The Broken Camera

A Yellow King: Paris scenario hook

Laurette Clemson, a wealthy American art patron of the groups’ acquaintance, asks them to meet her at her suite in the Hotel Metropol. They find her pallid, feverish and restive. With trembling hand, she produces a photographic print of a woman with roses in her hair. Laurette engaged a local photographer, Pierre Delair, to take her portrait. Though at first pleased with the results, she was shocked when she prepared to mail one of the prints to her family a few days later. The image had transformed from a flattering picture of her to a hideous omen of death. In place of her face, the photograph now shows a grinning skull. By some photochemical trickery, all of the other prints had changed to match it. Shocked to the core, she took immediately to bed, flattened by the neurasthenia that has plagued her since childhood. Laurette wishes the art students to confront Delair at his shop and get to the bottom of this cruel affront.

Should they inquire, the investigators find out that others who had portraits recently taken by Delair also had their images transform into skeletal figures. From near invalids to athletes, all suffered accompanying fit of poor health.

When the art students visit his Pigalle storefront, they find no trace of Delair. His office has been ransacked. His camera, a quite modern model lies smashed to pieces on the floor. Photography notes its curious lack of manufacturers’ markings.

The medical conditions of Delair’s clients rapidly deteriorate. They fall prey to a sort of sleeping sickness. Laurette lapses into a state of unconsciousness, watched over by her worried nurse.

As the art students hunt for Delair, they realize that they are being shadowed in turn. Local thugs, headed by a bruiser named Lucien Segard, appear to be counting on the investigators to lead them to the photographer.

The trail of clues leads to the back room of a paint manufacturer, a friend of Delair’s who has given him shelter. Given Reassurance, Delair tells his tale. When customers started coming to him to show him their grotesquely changed photos, he thought immediately of the new camera lent to him by an eccentric manufacturer. This man called himself Jean Refléter—an obvious pseudonym. Claiming to have been scarred by acidic steam from a photochemical experiment, this person concealed his features with a white mask. Refléter’s camera produced such splendid results that Delair swallowed his misgivings and agreed to use it.

When customers showed Delair the skull images, he checked his negatives and saw that they now bore the same horrific visages. Before he could work out what to do, Segard showed up to tell him that he must continue to take portraits of his customers, or else. Panicked, Delair smashed the camera and fled to hide out in his friend’s factory.

Depending on their past experiences with Carcosa, the art students may correctly surmise that Refléter hails from that alien realm. Perhaps by using Delair as semi-willing bait, they can lure out Segard and track him to Refléter’s apartments. There they find vacuum tubes in which tortured phantasmal forms whirl and writhe. These are the souls of the camera’s victims, or most of them at any rate. When the tubes have entirely collected the spirits of the people Delair photographed, their bodies will die. The being who calls himself Refléter intends to take them back to his world, to be sold as valuable curios.

By smashing the tubes, the art students can rescue Laurette and Delair’s other customers from a slow, wasting death.

As one might expect, the Carcosan and his human thugs do their best to prevent this.

The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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