Gothic Earth Episode 3, The Playthings of the Devil

SPOILER WARNING: If you are playing or plan to play Bleak House, don't read this. This is my tables play-notes for events which took place during last game session. 

We actually got finished with the scenario that I ripped out of the Ravenloft Box Set: Bleak House. I thought that I would be able to get a few more sessions out of this bad boy, but apparently the Players didn’t like being confined, tortured, and toyed with so they said No More, and came up with this plan of making a pact with the devil possessing the major NPC Boyd Weathermay, hoping that the demon, once free would attack the Vampire Doctors who were conducting sick and gruesome experiments on their patients. Unfortunately they miss read the signs; Boyd wasn’t a prisoner at all, he was actually in charge.

Wait, lets back up. They were locked in an asylum, an evil Doctor was using them as Guinee pigs, claiming that he was curing mental illness, all he was really doing was driving people insane. Last session they were able to get an idea of the layout of the Asylum, and learned to follow the rules else face harsh consequences.  This session they started delving into the mysteries of the people which live here. They thought that this guy named Edward was a raving lunatic, but it turned out that he wasn’t actually crazy, his Intelligence had been artificially raised to god-like levels, making him more than human and he found it very difficult to communicate with lower life-forms (namely everything else on this planet). He was able to get the party to start listening to him by offering up a clue to something that the Medium should see in the Library. A hollowed out book which somebody had hidden a diary detailing them witnessing a fellow inmate dying and coming back as an orderly, as well as a Cleric’s scroll with a new spell to my game called “Body Clock” (a side not, and a spoiler for later posts, I got this spell from the Tome of Magic, a book that I’ve owned for over 20 years and THIS was the first time that I actually got any use of the thing), which the mystic could use to defeat the Sleep Spell Dominioni used, but it only had 3 charges left.

They were able to figure out that the staff of this place were undead. They were also able to figure out that something even worse was going on, somehow they had been taken to Ravenloft (which was actually the other way around, Dominioni had found a tear in Ravenloft and was able to come to this world, however he was a Dark Lord, and all of Ravenloft’s specialty rules were active. Instead of a magically dead Victorian world, they were in a very magically charged bubble of pure evil.

They had only one weapon that would harm anything in here, a cane that had been given to the gunslinger by Van Helsing, all of their stuff had been confiscated when they allowed themselves to be check into this hospital. They were able to find some stuff, once they snuck into the Doctors personal chamber, and discovered exactly what they were up against, which was bad. The way to kill him was to figure out when he slept, and stake him using a hammer that I was going to introduce in the next session.

There was also a government conspiracy going on, Germany went through a rather shocking regime change, and it just so happens that one of the PC’s is a Prussian spy, who has ties to the old regime that was ran by Bismark, who also just so happens to be kept here. Other spies had infiltrated the Asylum, hoping to extract him, but each were always caught and met bad ends, she was able to recognize her former spy master, reduced to a mental age of 5 year old, playing with dolls on the floor and going through old code words. Once the PC spy found Bismark, she knew that it was her duty to get him out of here, the trouble was that everything brought to him he thought was one of the Doctor’s games. He never left his cell, for any reason and was so paranoid that he trusted nothing that was said to him.

They were also able to properly interview Boyd, a character that they had heard since the very first game at the beginning of the campaign, but hadn’t actually met until last session. They were able to identify 3 distict personalities: His own, a boy of 10 years old in a man’s body, the demon, and a third, a paladin claiming to be from some storybook world whose name was George Weathermay (the same as his fathers, and this storybook fairy world being Ravenloft. George is listed as a ranger in the Black Box, but I changed his class cause I’m cool like that).  

They did make a few errors, they met their lawyer, who is also Boyd’s lawyer, and the Doctor wheeled in “Boyd”, however the party knew that this wasn’t Boyd, and that this imposter was there to monitor the conversation.  The lawyer knew it too, but played along. The mistake happened when they asked the Lawyer for a book of matches, and they had the gunslinger hide them in a magical item that he had been able to retain which hid stuff. This alerted Dominioni to the fact that they had this, but he’s a devious person who wanted to see how far he could let this go before squishing all of their dreams and hopes of escape.

The other error was trying to make a deal with the devil. They had planned on setting the place on fire, and escaping while the demon was battling Dominioni, which even if the Demon wasn’t the guy in charge, this plan would had failed: The bubble that they were in, conformed to the wishes of the vampire. While inside of it, reality was solely based upon what Dominioni said it was.

This plan was executed, they escaped their cells in the middle of the night, and went upstairs to Boyd’s room, telling the demon that they offer him freedom and a chance to cause chaos. It was then that the demon laughed and mocked them, as if a little vampire could imprison the likes of him! It revealed that he was the master of this asylum, not the Doctor, but it did give the demon a chance to test the Doctor, to see if he was the asset which the vampire claimed to be. The demon, like the Doctor, enjoyed mental games, so instead of killing the PCs, he decided to let this little plot play out.

Once the true nature of the relationship between the Demon and the Doctor was revealed, the players started freaking out. The jig was up, Dominioni was going to know everything and they’d be punished in the morning, the spy got fed up and took the politician back downstairs the cells. They had themselves cornered into the kitchen, the Demon just standing in the doorway smiling at them as they tried to figure out a course of action. Nobody noticed that the spy had slipped away, but they decided to go with setting fire to the asylum anyway, but they didn’t want to fight the demon because it would kill them and they knew it.

The doors were locked, and only the undead could escape the asylum itself, the Demon cast “Feign Undead” upon the party in the kitchen, giving them full access to the asylum, and just waited for the fireworks to start.

The party set fire to the asylum and ran out, it was only then that they realized that the spy and the German Prime Minister had gone back downstairs, and would probably burn to death along with all of the other prisoners, but what’s been done can’t be undone. They just had to ride this roller-coaster. Even the gates out of the Asylum yard were open; they could escape, but probably get rounded up in the morning anyway. This was bad! Nobody knew what to do.

At this point, Dr. Dominioni crashes through his window, escaping the burning hospital in the form of a raven, and confronts the party directly. So there they are, the gunslinger has a weapon that he knows will harm the vampire, two other PCs have wooden stakes, not knowing that they are worthless because the vampire has to be vulnerable to be staked, and a mystic whose last spell had gone totally wrong, she had cast cure light wounds on the spy only to find that an eyeball had appeared on the spot the next day, and it was looking at her.

Dominioni tells them that if they just go back inside and return to their cells, all will be forgiven, but if they leave, then they will all die. This is their one chance to save themselves, so do they take the vampire at his word, or do they fight? Return to get driven insane or die? The players themselves saw this fight as hopeless, they won’t win with 1 guy able to do damage, but role-playing their characters dictated that they not return. They decided that it was best to go out in a blaze of glory. They wanted me to play this monster to the best of my ability and see how long they could last before losing these characters that a couple of them had been playing for a few years now, and had become favorites. There was no whining, no fits at the table, they accepted their fate.

The Archeologist wanted to make sure that they at least got a few shots in before being wasted; he rushed the vampire who grabbed him, busted his arm and used him as a shield while he told the others that it wasn’t too late for them.

Meanwhile, down in the cells, the spy smells smoke and knows exactly what that means, those idiots went through with the plan anyway! She grabbed her charge and attempted to escape the fire, however she found herself trapped at the front door, it wouldn’t open because she wasn’t dead yet, and turning around, she sees all of the orderlies in the place coming to the vampires aid so that they can recapture the party.

Outside, the gun slinger keeps trying to hit the vampire, who gets irritated, throws the archeologist away and decides to kill the gunslinger. I attempt a called shot to the head, and just barely fail it, that is when the gunslinger finally scores a direct hit. Doctor Dominioni is my oldest NPC, he had never been injured before. Not once! Seeing his own blood was kind of shocking to him. This gave the party a couple of rounds to act before I completely vamped out and went on a killing spree. The gunslinger wails on him a couple of times, the mystic hurries up and opens the door for the spy and the prime minister before they are stormed by ghouls and the 3rd level Explorer is doing his best to fade into the background. Him and his stick.

Masque of the Red Death is different, the magic that we use is so low that the players are forced to use spells that under regular conditions would be considered too low powered, It forces you to really rethink what these things can do, and we had a moment during this game that the Mystic discovered that the spell “Stone” worked as a +weapon against undead. This spell changed the tide of battle, she was able to have unlimited ammo, as the ground was covered in stones, and was able to get really good hits against the vampire. Eventually, they were able to do the impossible, drive the Vampire down to zero hp, and as it started to evaporate into a mist, which it would return to its coffin and arise refreshed in the morning to extract its revenge; the 3rd level explorer leaped at it with his stake, and scored a hit! The vampire was staked, and Dominioni, freaking out in a vampiric messy death shot gallons of boiling blood into the explorers face, but the PC kept the pressure on, sealing the vampire’s fate until the last of its evil life was spent. The explorer will bear these scars for the rest of his days. The archeologist is broken, the spy had gouged out the eye in the back of her neck, leaving a seeping eye socket just waiting to get infected, the gunslinger already had an injured leg, the mystic hasn’t much faith in her ability to heal in this terrible place, they have no food, no water, no shelter, no money, and no idea of where to find safe shelter.

The Demon allowed them their victory; he slew the other vampires because they were weak. The ghouls died when Dominioni fell, inmates are trying to escape a burning building that is now engulfed in flames, and the Demon just leaves them to it.

Next game is going to be tough, while I wasn’t able to kill any of them during the combat itself; they are not out of the woods yet. Instead of man vs. monster, next game will be man vs. nature and I don’t expect everybody to make it as those situations are usually worse than any encounter that I can devise, but we’ll just see what happens. I already had the wilderness section prepped in case they attempted to escape early on, so once again I can just use the material that I already had for next game.  Let the hex crawl begin!


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