Impractical Applications (Morgan’s Conclusions)

I talked this week about the challenges of working with a character unaware of aspects of her setting’s metaphysics that are player common knowledge. As I implied in that article, I’ve been practicing lately. The character? The lone PC in a solo Call of Cthulhu game, who goes by Morgan.

As my characters go, Morgan is pretty typical. A freelance writer and a polyglot, she has points in just about any skill that can double as a college major and a few knowledge skills that can’t, and is pretty much useless in a fight. She runs a curiosity shop inherited from her great-aunt Victoria, who had died unexpectedly from a heart attack on one of her trips through Europe right after sending a pack of oddities including a peculiar pendant and an illuminated manuscript.

The first sign, but also the easiest to ignore, that something was a bit off about the situation was the dreams. On the one hand, she had the Psychology rating to know that what she was dealing with was just random neural impulses; on the other hand, while some were clearly a result of spending too much time translating Old English fairy tales, significant, memorable or serial ones were popping up with statistically improbable frequency. And how does one explain the one where she was conversing with someone who both was and wasn’t Aunt Victoria but was definitely in medieval riding leathers and carrying a sword, and operating with a rather outdated knowledge of the world and how it worked? In over her head due to other circumstances, Morgan did turn to using her dreams as a tool—by taking what I-as-player knew perfectly well was an accidental trip to the Dreamlands to talk to the Victoria-analogue, deciding (wrongly, but reasonably) that it was her subconscious mind trying to work through the problem, and psychoanalyzing the living daylights out of it.

The pendant itself made for some interesting questions. And it wasn’t just the fact that it was both metallic and apparently translucent. Aunt Victoria’s note had said that it was a fake, but likely Morgan’s style. An item of a similar design and material had once destroyed the reputation of another researcher who’d found it on a dig—it was termed ‘metal’, declared to be of modern origin, and thus declared a fraud. Whether it was real or not, it got her accosted by what she later described as “a tinfoil-hat tourist with a Taser”, and thus bore looking into. Besides, whatever it was, “metal” wasn’t descriptor enough, not with the resources she had. When Richard from the lab noted that he couldn’t get anything off of it by file or laser, and that it seemed to be transparent to x-rays, her thoughts didn’t quite turn to the supernatural as mine were doing, but she did decide that she was going to get to the bottom of it and possibly clear the name of the researcher who’d found its counterpart. Finding out that it was tied to a cult—that was interesting.

But then there was the squirrel. She’d seen it once, actually while she was being accosted by the aforementioned Taser tourist. A normal squirrel, except that it had looked to her like it was too big for itself. Odd enough, she thought as she got her breath back after fleeing the scene, that she’d noticed that when she had more important things to be dealing with. But then finding the unmarked corpse of that same squirrel right where she’d last seen it when she came back with a police officer as escort—that was downright uncanny.

I’m not quite clear when she decided that it might be worth investigating the possibility of some sort of supernatural element. It might have been when, thinking she was plumbing the depths of her subconscious, she asked Dream!Aunt Victoria about the squirrel and received a long explanation involving gods and suggesting she talk to people whose names made her want to buy a vowel from an Aunt Victoria that fit with her world in a way she usually hadn’t. Or perhaps it was on realizing that the world-hopping gods the historical cultists associated with the pendant and its counterpart worshiped reminded her of the squirrel. Or maybe it was running out of ways to test the pendant. Whatever it was, it came to a head when she found some hidden code-writing in the book strongly implying that it was a camouflaged book of magic, and for reasons I have yet to understand invited her friend and self-appointed bodyguard Sasha to go ‘fishing’ with her so she could test the unnervingly detailed ritual for summoning fish.

A longish drive and ninety-some finny creatures swarming around her later (including one whose flopping about actually sounded like “splash?”, a fact which unsettled her more than having summoned that many fish did), Morgan had finally decided that her scholarly skills alone weren’t going to do the job.

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