Last time on Call of Cthulhu (back in June) our solo protagonist, the young Detective DJ Stark failed to stop whatever unholy occult occurence at Horton Opera House. Stabbed by cultists, blind luck caused a passerby to notice him and call for an ambulance.
The incident cost Stark another two weeks in the hospital, but he insisted on returning to duty quickly. Mr. Chao had all but disappeared, and there was no sign of the cultists in the opera house. There was no clue as to what the swirling bright light that he saw before he fell down the trapdoor.
At the end of his shift he was approached by his new partner Detective Alex Sim, a young Asian woman who knew of Stark's proclivities with investigating strange and unexplained things and getting into severe injuries. She warned him that she did not wish for her career to be jeopardised by such happenings. She said, "If anything happens that is even a tiny bit strange, I will report you and drop you like a bad habit fast."
Soon, Stark returned to the opera house for the first time since he was hospitalised. Armed with a shotgun and a flashlight, he crossed the two-week old police tape and scoured the building.
But he found nothing.
Everything that happened before this point was played when we were in Sitiawan a last month. We were interrupted then. We continued earlier today at home.
Without nothing to go on, Stark started to drive back to his apartment.
At a stoplight, the world shook violently. The quake caused the roads to shudder and the streetlamps to shudder and spark. A streetlamp beside Stark's car fell toward him. He hit the accelerator pedal and screeched out of the way safely. (36 out of 40% Drive Auto)
Last time (a year and 4 days ago in real time), despite being badly injured and walking on crutches, Detective DJ Stark (played by Irfan) succeeded in thwarting the scheme of the Cult of the Pale Nurses in their bid to summon the ultradimensional being Sharakh-Kheth from crossing over into our universe and utterly demolishing the Saint Agatha Medical Centre in Brisbane, San Francisco.
(Yesterday afternoon we continued the Call of Cthulhu RPG campaign to see how Detective Stark was faring. Polyhedrals and paperminis deployed, Irfan wondered what Lovecraftian creatures and machinations he would encounter in this session. It was six weeks later in game time...)
Stark had been back to work at his precinct for two weeks, getting quickly bored by a desk job. His phone rang. A familiar elderly voice could be heard.
"Mr. Chao," said Stark.
"I take it my handwritten manuscripts were destroyed at the Saint Agatha? No matter. Meet me tonight at nine. I will have something for you. You are worthy of it."
It was just after 8.00 PM and an overcast sky darkened the dusk. Finishing up some paperwork, he started to leave for Chao's restaurant.
"Stark!" his boss Greta Hack called him from her office. When he sat at her desk, she said, "Word is you're bored with your desk job? I'm putting you back on the streets. Here's your new case."
Stark picked up the case file. Caldwell Broome, 50 year old antique dealer, had been missing from his office for a week. "You'll meet your new partner, Alex Sim, a rookie tomorrow."
"Listen, Stark," Captain Hack muttered. "Everyone knows how you lost your last partner. Please make sure nothing happens to your new one."
"Sure thing, chief."
Stark's Shenanigans Spills into the Streets of San Francisco
The first confirmed recorded appearance of the Pale Nurses was in a hospice in Massachussetts in 1925, although there might have been unconfirmed activity hundreds of years before in hospices and monasteries that cared for the sick. As far as investigators and researchers are able to tell, the Pale Nurses have a blood pact sealed with some form of magic to relieve pain from the suffering. They have since come to believe that all human life is a constant suffering of pain and it is their duty to remove it by killing all life. When first they only slowly take over hospitals and kill off the patients, they have now moved on to summoning powerful extradimensional entities to wipe out all life on Earth.
Constant use of their arcane rites causes their skill to turn pale and sallow, with sunken eyes. Their nails are elongated and becomes tough and sharp as steel blades. Newer acolytes that has not undergone physical changes prefer to use scalpels and other blades to kill. Because of this there is a constant glamour spell about them to maintain the lie of human appearances among other hospital staff and patients. These cultists do not wear modern nurses' uniforms and the glamour spell also prevents others from realising this, even after being noticed. Sometimes the Head Nurse is the one maintaining the glamour spell which only would collapse upon her death.
Although there have been more women than men sighted where the cult appears, there has been a few recorded instances of an all-men group around the world.
CULT OF THE PALE NURSES, Alleviators of Pain
Damage Bonus: +1d4
Weapons: Finger blades d8+2 (+db)
Skills: First Aid 60%, Hospital Administration 65%, Human Physiology 80%, Medicine 30%, Slashing 40%, Spot Hidden 40%, Tracking 35%
Spells: Pose Mundane
I made them up for the Call of Cthulhu game last week.
Last time on Call of Cthulhu (almost two years ago in realtime), Detective D.J. Stark played by Irfan (the youngest Call of Cthulhu player ever? I have no idea) killed his partner who turned out to be a ghoul cultist and prevented an entity called Sharakh-Kheth from emerging from its universe into ours. However he was badly injured - lots of broken bones - and was hospitalised.
Three weeks later he was moved from intensive care into a shared hospital ward at Saint Agatha Medical Centre in Brisbane, San Francisco, located all the way in Firth Park Canyon.
Doctor Geisler was his doctor. His wardmates were three other elderly men Beck, Dolce and Nunez. The ward had one window that had an iron grill installed. Stark could see trees outside from the third story of the hospital.
Doctor Geisler looking at Stark at his bed. Beside him and by the door is Beck. In front of Beck is Dolce. In front of Stark is Nunez.
In the morning, Eleanor Stark a professor of linguistics and mother to D.J. came to visit. She mothered him, telling him that Dr. Geisler had told her that he would be released after a week. He would be undergoing physiotherapy every day in the meantime. Before she left, Eleanor gave him a package addressed to him and hastily wrapped in brown paper that she found at his house.
Once left alone, he unwrapped the package. Inside was an old book with yellowing pages. But before he could continue reading Beck called out to him to introduce himself. Dolce joined in. Nunez, the oldest of them, did not. He was awake, sitting up but appeared catatonic. Beck said, "Mister Nunez here was fine when he first got here. A few days ago he woke up and never spoke again. Just looks into space."
Stark began to study the book from the package. The cover had ornate Chinese characters with "Chao Manuscript" lightly written in English with pencil. He thought, It must have been sent by Mister Chao. Everything had been written in Chinese. Some sections had handwritten translated English notes. He began reading some of the translated passages. "Spells"? "Impose Will For A Short Time" (The Mental Suggestion spell from the rulebook)? He spent all morning and noon trying to understand the passage.
At 3 P.M. the physiotherapist Salazar arrived with a pair of crutches for Stark. Together they left the ward, passing by the nurses' station, some storage rooms and an empty pediatrics ward. While hobbling past Doctor Hagen's office - the hospital's Operations Director - he saw the man at his desk talking animatedly into his phone at his desk. There was a computer on his desk, a closet behind him, an aquarium tank on the wall.
Finally they reached the Physiotherapy ward.
Stark returned to his ward by 5. Soon it was dinner time. Yay, hospital food.
At 8 P.M. while family members were visiting the others Stark tried studying Chao's book some more. Beck's granddaughter came over with a plate of pie which Stark graciously accepted. Stark noticed that Nunez's only visitor, his daughter, was in tears trying to coax her father to respond to her to no avail.
Then, Nurse Cutler entered the room. She was there to take some blood from Stark. Stark (successfully rolling his INTx5 for Perception) noticed that Nunez began trembling, his eye wide with absolute fear. He allowed the head nurse to do her job and leave. Nunez ceased trembling after she left the room.
Lights were turned off after visiting hours.
Stark heard a sound and woke up. According to the wall clock it was 11 P.M. In the shadows, he saw Nurse Cutler standing over the sleeping Beck. She produced a large, unusually archaic-looking needle from her apron pocket and appeared to be taking his blood. Stark thought nothing of it and returned to sleep.
For several weeks, Irfan was asking me if I could run the continuation of his first Call of Cthulhu game where he roleplays SFPD Detective D.J. Stark. Finally I had the time to sit down and write prep notes for a short session. Irfan got into Detective Stark's shoes, trench coat, shirt and tie, and then got right into it.
The game started out where the previous session ended: Captain Greta Hack gives the bruised and battered Stark a week's off after he shot his turncoat partner Lee Wilson and rescued Paige Riordan from the vicious underground creatures.
Returning to his apartment, he was ambushed by one of the fetid, muzzle-mouthed creatures in his kitchen. He felled it with a shot. The rest ran out the corridor and down the staircase. Stark pursued, but he was unsuccessful in tracking the beasts. When he returned to his apartment, the body of the creature he shot was gone.
I've had the Call of Cthulhu RPG for a decade now. I've never run it... til now. It was a gift from Gary before Irfan was born. We used to joke that if I couldn't find anyone to run it for, I should someday run it for Irfan - who was then still unborn. And at the time I had yet to discover GOKL.
Almost ten years later, I have refereed Irfan in a Call of Cthulhu game, who rolled up his character yesterday: a young detective in San Francisco named D.J. Stark.
Here follows the actual play report:
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