Episode 4: The Trip
London, July 1969. While waiting for Man to walk on the Moon for the first time, Penelope and Xara immerse themselves in the vibrant last summer of the sixties, the time of prog rock, peace protests and psychedelic dreams. Meanwhile, in the shared dimensional mindscape of LSD users, Something is collecting souls so that it can Break on Through to the Other Side…
I cooked up this episode a few hours before running it – to replace another scenario that I had in mind and desperately tried to develop before realizing that it would work so much better in another historical setting. But since the 1969 London destination had been decided at the end of our previous session, I felt somewhat obligated to use it.
After much brainstorming (and some hair-tearing) I finally managed to create a story around an old idea I had discarded some years ago – that of a psychic predator entrapping LSD users in a captive, psychedelic mindscape, feeding on their psyche while they laid in a catatonic state, experiencing the worst acid trip of their lives inside their allegedly extended consciousness – a “drug monster” so to speak (who appeared as the Wizard, a twisted psychedelic version of a circus ringmaster – à la Eddie Izzard in Across the Universe).
I also wanted to capture the zeitgeist of the period, so I decided to combine the scary parts of the story with various scenes involving pop music, politics, the Revolution and al, with a somewhat feminist subtext – which was quite easy, since Penelope is currently travelling with a younger female companion. That being said, I was not sure how the “psychic nightmare / pop music summer / moon landing” cocktail would work in actual play…
And it worked wonderfully well, with quite a lot of improvisation and off-the-cuff inspiration! The final confrontation between Penelope and the Wizard was especially moving, with our Time Lady managing to free the captive psyches of the entity’s victims by playing “Paint in Black” on a sitar of her own making – with the help of a shard of consciousness from the recently deceased Brian Jones, who had fallen under the thrall of the Wizard at the moment of his tragic death… The perfect coda for our story!
Next stop: Paris, February 1830, to meet Victor Hugo and the young Romantics on the eve of the famous Battle of Hernani!