Saturday Seeds – 1 (Call of Cthulhu)

Kill Again: Call of Cthulhu, Beyond the Supernatural, etc

I began to plot this tale out as a gift to a friend (Brian!) for his annual Halloween Call of Cthulhu game. It was my hope that he could use it over consecutive Halloween nights and make a sort-of campaign of one-shots. This tale would be run first, and lead to the trail of other artifacts in subsequent years.

  • Seed – A natural agent is responsible for terrible and enduring crimes which the investigators justifiably assume must have been perpetrated by a supernatural one
  • Setting – modern, however – campaigns set in an historical period can make use of this scenario either by modifying the modern elements, or perhaps more interestingly run as is, by having the events be a disturbing dream of one or shared by all of the characters.
  • Characters – best used with experienced, perhaps jaded, characters
  • Intent – to illustrate pointedly how little provocation is needed to bring out humanity’s inhumanity
  • Themes – Arrogance, Discrimination, Paranoia

Background –

– A manor house, once fine and glorious, sits in shabbily repaired ruin on the edge of town, partially overshadowed by an overpass and highway on-ramp. Decades of neglect, and declining fortunes have seen parts of the manor be torn down, and the home grow smaller and poorer with each generation. The family, degenerate and living hand to mouth, refuse to sell the land to developers or the city/town out of stubborn or perhaps ignorant pride.

The town has a history of unsolved disappearances and grisly murders. Law enforcement had believed for decades that the majority of these cases must have been the work of a serial killer, but as the crimes have been going on for at least 110 years, each new murder or disappearance and subsequent set of detectives assigned to investigate points a finger at some other explanation.

The murders are similar in nature, but there is nothing beyond ‘feel’ which suggests that a single agent is responsible. The disappearances may simply be murders where the body was never discovered. Very little connects the victims, although when taken as a whole over the entire course of the investigation, many similarities of varying degrees of spuriousness can be isolated.

Character Involvement –

Ideally, Keepers will be able to have an associate or acquaintance disappear or be found murdered one or two scenarios prior to giving the group free rein to go investigate. This person need not be close – just known. Examples of this would be the bagger at the grocery store, a bank teller they interact with regularly, the barber, the town’s pet homeless person, the football coach, etc. Players can be interested in the murder by its level of atrocity and oddness, but can be kept at bay by local authorities, pressing plots to destroy the entire world, emergencies of a more threatening nature, and a lack of evidence with which to even begin an investigation. Allow the loss to affect them or not, but do remind them of it from time to time via their news collection services, and when appropriate have a small break in the case set them  loose upon it.

It is necessary to show the town as a normal and good place to live.

It is necessary to provide the usual sort of suspicion and the usual sort of clues leading to the spooky, crumbling manor house on the edge of town with the craptastic family rotting their worthless lives away within. An example of this is to imply that many of the missing and dead were in professions that required visiting door-to-door (sales, mail delivery, FedEx, gas inspectors, welcome wagon, etc) and then have them discover something like the spooky old house was on the one common thread in the victim’s last day of life….  It is ok to play to stereotypes; it’s almost required.

One thing which ought to be discovered by the group is that murders and disappearances are not equal in number, but a sequence of murders will end with a disappearance in every case.

Details –

There is of course a hint of the supernatural in the tale. The door frame is ancient, carved from stone, marked with strange symbols, and when conditions are right, will imbue those who pass through it with the power to know (but not hear) the thoughts of others. Persons so imbued will know the true motivations and inner nature of those around them, and will understand exactly what their wants and desires are. This knowledge will not seem supernatural, nor will it drive them mad per se. It will, however, reveal only the darkest and most disturbing thoughts of others and paint an image of the world that is so bleak, few can resist acting upon the knowledge. In our dark tale, many will be drawn to kill the worst offenders around them, or remove themselves from the world. Their gift of knowledge will fade over time, but while it lasts it will provide an edge in planning their crimes and escaping detection.

It is important to note that there will be no compulsion or supernatural entity directing or possessing people. The total mystical involvement will be in the granting of knowledge about those with whom ‘victims’ come into contact.

It is also important to note that the family in whose home the arch is installed as a doorway, are fully affected by this knowledge and have, from time immemorial, staunchly refused to act upon it – making them in a sense, both heroes and outcasts.

Investigators going to the house will be imbued with knowledge and herein lies the fun (and hard work for the Keeper)

Set-up:

Once you decide to run this story idea, you will need to start paying careful attention to the way that characters treat other characters and NPCs in their investigations. Ask them about their motivations as unobtrusively as you can – preferably out of game. Have certain things happen which can help to illustrate and illuminate their inner lives for you, such as the ‘Woman in the Red Dress’ scene from The Matrix. Will the character stop everything to gawk or make a lewd comment at a lovely woman/handsome man? Will the character steal something useful because the ‘ends justify the means’? Will the character bad-mouth someone behind their back, or reveal confidences? Set up and establish some of these scenarios so that there is a record of such actions in the campaign for the players to remember once THIS tale starts and you start passing them notes about what they KNOW the other characters are thinking.  🙂

Musical Notes: If you, like me, use music to enhance moods or atmosphere during specific scenes, then it can be beneficial to set up a playlist of serial killer tracks for any scene where the characters are at the house, near the arch, or are alone with their thoughts after having been imbued with the archway’s dark gift of knowledge. Differentiate these tunes from an in-game prop, by remembering to mention what is actually heard in the background (tv, youtube, radio, a woman yelling at her kids, etc). There is an astonishingly long list of potential tracks, but to get you started think about using ones like the following list. Slightly cheerful, slightly catchy, slightly pleasant tunes which do not decry, but more describe the mental space of a killer:

  • Locked in the trunk of a Car – Tragically Hip
  • Kill Again – Graveyard Shift
  • I Can Kill You in a Heartbeat – Spookshow
  • Bring me the Dead – Oblivion Seekers
  • The Skulls – Misfits
  • Love will Save You – Swans
  • Waltz of the Wisconsin Woman-Skinner – Graveyard Shift
  • Stitches – Massacres
  • Taste your Blood – Brains
  • Playground Horror Peepshow – Gutter Demons
  • Room 209 – Gutter Demons
  • Human Remains – Gutter Demons
  • Slaughterhouse Strut – The Hangmen (UK)
  • Die Tonight – Massacres
  • I’m Ill – Quakes
  • Animals – Quakes
  • People Suck – Quakes
  • Vigilante Murder Trail – Season of Nightmares
  • etc~

Conclusion:

The rest is really up to you and the players. There is a killer on the loose, of course. Only a little time remains before the killer chooses to disappear rather than face more of the human horror which surrounds them constantly. Players could focus on that and seek to bring him or her to justice.

Alternately, the players may take the knowledge with which they have been imbued and choose to believe that the nice, safe, sweet town they initially perceived was a lie, and that in reality, this hell hole is no better than foul places like Innsmouth…  Something may need to be done!

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  1. […] Setting, but we’ll see. In keeping with tradition, I will close (?) this series by ending where it began, with Call of […]



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