Darkest Tales – The Haunting

The second scenario in our Call of Cthulhu campaign was another pre-written one, The Haunting, taken from the Quick-Start rules. Though I’ve written the campaign myself, familiarity with the CofC rules was the decider to include some published scenarios, especially to start off with, and I think it paid off. Things went much better, as I’m starting to get back into the rhythm of running a game again and the pace was considerable faster.

I realised about half-way through writing this, though, that I shouldn’t have tried doing it all in one post, but rather split it into sessions, hence it’s a wee bit lengthy – sorry about that! Remembering everything, even with the copious notes I took, was also something of an issue, but anyway, it is what it is.

After Yasmin’s character met an untimely demise in the first scenario, her next, Ophelia Swanson, begins this episode taking up a new job in the offices of the Darkest Tales, a publication covering all matters of the occult.

Ophelia gets a new job and signs a contract.

On arrival at the Darkest Tales, she is taken to meet Eunice Ripley, the daughter of wealthy businessman and collector of antiquity, Curtis Ripley. Eunice is the Editor-in-chief and deals with the everyday running of the place – Curtis is rarely to be seen but is most definitely the powerhouse behind the publication.

Eunice is a superb businesswoman in her own right and has tremendous insight into what’s going on in and around the office. She’s also a straight talker, telling it like it is, except when she has some ulterior motive. Straight down to business, she re-iterates a few things that were mentioned in the interview stage for the job and checks on Ophelia’s understanding of the role she is to play there. She then hands her a contract to sign, which Ophelia reads quickly through and signs, no questions asked; she seems quite happy.

Keeper’s note – Eunice is an interesting person and I’ve built up quite a backstory for her. She may well be the deciding factor when it comes to the success or defeat of the campaign as a whole. I’ll reveal more of her as and when.

Keeper note – The contract plays an important part in the build-up phase of the campaign, and you may be able to pick out the two clauses that will steer it in the right direction. The employee’s clause 7, dealing with the handing over of anything out of the ordinary, should at some point get Ophelia wondering why that is. And then there’s clause 9, consent to regular hypnosis to aid well-being. In part that’s exactly what it’s for and is a way form me to replenish her sanity, but it also has a more sinister use, but I’m not going to reveal that just yet.

Eunice, taking the contract back and filing it to be copied, sits back, stares with her piercing eyes at Ophelia and starts tapping her finger, rhythmically on the desk. After what seems to be a brief moment, Ophelia shudders and realises that Eunice has risen and spoken to her – time for the tour of the building.

Keeper’s note – You’ve probably guessed what just happened even if Ophelia didn’t (Yasmin in did but kept playing in character) – Eunice briefly hypnotised Ophelia. I decided that she would have first done this during the interview stage and so she was more receptive this time, again, I’m not going to reveal the reasons behind this just now, as at some point in the future it will all get revealed.

The offices are large and mostly open plan. The third floor, where Ophelia starts with Eunice, is home to the managers, each with their own office. There is lobby area where the managerial secretary sits when she’s not attending Curtis’ needs.

The first floor is the home of those that deal with all the ‘non-fiction’ articles that abound the publication. Interestingly, the majority of people who read Darkest Tales think it is all made up and a jolly good read it is too! Of course, though, there are those in the know and they take it all very seriously.

On the ground floor one will find an entrance, where the general secretary works, and then beyond that is where the Fiction writers and specialists have their desks. Specialists include a Parapsychologist, Photographer, Occultists (of which Ophelia is one), a couple of researchers and a librarian – the office has a small and extremely focused library (the librarian also deals with libraries around the country, hunting down books etc.).

Attached to the ground floor is a small book shop, which has its own high street access as well as a backdoor leading into the Darkest Tales offices.

Eunice introduces Ophelia to Joseph Feigal, one of the investigative journalists, who will be showing her the ropes. Joseph is well respected within his area of expertise and a fine teacher. It is indicated that they will be working together whenever possible – everyone needs someone to watch their backs in this game!

Keeper’s note – Joseph is another NPC with a deep background. Orphaned and ill-treated at an early age, Joseph spent much of his teenage years on the street. He grew wise to the ways of that world and used it to his advantage – keeping on the move, stealing what he needed to survive. But eventually he fell to the bottle and was rarely found sober. Things could have gone a lot worse for him if it hadn’t been for Father Thomas and then Eunice, who set him on the straight and somewhat narrow. Again, more will be revealed about him, if he manages to stay alive, that is!

Joseph explains their latest assignment – more of a favour to the Boss than anything – they are to head out to Boston where they will be met by Mr. Knott, a landlord in dire need of help. Mr. Knott has a house on his books that, after some mysterious goings on, followed by a bit of a tragedy, has become a bit of a burden. “Doesn’t sound like much, but the Boss seems to have second sight when it comes to sniffing out a good story.”

Whilst Ophelia is gathering a few supplies from the Secretary, she notices the signs on the wall. She’s seen similar ones knocking around Arkham, in shop windows and the like, but she’s never given them a second glance before. The secretary hands her a copy of the cover to the latest edition of Darkest Tales…

Darkest Tales Cover oct 21

Ophelia reads it through – Yasmin fails to react to the clear fabrication of her last characters whereabouts – she finds herself more interested in the smaller headline about drained bodies!

Keeper’s note – Throughout the early part of the campaign I hope to produce a few of these covers. It’s a way to give Yasmin, as a player, clues and hooks to follow. This one for instance, reflects on her last character, who was on the way to take up a position in these very offices when she was murdered, but the story tells it differently. A cover up by the people of Emberhead, obvious to Yasmin but not to Ophelia. I might send Ophelia to investigate things at a later date, or just use the periodical to give updates, it depends how things progress. I can also introduce things here that will grow as the game proceeds – take the drained body story for example, as this is where Ophelia will be heading next.

So, a long bus ride into Boston and a meeting with Mr Knott.

Mr. Knott’s predicament.

The meeting is brief. Mr. Knott is under monetary pressure to get his property, Corbitt House, either rented out or sold. The house was part of an inheritance and has caused him nothing but trouble since he came into it. After the latest tragedy, which saw the Macario family flee the place, no one will entertain buying or renting it. If he manages to get someone to look around, they report back either berating him for some sick joke, or swearing that there is someone already living there. He leaves them directions along with the keys and begs that they can sort it out for him… but ever the businessman, he wants it done quickly.

Before retiring for the night to their hotel, the Sunny-Dale, they take a walk past the property, just to see it for themselves. The house is a combination of brick and wood, fronting onto a street, it has a foreboding appearance. This is mainly because it is the only residential property to be seen, the rest having long been demolished to make place for tall office buildings, which stand either side of the Corbitt House. Even in daylight it is cast in dark shadow, seemingly withdrawing into the darkest depths. The garden is overgrown and unruly, despite the fact that it must see very little in the way of sunlight.

Having cast an eye over the cause of Mr. Knotts predicament, they head to the hotel for food and a good night’s sleep; tomorrow there’s work to be done.

The ‘kid’ begins her lessons!

“Research, research, research!” exclaimed Joseph. Ophelia, new to this type of thing, was all for plunging straight into the house to see what all the fuss was about. Joseph had come across these eager types before and new that, given her head, she’d end up in a bad way and so he calmly explained that, if they did as much research about the house before they went in, they may be more prepared for what they find inside, if anything.

keeper’s note – using Joseph as a teacher is my way of keeping Yasmin from making a costly mistake. I can use him to give advice, reign her in, or just sit back and let her take the lead, which is what I really want him to be doing, but it’s nice to have a safety valve so to speak!

“Look kid,” Joseph was that kind of person, everyone younger than himself was ‘kid’, “You can take the lead and all that, yous gotta learn, but there’s one thing you’ll learn pretty quick in this game, you can’t rush in, it gets you killed… or worse!”

And so, after considering their options they head off to the offices of the Daily Globe, a reputable Boston newspaper. Ophelia manages to blag her way past one of the Editors by turning on the charm – Yasmin’s dice rolling was going considerably better this game!

In the morgue, which is what they call the clipping file storage area, they chat with the records keeper who manages to produce a little titbit of information concerning the address they ask her about. The clipping is an unpublished story and mentions a number of ‘strange incidents’ that occurred over the last 30 years or so, ending in several deaths. Unfortunately, records don’t go back any further than 1878, as a fire wiped out most of the building.

From there they headed to the local library, where they spend the next few days with their heads in books, trying to find anything related to either the ‘incidents’ or the property itself. When it comes to this kind of thing both Joseph and Ophelia know their way around a library and a string of successful rolls pulled out all the relevant information, though it still took time.

In short, a Mr. Walter Corbitt acquired the house back in 1835. His neighbours tried to have him evicted in 1852, due to his ‘surious (sic) habits and inauspicious demeanour’. As Corbitt’s obituary states that when he died there in 1866, it would appear that he won the lawsuit, though another was currently underway to prevent him being buried in the basement, as he wished in his will.

A visit to the Hall of Records and then the Higher Courts (where Ophelia took the risky approach of trying to fast talk her way in – some story about urgent access to records, life or death kind of thing, and amazingly she pulled it off!) they added a little more background.

Corbitt seemed to have links to a certain reverend Thomas of the Chapel of Contemplation and Church of Our Lord Granter of Secrets. In 1912, the police raided the Chapel on the grounds that they were responsible for a number of children disappearing from the area – three policemen and seventeen cult members were killed in a shootout and another 54 cultists were arrested. The reverend was sentenced to 40 years but escaped in 1917.

So, that was all the digging around they could do in terms of official records – Ophelia managed to uncover everything there was to find – and now it was time to move up a gear.

“By his own weapon can the evil be brought down!”

Joseph and Ophelia get to talking about their next move. Ophelia was keen to get into the house, but it is late in the day and neither are keen to be there when it gets dark. However, they do take another walk past the property and scout around the local area, finding a small newspaper shop.

Inside, Ophelia engages with Mr. Dooley, again turning on the charm and getting him to open up about the Corbitt place. He’s happy to have someone to talk to, since all the locals he grew up with have since moved on. From him they glean that the Macario family moved in a few years back, but the husband met with a terrible accident that sent him, “A bit doolally, if ya get me drift!” and it wasn’t soon after that the wife followed – both are interned in the local Sanatorium, a few miles out of Boston, whilst the kids were taken in by relatives. Mr. Dooley is also kind enough to point out where the Chapel of Contemplation once stood, “Though it’s nothing but rubble these days.”

Over their evening meal they decide to head to the Sanatorium tomorrow morning, they might learn something useful from the couple, mad or not.

The following morning, though, they are confronted by an anxious Mr. Knott, concerned over the length of time they’re taking to sort this out, “Time is money, you know!”. Joseph calms him down and ensures him that they are moving as quickly as possible, but it pays to be thorough and it really is for the best if he wants an end to his problems.

At the Sanatorium they are shown in to meet the husband, Vittorio, who is sitting with a bible clutched to his chest, rocking back and fore on a chair. I role-played Vittorio, sitting there rocking away, dribble on chin – it’s easy to play oneself, you know – and Yasmin was reluctant at first to join in. She was happy playing her character sitting down, but when I told her to act it out, she wasn’t so keen. I, however, had an ulterior motive…Mwhahaha!

She started to ask Vittorio questions and received no reply, he just rocked staring into space. She came closer, closer, asking about the house, at which point I shot off my chair, finger prodding at a random page in the bible, and shouted, “By his own weapon can the evil be brought down!” Yasmin nearly wet herself, lol!

Keeper’s note – I wasn’t being unusually cruel here; I just wanted this part to be memorable. Apparently though, my performance wasn’t that good, and Yasmin/Ophelia never thought back to those words a wise man called Vittorio shouted at her!

Vittorio continued ranting, his voice slowly becoming a mutter, and then the nurse took him away for tea and biscuits. Gabriela, the wife, was a little more approachable, referring to something within the house as ‘it’. At night she would awake to find ‘it’ leaning over her. When ‘it’ got angry ‘it’ would make things fly around the house and smash into things. She quickly fell into deep sobs and the investigators were ushered away.

Ophelia buys a rope.

After visiting the Sanatorium, they went and looked at the remains of the Chapel of Contemplation. Ophelia notices a sign of sorts sprawled on one of the old walls in what appears to be fresh whitewash. As she approaches her head starts to become ‘fuzzy’ and a headache ensues, as she retreats things improve. She approaches again and quickly makes a copy of the sign in her notebook – three Y’s arranged in a triangle with an eye at the centre. After that they take to exploring the rubble.

Darkest Tales

Keeper’s note – Another hook that, if Ophelia remembers it, can be used in a number of ways. This was actually in the published scenario, but I also like to plant thinks like this in my own. In this case, if she chooses to look into what it represents, I can have it take her in any direction I wish at the time, ideal for leading players back to where you want them or taking them off on a red herring.

A loud ‘crack!’ suddenly comes from beneath their feet and the realisation hits them that the floor they’re walking on is wooden… and rotten. Making luck rolls both investigators jump clear as the floor gives way. Peering down into the room 10′ below, they can just make out in their torchlight a cabinet, something that appears to be a tattered bundle of clothing, and more rubble.

Looking at the situation, Ophelia thinks it would be possible to drop down, but how to get back would be the issue. A rope would be the best option but neither thought to bring one. Ophelia volunteers to jog along to the the nearest shop and buy some whilst Joseph minds the hole.

Armed with a rope, Ophelia ties it around her and hangs-and-drops down to the room below. She takes a look at the cabinet find that it only contains some mouldy old records – at this point she fails a Spot Hidden to notice an old Tome hiding beneath the cabinet. Turning her attention to the bundles of clothing she realises that they are in fact skeletons. The tattered remains of their robes would point to them being priests or cultist, but what were they doing here?

She turns back to the cabinet and conducts a more thorough search – Yasmin does enjoy a thorough search, as we shall see – and mentions that she is looking underneath, and so finds the old tome, along with a crumbling journal. The journal falls apart as she handles it, but she notices Corbitt’s name alongside an entry declaring that he was buried according to ‘His wishes and those of the one who waits in the darkness’. The Tome is large, but it is also in a bad way with parts of it rotten and decayed; she puts it in her bag.

Right, now to get out… Ah! Not as easy as she’d imagined.

The opening above isn’t large and there is nothing directly below it for her to get a purchase on, so Joseph has to try and pull her full weight up until she can grab hold of something to pull herself out. Unfortunately, despite Ophelia being a mere slip of a lass, Joseph just isn’t strong enough. Likewise, Ophelia isn’t strong enough to move the cabinet so that she can climb on top of it. What to do?

Yasmin got a bit lost here and so I introduced her to the Idea roll – rolling against intelligence to see if Ophelia can come up with an idea! With a pass, she tells Joseph to pass the rope around a nearby tree and use it as a winch – job done!

keeper’s note – The idea roll is part of the rules and is excellent for playing one-on-one, where a single player can often become stumped as they have nobody else to bounce ideas off.

That evening, Ophelia takes a look at the Tome. It is in a bad way, with entire sections missing or decayed, but she makes out the title, Liber Ivonis, and it is written in Latin, which she knows to an extent. She sits up for three hours trying to make an initial reading of it, but her Latin lets her down and she falls asleep pondering what mysteries it holds within.

Corbitt’s Place

The following morning finds our intrepid investigators standing in front of Corbitt’s house. Joseph gives a little prep talk, “I’ll let you kid, take the lead. If things start to go awry, I’ll jump in and take over. Remember, we don’t really know what to expect, but a good piece of advice is to ensure you have an escape route, but if you don’t, then never leave the unknown to your rear”.

I’m going to speed things up a little here, as Yasmin took an age looking around – she was still in D&D mindset, examining everything for secret doors and what-not!

So, entering the house they find it unusually dark – the surrounding buildings cast it in shadow and the windows are covered in grime. Ophelia never thinks to try turning on the lights – despite being told that there was electric lighting – and Joseph lets her learn from her mistake… or is it a mistake?

keeper’s note – The lights all work, at least for now, so she could have turned them on and made things easier for herself… there’s a but coming, more later!

In torch light she goes through the Living room, dining room, and kitchen… eventually! She looked at everything, searched everywhere, and even went along knocking on the walls – at one point I had them knock back, but this didn’t seem to faze Ophelia who entered into a game of knock-knock!

Keeper’s note – I was trying to raise a feeling of horror by having something unknown knock back, but Ophelia just found it exciting, interesting, and fun; I guess she was too naïve to be scared!

Throughout, there were various religious symbols, ornaments, and pictures left by the Macario family; were they trying to protect themselves from something? The rooms were full of dust and cobwebs, as if it had stood empty for years – the darkness was oppressive. Signs of rats were also evident, not least in the dining room, where a tureen sat on the table holding the rotten remains of a long cold meal; rat droppings cover the table and plates surrounding it.

Whilst in the dining room, noises could be heard from the room above, maybe someone moving around? Again, Ophelia chose to ignore this and proceeds with her investigation of the rooms downstairs – Joseph surreptitiously fingered the gun tucked in his belt.

Keeper’s note – I tried on several occasions to give the impression that someone was upstairs, but it all went under the bridge, so to speak!

Turning to the rooms on the opposite side of the hall, Ophelia finds a side door leading out to an alleyway that runs alongside the property; it’s locked and bolted. She uses the keys that Mr. Knott gave them to unlock it, just in case a quick exit was required.

Keeper’s note – Good thinking, Yasmin!

In another, she comes across a wooden cupboard surrounded by junk – an old bicycle, a water tank, and various rusty tools. The cupboard’s doors are boarded shut by a few rotten planks. Though not in the best of shape the boards refuse to budge when she tries to wrench them away – a failed strength check. Searching the tools, she asks if there is something she could use to help her, as luck would have it, she finds a large screwdriver.

Keeper’s note – She wanted a crowbar, but I couldn’t be that accommodating, could I? She passed a luck roll and I produced a screwdriver. At the end of the game, I glanced at her notes – note to self: next time bring a rope and a crowbar.

As the boards are nailed on, she uses the screwdriver to try and lever them off and succeeds. Inside she finds three books, the diaries of one W. Corbitt, and again she stows them in her bag. Intent, as always, on giving the cupboard a thoroughly good going over, she put her head inside to look for any secret compartments. At this point I was getting a little tired of Yasmin examining everything in the smallest detail and so decided that Corbitt should have a little fun.

As she leant forward, I had her make a spot hidden roll, which fortunately she passed and just caught, out of the corner of her eye, the doors begin to move. She whipped her head back as they crashed shut with enough force to shatter them to bits – maybe that will curb her constant inquisitiveness!

Keeper’s note – Ophelia is fearless and doesn’t let any of this phase her – with her current high sanity I let this continue, but once she starts to feel the strain later in the campaign, I’ll introduce a few traits for her to role-play.

At the end of the hall there is a door to their right and a stairway to the left. The door has three sturdy bolts and a lock, which she unlocks and pushes the door open. Inside the darkness seems almost opaque and the torchlight dim, but they can see a fuse box on the sidewall and a stairway leading down.

Ophelia wants to investigate, but Joseph jumps in, “We heard noises upstairs, if we go down there there’s the chance that someone might come up behind us.”

Ophelia argues that, “If we take the stairs someone from the basement may do the same”.

“But upstairs there are windows, which, however unpleasant, are a means of escape. Down there, we may be trapped”.

Ophelia sees the sense in this, closes the door and follows Joseph upstairs, who now has his gun in hand – Ophelia carries a formidable weapon that she picked up in the storeroom, a chair leg!

Keeper’s note – Joseph has been sitting back for most of this, as Ophelia hasn’t needed much guidance. I use him here to reiterate the advice he gave her earlier. I want her to start thinking strategically, as at some point in the very near future she’s going to be doing this kind of thing on her own, or even taking the lead over unwitting civilians!

Ophelia goes flying.

After taking a peek in the bathroom and finding nothing untoward, they move along the hall to the room where the noises seemed to emanate from earlier.

Listening at the door they can hear noises coming from within, as if someone is pacing around. Making like a SWAT team they organise themselves and burst in to find… a bedframe and an old dresser, but not much else. As they enter the room a strong, putrid smell manifests itself and assaults their senses. The walls creak and shudder and the floor groans as if in pain. The window rattles and it sounds as if someone is scratching at the pane.

Ophelia, totally in her element as an occultist, strides into the room and, without any though whatsoever, goes over to see what’s occurring with the window. Roll Spot Hidden – fail… She does not see the bedframe rise up, though Joseph does and calls out… too late!

The frame flies across the room and knocks Ophelia through the window, she makes a dexterity roll and manages to slow her fall by grabbing at the window ledge, but still falls quite heavily. Covered in tiny snicks from the glass, which start to weep blood, Ophelia just misses a major wound, taking 5Hp of damage, and has no idea what happened.

Keeper’s note – As she failed the Spot Hidden, I could simply have let her fall, but as that would have most likely resulted in a major wound I wanted to at least give her another chance, and so a Dex roll, which she is quite good at. As it was, she still took some hefty damage – 5 points. Something to bear in mind when playing with a single player is to always try and give them a second chance – nobody wants to be taken out with just one shot.

Joseph rushes to the window (in hindsight I could have done the same again!) and calls down to Ophelia. She’s ok, just shaken, and he tells here to make her way back in through the side door, he’ll meet her at the top of the stairs (all heart, eh!).

Shaken, but still up for the investigation, Ophelia goes with Joseph back into the room, as he explains what happened (Joseph passed the sanity roll for seeing the bed move of its own accord). The room is now a mess. The bedframe lies on its side against the windowed wall and bits of debris are scattered around the room. She takes a look at the dresser, keeping her eye open for anything starting to move. The dresser is empty and so she moves back into the centre of the room to take it all in.

Standing there she feels something land on her forehead. Wiping it away she looks at her fingers and sees blood. Another ‘drip’ and a little more lands, and then another and another. She looks up to see the ceiling dripping blood – sanity check, pass, minus 1 point of sanity – eventually she moves from under the drip (lol moment as Yasmin just stood there asking questions, which I answered with a ‘drip’ every three or four words!)

Stepping back, she watches the blood stain spread across the ceiling and down the walls – thick, bright red blood, oozing down. They hurriedly left the room, to which the door banged shut behind them. As they stood in the hallway staring at each other, a noise could be heard coming from within. Scraping, banging, and rustling, and then quiet.

Being a brave gal, she reached out and pushed the door open again. Inside, everything was restored to normal. The bed was back against the wall, the debris had been cleaned up and the window unbroken – sanity check, pass.

They close the door and move on to look in the other two bedrooms. Other than a rather large collection of religious items both rooms were uninspiring and so it was time to check out the basement.

Ophelia does a ‘Psycho’ impression.

Standing in the doorway at the top of the basement stairs they peer down, at which point Ophelia’s torch starts to flicker and goes dim, then out altogether. Fortunately, she has another set of batteries on her.

Keeper’s note – Good planning by Yasmin!

There is a light switch at the side of the door, and they discuss switching it on. Ophelia is concerned that it will give them away to anything down there and wants to continue in torch light – Joseph allows her this, as shining a torch into the face of anything down there may just give them the time needed to react (runaway?).

Keeper’s note – Back to the question of lighting. Ophelia did the right thing. If they had put the light on and put their torches away, Corbitt would have flicked it off again at the most inopportune moment.

Joseph turns all serious now, “kid, this could be dangerous. Keep behind me and if I say run, then run, don’t worry about what’s happening behind you, just get out”.

They make their way down the stairs, no easy task, as when halfway they begin to sway and shake causing the investigators to test their dexterity – both make it down safely.

Keeper’s note – Corbitt’s doing. His intention from the start has been to try and scare the investigators away; he really doesn’t want confrontation if it can be helped.

This part of the basement is a mess; old tools, pipes, trash, and general household junk litter the floor, there’s even a trash-can lid. They search around, both failing a Spot Hidden roll; Ophelia decides not to push it.

Keeper’s note – If she had pushed the roll and failed, then she would have inadvertently found the knife by running her hand along it accidently, obviously causing some damage.

There is a strong, putrid smell emanating from somewhere, and passing a Listen roll Ophelia can hear a scratching and rustling sound coming from one wall. She taps along it and realises it is hollow. Jumping to the obvious conclusion they decide to try and remove some of the wooden boards.

As they set at the wall something stirs from the detritus behind them and an old, ornate knife rises to hover a few feet above the floor. Joseph spots it out of the corner of his eye, shouts a warning and dodges to the side as the knife comes speeding at him. Taking a glancing blow, Joseph scrambles away on the floor. Meanwhile, Ophelia retreats, and seeing the blade turn towards her she picks up the trash-can lid to use as a shield.

Keeper’s note – Passing a sanity check for seeing the floating knife, they lose 1 point of sanity each.

The knife attacks again and she fends it off with the lid; as it strikes with a ‘clang’ it drops to the floor, still. Joseph climbs to his feet, but before he can speak Ophelia bends down and picks up the knife. She feels a sudden jolt, like an electric shock, surge through her body and then it’s as if there is someone’s inside her head, commanding.

Keeper’s note – As soon as she laid a hand on the knife, I had Corbitt cast Dominate. This way they couldn’t be sure if the mind control were caused by handling the knife or not.

“Kill him. Strike him down. Do it now.” The voice in her head overpowers her and she moves towards Joseph, lunging at him with the blade. He dodges to the side, calling her name he retreats to the corner of the room. Ophelia advances on him, but for a moment she is able to restrain her body from following the commands in her head, “You pathetic girl, strike him, cut him, do it, enjoy it!”.

Keeper’s note – The Dominate spell contained within the published scenario differs slightly from that in the Keeper’s book. I changed it again to suit my needs and allowed opposed Pow rolls for each round that Corbitt was in control to see if she could resist his commands, but only if they went against her normal nature.

Joseph can see that she isn’t herself from the glazed, vacant look on her face and though he holds his gun in front of him he points it away from her.

‘Swish’, the blade comes at him in a vicious arc, but he ducks under it and once again moves away.

Ophelia feels the thing in her head weaken and momentarily gains the upper hand. With immense concentration she turns the blade away from Joseph and stabs at the wall instead, letting go with the impact. The blade hits the wall and falls to the floor – they both take a step back.

Keeper’s note – she intended to stick it into the wall but failed a strength check!

Trying not to breathe, she reaches for the trash-can lid and then pounces on the knife; Joseph grabs some bricks and piles them on top, then they both fall back, breathing a sigh of relief.

Joseph pulls the trigger.

Getting back to work they remove enough of the boards to be able to crawl inside, but before they can they’ve a slight vermin problem to solve – rats!

Actually, it didn’t prove too difficult to shift them from behind the wall. Shining their torches at them and Ophelia banging along the wall, scared them enough to vacate the area, they could now take a good look at the inside.

It is a crawl space, running the length of the wall. The smell is sickening here, though maybe it isn’t just from the rats. Scratched along the inner wall is ‘Chapel of Contemplation’ written in large, irregular letters.

They both enter the space and Joseph braces himself to kick the boards out from the inner wall – they give easily, falling away to create an opening large enough for them both to crawl out of if they so wish.

Scanning inside, they get a glimpse of what appears to be a corpse, lying naked on a pallet in the centre of the room. It appears to be nothing more than a flesh covered skeleton, but its wide, staring eyes catch the torch light, reflecting it back. Flies buzz around and it is now evident that this is the cause of the stench, not the rats.

Behind them, the sudden sound of clanking metal could be heard (rightly guessed to be the knife trying to get from under the lid), and then, with great precedence, the corpse of William Corbitt rose to its feet – both investigators passed their sanity roll losing 1 point of sanity.

It pointed a bony finger at Joseph, who shuddered, and then at Ophelia. Still clutching her chair leg, she cried out as Joseph’s gun, held in a shaking hand, turned towards her, pointing directly at her head. As he squeezed the trigger Ophelia dived backwards, just in time to avoid having her head removed, but instead taking the bullet in her shoulder.

Keeper’s note – And here is the ever-present problem of playing with just a single player in this game – it’s so easy to get creamed and game over! I made it a Dex roll rather than dodge, as I knew she had a much greater chance of succeeding, but it still almost finished her doing another 5 points of damage; she was now down to 2hp. I also cut the spell to last only a single round.

Within a heartbeat Joseph was back under his own control. A glance at Ophelia, a glance at Corbitt – he quickly squirmed his back the way they had come, grabbing Ophelia, and hustling her up the rickety staircase; Corbitt’s laughter loud in their ears.

Keeper’s note – Sometimes it’s better to run away!

Ophelia reads a book.

Sitting in bed, Ophelia reflects on the day. Joseph stemmed the bleeding of her shoulder and gave her some painkillers, then bundled her into a taxi, paying the man a particularly good tip for his silence. A glass of brandy and a few hours sleep have helped, but now she finds her brain whirring away and, though her shoulder throbs, she hefts Corbett’s diaries onto the bed and starts to read.

She barely notices the weekend pass, taking her meals in her room, occasionally with Joseph for company. He’s currently calling in a few favours; friends of his from past times in Boston. Together they will revisit the house and finish the thing in the basement for good.

She tells him of what she has learnt from the books. “Corbett has found a way to make is body invulnerable, but he’s not there yet, as it takes time, lots of time. As we already know he can take control of a person’s mind using some kind of spell, which appears to be written in the margins, but is difficult to make out in this light.”

“Kid, best leave things like that for now, Eunice will want to take a look at it when we get back, she’ll know what to do with it.”

“There’s another spell in here too, ‘Call forth the opener of the ways’ I wander what that does?” She closes one book and flips open another, “He is, was, a horrible person. He drank blood from his victims, not because it gave him power, but because he found it funny. Also, the more he drank the more he could make appear, using it to scare people away or bend them to his will.”

“Is there anything in there that might help us kill him, or it, or whatever it is?”

“Not much. He isn’t a vampire, though sunlight causes him pain; he wonders if it may kill him. He appears to be using magic to prolong his life and is currently transforming into something else. I’m afraid there’s not much here to help. I think he avoided writing anything that could be used against him. Most of what’s in here is pretty gruesome, outlining his dealings with the reverend and some sort of higher being that they were trying to control.”

Ophelia stared at Joseph, her eyes red and strained. The last few days had taken a toll, but he believed reading the diaries had taken even more. He closed the books and told her to rest. They were heading back in tomorrow and if anything happened to him, she should contact Eunice – he passed a card with numbers on it and quietly left.

Keeper’s note – Reading the diaries had indeed taken a toll – 4 points from her max sanity kind of toll – though she did gain 4% to her Mythos, which is now at… 4%!

Revenge is a dish best served at point blank range!

Joseph briefed his friends, Milton, Phoebe, and Loretta. They had a few weapons between them, nothing more powerful than Joseph’s .45 Colt, but it would do… he hoped.

Keeper’s note – To bring the scenario to a finish and to tie up the loose ends, I played the last bit out using Mansions of Madness map tiles and miniatures. Yasmin played Loretta, Milton, and Phoebe, I played Joseph (I really didn’t want anything to happen to him… yet!).

They spent no time in reaching the basement stairs, Joseph leading them down. Once again, they came alive under his feet, shaking and shifting, but he made it down easily. So too did Loretta and Milton, but Phoebe went flying, landing heavily on Milton, both taking some minor damage.

On the basement floor the trash-can lid lay on its handle, the knife gone. Joseph knew that time was of the essence and made his way straight to the crawl space. The rats had returned to their nest, but the group wasted no time in clearing them using the same technique that Ophelia had used.

Joseph went first, followed by Milton, both failing Spot Hidden rolls and not waiting around to try and push it. Loretta came next and as she ducked down into the small area a glint caught her eye. She turned towards it and saw the knife rise up in front of her. “The knife…” was all she managed to get out as it took her in the throat.

Keeper’s note – As she was using unimportant NPC’s, I wasn’t too fussed about their survival, good job really. Corbitt, striking magically with the knife, rolled an extreme success and Loretta couldn’t match it – Damage was max weapon damage + 1D4 (4 rolled) + Damage bonus of 2 for a total of 12, killing Loretta outright!

Phoebe, carrying the Trash-can lid in one hand and a pistol in the other, had followed her in and made to administer first aid, but at a glance she could tell there was nothing she could do, and in a fury followed the men.

Joseph was now at the opening and could see Corbett’s inhuman corpse lying in the centre of the room; instinctively he fired. Milton followed suit and despite only having a small, single shot derringer, his shot blew a chunk of the things body away.

Keeper’s note – Corbitt had cast flesh ward, awarding himself 9 points of armour. Joseph’s shot did 4 damage whilst Milton hit for a max of 6. That was the armour gone and he was now down to 15hp, but Milton now needed to reload.

Phoebe moved forward, trying to get in position so that she too could take a shot, but as she did the knife, still dripping Loretta’s blood, came hurtling towards her. She managed to bring the metal lid round just in time and it pinged off leaving a ringing in her ears.

Joseph fired again, the bullet hitting but seemingly doing very little. Milton made to reload but, as he did he felt a pain behind his eyes, a sickness rise up from his stomach, and then a voice imploring him to kill. He turned on Phoebe and tried to pistol whip her across the face. Fortunately, she managed to ride the blow, though she still cried out in pain, as a small cut opened up on her forehead.

Things weren’t going well. With the thing controlling Milton they couldn’t retreat, and the knife could easily take another of them at any moment. Joseph made up his mind and strode forward to stand at the thing’s feet. He was sure it would stand any moment and rip him apart, but he raised his gun, and at point blank range, fired once, twice, and third time.

Keeper’s note – Point blank gave him a bonus die, but this was cancelled out by the penalty for firing multiple times. He hit with all three doing 3 points of damage, followed by 6, then 7 – Corbitt was finished.

Phoebe was trembling. Milton was breathing heavily, muttering to himself. Joseph stood over Loretta, shaking his head. The thing had simply crumbled away into dust as his third shot penetrated its body, but it wasn’t over yet, they had the problem of Loretta’s body to deal with.

Keeper’s note – In Call of Cthulhu there are always the consequences of your actions to face. Loretta lay dead. Corbitt’s body had dissolved to ashes, but even if it hadn’t who would believe their story anyway? So, how do they explain their friend’s death? Something for them to ponder.

They came up with a plan, or at least Joseph did, and the others just went along. They hauled her body into the back of the car and headed for the hospital, and there waited for the police.

They all gave the same story – They were looking into some mysterious goings on at a house belong to a Mr. Knott. He had had problems with previous tenants being scared half-to-death by something or other in the house. They could find little other than what appeared to be someone’s idea of a practical joke, or so they thought, until they stumbled on someone in the basement up to no good. They approached the man, but he lunged at them, stabbing their friend in the throat before making his way out of the building.

Keeper’s note – The plan was mostly my doing, but Yasmin agreed and so that’s the route we took. It was only a little later, when I was writing this that a though occurred to me; keep reading…

Joseph knew there were holes in their story, but with Corbett’s corpse reduced to dust and the state the house was in, he guessed the police would close the case quickly and it would get filed away to be forgotten. So, after spending a week under orders not to leave town, he was surprised to get a visit from a Boston detective.

“We’ve conducted an investigation of the house and I’ve a few more questions. Are you sure the suspect was male?”

Joseph was caught off guard, what had he missed. “As sure as I can be. It was dark down there and we only had torches.”

“Mmm. We pulled some prints off the knife. They don’t match with any of your group, but from their size we’d guess at a woman. Oh, and why were you using torches, the electric worked just fine in there?”

“It did,” Joseph was thinking hard, “But the house was real dingy, so we took torches with us. When we were down in the basement someone flipped the lights out, so we were lucky to have them I guess.” And with that the detective seemed satisfied, clearing him to leave town.

Ophelia had taken the free time to recover and do more reading but was now happy when Joseph knocked on her door and told her to pack. She quizzed him about what the police had been after and he told her most of it – he kept the fingerprints to himself; he’d just realised who they belonged to!

Keeper’s note – And that worked out perfectly, giving me another option later on, especially if Ophelia gets her prints taken! Oh! What about, “By his own weapon can the evil be brought down!”, I hear you ask. Well, if Ophelia had remembered it, she might have realised that a single stab of the knife in to Corbitt’s body would have killed him instantly, simples! Okay, taking control of the knife might have proved a bit tricky but it would have been fun to try!

Well, sorry about the length of that, I’ll be sure to break the next scenario up by session – much easier. As for the next scenario, it is time for Ophelia to stand on her own two feet and be sent off on her own, but only after a little R&R. She’ll have to be de-briefed by Eunice, too, which might prove interesting.

That’s it for published scenarios too, at least for the time being, the next one will be all my own work and I’ve aimed it at one of Yasmin’s favourite subjects, Vampires!

2 thoughts on “Darkest Tales – The Haunting

  1. Enjoyed reading this, Justin! 🙂 Thought I’d keep it for a Saturday afternoon when I’d have the time I needed to go through it all! Must have taken you a while to write, but it’s well done!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, John.
      Yes, it took a while, but I actually quite enjoyed it.
      I like the creative side of running games – world building and writing my own scenarios – and I might write something about how I go about it.

      Liked by 2 people

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