Session 10: Constantinople 1893, Part Two

Originally posted Oct 31, 2015

Summary

After convening at Sayed’s brother’s, the Investigators separated to pursue different leads and questions.

Georgia had an invitation to meet with the mysterious Nisra. A carriage took her to a grim, rundown neighborhood, but a nondescript door opened to a palace hidden in the squalor. Nisra was anxious for her help with some complex theoretical math, equations that suggest new, startling relationships between space, time, matter, and energy. Nisra is thrilled with what they might accomplish, and spoke of a new era of learning and enlightenment springing forth from Turkey and transforming the world. Georgia was introduced to Selim Makryat, who appeared to accept her as a companion to keep Nisra amused. The Duke Messeraine had more to say though: he revealed that he and Nisra are plotting against Makryat and his plans to summon the Father of Sorcerers and learn from this entity the location of a lost statue possessing vast occult power.

Alfred consulted with his contacts in the city’s newspapers to learn more about the missing Menkaph the Elephant, Constantinople’s former crime lord, and how his absence has left the city’s underworld in chaos. On his way back though, he experienced a vision of a huge rally of German soldiers, listening to an impassioned speech by some charismatic leader.

Clarice returned to the bazaar, and heard some of the rumors about dangers and cyclopean monsters lurking about the neighborhood of the Shunned Mosque. She stumbled into a street battle and met Bulent Sadik, a lieutenant of The Elephant. Charming him, she heard the tale of how the Elephant had become acquainted with “the Frenchman” (apparently Duke Messeraine) and began enjoying the city’s entertainments together. He even sold the Frenchman his favorite slave — Nisra. It was shortly after this that Menkaph abruptly retired and retreated into seclusion.

Sayed talked his way into access to the police records of the city, looking into the history of the Shunned Mosque, and the heathen cult that operated there in the previous century. In more recent times, despite various reports of criminal activity and rumors about the so-called Brothers of the Skin, the police seem to be avoiding investigating the area too closely. Sayed’s own investigations were interrupted by a visit from an officer of the Sultan’s secret police, who advised Sayed to avoid looking too much into things best left alone.

Alfred, Sayed, and Clarice decide to investigate the Shunned Mosque in person. They quickly divide up. Alfred, following the route from his previous visit soon found a hidden entrance and a passageway beneath the ruins. Sayed noted that the Minaret is not quite as ruined as it seemed and climbed its stairs. Clarice was fascinated by the strange architecture and wandered inside on her own.

Alfred donned a disguise, avoiding Brothers in the dark passages. He did though encounter the missing Hamlin Polk. Polk seemed quite cheerful and said his now recovered son wants to thank Alfred and the others for their help. Alfred decided to declined this meeting.

At the top of the minaret, Sayed found Selim Makryat waiting for him. Makryat demanded the return of the missing pages from the Apocrypha of the Fez. Sayed denied having them and Makryat threatened to send a cursed Fez to Sayed’s family if he does not comply. Sayed responded by defiantly singing a call to prayer from the tower. He struggled with two of the Brothers, but Makyrat ordered them to let him go, saying Sayed had until sunrise the next day to produce the missing pages.

Clarice found a old mosaic beneath the plaster walls of the crumbling mosque. It appeared to depict a tower with a weird, abstract swirl design rising above it. A Brother discovered her and the two scuffled. She managed to get him in a choke hold, but was badly slashed on the face. The outcome seemed ominous when Sadik, whom Clarice had asked to watch out for her, appeared, shot the Brother, and heroically rescued the damsel in distress.

Eventually they reconvened back at Sayed’s brother’s — though Georgia was still staying with Nisra. Thugs are prominently lurking on the street keeping an eye on the place. Sayed consulted with Smith, who says a gentleman would give the pages and deal with consequences later. Reluctantly they all agree…

Commentary

Just quick commentary this time. The players are still in the 1893 flashback scenario! What I first wanted to be a one-shot is now looking like a two-and-a-half shot. The players seem fine with it, though I have some concern about losing focus on the main 1923 story. But with that player feedback I have been letting things play out a their own pace. Up until the start of the session I had a scene in mind that would move things more directly to a conclusion, but I decided it would take too much agency from the players, so I let them follow their own investigations, even if that meant switching between four different simultaneous scenes.

My Keeper style now is really developing into having a collection of Core Clues in mind, with loosely associated NPCs, locations, and secondary situations, and then introducing them into play where ever they likely to fit. I might have started expecting the Reporter would hit the streets and track down the mysteriously retired crime kingpin and get Clues from him — but the eccentric Artist ended up poking around the bazaar, finds herself in the middle of street fight, gets rescued by a former lieutenant of said crime boss, and then charms those Clues out of him. It just takes a while to get all the necessary clues and plot elements into play and set a scenario resolution in motion.

I do think this extended flashback is succeeding in filling in backstory about the main Campaign’s different villainous factions. As the 1923 Investigators encounter Makryat, the Brothers of the Skin, The Shunned Mosque, etc they should all seem more complex and menacing, from what they’ve “read” about them in the diary that is the framing sequence of this flashback.

Taking a sandbox approach to this scenario has been a learning experience, but I think that if we use the other two flashback scenarios available in the main Campaign I will keep them shorter and more focused. I want to support the main story, not dilute it.