V. Darkness Dawning: The End of The Beginning
And now, the end is near... Perhaps in the cold measure of aeons there is in some abyssal place a mind for whom the passing of time itself is but a moment, but not here, not in the withering circle of life that is trying to hold back The Darkness, no, not ever in Arkham...for them and for everything, time is running out with the stealthy alacrity of lightning spitting in Blackest Night.
Welcome back to my foray into total hopelessness. This is my report on scenario 5 of the AH Fan League at Elder God mode, but you probably know that already by now, so I’ll stop reminding you.
If you are planning on playing this awesome epic - and who among us wouldn’t? – SPOILERS!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Herbert West has assumed some kind of god-form after his ‘defeat’ in scenario 2. He was apparently using Glaaki as part of some nefarious plot and has been reborn as The Lich King Xzmundl, an interdimensional conqueror who has unleashed a plague of undead the likes of which the universes have never seen. After our heroes turn Death itself to dust at the end of the last confrontation – a temporary setback for sure – Wendy goes and plucks the Necronomicon from the pile of ragged yellowing bones and Deaths master, a thing of blindness and terror known only as The Darkness, begins to pursue her through eternity. Oops, but that’s what can happen when you go reading someone else’s diary I guess.
Ancient One: The Darkness
The Darkness is absolute – like Azathoth there is no survivable direct confrontation - everything will be devoured wholesale if this thing breaks through the gate to Arkham. Ordinarily this is no problem - with a Doom of 14 The Darkness takes a long time to dawn. But I am at the Elder God difficulty, which means it starts the game with 4 Doom tokens, so I’m in trouble there even before the first gate opens. Effectively I have a Doom of only 10.
This inky sentient darkness slowly seeping in through the crack between the nothing hampers the movement of the team (-1 MP) and insidiously terrorizes the town and spreads madness among the investigators (1st player must roll a die in Upkeep, raising Terror on a 1 - remember this - or inflict a Madness on the 1st player on a 2). Madness of any kind is the fixated and obsessive sort that means the investigator can no longer retire. All the monsters but the green and blue ones (specials and flyers) are stalkers whenever they have the immediate chance, skulking through the thickening clouds of night, and the flyers enter buildings and hunt you down rather than just keeping an eye on the streets. Remember this too. All undead have 3 extra toughness.
Herald: The Lich King Xzmundl
The artiste formerly known as The Reanimator has arrived in the ‘skies’ above Arkham on the back of a monstrous winged beast and sweeps in with an army of horrors. Such a performer! It is Blackest Night at the start of the game (the environment is drawn for the setup card). This scenario continues the mechanic of tracking time in Arkham seen in scenario IV, but this time instead of movement symbols being used the game is looking at environments that modify Sneak rolls, with a + indicating it is Night, and a – indicating Day. Only Day or Night environments can have their Mythos effects applied i.e. every environment that does not modify Sneak will have its Mythos special effect ignored (gates will still open etc.) and be discarded (I decide this will not affect the MH Acts mechanic, which state ‘immediately after a Mythos card is drawn…’). This way it will probably stay Night with Blackest Night in play all game. I’m happy with this because it means I am immune to many very nasty effects like No One Can Help You Now.
Wraith will be the first monster. This thing has 3 natural toughness; however, Xzmundl has turned ALL monsters into undead and added a further drop of toughness to them, whilst normally undead monsters have been invested with 4 extra toughness and cannot be spent. Add this to the boost given by The Darkness and the opening Wraith has 10 toughness. The other monsters are functionally just as bad:
1 toughness (1t) monsters are now 5t undead, 8t if normally undead
2t monsters are now 6t undead, 9t if normally undead,
If Day is ever drawn (i.e. a -X Sneak Mythos card is drawn), there is a mechanic which basically gives me 3 turns until it will suddenly turn to Night again, consequently causing Arkham to be terrorized. If it ever gets to be Day the investigators benefit from Will +1 and can ignore resistances and treat immunities as resistances. Nice, but it will probably never happen, the game wants it to be Night and stay that way, and that’s fair enough, because at Night all the monsters gain physical resistance and those with physical immunity get magical resistance instead. So all the monsters are now undead with at least 5 toughness and physical resistance and the worst of them cannot even be spent. If you are foolish enough to actually slaughter any of these horrors you will be confronted with it reanimating itself with Herberts undying love juice in your 1st player Upkeep in order to battle you again, returning to the cup if you evade.
Scenario Rules: The Gate limit widens slightly, giving me more room in that direction. In addition to the Sneak boost from Blackest Night I will get another, making +2. This is a much more precious gift. All Elder Signs are turned to dust and not redrawn. So this means only clues will suffice and Wendy is down one unique item as she is a required investigator, but if you read this far you will recall The Necronomicon is in her possession now. It’s not a good thing – she can barely read it and doing so destroys her as a useful investigator. To make this even more clear, Wendy is being hounded so badly by the forces of Darkness for having it that she is on a slippery slope to utter insanity (draw one Madness each Upkeep on a roll of 1-2). Another requirement is Zoey, who after having an epiphany can shave 2t off of all the monsters she faces – a minor de-buff on even the weakest foe that does nothing to encourage combative tactics.
About the Terror – remember there is a die in Upkeep with Terror rising on a 1, and the fact that Day will eventually trigger a Terror rise as well. Remember that the monsters are tough if not nigh impossible to destroy and that I am strongly encouraged to Sneak my way to victory and you begin to see the import of watching the Terror. But Terror has few negative consequences outside of special rules which boost it, and lo! like a prophecy fulfilled, here they come: a Glaaki servant is drawn and its swingeing bailout cuts applied to the investigation as sanctions. Here is where the bile rises in my throat and I start to choke. The number of uncontrollable Terror rises in the Mythos deck is pretty high. So for this reason alone, Jacqueline (who incidentally cannot redraw Day or Night Mythos cards) is going on my list of recruits. Oh yes, and after the Servant strikes, the 1st player has their sanity reduced to 0 – more Madness and worst of all, delay.
Obviously the stratagem is to evade and use the cover of darkness to foil the plot, but surges are going to get nasty with that movement penalty. I get +2 on Sneak but -1 Movement so Speed is a big consideration here. I also need Jacqueline to gain some control over the Terror track. I look over the pool and check out the recruitment options with all this in mind and then carefully order the team rotation according to my first turn plan. Knowing the location of the first gate helps.
Dexter Drake makes his debut here because of his magical attack spells and because of his Speed – with the crunch on moving, Norman is just cripplingly slow in Arkham. So he beams up to Nodens and Dex beams down with his usual spells as well as a ritual of Greater Banishment, a Student Newspaper, knowledge of Alchemical Process and a Crystal of the Elder Things to power all his magic. This is a neat setup that gives him lots of options and addresses his main weakness – the loss of sanity. To top it off, he gets the mini Lore Blessing called Library Use as a Skill. Awesome.
Zoey Samaras is required – she is on a Divine
bloodbath crusade, (hey, who am I to argue with God, who is after all a woman?). She is hobbling around on an Enchanted Cane with an illuminated Manuscript and is all whizzed up on Speed.
Wendy Adams, also required – dribbling, gibbering, lost her dad for good in this world Wendy…she keeps the Press Pass from last game and of course the Necronomicon, which fittingly has afflicted her with the Mythos Lore Skill.
Jacqueline Fine takes the Healing Stone from the world of the lycanthropy outbreak and figures it is best to Hide away with it since by Elder God variant she will have 3 Green Corruptions. She gets the Storm of Spirits, Call Friend, and draws Primal Surge, Speak to Your Friend and Nightmarish Visions.
Sister Mary: Required Mary-no-longer-Hairy is a Sneak with Mists of Releh and the Dread Curse again. It seems to like her…
A gate to R’lyeh is open at the Cave with the 10t Wraith on it. Doom is at 5.
T1) In Upkeep, Wendy narrowly avoids madness and Dex dabbles in alchemy before heading to the Unnameable where he encounters a zombie with 8t! The shambling corpse is apparently left behind as he runs downstairs, clues in hand. Zoey takes the train to Dunwich and heads to the Carnival where she gets sucked into the roundup for a display of ‘Oddities of Nature and Unspeakably Bizarre Creatures”. She could have snuck away with a desiccated corpse – but of what? – yet doesn’t really want to because of the bubbling green reanimation juice it is preserved in. Wendy goes to Hibbs where her Pass nets her a total of 3 clues, but loses 2$ to a pool shark. Jacqueline sniffs out a trail at the Unvisited Isle when she catches sight of herself in a reflection as an Egyptian priestess and gains 3 more clues but is Cursed by what she sees. Meanwhile, Mary is poking around at the Historical Society and spends some time chatting to an unimpressed Professor Armitage.
Chanting opens a gate to Another Time at the Marsh Refinery as a Dark Young is summoned. Doom reaches 6 already. In the murk of Blackest Night the soup kitchens are looking for donations for the homeless - the undead are always so hungry, although they do wait so patiently in line. The investigators, however, claim not to be hungry and make excuses about being too busy. Jacqueline has a Primal Surge and refocuses, concocting a plan for turn 2.
T2) Upkeep sails by. Zoey leaves the freak show to head up Wizards Hill, perhaps to receive tablets (Opipramol?). Instead she finds only the cold dark but also the last clue she needs to seal a gate. Wendy Adams parks herself in the Merchant District streets, feeding the birds. Cursed Jacqueline then leaves the Isle and heads to the General Store, giving Wendy the Healing Stone and 1$. At the store she parts with more cash to walk out with a .45 as Mary heads to the Woods, finding another clue stuck to the crusty bits of a bloodied axe, which she finds useful herself. I don’t quite know what she is thinking. Even a Cultist would not succumb to the heaviest of blows she could rain down on it. Dexter then flees the Unnameable, telling Wendy to be strong as he strips her of the Healing Stone, the Necronomicon and the Press Pass and runs away to the Graveyard before she can bawl. What a hero! In the Graveyard he scrapes up 2 more clues watching Pickman paint gargoyles, but the painter is not impressed by Dexter and ignores him.
Someone accuses the Whatelys of witchcraft after a Leng Spider and Nightgaunt are spotted in the Backwoods, right in Zoeys path. A gate to Pnakotus bursts open on the Witch House, Doom rises to 7 and martial law is declared in Innsmouth. A formless Spawn slithers pathogenically from out of a tendril of The Darkness and clues show up at the Library.
T3) Upkeep: …The Dark is so soft, so inviting, so velvety…so much simpler a solution, just lying down here in the curb all curled up in The Darkness…Wendy succumbs to Narcolepsy after listening to too much bad music at Hibbs and then being robbed by Dexter, and begins dropping off at critical moments (when the moon symbol appears in the black movement box of a mythos card during the Mythos Phase, you are delayed). But amazingly Jacqueline immediately shrugs off her Curse – she is really shining lately – and Dex gathers fungi from the Graveyard and bubbles it into gold using the stone to balance the karma of introducing alien essential meaning into a harmless mushroom. Wendy throws herself sleepily at the Witch House, evading the guardian Spawn to enter the City of the Great Race of Yith. The weight of eons presses down on her yawning form, forcing her to fall back on Luck when there is none to be had, so she draws on her Mythos Lore instead and narrowly avoids losing all 5 of her clues and being Lost to the press of Eternity. Phew! Jacqueline leaves the shop for the Cave; using her skill at hiding to evade the 10t wraith lurking in the passages, she enters R’lyeh and through some kind of quantum entanglement with Wendy begins to fall asleep. She wakes up sleep-chanting and concentrating she burns up 2 clues to gain 2 clues and the Wither spell from her own Egyptian ramblings. Mary researches the clue at the Library but then it closes, moving her to the street. Dex reads the newspaper, activating the pass to suck 2 clues off of Devil Reef on his way to the Square where he finds another clue waiting and befriends the queen of the gypsies Anna Kaslow to gain a further 2, a wizardly but karmically tainted total of 5 clues this turn, now giving him 8. Zoey ponders her options and decides on sneakiness, evading the monsters in Backwoods to plunder the Whately Farm. However, after dodging the Formless Spawn thanks to the helpful caw of a watching crow she is accosted by the Nightgaunt and flown over to Innsmouth, where she is unceremoniously hurled into Another Time. Spinning mindlessly in the time vortex the sound of distant drums comes to her ears, and she floats down, down, grinning inanely but still holding it together. At least here there are some pretty lights. I had forgotten the Nightgaunt did that, it’s been so long and I usually just shoot them down.
The Merchants, having had enough of all the poor taking advantage of the absolute darkness to rob them literally blind, are protesting at the outrage of being less wealthy with a march. As Dex is dropping some cheesy line on Kaslow the world opens up underneath them and they find themselves floating next to Zoey. Doom rises to 8 with only 4 of 9 gates open and no seals! Yikes!!!! The useless merchants fail to flush out any undead, none of which move themselves, and Jacqueline surges again.
T4) Upkeep: All these walking corpses are just too much, “I have seen the future and its name is Walmart!!” screams Jacqueline in R’lyeh, as a fatal breach occurs in her mind from which she will never recover, She is now Necrophobic and had better stay well clear of all monsters and the Graveyard. Dexter dabbles with that alien essential meaning again, bringing his account to 14$ and rubbing out the memory of the experience with the stone. Undaunted, Jacqueline presses foolishly deeper towards the centre of what is after all the watery tomb of an incomprehensibly undying Thing from beyond the stars, Should we admire her, or pity her? The gods of Arkham say pity, for she is shown a second reflection of herself and comes to believe that the knowledge she has gained has been worth the sacrifice. In doing so I can have her discard 3 clues to become Blessed, but this is not in my plan and would not work in my favour at this time. Mary moves from the University streets to the Unnameable, collecting a further clue, but needing to be swift to avoid falling through a strange gulf that opens in the ceiling as she walks over it and once again is ejected, ending up on the street. The Night seems to want her for itself, in the evil open, she thinks, but the invincible Wraith has not yet flown the Cave and so she is safe. Zoey hurls the Illuminated Manuscript at Dexter and Anna as they separate in the vortex and then they come to land on some kind of strange refraction of the floor Sister Mary has just walked across, only in this case the floor opens to reveal…nothingness. They leap to avoid tumbling into the void of time and space and are delivered safely over the breach. Zoey floats by again, gibbering helplessly, drooling as she tries to make sense of an environment that defies logic or reason. She rolls a die for each clue (5) and discards a clue for each 1 rolled, but there are none. I feel well lucky and start mocking the board, ‘Whodaman!?!’ It is foolish and I immediately know it, I feel the beast beneath the board stirring in rage... Wendy finds the heart of Pnakotus and is chased by twisted creatures, but even narcoleptic she is far too fast and cunning with her Mythos Lore to fail to outrun them – another save from relentless pursuit into LiTaS.
The Earth Trembles: a surge of monsters pour out of Another Time and into the Order of Dagon. A Serpent Person and a Dark Druid gather there, a Maniac reveals his mad plan at the Witch House, an Elder Thing scuttles out of the Cave ahead of Jacqueline and a bona fide Zombie shows up at Indie Square – clearly the same zombie Dex ran away from at the Unnameable, as it is waiting for him there. Or is it? No, because the big disaster is the movement. The Nightgaunt takes wing and the Leng Spider moves to the Commons. Then the Druid makes his dastardly on black onto the Innsmouth Green and is joined by the Serpent Person, the Wraith finally takes leave of the Cave, and all the monsters shuffle so that the zombie is now in the Uptown streets. But the Leng Spider heads directly into the vortex, triggering the Deep Ones, the Dunwich Horror and the Glaaki effect. Ugh. I cannot cancel with Jacqueline without taking a big hit in my momentum, so I let it pass and luckily get the spell Servant which only costs the team the Dread Curse, Call Friend and the now defunct Alchemical Process. However, Jacqueline is going down anyway, as she is the first player and so her sanity is reduced to nothingness and the nothingness becomes Obsessive need for possession; she can no longer trade or use items that are one shots. She is swept away on the verge of exiting R’lyeh by a simply foul wind that also triggers her Nightmarish Visions and Speak to Your Friend corruptions before dumping her like used toilet paper in LiTaS. Pity Jacqueline indeed, I reflect, and reel in my ego as Dexter suddenly finds himself a Goat Cult Initiate and grows the beard to match.
It is a brutal chain but it could have been so much worse. The Trembling Earth is a non-Sneak environment that reads: ‘At the start of each Upkeep Phase while this card is in play, roll a die. On a 1, the terror level increases by 1. While this card is in play, investigators receive 1 less movement point each turn.’ It is horrible in this scenario, so I take some solace in watching it go straight to the discard pile and in the fact that I fended off all but one of the relentless attacks against the investigation in this dreadful turn.
But then I kick myself when I remember Dex has a Greater Banishing I could have used to dispose of the Leng Spider and Nightgaunt when they appeared…
T5) Upkeep: I am determined to hit back and am encouraged when nothing bad happens in Upkeep. Dex heals then uses the Crystal to power the Banishment of the Formless Spawn, the Dark Young and that hated Dark Druid. Mary heads to the Science Building for her fifth clue and ignores the temptation to drink the bubbling brew in the lab (amazingly she is at full health for once!). Dexter and Anna then progress to the point in Another Time where they are confronted with an undead Fire Vampire (mayhap the one William extinguished with his bare hands in the Woods ‘earlier’), which they manage to swerve past. Zoey then arrives and snatches the Healing Stone before being assailed by a vortex that attempts to suck her into yet another LiTaS situation, but she fights back and avoids it. Wendy then finally returns from the City of Pnakotus and brings about the first seal at the Witch House using her Mythos Lore again. Jacqueline floats aimlessly between realities, obsessing about the dead and clutching her jewellery and .45.
The Festival arrives with a gate to Leng opening at the Woods (Doom 9) and a Star Spawn emerges. Monsters are shuffling around in droves…Mary hears the mournful wailing of the Wraith coming for her down the dark hallways of Miskatonic…The Festival packs up immediately, given that nobody can see it, and Wendy finally collapses and falls asleep on her seal…
T6) Dexter is struck by Claustrophobia - Anna turns out to be a pretty clingy gal, especially in the dark when you are hurtling through a temporal rift. Zoey uses the stone to calm her fragile mind, reliving her epiphany in the curtains of the time vortex. Dexter snatches it back from her as he and Anna spin down a continuum tunnel back to Innsmouth where they easily seal the second gate drawing on Library Use. Zoey likewise ends up back in Arkham at the Square and crushes the archway leading to hell for the third seal and banishing the Elder Thing. Wendy wakes up in the Witch House to find an artist's address book lies on a table with a list of names: Lizzie Burke, Pinkie McCormick, Tessie. She feels like she knows them all, or knew them, and feels a stab of sadness but gains a clue. Jacqueline re-materialises in the Cave and heads back to R’yleh where she has to sneak by an undead ghoul. Mary escapes the Wraith and runs for the gate at the Woods, slipping through the legs of the Star Spawn to find herself in a mad scientists laboratory. Quickly she stops a terrible lever from being pulled by a cackling version of herself and robs the machinery of its gem worth 4$.
The Darkness falters, pawing ineffectively at Wendy in the Witch House, but stirring the Deep Ones to rise to stage 2 of their activities. An Estate Sale is attempted in Uptown and immediately called off. Quietest Mythos Ever?
T7) Upkeep: Now Wendy gets Necrophobic as well. Unsurprising but a lucky escape for Jacqueline, as the duplicate would finish her. Dexter nullifies the effect of Claustrophobia with the stone. Zoey risks pausing in the Miskatonic streets in front of the Wraith on the way to the Church. Wendy heads there too and finds Father Michael wants to ‘check her for Exhibit Items’ (oh, this is a so seriously dodgy an encounter in Wendys case…). Jacqueline reaches the spot in R’lyeh where she lost her grip on reality last time, but this time she survives a strange rash and cough by rubbing her jewellery and avariciously forgetting about it. Mary finds deep Leng to be hot and humid and wilts a little but stays standing as elsewhere Dexter and Anna debate whether or not to kill the Serpent People at the Bus Station in Innsmouth before they enter the vortex and trigger another Servant smackdown, possibly the clue Servant. She convinces him there will be plenty of time before it reanimates, and so the deed is done with a Dread Curse while avoiding the dangling webbed arm of the law.
Dire Portents Abound – Act One comes to pass. The Woods surge, delivering a crammed Arkham and Outskirts. The worst of the scrambling of monsters is that the Wraith and the Star Spawn stalk Zoey just as she feared. The best is that killing the Serpent was oh so very, very wise.
T8) Upkeep: The Darkness fully embraces her and Wendy gets two more Madnesses - Panic and Hysteria - in the Church!! I KNEW it! But then, running from this horror, she is met by the congregation…”YOU! You are the one who has stood against the evil that plagues this town! We are all so grateful!” Wow, Arkham, sick and disturbingly real, then sweet; I’m disturbed. She gains 2 San as the crowds surround her. Jacqueline finally closes the hole to R’lyeh, nursing the 4th seal over it and banishing the Spawn, and Zoey meets Dexter and Anna at the Station after evading the Spawn and the Wraith. It is Mary however who seizes the slip up made by The Darkness in turn 6 and 7, returning from Leng and sealing the Woods, so claiming a surprise victory through all gates being closed, each investigator having 1 gate trophy.
The Darkness is unexpectedly rebuffed with 5 seals at Doom 9, Terror 1. The score is 23.
Not sure I will get to use any of these again, but for the record:
Dexter: Library Use, One of a Thousand membership, Healing Stone, Shrivelling, Crystal of the Elder Things, Press Pass, Illuminated Manuscript, Necronomicon, Anna Kaslow, Library Use (Claustrophobic)
Zoey: Speed, Knife, Cross, Enchanted Knife
Wendy: Mythos Lore (Narcolepsy, Necrophobia, Hysteria, Panic)
Jacqueline: .45 Revolver, Wither, Storm of Spirits, Enchanted Jeweller, Hide (Nightmarish Visions, Speak to your Friend, Primal Surge)
Mary: Mists of Releh, Axe, Holy Water, Cross, Sneak.
Thanks for listening and in this way being there with me in the game thanks to this strange and many angled room! And thanks again Avi and Julia, I am ready for the main event now that what I assume is the trial by fire warm-up is complete!