After receiving the Telegram from Jackson Elias, your Investigators will likely be eager to meet with him and get the action underway. Following the campaign book, they will reunite with him at Hotel Chelsea, Room 410 at 8 pm, as per Jackson’s “cryptic and anxious” directions over the telephone. This pivotal movement at the beginning of your campaign will ratchet up player tension and excitement about meeting their friend. As Keeper, you face the decision of how and when to deliver this telephone message, which will deliver your players to the iconic, campaign-launching hotel room scene.
Most simply, you could deliver the telephone call and immediately fast-forward directly to the PCs walking down the Hotel Chelsea hallway to Jackson’s room, as we did in my first campaign run. Some Investigators may not appreciate being deprived of agency to investigate what has Jackson so worked up. Others may prefer getting straight to the heart of the action. Assuming this is not your first time with this player group, you may have a strong hunch which direction they gravitate towards.
In our current campaign, the players like to err on the side of caution, seasoning many of their actions with a healthy dose of paranoia. Consequently, we slow-played our way to the phone call over the whole day, letting the tension build. Jackson initially arranged to meet the group for a late lunch at a social club but missed the appointment. When he called a couple of hours later, he sounded rushed and slightly frantic, apologizing for missing the reunion. He let the players know he would be staying at the Hotel Chelsea, and offered to meet them for dinner around 7:30 pm at a diner just around the corner from his hotel. Though curious and concerned, the players agreed to the plan, but once again Jackson failed to show. After waiting for just a few minutes, they smelled trouble and hastily made their way over to Hotel Chelsea and Room 410.
We took a much more circuitous route to Jackson’s room using the campaign book as a guide, but not a requirement. As mentioned previously, the telephone call from Jackson (and any added events during the afternoon) serves as the hook to get your players to the critical scene at Hotel Chelsea. You may bait your hook however you please and reel those players to the scene at your preferred pace. You should be prepared to make adjustments as your players respond to the tension.
Maybe you have similarly paranoid players, but do not want to string them along with phone calls and missed appointments. Perhaps they want to set up a stakeout at the hotel. Depending on where they set up their surveillance points, the cultists could take another route of entry via the service entrance or directly through the lobby as workmen. Your players might get distracted by cultist activity on the street as the escape driver accidentally hits a parked car (or pedestrian). Or your Investigators could simply miss them entirely. In a prior campaign, our Investigators found a mutilated Jackson alone, lifeless and clutching a strange red band with a disturbing length of fabric attached. A bread-crumb trail of clues and associated cultist encounters conveyed a vivid picture of the murderers over the Chapter’s sessions.
Should your players like to show up early, Jackson may not yet have returned from his harried investigations or the cultist attack may already be in progress. If they show up late, you can allow them to catch sight of the cultists dashing from the alley or clambering down the fire escape. You may elect to deploy the historically bad weather in New York as a travel delay for arriving Investigators or escaping cultists. Ultimately, the choice should be what works for you and your players. Setting up the discovery in Room 410 immediately sets the tone for your Main Campaign, and spending some time considering your players’ preferred actions will have you ready to launch them into an unforgettable scene.
How did you set up the arrival to room 410? And what did your players do when they arrived at the door?