Last week Evan on his blog In Places Deep posted a link to Sandy Petersen’s " The Lazy Man’s Guide To Constructing A Call of Cthulhu Adventure". You can find this article and many others as well on the highly recommended CoC website Yog-Sothoth.com. This site is easily one of the best places to go if your even thinking about running a CoC game. So the next time your in the mood for a little bit of Yog-Sothery go check it out.
As the title of the article suggests it shows you how to quickly create a CoC adventure. It was a fun and interesting article and my curiosity was peaked, so I decided to give it a shot of my own and see if I too could pull this off.
Step 1: The Situation
Petersen suggests you take a plot or scene from a favorite movie and then twist it into something new. He chose a random horror movie for his example, and I’ve decided to do the same. So I looked up horror movies and low and behold wikipedia has an entire list of horror movies by decade. I choose the classic 80s period and scroll through the list and choose the not so classic 1982 film Boardinghouse, starring and directed by John Wintergate.
Here's the plot as per it’s wikipedia entry:
On September 18, 1972, the Hoffman house was closed due to several mysterious deaths. Ten years later, the house is reopened as a boarding house by a man with telekinetic powers who inherited it. A group of nubile young women quickly move in and the killings begin all over again.I've never seen it but this sounds like a classic T and A slasher film to me. The idea of a boarding house really resonates with me, in particular as a starting point for a CoC scenario set in the roaring 20’s. So my basic situation is an old house that a decade ago was the scene of a series of unexplained deaths. In the past few months it has been reopened and refurbished as a boarding house in Arkham, and history is about to repeat itself. For the worse...
Step 2: The Plot
Ok so its time to flesh this out a little more. In order to do so we follow these 4 sub steps:
2A: Who Are Available As Victims?
Petersen suggests that you have a cast of bystanders, villains, and allies available to bite the big one in the scenario. His reasoning being the deadly nature of the game, and of course in horror movies, people tend to start dropping like flies once things get in gear. Being that this is a boarding house we have a good list of people we can choose from. We have of course the boarders, the owner, and any support people employed by the owner like a cook, gardener, handyman, and so on.
2B: How Do The PC’s Get Involved?
This can be tricky in CoC. Since I imagine this as a starting scenario in which the PC’s have had no contact with the Mythos before, I see this as a perfect opportunity to baptize a new generation of investigators. All of the PC’s meet at the boardinghouse as either boarders renting a room, or maybe as a one of the workers in it’s employ. It’s perfect as it allows for a whole range of character types and professions.
2C: How Can The Plot Be Prolonged?
I envision the scenario playing out over a period of time with new deaths occurring slowly at first and then quickly rising into a frantic bloodbath by the end. Clearly someone or something has an agenda in the house, and it relates to the death of the family that lived in the house ten years ago. These deaths serve a deliberate purpose, that being to feed an extra-dimensional creature that had been summoned by the grandfather of the family that lived in the house before. When the grandfather passed away and his eldest daughter’s family moved into the house the creature slowly began to feed on the family finding both pleasure and sustenance in the souls of it’s victims.
2D: Why Don’t The Authorities Intervene?
After the first death at the boarding house, there is no doubt that the police will become suspicious and seek to get involved. In fact, one of the creepy residents or perhaps even the owner himself will come under the scrutiny of the local authorities. They might even be arrested for a short time and then later released after another death occurs. A fun twist might be that one resident is really a criminal and gets nailed for an entirely different crime that he had been evading for the last little while. The real reason the police wont get involved is that there will be very little evidence to suggest that the deaths are in fact murders. Perhaps the fugitive house resident commits one of the murders at the behest of the entity, his actions not entirely under his own control. But the fact that he is inclined to be violent lends the creature a certain power over controlling his actions. All of the other deaths will either be seen as accidents, unexplainable or interpreted as a suicide. Or could it be that the owner of the house through a combination of wealth, and being seen as a powerful and influnental citizen is able keep the police at bay. I see the big bad evil guy is some kind of psychic vampire who needs to feed massivly once ever decade. Perhaps he has the ability to control the minds of others like the police?
Step 3: The Wow Finish
As Petersen suggests, and I agree wholeheartedly every scenario should have a great climax to it. Since this is an introductory scenario, one of my goals is to pull back the curtain and reveal the true nature of the cosmos to the PC’s in what I like to think of as the Sarah Connor syndrome. In the start of Terminator Sarah is a normal person, just like you and me. By the start of T2 she has long shed her skin of normalcy and has changed into a full-blown true believer. This same disturbing metamorphosis happens to CoC investigators as well, as is only fitting when dealing with something as disturbing and wrong as the Mythos itself.
With that being said I envision the climax of the adventure happening in a secret sub-basement of the house. This is the secret redoubt of the villian, who is none other than the owner of the house. Perhaps he has a shrine to some other worldly god here, or it is a place in which he can bring to bear the full power of his pyschic abilities.Maybe he has some kind of alien pets he keeps here as well, or he does weird and sick experiments on unspecting people. Probing their minds and trying to unlock further mysteries of the mind. It is here that he has rested in a deep slumber till recently when he needed to feed again and recharge himself after every decade or so.
Step 4: Finalize The Plot
OK, so here's what I’ve got it's a little rough around the edges but I think it will work well:
Arkham 1917- Peter Wintergate is a long-lived and outspoken dilettante and secretly a kind of psychic vampire. Every decade or so he must go on a feeding frenzy in order to recharge himself with psychic energy. This energy allows him to live longer, but still age at a much slower rate than normal. In addition he has the ability to use this energy within him to perform various magical like powers. Control minds, use telekinesis, and so forth. A deacade ago he invited his eldest granddaughter Cindy and her husband Elliot McKinley, their five young children and a handful of servants to move in. Not long after the move, Wintergate begins to orchestrate a disturbing series of murders in order to recharge himself but also enact a final ritual that will allow him to access more power than he could possibly ever imagine.The deaths all appear as mysterious and unexplainable. Shortly after the death of both Cindy and Elliot, and a number of servants, the remaining house staff quit and the few surviving children are move on to places unknown. With the house empty again, Wintergate falls into a state of torpor in order to lay low and conserve his strength and power for another try in the future. A decade later in 1928, the house is purchased and renovated into a boardinghouse, named Wintergate House. Wintergate has once again turned his thoughts back to the ritual he sought and failed to accomplish in time a decade ago…
To Be Continued...Tomorrow I will finish up with steps 5-8, but I'm curious to hear what you think so far. To be honest I feel like its a little weak and cliche. But as a relatively quick and dirty method and the process seems to work so far. All in all it's really only took me an hour or two to work through things to this point thus far, and if this was just for a home campaign It would probably take less time since you don't really need to write out everything like I have for this blog post. Oh, and thank's Evan for pointing out that article in the first place, totally worth the read!