Overview of the Ripper Game

These are some notes to give an impression of the Ripper game to the outsider (or to a potential new player). The campaign has had two groups of PC's, with much overlap, but a large difference in action.

  1. The Police Investigation:
    The first PC's were collected by Inspector Grimmond in October of 1888 to deal with the more high-brow aspects of his investigation into Jack the Ripper. His lead was that an Egyptology student named Merriweather had six months earlier written cryptic notes on Limehouse and listed exactly the dates of the Ripper murders thus far.

    To decipher this, Grimmond contacted Dr. Stringham through his police work and the noted author Stephen Edwards (whose racy novels were about as intellectual as Grimmond's reading got). Edwards recommended Professor Hayward as a more thorough expert on occult beliefs and rituals.

    Later, the journalist Violet Woodhull was inducted after she was exposed to a little too much of the truth.

  2. Hawksquill's Circus:
    After they were targetted by a group of would-be killers, the PC's opted to retreat to Hayward's home in Scotland. There they faced even more mystical opposition which resulted in Hayward's death. Edwards, Stringham, and Woodhull were estranged from Grimmond for his violent behavior.

    Upon returning to London, these three were whisked away by Amelia Hawksquill, who recruited them to her side. Hawksquill apparently served as a covert advisor to many personages high in the government, and she had a certain mastery of the occult. Under her direction, they opposed various forces at work in London.

  3. The Loose Company
    On Feb 17, Hawksquill played the bait in a over-arching plan to entrap the mystical figure of the Black King (incarnated as the blackmailer Charles Milverton). The plan seems to have succeeded, but Hawksquill and Milverton lapsed into catatonia after the trap closed.

    In her absence, the company have organized themselves as a group of equals. Their loyalties are divided at this point -- trying to continue Hawksquill's work without being certain of her goals. Hawksquill's compatriots in the government, known as the Diogenes Council, have asked them to take over her work.

    But they also received note from Inspector Grimmond, after his murder, which implicated one of the Diogenes Council to be a mole leaking information to criminals.

  4. Hawksquill Returned
    After a visit with Sir Richard Francis Burton in Trieste, several questions on the mystical situation have been answered -- but many new questions arise. It appears that a sorcerer of great power is manipulating events in London.

    When the company investigated this, though, they became trapped during a seance at the lair of Fu Manchu. They escaped, but only by the sacrifice of Edwards. When they awoke from the seance, Hawksquill had returned in Edward's body.

    What she/he will do now remains unknown.

The Game Contract

At its heart, this game is mostly about the mysteries presented, and the dramatic conflict with the strange forces found. In the terms used in rec.games.frp.advocacy, I would describe this as somewhere between a Dramatic and a Gamist contract. Features of the game:


We are using the 5th edition Call of Cthulhu  rules. The players designed characters as usual, then added 100 points of background skills. The definition of background skills here is skills in which you have not already put points -- the intent being to round out the characters rather than create overly powerful investigators.

In addition, for the last few months we have been using Tarot cards similar to Whimsy Cards in the original Ars Magica . At the start of the session, the GM shuffles a Waite (standard) deck and give everyone 3 cards face-down. The players keep these secret, and can use them any time.

To use them, the player shows the card, and describes a result which should happen that is in line with the interpretation of that card's meaning. The intepretations will come straight from the Waite deck. For example, ``Victory'' is a pretty standard interpretation for 6 of Rods -- a player could use this card to succeed over an enemy. As long as everyone more-or-less agrees that the results is (1) plausible, and (2) fitting for the card, then what the player describes will happen.

The Major Arcana  are more powerful, and in some confused way relate to forces actually present in the game-world. Thus when one is used, the player must make a POW roll for his character: essentially for control of the forces at work. The player then describes to the GM what is meant (as above), and the force in question enters the situation. Of course, an 01 POW roll will mean that the interpretation you put on it is almost certainly going to apply; an 00 roll is going to get you in trouble.

John H. Kim