Quiet Drifting

Held Action lapsed into quietude again. The same thing happened about this time last year. I think it’s a combination of my real life job ramping up, prepping for Carnage in November and general blogging fatigue; the charge of blogging comes from the flow between writers and commenters, otherwise it’s typing in the wind.

The current state of things is I have a heap of post ideas in single sentence draft form that I’m not moved to expand upon, a half dozen role-playing sessions of Scions of Time and Masks of Nyarlathotep to write up — though Masks is on hiatus for September as our earnest Keeper commits rites of matrimony with his chosen other — that, while fun, are fading into memory such that I don’t know if I can recreate the energy this far out. And that’s my own bad for filling my days with other activities. I’m taking a class this fall and it’s been long enough since college that I’m readjusting not only to blocking time for class itself, but homework, readings and so on.

It’s been a bit surreal to dig out my last college notebook. In the intervening years since graduation, I filled many of the blank with game-related notes: character creation, adventure outlines, card counts, etc. Then I had to sift through my final semester of classes and years of gaming notes to find a stretch of blank pages to keep me through the middle of December. We’ll see how that goes. I may have to break down and buy a single subject notebook after all.

I don’t want to give up writing here, but the old charge is gone. I need to feel like this is productive or useful to someone. And I know I’m talking about a gaming blog on the internet, so clearly my expectations need to adjust to fit reality. But it’s how my brain feels right now.

In the meantime, I’ve got a few linky-loo posts to clear out of the inbox. They’ll appear in due course here, just to give the appearance of the lights staying on.

[Masks of Nyarlathotep] A Letter from Beyond the Grave

Until such time as I can write up the events of last night’s Masks of Nyarlathotep session, enjoy this missive from Lothar von Fasselstein, attached to his last will and testament as a final message to his assistant, Sophie Hawkins, but somehow loaded with information revealed only moments before his death.

Also, who knew his outrageous German accent carried over into the written word?

Mein dear Miss Hawkins,

Now zat I haff left you alles of mein vorldly possessions, I can rest assured zat ze Professor Lothar von Fasselstein Memorial Library und ze Professor Lothar von Fasselstein Chair in Egyptology at ze unifersity of Oxford shall be in gut hands! Ven you hire ze sculptors und ze painters for ze artistic exhibition section of ze Memorial Library, please take care zat zhey capture mein likeness from ze right side, vhich is mein gut side. Alzo, ze Eternal Flame in ze courtyard memorial zhould be beneath the memorial arch, not before – I know, I know, ze plans show differently, but I haff changed mein mind. Zhe gardens surroundingk mein grave can be of any type you prefer, but I do like ze lilies und ze lilacs.

I am assured zat you zhall be ze very best administrator of mein legacy imaginable, you haff been ze best of research assistants, und zhese skills zhould serve you vell in dealingk viz ze unifersity administrators, ze city planners, ze legislatures of New York und mein native Nuremburg to establish ze Professor Lothar von Fasselstein Medallion to be given to ze most deservingk student of Egypt from ze city’s unifersities und alzo ze best enemy of ze cults. Ja, ja, in fact – uze zome of ze money to make sure zat ze cults get a gut punchingk in ze face. If you do not vant it, perhaps you can giff somevone mein shotgun – I sink Herr Spadowsky vhould like it, ja? For ze cult shootingks.

Alzo, und zhis is fery important! I vish to be buried viz ze head of Edvard Gafigan. Under mein foot.

I remain,

Very Truly Yours,

Prof. Dr. Lothar Otto Ferdinand von Fasselstein, B.A., M.A. (Heid.), Ph.D. (Oxon)

Thanks to Dan, Lothar’s player, for not only allowing this to be published on Held Action, but having the inspiration to write it in the first place. Lothar was easily the most colorful and amusing character in the campaign to date. He will be missed.

Masks of Nyarlathotep Session 7

When the narrative last left the investigators[1], they had arrived in London and begun making inquiries with Jackson Elias’ known contacts in the city. Noontime found them pondering their next move over meat pies. What could be accomplished while waiting to hear from Inspector Barrington? Review of the clippings gathered from Mr. Mahony at The Scoop[2], including one Ryan helped himself to from the desk, prompt Jake Spadowski to suggest visiting the artist Miles Shipley, noted in an article as having gained some amount of note with the visceral, repulsive imagery in his paintings.

A stroke of luck in perusing the Times‘ art section revealed that while Mr. Shipley’s exhibition had ended, the artist himself could be found in Holbein Mewes. The investigators cabs it there without delay, to find themselves deposited before a decaying two story brick house. The eldery woman who greets them at the door is wary at first, but eventually ushers them in when von Fasselstein hints at interest in buying some of Shipley’s work. The artist just so happens to be on break at the moment, so the party marches up to the third floor garret, in which Miles creates his works of art.

The rows of paintings leaned against the wall shared in common unsettling scenes filled with figures and landscapes not known on Earth. While Ryan is preoccupied by a portrait of an amorphous figure that bore a strong resemblance to the horror he confronted under Juju House in Harlem, the piece that stands out among all others was a landscape of a black mountain with a tentacled figure rising behind it, one long, red tentacle in particular waving in the air. And most tellingly are the figures on the ground, all wearing red headbands just like those found on the mysterious assailants in New York City, seeming to worship the tentacled figure.

This catches everyone’s attention. Continue reading

Masks of Nyarlathotep Session 2

We started off last week down two investigators. Their players were called away by real life, so Ms Harlow and the good minister could no longer aid in the pursuit of Jackson Elias’ killers. That left Professor von Fasselstein and his assistant Sophie, Mr Ryan and Mr Spadowski — that’s my barnstormer — to pull together some of the strands tripped over so far: not only the murder of Jackson, but any connections to the Carlyle expedition.

To that end, we found ourselves moving toward the surviving Carlyle, Robert’s sister. But apparently tooling up in a roadster to the Westchester home of a very rich person is not the done way of making a social call, so the group finangled its way into attending a war widows benefit Ms Carlyle organized.

That’s all we really got done that evening. It was a lot of faffing about with social and societal conventions. You can’t call up a psychoanalyst or lawyer on the weekend. Not even the state medical board. And even when you do get hold of them on Monday, they’re not going to be terribly helpful. Patient records and treatment notes are typically kept from the avidly curious onlooker’s eyes.

Personally, I found myself constrained by two concerns: the perennial foil “that’s not what my character would do” and an uncertainty about whether the situation warranted extreme efforts. Sure, we could have burgled the exports shop to rifle the paperwork, but it didn’t seem to me that events had accelerated to an importance or urgency where vigilante break-ins were justified.

Jackson Elias was murdered, yes, but that’s what police are for. And that does remind me, I don’t know if we’ve interacted with the police at all, having stumbled upon a crime scene. At the very least, it might behoove us to attempt to piggyback their own investigation, if unofficially.

In summary, we’re in a weird space where none of the player characters are exceptionally well-suited to a situation like this, but we’ll try because damnit, we’re player characters and the GM’s got a big, fat book on top of the core rules. And that counts for something.

Masks of Nyarlathotep Session 1

Last week, I got in on the ground floor of the sprawling Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign. Previously, the group had played through a couple one-off scenarios, but I wasn’t able to make the scheduling line up properly. So I was glad to be able to skate in at the last minute with the rough notion of a Great War veteran turned barnstorming pilot, who eventually became named Jake Spadowski.

I’m embarrassed to admit I suffered some sort of systems crash shortly after we started playing. I don’t know if it was a lack of food or a surfeit of unhealthy, pizza-related food, but it pretty much did me in for the evening. In combination with my usual reticent nature when first role-playing with a group and a brand new, hazily sketched-out notion of a character and I wound up not having much to contribute to the action.

Happily, Dan’s German professor carried the evening ably. Someone’s bestest friend ever died, there was a brief interplay with the perpetrators, we followed business cards and receipts and all that fun stuff.

That’s about all I have to report for the evening. Sad, isn’t it?

Next time my brain shuts down like that, I hope I have the presence of mind to get up and walk around the room for a bit, rather than slowly sliding down the couch in a drowsy heap. That can’t have been a good first impression.