Scanning Project: Gilbert Island (Call of Cthulhu/Bureau 13)

As promised in my last post, here's a bit of my gaming history: a map and list of NPC's, originally created for TriTac's Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic and ported (much) later to Call of Cthulhu.

I first ran the Gilbert Island scenario during my Gaming RenaissanceTM. I'm not sure of the exact date, but it must have been mid-1991 or thereabouts. (Edit: Interestingly, a recent jaunt through my old records produced an Adventure Record Sheet - something my group used briefly to track our campaign installments - for this scenario. I was surprised to find that the actual dates of this game were April 6 and 10, 1994. I hadn't expected it to be that late, since I believed most of my RPGing had gone hiatus since the birth of my son in mid-'93.) It was during this period that I really began to explore new gaming systems (and nurturing the seeds that would eventually germinate into a life-long case of of Gamer ADD). Before this, my gaming experience had mostly been limited to the ubiquitous TSR boxed sets (Moldvay D&D and Top Secret seeing the most action, but I had them all); Villians & Vigilantes and Chill being the notable exceptions. But in 1989 (IIRC) I was introduced to several people who would be the core of my gaming group for the next decade, and to a game that would reinvigorate my love for all things horror, especially horror RPG's: Beyond the Supernatural. (More on this later; I'll never forget that first BtS game, and the character I made for it - well, we'll save that for an upcoming post...)

Eventually, BtS led me to Bureau 13.

At this point in time, B13 was the go-to game for our group. We'd gather in my second-floor flat at least once a week, generally on Friday night after I concluded the 40-hour work week at my craptacular job as a stock clerk at the local grocery store. My friends and I would play all night, then they' most likely end up crashing in the living room - and we'd continue gaming through the following Saturday. At least once a month, this would evolve into a weekend-long affair, with everybody finally retiring to their respective abodes on Sunday evening.

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) we played a lot of B13. I can't remember every B13 game we played. That's saying a lot, since I can remember most of the games of D&D I played in the decade prior. But we played so many games of B13, I just can't recall them all.

The characters, on the other hand - these I remember well. From paranoid-schizo Virgil Greene, to crotchety old Father William Aeon Fox, to Ezra Fielding (poor Ezra, those B13 hit location tables were unmerciful to that boy's genitalia), to Fred Carter - oh, wait, later post. /wink/ Even the NPC's became memorable, as the campaign evolved from a poorly fleshed out rip-off of Chaosium's "Arkham Unveiled" into a living, breathing thing. There was Julie, the clerk at my then-fiancee's/later wife's/even later ex-wife's PC's antique shop. (Liberally lifted from Friday the 13th: The Series.) There was Ray, the hitman sent to kill the PC's, only to discover what they did for a "living" (although it didn't pay so well - or at all) and change to their side. There was Dave Dietrich, local police sergeant (later captain) who knew more about the seedy underside of Arkham than he wished to.

And then there were the nemeses. From the mundane (Special Agent Braddox, FBI) to the psychotic (Dr. Lazarus Kane) to the supernatural (the list is long, but unquestionably topped by the demon Forcas, who was cleverly defeated by the PC's on multiple occasions - his loss of face among his infernal peers is the topic of amusing discussion at almost every B13 session).

Gilbert Island was one of the memorable sessions.

The PC's were sought out by a distraught mother to help her find her missing son (because they were the Winchesters of the B13 campaign world). After a bit of "bippity-boppity-boo" by the group's necromancer/demonolator, it was determined (via a little communing with the spirit world) that the boy had been spirited away to a small island off the Maine coast. With little knowledge of the island, the PC's beat feet to the coast of Maine. They then began interacting with the NPC's I'd prepped for the game:

Over the course of the game (which must have been one of our all-day sessions, given how much ground the players and their characters covered) many of the NPC's took on lives of their own. The PC's learned of the shady Gil Kramer and his huge partner, the odd-looking Reggie Black. They made friends with the local lighthouse keeper, Jack Kelly, and his wife, Polly. They befriended happy librarian Connie Dillinford.

After much investigation, they staked out the cliff-side home of Gil Kramer. His odd and secretive behavior, combined with the hostile demeanor of his thug, Reggie, led the players to believe that the two were somehow involved in the missing child's disappearance. When, early one morning, they spied the pair coming up from Kramer's private dock lugging an unwieldy bagged something, they sprang into action. What ensued was a complete Charlie Foxtrot, ending with copious amounts of automatic weapons fire from the kidnappers and returned copious amounts of pistol fire from the PC's. Oops, wrong suspects. The something in the bag wasn't the boy, as the players had believed; it was a huge cache of marijuana, fresh from Kramer's Canadian connection. Scratch two drug dealers - and the PC's were no closer to locating the boy.

After further investigation, the PC's found themselves on the beach below the lighthouse, interviewing "crazy old Zed Blake" at his beach-side shack. There, the PC's got an earful; they learned about the dark secret of Gilbert Island and its residents' Innsmouth-esque pact with the Deep Ones that dwelt offshore. As they began to realize the bear trap into which they'd stepped, they watched in horror as Zed's head exploded into a fine red mist. Turns out, Polly - the lighthouse keeper's wife - was one of the descendants of the island's original inhabitants, the Gilbert family itself. And was a Deep One hybrid - with a high-powered rifle, amazing aim, and a complete view of the beach from her perch upon the light. A really lucky shot from one of the PC's weapons eliminated the threat from the Lone Gunman, and gave the PC's leave to exit the beach - via Zed's battered old boat - as the Deep Ones stepped from the surf on the other side.

A harried flight (not literally - they were in a mother-fucking boat) later they made landfall on the rocky coast of Maine, on Death's front stoop from GSW's, Deep One claw wounds, and exposure. The boy - they later discovered - had been dead since before they set foot on Gilbert Island. (Those damn spirits can be so literal. Yes, he was on the island - in a sense.) They'd lost before they'd even started playing the game...

That's how I'll always remember Gilbert Island.

I retooled the game for Call of Cthulhu (as you can see by some of the scribbles on the NPC sheet) to run for a different group - half-filled with unfamiliar faces - a decade later. Unfortunately, those newbies didn't know my gaming style. They were apparently used to having an adversarial relationship with their gamemaster. They didn't know that I wasn't out to kill them arbitrarily, using the rules as an accomplice. (That's never been my style. My players sink or swim on their own. I'm never out to get them - I just want to have fun, and to do so the players have to have fun, as well.) This led to a confrontational game, and players who couldn't enjoy the session because they were waiting for me to drop the hammer. More's the shame...

Anyway, there you go. Gilbert Island - a piece of my gaming history and a bevy of fond memories. Enjoy.

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  1. This is great. A fun read. I really do get a kick out of reading people's memories about gaming, specifically why they made the decisions they did.

    So funny you talk about your craptacular job and how gaming was an outlet for you.

    I just blogged about a similar thing earlier today:

    I unfortunately went down a very dark path remembering the job I had at the time, but hopefully there's enough humor to keep it fun.

  2. Awesome. Glad to see the scanning project is back. This is what inspired me to start posting my own maps.

  3. @Dyson: Thanks! (I've printed out a lot of your maps - and if I ever get the chance to run D&D again, I'll put them to good use...)


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