted to provide a setup and a bit of context. We are running on Google Meet. Dice rolling is done by the honor system. Anyone who cheats at a Cthulhu game is robbing only themself, I think. The ruleset is a slightly modified Delta Green/Call of Cthulhu 6.0. I’ve used Trail of Cthulhu in the past—a lot—and felt I needed to clear the mental slate, if I was going to make this be fun for everyone.

To give the PCs a way in, I decided to link them strongly to the 1924 investigation. Eternal Lies takes place in 1934, and initially the PCs are trying to clarify what happened to what is essentially a past Call of Cthulhu party, who got in over their heads. I decided that this time around I would strengthen that connection by insisting that everyone have a defined relationship to a 1924 Investigator. My hope is that this approach will cut down on the “I can’t see any reason why my character would go to Timbuktu and face the Vampire Lich” objections that players sometimes run across relative to their characters’ back stories and personalities. This choice I’m making may create more complications for me than it alleviates, as I’ll have to do even more additional writing to glom everything together, but I am OK with that, if it makes for a stronger game in the long run.

Anyway, I will put up another post shortly that introduces the setting and this group’s PCs. Don’t read unless you want spoilers!

links to more info about the campaign: (only available to members, but a great resource)

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A cool-looking Kickstarter for a Christmas RPG

I’ve sometimes seen posts in RPG forums or on Reddit from people asking holiday themed roleplaying games or adventures, and that has often gotten me wondering about the same thing. There seems to be a relative abundance of the latter (i.e. adventures for preexisting systems like D&D or Fate) but not of the former.

But while recently browsing on Kickstarter (I’m always looking for cool RPGs to back), I came across what looked like a fun little rules-lite Christmas RPG that I thought I’d share for those interested.


It’s called ‘TWAS: The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas. It’s created by Jonathan Green who’s the found and writer of Ace Gamebooks, a line of old school-style gamebooks based on classic works of literature like Alice in Wonderland (Alice’s Nightmare in Wonderland), The Wizard of Oz (The Wicked Wizard of Oz), and Beowulf (Beowulf Beastslayer). ‘TWAS itself is based on Green’s own ‘TWAS: The Krampus Night Before Christmas which was also a gamebook and which had been successfully Kickstarted.


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Ridiculously cheap Pathfinder Humble Bundle!

Humble Bundle is known for offering some great deals, and right now they’ve teamed up with Paizo to offer an insanely cheap Pathfinder bundle of books and even comics. I thought I should share this for any Pathfinder fans out there, or those who wish to start playing Pathfinder, who weren’t aware of it yet. 

I should note that this everything in this bundle is for the first edition, so if you’re looking for the second edition book you’ll still have to pay retail price. Still, the amount of material that’s on offer, and the prices it’s being offered at, are practically ridiculous. 

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Playing ‘City of Mist’ with geek musician Debs

One of the great things that I really appreciate about being part of the role-playing game community, and the wider nerd community in general, is the opportunity to meet a lot of cool, interesting people.

Last night I ran a City of Mist one-shot in my home at the request of a friend of mine, Daniel, who’s an active member of the RPG meetup that I run, the Chicago Alternative RPG Meetup (CARM). Daniel’s friend, Debs, was visiting from Vancouver and he had never had the chance to game with her before.

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‘Call of Cthulhu’ is second most played RPG game on Roll20

Roll20 just released their Orr Group Industry Report for Q3 2019 and it looks like Call of Cthulhu’s popularity continues to grow. According to the report, 13% of Roll20 users currently play the Call of Cthulhu (CoC) system. CoC supplanted the spot that Pathfinder previously used to have, becoming the second most popular role-playing game second only to D&D 5e. It remains to be seen how long it will hold onto that spot, but that’s still an impressive feat.

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