The Chaosium Digest

The Chaosium Digest supports the role-playing games produced by Chaosium Inc. and all content is fan submitted. Begun in 1994 by Shannon Appelcline who passed it to myself in 2000 and previously distributed via email, this is the newest incarnation of the Chaosium Digest. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chaosium Digest Classics: Halloween 1923

by Geoff, Susan, Alex & Isaac
Originally appearing in Chaosium Digest v28.11, October 18, 1999

One of the investigators receives the following invitation a week or two before Halloween.

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You are cordially invited to experience the wonders of Professor Lee DeForest's incredible Audion and the unveiling of his newest invention PhonoFilm. The theme of this year's Halloween Ball is the Ancient Pharaohs of Egypt, our guest of honor will be the famed Egyptologist Howard Carter. Dr Carter is just back from the sands of mysterious Egypt where he, along with the Earl of Carnarvon discovered the remains of Tutankhamen, greatest pharaoh ever to reign in the land of Cleopatra.

October 31st 1923.
Festivities begin at 8:00 PhonoFilm at Midnight! 1
302 149th Street.

RSVP with number attending.
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Have each investigator decide what they will wear to the party. Many costumes will not allow them to tote weapons along. Guns are of course discouraged among high society gatherings.

Professor Lee DeForest is an inventor with a knack for coming up with great ideas, starting a business around them and then having that business fail. He is now trying to raise money to build a company around this newest invention, which makes talking movies possible. This time around he's brought in the aid of a promoter, Harold McIntyre, to help him raise the money. McIntyre is an extraordinarily outgoing fellow who insists that everyone call him "Mac". Anyone who has or may know someone with money has been invited, including the investigators. Although, they had only the smallest of commitments from Howard Carter to be at the party Mac thought it would be a fantastic idea to tag along on Carter's fame to raise attendance.

The main goal of the party is to raise money. DeForest (dressed as Anubis) talks up his invention and all the interest he's gotten from Hollywood, but never raises the topic of money. Mac (dressed as the Sphinx) pumps anyone and everyone for money. No amount is too small. He constantly refers to DeForest as "The Father of Radio" and talks about the opportunity for getting in on the ground floor. He is the consummate salesman and flatters constantly. He plays on people's vanities promising acting opportunities to some or the chance to own a piece of Hollywood to others.

Carter may or may not show up. If you prefer, replace any references to Carter with Dr. David Pierce a colleague of Carter's, who was hoping to see the more famous archaeologist here tonight. Pierce was one of the lucky ones who was able to go inside Tutankhamen's tomb after it was opened. If Carter does show up (dressed in full archaeologist gear), admirers almost always surround him. At some point he (or Pierce) will have a coughing fit and later one of the investigators or someone else that was near Carter at the time will start to develop a cough. This is nothing but a red herring, but feel free to hint at the Curse of the Mummy.

Professor DeForest mentions at some point when talking with the group that the "screening" will take place in the room behind the black curtains. Of course, he says, they must promise not to go poking about in there until Midnight.

The investigators get a chance for action when at about 10:30 anyone who makes a Spot Hidden notices a figure wrapped up like a mummy (one of eight mummies at the party) slip behind the black curtain. If they take no action a smashing sound comes from the room as an enraged John Detweiller smashes the PhonoFilm projector to pieces. Prompt action will get them there in time to stop him. Lethal force should be discouraged and will result in the investigators being jailed for murder. Detweiller was a partner in one of De Forest's earlier ventures and lost everything he had. After he's smashed the machine he won't put up much of a fight, but will scream and swear at De Forest until dragged out by force. If asked DeForest will say that the man is insane and stole from DeForest when they were partners.

If the PhonoFilm projector is smashed DeForest brings out an earlier prototype which while cruder in design, functions identically to the other. When midnight comes everyone is ushered into a large sitting room with a white sheet hanging on one wall. The PhonoFilm runs for about four minutes. Starting with a barber-shop quartet singing on stage at Coney Island and ending with various shots of the rides at the amusement park.People on rides scream as they whirl and tumble about. The whole thing is amazing up until now there have been only silent pictures. However, the sensitive investigators alsofind the film somewhat curiously disturbing. There are moments when the screams seem horrible, not the delighted screams of thrill seekers, but the damned and terrifying screams of insanity. Carter (or Pierce) turns ashen after watching for a short time and runs from the room with the film still going.

If an investigator follows, they find the badly shaken Carter out on the front steps smoking a cigarette. Carter seems to have heard something that no one else did. If asked to describe it he says it sounded like the dead screaming for revenge. He remains agitated and intent on leaving and welcomes any offer for a ride home.

Does the PhonoFilm pick up sounds that normally go unheard? Is Carter (Pierce) under the Curse of the Mummy or is he just exhausted from his travels? Perhaps the investigators befriend Carter (Pierce) and he later asks them to accompany him on a dig in South America or Egypt. The truth is left up to the Keeper to decide, depending upon the tone you wish to set for your campaign.

By the way any money invested in The De Forest Phonofilm Corporation is lost when it folds in 1925.

(Note: DeForest and Carter were actual people and although such a party never took place, if you're willing to be within a couple months of reality, it could have)

Resources
- Picture of DeForest at
http://www.invent.org/book/book-text/30.html
- Various DeForest bios at
http://www.cinemedia.com.au/SFCV-RMIT-Annex/rnaughton/DEFOREST_BIO.html

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