We made characters from little pamphlets I typed up streamlining the process. Two magic users, two Fighters, one Cleric, one Specialist.
They began, as a group, owning two carts, and began the session traveling south, away from the wars of Germany and toward the rumors in the Alps.
I handed out the rumors from these two tables.
From the general rumors they heard rumors of: an ancient temple in the alps, a man who was possessed by a demon in the alps, and that desperate people are turning to worship of strange gods for protection north of where they travel.
From the “adventure” rumors they knew that strange meteors fell the night before in the direction they are traveling and that several men from a nearby village went to investigate and later were found dead.
Play began, with some of the character riding their carts, others on the road, holding lanterns against the deep darkness of the rainy night.
They came across the body in the bushes. I had to slow down the “faster” expectations of play they’d picked up from the game. (THEM: “We look at the body. What do we find?” ME: “What do you actually, specifically do?”)
They found the stab wound. Decided to take the body with them and find a place for a proper burial. (Burying it in the downpour would have taken forever.)
They reached the tavern, renamed the “Fallen Tree.” (A note here: I had meant to take the time to rename all the NPCs and towns, shifting them from the original text’s English-playful names to Germanic, but ran out of time. This meant I was constantly renaming things on the fly. Which honestly was a pain in the ass. In part because I’ve ended up with a bunch of well-educated smart-asses as players who know lots about world history and regional history and are all sorts of SCA info and I’ve got to be on my toes next time!)
They hid the body in the carriage house, deciding not to arrive with a corpse in tow.
They chatted it up with the tavern keep (Dornen) for a while…
Until the second Dornen came down the stairs. One of the M-Us snapped into action, casting a Sleep spell on the new Dornen. Arguing ensued between the two Dornens, with each trying to elicit the aid of the PCs.
He did not fall asleep. Without hesitation, and inciting horror in his companions, one of the Fighters drew his axe, walked up the stairs to the Sleep-resistant Dornen, and split his head open.
The noise called the attention of several of the guests upstairs: Members of a traveling theatrical troupe and a group of silverware merchants. They came down the stairs, stunned to see the corpse. Lots of confusion and threats… The guests retreated up the stairs. Some of the PCs went upstairs to coax them back out… aware that one of the troupe members looked exactly like the corpse they found along the road.
One of the PCs went out to retrieve the corpse from the carriage house. The corpse was set alongside the corpse of Dornen by the fire.
With Dornen’s help, PCs managed to coax everyone down the stairs. (The guests had not seen that it was Dornen that was killed because his face was split open by the axe strike.)
Everyone froze, realizing that one of the troupe members looked identical to one of the corpses by the fire. The troupe members broke down, telling their tale about finding the hitchhiker along the road, taking him into their cart, it changing to appear as one of their companions, the fight that ensued, the death of one of them, and their certainty that they still had the right man because he could line-by-line play out scenes from their plays with him.
As all this was happening, Eva, the kitchenmaid from Fugger, arrived to start her day. She saw the corpses, freaked out, rushed to Dornen for comfort.
Still worried that their Fighter might have killed the wrong Dornen, and concerned that the troupe player might be dead and the mimic standing before them, the Cleric cast Detect Evil.
Now, in the module as written, it is the real Eva (with a different name) who arrives first at the inn. She is followed a half-hour later by the Changeling Eva. But I had decided to switch that out, since there were no Changeling alive at this point and I thought it better to keep things rolling.
It was a great decision, because the players were focused on Dornen and the troupe players. When I announced, “You get echoing shades of Chaos from the young girl holding Dornen’s hand, everyone at the table freaked out.”
The Changeling immediately transformed into the axe-wielding Fighter. Everyone freaked out all over again. Moreover, I described to the fighter an image at the moment of transformation: He saw a sickly green sky over a dark world. A ritual of some sort was taking place, with hundreds of innocents being sacrificed in a ritual pit.
I explained to the players (per the scenario’s terrific notes) that even though they watched Eva become their friend Hauk, in that moment of transformation they could not hold the relative positioning their friend in their head and did not know, at all, which was which. Moreover, Hauk, looking at himself, was so disconcerted by the sight that he himself was not sure if he was, in fact, himself, or the doppleganger looking at the true Hauk.
I explained the rules: that I would roll randomly for which Hauk was the true Hauk, keeping the result a secret, only to be revealed once the reality of one or both was revealed in whatever means were found to do so. Hauk’s player charged his twin, and a battle ensued. The players all chose to focus on one of the Hauks, (randomly chosen) and they wore him down fast. Luckily, they picked the Changeling!
The Changeling, realizing he was going down, but not done yet, transformed into an image of the Cleric. New panic broke out as he charged the Cleric. No one knew which was which, of course, and this time they spread out their attacks.
The Changeling slammed into the Cleric, driving him out the window into the rain and mud, doing horrible damage. Everyone fired into the back of the version of Cleric on top of the other Cleric. In desperation they fired at the easy shot of the back of the Cleric on top, killing him arrows from the doorway and window. Once again, they had lucked out, picking the right one.
The M-U with the Sleep spell studied her book to relearn the spell and cast it to confirm the Cleric was really the cleric. During the time, the real Eva showed up, terrified at the remains of the violence all over the tavern.
And we left it there.
The group (rightly so, I think) is focused on investigating a) the meteor crash site and b) Mindelheim, the village of the men who went to see the meteors. I think I’ll be scrapping the bit about the orphanage (and maybe the Changeling horses), since the action now seems to be at these two locations.
Mindelhelm will be a ghost town along a lake, with all the doors shuttered after two changeling almost tore the whole village apart. Moreover, the men who went to investigate have been transformed by radiation from the meteors to become servants of the agents on Carcosa that sent the meteors with the Changelings. Two of the men were killed, two killed themselves, one is locked in the basement of his home by his family, one is struggling to hang onto his humanity, and two are fully transformed, transmitting data back to Carcosa from the crystals in the hearts in the remaining Changelings. (The lake by the village will serve as a “dish” to transmit to Carcosa. Dead fish litter the surface of the lake when the PCs arrive. And they will notice that though it is still raining, in the reflection of the water amid the fish they see not clouds, but the stars above, as if no clouds are present.)
As for The Meteorite Site several animals will be mutated by the hot remains of the seven meteors that fell.
I’ll be using the mutation tables from Carcosa to create the mutations.
In Middelhelm, the players will find a three-dimensional topographical map on the inside of the flayed skin of a knight of the Order Medicinal. He will have been tortured for information about the location of the Duvan’ku cult, and when he refused to talk, his skin was ripped open and made to magically reveal what he knows about strange goings-on in the world.
It shows the area of and around Bavaria, where the adventure takes place. They’ll have to puzzle out what it is. But upon the map, or rather, floating above it, are two symbols made of congealed blood: One is of the Death Symbol from Death Frost Doom in the Alps, and the other shows a Stylized Symbol of an Insect over the location of Goblin Hill from Better Than Any Man.
In the first case, the Duvan’Ku cultists battled the gods of Carcosa centuries ago. The cultists of Carcosa seek an artifact the Duvan’Ku forged and hid in the temple that can be used to travel to Carcosa.
In the second, the magical revival of the Insect gods at Goblin Hill is what has drawn the interest of the gods of Carcosa and sent the expedition to earth.
So the players will have leads to two mysteries that they know the invaders are interested in. Play will dump more clues to them. But they can choose to go south toward the hidden temple of the Death Cult sealed off decades ago, or back north toward the war where strange magicks are active and making themselves known in the present.