A well-paced New York chapter typically concludes with a climactic confrontation involving the Cult of the Bloody Tongue. The campaign book presents the Ju-Ju House as the likely site of this potentially explosive conclusion; however, a hasty team of Investigators may move quickly to shutter (or burn down) the cult’s headquarters well before the end of the New York chapter. Having some alternative sites for a secondary base of operations and dramatic showdown with the cult and its leader, Mukunga M’Dari, will allow you to keep the tension running throughout the chapter.
First, we’ll touch briefly on a popular secondary location for the chapter climax, which often occurs at Erica Caryle’s house during a Solar Eclipse Party on January 24th, a date that also coincides with the New Moon. The party offers both an opportunity for Investigators to recover Roger’s book collection and thwart a gate-crashing M’Dari and friends. Typically, the cult arrives most spectacularly in high pulp fashion, potentially accompanied by the leader’s foul-smelling hunting horror in search of revenge and the Mythos Tomes. This should allow your Investigators (or Heroes) to shine as saviors of the party and potentially gain a dedicated ally in Erica Carlyle (if she survives). You may also wish to flavor the carnage with some memorable NPC action and deaths with the fastidious Bradley Grey being savaged by cultists and the dedicated Joe Corey bravely attempting to protect Erica against the cultists and Mythos monsters. If you think this terribly violent social faux-pas committed by M’Dari might be a little too over the top for your campaign setting, we offer a couple of other more low-key settings for a second cult encounter.
Working on the assumption that M’Dari, being a responsible cult leader, identified at least a couple of backup locations for cult activities the Bloody Tongue operation may regroup quickly and establish a new headquarters. Using what we know about M’Dari, he spends much of his time either at the Ju-Ju House, and Fat Maybelle’s, as well as at his workplace at the Hudson River docks. We went ahead and excluded his shabby East Side single room apartment, which we felt might prove awkwardly cramped for ritual sacrifices. Let’s start with the docks, which can be a creepy atmospheric location at night, away from the crowded New York streets.
Feeling the heat of law enforcement and aggressive investigators, the cult may go to ground in the docks. Perhaps M’Dari has identified an abandoned warehouse or a large subterranean storeroom in the basement of his worksite, which he can access after hours. There could even be an abandoned tug or freighter positioned alongside the docks that the cult has broken into and taken over. These potential sites could be foreshadowed during a visit to Emerson Imports or when tailing M’Dari when you note the presence of a ramshackle building or boat alongside the other bustling establishments. Perhaps the warehouse may be undergoing renovation or construction with plenty of flammable material on site. If the investigators did not discover, defeat or (inadvertently) destroy the Chakota you could allow M’Dari to transport it to this location by way of a Magickal Gate. Or the PCs could find a young Chakota in development behind bars or a cage as the cultists dig a new suitable pit. It may already contain some familiar faces, such as Millie Adams or Rebecca Shosenburg.
The campaign book provides Fat Maybelle’s, a sleazy speakeasy, as a location that M’Dari frequents for undisclosed reasons (p. 155), and notes that Hilton Adams had previously tracked the cult leader to this location. While serving a mixed clientele, African immigrants constitute the majority of the patrons, and M’Dari may use this location as a recruiting hub for the Cult. Perhaps M’Dari has recruited the ailing Maybelle herself with promises of health, power, and riches. In such an event, Maybelle may permit M’Dari and his cronies to use the large storeroom or speakeasy itself after hours for their cult activities. Particularly industrious Bloody Tongue cultists may already be digging a network of tunnels underneath 139th Street and Sixth Avenue to create their ritual chambers. Investigators entering the bar during business hours will likely be regarded with intense suspicion, particularly if their identities are well known to the cult. If they arrive in limited numbers or alone, they may fall victim to cult violence and kidnapping after being lured to the backroom or alley away from customers. If the cult uses the main bar or storeroom for rituals, successful Spot Hidden rolls can reveal traces of cult activity, including blood spatters, erased ritual markings, carved cult symbols on the floorboards and door frames, or small pieces of red felt. Should a network of tunnels be under construction, consider hiding the work behind liquor crates and old furniture. If you wish to allow a second egress (or entry) point for cultists, Investigators or Chakota consider adding a small crawl space or tunnel connecting to a subway or sewer line. An effective Listen roll may allow the Investigator to hear the flow of water or rumble of the trains. Whether you use Fat Maybelle’s as a backup cult headquarters or M’Dari’s business office, the atmosphere should be incredibly oppressive and unfriendly in the crowded, dank basement with an overtly threatening air.
Regardless of what location you settle on, the cult should not be presented as quiescent during this period. They should be engaging in a flurry of kidnappings and ritual killing across the city to consecrate their new temple, potentially assemble more ciimba and create a new Chakota. This new cult activity should rapidly deliver the message to your players that the Bloody Tongue, and other Mask cults, cannot be easily eliminated. If the smallest trace remains, particularly the leader, the cult will reconstitute itself. They must either finish the business or leave a dangerous fire burning in NYC. The hasty, even sloppy activity of the cultists, though, should provide a trail for the Investigators to pursue so that they may uncover the new lair by tracking M’Dari, following hints from locals, or tailing intercepted cultists, as a few examples. An earlier, successful intervention at the Ju-Ju House can provide your players with a well-earned sense of accomplishment, but, given the campaign’s scope and the nature of their foes, the players will quickly learn that such victories will be short-lived until the entire conspiracy can be ferreted out and completely disrupted.
If your chapter did not culminate at the Ju-Ju House, how did you handle the climax?
Credit due to the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion for pointing out the date of the 1925 solar eclipse (shout out to NanocTheCivilized), as well as for the conception of Fat Maybelle’s as a backup hideout.