Biblyon the Great

This zine is dedicated to articles about the fantasy role-playing game Gods & Monsters, and other random musings.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Kolchak: The Montique Fantom (A Daredevils adventure)

Jerry Stratton, June 1, 2022

Kolchak: The Montique Fantom (title)

Daredevils is the perfect ruleset for a Kolchak game. I ran it last year at North Texas, using The Body Vanishes from Daredevil Adventures 3: Supernatural Thrillers. It’s a classic Kolchak-style mystery. Daredevils works great for noir, and Kolchak is a noir throwback.

Despite, and possibly because of, their lack of structure and detail, the short adventures in DA 3 are a really nice choice for a new Daredevils GM to learn the ropes of the game. While they’re not overly detailed or overly structured, they have just enough of a structure to hang a player-centric narrative onto.

The Body Vanishes is especially nice because the two endings allow for cutting the game short if necessary. It worked well for a 4-hour game without the extended ending, and would have worked even better for a 5-hour session with the extended ending.

Because the television series ended in 1975, I set the game in 1976. And because it was 1976, I set it over the July 4 weekend. This helped make some of the assumptions in the 1920s-based The Body Vanishes still work out in the seventies. It required a lot less technical ability on the part of the police, and by setting it around a major celebration I was able to get that.

Otherwise, for the most part I ran the adventure straight. What I’ve got here is a very thin skin over the original. Locations on a map of Chicago, a new timeline centered around July 4, 1976, and a few NPC replacements.

The biggest change from the television series is that this is an ensemble game. The players can choose from playing Carl Kolchak, the other series regulars, and several guest stars. The assumption is that after the series ended Kolchak has enough people convinced of strange things happening that he can assemble a team of night stalkers when necessary.

Era background

The inflation between 1921/1929 and 1976 was $3.18 through $3.39. So multiply prices by three or four as a rough guide, remembering that a lot of stuff in the Daredevils price list is illegal in 1976 Chicago. Inflation between 1976 and 2022 makes a 2022 dollar worth about $5.05 in 1976. So divide prices by five from now as a rough guide, remembering that very little technology from today is available in 1976. Phones are attached to buildings, for example, and computers are buildings.

A permit from the superintendent of police is required to purchase a firearm in Chicago. On purchasing, a registration form is filled out. Forbidden persons include those under the age of 18; narcotic addicts; those with felony convictions within five years of the end of their sentence; those confined to a mental institution within the last five years; the mentally retarded; and anyone possessing an unregistered firearm. Only licensed sellers may sell or give away concealable firearms.1

Montique Fantom locations

The major locations of this adventure marked on a modern map of Chicago.

Remember that this is happening over the Fourth of July weekend during the bicentennial celebrations. There are parades everywhere, Boy Scouts dressed as redcoats, cowboys strumming guitars on the hood of a sedan, Revolutionary War re-enactors firing 18th-century cannons and fighter jets flying overhead. The residential neighborhoods will be filled with barbecues, and there will be fireworks on Lake Shore Drive Sunday night.

Everyone working for the city is busy handling the celebrations over the weekend, which is part of how Coleman was able to get away with stealing the body. The city is a complete mess on Monday morning, and nothing’s getting done at normal speeds.

Obviously, the rest of this post contains spoilers if you’re going to be playing the game rather than running it.

Locations

The various generic locations are easily moved from their New York City locations to semi-real Chicago locations such as the abandoned Uptown Theater and the now-demolished Plymouth Hotel—which turns out to be right around the corner from the INS offices!

  • The Independent News Service offices are on the third floor of the Old Colony Building, at 37 W. Van Buren Street/407 S. Dearborn Street, next to the L. They are in suite 304. INS was founded in 1904 by Enrico Palazzi.
  • Pop Stenvold, antique arms dealer, is writing his biography and forcing Carl to listen to it in exchange for information. Knows medieval weaponry and probably lots of other things that might be pawned.
  • The police that Kolchak interacts with appear to all be on the fourth floor of the Chicago Police Station.
  • Arnold and Dotti’s apartments: 4450 S. Wallace Street, Canaryville.
  • Lee-Holt Diamond Merchants: 400 W. Erie Street in River North
  • Emporium: 4816 N Broadway St. in Uptown.
  • Plymouth Hotel (replaces Seventh Heaven Motel): 22 West Van Buren Street in Chicago Loop.
  • Louie’s Gentleman’s Club is nearby as well.

Captain Joe “Mad Dog” Siska replaces Jameson “Mad Dog” Mathews. He’s a Chicago police detective known for his temper and hardball tactics. He’s also in anger management therapy, to please his wife. The other officers on Siska’s team are O’Neal, Murdock, Ricco, Lawson, Anders, and Benson.

Gordon “Gordy the Ghoul” Spangler is the morgue attendant on duty when the corpse was stolen. He replaces Michael Holmes. He is one of Kolchak’s best sources at the police department. He runs a lottery based on birth years of the morgue’s arrivals.

The only reason Gordy told the truth about seeing the corpse get up is that he was hypnotized by Coleman to do so. This was a subtle mistake on Coleman’s part, as it is obviously out of character for Spangler to have told the truth about anything without being paid for it. If Kolchak is one of the player characters, his monologue makes that clear: Spangler is acutely aware of what his superiors will believe or disbelieve, and always keeps this in mind.

Arnold McCoy’s notes

Maybe that’s a clue!

Gordy is still working the system, however. He’s taking a break from his job and his wife, and will be miraculously cured—as soon as the corpse is accounted for and buried. Then he’ll deny ever seeing the corpse walk away, smiling or not. He was not actually knocked out. There are no bruises and no injuries. He was told to act knocked out under hypnosis. And while the rumors say he was found naked, he was actually found mostly naked: he still had his underwear, t-shirt, and socks. McCoy’s corpse got the rest to make it easier to smuggle it out.

Quotes for Gordy might include:

  • “I’ve been trying to call you. Did you know last week the number that won the stiff lottery was 418?”
  • “I made the mistake of telling them the truth. I don’t know what came over me. It was like I was compelled.”

Neil Craft replaces Adam Craft. He’s the morgue attendant who took over for Spangler when Spangler was sent to Mount Sinai. Lester Nash is the morgue attendant who found Spangler “knocked out”. Lester is not very smart, and bribing him is a lot more direct than bribing Spangler.

Timeline

The timeline starts on Thursday, July 1, 1976. I’ve highlighted some of the more important events. The characters are contacted by Dotti McCoy on Monday, July 5.

ThursdayJuly 1L. Coleman rents room at the Plymouth Hotel through Saturday morning.
FridayArnold logs the DuPerrier Diamonds into the safe and swallows them.
FridayeveningArnold tries to evade Cole’s henchmen, drives car into Lake Michigan.
Friday8:15 PMArnold McCoy found dead in his car at the bottom of the harbor. Not immediately autopsied due to combination of being a weekend and Independence Day in 1976.
SaturdayafternoonDotti McCoy contacted by police, asked to confirm identification of body.
SaturdayIndependence Day pre-celebrations. Barbecues. Fireworks
Sunday2:00 AMLenny Cole, Woody, and Buddy steal Arnold’s body and Gordy Spangler’s clothes, remove all diamonds except the Montique Water Diamond that’s lodged in his intestines, and dump the body back in the lake.
Sunday3:00 AMGordy “the ghoul” Spangler sent to Mount Sinai Medical Center and is under observation for head injury.
Sunday9:00 AMDotti visits morgue, discovers body gone.
SundayIndependence Day celebrations. Parades, Fireworks.
MondaymorningByron Lee, owner of Lee-Holt Diamond Merchants, reports missing diamonds and missing Arnold. Police place 24-hour guard on Arnold’s apartment.
Monday1:00 PMJuly 5. Dotti contacts Kolchak at INS.
Tuesday11:00 AMGordon Spangler sent to sanatorium to recover due to insistence that Arnold walked out smiling. It’s the insistence on the smile that clinches it.
Tuesday6:00 PMArnold’s body discovered floating in river, unidentified.
Tuesday7:00 PMBody identified as Arnold McCoy a second time.
Wednesday2:00 AMMcCoy leaves morgue as the Montique Fantom.
Wednesday11:00 PMMcCoy begins stalking Coleman’s gang by night.
Thursday11:30 PMZombie McCoy kills Mickey Ward. Coroner notes rotted flesh on henchman.
Monday11:00 PMDiamond handover occurs. Montique Water Diamond discovered missing. Thugs realize it is either (a) still inside McCoy’s body, (b) in some hiding place McCoy put it, possibly his office or apartment, (c) the coroner has it, or (d) Byron Lee himself has pocketed it.
Tuesday1:30 AMZombie McCoy kills Freddy Kress. Coroner again notes rotted flesh on henchman. Clues on the henchman lead to the Emporium. Zombie McCoy now knows where the hideout is.
Tuesday11:00 AMLenny, Woody and Buddy gain access to McCoy’s apartment, with Lenny mesmerizing the guard. Dotti hears this and will call Kolchak. “There’s something going on in Arnie’s apartment.”
Tuesday11:30 PMZombie McCoy attacks the Emporium.

View application.

A quick rules summary that you can read to players at the appropriate time, and also to refresh your own memory quickly.

Monologues

The player playing Kolchak gets to start off the session with an opening monologue.

Sunday, July 4, 1976, 3 AM. There’s an old joke about the cemetery: people are dying to get in. It’s not everyday that a corpse walks out of the city morgue. In Chicago, walking corpses are reserved for election day, not Independence Day.

Item. Captain Mad Dog Siska wasn’t saying anything, except that “the body will show up.”

Item. Gordy “the Ghoul” Spangler, the morgue attendant who was blindsided by the smiling corpse, was far less sanguine about its return. Or would have been, if he weren’t resting at Mount Sinai Medical Center, under observation for head injuries. Gordy, you see, told them the truth about the corpse’s departure. While Gordy Spangler is an extremely reliable and mercenary source, he’s usually too smart to tell his employers something they don’t want to hear.

He leaves that for reporters.

View application.

Character sheets for the Kolchak roles.

And when they get hip to the Montique Water Diamond and its curse, the information is passed to the players through another Kolchak monologue:

The Montique Water Diamond is the most expensive gem of the very expensive DuPerrier Diamond collection. It first appeared in Paris in 1735 in the hands of the DuPerrier family. Of course, it has a curse. According to legend, anyone who steals the diamond will “sleep uneasy, with death on their trail” until the diamond is restored to its rightful owner.

The Montique Diamond, along with the rest of the DuPerrier collection, was sold in 1892 to the Von Heindrichs in Germany. Today, no one believes in curses. But consider the facts.

Item. In 1793, during the confusion of the Reign of Terror, Abelard Renou stole the Montique Diamond from the DuPerrier estate while the DuPerriers were beset by rioting mobs. Abelard Renou lost his head several days later to Madame Guillotine.

Item. The aptly-named Oliver Hachett, the man who’d sent Renou to the guillotine, himself stood accused shortly thereafter. The diamond was found in his belongings. And so it went, until the diamond found its way back to the DuPerriers each time and the curse was lifted from the thieves.

Item. The Montique Water Diamond has been stolen seven times between the Reign of Terror and the Second World War. In every case, the diamond was recovered from the thief’s dead body. In all but two, the thief was murdered by his own confederates for reasons they weren’t fully able to explain to authorities.

The Villains

The Montique Water Diamond dislodged from the bag and is in Zombie McCoy’s intestines. This is also why the criminals are hanging around: they can’t find the diamond. He can also be deanimated by restoring the diamond to its current owner, Lee-Holt. The zombie’s clothing was stolen from Gordy the Ghoul and will become more and more tattered. The corse decayed somewhat before reanimation. When close-by, a slight odor of decaying meat will be detectable as a Hidden Thing.

Lenny Cole is 5’7”, in his late forties, with brown hair beginning to grey. His deep-set midnight-black eyes are highly memorable to those who have seen him.

Woody Bledsoe and Buddy Gerhardt are Cole’s primary goons. Freddy Kress, Mickey Ward, and Louie Ward round out the gang. Every gang member has a Colt M1911A1; there are two Thompsons dispersed among the group. Woody and Buddy travel with Lenny, and the others remain at the Emporium Theater.

In response to Daredevils Detailed Action Time and Action Options Cube: The Fantasy Games Unlimited game Daredevils, from 1982, has a very interesting combat turn system. Plus, an Action-Option cube you can assemble yourself!

  1. In 1982 Chicago would ban handgun ownership completely.

  1. <- Daredevils NPCs