"You know things are looking grim for President Trump when he starts tweeting about Hillary Clinton again. Monday evening he sounded trapped and wounded: "Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech." Well, perhaps it is because she is not president, did not hold back her tax returns, did not constantly cheer for Vladimir Putin, did not hire a host of pro-Putin flunkies and did not have aides who lied about contact with Russian officials."
— Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post
'Haunt of the Watchers' Session Report
This is a 'session report' documenting a game of the Arkham Horror 'remix' Haunt of the Watchers. Haunt uses the Arkham Horror components, but changes the play experience significantly. This game was played with Haunt revision 1.0.
I like detailed session reports; it's interesting to see how others approach a given game, and reading a well-written and detailed summary can be almost as fun as playing. Consequently, this is a very long piece, one that covers almost every skill check in the game, if only schematically. I've also added some thematic gloss which you may or may not enjoy. Pour yourself a cup of tea and sit down in the good chair.
The game starts with a strong, thematic draw. Dexter Drake obtains Red Sign of Shudde M'ell and Mists of Releh to go with his Shrivelling spell, discarding the Wither he also drew with his Magical Gift. He acquires Holy Water and Research Materials, and sensibly learns the Expert Occultist skill.
Kate Winthrop draws a Cross, an Elder Sign, and Bind Monster and Heal spells. Her shy temperament gives her the +1 Sneak skill.
Darrell Simmons starts with an Enchanted Knife, Holy Water, and a Map of Arkham. Darrell is an Arkham native, so naturally he has the Marksman skill.
Along with his .45 Automatic, Joe Diamond obtains a Motorcycle and a bottle of Whiskey. His work as a private detective gives him the Stealth skill.
After placing the gates, I choose three of the more dangerous locations — the Witch House, the Woods, and the Unvisited Isle — and turn their gates face-up, revealing gates to Yuggoth, the City of the Great Race, and the Abyss. It's good to see the Yuggoth and City gates, as they will allow Dholes and Cthonians to be banished should any appear.
There is no harm in filling the first half of the Doom track, so I add two Doom tokens at the start of Upkeep. A Hound of Tindalos and three lesser creatures go to their Other Worlds. Hounds are dangerous in the early game, so it's lucky this one did not come to the city.
Clues appear at various locations, along with a Ghost, a Ghoul, and an Elder Thing. A monster would have appeared at the Science Building, but Kate Winthrop is there, and her flux stabilizer prevents it from materializing.
The Mythos cards show that the Ghost will hunt the investigators, the Ghoul will travel to the Black Cave to summon a monster, and the Elder Thing will move to the Silver Twilight Lodge, also to summon. The first encounters are often difficult, as the investigators have fewer items and clues than they would like, but these monsters should be dispatched without trouble.
Though Darrell Simmons is an excellent fighter — particularly with his Marksman skill — Joe Diamond's Hunches make him the group's best combatant. His weakness is Horror checks, so he moves to the Science Building with Kate, borrowing her Cross and leaving the Motorcycle with her. The monsters move into the streets, each pursuing its dark purpose.
It is usually desirable to lure many monsters into one location so they can be encountered with a single set of skill allocations. It's not possible to meet all these monsters at the same time, however, and with only four Sanity and three clues, it would be dangerous for Joe to fight the Ghost and the Elder Thing together. Instead, he moves to Rivertown with the Elder Thing, and the Ghoul, on its way to the Black Cave, meets them there. The Ghost moves to Easttown, one location away.
Joe encounters the monsters. He allocated his best Sneak bonus of four during the move; the Ghoul has Awareness -3 and Ambush, however, so Joe cannot win the initiative without spending clues. He forgoes the first attack and engages the Ghoul. He allocates his best Will and — holding the Cross stalwartly before him — rolls four dice for three successes, passing the Horror check with ease. The Ghoul holds a femur of human dimensions in its filthy hand, some scraps of gnawed cartilage still hanging from one end. Though the beast seems at first to shrink from combat, cringing before the square-shouldered detective almost subserviently, it suddenly lashes out, swinging the bone in a high arc at Joe's head. Joe allocates his best Fight bonus of five and rolls four dice, scoring one success and ducking just in time. He trains his .45 on the creature and pulls the trigger. Things of Darkness are stronger today, but Joe scores five successes, obliterating the monster with a cleansing rain of bullets. He takes the Ghoul as a trophy and collects the clue it carried.
With the Ghoul eliminated, the modifier for the initiative check is now -2, and there is no Ambush; unfortunately Joe fails the check again, so the Elder Thing also attacks first. He engages it and fails a difficult Horror check, losing two Sanity. Because of its +0 modifier, Joe is able to roll five dice for the Fight check, but his thoughts are deranged by the perverse writhing of the creature's tentacles, and he fails anyway, losing one Stamina; he does not discard his weapon, fortunately, as the monster attack is a Fight check, not a Combat check. Recovering his senses, Joe attacks with the .45, blasting the thing savagely with four successes. He takes the monster's trophy and its clue.
Joe hears the Ghost's eerie cries echoing in the streets north of him; he still has the Cross, but his best remaining Will allocation is two, and he has but two Sanity left. Just in time, Dexter Drake moves to Rivertown and takes the Cross from Joe; the Ghost moves to their location and another encounter begins.
Drake would like to win the initiative, as his best Fight bonus is four and the Ghost's modifier -3. His best Sneak is available, but it does not match up well against the Ghost's Awareness of -3, so instead he allocates his best Lore and casts Mists of Releh, rolling two dice. He fails the check, but with no Sanity cost he is able to retry this spell as often as he likes. After several more failures, he scores two successes at once, winning the initiative and stealing the Ghost's clue. He then engages the screaming apparition. With his best Will bonus and the Cross, he passes the Horror check. Using the Lore he allocated earlier, he casts Shrivelling and attacks the Ghost with it and with the Cross in his hand. With his Will bonus came a Fight bonus of one, which seems good enough given the +9 modifier already conferred to him. He rolls seven dice but scores only one success, dissipating the ghost, but not destroying it. All monsters have now been cleared from the city.
Joe travels to the General Store, where he buys a Dark Cloak. Drake returns to Ye Olde Magick Shoppe, hoping to acquire Find Gate; happily, it is the first card he draws. Drake relays the spell to Kate Winthrop and takes four dollars from her, believing with grim resignation that he will soon have medical bills to pay.
Jumping on the Motorcycle, Kate speeds off to Hibb's Roadhouse, where a clue appeared during the upkeep and a gate waits to be revealed. As she collects the clue, a pickpocket sets his eyes on her. Kate allocates her best Luck bonus and passes the check; the pickpocket trips as he approaches her, striking his head on a hydrant. As Kate bends down to help, the man gains an excellent opportunity to steal her pocketbook, but he is already unconscious. After summoning a policeman to take the injured man home, she turns the gate face-up and sees that it leads to Celeano. The Mythos cards show that this gate is not active, and she is not transported.
Kate then travels to The Unnamable, where another clue rests, along with another gate. Having used her best Luck bonus already, she is less fortunate on this visit: after finding the clue, she walks unknowingly past a Unique Item hidden behind cracked plaster in an upstairs bedroom. She turns the gate face-up and sees a portal to the Plateau of Leng. The cards show that this gate is active; feeling a sudden unseasonable chill, she hurries downstairs and throws open the door. Outside she sees not the streets of Arkham, but a vast grey plain littered with rags and broken bones. Rather than wander the trackless wastes of Leng, Kate allocates her best Lore and casts Find Gate, passing the check immediately. There is another face-up gate to Leng at the Graveyard, and she moves there to witness an interesting experiment.
The Mythos cards show that gates to Leng can be closed today, and Joe collected the necessary trophy when he killed the Elder Thing; he moves to the Graveyard and discards it to begin the ritual. He places two more Doom tokens, but with eight spaces on the track, there is no possibility of an Ancient One encounter. He rolls no successes on his Focus check; not wanting to waste the trophy, he discards two clues for four more rolls, scoring two successes. This is not enough to keep the gate as a trophy, for Yog-Sothoth makes all gates harder to close; Joe is low on clues, however, so he closes it without more rolls.
Darrell Simmons travels to the Witch House, where he collects a clue. In the next room he spies a great table laden with a magnificent feast, but recalling the stories told of this place by the children in his neighborhood, he turns quickly away. As he hurries out, the curtains billow inward as though the house were gathering its breath; then every pane of glass, every panel of wood resonates with horrible intensity, the buzzing modulated unmistakably by the syllables of Darrell's name. Running from the house, he loses one point of Sanity.
Darrell exchanges items with Joe and Kate at the Graveyard; then he investigates the grounds, gathering a clue, evading Cooter Falwell, and collecting some intriguing tombstone rubbings worth two more clues. Having given his Magical Knife to Joe, he stops into the General Store where he buys a Shotgun. Still shaken by his experience at the Witch House, he visits a doctor at the Asylum who comforts him with reassurances Darrell now knows to be untrue.
The monsters have been dispersed and some useful items procured. The investigators, each bearing four or five bonus markers, rest as well as they can.
Wanting to provoke an Ancient One encounter soon, I place two more tokens on the Doom track. A Gug and a Dark Young appear in the Other Worlds; though the investigators are happy not to meet these horrid creatures in the streets, the really dangerous monsters are still in the cup.
Heeding the summons of an ancient curse, a grinning Maniac riding upon a Byakhee lands in the Rivertown streets. Rather than confront these terrors, the townspeople hold a temperance rally outside town hall, prompting the mayor to call for some token arrests. Joe has a bottle with him, and no available Sneak bonuses; not wanting to lose it or the four dollars in his wallet, he discards a clue to pass the Sneak check.
A Chthonian rises from the ground near the Witch House just as a Cultist — also riding a Byakhee — settles nearby. Another Cultist appears at the Unvisited Isle. The cards show that all of these monsters have appeared at their destinations; the three at the Witch House will each increase the Terror level, while the Cultist at the Unvisited Isle will summon one of the Dark Young.
Though they are loath to allow an offspring of Shub-Niggurath to enter the city, the investigators cannot interrupt both rituals, and to allow three Terror increases would be catastrophic; indeed, the investigators are lucky that three of the monsters appeared at the same location. Dexter Drake therefore moves to the Witch House to challenge the creatures assembled there. The Rivertown Byakhee moves to the sky, and the Maniac moves to the Black Cave, where it collects three clues that appeared during the upkeep.
Drake's encounter begins. Having only one Mists of Releh, and needing every possible advantage, he allocates his best Sneak bonus; the Cultist has a -3 modifier, however, and he loses the first initiative. Hoping to win the next one, Drake engages the Cultist, allocating his best Fight and evading the man's attack. Drake has no weapon, and he must save his spells for the other monsters, so he attacks the Cultist bare-handed, scoring one success. Throwing his cape over the man's head, he trips him with his cane and drives him head-first into a rough wall set into an embankment. The Cultist drops his clue and stumbles away, not dead but out of the fight.
Drake rolls again for the initiative, and this time he passes. He engages the Chthonian, using his best Will bonus to pass a difficult Horror check. Casting Red Sign and Shrivelling without difficulty, he rolls seven dice and scores two successes, driving the thing away and collecting its clue, but not killing it. Though it would have been helpful to collect the trophy, as no other monster allows gates to the City of the Great Race to be closed, Drake is too low on clues to press the matter.
Only the Byakhee remains. Drake casts Mists perfectly, rolling three dice for three successes and stealing the monster's clue. He passes the Horror check and again is forced to attack bare-handed. While the beast flails blindly, befuddled by the magic of Releh, Drake scales the embankment and lifts a heavy stone from the wall. Heaving it down on the monster's head, he scores one success, causing it to flee with a screech.
Drake looks about and — finding himself master of the field — coolly restores his hat to his head. He collected no monster trophies, but he gained three clues and managed a difficult fight without injury. The Cultist at the Unvisited Isle completes his ritual, summoning the Dark Young that appeared in the Abyss only this morning.
Two monsters remain in the city. Taking Joe's .45 with her, Kate Winthrop moves to Rivertown, intercepting the Maniac on his way from the Black Cave. Because the Maniac took the last available clues, the Byakhee switches to hunting investigators. It is in the sky, so it could attack anyone; seeing that Kate is the First Investigator, it lands in Rivertown next to the Maniac. The Cultist and the Dark Young move to the Merchant District.
.45 in hand, Kate stalks the monsters at Rivertown; she is particularly interested in the Byakhee, for the Witch House gate can be closed today if she takes this monster as a trophy. She allocated her best Sneak during the move, and she wins the initiative. She engages the Maniac; using her best Fight bonus she rolls nine dice but — unfamiliar with the heavy weapon — scores only one success. She takes the three clues from the crazed man, however, who runs howling into the distance. Sneaking nimbly around a corner she surprises the Byakhee as well, and engages it. Passing the Horror check with her best Will allocation, she levels the gun calmly at point-blank range and pulls the trigger. She finds now that the weapon suits her very well; throwing eight dice she rolls five sixes, splitting the creature's black carapace with the heavy slugs and spilling noisome ichor on the pavement at her feet. She collects the trophy needed to close the gate.
Kate hears a curious rumbling to the west; the Cultist and the Dark Young are hunting the investigators, and they are just one location away. Tired as she now is, Kate would find it difficult to defeat the Dark Young, so Joe joins her at Rivertown just as the monsters arrive.
Joe and Kate encounter the creatures. Having allocated his best Sneak during the move, Joe uses it and his Dark Cloak to evade the monsters, winning the initiative. Joe engages the Dark Young; allocating his best Will bonus he passes the Horror check, but he is so unsettled by the nightmarish size of the thing that he loses one point of Sanity. Grasping the .45 in one hand and the Magical Knife in the other, Joe attacks the alien colossus, but its numberless waving appendages confound his every move: rolling nine dice, he scores no successes. Forced now to defend, Joe fails an easy Fight check and loses three Stamina. Boldly continuing the combat, Joe attacks again, this time scoring three successes. Trophies for the Abyss are easy enough to acquire, so Joe — wanting to conserve his clues, and still reeling from his wounds — lets the monster escape.
Joe evades the Cultist a second time to maintain the initiative, and kills him easily, winning a trophy and clearing the last monster from the city.
There are still many face-down gates in the city; these must be identified if closing opportunities are to be exploited and dangerous monsters banished. With this in mind, Darrell Simmons journeys to the Black Cave to investigate; passing through Rivertown on the way he also takes Joe's .45 and Kate's Find Gate spell. Darrell throws a rock in before entering, hanging back as the cave mouth vomits a hideous black mass of whirling, squeaking bats. Inside he spies an old book in an abandoned rucksack. Darrell's curiosity as a journalist is moderated by the good sense bred into all Arkham natives, and he leaves the book unread. Venturing farther into the cave, he enters a round chamber with walls of smooth orange metal. Suddenly dizzy, he rubs his eyes for a moment; when he opens them, he finds the doorway has moved and a small window has appeared, its thick panes lit with swirling green light. Outside he sees the great sunken city of R'lyeh, its alien architecture weighted with mud and slime, long tangles of kelp streaming from every tower like banners. Having been transported, Darrell loses his retainer.
Knowing the danger of this world, Darrell allocates his best Lore bonus and casts Find Gate. Though he is not a natural spellcaster, he casts it perfectly on the first try, rolling two dice for two successes and returning to the Black Cave.
After an uninteresting visit to the General Store Darrel travels to the Historical Society, passing his Shotgun to Joe on way. At the Society he cuts short his visit with a young Geology professor to study some useful-looking books, hoping to develop his skills as an investigator; he fails a difficult Luck check, however, after allocating his best bonus, and learns nothing. Not sure where to search next, Darrell hears a strange hum behind a door marked 'Authorized Personnel'. Opening the door he is surprised by a flash of light, and finds himself under the smoky black skies of the Abyss.
Joe visits the Asylum, where he is restored to full Sanity; then he travels to the Witch House to close the Yuggoth gate. Discarding the Byakhee trophy Kate won earlier, he places the first token on the Terror track. He rolls three dice for the Focus check, but scores no successes. Joe will meet Yog-Sothoth before long, and he needs at least one gate trophy to survive its attack; luckily, his Hunches ability also works when closing gates. Discarding five clues he rolls ten more dice, achieving the two successes he needs to close the gate, plus the extra needed to take the trophy.
Having little else to do, Kate moves to the Graveyard, which was cleared of its gate the previous day. It is wise to guard cleared locations whenever possible to ensure new gates are not opened by Mythos location monsters.
At the start of the Upkeep I place two more Doom tokens, leaving four spaces. The next time a gate is closed or sealed, an Ancient One encounter could result. A Chthonian and two Fire Vampires appear in the Other Worlds. It is good to see one of the Chthonians out of the way, but the two Fire Vampires are the only monsters from Celeano, so it will be impossible to close gates to that world unless one of them is summoned.
The day begins with strange and unhappy portents. An eclipse dims the skies over Arkham, preventing any spells from being cast. Darke's Carnival arrives in the city — its drivers gloating wickedly in the unnatural twilight — bringing fascinating yet unwholesome spectacle to the Northside streets. Finally, Ghosts flicker into being at the Unvisited Isle and The Unnamable, and a hissing Vampire takes form at Independence Square. Another monster would have appeared at the Graveyard, but Kate Winthrop's flux stabilizer again proves its worth.
Having appeared in Mythos clue locations, the Ghosts have the extra clues they need to teleport. The cards show that the Ghosts and the Vampire are here to hunt the investigators. Since they can reach any location in one move, the Ghosts target the First Investigator, who is still Kate. Prevented by the eclipse from defending herself with magic, Kate rides the Motorcycle to the Witch House, where Joe Diamond and Dexter Drake wait. Discarding one clue each, the Ghosts materialize outside the house just as Kate arrives, while the Vampire shuffles into the street.
Kate used the Motorcycle so she could reach the Witch House with her lowest Speed bonus, which also confers her best Sneak. With the help of Joe's Dark Cloak she manages to evade the monsters, gaining the initiative. Joe engages the first Ghost and passes the Horror check; attacking with his Magical Knife and the Cross, he returns the Ghost to the cup and takes its clue. Kate rolls again for the initiative and fails. The Ghost's Fight modifier is -3, and it inflicts two points of Stamina damage; if it is allowed to attack first, one of the investigators will face a difficult check. Kate has +1 Sneak, however, so she discards a clue and rolls two sixes, passing the check and stealing the Ghost's clue. Joe engages again, but this time his will falters. The apparition stands on a bluff by a withered tree, but its screams seem to echo from every direction; he hears it inside the house now — behind the empty shed — within the crumbling well — beneath the sagging porch. Not knowing where to turn or how to defend himself, Joe stumbles to his knees, failing the Horror check and losing two Sanity. Suddenly the Ghost floats just above him, its glowing eyes wild with madness and malice. Animated by desperate terror, Joe attacks the spectre in a frenzy, rolling three successes with four dice and winning the trophy.
Giving the Cross and Magical Knife to Drake, Joe — still wounded from his fight with the Dark Young — travels to St. Mary's Hospital where he quickly regains his health.
Drake takes the Dark Cloak from Kate and moves to Rivertown, knowing that the Vampire — skulking now in the nearby Merchant District — will intercept him there. Drake allocated his best Sneak during the short move, and with the help of the cloak manages to surprise the monster. With the Cross gripped tightly in hand, he passes the Horror check; then, allocating his best Fight bonus, he sears the creature's corrupt flesh with the Cross and the Magical Knife, returning it to the cup and taking its clue.
Feeling somewhat restored, Joe travels to the Newspaper hoping to earn a few dollars. In his first visit he wins a retainer; though the editor has never met Joe, he recognizes the desperate seriousness in the detective's expression — as well as the slight tremble in his hands — and knows there will be a story to tell.
Drake meets Joe at the newspaper and returns several items to him. While waiting to speak with the editor he overturns an ink bottle, and is horrified to see the face of the Vampire rendered neatly in the black smear. He fears suddenly that he will meet the creature again when he is not prepared, and he loses one Sanity brooding over the likely outcome.
Spending another phase at the Newspaper, Drake meets the editor, who gives him two dollars for information on the cultists who have terrorized the city of late. Drake also gets a lift to the library, hoping to acquire more spells, but he fails to charm the librarian and ends up in the street.
Meanwhile, Darrell finds himself stranded in the Abyss. Though he is loathe to explore the mouldering crevasses of this dark world, the eclipse prevents him from casting Find Gate, and he knows his help is needed in the city. Setting out, he finds a clump of glowing mushrooms just inside a shallow cave, ignoring the perverse impulse he feels to eat them. Rolling his Focus of two, he scores no successes and ends up back where he started. Cautiously setting out again, he finds a large open space where the ground is equal parts gravel and crushed bone. Almost immediately a series of small noises tell him he has wandered into a place where monsters lurk. He could allocate a Sneak bonus and attempt to slip away, but — preferring to conserve his resources — he decides to wait until the creatures leave.
Back in Arkham, Kate moves to the library, using her best Lore to decipher an Old Journal along the way. The stern librarian is not unlike a schoolmistress Kate once knew, and playing the favored pupil once more, she quickly gains access to the private collection. There she finds a Wither spell, passing over Enchant Weapon which is seldom of much use.
The lurking monsters having moved on, Darrell continues his voyage. Passing a Luck check, he follows a large iridescent beetle through a canopy of moss-draped branches, these masking the sight of a mountain graven with arcane images that have driven many men to madness. Scoring one success with his Focus check, he advances to the second Other World section. Pressing onward, Darrell finds an Old Journal in a supply cache ransacked by unknown creatures. Rolling another Focus success, he returns to the Unvisited Isle.
Having exerted himself only slightly in the Other World, Darrell resolves to investigate more gates, knowing he can do this more safely than the other investigators. Darrell moves to the Woods, passing the journal to Drake on the way there. Skirting an area he knows to be used by the Sheldon gang, he finds a strange machine buzzing within a circle of grey stones. The machine bursts open as he approaches, throwing sparks in the air. For a moment he sees distant black hills rising from thick fog lit by curious green light; then he is back in the woods where a Cultist in gold-embroidered robes confronts him, strangely twisted hands already reaching for his throat. A gate would have appeared also, but there is one at this location already; Darrell recognizes it now, and sees that it leads to the City of the Great Race.
Thinking another monster might try to enter the Graveyard, Kate returns to protect the location with her flux stabilizer. Meanwhile, Darrell encounters the Cultist. It would be difficult to Evade the man, so Darrell lets him attack first; allocating his best Fight bonus, he passes the check and throws the man to the ground. The Cultist rises to his hands and knees, but Darrell is already there, gun pointed down at the man's back. Rolling eight dice, Darrell scores four successes; the Cultist collapses and moves no more, and Darrell collects the trophy.
Darrell next travels to the Science Building. Collecting the clue there, he hears someone discussing the construction of a 'dimensional beam machine'; Darrell has little aptitude for such things, however, and only two of the face-up gates can be closed today, so he does not ask about it. In the Chemistry wing Darrell meets an archaeologist, Sir William Brinton, waiting on a colleague. Brinton has an energetic, sporting disposition, and after Darrell sprains his shoulder arm-wrestling with him, the man gamely offers to help the investigators. In the basement the two find a gate to The Dreamlands.
Darrell knows someone else who might be able to help, and he moves to the Black Cave where the man has been seen before. The wind blows strongly today, and its moaning seems almost human as it reverberates in the shadowy caverns. Afraid of what he might hear, Darrell covers his ears; he is unable, as a result, to hear the squeaking that grows all around them. Suddenly the wall-clinging shadows come to life as a thousand black wings form a flapping maelstrom of needle-toothed bats. Darrell used a Speed bonus of four during the move, however, and he passes the check; the two flee the chamber, out of breath but unharmed.
Darrell decides to continue his search. Down one corridor he hears an ominous scraping sound, as of thick reptilian scales rubbing roughly against wet rock; retracing their steps a short distance, the two choose another path. In another part of the cave they find a heavy book resting neatly on a small table, inkpot and quill adjacent, a stout black chain securing the tome to the nearby rock. Darrell and Sir William are unsettled by this incongruous scene, and they opt not to read the unfamiliar book.
The investigators are tired now, all bearing five or six bonus markers, so they resolve to continue their work tomorrow. Finding that he is not needed elsewhere, Joe Diamond moves to the Asylum and pays two dollars to restore his battered Sanity.
After placing two more Doom tokens, only two spaces remain, making the first Ancient One encounter imminent. A Chthonian appears in the Other Worlds, along with a Shoggoth and a Hound of Tindalos. It is a relief to see that both Chthonians are now gone from the cup.
A peculiar illness grips the investigators, preventing them from regaining Stamina without a visit to the hospital. The Sheldon gang disturbs a burial mound while hiding a trunk full of loot; behind them, as they flee, a Dark Young rumbles into the Uptown streets, led by a censer-waving Cultist with empty, scarred eye sockets. Meanwhile, the townsfolk — always hungry for distraction — throng to an Independence Day parade that blocks the Merchant District streets.
Along with the monsters at Uptown, a Byakhee and an Elder Thing appear at the Witch House, while a Mi-Go settles on the gazebo at Independence Square. Another monster would have appeared at the Graveyard, but Kate's flux stabilizer again whirs into action.
Two clues appears at the Black Cave, and Darrell gathers them immediately. Though he avoided the chamber that earlier sent him to R'lyeh, the cards show a surge of power affecting all such gates, and Darrell is close enough to be transported a second time. Allocating his best Will bonus, Darrell attempts to cast Find Gate, but fails the check, losing one point of Sanity. Succeeding on his second try, he returns to the Black Cave.
According to the cards, the Mi-Go is already at its Mythos location and is about to increase the Terror level, while the Cultist seeks clues, and the Dark Young is hunting the investigators. Joe moves to Independence Square to stop the Mi-Go; the Cultist and the Dark Young enter the Miskatonic University streets where Dexter Drake waits.
Drake makes no attempt to win the initiative. Engaging the Cultist, he quickly sees the futility of blinding this man with his cape; the eyeless man senses his presence, however, and swings the heavy brass censer expertly overhead like a flail. Allocating his best bonus, Drake passes the Fight check, rolling under the Cultist's attack and coming up behind him. Attacking with the Magical Knife, Drake rolls six dice for two successes. The enchanted blade eagerly parts the man's flesh, and he falls dead; Drake takes the trophy.
The spawn of Shub-Niggurath announces its presence with a piercing spectral shriek. Raising his hands before him, Drake allocates his best Lore bonus and summons the Mists of Releh, succeeding without a check because the spell has no Sanity cost and the target carries no clues. While the Dark Young thrashes vainly at the encircling mists, Drake begins a second incantation; rolling three successes, he forms the Red Sign of Shudde M'ell, visibly diminishing the great creature and cancelling its Nightmarish ability. Drake sees now that the beast is at his mercy, and with his best Will bonus he passes the Horror check easily. He casts Shrivelling and attacks with the Magical Knife. Rolling twelve dice, he scores an impressive seven successes; like a servant of Kali he wades among the dancing tentacles, severing nerves and muscle with calm intensity as the monster reels under the powerful enchantments. Striking the last vital spot, Drake kills the creature and takes the trophy.
Meanwhile, at Independence Square, Joe faces the Mi-Go. Though he allocated his best Sneak during the move, he fails the initiative check and fails again after invoking his Stealth skill; not fearing the Mi-Go's attack especially, he cedes the initiative. Joe anticipates an Ancient One encounter later today, so he decides to be conservative with his skill bonuses. Allocating Will two and Fight three together, he passes the Horror check but fails the Fight check, moving too slowly as the fungoid being scatters a clawful of bright silver beads at him. The beads turn out to be tiny crablike machines that burrow into Joe's flesh, and he loses a point of Stamina before he scrapes off the few that caught him. As the thing wobbles clumsily above on stunted wings, Joe raises the Shotgun and fires; rolling seven dice he scores only one success, but it is enough to knock the buzzing creature from the sky. The Mi-Go's crumpled shell evaporates within seconds, leaving — strangely enough — a tarnished flask of Holy Water.
The Byakhee and the Elder Thing are both moving toward the Graveyard, where the first of them will open a gate and the second will summon a monster. Joe arrives just as the Byakhee alights on the roof of a mausoleum near Kate. Joe passes the initiative check, leading Kate to the cover of a monument nearby and handing her the Shotgun and the Cross. Snapping the breech shut, Kate stands and sets the gun to her shoulder as the monster turns to face her. Spreading its black-veined wings, the Byakhee challenges her with a chilling screech, but Kate killed one of its kind just two days ago, and she passes the Horror check easily, rolling two dice for two successes. Using the Fight bonus of two that came with her Will allocation, Kate rolls six dice for two successes, killing her second Byakhee and collecting its clue.
Darrell searched much of the cave yesterday, and he knows his goal cannot be far away, so he decides to investigate again. As he begins his search, the Elder Thing shambles into the Graveyard where Kate and Joe have been waiting. Since neither moved this phase they do not already have a Sneak bonus allocated, and they decide not to contest the initiative. Kate engages, and though she saved her best Will allocation for this moment, she fails the check and loses two Sanity; something in the obscene wriggling of the creature's tentacles recalls a horrible experience from her past, and she is a child in the basement once more, searching for her grandmother's dress and finding instead a box full of centipedes. Kate is recalled to her senses by the monster's attack; allocating her best Fight, she passes the check and leaps quickly out of the way. With quivering lip she fires the Shotgun, rolling eight dice for five successes and blasting two ragged holes in the alien's body, taking its trophy and its clue. The tentacles continue to squirm even after it is dead.
Exploring the cave, Darrell turns back from an especially twisty passage, fearing he might become lost. Returning to a large chamber, he sees motion in one shadowy corner; advancing with the .45 in hand, he hears a splash in another part of the cave, and then a crunch of gravel. Suddenly he is knocked to the ground — the gun lost from his grip — while a deformed ape-like creature stands over him. Before Darrell or Sir William can react, another form appears, pushing the creature down and punishing it with a brutal kick. The ape howls and skitters into the darkness as Tom 'Mountain' Murphy pulls Darrell to his feet. Having found the man they sought, Darrell opens a bottle and gratefully passes it around. After hearing their story, Murphy nods and offers to join the investigators.
The three men exit the cave and move to the Graveyard to meet Joe and Kate. The Elder Thing trophy Kate gathered will allow another gate to Leng to be closed today, and Darrell suggests that Murphy help Joe with the resulting Ancient One encounter. Darrell and Sir William search the Graveyard for anything that might help the investigators. Dodging Cooter Falwell a second time, the men enter a crypt lit by gently lambent white fungi. As they examine the tomb, a vile yellow mist gathers at the center of the room and a seething vampire takes form. With his best Fight allocation Darrell attacks the creature, passing the check, collecting one clue, and finding a Silver Key after the creature's gelatinous remains seep through the cracked stone floor to the tainted earth beneath.
After gathering a number of items and clues from Kate and Darrell, Joe and Mountain Murphy move to The Unnamable to close the gate. They begin by discarding the Elder Thing trophy and adding a token to the Terror track; they could have added two more Doom tokens, but they see the Ancient One's -5 Combat modifier, and they wonder just how many tokens they can remove. Joe rolls three dice for the Encounter check and selects a six, exceeding the two spaces on the track and beginning the encounter.
The two men feel a curious stretching within their organs, while their extremities are unpleasantly compressed; they sense that space itself is turning inside-out, as if to accommodate a surplus of dimensions. All around them yellow-glowing orbs of mucilaginous substance grow from tiny points to masses yards in diameter, and then shrink back to nothingness. Joe has a gate trophy, and its residual force somehow prevents the men from being consumed during the Start of Battle. Joe starts shooting; with the Shotgun, Mountain Murphy, and his best Fight allocation, he is able to roll six dice for the attack. Because of the Shotgun, any sixes rolled will count twice; the Ancient One's Toughness is four, however, and in his first attack Joe scores only two success, failing the check. Joe allocates his best Will bonus and scores three successes during the Ancient One's attack, easily resisting it; Joe has but one gate trophy, and the men will be devoured if he loses even one of these checks. Joe does not attempt to escape, and on his next attack rolls three successes. Discarding a clue, he rolls two more dice but fails both times; he uses another clue, and another before finally achieving the fourth success. After removing two tokens from the Doom track, Joe rolls three dice for the Ancient One's attack and scores no successes; with a fourth clue, he passes this check too. Joe opts to stay for another round. Rolling six dice again he scores seven successes, removing two more Doom tokens; with two dice he also resists the Ancient One attack. Having used a sizable number of clues, Joe opts to escape; there are now six spaces on the Doom track, and he succeeds without a roll.
Continuing the closing ritual, Joe rolls his Focus of three for one success. With another clue he gains the second success needed to close the gate. Thinking it might be better to have a second gate trophy, he discards three more clues before he scores his third success and takes the trophy.
The investigators are somewhat short of money, so Dexter Drake moves to the Newspaper in search of a retainer. He is unable to see the editor immediately; though he heard recently of an article containing a useful clue, he does not think it worthwhile to spend a Luck allocation looking for it. Staying for another phase, he meets the editor and gains the retainer he sought.
Kate is well-rested, and today's crises have been resolved, so on a whim she investigates the General Store. Within the store are five strange-looking men in overalls, their heads flattened almost like fish, mouths protuberant, eyes bulging horribly out on each side. She tries discretely to examine them, but they seem to recognize her, and each stares blankly her way when she approaches. One man — less direct than the others, and facing partly away — watches her with just one eye as he fingers an ax handle. Unnerved by this lidless half-gaze, Kate looks away and sees — in a mirror off to one side — the same man watching her through the mirror simultaneously with his other eye. Suddenly unraveled, Kate loses one Sanity and hurries from the store, the shopkeeper whispering a warning about the men as she passes.
Kate heads straight for the Asylum, where she gains a semblance of her former sanity. Many monsters have tried to materialize at the Graveyard recently; thinking that another location might next be chosen, she readies her flux stabilizer and moves to the Witch House.
There are nine open spaces on the Terror track, and only three more gates need to be shut, so it is time to add Terror tokens rather than Doom tokens. I add one to the track.
Just before dawn, a grey-timbered ship of archaic design lands at the dock, disgorging a Cultist and a Witch into the Merchant District streets. At The Unnamable, where Joe and Mountain Murphy spent a sleepless watch, a Dimensional Shambler appears, followed by a High Priest with a leash of silver chain that leads to the Shambler's neck. Two more monsters would have appeared at the Witch House, but Kate is there, and her flux stabilizer hums to life once more.
By accident — or unguessable intent — fate yields many opportunities to the investigators today. If they capture the High Priest's trophy, they can close the gate within the Black Cave. If they collect the Dimensional Shambler's trophy and find the gate to Another Dimension — one of only two remaining face-down gates — they can close a second gate. With the Ghoul trophy they collected earlier, they can also close the gate at the Historical Society. The cards show that several gates can also be sealed today, and Kate still has the Elder Sign she drew at the start of the game.
Kate moves to the Merchant District to intercept the Cultist and the Witch; meanwhile, Joe and Murphy confront the High Priest and the Dimensional Shambler.
Joe did not move, so he does not already have a Sneak allocated; not wanting to forgo a move later, he lets the monsters have the initiative. He engages the High Priest first. The man pulls a hideous flute of gnarled grey bone from his robe. He seems at first to be missing several digits, until Joe realizes with disgust that the fingers lacking from the man's right hand have been surgically grafted to his left, presumably to accommodate the alien instrument. With his best Will allocation Joe passes the Horror check, however, and when the man raises the flute to the mouth slit in his leathern mask, Joe strikes with the butt of the Shotgun, passing the Fight check with his best allocation to knock the flute aside. Attacking now with the Shotgun, Joe rolls nine dice for six successes, blasting the flute into scraps and the menacing High Priest with it. Joe collects the valuable R'lyeh trophy and two clues.
Leaving the initiative uncontested a second time, Joe engages the Dimensional Shambler. Joe lost track of the thing while he fought the priest, and now he cannot see it at all; he knows it is near, however, on this plane or one not far away, for he hears the jingle of its chain. Passing another Horror check, Joe maintains his composure as the hidden terror creeps audibly nearer. Suddenly it stands inches away, its long arms nearly encircling him. Behind the Shambler, Joe sees a shifting collage of impossible images, visions from all times and all spaces, and he knows that if the Shambler completes its eldritch embrace, he will be lost in that boundless realm, perhaps forever. Firing the Shotgun from his hip, he rolls nine dice but scores only one success. The investigators already have the trophies they need to win, so it would be pointless to spend more clues; Joe sends the monster to the cup and collects its clue, glad, for the first time, to find himself in dreary Arkham.
Kate rode her Motorcycle so she could reach the Merchant District with her best Sneak allocation, and she wins the initiative. She engages the Cultist first; allocating her best Lore bonus, she casts Wither without a check and emerges from a doorway as he passes through an alley. The man's surprise is absolute, and through the scars and tattoos that ravage his once-ordinary face, Kate sees a trace of simple human fear. With her best Fight, she rolls six dice for two successes. She lays her hand on the man's shoulder as if to comfort him, and with a hiss the centuries flow through his body, turning the flesh to dusty brittle parchment. The mummy's corpse falls to the pavement, and a shrunken, desiccated heart rustles within, like a stone in a sack of dry leaves. Kate collects the trophy.
After evading the normally vigilant Cultist, Kate fails an easy check against the Witch, rolling five dice for no successes. Kate's best Fight bonus does not compare well with the Witch's modifier, so she uses her +1 Sneak skill to exchange a clue for two more rolls; she fails again, however, and opts to forgo the first attack. Searching for the Witch, Kate passes a somber-faced girl of five or six years with dark circles under her eyes. Something in the girl's dress recalls the previous century, and Kate glances back to see the child bending — black-handled knife in hand — to slash at Kate's Achilles tendon. Though she has allocated her best Fight, the Witch's -3 modifier allows Kate to roll only one die; she scores a success, however, dancing out of the way just as the knife flashes down. With the Lore bonus she allocated earlier, Kate casts Bind Monster, which usefully ignores the Witch's impressive Fight modifier; rolling nine dice, she scores three successes. The child is captured in a writhing coil of crackling violet energy. The coil contracts, and in an instant, the Witch is gone. Kate collects another trophy, and Arkham is free of monsters once more.
Nothing now stands between the investigators and their goal. Joe's high Focus and his Hunches ability make him extraordinarily good at closing gates. Moving to the Unvisited Isle, he discards a Ghoul trophy and adds one Terror token to begin the closing ritual on the Abyss gate. With six open spaces on the Doom track, there is no chance of an Ancient One encounter. Rolling three dice for the Focus check, Joe immediately scores two successes. Having no use now for gate trophies, he lets the gate close without spending a clue.
Joe next moves to the Black Cave, where the gate to watery R'lyeh waits. After discarding the High Priest trophy he collected today, he adds another token to the Terror track. Rolling three dice again for the Focus check, he scores one success; discarding two clues, he rolls four more dice for a second success, and closes another gate.
Six gates now remain in the city. Yog-Sothoth's Combat modifier is -5, so if one more gate can be shut, the game is won. The cards show that several gates can be sealed today, including the one to Celeano behind Hibb's Roadhouse. Kate returns there, holding the Elder Sign up as she approaches the portal. In a flash, a series of primal images course through Kate's brain. She sees a great whorl of energy and matter — all of it, she somehow knows, everything that ever was — twisting incandescently about a still, black point of absolute nullity. She sees a churning, packed swarm of voracious animalcules, each tiny horror ceaselessly chewing and ingesting its neighbors, consuming at one end and excreting from the other still more ravening monsters, an unstoppable melee of seething, self-negating life. Whether the creatures are the size of motes or of planets she cannot tell, and she realizes that it does not matter, for just as each planet has its motes, each mote has its own motes, each planet its planets, all of them heeding the unanswerable call to live and to devour that which also lives.
Finally she sees a gigantic staring eye, and she is caught in its motionless, inhuman gaze. The eye is not of mortal or even alien flesh; its lens is the space-bending flexion of gravity, its humour, the cloudy nebulae of extinguished galaxies. This eye sees through and within, from every angle; it spies the present and the past and the future all at once. Most importantly — most chillingly — it sees her. It sees all the investigators — their plans, their accomplishments — and Kate realizes that anything she does must, in some sense, be part of this creature's plan. In the face of this implacable foreknowledge there cannot be resistance — only fatalism and despairing obedience.
The vision is interrupted by a blast that sends Kate to the floor, costing her one Stamina; the images themselves cost a point of Sanity. Shakily continuing the ritual — for what else can be done? — Kate adds a token to the Terror track and removes one from the Doom track per the instructions on the Sign. There is no Focus check, and the gate is sealed. The Ancient One's modifier is -5, and only five gates remain in the city; the game is won.
This was an unusually easy and relatively short game. There were a few challenging monster encounters, but no investigator ended a turn with more than six bonuses allocated, and after the first or second turn, there was no real shortage of clues. In fact, I was surprised at the beginning of the fifth day to see the game was almost won; I had played conservatively until then — saving resources and provoking an Ancient One encounter, as I would in a normal game — but this turned out to be unnecessary.
Some of this resulted from good luck: the investigators started with a strong set of items, they faced many easy monsters like Byakhee and Elder Things, they passed a number of difficult skill checks and most of the easy ones, and they had good luck with the Mythos cards, encountering few Mythos effect monsters, blocking five monsters with Kate's flux stabilizer, and gaining many easy gate-closing opportunities. More than anything, though, the game was won by the pairing of four strong investigators with a relatively weak Ancient One. Joe Diamond and Darrell Simmons in particular are so effective that I prefer not to use them; I wanted an easy game, however, to minimize the length of this report.
Games are generally a few days longer than this, and investigator 'exhaustion' — that is, the accumulation of bonus markers — is almost always a problem. Though I win most of the games I play, the Terror track is usually at seven or eight by the end of each game, which is enough to cause worry. New players who don't manage monster movement or skill allocations effectively can expect to lose their first few games at least.