Beyond the Mountains of Madness by Mr.Misfit
This campaign kills treesOriginal SA post
Antarctica. The last place on earth, humanity has not truly conquered. (If we discount the nazis who fled to the moon from here, and the entrance to the subterranean inner world of course, but I digress...) A place where the cold is willing to bite of your nose, spitting it back into your face and laughing while doing so. Antarctica. It is a magical place.
But before we get into that, we'll have to go back. A long...long looooong while back. You see, Beyond the Mountains of Madness (BtMoM in short) is a roleplaying campaign written by Charles and Janyce Engan for Call of Cthulhu 5th edition, released by Chaosium Press in August 1999.
It details the events of the Starkweather-Moore expedition to Antarctica of 1933-34, which follows the Lovecraft story “At the Mountains of Madness” from 1930. Wait, I hear you say. What story? Right, I think most people interested in the campaign itself will know that story, but we´ll have to talk about the novella as well.
You see, in the late 1920s Antarctica truly was mostly unexplored and alien. A hostile environment, where hardy men tried to succeed, some died and some went on to become “heroes of science and western exploration”. In those days, especially in 1928-30 the public interest was placed on the Robert E. Byrd expedition to Antarctica.
Lovecraft especially, was fascinated by it and connected it and several other elements to write this story, which contains and connects many of his other, more disjointed works together to form a more coherent idea of horror and cosmos behind it. But what is it actually about?
[Warning - Image may not accurately depict game as played by real people; Picture from gameoverride.com]
As you might have guessed, it´s about slimy things in the dark, ancient cities from before the time of humanity, things-man-wasn´t-meant-to-know and much gory, gory death. A full plot summary is available on wikipedia, I´ll just recap quickly:
At the Mountains of Madness Summarized posted:
In 1930 there was an antarctic expedition to what was termed the Miskatonic mountain range led by Professor Lake, who, together with many others, died at the hands of re-awakened Elder things, while William Dyer and Paul Danforth actually crossed into the highest mountains to reach the lost city of Elder Things where they decided that “nope, we're outta here” after walking for five meters and Danforth goes nutso after watching something terrible rise out of the mists as they escape via plane.
There, I just saved you 120 pages of reading. Now onto the campaign. Now, we´ll look at the v1 of BtMoM first, and afterwards will compare and contrast with the new v2, concluding with a final review of the campaign as a whole. Now, let's get to it.
The campaign comes at a whopping 439 pages, which isn't quite pathfinder-level but still enough to cause a serious concussion if used appropriately, which can be quite handy for it´s 2.7 pounds of weight. Of those 439 pages we use 15 for Foreword and personage, 268 for the campaign itself and the remaining 152 are for appendices, timelines, creature stats etc. Oh, and about 40 pages of handouts. Oh yes. This campaign kills trees. Well.
Because space is important, the entire campaign is written in a three-column layout with...well, I suppose font 10 text. It's tiny, is what I'm trying to say. Also, with about 310k words, it's really a mountain of text in the space you´d assume some sort of novel would fit. A big one. To compare, the entire Lord of the Rings comes up to 480k words. So BtMoM is basically Fellowship and Two Towers in one book. With very small print. Hope your keeper likes epic novel-length reading.
Now, before we start, the campaign gives us an overview of which NPCs can be replaced by the player characters, which is good, and some of the later important stuff, or what you might read in preparation. Because it's such a thin book to start with, you know, to pad out word count. Among those is, of course, the original Lovecraft novella, which I do agree, the keeper should know, as well as Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.
Now take it as truth, the latter can be skipped, it's mostly flavor for the campaign and the important part is something rage-inducing all on its own which we´ll come to later on. Read the novella, watch a few good movies about Antarctica, maybe a nature documentary. Got it. I myself really enjoyed The Thing (Not only for the scares), Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (very informative) and Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog, very artsy, but some great images).
With that, we jump, even before we come to the prologue, to the Dramatis Personae. 12 are presented, the leaders of all three expeditions, some characters from the previous lake expedition, among the Paul Danforth whom we´ll meet again in this campaign, as well as Arthur Pym (whom we won't meet) as well as “The Profiteers”, because unscrupulous german business men who play “Sir-Does-Not-Appear-In-This-Movie”. Neato. Kinda pointless, but it's a theme we´ll discover more often in the book itself.
This is followed up by what amounts to two pages of a newspaper article about the general knowledge the world has of the events of the Lake expedition. It's of interest to note, that it already talks about elder things, but mostly as “fossils” and claims that the expedition was destroyed by a cruel Antarctic storm.
Beyond the Mountains of Madness Prologue posted:
In September of 1930, researchers from Arkham's Miskatonic University set sail for the Antarctic continent on a bold venture of exploration and discovery. The Miskatonic University Antarctic Expedition, privately funded with I support from the Nathaniel Pickman Foundation, left Boston Harbor in two ships. Two months later they landed in Antarctica near Ross Island: twenty men, fifty-five dogs, and five large Dornier aeroplanes were set upon the ice. Their mission was to survey a geologic history of the Earth's last frontier; to chart from the air where no human foot had stepped, and to determine at last, once and for all, whether Antarctica was indeed one land mass or several...
Opening up with an atmospheric quote, the chapter begins by describing what amounts to job interviews. In May 1933 two men, the “world famous” British adventurer James Starkweather and us-American scientific trailblazer and geologist William Moore of Miskatonic University, Arkham, Massachusetts (because with Lovecraft, it is always Lovecraft County), are looking for people who wish to join their expedition to the last unexplored corner of the earth. Antarctica. Offering up two newspaper clippings with articles for the players, our intrepid investigators are invited to “seek employment” with the expedition.
Now, truth here, that is a neat idea. The player characters are invited to a job interview with Moore and Starkweather, where they are asking some questions about the background and assessing their capabilities, Moore from a technical-scientific, Starkweather for the more aggressive, survival and daredevil´ish qualities. Of course, a woman is right out. Starkweather is a noted woman hater. The interview, which can be well played like twenty questions, is basically a chance for the investigators to learn something about the adventure before them, and talk about their past at the table, offering up ample role-playing opportunities.
Now this is a part I´ll offer up to the public. I need four people, three men and one women, to send into the interview and expedition. I need a name, an occupation as well as their nationality.
Help me FATAL thread, you´re my only hope!
Reading this entry forces a hard SAN roll (1/1d2)Original SA post
Part 2 - Reading this entry forces a hard SAN roll (1/1d2)
That was fast! Let's see how this´ll work out, as we come to the first interviews. The book opens the paragraph as follows...
”Beyond the Mountains of Madness” posted:
Starkweather paced the floor, his tall, lean frame radiating barely suppressed energy. “Have you seen the papers, Moore? Have you seen them, by God!” One large hand swept out in an extravagant gesture toward the table, covered in newspapers. Starkweather grinned, eyes feverish with excitement. “By the time I´ve finished they´ll have forgotten there ever was a Miskatonic Expedition!” Sitting across the room, Moore pushed his glasses further up on his nose, his expression quietly bland. “We have three more to speak to this morning.” The words were subdued. “One of them is a woman.” Moore paused to search through a huge stack of papers on his lap. “Ah, yes.” He drew out a sheet to gaze at it. “A botanist, of some reputation - Miss Charlene Whitston.” Starkweather stood utterly still. “A woman? This trip is no place for a woman?!” His eyes narrowed, suddenly, thoughtful. “Damn the botany, Moore! Has she got any money?”
The prologue concerns itself with some general information, to be disseminated among the players, and prepare them for the interviews. The expedition leave in September, and plans to return the following June to July. They are privately funded (Though the books doesn't tell us how, which can be weird when the investigators ask, so we´ll just have to assume that Moore and Starkweather are really frakkin wealth. I´d also accept stonkin´ rich.) and plan to revisit most of the Miskatonic Expeditions sites to open up what they have found.
[BtMoM Starkweather and Moore 1999]
As a chapter, the prologue also serves to introduce two main NPCs of the campaign, James Starkweather and William Moore. Together, they are the heart and brain of the expedition. This is also a problem. You see, the campaign really, really wants Starkweather to be the great leader that wins the hearts of the players, the gentleman everyone will follow to hell and beyond, while Moore is more of the mousy academic who feels guilt as he was unable to go with the previous expedition and wants to uncover the truth of what happened there. Also for your viewing pleasure, compare those images. The ones up there are from the original campaign of 1999, the ones below are from the rewritten version from 2010. Huge difference in quality, even though Starkweather´s missing the necessary mighty ´stache.
[BtMoM Starkweather and Moore 2010]
But, and this is a big spoiler, as the campaign goes on, the players will, without a doubt, recognize that Starkweather is a buffoon. A blind, blundering idiot of colossal proportions, a man living and acting well beyond his true ability, who endangers himself and everyone around him with his decisions. The campaign as written even forces the players to recognize this fact, yet still treats him as if he's the best guy to have around. This contrasts sharply with Moore, who is an analytical mind full of details about the impending journey, but with little to fill his character, whom the campaign, at times, will even forget about because Starkweather here, Starkweather there. And these are two of the NPCs players will spend most of the campaign with. But I´m rambling, and we´ll get to this later on again….
The prologue also offers up an overview of what professions are most likely to be taken along on the expedition. Scientists, researchers of the ice, pilots, technicians and polar guides, photographers and journalists, dog handlers etc. If you haven't gotten one of those, you may always buy your way into the expedition with 1000+ $ cash. Unless you´re a woman. Oh boy.
Because this is Cthulhu 1930s, Starkweather is a honest-to-god misogynist and that is socially acceptable in these times. As most groups I've encountered are settled firmly in a modern mindsets, this leads to some “unwillingness” and throws another shade of dickishness on Starkweather as a character for the group. So much for the designated hero. The book offers up having a woman pay simply more (2000+ $, basically amounts to about 29.000$ nowadays, a huge sum for many), or offer her the position if no male experts are available, which is weird, because the expedition has most of the people it needs. Finally, there's an opportunity to bring aboard a woman due to story contrivances, but that's neither here nor there. I used it, but I talked with the player beforehand and she said it was ok, but it's not really a good thing. Maybe that's just me. Maybe it's not.
What's more interesting in this, is how the chapter tells us of possible professions the player characters can and should have to be taken along, but spares no thought of whether the players should actually replace anyone already planned in the campaign. And there's a reason for that, but it's really stupid. You see, the campaign relies on its structure as a railroady drive towards the titular Mountains of Madness by using a lot of novel-like structuring. And then Mr.Bryce said that... and so on and forth. And if Mr.Bryce isn´t in there, the text doesn't work. I know that, as keeper, you can just substitute your players for other characters, and replace people in texts or just free-form them entirely, but it's a growing nitpick. So, as a good keeper, if someone wants to be a dog handler, just say yes and replace one of the NPC dog handlers with him/her. Trust me, it's much easier, especially as you´ll get swamped with NPCs anyway.
[Many questions are being asked in the interview...]
On to the interviews. It's May-July 1933. The city of New York, currently simmering under a wave of heavy, wet heat, is making everyone uncomfortable, and not even the indoors deliver any kind of relief. Which makes Starkweather's suite at the Amherst Hotel on the 5th floor on 44th Street, Manhattan, quite the luxurious place to be at.
After Moore answers the door and offers the newcomers a seat at the table, he introduces himself and Starkweather, and the questions begin.
”Interview with a man...” posted:
Well well well. Antarctica! Last great piece of white on the map! We´ll uncover new vistas, explore strange places and discover uncharted territory. Are you up for it?
Mr.Starkweather Sir, I´ve gone to the rockies, I've gone up the trails of the northern tribes. I´m up for anything! - James Fowler
You´ll find that my knowledge of medicine and healthy food also makes me an excellent person to tell the chef when something is edible. - John J. Babcock
I want to create the ultimate gaming environment and for that I need to go out there. Have you heard of RIFTS™ ? - Kevin Simbieda
I've hunted big, I've hunted small. Might as well add some icy bastards to my list. You´ll find my unique talents provide even at the end of the world. - Andrew Graham
Wheil mai unique talent might not be the yellow from the egg on this travel, I am sure to do my best whatever we will encounter. Also I have money. *forks over cash* - Ernst Carl Winkler
Well, the cold is basically just like a mine, only with more licht, ja? I can I can handle das. - Yukon Cornelius
Saw Baghdad burn. Protected Paris from the Krauts at the Marne. Survived Battle of the Somme. What´s Antarctica got? - Hugh Watson
¡Plantare la bandera de mi querida Argentina! - Juan Peron
We will hunt and explore the unknown. And we will do it all with soul, heart and joy! - David Harbour
If today was Christmas eve, and tomorrow was Christmas day, All I would need was the distant cold... - Robert Johnson
My coach said I need to punch harder. Show me the ice and I´ll show you my uppercut! - Bolt van der Hütj
Marvelous, marvelous, just exciting, isn't it. In any case, I'm sure we´ll get back to you. Why don´t you, you and you return on September 1st with your personal effects? The rest, I'm terribly sorry, but we´re well beyond capacity already...
”Interview with a Woman” posted:
When did you graduate? What does your husband think of this? No dice, tell me woman, do you really fancy changing your linens every day in a room with thirty unwashed men?
Such impertinence! I´ll have you know that my line is quite high in fame and you would do well to respect me as such. Furthermore I was trained by Prof.Kartenherr himself in writing and cartographing... - Nadine Bergen
Heh, that´ll be fun. - Madison Claremont
Mr.Starkweather, Prof.Moore, gentlemen, I can assure you, that neither the cold nor daring men would ever offend me enough to stop me from taking part *winks* - Yvonne Lefevre
Yes, yes, thank you. Please leave your address, and, if you have one, telephone number, we´ll let you know what we decide later on.
Oh, and if a woman offers up any sort of money, Starkweather will ask for 5000$ first. Because, you know, who's willing to pay 72.000$ for the chance to go to Antarctica, right? If she's an actual scientific wunderkind however, she´s asked to wait outside, and with a successful LISTEN check can hear a heated argument between Moore and Starkweather, which leads to her being invited by Moore, while Starkweather pouts. Neato, but I suppose it’s a seldomly used option.
Anyway, greet our brave troop of explorers!
[From Left to Right]
Ernst Carl Winkler, brave german linguist from Darmstadt.
Yukon Cornelius, canadian miner turned survivalist and general daring-do´er
Juan Peron, argentinian ski instructor on leave from the army
Naturally no woman was “well-off” enough to take part in the expedition, but rumours say that Ms. Claremont is currently working as a dyke bouncer in some sort of underground NY fight club, while Mrs.Bergen has retreated to pout in a nearby library, and Ms.Lefevre introduced herself to the NY high society, drinking away the shame of rejection.
The same chapter also includes an explanation of how the press interacts with the expedition and its members, as the public will grow increasingly interested in the weirdos that want to flee from society to the coldest place on earth, and includes some suggestions on how to put screws on like scorps trying for a scope, running after characters, injecting themselves for special interviews, basically anything dirty you can imagine journalists doing, these guys will do. It's a nice detail, but it won't really come up that often, if you´re expediting the journey. But we´ll get to the most dreadful part of New York in time.
After the interview, a time jump is in order, unless you prefer spending several months between May-July to September playing something, I mean, it's not like the campaign isn't long enough already but hey...
Right, the book then presents an overview of some of the other members of the Lake Expedition and what happened to them in the meantime, like Pabodie, McTighe, Dyer and Danforth, the latter two being unavailable, while players may investigate and talk to Pabodie and McTighe, who won´t say much, remain cryptic and tell you “Yeah, Madness, shitty place, rather crazy, don´t want to spoil too much, also Danforth went cuckoo, please leave now.”.
[Pabodie and McTighe. You know, Pabodie looks kinda Cosa Nostra 70s style for a 50 year old drill engineer]
The chapter concludes with an overview of “The Summary Report” by Dyer, which basically summarizes the Lovecraft novella in an ingame document and represents a more sciency version of that same story, a copy of which can be bought at the Miskatonic student bookstore for 5$. Trust me, you don't want anything spoiling expectations, so just ignore it or say “The report was lost”. Finally you get an overview of two other, historical expeditions also going to Antarctica around this time, Ellsworth-Balchen and the Richard E.Byrd one (quite famous, I believe) but it's more of a footnote.
And that´s the prologue. 26 pages done, only 413 left.
New York, New Yooooooorkkkkkk…..Original SA post
Wait, has it really been almost two weeks? Damn, time flies when you're working.
Part 3 - New York, New Yooooooorkkkkkk…..
With all said and done, we enter Chapter One, for the timeframe of September 1st to 5th 1933 and it opens with the following text…
”Beyond the Mountains of Madness” posted:
It is September, 1933. The New Deal passed during the spring, but swarms of unemployed workmen still haunt the streets. Artist and philanthropist Nicholas Roerich is to host a $100-a-plate charity dinner for drought-stricken Chinese in two weeks, while thousands starve in New York State alone. Just down 34th Street the new Empire State Building looms. A couple of months ago Primo Camera knocked out Jack Sharkey here in New York City, in six rounds to take the heavyweight title. The New York Giants lead the National League. Monopoly is a popular new parlor game. The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice is preparing its "friend of the court" brief for the upcoming trial United States v. One Book Entitled "Ulysses. " Prohibition will be repealed soon....
And tied up on the north side of Pier 74 along the Hudson River shore of New York City is the SS Gabrielle, her stem to the city, her bow to the open sea.
This also implies one of the bigger problems with the campaign itself. The stringent timing that makes some actions or events problematic if they don't happen in time or at the correct time slot, but we´ll get to those. In either case, it´s the moment our brave investigators actually arrive in New York. On a side note, for comparative purposes, you can see the 1999 version of pictures or handouts on the left, and the 2011 on the right, should there be one, of course.
The chapter begins by actually laying out the most important bits in an overview. The expeditions members have mostly been decided. Everything is being readied and those who take part arrive to get on board or actually get to know the other people of the expedition. Meanwhile the keeper´s being advised on how to handle the different parts, that the players should learn of whom´s actually accompanying them to the ice and where to find their stats (it says in the appendix, but no actual page is given. A minor layout sin, but always dreadful when it happens).
It also advises against any sort of contact with Ms.Lexington, a NPC we´re going to learn more about during this chapter, who is the make-believe antagonist for the players to focus on due to the intense hatred Starkweather bears her. And of course the fact that she's basically having her own little expedition to thwart the Starkweather-Moore-Expedition, but all in due time.
The story continues at the morning of September 1st. A german, an argentinian and a canadian pour out of the far too small New York taxi that has brought them to the Amherst Hotel, and start helping each other get their respective belongings out. What sounds like the start of a very weird joke actually turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Ernst Carl Winkler speaks english well enough to understand everything below the rough canadian exterior that Yukon Cornelius exudes and the two have been able to strike up some semblance of conversation. During that same conversation they found to not only share a destination (Starkweather/Moore at the Amherst), but also a purpose (Joining the expedition). The weird argentinian with the long skiers seems to have the same target, but since most of what he says is either in spanish or some smattering of spanglish, it´s difficult even for the expert linguist Ernst to decipher.
As our intrepid protagonists arrive at the Amherst, and begin asking after Starkweather/Moore, they are given rooms and a letter by Moore, as seen below.
Following up the letter brings the group to Pier 74 along the Hudson River, where they can see the SS. Gabrielle in port. An amusing paragraph tells us that the entire pier 74 is quite shabby compared to the next one over with the Italian Royal Mail, brightly lit and with well-maintained facilities. Here, at the foot of West 34th Street and over the cross of Twelfth Avenue they can see the small sign nailed between two large pier shed doors.
The overweight guardsman checks their names with his clipboard, and then tells them to “Get on in, bud.”. Walking alongside the ships hull on the pier, they can board and quickly find Moore in the mess hall.
Right. I´m going to summarize a bit more, because unlike the campaign I´m not actually going to spout a continuous stream of words at you. Moore informs the characters of a meeting in the Amherst the next morning, 8 AM sharp, and tells them to see Peter Sykes, the leading polar guide the expedition has.
Sykes, a professional through and though takes their measurements and gives first instructions for use of the clothing kit, about 15 pound of clothes, informing them that their clothes should arrive in the following two days. Afterwards, each character is checked by Dr. Richard Greene, expedition doctor and general physician.
After that, comes the part for Starkweather, where everyone's is to dress up in cold-weather gear and some publicity pictures are taken. Then, a quick dentist visit, and then they are free for the afternoon. Our three adventurers disperse for the evening, each looking to find their salvation in some sort of hobby or similar. Winkler reads up on Antarctica in his room, Peron takes his skier to the cellar and attempts some dry training exercises, while Cornelius goes to drink in some shady, seedy, scummy bar which shall not be named for its name actually only appears in the 2010 version of BtMoM.
As September 2nd arrives, it's 8AM, and our intrepid heroes arrive for the meeting in the Rose Room of the Amherst. A steaming breakfast is laid out, while people greet each other, get to know the others, and share the joy of eating breakfast in a luxurious hotel. A few minutes later, Starkweather and Moore arrive, greeting everyone by name, and then giving the general infos.
”James Starkweather recounts...” posted:
- Departure is on September 14th
- The route takes the expedition from New York along the Caribbean through the Panama Canal, to Melbourne, Australia, and then southwards to the Ross Sea of Antarctica, hopefully on November 1st
- The ship will carry 4 air planes, three Boeing 247s and one Fairchild FC-2 (Remember that, it´s going to be important later on)
- Three destinations and camps are planned at Antarctica.
- The Ross Sea Camp will be base, the second at the Lake site and the final one will be on the ancient high plateau of the Miskatonic Mountains
- The expedition plans to leave Antarctica towards February 1st, 1934, best case scenario at the end of Antarctic summer, taking the remains of the previous expedition members with them “to bring them home”
Now I´ll break with the current flow because you might have noticed something up there. You see, the campaign begins by speaking about creating a third camp up on high at the Miskatonic mountain range. This is weird, because the actual events as described make no sense to get up there for anything, really. There is a key object later on, which the campaign changed around in the 2010 version, which makes it even weirder to have the objective of creating a third camp here. Furthermore, both versions make characters state that the actual intent of the expedition is to clear up what actually happened at the lost 1930s expedition camp and bring home what they've found, if any scientific value is behind it.
However, as far as ANYONE knows, the mountains are just that. Really high mountains. But I digress. We´ll get to that later on, but do keep this in mind, I´ll harp on it some more as we continue.
After this little overview, Moore continues by explaining what they plan to do, and comparing their expedition with the other three planned ones, two of which I´ve mentioned during the prologue already, and the third being the german Barsmeier-Falken-expedition, which is another fictional one set up for the campaign. Hope your player´s don´t know too much about antarctic expeditions yet, or this will clue them in really early about those possible nazi shenanigans (By february of 1933 the Machtergreifung had already happened, Hitler was chancellor and all hope would be lost..).
Those currently at the breakfast meeting are assigned jobs, just as well as the players will. And what a job that is. You see, Moore assigns the characters to check the cargo lists and gives each player one or more sheets with cargo to be checked, which they are to do at their own leisure. And at this point, those who´ve played BtMoM will be sucking in air. Well, at least in german cthulhu circles those lists are infamous. You see, the campaign expects the players to take the seven handouts, each representing a single sheet, and check them with knowledge rolls etc. for correctness.
Unless you´re an accountant who lives for this stuff, you might see why this is problematic. It also further compounds another problem. Most of the cargo at hand has been ordered or selected by Starkweather, and the characters are made aware of this, when they check the cargo list. Not a good thing if you want to establish your leader as a glorious hero, but ...well. The other thing is that there's quite a lot among the cargo sheets that´s problematic, but ...well….
NONE OF IT MATTERS.
Frack. Got that out of my system. Whew. That feels good. You can see the lists above, each with their old and remade variant from 2010. See, the thing is, the entire campaign does not care one bit for this stuff. It´s drudgery, something to keep the players occupied and involved, yet offers up no actual value. They could have gotten the same amount of content had they just gone “okay, do a few rolls here or there, you find one, two, maybe three things you need to check up on, that's what you´ll mostly do for the time until day X…”. Yet they didn´t. The actively went and made these lists, and then, even worse, reworked and EXPANDED them in the 2010-version.
Now you might ask, but what of the consequences? There aren't any. It doesn't matter if the players eff up here. You can, for example, have thirty crates contain sardine oil, instead of sardines, or the caustic soda missing, or the harmonicas, or the astronomy instruments and geiger counters, or SOME of the dynamite and a box of blasting caps. The last one is especially bad because the campaign explicitly goes “Well, the ship will have SOME dynamite in their safe in either case” which is hilariously absurd.
Of course, messing up here could have serious consequences and as this is a Cthulhu campaign, death is always close at hand and therefore you might not actually want consequences, but I'm astonished at the amount of care they've put into what amounts to useless drudgery & drivel for all intents and purposes.
Rants over. After the meeting, Moore takes the most discreet member, in our case amusingly good ol´Cornelius aside, and tells him that they´ve engaged the previous expeditions captain, J.B.Douglas, and he´s to arrive on September 6th. Moore also informs him of the location at the time, the Westbury at 440 Scammel Street, where he´s to meet the captain that same day, asking for his discretion on the matter.
Now, with a good keeper, this can be a fun moment, because it forces a player into a role of responsibility. Sadly, the campaign wastes NO space in what happens if the player attempts to go there before September 6th, which might result in some time paradoxon. You see, Douglas will be at the Westbury before the date set. He´ll also die without ever having met the player characters. If the campaign get´s to do as it wants. And if your players are like mine, that means Cornelius will of course go there and look. But nope, the man´s out, so no luck. The train moves on.
The following days are specified, usually filled with the same kind of work, checking cargo, bringing aboard previous glass instruments and working with the pilots.
It's the morning of September 3rd, that Starkweather announces to the world on the pages of the Arkham Herald, that they´ve engaged Douglas. Moore mentions this at breakfast of the same day, and also that
”Moore continues...” posted:
Starkweather has spoken to Douglas on the Telephone. Mister Douglas has asked that he be not disturbed by the press or the public,[...] he´ll meet with the crew [...] on his own schedule.
The timeline continues on, as everyone slowly finds their place among the expedition, and we find ourselves on September 4th. HARK!
It's just before sunrise, when Starkweather, pounding with the fury of a man scorned, on Moores doors, wakes our protagonists from their slumber. The dishevelled look leads to an opened door, though not by Moore but by Starkweather slamming against the door and crashing it open, and as Starkweather storms in, our fearless few follow. I think it's best if I just quote you the passage:
”James Starkweather, furious” posted:
It's her, Moore! All the time it was her! I should have known! Who else could it have been? The conniving witch! I should have suspected her hand in things from the beginning! Blast it, Moore, listen to me! How else could she stop me? Who else would have switched those cans of fish with oil? Who else has the money to spy on us? To throw things in our way? Ruin our goods! Sabotage the dog cages! Delay our trains! Poison the minds of trusted employees! To bribe, to steal, to throw barricades before us, for her own spiteful little reasons! I won't allow it, Moore! Not this time! She won't get the upper hand this time! I'll prove to everyone that she's nothing more than a-
Starkweather stops in mid-sentence. He looks around, still breathing heavily, suddenly aware of the watchers in the hall, and visibly makes a decision. Throwing the newspaper down with a snap in front of the dishevelled professor, he says, in a terrible steely voice, "Advance the schedule, Moore! We're leaving on the 9th. The 9th, Moore! See to it! And Moore . . get me a woman!
Brash choices and decisions are best made by someone who just slammed down a door to tell his “friend” about how much he abhors a woman. Our hero, everyone. Starkweather leaves the scene, leaving moore to instruct the PCs after reading the article that enraged glorious leader. The article speaks of Acacia Lexington and her planned expedition, which Starkweather takes as a personal affront. Of course.
The players are sent to breakfast, where they are instructed to “Find a Woman”, someone who might actually be a good fit for the group or just for publicities sake a woman they can take to Antarctica. As previously stated, the book offers up Mrs. Charlene Whitston, but we´re saying haberdash to that.
As such, our heroes make their way to the New York University Library, to meet Mrs.Nadine Bergen. Unfortunately, as it turns out, Mrs.Bergen has since found herself part of a group of travellers back to Europe, where she plans to meet old friends in London for a possible trip on the Orient Express. Target Nr.2, Mme LeFevre, is found at the infamous Cotton Club, where she has since met a charming man by the name of J.D.Rockefeller and has other thoughts than to travel into the Antarctic cold. Again, leaving without a dame.
It is with luck, that Herr Winkler remembers the final madame that was waiting alongside them during the interviews, a Madison Claremont. It´s with luck, that she is found at the 21 Club then, where she was indeed the hired bouncer, making sure that, even with Prohibition repealed, no problems found their way into the club itself. Pleading, hearty talk, and a tacit nod from Yukon later the Mistress of Headbutting all important problems is convinced and brought to the Amherst.
[Mrs. Madison Claremont]
The press, already besieging Starkweather at this point, descends upon the poor thing like vultures on day-old meat. Worse, the earlier starting date plays hell with all schedule (not really, because it's all narrative anyway, again a no-consequence issue), and Starkweather becomes very much an arsehole, driving his people to ever more speed, but not diligence.
It is on September 5th, that some clerk gives a character currently at the hotel at that point, a letter, which includes our first warning, as shown below. The chapter concludes with the idea that the keeper could, if he so want´s complicate the player´s life further by using the press, but I always find that sparse use of such events makes them all the more memorable.
In the meantime, players investigating Acacia Lexington can actually find a number of articles but may not, as you might remember, meet with her, unless is to drive up the antagonism between both groups. Those who do however, can discover that she and Starkweather were part of a safari Starkweather led that encountered some bad luck in Africa, but was mostly ok at the end.
The only other thing we can learn about Ms.Lexington is that her father is dead, suicide by two bullets in the head. She originally claimed it was murder, the NYPD claimed different, also a famous manuscript, the “finished” version of Poes Arthur Gordon Pym being stolen, but in a later article recants, calling it a suicide and the manuscript having been found, and of some financial troubles on her part. Other than that, we´ll have to look forward to CHAPTER 2…
Chapter 1 done. 36 pages in, 403 left.