Steampunk Monster Hunters #2: “Aaoooooo”

by mshrm

Some of our protagonists chose to become consulting field agents for a shady Association, “on-screen”, last session. The newcomers have also signed up, in the background. There was some discussion, pre-game, concerning how far the Association can be trusted – “Do we really know who these people are?”, that kind of thing – but the majority of the group seemed to feel good about the group. On the one hand: the PCs want to hunt monsters, the Assocation wants monsters hunted, it’s win-win. On the other: any group that has Charles Dickens as a member must obviously be a force for good.

Who’s Who

  • Lucretia Gasser Buttersnaps, Philanthropist Commando; wife of Octavious, tipsy and American
  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero, Sleuth; “World’s Greatest Girl Detective”
  • Mercy Patton, Philanthropist Sage; governess with luggage that’s bigger on the inside
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie; wealthy, well-traveled, unhealthily sophisticated
  • Octavious Buttersnaps, Hired Gun Psi; husband of Lucretia, bitter and intoxicated

What Happened

Our heroes were all invited to breakfast at Dickens’ home on the morning of Sunday, 1 June 1851. As is the way of PCs, much attention was paid to the menu, including the obligatory cider joke, so let it be noted: there were kippers.

Dickens explained that he had called them all in because of an unusual death two nights before. Witnesses claim to have heard sounds of an animal attack, in an area near the West India Docks not known for large predators. No one reported seeing an animal, either.

At this point, Lucretia, who had seen this kind of thing before, announced it must be: (dramatic pause) “Werewolves!”

Everyone seemed satisfied with this theory, and felt that the investigation should proceed. Dickens gave them the name of an Inspector Peter Jones, who knew nothing of the supernatural but was sympathetic to the Association, and who had been told to expect a group of outside consultants on the case.

The group left Margaret’s guardian, Uncle Byron, behind to discuss business with Mr Dickens. (As the author of a popular series of books chronicling Margaret’s semi-biographical adventures, Uncle Byron shared an interest in the publishing industry with the more famous Dickens.) They took Nayler’s steam carriage to the West India Docks.

After a brief search, they located Inspector Jones, who put aside his natural ill-temper when addressed by the winsome young Miss Chapman. She introduced them as the consultants he had been expecting.

They discussed the circumstances of the event. Roderick McCrery, an employee at the nearby McCrery & Sons Shipping, had been in to a neighborhood tavern on the night in question. The patrons of the establishment heard a commotion, which they described as sounding like an attack by wild animals, just outside the tavern. Several patrons and the barkeep left the building, carrying lanterns, to investigate, finding McCrery breathing his last.

Our heroes decided to split up. Lucretia would escort Nayler to examine the body at the undertaker’s, while Inspector Jones would show Margaret, Mercy, and Octavious the crime scene.

At the undertaker’s, Nayler attempted to get on the staff’s good side by approaching them as fellow medical professionals, but after rolling a critical failure, he got off on the wrong foot from the beginning and ended up in a loud disagreement on the street. Taking advantage of the distraction, Lucretia slipped into the establishment unobserved and unchallenged. There, she found and examined Roderick’s body. To her surprise, she found no bite marks on the body, only extensive blunt trauma. This seemed to weigh against the werewolves theory. Lacking any more general forensic knowledge, she was unable to perform any further examination, and so, returned quietly to the steam carriage outside, just in time for Nayler to avoid a physical altercation.

Meanwhile, Inspector Jones took the others to the scene of the crime, a small fenced-in area on the side of a tavern. They observed blood strains on the ground, and more blood on some nearby bricks. Margaret obtained a sample for later examination and searched for other physical evidence, while Mercy and Octavious discussed spiritual matters. Octavious used his spiritualist powers to reach across the veil and bring forth the ghost of Roderick McCrery, giving him an ectoplasmic body to reveal himself.

This came as quite a shock to Inspector Jones, who badly failed his Fright Check and became mentally Stunned. As Margaret interrogated the spirit, Octavious used his flask to hypnotize the Inspector, telling him he hadn’t seen a ghost, but rather, a commotion caused by a herd of runaway goats.

The ghost of Roderick claimed to have never seen his attacker. He had left work and gone for a drink after a tense day of work. He stumbled outside for a call of nature, when he heard a noise from behind, and turned just in time to take a brick to the head… and that’s all he recalled. The heroes asked if there were any service they could render to him, and he admitted to a desire to have his remains returned to his ancestral homeland in Scotland.

The two groups rendezvoused to compare notes over lunch. Margaret handed a blood sample from the crime scene over to Nayler, who rapidly cobbled together some apparatus for analyzing it. Combining his medical knowledge with Lucretia’s experience with lycanthropes, they determined that the blood came from a werewolf. So… the victim was a werewolf? Unexpected.

They decided that the next step would be to talk to someone at McCrery & Sons. There, they found the place quiet. They let themselves into the warehouse and went looking for someone to talk to. They found Matthew McCrery, who angrily told them that the business was closed. Octavious announced that they had news for the family, word from Roderick…

… and Matthew turned in a wolf, berserk and frothing at the mouth, at the mention of his dear dead relative. He went for Octavious’ throat. Margaret used her “grabbering gun” to ascend to the ceiling, escaping the melee, while most of the group drew weapons and fired on the wolf. In particular, Nayler pulled out his newest invention, an advanced prototype similar to a Tommy gun, and unloaded its entire store of ammunition. Their efforts were not enough to distract the wolf from gnawing on Octavious, until Mercy broke a charm to magically transform the bullets in her pistol from lead to silver. Badly wounded from her first shot, the wolf tried to limp off, only for Margaret to drop a net over it.

To be clear, now: Octavious was bitten by a werewolf, taking 13 damage.

The heroes heard calls from deeper in the building, as the other occupants heard the commotion. Kathleen and Cornelius McCrery entered, demanding to know what was going on. While Nayler and Mercy applied mundane first aid and magical healing to the sorely wounded Octavious, Margaret defused the situation with diplomacy while Lucretia eyed the McCrerys suspiciously.

In the end, Cornelius, the head of the operation, agreed to parlay with our heroes. They managed to sort out the misunderstanding and establish that they meant no harm. Cornelius was reticent, but under close questioning, he revealed his suspicions. Days before, he had been approached by two werebears from Russia, servants of Baba Yaga, a witch who considers herself the queen of all lycanthropes. They had demanded that the McCrerys hand over their business. Cornelius had strongly rejected their demands. Clearly, he said, the attack on poor Roderick had been a response to this rejection.

Reassuring Cornelius that they would exercise what influence they had to have Roderick’s body quickly returned to the family, our heroes withdrew to consider the situation.

Mercy and Margaret stayed up late, researching in Mercy’s bag, where she keeps her occult library. Mercy also made up a couple of new charms for the bullets-to-silver trick.

Nayler went back to his home and worked through the night to try to develop a lycanthrope detector, coming up with a scent-based solution that attached to his gas mask. This creation of weird science worked, but had a couple of quirks: when he took it out on the street and tried it for the first time, the next morning, it flooded the area with a thick, foul-smelling fog. Struggling to control his nausea and accepting the jeers of fellow pedestrians as a price to be paid, he headed off to the docks to seek werebears.

Meanwhile, Octavious hit the streets, seeking word of Russian tourists. He was able to follow a thread of rumor to the Hotel Hibbert, not far from the docks. Our heroes, aside from Nayler, gathered in the hotel bar to stake out the place. After a time, their attention was drawn by a Russian accent at the front desk, where one of the guests was asking for his messages. Octavious approached the gentleman, gaining his attention by mentioning the word “werebear”. He introduced himself as Jaromir Gorbunov, and invited Octavious upstairs to have a drink and discuss the matter further in private. Octavious introduced his wife, Lucretia, and their nanny, Mercy. Gorbunov invited both to join them upstairs. Margaret concealed herself and stealthily shadowed the group as they went upstairs to Gorbunov’s room. There, he began pouring copious amounts of vodka for all.

As it happened, Nayler found himself near the hotel when his lycanthrope detector went off, pointing towards an attractive woman passing on the street. The noxious fumes from the detector drew the woman’s attention, but it was the crude proposition that really irritated her; she punched him in the chin hard enough to confirm her supernatural strength. After picking himself up, Naylor followed the woman at a distance as she entered the hotel.

Margaret had been eavesdropping through the door as Gorbunov tried to get the others drunk. When the woman came up behind her, she was taken by surprise. The woman grabbed Margaret by the neck and dragged her into the room. Distracted by discovering a spy, she didn’t notice Nayler coming up the stairs behind her. Nayler pulled his silver-trimmed cricket bat — one of his odder possessions, but handy at this time — and charged her from behind.

Catching the sound of Nayler’s rushing footsteps, our heroes prepared themselves for combat and Gorbunov moved to throw the weapon at hand – the half-full vodka bottle – at Lucretia’s head. Unfortunately for him (thanks to rolling a natural 18 and several points spent by several PCs), his convulsive grip broke the bottle in his hand, dousing him and his lit cigar with high-proof alcohol. He burst into flames.

Naylor’s frenzied attack went awry and he stumbled past the Russian woman, ineffective.

Seeing that violence was about to occur, and with his mauling by a werewolf fresh on his mind, Octavious threw himself out a nearby window. As the room was on the third floor, he plummeted to the ground below, temporarily crippling his leg. He groggily told nearby witnesses that the hotel was on fire.

Lucretia had used one of Mercy’s charms to convert her right-hand gun’s load to silver. When she fired her left-hand gun into Gorbunov’s face, he snarled through the flames. “Werebear!” she announced, “if that didn’t kill him, he must be a werebear!” Thus reassured, she fired her right-hand gun once into the Russian’s face, killing him.

Margaret fired her grabbering gun at the woman, impaling her leg, and jumped out of a different window, coming to an jerking stop around the second floor of the hotel, in an effort to hamper the woman’s movements. Angered to madness, the woman growled as she transformed into a bear.

Having used one of her silver-ammunition charm herself, Mercy wounded the werebear. Lucretia fanned her right-hand revolver, shooting the lycanthrope three times, finishing her off. She fell, returning to her human form.

Nayler grabbed the woman’s corpse as the heroes ran for the exits, shouting that the hotel was on fire. While Nayler pretended to administer first aid to the “unconscious” woman, Margaret convinced the arriving bobbies that there had been an accident and a fire, nothing more.

The PCs were allowed to leave, with Nayler taking the werebear’s corpse along with them. He put the body in cold storage at home, intending to study lycanthrope physiology.

Cool Point: Margaret, for jumping out a window with a plan for landing

Booby Point: Octavious, for jumping out a window without a plan for landing