Saturday Seed ~ 99 (Call of Cthulhu)
This week’s seed is for Call of Cthulhu. It involves murders old and murders new. It is of pains and suffering, and most of all, it is of madness hidden for ages.
After a particularly harrowing case, in which the investigators barely survived with lives and sanity intact, a woman comes to see them convinced that she has been murdered many times in the past and is convinced she will be murdered again soon. She believes the investigators are people she refers to familiarly by other names, and begs them to help her one more time, for the sake of the secret they al share.
Planting the Seed
Planting this seed requires little other than the Investigators live in the UK, have acquired a little local fame and/or notoriety over the months preceding its use, and that one of them have an address that can be obtained with a little concerned research.. The woman will drop by to speak with them at an acceptable time of day, nicely attired – coming obviously from money. She is being followed, and even if the Investigators turn her away, there will be several other opportunities for them to note something odd going on around them and choose to get involved. If they do nothing, they will recognize the woman’s picture when it appears in the paper after her murder. If they remain disinterested even after the resulting blow to their Sanity, if nothing else you can content yourself with knowing it is safe to remove the kid gloves.
This scenario will work best in the 1890s, but won’t offer too many problems in more modern eras. Likewise it can be run in the Dark Ages but will need to be made to reflect certain truths of those times, not the least of which is the absence of newspapers…
The woman, Michelle Burton, looks haggard, but not ill. She looks worn down by stress and fear. Her skin is pale, she walks unsteadily, and there are circles under her eyes which she has tried in vain to cover up with cosmetics. In all other respects she is immaculately put together.
If the Investigators will speak with her she begins with a tale of receiving death threats but is very vague about the source, and the method of delivery. She does not have the mental reserves to resist concerted questioning, however, and will soon reveal what will definitely look like delusional beliefs about repeated (successful) murder attempts by an unknown agency that revels in tormenting her over and over down through the ages. If pressed, she will even go into details of past life after past life, complete with accurate-seeming historical detail, ending in violent murder at the hands of ‘a killer out of time’ who exists ‘neither forward, nor backward in the stream of time, but straddles all time from creation to completion.’
She possesses no other signs of mental illness, other than persistent insomnia, so it should not be too difficult to pry the further details that this mysterious malefactor contacts her in dreams.
If pressed to this degree, the woman will lose partial grip on the specifics of reality, and will begin to refer to characters by wholly different names, some with quite a degree of familiarity, but will keep a firm awareness of the thread of the conversation and the relative positions and specialties of the individuals to whom she speaks. To a trained observer of discourse, or to a trained observer of human behaviour, her manner will be most suggestive of having had this conversation many times before, but that she is too polite to show her impatience, and fear.
If the Investigators refuse to aid her immediately, on whatever grounds, she will politely depart, thank them for their time, and go home. Should no one intervene, she will be murdered before morning. Her death will strike a chord with the media due to its brutality and reports of her sweetness and Christian charity surface in response. Everyone will be talking about it for days.
If the Investigators do choose to aid her, they will be met with a curious mix of relief and pity on the part of the house staff. They all know the fears which plague their mistress, the last member of her family. While none of them really believe the fears to be based in reality, they have real sympathy for her suffering… and perhaps a human desire to inherit the wealth she will leave with no inheritor.
Searching the house will turn up nothing of much interest to true investigators of the occult, other than spurious treatises on drugs and dreams that have clearly been discarded in disgust by their reader. Talking to the servants and reading through the diaries of the woman’s ancestors will eventually turn up leads which with time to investigate might lead the group on the first steps of a very dangerous journey to dark places both of this world, and of the soul. The pattern which will emerge, however is that overseas holdings in India and other far flung points have caused various members of the family to travel and meet many strange and wonderful people. The servants believe but will need to be forced to reveal suspicions that not all the family’s wealth comes from legitimate means and that donations of antiquities made to the British Museum may include whatever sort of physical evidence the Investigators are seeking for a source of Ms. Burton’s madness. Whatever else is true, there are many ways to burn the hours before dawn in the house, but no leads which paint a clear picture.
The best that can be hoped is that the family had done something which is making the young lady torment herself with guilt. No sign of supernatural forces or involvement is present. Investigation at the British Museum will take ages, but will allow skilled investigators to ascertain a solid line of investigation into the holdings and activities of the family should they wish to get to the bottom of things later.
What is going on
Everything that Ms. Burton believes about her immanent demise is absolutely true. While the details of murders across the ages may be the result of a mind fracturing under the weight of fear, there is no fantasy in the brutal murder which awaits her.
Unless the Investigators intervene, the woman will need to be reassembled through painstaking labour by physicians before her identity can be confirmed if no one witnesses the death.
Intervention is limited to a few courses of action, or whatever alternate route suits your campaign. The overall mood of this seed is one of fear in the expectant victim, and looming disaster among the Investigators. In the end, unless they can cast themselves into her dreams to meet the threat with her, bring her dreams out into the waking world to face them physically (hmmm….), make themselves more of an appealing target, or somehow prevent her from sleeping for the rest of her life, she will die. While one of the traits of this seed is a lack of specific clues as to the identity of the fiend, there are certain traits among heroes that will more than suffice to allow the Investigators to intervene on her behalf, altruism being first among them, but a righteous desire to challenge evil being a good second. As usual, I leave the specifics of the solutions in your capable hands, dear Keepers, as your games will need to build from the mundane to the horrific on their own time and in their own courses.
The threat that the murder itself poses to the minds of the Investigators should not be underestimated. Steps should be taken to understand the perilous nature of their own Sanity, and moreover to remind the players if necessary of the very human trait of building each other up through camaraderie and bolstered courage. The woman’s fear is demoralizing and paralyzing. It needs to be combatted on emotional and psychological levels through the human relationships that define who and what we are.
The death itself is over in the blink of an eye. One minute a young terrified woman is lying in a state of exhaustion on her bed, and the next a bloodless spray of formerly living matter is scattered about the room, no piece larger than the nail on a woman’s small finger.
The servants are all conversant with the details of the story, and while small details vary from person to person in the house, the gist is the same. Ms. Burton has been afraid of this end for her entire adult life, transforming from bright and cheerful girl of strong wit and character, to a withdrawn introvert in a the span of a few short years. Although fond of her, there is almost a sense of relief mixed in with their outrage and horror… relief that she is now beyond suffering.
Sadly, this will not be true… should the investigators try to aid, and fail – they will have accomplished two things: marking themselves for attention from the fiend that found it relevant to dismantle 1 forlorn human woman, and opening their own dreams to hers. Night after night after her death they will be privy to the echoes of her screams funneling down the twisting currents of time, space, and dream. Screams with no source, no direction, no destination, but unrelenting, eternal horror.
- The Five Games that Influenced the Way I Play from Casting Shadows (runeslinger.wordpress.com)