Stay out of the Pemberton woods! – The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach

September 30, 2007 at 10:15 pm (gaming, nonfiction) (, )

this is the first time i’ve attempted any kind of actual play report, so i’ll apologize in advance. i probably won’t do a very good job. but if anyone has any questions, feel free post to inquire and i’ll do my best to answer. Also, I invite any of the other players, if they read this to refresh my memory on things I’ve forgotten or gotten wrong.

finally, over a year after purchasing the game, i got to play The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach, and it was a pretty good time. we did a four player game. participating were Ryan and Seth,my two standard gaming buddies, and Chris, someone I hadn’t ever gamed with before but I hope I will be able to do so again sometime. i think four was a pretty good number, though i’d be interested in possibly trying it with one or two more sometime.

anyway, we started out by making characters, of course. mine was Professor Church, an assistant professor of foreign and ancient languages, specializing in Sanskrit. while i never really brought it into play directly, i decided that he was concerned his education was completely impractical and pointless and that he was wasting his life. as a result he had turned to drugs to hide from his worries and fears and he had become a lying drug-addict. Ryan played Professor Ulster, who was apparently nobility from England as well as a full professor of physics. Seth was Professor Watkins, a full professor of mathematics. Chris was Professor Woolidge, an assistant professor of botany.

we then moved on to establishing starting relationships. i, unfortunately, only really remember those my character started with. i didn’t make much use of my positive relationship, unfortunately, but i decided that Church was an anglophile and like Ulster because of that, whereas Ulster hated Church because Church was always bothering him with questions about England. on the other hand, Church didn’t like Woolidge because he had attempted to get Woolidge to grow him opium and marijuana in the university greenhouse, and he’d refused. Woolidge, for his part, had decided that Church was really a good man underneath and he was trying to reform him.

then actual play began. we played through five of the six events, deciding to cut out the christmas ball for the sake of time. before the first event, Prof. Ulster became the first host of the Roach. during the convocation there was some maneuvering for power as Prof. Woolidge attempted to gain the honor of being the only new professor to be allowed to make a speech. however, due to Prof. Church’s lies about Woolidge to the chaplain (he claimed that Woolidge WAS growing drugs in the greenhouse) he was not allowed to make a speech. During his speech, Prof. Stoudenmeyer, the Faculty Senate Chair, had a sudden heart attack and died, falling over into the orchestra pit, and Prof. Watkins attempted to use this situation to make himself look good by trying to fill the leadership void and keeping the convocation underway. However, before much more could happen, the lights went out, and when they came back on, the young radical Professor Collins was hanging by his neck from the rafters, with strange words carved into his face. Before the crowd could see too much, Prof. Church lead the orchestra upstairs to remove the body and the chaplain helped to keep order in the crowd. After everyone left, Church went with the chaplain and broke into Woolidge’s greenhouse, where he planted some of his own drugs in an attempt to make the chaplain believe that Woolidge really was growing them. Woolidge caught them in the greenhouse, but the chaplain was still convinced.

but Woolidge was later vindicated! there was apparently not enough evidence to prove that he had grown the drugs, and Woolidge was granted tenure. before the founder’s day wine and cheese social, Prof. Ulster, sick of the manipulations of the Roach managed to remove it via some impromptu, self-administered surgery with a fondue fork. during the social, Prof. Church found new joy in gossip and began intentionally spreading lies about other members of the faculty, especially Prof. Woolidge. In addition to the lies about growing drugs in the greenhouse, Church began to claim that Woolidge was having an affair with Regina Sutton, the most popular co-ed (this was actually decided retroactively during event three when Chris drew the Public Scandal card). At some point during the social, Prof. Watkins got up to make a speech, then began to dance like a mad man (he had been infected by the Roach without himself or anyone realizing it – possibly the very same Roach Ulster had just managed to extract from himself). The Roach’s psychic command to dance was powerful enough to affect the wine-addled crowd as well, and the social turned into a wild party that lasted until dawn. after the party, wired on cocaine, Prof. Church rounded up a few of his grad students and attempted to convince them to help him dig up the body of Prof. Collins so that he could translate the strange writing carved into his face. however, Prof. Woolidge and some of the Pemberton Hunting Club stopped them. frankly, i think the students weren’t all that enthusiastic about the idea of digging up dead bodies at the insistence of their drug addicted professor anyway.

i’m having a bit of difficult remember exactly how the third event, the pemberton follies of 1919 got started. However, it was during this scene that some of the older male members of the faculty, including the chaplain, did a barbershop quartet number, after which, as they were leaving, Prof. Watkins caught the chaplain backstage and killed him by roasting him alive against a leaking steam pipe and then proceeded to become a hero in the eyes of everyone making up a story about having found the man dead and fixing a dangerous steam leak. it was also during this event that Prof. Woolidge got revenge on Prof. Church. He sent some students, members of the hunting club again, I believe, to search Church’s office and found the man’s stash of drugs, which he held over him as blackmail in retaliation for starting rumors about Woolidge and Regina Sutton. this made Church (who was already upset at having received a letter of reprimand about soliciting students for the exhumation of Prof. Collins) even more angry. As he stormed off he encountered a huge cockroach and before he could crush it, it spoke to him, promising him power and revenge if he would swallow it and serve it. He did so. He then proceeded to send a note to Sutton, asking her to meet him in his office after the show. When she did so, he gave her poisoned wine and dragged her body to Woolidge’s office. However, while he wasn’t caught, despite the added power of the Roach, his machinations failed and it turned out that Sutton wasn’t dead, though the poison did cause her brain damage leaving her mute. I can’t recall what happened to Prof. Ulster in this event, except that he became possessed by the Roach once again.

the next even was the homecoming football game. Prof. Watkins attempted to take over as chaplain, but his ploy for power failed, despite the assistance of the Roach. Prof. Ulster had apparently become something of a gambler, possibly due the manipulations of the Roach, and he attempted to convince Bantam Whaley the star quarterback to the throw the game. when another member of the team decided he would help in exchange for a cut of the winnings, Whaley went along with it as well. during the game, Prof. Church went off to the graveyard and dug up Prof. Collins by himself, and he saw things that terrified him, driving him mad. then, driven by the Roach, the headed back toward the school and wandered onto the football field in the middle of the second half, covered in grave dirt and dragging a shovel. one of the members of the opposing team attempted to tackle him, but the knocked him down and proceeded to smash the young man’s head in with a shovel. however, before he could do much of anything else, he was stopped by other members of the faculty and sent off to an insane asylum.

our final event, the faculty senate meeting involved a lot of insanity. with Prof. Church still away on “personal leave” he wasn’t involved at the beginning as Prof. Watkins attempted to take over as Chair. honestly, at the moment i can’t recall whether he was successful at this latest bid for power or not. while the meeting was going on, Prof. Church was undergoing electro-shock therapy in the asylum. the Roach aided him, however, with a couple of his children crawling out of Church’s orifices and infesting a couple orderlies who helped him escape. he broke into the the faculty senate meeting and attacked Prof. Watkins as he was making a speech. with the help of the Roach controlled orderlies, he managed to give Watkins a severe beating before he was chased off, into the woods outside of pemberton. Prof. Woolidge (still the only non-Roached PC) rounded up the hunting club and the hounds and led everyone out into the woods to hunt down the mad Prof. Church. Prof. Ulster joined in the hunt as well, and even Watkins came along, though he was too battered to really take part. The dogs caught one of the orderlies and tore him apart, however, Church still managed to escape, along with the other orderly.

this concluded the final event of the game. in the Epilogue it was told that several days later the body of the second orderly was found, with chunks of flesh missing and human teeth marks surrounding his wounds. Church never turned up, though, and occasionally students would disappear from pemberton and it would be blamed on the Mad Professor of the Woods.

Prof. Woolidge (with the 2nd highest reputation overall, and the only one who wasn’t Roached at the end) was the only one who managed to maintain control of his own will throughout the course of the horrible events, but he became obsessed with Prof. Church and continued to make excursions into the woods to look for him, long after everyone else believed that it was just a story. in the end, Woolidge was thought to be a madman, chasing after a legend. congratulations, Chris! you won!

Prof. Ulster, apparently driven beyond his ability to cope after having been infected with the Roach against his will, then managing to extract it only to become infected once again, used his last remaining ouch of willpower to kill himself. with his final act as a free man, he broke the Roach’s hold the only way he knew. he tied a rope around his neck and the other end to his bedpost and strangled himself..

Prof. Watkins (with the highest reputation, thus earning the right to narrate the epilogue for the university and the Roach as well as his own character) rose in power, with the Roach’s help. he eventually came to rule over the school like some kind of horrific emperor. slowly, the majority of the faculty where infected with the Roach’s offspring, and then the students as well. with the strength brought by the Roach, the football team became better and better, drawing more students to pemberton. the Roach infected students would go on, after their graduations out into business and politics where they could extend the foul influence of the evil insect even further.

and that’s it! once again, i apologize for the things i definitely left out. i realized in writing this that i should have tried to write it up more quickly after the game. as it is, the parts i remember most clearly are definitely those things that happened to my own character, so i know it might seem like other characters didn’t do as much as they really did. so i’m sorry about that. still, feel free to ask me any questions, if you like. and i recommend this game. it’s cool.

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