Friday, October 20, 2023


We continued with our Malignant Exorcist campaign for the upcoming Strange Tales of New England (a new game based on the system in Strange Tales of Songling).


Father Thomas Parfait: An exorcist who is obsessed with Malignant Magic and can't help but dabble in it. 

Eliza* Hawthorne: A spirit medium. 

George Stetson: A charlatan. 


In the previous session, the party was investing a series of paintings that foreshadowed disasters. They discovered that the painter, John Damey was being haunted by the spirit of Evan Damey, his baby brother who had died shortly after being born. The portents in his paintings were a product of the ghost's ability to see into the future. During their investigation, they also discovered that the ghost was aided by a spirit medium, the serial killer Dan Barret, who killed their driver, Terry Philips and turned him into an undead creature. The corpse of Terry Philips attacked them in their home, killing their bodyguard but was driven away by Father Parfait's prayers to Saint Michael.  


The party traveled to speak with Isabel Wan again, hoping to learn how to contend with the raised corpse of their old companion, Terry Phillips. Along the way they noticed a red car following them. Getting the license, George sent it to his assistant, Dave Sobey, who quickly told them it belonged to the owner of a pizzeria in Beverly, Todd Alexander. They drove the pizzeria and the car stopped following. There they quickly learned it had been stolen after speaking with Alexander, who was visibly upset over the issue. They waited for police to arrive and answered all the cop's questions. As they had had many interactions with police during the investigation, the officers took special interest in them and told them they would be in contact with the detective handling the other cases they were involved in. 

At Isabel's studio they asked her about the Ankh on Terry's forehead. She told them based on the details of the attack, it sounded like a spell called the Spell of Life, which she had a copy of in The Occult Almanac by Anderson Parsons. According to Isabel the spell was a chant that could raise up a preserved corpse when special preparations were made. However in the case of Terry Philips, it seemed the spell had some unintended affect on a body preserved by chemicals used in the morgue. She warned them not to use the spell, but did say that chanting it would harm the creature that Terry had become (which she identified as a type of mummy). 

Before leaving they asked if she could help locate the man who placed the Ankh on Terry's forehead. Working with Eliza, she had a vision of an apartment on Boston Street in Salem and they quickly narrowed down the address. As they left, Isabel asked Father Parfait if she could have her friend Walter call him about an important matter, to which he said yes. 

Later the party waited in a lot near the killer's apartment in their car, but Eliza, saw the mummy corpse of Terry Phillips ambling toward them. Their new driver, Melissa Adams, reversed the car and knocked the corpse to the ground, then drove off. They instructed her to let the mummy follow, and were able to deduce it lacked deep intelligence by going over a bridge and waiting on the other side of the river to see how it crossed. It walked directly into the water. 

As they waited, the car turned off, then the radio turned on playing a childish song. The mummy stepped from the river and began walking towards the car. 

George said "Evan Damey if that is you, please let us converse about this mater so we may help you."

The rear view mirror broke off and slammed into the window next to George's head. 

"What are you afraid of Evan?" George asked. 

Father Parfait was flipping through The Occult Almanac when its pages flipped wildly to the Spell of Life, then the book was violently pulled from the priest's hands and smashed against the window. 

George had a long conversation with Evan, trying to calm but at times insisting he behave. Finally he asked what they could do to help Evan, why he was so angry. 

The windshield began to crack and formed the words "Forgotten. All must die." A moment later the glass shattered completely and the car turned back on. 

The party then went directly to John Damey's and told him about the corpse of Terry Philips (they showed him photos taken on one of their phones). Having seen Terry lingering near his apartment, John believed them and answered their questions more openly.

They learned that his brother had died of natural causes. The party had come to the conclusion that Evan Damey had met a violent death so they pressed him further but he was adamant and they believed him. Then he told them none of the family had been to visit the grave. 

"I think you should go visit the grave and have some words with your brother," George said. 

John agreed and they headed to the cemetery (which was around the corner). There they gave John privacy and he spoke with his brother, then placed a catholic medallion on the grave. Eliza felt the spiritual energy that had been menacing them evaporate. 

Convinced the spirit had been laid to rest, they went back to their car but their path was blocked by the corpse of Terry Philips. He strode towards them and father Parfait had no choice but to use the spell of life. As he recited the chant, the creatures flesh flaked away, but it pressed on and ripped apart Melissa Adam's shoulder with its jaws. 

Both Eliza and Father Parfait recited the chant, causing its flesh to continue flaking, while George and John ran for safety. Devouring Melissa's throat, the mummies corpse attacked Father Parfait, biting his lower back, devouring the muscle and nearly breaching the kidney. 

Eliza continued chanting and the body of Terry Philips disintegrated into the air. 

Father Parfait fell to the ground, alert but a large section of muscle had been completely eaten from his back. George called an ambulance. 

When the police arrived, they seemed to believe George's account (having seen a number of unusual things themselves while investigating Dan Barret). Father Parfait laid on the ground, awaiting the ambulance, when his phone rang. 

"Is this Father Parfait?"

"Speaking, you will have to forgive me I am on my way to the hospital, how may I help you?"

"I hope you are okay father."

"I am fine to speak, it will give me something to do during the ambulance ride."

"Thank you Father, Isabel Wan told me to contact you, this is Walter Hawley. I was hoping you would help me with my uncle. I haven't heard from him in weeks. He lives in Rutland and I think he has been involved in Satanic magic. I am afraid to go check on him myself and was hoping you could do so."

"I would be happy to my child," He said. "When I am recovered I will attend to your uncle, can you please give me the address?"

This is where the session ended. 

*Character incorrectly labeled Elijah in previous entry. 

Sunday, October 8, 2023


Most of my campaigns are focused on the interaction of PCs and NPCs, often in the context of a sandbox (but not always). I find organization to be a tricky matter here. The methods I have used in my books have generally been either an NPC chapter in alphabetical order, or, the approach I take in my notebook, which I used for Sons of Lady 87, which is to simply include NPCs where they are most relevant. Another method is to organize by sect, which the Sects of the Martial World books do. There isn't a perfect approach as each has its advantages and disadvantages. 

This method, suggested by Asen, is an interesting solution to the problem. I quite like how it groups characters by numbers (something I usually limit to locations rather than characters). This method uses numbers with decimals so you can have a number of related characters in the same number category (simply distinguishing them by .1, .2, .3, etc). So you have a character for 1.1, 1.2, 1.3. 

I like this because it accomplishes something I would use character maps to achieve (often times I map out relationships in a diagram, usually among NPCs and among Sects). Another method I used was how we did it in Righteous Blood, Ruthless Blades, where every NPC has a part of their stat block dedicated to relationships. 

Saturday, October 7, 2023


I have been doing another round of playtests for our upcoming Strange Tales of New England RPG (a project I hope to release sometime in the next year). Much of the game focuses on demons and exorcists, and to this point all of the exorcists have been good (there is a corruption mechanic that makes being an exorcist challenging if a character goes down an evil path). But recently I started a new campaign where one of the players wanted to play an exorcist who dabbles in malignant magic. 


Father Thomas Parfait: An exorcist who is obsessed with Malignant Magic and can't help but dabble in it. 

Eliza Hawthorne: A spirit medium. 

George Stetson: A charlatan. 


First Session Recap: The session began in Salem, October 20th. The players were investigating strange paintings after receiving a call from a woman in Marblehead who claimed to have purchased a masterwork that predicted future events. They discovered that the painting in question, though it was finished before the event, foreshadowed a great fire on the Orange Line* when one of its cars burst into flames going over the bridge across Mystic River. They went to the Derby Street Art gallery and discovered that another painting depicting a riot on Sylvan Street, on what looked to be Halloween. They asked about the artists name and was told he was John Damey, and that his paintings were rumored to portend disaster (to their knowledge no riots had occurred on Sylvan Street). They went to his apartment and spoke with John Damey. There they found a painting under a sheet that included an image of the entire party surrounded by something deadly but that wasn't clear because the painting wasn't finished. They also found out through their spirit medium that the artist was being haunted by his younger brother, who died in infancy. John Damey became irate when they brought up the subject so the party left to go speak with other people who had bought his paintings. Something else they learned was that the back of the paintings had key dates on them (one one of them was the birthday of Evan Damey, the other was November 1st, 2019). They also put a call into to a local Private Investigator to look into Evan Damey's Death. As they were leaving, the car was possessed by the spirit of John Damey's Brother, Evan, and it took some time for their driver, Terry Philips, to regain control.

The party left Salem and made some calls to other owners of John Damey's paintings, using numbers they had obtained from the Derby Street Art Gallery. They managed to contact both Isabel Wan and David Emerson. Emerson had the painting, The Overcast Lot and agreed to meet with them at his home in Newburyport. They were driven there by Terry Philips. 

On the way, they noticed a shoddy white van following them. George told Terry to pull over, and the van pulled over as well. George then went out and spoke with the man in the van. When he asked why he was following them, the man waved his hand dismissively and was generally belligerent. They drove for a while, then pulled over again. This time Eliza sensed a spiritual presence in the van and had George distract the driver while she prepared an attack on the entity. The spiritual struggle caused the van to turn on and off, giving the party enough time to drive away before it seemed the van was able to catch up.  

When they arrived in Newburyport they saw that David lived in a large mansion by the river. A servant brought them to meet David Emerson in his library where he showed them the painting, which just seemed to be of a shopping center parking lot in Plainville. However, in the background Emerson pointed to the outline of a tornado forming. Painted two years ago, it seemed to predict the Plainville Tornado which killed 94 people just a few months ago. They learned that Emerson was a novelist and that he was eager to help them. They asked for accomations for the night and he was glad to let them stay in his guest rooms (they were planning on seeing Isabel Wan in the morning and she lived nearby).  

When the party went out to bring in Terry, their driver, they found him unconscious with an Ankh branded on his forehead. They were able to awake him and learned someone came to his car and asked for directions, then he blacked out. Other than that he seemed fine. 

They went to bed that night but in the morning discovered that Terry was dead. There was no sign of struggle and the police were called. His body was brought to the morgue at Salem Hospital and the party gave statements before deciding their next step. 

George looked up bodyguard services and found a man named Samuel Klein who was skilled in security, self defense and knew evasive driving maneuvers. For 5,000 dollars, Samuel agreed to meet them at the mansion in 20 minutes and to guard them 24-7 for the next week. George also talked with the private investigator and learned that Evan Damey died of natural causes. 

They went to Isabel Wan's who was happy to help. She showed them a painting of downtown Cambridge. The center of the image was the Pickwick Apartments, which burned down and killed 44 people one year after the painting was made. If one looked closely at the windows of the apartment building, faces could be seen pressed against the glass, trying to escape the smoke. They also found a date on the back of the painting, which matched another date they discovered, November 1st 2019. Using a bowl of water, Isabel scried and claimed to see images of a couple in bed terrified. They speculated based on other information that these were the parents of Evan Damey, and Isabel believed they had been haunted to their deaths by him, that he then turned his attention to his brother after them. 

Isabel offered to help them should they need it as they conduct their investigation and they left. On the way home they reviewed a phone call from the police that their driver died of a heart attack. They suggested gave the police the license plate of the white van that had been following them and asked if they could look into it. 

The whole group stayed at George's house, sleeping upstairs while Samuel kept guard in a chair in the living room. Eliza made a protective talisman and secured it to the front door. 

They awakened in the night to gunfire. Running to the stairs they heard Samuel to tell them to stay back, and more gunfire. There was a loud thud and the gunfire stopped. Then a horrible groan. Father Parfait recited the Chaplet of Saint Michael and whatever was attacking, ran out from the front door and disappeared into the streets. They found Samuel dead on the ground.

Eliza conducted a seance to speak with the spirit of Samuel. Se was able to communicate by knocking sounds, allowing them to ask 'yes'/'no' questions. They learned that the attacker was the body of Terry Philips (he had an Ankh on his head). 

The police began questioning them with a bit more suspicious. They kept asking if George had asked officers to investigate the license number of a van. When he said that he had, they informed him those officers' went to the driver of the van's house on Pope Street to follow-up on the matter. They were found dead, with their faces eaten off. 

After the police left, George hired another drive/bodyguard named Mellisa Adams, who arrived at their home by the afternoon. 

This is where the session ended. 

*Part of the T system subway system in Boston