Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Weird Adventures: The Anagrammatist, Part Three

Bragaglia's "Thais" (1917)

"An act of faith in the futility of all things." This is the third and final installment of our Con of the North convention report on "The Anagrammatist", a Weird Adventures tale using Fate Freeport Companion. I shared details about how I converted the setting to Fate, as well as my character designs here, and shared the opening details of the scenario here.

At the end of Part Two of our report, the PCs had made a grisly discovery: a movie theater in Little Carcossa, the Old King Cinema, had a full house of strange corpses. A finger poke proved the corpses to be waxy, fluid-filled sacs surrounded by a thin membrane of skin. The corpses were dressed like other immigrant residents in the neighborhood of Little Carcossa.

A strange, silent film was playing.

Doctor Haint went upstairs to the projection booth, only to be surprised from behind by a frightful, yellow masked figure, who whispered "May I have a word with you?" before disappearing into thin air.

Meanwhile on the main floor of the Old King Cinema, other members of the party were jolted into alertness when the house air conditioning turned on... and began pumping out a strange smelling gas. The players surmised that the gas might just have something to do with the strange corpses - perhaps it was an amorphing solution in gas form? Had the entire theater been converted into an execution chamber? Was the intent to harvest the soul-fuel necessary necessary to summon miniature sun in the Taxman's apartment building (as described in Part Two)?

Everyone hightailed it out of the theater, and the PCs began their research in earnest.

Millionaire socialite Vernon Astra started making inquiries in the art world. Were there any Carcossan silent films? Yes. Just one, an Expressionist film called Let Me Spell the Death of You. The film had a poor reputation: it only garnered one published review in The City's papers, and a brief one at that:

"Let Me Spell the Death of You" is an act of faith in the futility of all things. Expressionism at its worst. Subtitles in Carcossan. No translation. Thankfully.

Something bad had happened to the critic shortly after the review was published. Crossing the street, the reviewer had been hit by a fruit truck and and dragged for five city blocks. Poor fellow: it was a closed casket affair.

The PCs dug even deeper and discovered a few more things:
  • Only one actor was listed in the credits - one Nicolai Limrovic - who played the wicked, "Masque of the Red Death"-like masked Carcossan King in the film.
  • After the film's release, Limrovic, apparently now an emigre living in The City, had a second career staging grisly "spontaneous living theater performances" which he termed "Demonstrations" or "Recapitulations." 
  • Twisted language and wordplay played a central role in these demonstrations.
  • Limrovic's final performance took place on a subway train and involved the deaths of everyone on the train. 
  • The City's Exterminators were charged with capturing Limrovic; he was reportedly executed by being rendered in the chemical vats of The Gasworks neighborhood. 
The PCs concluded that somehow Limrovic had come back. They set a clever trap for him. Vernon Astra had discovered that a print of Let Me Spell the Death of You was locked away in the secure vaults of the Museum of Dangerous Art. He made a sufficiently large contribution (i.e., bribe) to the Museum to be put on its board of directors, and be given the film on more or less permanent loan.

Of course, the PCs next step was to view the film. It became clear upon viewing that the film recapitulated the destruction of Carcossa by the contending belligerent powers of the Great War. With each scene in the five-act film, the PCs had to made WIS rolls (i.e., Sanity Rolls); a few of the players suffered Consequences as Mental Stress accrued. By the end of the film, our heroes were shaken, and convinced that there was something profoundly wrong with this sinister work of art!

The PCs arranged for a public screening of the film. Vernon Astra insisted upon it as a way to draw out Limrovic, and simultaneously thin the herd of arrivistes, poseurs, and social climbers cluttering up The City's social scene. Astra found a good screening location: a posh bar called The Caviar.

The players preparations for the screening were outstanding. Preparations took the form of Create Advantage rolls. Doctor Haint used his special deck of cards to create a magical intrusion detector so that our heroes would have early warning of Limrovic's arrival on the scene.  Simultaneously, Alex Gold, the Bronze Titan of Science used his ample weird science skills to jury rig a "magical lightning rod" or ground for the entire space. Pull the guillotine switch, and the theater would become a huge magical sink.

Camilla, the China Doll Martial Artist, decided to dress in traditional frilly Carcossan girls' garb, and to position herself prominently in the screening room. Creepy, creepy.

Their plans worked well. Once the film had progressed to the scenes of the great powers' invasion and the carnage they wrought in Carcossa, the atmosphere began to change. Audience members began vicariously experiencing - recapitulating - the fear and trauma of Carcossa's utter destruction. A few of the audience fled the theater in sheer terror. Many began to scream.

The stage was set, and The Anagrammatist stepped through the movie screen, just as a giant airship loomed front and center in the film.

Doctor Haint's cards gave off their alarm; Alex Gold pulled the guillotine switch, the magical damper began its work (as it turned out, this hampered Doctor Haint more than The Anagrammatist), and the real fight commenced.

The foundations of the theater shook; the ceiling cracked and dust rained down. The Anagrammatist was able to cast one anagram spell: The Caviar --> Vicar Hate.

In spite of the distraction, carnage, and chaos caused by the machine gun toting cleric Vicar Hate, the terror created by the film, and presence of the The Anagrammatist himself, the PCs prevailed in the fight.

They made the very wise recommendation that The City lock-up The Anagrammatist in a nameless box - something that The Anagrammatist couldn't spell into something else and escape.


Tomorrow we'll be back with two new Eikones for Weird Adventures - powerful spirits that personify certain concepts - that emerged from our story.

Source: The Horrors of Malformed Men


  1. Sounds like an excellent scenario. Sorry we missed it.

    1. Would have been great to have you there, but I am confident there will be other opportunities!

  2. Sir, I am reading your journal through and I am very impressed by your game reports and bizarre spells and overall atmosphere of the settings you describe.
    Thank you for sharing all this, I swear I got a lot of ideas out of your material for my own games!

    Yours, Mary.