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The Alchemist of Istanbul» Forums » Sessions

Subject: The Alchemist - Session Two rss

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Clark Timmins
United States
West Jordan
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So stop your cheap comment, 'Cause we know what we feel...
I'm #2
See Session One here - The Alchemist - Session One

Scene 3 - The Alchemist

The party assembles and follows Imran through a bewildering maze of city, even Rashido eventually becomes lost - perhaps that's what Imran wants. He knows where he's going, though, and eventually leads them to a nondescript place that houses an alchemist's laboratory. This one, though, is in a great deal of disorder. They find within Mahmoud Allam, on death's door from a savage beating. He says quietly in Arabic "The sons of the serpent shall not have the Eye of Thoth. It shall hatch from the egg of the phoenix." And then he dies. He still clutches a flat oval of pottery, inscribed with hieroglyphs and symbols. Seth takes charge, calls for a local physician who issues a simple death certificate without even seeing the body, and the corpse goes off to the graveyard. With Rashida's help translating and some of Maat's coinage, the neighbors are easily convinced to go about their business. A rather thorough search of the laboratory seems advisable and the party locates several fragments of papyrus written in Greek. It takes hours, but the pieces are sorted out - they seem to be fragments from the Ptolemaic era and death with alchemy in an encoded way. They also have instructions for making a thing called the "Eye of Thoth". Maat concludes the oval pottery is some type of alchemical guild or cult membership token.

Imran is delighted with the papyrus and becomes obsessed. He commandeers the alchemical lab and sets things in order, fully intending to make use of the laboratory to manufacture the Eye of Thoth. While Imran is cleaning and ordering, Seth is figuring that the late Allam was killed by at least several attackers who apparently didn't bother to make much of a search of the place. While most of the party - especially Lapis - are sent out to gather rather arcane ingredients, Seth learns that the neighbors are all in agreement - Allam was killed by "The Hooded Ones", which Seth is sure are the same folks that have been lurking about in heavy robes. For some coins, a kid even tells him where they generally live inside the city. The kid tells him the strange guys are foreigners ("dervishes"). Rashida is frazzled, being pulled back and forth by Seth and Lapis, acting as "universal translator".

Scene 5 / 6 - The Crypt

The final steps of completing the Eye of Thoth are rather cryptic but pose no special barrier because Lapis fully is versed in understanding strange rescripts. They have to go deep down in a crypt to complete the process. Maat immediately names the catacombs at Kom es Chagaufa as the best place - accessible, open, and nearby... plus there should be privacy at night. The party investigates the place during the day - as tourists - and finds it imminently suitable to their purposes. They'll have to go at night, when it is closed, to avoid all the tourists. Imran announces the attempt will be made soon - at the next full moon. When the time comes, off they go. Seth leads them around the tourist areas, now closed for the night, and jimmies the lock to the turnstile. They descend to the middle level (the lowest level is flooded) and find the central catacomb. Imran and Lapis prepare the final steps, changing into ceremonial clothing.

Between Imran and Lapis, the magic ritual is completed. All that remains is to gaze into the completed Eye of Thoth to discover the great secrets. But, Seth signals for silence - he hears people approaching. But, approaching from the lower, watery levels. There are a lot of people coming, and they've already blocked the main exit. The party draws into a nearby closed room and hopes to quietly avoid notice. Unseen people file into the main chamber. An eerie, female voice begins to chant. Lapis, using her extensive skill in Corrupt Knowledge, immediately knows what is being said. Ancient, forbidden phrases are being sung - "Iä! Shub-Niggurath! Iä-gnah wilhuahya hndh aollhea-Leng! Iä!"

Lapis: "I pee my sneaks and tell everyone to be quiet or die."

The chanting is joined by other voices, escalating in volume and tempo. The atmosphere gets heavy. Under cover of the loud chanting Lapis creeps forward to sneak a peek, quickly drawing back in horror. She's seen a foul ritual in the chamber which has called forth an ancient Egyptian goddess who weaves a heavy incense cloud into the visage of life and death - a maggot crawling from a corpse. On either side of the chamber are rows of men - but not men - stretching off down the hall, the volume indicating the rows continue for a considerable distance. Their backs, necks, and bald heads covered by fine scales. Maat, meanwhile, has located a tiny back passage and the party - headed by Imran - creeps away, silently seeking an escape. Not pursued, yet fearful, they reach the surface and dash off, Lapis and Imran still in their ceremonial robes. Back at the hotel the party feels the tension ease, though Imran sheepishly admits that - incredibly - he did not think to grab the Eye of Thoth before making his escape!

Scene 7 - Epilogue

What to do? Seth convinces the party of the futility of contacting any authorities. They return the next morning and are the first tourists down the steps. The chamber is empty. The Eye of Thoth and Imran's and Lapis' street clothing are gone. The pottery disc is gone. The papyrus and preparatory materials are gone. The stairs still descend into the flooded lower level. Are those watery footprints, or just a trick of shadow? The tour guide assures them the flooding is permanent - the catacombs have "always been that way". Imran is incredibly distressed (frightened) and announces he will leave immediately for home. In a private conversation he admits to Lapis alone that he has understood snippets of the chanting, and believes he recalls enough of the magical process that he will be able to create another Eye of Thoth. Once he regains his composure. Back home. Some time. When it's safe. For now, he's again convinced the mysterious robed figures are stalking him; he takes passage on the next ship.

The party wanders the city for a few days, seemingly watched at a distance by robed figures that can't quite be located. Nobody turns up anything about a suspicious cult or ancient, foul secrets. And then they go their separate ways. For several months Lapis receives occasional letters from Imran; they become increasingly disjointed and the last one is nearly unintelligible and incomplete. Throughout them Imran has hinted that he has made progress on creating a duplicate Eye of Thoth, and has used it to discover increasingly distressing information about what he calls cracks in reality. "They found a body, true, but was it her? They say a serpent which bites itself dies of its own venom, but are all serpents the same?"


The transition from the Seth/Rashida focus to a Maat/Lapis focus was unintentional but nice. Over the two sessions, every player got moments to shine. Everybody agreed that "Speak Arabic" should have been at least a 2d6 Skill for every character. The general post-game consensus was that the Lapis build was the least useful in play - though the party wouldn't have "known exactly what was going on" in the final catacomb scene without Lapis; it would have remained just some dark cult secret (in fact, the scenario says that if the party doesn't understand, Imran later fills them in on the details).

After the prolonged sandboxy play in Scene 2 I was expecting the same type of party play in Scene 5 but this did not happen. The players were anxious to get on with the narrative. It was interesting that during the second session everybody's misgivings/mistrust about Imran had totally evaporated. He'd gone from "shadowy and outside the party" to "trusted compatriot" without any special action on my part. What a couple day break can do to a game!

The crypt exploration and descent was quite enjoyable with a moody/brooding feel to it that emerged from play. Most of the players were pretty disappointed that the scenario (and, in reality, the whole game) just "ended" like it did. There is little resolution. Obviously, the game/scenario was meant as a lead-in to the computer game with which it was bundled. I believe this would be a quite an effective bridge between the tabletop and the computer. It felt like there should have been a follow-on adventure or two, dealing with investigating (a) the cult, and (b) the strange robed figures. A couple of the players did feel like the crypt escape was a bit too easy / not significantly dangerous. Obviously, this was engineered so all the characters would be around to continue on.

In my initial review I'd noted the scenario was very linear. I guess I still consider it linear. But it didn't feel that way during play.
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Clark Timmins
United States
West Jordan
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So stop your cheap comment, 'Cause we know what we feel...
I'm #2
My review here: As obscure as a commercially published RPG can get

The alternate character generation method used here: Alternate Character Generation Method
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