Seaside Attractions

It’s 1943 and Britain is at war with Germany.

Several agencies provide the intelligence and counterintelligence needed for the war effort: MI5 is the counter-intelligence agency operating in Britain and her colonies; MI6 is responsible for gathering intelligence abroad; the Special Operations Executive supports the local resistance forces in occupied Europe; and a fourth agency, PISCES, reports the results of its unconventional investigative methods directly to the office of the Prime Minister.

PISCES employs what it refers to as “Talents”–people with psychic abilities–to gather intelligence, predict enemy movements, and identify, interrogate and recruit enemy agents. It operates out of Kilmaur Manor in the Scottish Highlands and is headed by Colonel David Cornwall.

The briefing

The PCs work for PISCES and have been tasked with tracking down a book that has recently been stolen from the British Museum Library. Part of this collection has been moved from London to a cave in Aberystwyth in Wales to protect it from bombing, and it is from this temporary storage that this book has been stolen. The thief is a man named Eugene Blaine, who was last seen heading to Margate, a seaside town south-east of London. (PISCES are currently wary of coastal towns; last year saw the first joint operation between PISCES and their American counterpart, Delta Green, against the Deep One colony of Ahu-Y’hloa off the southern coast of England. How much the PCs know about that operation is up to the Keeper.)↵The PCs receive a photograph of Blaine and are told his intended destination – the King George Hotel in Margate. The book they are looking for is a small Latin book bound in black leather. Its title translates as “Secret Doorways”. The PCs are not told the contents of the book by the briefing officer, but if they investigate this privately they can learn that the text is about the hidden doorways between realms.

What’s actually going on

Blaine may be working for a foreign power, but it’s not one of this world. He was seeking a route to Carcosa and finally found one in a tourist attraction in Margate known as the Shell Grotto. He persuaded a group of spiritualists to perform a “séance” in the grotto – in actuality a ritual to create a gate between Earth and Carcosa. The gate is still open, although it requires a spoken passphrase to move through it. Retrieving the book is easy – it is in the hands of the medium who conducted Blaine’s séance. Closing the gate is harder and involves seriously damaging the Shell Grotto. Blaine himself is lost in Carcosa.


Margate is very popular with Londoners wanting a day out. Its tourist attractions include the Coney Island-inspired theme park Dreamland, with its Scenic Railway roller coaster, and the four-acre Walpole Bay Tidal Pool built in 1937. Despite the war, Britain’s resorts are still open. The government has spent the last few years encouraging people to “holiday at home” and to only make necessary journeys, but there’s no law against travelling for leisure. The main practical obstacle to travel is fuel rationing.

The Shell Grotto

Margate’s strangest attraction is the Shell Grotto, a curving underground tunnel that terminates in a room nicknamed the Altar Chamber. Every inch of the walls and ceiling are decorated with some 4.6 million shells arranged in elaborate patterns. The vast majority of shells are native to the British Isles, but there are also non-native shells, such as queen conches from the Caribbean. What makes the Shell Grotto truly strange is that there are no records of it being built. It was discovered in 1835 by either Joshua Newlove or his children while he was digging a pond. Joshua started charging people for entrance in 1838 and the grotto has been a tourist attraction ever since with electric lights being installed in 1932.


To protect Britain from German bombing raids blackout regulations are currently in effect and are enforced by civilian ARP (Air Raid Precautions) wardens. If the PCs wish to do anything at night they should be aware that there is no artificial light outside and anyone walking around with a light is likely to be noticed and questioned.↵Below are some possible ways for PCs to retrace Blaine’s steps:

  • The hotel – Blaine left the hotel yesterday evening and has not returned. If questioned, the staff report that Blaine told them he had come to Margate looking for where his family used to live and that before disappearing he was asking questions about the local spiritualist church. PCs can break into Blaine’s room or persuade hotel staff to let them in. In Blaine’s room they will find his notebook and his dowsing rod.
  • The notebook – this is filled with crudely drawn maps and notes about searching for “the gate” and “the path home”. An Idea roll will allow PCs to identify the final maps as the streets of Margate and they could follow these to the Shell Grotto. The notebook also contains notes about the need for more people “to re-open the gate” and the names “Thomasina Blytham” and “Eastern Star Spiritualist Church”.
  • Using the dowsing rod – the PCs could use the dowsing rod if they want. It requires an Occult check and failure results in them wandering Margate for d4 hours. Success leads directly to the Shell Grotto, but costs 1 MP and requires a SAN check (0/1) as the person using the rod is assailed by a vision of Lake Hali under black stars.
  • Asking in the town – Blaine was seen by numerous people in town wandering the streets with his dowsing rod and notebook, apparently looking for something. Patient questioning will reveal that he was seen visiting both the Shell Grotto and the Eastern Star Spiritualist Church.
  • The Eastern Star Spiritualist Church – this church is run by a medium called Thomasina Bytham. A successful Persuade check or snooping in Bytham’s desk will reveal that Blaine persuaded her to hold a séance last night in the Shell Grotto, using a text that he provided. Blaine requested that Bytham and her followers wore masks and robes. When Bytham had finished reading the text she and her followers felt weakened as the Create Gate spell they had cast required the permanent sacrifice of 15 POW. Blaine seemed unaffected. He walked towards one of the walls in the Altar Chamber and said, “Rogant auditorium cum rege”. The wall in front of Blaine seemed to recede, as if there was another passage in the grotto. Blaine walked forwards into the darkness and vanished. When Bytham and her followers had recovered they searched the room, but could not find Blaine or the passage. Bytham has persuaded her followers that this is further evidence of her abilities, but she is profoundly frightened by her experience. She has the copy of “Secret Doorways” and can read Latin, so can advise on how to close the gate if no PCs have this ability.

The Gate

The PCs could just take the book off Bytham and return to Kilmaur Manor, however, the gate in the grotto is still open. The PCs have two options:

  • Pass through the gate and search for Blaine – speaking the same phrase as Blaine in front of one of the walls in the Altar Chamber opens a new shell-lined passage. Entering this passage costs 15 MP and 1 SAN. The new passage mirrors the original passage, but it has no electric lights installed. The shells do not belong to any known species. The passage leads out into a small tower, also decorated with shells, with an open doorway that looks out onto a still lake. On the other side of the lake lies a city and a castle. The stars appear black and the constellations are unfamiliar. 3/1d8 SAN loss for the realisation that this is not somewhere on Earth. If the group likes fighting they can encounter a byakhee here, but whether they can find Blaine is another matter entirely.
  • Close the gate – The book advises that destroying the physical site of the gate will destroy the gate in most cases. How the PCs go about destroying a beloved local tourist spot is up to them, but one option is to take advantage of the German aeroplanes currently searching the coast for targets.

Regain 1d4 SAN for successfully closing the gate.


As written this scenario has the grotto act as a doorway to Carcosa, but it could easily lead to some other realm associated with water, such as an underwater Deep One stronghold, N’kai and the toad god Tsathoggua, or the Abyss of Yhe and Ythogtha.

Secretum Ianua (Secret Doorways)

Language: Latin; Mythos Gain: 5%; SAN loss: 1d6; Spell multiplier: none; Study time: 3 weeks


Find Gate: locate or reveal a nearby gate. This does not grant the ability to open, close, or pass through it. This also does not reveal where the gate goes. Costs 1 MP and 1d3 SAN.

Create Gate: create a stable magical portal to a distant location. Normally anyone can pass through the gate, but some require a key. Creation of a Gate requires permanent expenditure of POW equal to the log to base 10 of the distance the Gate connects in miles. Using the Gate costs MP equal to the POW used to make the Gate. Each trip through the Gate costs 1 SAN.


Seaside Attractions was written by Helena for the 2022 Shotgun Scenario contest. Source:

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