For a campaign that only lasted four sessions, we certainly managed to pack a lot in. Here’s a rough outline of how things panned out:
- The two PCs, Lancey St. Claire and Richard Pike, were roomed together as the original Odd Couple—Lancey, the spoiled child of privilege (his father the President and CEO of Arkham Motors) and Richard, a working-class Bostonian and the first in his family to go to university. Lancey was a second-year freshman who was only allowed to stay in school through his father’s influence—Lancey was only there to learn a bit about running a business, for he was tapped to inherit his father’s job one day. Richard, meanwhile, was a hard-working and earnest young man, incredibly bright and destined for a great career in the sciences, it seemed.
- Through Lancey’s attentions towards Rebecca Pickering, the PCs fell in with the bohemian crowd at the Desolate Highway Cafe. Richard soon returned to his studies in organic chemistry, but Lancey found his new associates fascinating and became a cafe regular. Richard, meanwhile, was romantically stymied when he spectacularly fumbled a pass at Rebecca’s roommate, Jeanette Green.
- The PCs had made the acquaintance of Rebecca and Jeanette through the dream study sponsored by professors Dr. Alex Warden and Dr. Albert Gist. Although originally taken on as an easy way to earn some pocket money, the study seemed to awaken something within Lancey and Richard, who soon experienced an unnerving shared dream that took them to a chamber lit by a column of flame and attended by two hoary priests, who sent them down a 700-stair passage to an ancient oak wood, from whence they soon fled back to the waking world.
- Dr. Warden was fascinated by these developments and encouraged the students to keep him apprised of any further developments. In November, Lancey and Richard became involved in a strange case of graveyard vandalism that led them to experience seeming time-travel, taking them back to participate in a Civil War-era battle. Lancey was killed in the battle, and Richard witnessed the instigator of the strange adventure, a veteran and associate of Rebecca’s grandfather (also a Civil War veteran), carried off by some sort of malevolent creature. Lancey and Richard then awoke, discovering that the entire experience had been an elaborate shared dream. Strangely, the town’s Civil War monument was found to have moved from its site at the cemetery to the hill outside of town where the vision of the battle had occurred in the dream…
- Nothing more happened for some time. Fall semester was completed and spring begun. After the Civil War dream, Lancey became increasingly fascinated by occult studies and horrified his family by quitting the football team, distancing himself from his fraternity in favor of the bohemian crowd, and dropping his major in Business. He also grew a pencil moustache, the better to fit in at the Desolate Highway. After their shared dream experience, Richard and Lancey became fast friends.
- As April came to a close amidst unseasonably cold weather, news came of an actual cemetery desecration: the digging up of three graves, each belonging to an Arkham town father, one of whom was Lancey’s direct lineal ancestor. Investigation pointed to a fellow M.U. scholar, a graduate student in the History Department named Susan Mason. Susan, it transpired, lived at the “curse house” in north Arkham, purported former residence of Hester Payne, a witch condemned to death in the late 17th-century trials that swept Puritan New England. Before her death, Payne had promised that she would return to visit her vengeance upon Arkham. Lancey and Richard surveyed and subsequently broke into Susan’s third-story apartment at the curse house (but not before a fair amount of Keaton-esque slapstick and close shaves with serious injury owing to their rather mediocre Climbing skills). Lancey was the first in and he discovered, in the second of the apartment’s two rooms, a strange Gate that he was irresistibly drawn through…
- Richard climbed into the apartment and found his friend missing. After some fruitless searching, he returned to his dorm to rest and collect his thoughts. Lancey, meanwhile, found himself in a strange underground sepulchral chamber with many dark passageways twisting away in all manner of directions. Rather than chance any of those dark halls without a light source, he endeavored to tunnel his way up and out—and managed to nearly bury himself in a landslide of earth that knocked him out cold.
- Lancey and Richard found themselves both asleep and once again traveling through the chamber of fire and into the strange oak woods. This time the pressed on and soon emerged into a Technicolor wonderland like something straight out of the fairy-tale books they had read as children. (On the way out of the woods, Richard had spotted a strange monkey-like creature watching them; with a start, he realized the thing sported fleshy tentacles in place of a mouth.) After stopping at a quaint, thatch-roofed farm cottage and getting breakfast and directions from a friendly farmwife, the duo walked on along the banks of a crystal clear river, crossed a bridge, and came to the village of Ulthar, where no one ever kills a cat. Richard thought he recognized Jeanette’s cat among the teeming feline multitudes, but the tabby was soon lost in the crowds. Speaking with a wizened priest at the temple of the Elder Gods, the PCs found out that Hesper Payne had passed through Ulthar not long ago on her way to the infamous city of Dylath Leen, a young man in tow—one Eric Watson, whom Richard remembered was another M.U. student, and one who had recently been committed to Arkham Sanitarium after being found wandering the streets in a state of catatonic shock.
- The party traveled to Dylath Leen, where they asked around about Hesper Payne. A strange crew of short and swarthy sailors, all wearing oddly-shaped turbans, told the PCs that they had transported Hesper to a far-off island just last week and would happily take the duo there for a fee. Once on board, however, Richard and Lancey were taken prisoner. They languished on the galley for six days, the oars beating an impossibly regular time as the black ship cut through the waters of a vast ocean. Lancey had taken a peak belowdecks before being captured and had caught a glimpse of the oarsmen: strangely misshapen men with white, rubbery skin. Arriving at the island, a small spit of land with a queer village of metallic buildings on the waterfront, the duo were thrown into a closet in one of the metal structures. Unable to breakout, they tried to go to sleep and wake themselves from this terrible dream, but failed. The turbaned sailors eventually returned with bare daggers. The PCs tried to fight their way out, but were bested. They were then slowly and painfully tortured to death, at which point they awoke back in the real world.
- Their dream-selves dead (and now unable to ever dream again), the PCs headed to the curse house on the evening of Walpurgis. With gasoline and flame, they burned the house down after causing a distraction to empty the building of its many tenants. With no further leads, they returned to their dorm room at Miskatonic. The next day, the papers reported the strange disappearances of both Susan Mason and Eric Watson, the latter being an especially strange case as Mr. Watson had been locked in his cell at Arkham Sanitarium during the night.
At this point the campaign was for all intents and purposes finished. The PCs were no longer able to access the Dreamlands through dream. Although there was a backup plan on my part to introduce a way of gaining physical access to those lands, both PCs were anxious to never return. Meanwhile, their failure to stop Hester Payne had meant that the old witch (who had been living in the Dreamlands since her Earthly death) had managed to return to Arkham using her great-grand-niece Susan as a patsy and Eric as sacrificial victim. She brought with her a small army of terrible beasts from the darkest pits of the Dreamlands. Working from the sepulchral temple that Lancey had once escaped from, Hester plotted her vengeance.
- We played out a brief epilogue: Richard returned to his family and transferred to Boston University starting his sophomore year. Lancey abandoned his interest in occult matters, shaved his moustache, and embraced a major in Business once again. Yet his denial could not protect him from Hester Payne and her monsters. After a summer and fall marked by chilly weather and a marked increase in petty crime, Hester made her move on Halloween night. Lancey, on his way to a party at his frat house, ran afoul of a gug, which made short work of him. The next day, Richard opened the papers to find banner headlines screaming the sad fate of Arkham, seemingly destroyed by some sort of freak storm and the fires that followed; most of the town had been leveled and hundreds if not thousands were dead. Strangely, the army had been called in and had set up a cordon around the town. With a sinking heart (and a suitable loss of Sanity), Richard understood what had really happened and new immediately that his friend Lancey was among the dead.