Realm of Shadows - Kith and Kin

Kith and Kin” is the first adventure in the Realm of Shadows campaign. This was the second adventure I ran with my new group.

Players & Characters

Since the players wanted to keep using pre-generated characters, I made 5 characters for this scenario:

The first session only had 4 characters, and Dorothy ended up not being played, so she stayed at the office, occasionally running errands for the players.

System & Rules

We ran the adventure with GURPS 4th edition again, although I started adding a few more rules to the mix compared to the previous adventure. It’s basically a way to slowly introduce the full system to the players. It works very well since GURPS is designed to be modular from the ground up, so it’s easy to add or remove rules.

It was mostly OK but I was a bit rusty on a few things regarding ranged combat penalties and the effect of injuries. Also, GURPS stats for guns can be a bit overwhelming at first, so we mostly stuck to the couple of stats we needed: damage, bulk, and recoil. This is because most of the fight in the sewers was so chaotic there was basically no time to aim, and there weren’t many other moments in the adventure where shooting was involved.

Interestingly, the players realized very quickly that getting +3 to Dodge by stepping back is very good… until all the characters are back-to-back, or against a wall, and can’t step back anymore! Placement is very important.

Actual Play

After a brief meeting between the private detectives and Frankly Quigley to explain the case, Wardell and Edward went to the Sheriff’s office, where they met with Evelyn and Lloyd, who were arguing with one of the deputies in order to get more (unfortunately classified) information. The detectives obtained the police report – and their first taste of the nice handouts you get when you play Cthulhu games! – and agreed to share the details with the other 2 characters. After more discussion, they decided – for the sake of the game of course! – to collaborate.

Metagaming and GMing mistakes

The game didn’t start so well because I somewhat messed up the pacing and the clues a bit. The initial meeting with Quigley is supposed to happen in his office, so the players get a chance to see his diploma on the wall, among other things. As a result, when they asked for Katherine’s adress book, I said that it was at home (why would he have it at his work?), and that he would be able to give it to them if they dropped by his house in the late afternoon after he was done with his appointments.

The problem is that most of the other leads are useless, so the players were a bit lost for the whole day until we got to the evening, where they finally got hold of Katherine’s address book – another nice handout too, by the way.

Finding the witnesses who saw Katherine drive away in a hurry with Anne doesn’t bring more information than what they got from the police report at the beginning, and the neighbours don’t really have much more to say than what Franklin said originally. Even Matthew Early, who’s supposed to point the players in Kiel’s direction, is somewhat superfluous since the players are probably going through the address book page by page, and would have gotten to Kiel eventually.

Funnily enough, the players theorized early on that Franklin may be more than just a man who lost his wife and kid. This was part metagaming on their part, I suspect, and part my fault, again, for having one of the characters be Katharine’s childhood girlfriend. Even if they hadn’t seen each other in years (it was Evelyn’s first encounter with Franklin), Evelyn figured something was wrong, and was the first to say that Franklin may be lying. After their unsuccessful investigation of the first leads, they decided to break into Quigley’s house. They didn’t have time to do a proper search, though, so they didn’t find any of the clues there before Franklin was due to come back from work.

One last mistake was to make Lloyd, Evelyn’s husband, not interesting enough.

The Kiel Farm

Once they had the address book, it took them little time to get to Emmanuel Kiel’s farm. The adventure’s text explicitely states that the farm is intended to be a challenge for the players, and it definitely was!

The characters got some advance warning from the people in Philipston that Kiel was a gun-nut recluse, but decided it was probably possible to talk to him for a minute. Of course it didn’t go so well, with Kiel nicely asking them to leave his property right away – him and his double barrel shotgun didn’t have any interest in what they had to say. Because Evelyn stayed in the car, and only the detectives did the talking, there was no chance for Katherine to intervene – assuming she was even watching events unfold from some window, which may or may not have been the case.

Either way, the players tried to push Kiel a bit too much and Kiel got very angry, firing on the car, breaking a couple windows and causing superficial wounds to the passengers. Luckily, Evelyn, being a doctor, managed to do first-aid on the wounded.

Then came the very lengthy process of coming up with a plan, which became comical quite fast as potential plans got crazier and crazier. An interesting aspect of roleplaying methodologies became apparent: medieval-fantasy players are used to try and solve a problem “right now”, with “whatever I have on or around me”. The difference, in this case, is that players have a bit more time, and access to various resources outside their character’s gear. For example, they can call the police or come back later when Kiel is away.

Either way, they proceeded with the classic “drug the dog meat” plan. Evelyn, as a doctor, managed to get animal anaesthetics from a nearby pharmacy. She handled the dosage and injected it inside steaks they bought from the town’s store. Then they came back at night, jumped Kiel’s fence and dropped the drugged meat in the middle of the field. They waited a bit back in the car, and finally came back, finding most of the dogs asleep.

The two detectives snuck up to the main building and confirmed, after peeking inside, that Katherine and Anne were there. But things almost got out of hand when Kiel went outside to find out why he hadn’t seen or heard his dogs in more than an hour. The detectives held him at gunpoint for a minute, and got him to talk, but Katherine came out with her uncle’s shotgun. There was a bit of attempted melee fighting but no shots were fired and Kiel eventually got knocked out by one of the detectives. Katherine tried to run away with Anne but when Evelyn finally showed up, she calmed down and everybody explained themsleves. It’s a miracle nobody got seriously hurt.

Turning Of The Tables

At this point, it was clear that something was wrong with Franklin Quigley. The detectives’ car was full of bullet holes so the players decided that Lloyd (Evelyn’s husband) would get the car repaired. Katherine would drive her car back to Greenfield with the private detectives and her friend Evelyn to figure out what to do with Franklin. Anne would stay out of trouble by having her great uncle Kiel babysit her for a couple days – which would hopefully mellow the old grumpy guy a bit.

Lloyd was effectively an NPC for the rest of the adventure, and Dorothy, the private detectives’ assistant, became a PC.

Back in Greenfield, Katherine stayed at the Dorothy’s apartment. The players interrogated Katherine thoroughly, but didn’t know what to do with her whole “demon” story. Dorothy started researching occultism books to figure out what it could be, while Evelyn started having doubts about Quigley’s medical abilities. She realized that, contrary to what Katherine had always said in her letters based on her husband’s “diagnostic”, Anne was not mongoloid. She did some research on various congenital deformities, but that proved inconclusive of course, so she started asking around town about Quigley. It became fairly obvious fairly quickly that Quigley was not a real doctor, and that he never was.

Meanwhile, the detectives did a stake out of Quigley’s house, and saw him come out in the middle of the night. They followed him to the edge of the downtown core, where he went into some sewers maintenance tunnel through a manhole.

The next day, they took their information to the police – both the fact that Franklin Quigley was practicing medicine without a proper license, and the fact that he had suspicious nightly behaviour. They tried to spin that second fact into Quigley potentially damaging or, worse, sabotaging city infrastructure, but the Sheriff wasn’t so receptive to the argument, which he found preposterous. He was concerned about Quigley’s medical practice, however, but the best he could do was to have one of his deputies look into the matter in the next few days.

Down The Rabbit Hole

The players decided that they couldn’t wait, and organized an expedition in the sewers to try and see what Franklin could have been doing down there. At the end of the day, the 2 detectives, along with their assistant, removed the same manhole cover as Franklin did when they were following him, and went down in the dark, smelly, and dirty tunnel. Evelyn was to stand guard around the entry, and fall back to the detectives’ office after a couple hours to get by the phone.

The characters walked around the main sewer lines for a while until they stumbled upon a cracked wall. It was an opening for a roughly dug, cylindrical tunnel that was going down a gentle slope. Crazily enough, one of the detectives volunteered to crawl inside. After a few minutes of crawling he found an intersection, with one of the branches quickly dropping almost vertically. That was already worrying – who would dig tunnels like ths? – but then he heard voices coming from the other branch. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, but did hear a few French words mixed with some old English. He tried to crawl back slowly but the voices stopped, and he heard some sniffing. He was starting to freak out, but still managed to quietly crawl back up.

Now, instead of getting the hell out of there, the players decided to hang out there, near the tunnel entrance, talking about who could have been down there. After a minute, a city engineer showed up. He asked the characters what they were doing down there, adding that it was illegal for them to be here. One of the detectives started arguing that they were pursuing an investigation and found this most irregular tunnel, and tried to intimidate the NPC. The city engineer tried to dismiss the whole thing, saying that hobos sometimes come to the sewers to get some warmth, and dig those tunnels to get a dry place to lie down. He then asked them to just forget about it and get out. He was basically trying to figure out if the characters would potentially be a real problem or just something to keep an eye on. But when the detective continued with his intimidation and replied that he would alert the authorities, the engineer sighed, reverted back to his monstrous appearance, and leap forward, claws first. “Your funeral, meat”.

Not Enough Bullets

The characters got surrounded by half a dozen ghouls crawling out of the side pipes, but, with the limited width of the tunnel, managed to hold their ground for a while. I ended up being very nice with them because I forgot to apply penalties for shooting in the dark (they had lights, but you can imagine that the lights would have been swinging widely, resulting in confusing moving shadows everywhere).

They managed to kill most of the first wave of ghouls before they ran out of bullets, but got badly injured in the process. When the second wave of ghouls arrived, they tried to run but some of the characters were already at half move due to their wounds. Wardell, with a revolver, didn’t have time to reload and crawled in a secondary sewer pipe to try and catch his breath – he was at negative HP and was only staying conscious on HT rolls. Edward and Dorothy fought off the rest of the ghouls temporarily, and tried to drag Wardell to the nearest exit. At this point, Dorothy was also at negative HP, and both her and Wardell lost consciousness before making it to the exit.

Edward had to drag Wardell, but couldn’t lift him up the ladder. He managed to open the manhole from inside and called for help. A few people passing by came to get Wardell out. While they were doing that, Edward tried to run further back inside the tunnel to get Dorothy but the ghouls had gotten to her first. With only a few HP points left and not many bullets, he had to watch her getting dragged into the darkness by several monsters – a sight that still haunts him, I’m sure.

Recovery and Conclusion

Edward flagged a car down and got the driver to take him and Wardell to the hospital. Wardell underwent some surgery to close his wounds and stop the bleeding, which was successful. Edward got in contact with Evelyn, who was all worried at the detectives’ office. He also called the police, making up a story about a gang of mask wearing, knife wielding junkies living in the sewers having kidnapped Dorothy.

Shortly after that, one of the Sheriff’s deputies came to interrogate Edward, saying that several other deputies were going down in the sewers to find Dorothy… A few hours later, he would get informed that the deputies didn’t find anybody, but did find evidence of a gunfight that matches Edward’s story. They also didn’t find the tunnel Edward mentioned, but found a place where the sewer’s brick wall is, indeed, badly damaged. But there’s just a pile of dirt there – if there was a tunnel, it collapsed.

The next few days went by quickly:

While Katherine was gathering her stuff, the detectives had a closer look at Quigley’s house and office. I didn’t want to place Franklin’s secret documents in there since the players had already tried to search the house (albeit in a rush) at the beginning of the scenario. Instead, they found some key doubles to his office. When they searched his office, they found a safe in which the documents were placed: Transitions, Montague’s letters, and the archeologist’s notes.

Closing Statement

The game sessions were a bit unequal, with the first one being not totally awesome because of the aforementioned mistakes. But it got better and I think the last few sessions were quite good, with lost of varied stuff happening.

There were also different scheduling conflicts with players as we were getting close to the holidays, but switching characters around was a nice solution to that, and I’m thinking I want to maybe do that more – have a bigger cast of characters that the players can choose from depending on what’s going on at any given time. We’ll see how we can use that in the future.