Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 2 – Awaken Thrilling Horror

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated

Dungeons & Dragons

Weird Science,


& Gothic fantasy!

Ripped from the 
pages of
Van Richten’s Guide to

With Art by Storn A. Cook

Who is the Horned Man following Killian and what is the Asmodeen Personal Security Firm? 

learn the nature of Killian and Lady's Relationship!

Ludendorf. Bastion of Weird Science. Frigid. Cruel and getting more cruel. 

Talis & Viktor’s third case, The Bone Key, with the Kranev Investigative Guild Concludes.

“I'm sorry, cousin. I saw your way of life as you getting away with something,”
- Baroness Maja von aubreker.

Inspired by the Unscene from Jason Cordova’s amazing Victorian horror RPG, The Between, I start each session with some kind of flavorful scene within Ludendorf (while they are in Ludendorf). This week the constables mobilized their municipal flesh construct, metal bars reinforcing its fists and armor all over its monstrous frame, directing it to knock down the locked and barred door to a drug lab. The lab’s guards let loose a volley of bullets, all absorbed with barely audible grunts, by the construct, who the constables hid behind, before running down the drug-makers with clubs. Elsewhere, parliamentarians discussed broadening the Flesh Rights laws so that felons would be altered by science to show the world their crimes.

When I started that description, the constables had pistols but Storn asked some good questions and Jeff offered suggestions and it led to an interesting discussion on these kinds of alchemical pistols and their reliability and use. We decided the door-kickers wouldn’t have firearms for this kind of gig. The possible law changes in Lamordia were clearly inspired by China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station.

“One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror - one to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

When we last left our stalwart investigators, they were about to meet up near the apartment where Killian and Valentia were having their dalliance. A mysterious blue man in a black suit with black horns atop his head, was also waiting nearby, though he hadn’t noticed them yet.

They were looking at the Tiefling as he sipped tea and waited, trying to figure out his roll in all this. When Storn said, “Wait, he’s a bodyguard.” I created a new rule, where if I hear them say the right guess, we make an appropriate roll and if it over 5, they feel the cosmic tumblers slip into place and know that they are right.

When the couple left the apartment building, dressed as mourning aristocrats, both in black veils, a plan was hatched. Talis would follow and Viktor would stay and dig into the empty apartment.

Talis rolled poorly on this new stealth roll (the context had changed enough to warrant a new roll, even by my Burning Wheel-inspired Let it Ride standards). The high-class Tiefling bodyguard got the jump on him (clearly through sorcery) and put a hand on Talis’ back, making it clear that he’d Arcane Bolt his guts into the street if he moved.

Cut to Viktor, who contacted the superintendent, an old man with a poorly fitted steam-powered leg, who shoveled coal into the basement furnace and fixed things around. He looked at an empty apartment, getting a feel for the layout of the rooms. The owners of the building were barristers with the Holmes & Crick Law Firm, who specialize in property law and Flesh Rights cases, offering those in poverty the ability to sell their bodies to science. I hated them already.

Talis lied big and rolled well, explaining to the Tiefling, whose name is DeKalb, that he represented a client who was looking for a good source of corpses for experimentation. DeKalb offered his card and said he’d run it by his client; Talis suggested he leave word at the Rusty Harpoon, the sailor’s pub under their office.

They ended up with all of the pieces they needed to wrap the case up. Viktor got a used sheepskin prophylactic from a rubbish bin in the apartment (ADDITIONAL CLIENT CHARGE: 1 silk handkerchief). There was a fridge unit with an expensive lock.

“Storn, could you give me an Austrian Surname?”

Storn, not knowing what it is for, “Loos…”

“Loos Locks. I like it.”

They assumed that grave robbing was going on, as Killian and Valentia were taking frequent trips to the expensive and fortress-like series of crypts, the Hausdervorfarhen.

There was an interesting discussion about how to tell Viktor’s cousin, the client, Baroness Maja von Aubrecker. Talis floated some ideas about blackmailing Killian but Viktor wasn’t into it. The conversation went in and out of game, veteran gamers checking in, making sure their character’s foibles didn’t step on our friend’s toes. Good stuff.

When they were done, walking up the stairs to the office above the pub, I asked Jeff how Viktor felt after having had a dream in which they had in fact blackmailed Killian and came away from the deed with a bag of gold, having beaten DeKalb half to death. It was good to get a grip on the character, find their borders and hear Jeff describe them.

In the end, Maja wanted to confront Killian in the apartment where the Dalliance was occurring. They used the empty apartment as a staging ground, renting it for a few months on Maja’s dime, circumventing DeKalb, who was waiting outside.

I find stories about jilted lovers and jealousy tedious but stories about cunning business women using baroque betrothal law that we’re all making up is cool. In the end, Killian was told that he’d be signing a variant of their 5-year-betrothal-contract, one that would leave Maja and her family very wealthy and controlling interests in the Neufurchtenburg factories. The bodies of Maja’s parents were taken out of the fridge and sent back to the crypts. Killian’s family key to the crypts, the Bone Key, was put in Maja’s care. Maja’s parents, it turned out, had pioneered a form of pneumatic seal that they had put on their own tombs, so their bodies were well preserved.

Why did these Lamordian nobles want to be preserved so well? Maybe we’ll learn that another time.

Had good world-building discussions, inspired by the lock and the fridge. Electro-chymical energy batteries and such. Felt very much like we were doing some quality cooperative world-building in figuring out the details of this strange streampunk nightmare.

Case #0003L2 was closed, information handed to client with some post-case extracurricular services offered to tidy up loose ends to client’s satisfaction.

Case #0001L2 (Missing Persons) and Case #0002L2 (Burglary) are still open cases that will be worked on in the coming days.

No new lore was dug up about the Dark Realms, though a Tiefling bodyguard who had been an agent of the Asmodeen Personal Security Firm will likely be out of a job and Talis showed him enough empathy and kindness that he might’ve turned a future enemy into a future ally. Maybe DeKalb will stop by the offices above the Rusty Harpoon in his dapper black suit and look for some work.

The End, with human/bat skeleton, wings fanned out.

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