Saturday Seed ~ 101 (Call of Cthulhu/Aces&Eights)

This week’s seed could work easily with either Call of Cthulhu or Aces&Eights as I will present it here, but could be modified or completed to work as a cross-over of these two games, or run in a Deadlands campaign. The options are quite broad. The seed could be ideal for a new group of players if handled well, but would probably work best with experienced hands.

The seed
A small 1890s community vanishes, seemingly overnight. Like other famous vanishings, it appears to those who discover the disappearances that the people suddenly and simultaneously abandoned or were taken from their homes and workplaces leaving no evidence behind as to where they went, or why.

Planting the seed
Characters can stumble across the town on their own while traveling. They might be hired or asked to investigate. They may be from town, and get concerned over the lack of contact, or conversely be contacted by authorities as a part of an ongoing investigation. No matter how it is presented, it will work best if they are either not the first to the site, or they get company soon after arrival whose experiences in the town and willingness to spin conjecture as fact leads to the spread of rumour and misconceptions.

The Details
Unless you intend to have the characters discover this town of the missing for themselves, it could work very well to have them hear about it and then have to journey there. As they near the place, the speculation and theorizing of the neighboring communities can add a thicker veil of fear and suspicion to the already peculiar mystery.

Rumours about the town will spread quickly, animate investigation harder. Some stories will claim things like cups of still-warm coffee were found on tables and pots were simmering stew on the stove, indicating that whatever happened had just happened. Is that the truth, or just good storytelling? Investigators will need track down each tale to its original source to make sure.

Looters will soon start picking through the houses and shops, further disrupting the clues and facts investigators assume will be there.

Other investigators with stronger, similar, or weaker claims to involvement will start to show up and relationships between each group will need to be established, while all the while evidence, if any, is being compromised.

The town is small, but still comprises community of nearly 500 souls, scattered along a winding valley with decent grazing land and a few important businesses such as a mill, blacksmith, general store, and a respected carpenter. A foggy picture of the last reports of interactions with anyone in the town may be formed with effort and place the disappearance as being within 2 days to 1 hour before discovery. The rumours of soup and warm coffee distort the picture greatly. If such ideas can be disproved or the responsible parties forced to recant, the picture settles down to a fairly certain 1 to a more probable 2 full days between the last report of interaction with a townsperson and the discovery that the town was empty.

There are no bodies. There is no sign of abduction. There is no sign of a mass exodus – planned or unplanned. People simply stopped what they were doing, set things down, banked their fires, and vanished; taking nothing.

What is going on
I leave it up to you if this one is solvable or not. I like the idea of turning this idea into a driving obsession which supports and underpins the motivations of the characters to be active in the world around them, always on the lookout for the people who left the town of Grintner’s Valley. However, this will not work well with all groups. Some will just take it as failure and sulk in their Mountain Dew.

A solution to the problem I have used was very subtle, and easily missed, but set the group up for a seriously creepy ride. It would not be suitable for Aces&Eights, but will work with other games. For Aces&Eights, I would suggest planting the strong implication that to cover up some terrible deed, the towns folk have left their old lives behind, and are out there, somewhere, trying to forget it ever happened.

For games with a touch of the unusual about them, I would propose that a diary can be found in a child’s room left out on a worn writing desk. Of all the houses in the town, only this one seems to have been prepared for its owners’ departure. The entries in the diary are normal enough for a little girl of age ten and a half. She writes of ponies, and dresses, and stupid boys, and dreams… but through it all the tone of the woman she will become is slightly evident. The progression of entries first hints at, then reveals more and more openly that the child feels ostracized by the other children, then increasingly by other adults in the town.

The last entry simply says. “I do not like these people. I want them to all go away and leave me alone!”

With no other evidence to uncover, it might appear to those who read the diary that she got her wish … and somewhere out there on her own, a little girl with unruly black pigtails and scabby knees is wandering alone, looking for people who might like to play with her, and talk about the little girl things that she likes.

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