Guest House: Writers Write
Wild Weekend at Turner's Junctionby Darren MacLennan
October 30, 2001
Guest House: Writers Write
Wild Weekend at Turner's Junctionby Darren MacLennan
October 30, 2001
Wild Weekend at Turner's Junction
"I've got to talk to Joe right now," he reiterated, as if he hadn't heard me. "There's something in the trunk of my car...something I found out at the Virginia place. I've shot it and stabbed it and I can't kill it. It's not human, and I can't kill it."
He began to giggle...and then to laugh...and finally to scream. And he was still screaming when I finally got Mr. Woods on the phone and told him to come, for God's sake, to come as fast as he could..."
- "The Breathing Method", Stephen King, in the book Different Seasons
This scenario is for 3-6 players, preferably with characters with little or no experience with the Mythos; this scenario works well as an introduction to the horrors of the Mythos, and as a fairly brutal horror scenario in its own right.
After lengthy and careful research, Michael Turner has finally managed to piece together the last part of an immortality spell - one that permanently binds the living mind of its user to the body that it inhabits. Unfortunately, Michael Turner didn't take into account the fatal flaw of the spell - you heal very, very slowly, and you cannot die. Turner will invite the PCs to his mansion and have them participate in the ritual; during this time, they'll meet another investigator of the occult, realize that Michael Turner is an arrogant and obnoxious young man, and understand the nature of the spell that Turner is casting. The casting, in all likelihood, ends in success, and the investigators leave without accomplishing anything.
The next Friday, however, they receive a phone call from Michael Turner's butler, who is incoherent with fear. When they arrive at Turner's mansion, they'll discover Turner gnawing on the throat of his butler. He decided to test his immortality by taking poison; the resultant pain, without the mercy of death, drove him insane. The investigators may have to shoot him, but they'll quickly find out that he's impossible to kill - he can be temporarily disabled, but the spell helps him to regenerate. Worse yet, he may or may not be able to spread his curse to other people. The investigators are going to have to find a way to permanently incapacitate Michael Turner - and even then, they'll never be sure that he'll somehow find his way back, eternally in search of vengeance.
The characters known each other as casual friends - they've all got an interest in the pursuit of the occult, and have some links to the world of high society. (Characters from lower social classes will know Michael Turner from his interest in bootlegging and horse-betting; Michael Turner isn't one to confine his vices to a single stratum of society.) They've been invited to a seance / party at his mansion, during which Michael Turner has promised to unveil the arcane mysteries of the universe.
Michael Turner himself has a fairly poor reputation - while he comes from one of the more prestigious families in New England, his personality leaves much to be desired. He's been linked with a number of scandals, ranging from the bootlegging of liquor to the vandalism of a statue in Boston. He's got a small circle of friends and a permanent floating circle of semi-friends, whom he alternately entertains and humiliates. So far, none of the PCs have fallen astray of his malicious sense of humor, but it's only a matter of time.
The party is scheduled for Friday night - it begins at seven and will last until it ends. The dress code is casual, and the general atmosphere is expected to be fairly free - liquor will be served, for example.
ARRIVING AT THE PARTY:
Turner's mansion is actually a cottage home of sorts; his parents liked the seclusion that the woods offered, but loathed the lack of comforts, and so spent a substantial amount of money in order to build a mansion in the middle of a forest, complete with power and running water (from a well.) Turner's parents are both dead, and Turner himself has made the mansion a place where he can engage in illegalities without fear of discovery. The only way to reach the mansion is to drive through a twisting dirt road that goes for three miles before finally ending at the Turner mansion.
The characters will arrive approximately an hour after most of Turner's guests do - Turner wants to arrange various pranks before his victims arrive, and so has created different times of arrival for different groups of people. The PCs are arriving on their own, since Turner doesn't think them worthy of a prank just yet; they'll drive down the road on their own.
The road itself is curving and hilly, and it runs through some fairly dense forest throughout. Try to create a mood of mild dread - the investigators expected to be feted in the heart of civilization, but are instead driving through an area that's been fairly untouched since the Pilgrims touched down on Mayflower. There's nothing that will directly threaten them, but if the car breaks down, or runs off the road, it may be difficult to find their way out. Depending on how spooky you'd like the game to be, you could include one or two of the following scenes:
At one point, the investigators may think that they see the lights of the mansion, shining through the gaps in the trees. However, the road continues onwards, leaving the investigators confused as to if they missed their turnoff or not. A successful INT x 5 roll solves the problem - but then, what were the lights? Large patches of phosphorescent moss? A bootlegger's still? A hallucination?
A deer flings itself across the road, panicked; it's bleeding from its stomach, but it's only on the road long enough for investigators to get a quick look at it. If the investigators stop and get out, they'll see the blood trail leading into the forest, where it swiftly disappears. Anybody who succeeds in a Spot Hidden roll, however, will swear that the deer had five legs, rather than four. Nobody will be able to track the deer's blood trail through a dark forest, although enterprising Keepers will surely find a reason for mysterious animal mutations in the area.
An owl flies over the car, losing its grip on part of a mouse that it has in its claws. The back end of the animal bounces off the driver's side of the windshield - or, if the Keeper is feeling sadistic and the car has an open top, onto the hair of the driver.
This is one of the more involved segments, and the Keeper may choose to leave it until later. The characters see a roadster pulled to one side, with a rather portly man standing to one side - he's staring glumly at a flat tire. A successful Credit Rating roll will identify Walter Chambers, a rather inept occultist with a heart of gold. Stopping to help him earns his trust, as well as first place on his list of people to call if something weird happens.
However, his girlfriend will be of the most interest to the characters. Sitting immobile in the passenger seat, the first impression that anybody looking at her will get is that she's dead, and is only sitting upright thanks to some quirk of gravity. Her face is covered with a porcelain mask whose countours suggest those of a malformed human face; the only part of her face visible are her eyes, which are shaded by the mask. The mask will initially seem a yellowish-white color, but as the investigator continues to look at it, the yellow parts will begin to glow, and reveal a glyph on the face of the mask - the Yellow Sign. After a few seconds, the glow will fade, and the mask will be white again. During this period, Walter will be intensely interested in changing the tire; he won't notice the investigators.
The woman will do nothing, even if injured. If the investigators forcibly remove the mask from her face, the woman will start, then giggle, and suggest that she must have dozed off. She'll put the mask to one side, and won't complain if somebody takes it from her - she'll just get another at the party. No matter what the investigators do, the mask will disappear, only to reappear on her face later on. A successful Cthulhu Mythos roll will suggest that she's somehow playing the mystic role of Cassilda, and that interfering with her task is like begging for a lightning strike. Walter himself will take suggestions that his girlfriend is dangerous seriously, but just the same, he'll be at the party with her at his side.
AT THE PARTY
The party is in full swing when the investigators arrive. A jazz band plays on the balcony above, while the central floor has been cleared for jitterbugging couples. Michael Turner himself is surrounded by a small band of cronies, and he sweeps from person to person to briefly converse before moving on to somebody else. Some pick at the buffet, some make ample use of the open bar, some form small groups to chatter. The second floor of the mansion is accessible by a pair of large staircases in the back. The second floor is largely domainted by rows of doors, which lead to small bedrooms, a library, and a watercloset or two.
Turner himself is occupied with his own things, and doesn't want to talk to the investigators just yet; he shoos them away, telling them to enjoy themselves until he can talk to them in more detail. He won't be too fond of those who try to push too hard on his time; the more rowdy may find themselves ejected by Turner's burlier friends. Maddeningly, he'll always be inaccessible to the investigators, although the really persistent may be able to get a five-second brush off.
Ask for Spot Hidden rolls on behalf of the investigators as soon as they start looking around. A success notes that a large man just slumped through a door on the second floor, then slammed it shut behind him - a few people glance up, but most of the people didn't notice. He looked distinctly injured. This is Grogan, and while he's not vitally important to the scenario, investigators who talk to him will get a crash course into the Mythos through him. If the investigators decide to check to see what he's doing, then go to the section below; otherwise, make use of the below vignettes:
A portly man makes ample use of the buffet, but he's mixing together foods that have absolutely no possible way of tasting good in combination - chocolate sauce on lettuce, for example. If pressed for an explanation, the GM has several options - the easiest is that he's got a cold, and since he can't taste anything, he decided to experiment with textures. Another is that he's not human, but that may lead into another adventure that's unrelated to this scenario.
Two men talk to each other in low, urgent tones; they avoid the company of anybody else at the party. Suspicious investigators may pursue them out back, where a successful Spot Hidden roll finds them behind the woodshed, kissing.
A woman steps from the kitchen, looking around nervously. As soon as she's towards the center of the room, Turner gives a signal by wolf-whistling. The woman is suddenly pelted by dog biscuits, thrown from a dozen directions, while others make barking noise. In tears, she flees from the party - another victim of Michael Turner's cruel sense of humor.
An extremely drunk man begins to shout at Turner, threatening to expose him. He draws the attention of all present, but he's swept out by a pair of weighty gentlemen before he's able to say anything more.
Grogan has a brief, but important role in this adventure - he's going to give the investigators a framework for what they're doing, an awareness that there are occult vigilantes fighting against the steady depredations of the Mythos. Since this is Call of Cthulhu, he'll also be removed from the time stream and seperated from his life shortly thereafter. His presence in this scenario is meant to be a seed for future adventures, rather than a vital part of the scenario; if the Keeper wishes, this part of the scenario can be removed without damaging its course in any way, shape or form. Novice GMs may want to use this as an example of what the investigators may become, as well as a series of adventure seeds.
A day before the adventure, Grogan participated in the culmination of a mysterious cult, based in Chicago - one that worshipped a group of timeless, twisted alien hounds, and who'd murdered a friend of Grogan's. The raid resulted in dozens of arrests and deaths, but Grogan made his escape afterwards, rightly fearing retribution from the cult's mysterious leaders. When he set foot into Boston, he was assailed and shot by a pair of cultists. Having known the Turner family from his early career, he fled to their mansion in the forest, and was surprised to find out that there was a party going on. Now, he's hoping to bleed to death before the cult's mystery killer can catch up with him.
The door to his room is slightly ajar - a successful Spot Hidden roll will reveal droplets of blood, and another will reveal that they lead up the stairs and to the door. There's no response for the first two questions - at the third, something shifts in Grogan's wound, and he groans. Ten minutes from that groan, he'll be devoured by the Timeless Thing.
Grogan is sixty-three years old, with silver hair and a drawn face - think of Phillip Baker Hall in Hard Eight and you'll have a good idea ofwhat he looks like. He's got a .38 in his right hand, and tries to point it at anybody coming through the door. Seeing that the investigators don't have the telltale marks of the cultists who are pursuing, he groans and lets the gun fall to the floor.
He'll regard the investigators with weary relief, glad that they aren't cultists. He'll be glad to explain anything that the investigators want to know, especially if any of them are private detectives or involved with law enforcement. Among the information that he imparts are the following items, as well as the above information:
The cult is named the Steps of the Timeless Thing, and uses victims to anchor the Timeless Things to this land. The Timeless Things may not be under their control, or even friendly to the cult's aims. The lower leadership of the cult has been devastated, but there may be others.
The Timeless Things are related to something called Hounds of Tindalos - possibly parasites that use the Hounds for transport.
The cult had kidnapped a trio of scientists who were investigating hyper-Euclidean geometry; two were recovered, but the third is missing.
Grogan doesn't have long to live, but he thinks that the cult can be beaten - the Chicago police are too bulky and restricted by the law to take the cult down, but a small group of vigilantes may be able to take it down.
When the investigators start asking questions that the GM doesn't want to answer, Grogan lifts his hand to scratch his nose, splattering his face with a gout of arterial blood as his hand suddenly disappears. He stares at the stump for a second, and then, before the investigators can do anything, begins to disappear, angular chunks of his body disappearing into space. The blood is copious, splattering the investigators, costing them 1/1d6 SAN. In seconds, Grogan is taken to pieces.
And then, the investigators are standing in an undisturbed room, which hasn't been disturbed in months - a layer of dust coats everything, and the bed plays host to a pair of field mice. Any Sanity lost to Grogan's dismemberment is regained, but investigators must now make a SAN check or lose 1/1d8 SAN. Those that fail will be able to communicate the insane insight that Grogan was erased from the time stream, although it's not clear how much of his influence has been removed from the world. (In fact, only the period from when Grogan was shot has been erased - the rest is still intact, and so Grogan's information is accurate.) Any mention of his name to any of the party-goers will meet with a confused silence.
He isn't entirely gone, of course. At random intervals, the investigators will find pieces of his body - still living - among their possessions - a finger in the glove compartment, part of a living brain in their pocket, a severed foot in their shoe. The parts will hang around for five minutes or so before silently fading away. If his mouth appears, Grogan will speak, ceaselessly, about a blank void where he watches the Timeless Things do their business, in a monotone voice devoid of emotion. In time, Grogan's body parts will grow larger and larger, until his entire body comes back. When this happens, he'll be committed to an insane asylum, and wait out the few months left until the Great Old Ones revive with a slight smile on his face.
The ritual can be described in as much detail as the Keeper likes; since much of it is simply for show, there's little chance of the investigators being able to identify the specific elements that power it. Turner clears the dancing floor, and aids in the construction of an enormous diagram that extends into other rooms of the house, while muttering something underneath his breath. The lucky few who have been chosen to aid in this ritual have been stationed at various parts of the diagram, while the rest of the crowd moves to the balconies and watches - there's plenty of idle conversation and tittering at what many see as Turner's white elephant. Successful Credit Rating rolls will glean the information that Turner's business has suffered because of his obsession, and some hope that the failure of this so-called spell will snap him out of it.
The investigators will slip into a fugue state while watching the ritual - many of them will be aware of its completion only when they snap out of it, and realized that two hours have passed without incident. Ask for SAN rolls, with a 1/1d3 penalty - those failing will realize that what they've just witnessed is actual magic, as opposed to the stage trickery. Most of the people in the balconies leave; some fall into hysteria, while others are loudly skeptical that anything took place at all. The girlfriend of Walter Chambers will watch from an upstairs balcony.
The investigators will likely stay behind to talk with Turner - he's dazed, but coherent, and giddy at the success of his spell. He'll invite the investigators into a small living room, where he'll sit down on a comfortable couch and allow the investigators to arrange themselves as they will. After some brief small talk, he details a task for the investigators. He wants them to travel to New York to return a particular occult tome to its original owners. He'll pay them a thousand dollars, to be split amongst them however they like. He's omitting the information that he stole the tome, hoping that the investigators will be held responsible.
The tome itself is the Sacred Geometries Of Prague, written in the fifteenth century by numerous authors. It grants +5% CthulhuSo Mythos, has a spell multiplier of x2 and costs 1d3/1d6 SAN to read. It includes the spells Shrivelling, Summon/Bind Nightgaunt and Elder Sign. There is information contained within that involves the spell that Turner has just cast, but without other important texts relating to the subject, it's impossible to recreate the spell. He suggests that they wait a few days before they bring it to the owners, since he's in no hurry to get it back to them. (And he'd like some time to put buffers between him and the theft.)
THE NEXT NIGHT
The next night will be the worst night in the investigator's lives.
At around ten in the morning, the investigators will receive a panicked phone call from Turner's butler. He'll ask the investigators to come meet Turner at his mansion - Turner's apparently taken ill, but won't come out of his room. He's demanded that the investigators bring the Sacred Geometry of Prague with them. He's not interested in answering questions, since it's very possible that his employer may be dying in the upstairs room.
What's happened is this: Turner, feeling experimental, swallowed a pint or two of crankcase oil in order to test his regenerative capacity. The resulting pain drove Turner into a frenzy - he was unable to die, able to fall into unconsciousness only for brief periods, and unable to relieve his pain. When they arrive at his house, they'll find out the latest thing that he's done in order to stop the pain.
Turner's mansion is lit from within, and the front door is ajar. Stepping through the front door, the investigators will find Turner gnawing on the remains of his butler. When he sees them, he'll charge without hesitation, screaming like a madman.
STR 12 DEX 11 INT 14
Damage Bonus: +1d4 from insanity-related strength.
Hit Points: 30 - the spell will always attempt to return him to this level. When he hits 0 hit points, he'll have all of his skills halved, including combat, but will continue to attack until reduced to -40 hit points. At this point, he'll lapse into a deathlike state, and begin to regenerate at the rate of 2 hit points every fifteen minutes until reaching 20 hit points again. The investigators can reduce him below -40 as much as they'd like. It just means longer periods of regeneration for Turner.
Skills: Archaeology 20%, History 50%, Fast Talk 65%, Law 25%, Jump 35%, Library Use 65%, Spot Hidden 35%, Occult 45%, Cthulhu Mythos 20%, Sneer 65% Invent Cruel Trick 75%
Fist 65%, 1d3 + 1d4
Spells: Twisted Immortality, Elder Sign, Summon/Bind Nightgaunt
In all likelihood, the investigators will simply kill Turner as he charges them - he'll show no indication of still being sane. When he hits 0 hit points, he'll drop the ground, seemingly dead. In fact, he's in a state of shock, not realizing that he can go on with his body damaged as it is.
The investigators are now left with a problem - having killed a well-known socialite, they've got to figure out what to do next. The telephone has been destroyed in Turner's initial rampage, and the nearest police station is approximately thirty miles away. If the characters have high Credit Ratings, then they might be able to convince the police that they didn't murder Turner for his money; even then, they'll spend a good amount of time and energy going through a trial.
Leaving him where he is may be the easiest solution - if they decide to do that, then they'll realize that Turner is shallowly breathing just as they're leaving, which means that it's their responsibility to do something. Cold-blooded murder will cost 1d3/1d8 SAN for any investigator merciless enough to do it, but they'll likely leave enough evidence for the police to track them down in 1d3 months.
It's likely that, at some point, the investigators will bring Turner out to their car and throw him into the trunk, or possibly into the back seat. This is going to cost them dearly during the next part of the scenario. (Throwing him into the back seat is okay, but feel free to ask for CON x 3 rolls for those inside the car; failure indicates that they'll become nauseous, resulting in a -20% penalty to all of their skills and checks.)
IN THE CAR:
It'll take half an hour to get through the forest, and another hour and a half to get to the nearest police station. During this time, Turner will be swiftly regenerating. Fifteen minutes into their drive through the woods, Turner will start stirring. If in the back, he'll worm out of his bonds in three rounds; if in the trunk, they'll hear banging on the inside of the trunk. It's up to them what they want to do. Unless the investigators have done an astonishing job of tying Turner up, he'll have slid free of his bonds - his rengeneration means that he can break bones, dislocate joints, and shed skin in order to worm free. Opening the trunk results in Turner attacking the nearest investigator, and he'll automatically move first thanks to surprise. The cost of having a supposed injured man suddenly able to go into a berserk fury costs investigators 0/1d3 SAN.
Again, Turner will likely lose this fight. Suggest that this time, Turner has been killed for sure, and that he's finally given up the ghost. Back into the trunk, and from there, presumably onto the main road.
Of course, Turner will continue to regenerate. And two minutes after the investigators pull onto the main road, they're going to have a police car turn on its sirens and pull in behind them. If they're smart, they pull over. They're now left to explain why they stink of gunpowder, have blood on their clothes, and have a dead body in the trunk.
The officer will pull them over and quiz them - they had a tail-light out, and were driving faster than normal. (Even if they were taking pains to go slow - he's simply interested in finding out why they're out so late.) Feel free to demand Hide, Sneak, INT and EDU checks, Law, Fast Talk and Persuade rolls in order to conceal all of the evidence of their activities, and don't tell them if they've got everything hushed up. They'll find out when the cop peeks through the window.
Whether they talk the cop out of arresting them, or wind up being asked to step out of the car, Turner will wake up at the crux - he'll begin to bang on the inside of the trunk. The investigators will have a single round before the cop opens the trunk to act. This time, Turner will act in a relatively sane fashion, accusing the investigators of beating and kidnapping him. Singleton will believe it, and move to arrest the investigators, and that's when Turner will launch into him, biting his right ear off while screaming the elements of a spell.
OFFICER JOHN SINGLETON
STR 14 DEX 13 INT 10
Damage Bonus: +1d4
Hit Points: 14
Skills: Law 56%, Sneak 50%, Spot Hidden 66%, History 20%, Library Use 25%, Drive Auto 45%, Spot Crime 50%, Persuade 50%, Intimidate 43%, Pistol 60%
Fist 65%, 1d3 + 1d4
Pistol 60% - .38 Revolver - 1d8 damage
This time, Turner isn't interested in going down. He'll use Singleton as a shield to prevent gunfire, meanwhile biting furiously at Singleton's face. Singleton himself will be too stunned by the berserker attack to act for the first two rounds, and he'll lose his gun on a critical fumble on the fourth. It'll be up to the investigators to put Turner down. Turner will be attempting to cast a spell throughout, and at the end of the third round, unless his mouth takes enough damage to make his speech unintelligible, he'll complete the spell. There'll be a sudden blackness around Singleton and Turner, and then the combat will continue as normal.
It's doubtful that Singleton will be killed, but the GM should try to arrange that he be knocked unconscious. The investigators can finish Turner off, but by now, they'll have realized that he can't be killed by conventional means. Meanwhile, they'll be wondering about the spell that he cast on Singleton. He shows no obvious effects, but something happened.
At this point, the investigators should realize that Turner cannot be killed. No matter how much damage is done to him, they're going to have to find a way to put him down and keep him down. Feel free to emphasize the fact that Turner will always come back, and he will always seek the destruction of the investigators. In his mind, he's become convinced that the investigators were responsible for his current state, and that only through their destruction will he be freed. Possibilities for his destruction are as follows:
Burning - damages him horribly, but doesn't kill him. A crematorium means that he'll simply bang on the interior of the burning chamber until he's let out. It'll cost 1d6/1d10 SAN to listen to him screaming for release - after two failed rolls, the investigator will yank Turner out, regardless of the consequences.
Acid - same as burning. It'll knock him unconscious, and horribly scar him, but it won't kill him.
Blunt physical trauma - It'll knock him down to -30 hit points, but it won't kill him.
Magic - Most spells will damage Turner, but the spell that he's cast is immensely powerful. Shrivelling spells will kill him, but only if all of the damage is inflicted by Shrivelling. That'll take repeated applications, most likely in teams, to kill him. It's doubtful that most investigators will have the magic points required to do it.
Alternately, the death of every single person who was at the ceremony may break the curse, allowing Turner to finally die. A sudden rash of grisly murders would easily make for an interesting campaign.
Consumption by Mythos creature - will also work; of course, investigators will be haunted by the possibility that somewhere, Turner is being eternally digested by whatever Mythos creature got ahold of him.
Severing his head - they can sever his body into as many pieces as they like, but they'll simply regenerate from the head. His limbs will continue to move after they've been cut off, and his head will speak without the benefit of air from his lungs.
Burying - is probably the best way to dispose of Turner. He will dig himself out, but it'll buy the investigators a few months of peace before he digs himself out.
Remember that while Turner has spent a lot of time trying to kill the investigators, it's difficult for any human being to condemn another to a lifetime of being buried in a concrete block, or to throw them into a fire, or to beat them with a shovel while they're pleading not to be put back into the dark again. Turner is both a menacing figure and a pathetic one, and the GM should try to emphasize that.
Turner is a great recurring villain - implacable and pathetic in turns, it's entirely possible for him to become a lifetime nemesis. He'll require increasing amounts of time to put down, and every time that the investigators put him down, they'll lose more and more sanity from what they're forced to do. Singleton may have picked up the immortality curse from Turner - six weeks after the spell is cast, he's shot in the gut during a raid, and survives. Whether he's immortal or not is for the Keeper to decide. Admittedly, Singleton isn't nearly the threat that Turner is, but it'll let them know that Turner can make others immortal, which would allow him to gather a cult in fairly swift order.
Suffice to say that it was a tale so gruesome that I dreamed of it for weeks afterwards, and Ellen once looked at me over the breakfast table and asked me why I had suddenly cried out "His head! His head is still speaking in the earth!" in the middle of the night.
"I suppose it was a dream," I said. "One of those you can't remember afterwards."
But my eyes dropped immediately to my coffee cup, and I think that Ellen knew the lie that time.
- "The Breathing Method", Stephen King