AvocaD&D and Tabletop Gaming Thread: Call of Cthulhu: The Signing Revolution

Welcome back to the weekly D&D and Tabletop Gaming thread!  Here’s a place where we can talk about Dungeons & Dragons or any other tabletop games that you nerds might be into.  Tell us about the games you’re playing, speculate about future expansions, recruit your fellow Avocados into new groups, whatever you want.

Today’s discussion topic is the School of Illusion Wizard subclass. Illusionists are masters of trickery and deceit, using magic that dazzle and befuddle their enemies and to make the impossible seem real. Illusion spells are some of the most open to creative use in the game, but their usefulness can also be highly dependent on how the DM chooses to play the NPCs’ reactions to what they’re seeing.

Beginning at 2nd level, an Illusion Savant can copy spells of the Illusion school into his or her spellbook for half that time and gold cost as normal. Also at 2nd level, an Illusionist wizard has access to an Improved Minor Illusion cantrip. You learn the Minor Illusion spell if you don’t already know it (or a different cantrip if you do), and you can use Minor Illusion to create both a sound and an image with a single casting.

At 6th level, you’ve learned to craft Malleable Illusions with your magic. Whenever you cast an illusion spell with a duration of 1 minute or longer, you can use your action to change the nature of the illusion at any time while the spell is active. So, you can change the illusory snake you conjued into an illusory bear instead if you wanted to.

When you reach level 10, you learn to react quickly to danger with an Illusory Step. When another creature makes an attack roll against you, you can use your reaction to create a duplicate of yourself between you and the attacker. The illusion only lasts for an instant, but the attack automatically misses you. You can only use this feature once per short or long rest.

Finally, at level 14, you’ve learned to suffuse you illusion magic with shadow magic to create Illusory Reality. Whenever you cast an illusion spell of 1st level or higher, you can choose one inanimate, nonmagical object that is part of the illusion and make it real for 1 minute. The object can’t deal damage or directly harm another creature, but otherwise anything that’s within the boundaries set by whatever spell you cast can be made real.

This week, Wafflicious ran a Call of Cthulhu game for us. The game is set in Tallinn, Estonia in the year 1990. Each of us received the following invitation:

You are hereby formally invited to the grand reopening of the Tallinn Central Operahouse for an exclusive event.
The Commissar himself is bringing you a showing of The King in Yellow, translated from the original French.
Present this invitation at 20:00 on the 24th of October for one entry to this special event.

Our players include Juri Kask (CleverGuy), a crime boss who likes to flaunt his wealth and connections; Dorel Kask (Wasp), a production manager for the Operahouse and member of the Ministry of Culture for Estonia; Dasha Markovskaya (Spiny), a famous ballerina visiting the city; Evan Kabin (Joesephus), a foreign spy working to promote revolution; and Selma Simms (Otto), a lawyer and member of the Soviet Secret Police.

The King in Yellow

We all arrived separately at the Operahouse, where oddly the marquee above the entrance was empty. Dorel was annoyed at not being allowed backstage, despite her position as production manager, but we were all quickly shown to our seats by the smiling ushers. At precisely 20:00, the Commissar himself appeared on the stage to welcome us to this very special showing of the English translation of The King in Yellow.

The play itself was a somewhat shoddy and lackluster performance. The story had to do with a city called Hastur, that was at war with another city called Alar across the lake from them. The queen of Hastur refused to pass her crown to each of her three children, believing that only she could end the war successfully. But the war continued and did not go in Hastur’s favor. Until a strange man appears, a man in a Pallid Mask that completely obscured his face. This man was fascinating, and for the first time since the play began the entire audience sat with rapt attention to what was going on on-stage. The man in Pallid Mask told the queen that he could help her win the war. All she has to do is put on a masquerade where everyone wears the same Pallid Mask that he has on.

During the Intermission, while a few of us discussed the play over drinks at the lobby bar, a small disturbance happened near the front door. It seemed that the ushers were refusing to let anyone outside of the building. Some of the other guests started to get a little heated, but then the Commissar himself appeared and ordered the ushers to open the doors. While the Commissar made his rounds speaking to some of the more influential and important guests, the smiling ushers watched over the guests who had gone out, making sure to bring them back into the theater when the second act was about to start.

The second act began with the masquerade ball, but at the end of the party, when everyone else takes off their mask, it is revealed the visitor isn’t actually wearing a mask at all. His Pallid Mask is his actual face. At this point another visitor arrives, the titular King in Yellow, his own face obscured under a deep hood. Juri, from his seat in the box, managed to catch a glimpse of the actor’s face and was surprised to recognize the Commissar under yellow hood. The King in Yellow tells the queen that she can win the war and rule the world, but only if all her people wear the Pallid Mask for all eternity. The queen refuses, and the play comes to an end with the destruction of Hastur.

As the play ended, things really got weird. Suddenly, all the lights in the theater went out completely. The whole theater was dark for only a few moments, but when the light flickered back on, the stage was empty, not even the set pieces remaining. Also, every member of the audience, with the exception of the five of us, was sitting perfectly still, starting forward toward the empty stage, and smiling. Nothing we could do was rousing them, and we noticed that all the other attendees had some sort of growth on the back of their heads.

Juri, Dorel, Dasha, and Evan ran out to the lobby, trying to get out of the theater, only to find the doors were sealed shut. Something like a scab had grown over the inside of the doors and windows, trapping us inside. After trying in vain to escape for a few minutes, we decided to head backstage to try and find the Commissar, since certainly he’d know what was going on. In the meantime, Selma had decided to pretend to be enthralled like the rest of the audience, and had made her way up to the stage while the rest of us were in the lobby. As she stepped onto the stage, she heard a loud droning tone, then a voice spoke to her sounding surprised that she was still awake.

At this point, we all started charging down the aisles, and Selma hid off-stage. As the rest of the group approached the stage, a small man appeared from one side of the stage. He looked somehow squished, as though his body had been pressed down to his current height of less than four feet while stretching out to the sides. His mouth was too wide, and when he smiled we could see that he had too many sharp teeth. The little man called himself Anton the Groundskeeper. We asked what was going on and he said he was planting a garden. Then with a wave of hand, everyone in the theater stood up simultaneously, still smiling. One of the approached the stage, and some kind of strange flower erupted from the nodule at the back of their head. Anton tested the plant somehow, then sent the person back to their seat, whereupon the whole audience sat again as one. Anton then told us that there was no way out, that he didn’t have the key. At this point, Evan shot him in the shoulder. Anton didn’t react, just kept smiling at us with his too many teeth. Juri and Dorel both fired their guns, but shot wildly as we all ran from the stage directly toward Selma, though we didn’t know it at the time.

Selma has been watching this whole exchange, but ran further back stage before we approached her. She found her way to a door into the Rehearsal chamber, where she found a small orchestra getting ready to practice. The conductor invited her to play with them, gesturing to an unclaimed bassoon, which Selma picked up and pretended to fiddle with for a bit.

The rest of us came to another sealed exit, then started trying random doors looking for any way out. We eventually stumbled into the Rehearsal chamber as well, where we noticed that all the musicians appeared to have had the back of their heads caved in, except for Selma who we finally recognized from a conversation we’d had the in lobby during Intermission. Another of those loud tones sounded, even louder in here than on the stage, and the conductor invited us all to play with the orchestra. We declined and left to search for another way out, taking Selma with us.

Dorel, who was familiar with the theater, told us that there was a loading dock where large props and set pieces were delivered on the other side of the stage. We might be able to escape that way. We headed that direction, exploring a bit on the way. Inside what should have been a broom closet, we found a handful of very sharp looking farming implements, scythes and sickles. A few us grabbed these to use as weapons. We made our back across the stage, Anton nowhere in sight. The rest of the audience was still there, perfectly still and smiling, but now they all had those strange plants growing from their heads.

We reached the dark prop room, and Dorel hit the light switch, causing a single bare bulb hanging by a chain from the ceiling to flicker to life. Evan and Juri headed towards the loading door, but halfway through the room we heard a strange clicking or buzzing noise that somehow also sounded like words. “Help me,” it said. We looked for whatever was making the sound and found a large pink monstrosity. It was sort of insectoid, but with bat-like wings and large pincer-claws It continued speaking, asking us to help it find a way out and saying that we were all “trapped in his dream.” It let out a hideous moan, and we were left wondering whether to help this creature or just kill it if we could.