The original role-playing game Call of Cthulhu contained several stories that were connected in one big campaign. But the beauty of old board games is that you can change them without too much work. A popular thing nowadays is to update Call of Cthulhu stories and turn them into episodic games that happen in the present.
The steamer part of the original Call of Cthulhu board game happens after the events in the General Hospital. You and other players go to the San Antonio where you board the steamer called Celestia Marie. Your adversary, however, is aware of your plans and they will try and obstruct you.
What to expect in this part of the Call of Cthulhu adventure
This story is riddled with events that might sometimes overwhelm the team, but the Keeper ( the person that runs the game) should pace it out to allow the team to investigate and find some info as well as items to prepare for the oncoming storm.
And then the horror stars
First, two days of the trip are uneventful which gives some free time to the team to rest. The third day is when the struggle to escape the cursed boat begins. The party awakes and realizes that the ship has stopped and no noise comes from the engines. The team has to explore the ship, found out what happened and, when they realize the problem, escape.
The team will visit the Deck A and find the seaman that has been turned into a zombie as well as the Captain who suffered the same fate. Several other rooms, except the bridge with zombies, are located at the Deck A, and the team can find some useful tools to fight zombies. Other decks will also contain zombies that the team will have to either defeat or avoid.
The goal of this game is to escape the boat. This is achievable in two ways. You can either locate Jose, to use his radio to call for help, or wait for Jose’s escape boat and overwhelm the guards that came with it. This is a hard mission, and there is a high probability that some team members will lose sanity or even their lives.
This adventure is set onboard the tramp steamer Celestia Marie. The story is designed to pick up after the events in General Hospital and War Buddy1 (http://www.chaosium.com/cthulhu/celaeno- coc/warbuddy.pdf). Alternatively, it can be brought in at a later time.
This adventure is set in Texas in the early 1930’s. With minor modifications, the story could be moved to the 1920’s or to the modern day.
After their harrowing experience in at the General Hospital, the adventurers are once again on the trail of the murder of Jack Meredith. They have taken the train to San Antonio to meet with Charles Meredith, Jack’s father.
From this interview, the investigators determine that the Order of the Ancient Stone have an office in down town. Visiting the office, the Investigators find it ransacked. However, they find evidence that the members have taken passage on the tramp steamer Celestia Marie. The investigators book passage on the same ship to corner the fiends; but their quarry is aware of them.
See War Buddy for background information.
Dramatis Personae Harvey Acres
Harvey Acres was a member of the affluent Acres family.
Harvey got into a little trouble back in Plymouth and was sent to Galveston to avoid embarrassing the family. Harvey wound up enjoying the climate of Galveston and decided to stay. He was able to build up a good trade in shipping cotton.
The Order of the Stone was interested in clandestine moving people and cargo between England and Texas. They were able to put Samson Calloway in as Harvey’s assistant and, using Sam, were able to conduct their business.
Harvey started noticing some strange entries in the books and, after a quick investigation; he uncovered what Sam and the Order were doing. When he threatened to go to the police, Lance Blake killed him.
Lance Blake is the head of the Order of the Stone in Texas. He is the friend who met up with Jack Meredith and had him killed. He is also the one who sent Karl LeBlanc after Father Henesey.
Sam is a minor member of the Order of the Stone. Before he joined the order, Sam was a petty criminal. He met members of the order in the count jail and parleyed his connections into a good job at Livingston and Acres. Sam likes his new job and wants to go straight; but is afraid of the Order and what it would do to him. As such, Sam does just what he has to, and does so unwillingly.
The Order has done a good job of burying Sam’s record. A Research check (DC 30) is required to uncover his criminal record.
José is an elder member of the Order of the Stone. He is the ranking member of the Order in Galveston. He works for
Ltd, which is the front company for the order in Galveston.
José family has lived in the Galveston area since before the Texas Revolution. During that time they have been members of the Cult of the Yellow King. José joined the Order to add it to the existing cult in this part of Texas.
They say that Mr. Lance Blake, the man in the back office, was a quiet tenet. He was pleasant but not outgoing – he kept to himself. Mr. Alfonso hasn’t been seen in the past few days.
Inside the office is a shambles. The desks have been overturned and the file cabinets have been emptied out. A bookshelf lies across the floor, its contents spilled all over the floor. A quick search (DC 15) will show that most of the papers are the usual charity type of paperwork – names and addresses of donors. A thorough search (DC 20) will reveal a torn up ticket stub for passage to Plymouth on the Monkey Business.
An extensive search (DC 30) will reveal that the mess was intentionally made.
Captain John Englebert
John Englebert, a balding man in his late fifties, is the captain of the Celestia Maria. John has sailed the ship since she was launched in 1920. John is unaware of the activities of the Order, but he is familiar with Lance Blake; and he doesn’t like the man. “He’s alright as far as you know, but he strikes me as the kind o’ man that dogs would bark at.”
The following is a rough outline of events that can occur. The events occur in the order given. The pacing of the events should be handled by the Keeper to keep the game moving but do not overpower the players. They should have time to investigate. The sequence is set such that the events will happen in the order listed if the investigators do nothing to move the story along. Their actions may change how things happen.
The Order of the Stone kept an office in downtown San Antonio, just north of Alamo Plaza. The office is located on the fourth floor of the building; office 412. The Order masqueraded as a charity for widows and orphans.
Alamo Plaza Building
The office itself is composed of two rooms: a reception area and an actual office. When the investigators arrive, the door to the office is locked. No one answers knocking.
The offices to either side of 412 are vacant. Across the hall from 412 is a janitor’s closet. The only occupied office on the fourth floor is 414. This is the office of an accountant (Mr. Pitney) and his secretary (Mrs. Bowes)
After the party finds the ticket stub, a Spectral Hunter, which has been lurking in the room invisibly, will attack a random party member. If one of the adventurers has the shard (from adventure 1), the Hunter will attack him.
The Monkey Business is a steamer that left Galveston for Plymouth, England three days ago. The manifest does have a passenger named Lance Blake.
The Longfellow and Acres Shipping, Ltd (LAS) of Plymouth own the steamer. The Monkey Business is one of a fleet of four steamers that run between Galveston and Plymouth. The other ships are Celestia Maria, Marlowe’s Luck, and Sunrise Angel. They mainly run freight – cotton to be exact – but they also have room for a few passengers.
Longfellow and Acres Shipping, Ltd. have a small office on pier 13 in Galveston. A check of the newspaper archives (Research DC 15) will show that Longfellow and Acres Shipping opened their Galveston office in 1920. Further digging (Research DC 20) will reveal that the original manager of the Galveston office, Harvey Acres, died in January under mysterious circumstances. His obituary from the Galveston Paper is:
Galveston Pier 13
Pier 13 is a busy place in Galveston. When the party arrives, there are two shrimp boats (Monica’s Prize and Daddy Warbucks) are moored and are off loading their catch onto handcarts. The area is quite noisy and crowded. A player who makes a successful Spot check (DC 20) will notice that there is a short, fat man with an eye patch over his left eye is watching the party. If anyone moves towards the man, he will disappear into the crowd.
Longfellow and Acres Shipping, Ltd.
The office sits about two-thirds of the way down the pier. It’s a shabby looking
building, with peeling white paint and rusty lamps on the outside. Moored behind the office is the steamer Celestia Maria.
When the party arrives and knocks on the door, it swings open. The office inside is empty. The office has a single wooden desk against the west wall with two filing cabinets behind it. Hanging on the south wall are photographs of the company’s four steamers. A chalkboard on the east wall lists information about each of the ships (arrival times, sailing times, cargo, captain, etc). A quick glance (Spot DC
5) at the chalkboard shows that the Celestia Maria is currently set to sail tomorrow morning at seven a.m.
The water closet is clean. It has the normal fixtures and a small bureau on the south wall. A search of the room (DC
will reveal a small journal in the bottom of the bureau. The book is written in a fine, spidery hand. It is Harvey Acre’s diary and some pages have been torn out (April 30, 1931, July 9, 1931, and January 14, 1932). Samson Calloway is mentioned in the book as a friend and confidant. The diary will reveal no more information.
The warehouse is a busy place. Longshoremen are bustling around, loading bales of cotton on to the Celestia Maria. The warehouse is about half full of cotton bales. The players may spot (DC 20) the one-eyed man near the warehouse door. If the players move toward him, he will again disappear into the crowd on the pier.
Shortly after the party enters the office, the door from the warehouse will open and Samson Calloway will come in. Samson is a tall, thin man with white hair and a salt-and- pepper moustache. He will greet the party and ask to help. Samson worked for Harvey Acres and took over after his untimely death. In fact, it was Samson who found the body. Sam will be helpful to the party, though he is quite busy getting the Maria ready to sail. Sam will be glad to book passage on the ship for the party. If asked about Lance Blake, Sam will say he remembers the man, and the fact that he was in a hurry to book passage on the first ship out. A successful Sense Motive (DC 20) check will show that Sam is not telling the whole truth. Sam won’t reveal anything more. Sam is a member of the Order of the Ancient Stone. Though he didn’t kill Harvey Acres, he was an accessory. Lance Blake did the deed. Sam will alert Blake by radio that the party is asking after him. Lance will instruct Sam to send José Dominguez, the one-eyed man, as a passenger with the party.
The Celestia Maria begins boarding at 4:00 a.m. and weighs anchor at 7:00 a.m. The passage to Plymouth will take seven days, barring bad weather. When the party arrives, Captain John Englebert meets them. He will welcome them aboard and show them to their cabins (Staterooms 1 and 2). He will offer them the run
of the ship, as long as they keep out of the way of the crew, and will ask them to dine with him this evening. After answering some questions, Captain Englebert will take his leave to set sail.
There are four other passengers on the Celestia Maria:
José Dominguez – sent by the Order of the Stone to stop the party reaching Plymouth.
Anna Fleming – an elderly widow returning to England after fifty years in the States.
Laura Gooseberry – Anna Fleming’s nurse.
Jacob Hallmark – A civil servant for the Ministry of Trade. He is traveling on the Celestia Maria while checking the operations of Longfellow and Acres, Ltd.
The first day out of Galveston, the ship bears eastward following the coast. During this journey, the party will meet Anna Fleming and Laura Gooseberry, her Nurse as well as Jacob Hallmark. They will hear of the fourth passenger, José Dominguez, but will not see him. If they ask, they will discover that José is suffering from seasickness and hopes to join the others for dinner.
Needless to say, José doesn’t make it.
The second day out of Galveston, the ship passes the Florida peninsula and heads out into the Atlantic. The ship’s bearing will take it just north of Bermuda. That night, José does appear for dinner, but he doesn’t eat. If the party successfully spotted José earlier in the adventure, have them make an Intelligence test (DC 20) to see if they recognize José. If asked about the earlier appearances, he’ll make some excuses.
Sometime prior to dinner, José got into the galley and laced the passenger’s soup with a strong sleeping potion (Fort DC 30, sleep 5+1d4 hours). About an hour after dinner, everyone will start feeling tired and will want to turn in.
The Death of the Crew
After the party is asleep, José makes his move. He first summons a night fog and then moves through the ship, killing everyone he can find. He then animates the corpses and sets them to attack anyone that comes close.
José doesn’t get a chance to kill the party because he runs out of stamina before he gets to them. He then runs to Cargo Hold 2 and hides out in a place he has prepared. He is certain the zombies will take care of the remaining people.
Awaken to the Horror
Randomly determine which one of the party awakens. Four hours have passed since they went to sleep. It is dark outside and the fog still surrounds the ship. A Listen check (DC 15) will detect that the engines have stopped.
The party is alone on a ghost ship in the middle of the Atlantic. Now what?
As they party explore the ship, they realize that they can’t radio for help (as the radio is destroyed) nor start up the ship again. If they locate José, they can use his radio to call for help, or, wait for the cigarette boat that José has called to arrive.
Experience and Sanity Awards
This is a very direct adventure – survive the zombies and escape the boat. Doing so will earn each Investigator 3,000 XPS.
Consequences Radioing for Help
If the party uses José’s radio, a Coast Guard Cutter will get their message and pick them up within 30 minutes. Otherwise, the cigarette boat out of Bermuda will arrive three hours after the party awakens.
Cigarette Boat Arrives
Two men pilot the Cigarette Boat. They have orders to take José back to Bermuda and to kill any other survivors.
On board the Cigarette Boat are charts and a sextant of the area. There is enough fuel for the return trip to Bermuda. There is also a working radio.
The Celestia Maria
Some of the entries for the rooms on the Celestia Maria have two entries: one that covers the room normally (labeled “Before”) and a second that covers the room after José works his mischief (labeled “After”).
Before: The bridge of the Celestia Maria is a modern bridge. There is always one seaman here at the ships wheel. The mate, Chris Colombo, keeps the watch.
Chris is a very friendly, outgoing type – and quite talkative. Originally from Sicily, his accent is very thick.
After: Standing at the wheel is what’s left of Chris Colombo and he’s still talking; or, at least trying to. His jaws move up and down as he tries to sail the boat. When the party enters, Chris will turn toward them and advance. His voice is now a raspy hiss. A loud knocking can be hard from the door to the Control Room.
The zombie of Captain Englebert is bashing his arms against the door. His hands lay in a pool of blood on the chart table. The charts have been taken.
This room contains various spare parts, odds, and ends. In a very nice oak box is a spyglass. In an oaken box are a Very pistol (flare gun) and 4 flares.
Since the Very pistol isn’t a direct-fire weapon. There is a –4 To Hit modifier. A Critical Hit with a Very pistol indicates that the flare has detonated on impact.
Port and Starboard Storm Room
The radio shack is a crowded little room that is the home of Sparks. Originally from Houston, Sparks has worked on the Celestia Maria since she was launched. The radio has both a telegraph key and microphone. Sparks, who likes music a lot, usually has the radio tuned to a local music station.
The radio shack is a shambles; the radio has been wrecked and set afire. Sitting in the chair is the burned corpse of Sparks. As the part enters, it lurches to its feet and attacks.
The control room is filled with charts and tables. Captain Englebert is found here pouring over the charts for the journey. In a cabinet under the map table are a compass and sextant – both of them are very well made.
These rooms contain the storm fittings (slickers, deck ropes, and lashings) that are pulled out when heavy weather is due. A concerted search (DC 20) here will uncover 4 dry cell batteries wrapped in oilcloth
Recreation Room 1
Before: This room has a small game table in the middle with four chairs. In shelves on one wall are various board and card games. There is also a small but well-stocked dry bar on one wall.
After: Sitting at the table are the corpses of Anna Fleming and Laura Gooseberry. Their throats where slit in the middle of their game of whist. Blood covers the tables. A successful spot check (DC 20) will reveal bloody footprints that lead to the stairs down to C deck.
Recreation Room 2
Before: This room has four sitting chairs and two small tables. The walls are lined with bookcases filled with a wide selection of books. This is Jacob Hallmark’s favorite room. He has made quite a few trips on the Celestia Maria and has almost worked his way though the books here. Jacob has a fondness for Victorian Romance novels, and the ships of Longfellow and Acres are well stocked with these.
A successful search (DC 20) will uncover a copy of The King in Yellow. It is a thin book with a black cover. The front has a Yellow Sign embossed on it (SAN 0/1d6). Examination period: 1 week (DC 22); Spells: None; Sanity Loss: 1d3 initial, 1d6+1 on completion. Cthulhu Mythos: +1 rank.
After: This room appears unaffected by what ever occurred. A listening check (DC 15) will reveal the muffled sounds of sobbing coming from behind one of the sitting chairs. Jacob is hiding here, cradling a broken arm (left). He is muffling his sobs with a pillow.
Jacob woke shortly before the party and noticed that the engine had stopped. He ran into the zombies and he sanity snapped along with his arm. He fled back to this room and has been cowering here ever since. He hard the part approaching and, thinking they were the zombies, he hid behind the chair.
Jacob is suffering form amnesia – he doesn’t remember anything from the time he boarded the ship until he woke up. He is terrified and does not easily trust anyone.
Before: The Celestia Maria is a working cargo ship and, as such, the decks are not pleasant places to be when the ship is in port. However, while sailing in clear weather, the holds are covered with sailcloth and chairs are set out. There is also rigging to set up a volleyball court or a pair of basketball goals.
There are two large masts that are used to hoist cargo out of the Celestia Maria’s holds. A wireless antenna is strung between the masts.
The stairwell at the bow of the ship leads down into the larger of the two holds. It is usually locked (disable device DC 20) and the first mate has the key.
After: The lock on the stairwell has been broken off. A successful spot check (DC 20) will show that a wire leading form the antenna goes down the stairwell into the cargo hold.
Before: Three metal tables are bolted to the wall and there are benches on either side of each. Three people can sit comfortably on each bench. Two of the tables and their benches can fold up flat against the bulkhead.
All three tables are used when the crew is eating. When the passengers are eating, two of the tables are folded up against the wall.
There are always at least two crewmen here, “inspecting the galley” or having a cup of coffee. The cook has a magnetized chess set that is used by almost everyone of the crew.
After: The bodies of two crewmen lean over the stationary table – they were apparently playing a game of chess when they were killed. Both men have been stabbed multiple times with a butcher knife. The knife is nowhere to be found.
A Spot check (DC 15) will reveal a foul odor coming from the galley
Before: Alonzo is the cook, and he spends most of his time here. The galley itself has six gas burners and two gas ovens. In addition, there is a large (2 gallon) coffee pot that is kept full and fresh. Crockery and utensils are stored under a chopping block.
After: As with the galley mess, the galley is a charnel house. There is blood all over the walls and appliances. On the stove is a large pot of boiling water. Inside it is the head of the cook. A successful search (DC 20) is required to find the rest of the cook’s dismembered body in the two ovens.
Before: The walk-in pantry includes a large icebox filled with meats and vegetables. This is Alonzo’s pride and joy.
After: Inside the pantry is the zombie of one of the crewmen. The missing cutlery is still stuck in his body. This zombie will burst in on the party while they are searching the galley.
that the Brotherhood is a quarry company in Wales.
This is Anna Fleming’s stateroom. It is full of the effects of a well to do widow.
This is the stateroom of Laura Gooseberry.
Laura is inordinately fond of the mysteries of Agatha Christie. She even fancies herself a sleuth. A successful search (DC 20) will uncover her journal. She has a most interesting entry dated the day before:
The galley storage contains canned food, flour, lard, and dried foods.
The smaller of the two holds as bales of cotton stack in it. The air is musty. A successfully Listen check (DC 20) reveals the scurrying sound of rats. A small warren of them has taken up residence in one of the bales of hay (to the port side). The baggage of the passengers is also in this hold.
There are five staterooms on board the Celestia Maria. Each has a single bunk, small wardrobe, dressing table, and water closet. The two largest, numbers 1 and 2, have two bunks instead of one. Each outside room has one porthole.
This is Jacob Hallmarks’ stateroom. A successful search (DC 20) will uncover his books. In one is the draft of his report on Livingston and Acre. He has apparently uncovered a discrepancy in the company’s books. Not only are there missing funds, there are some fraudulent manifests. Jacob is looking further, but all that he has found is that all of the fraudulent manifests are associated with something called the Brotherhood of the Stone. Some research revealed
The Captain’s quarters are furnished in the same way as the staterooms. In addition, it has a chart table with a few extra charts.
A successful search of his cabin reveals that the Captain has a shard of stone similar to that found at the cabin. However, this shard is in a locked wooden box. The box is sealed with wax and there is an unusual symbol on the way seal (Cthulhu Mythos check DC 20 reveals that this is the sign of the Yellow King)
This storage closet includes the entertainment equipment as well as the liquor. Needless to say, there is a lock and the Captain has the only key.
Before: The engine room is a dirty, oil place where the only sound is that of the throbbing engine. To be heard, you must shout. The great diesel engine occupies most of the room, but there is a workbench along the inside bulkhead. The engineer and his two mates spend most of their time here.
They are grimy and covered in oil.
After: With the engine stopped, this room is unnaturally quiet. There is a noisome smell of burned flesh about the place. Three zombies, the engineer and his mates, are here. Apparently the engine caused their deaths as they are all badly mangled.
The crew cabins are similar to the staterooms, though not as nicely furnished.
The storage rooms are filled with various odds and ends needed by the engineering crew. One has a nice selection of very large hardware.
Cargo Hold 2
Before: This larger of the two cargo holds is full of cotton. The gangway from the deck leads down to the bow portion of this hold. Steel rods from the roof suspend it. A successful spot check (DC 25) reveals that rods have rusted. A successful strength check (DC 30) would be enough to cause the stairway to collapse.
After: José is hiding here waiting for the cigarette boat to arrive. He has a small wireless (30#) that the he has connected to the ship’s antenna. If José hears the party coming, he will cast Power of Nyambie and then use Red Sign of Shudde M’Ell. If the spells fail, he will fall back on his pistol.