Now that players in both of my Horror on the Orient Express campaigns have completed The Doom Train optional scenario in some fashion, I feel it’s now safe to talk about how each group handled the investigation itself.
<Spoilers Ahead> <Spoilers Ahead> <Spoilers Ahead>
Each group approached the introductory clue (a newspaper article) with interest. Enough so to motivate them to at least inquire to determine if there was some connection between the missing man and their current investigation. Each group first visited the residence of Mr. Henry Stanley, the man who was reported to have been the victim of spontaneous combustion. At the boarding house, the landlady regaled each group with bits of information, almost as if to plant seeds of odd and indifferent information. Each group was successful in noticing signs of soot in his room and they both had, at least, one investigator that was able to spot signs of two black lines in the dark carpet and signs of light soot on the ceiling. The online group made some assumption, but it was an investigator in the local group that had the epiphany that there was proof of some ghostly train passing through the room!
Moving on, both groups learned through deduction or from the local police that the train set from Mr. Stanley’s room was at the home of the local train spotter association president. The gentleman, Mr. Butter, was kind and accommodating to the investigators. He was more than willing to show them the train set that police believed to possibly be the root cause of the human combustion theory, or at least, played a role in his disappearance. Mr. Butter quickly leaves the investigators in his basement to inspect the train and the track layout while he prepares for that night’s association dinner. To which he invites the investigators and both groups declined. Both groups of investigators inspected the train and layout and noticed that the set only included the engine, coal tender, and two passenger carriages; they also found strange markings on the undercarriages. they also took note of the undulations and elevation changes in the figure eight loop of the track itself. They then proceeded to set the train in motion.
After the train had made many circuits of the track, shimmer tracks appeared on the ground in front of them running the length of the basement. Furthermore, the sights and sounds, to include steam, of a real engine filled the basement and traversed the length of the shimmer track and disappeared through the opposite wall. The train came to a stop with the first of two passenger carriages directly in front of the investigators. Almost as if where they stood was transformed into a rail station platform. Passengers dressed in 1890s period attire disembarked and milled about asking questions, but taking no heed of any responses proffered by the investigators. The investigator who set the train in motion found himself being surrounded by these passengers only to find himself transported onto the train itself. It is here that the groups diverge.
Online Group (Played through the scenario first)
The online group was presented information in a slightly different manner than the local group so there are some minor deviations in how they each went about the remainder of the scenario. The online group suddenly found themselves in the first passenger carriage with the passengers still milling about and beginning to encroach on their personal space. As the train began to promptly leave the station. Each investigator made the decision to disembark from the train and let disappear into the cosmos beyond the wall. From here they returned to the main investigation.
The local group played through the scenario second and I approached a few of the nuances differently. Once they set the train in motion, again the shimmer tracks and engine appeared. Once the train had stopped and the passengers were milling about, the investigator, Henry, who set the train in motion, was transported to the passenger carriage. The other investigators were required to make a Spot Hidden check and they noticed that Mr. Stanley was in the second passenger car and looking very frightful as he tried to scream an make contact with them! The scene continued with the passengers, now looking more, dead, than alive, crowding around the investigator who summoned the train. It’s at this time the train begins to slowly move along the track. The other investigators who remained outside (one fainted from a failed SAN check at the sight of the ghostly train) had to decide if they were going to get on the train or remain off. Having only a split second to react things got worse!
Only one investigator, Wil, boarded the training in an attempt to render some type of aid to his friend and colleague. Both investigators attempted to fight off the passengers and tried in vain to escape the carriage as the train entered what can best be described as the ethereal cosmos. Unfortunately, they failed miserably. The investigator, Henry, who summoned the train, found himself in a desperate situation. He was being grappled and restrained by one and sometimes two of the passengers. Wil attempted to knock them to the side and pull Henry free, but it was at the point of nearly escaping that one of the passengers planted its deadly kiss on Henry’s lips. The kiss sucked his soul from his body and rendered him as a new passenger on the train. Wil, seeing the life drain from Henry and his skin take on a bluish tone, failed his SAN check. Having now suffered SAN losses greater than 1/5 his total this day, rendered him bat shit crazy. He was easily overtaken by the passengers.
All-in-all this was a fun little side scenario that was nothing but a red herring, fun nonetheless. I think the players in the local group had more fun with the scenario for two reasons. First, I was able to better convey the scene and the situation after having run it once, in part, already. Second, with two investigators on the train and with their hands full, the other player had a fun time watching them squirm and succumb to the situation.