This week’s Saturday Seed is for Call of Cthulhu. It is a very cruel little seed appropriate for any era from the 1890’s forward.
This seed deals with responsibility, the realization of guilt after the fact, and a personal challenge to overcome great vileness.
Planting the seed
The seed is appropriate for a one-shot or the start of a campaign with a limited number of players. Characters will need to be academics, university administrators, or both. Ideally, this seed could be the characters’ introduction to new positions at a university with an old, partly uncatalogued, and very curious collection of books and artifacts.
The characters are assigned a pair of assistants each and each must work a large number of hours to justify their placement. Essentially, these assistants are masters level students seeking research supervisors and are taking these jobs to work under the characters and get their hands on new discoveries in the as yet uncatalogued sections of the library. Their passion, youth, and time make them ideal candidates to do the grunt work of sorting through the crap. The characters’ seniority and experience guarantees that they will be involved in researching anything of import, so passing off the cataloging duties to the assistants is not only expected, due to their course and personal research loads, it is practically required.
While they are settling in the characters will overhear conversations implying that they are replacing people who disappeared under suspicious circumstances, but if they ask for details, get attempts at cover-up and evasion which in most cases will require real persistence or skilled interview technique to penetrate. The story, if they obtain it, is simple. They were hired to replace experts who, died mysteriously while in the vaults below the library. Only going up the ladder of administrators will reveal more facts – facts which indicate that the men died of fright – or strangely coinciding, massive heart attacks. That section of the vault was searched, cleaned, and sealed. Its contents were moved up in the roster for review and categorization. Preliminary investigation suggests nothing is in the material, but the characters and assistants have been hired to prove that. The assistants previously worked with the deceased professors.
Crime reports reveal that the men were found dead, slumped against a life-sized bronze figure of a man, among crates, boxes, and bundles of artifacts, books, and scrolls. The two, believed at first to be in their 70s, were not easy to identify, but later the identities of the two, professors in their 30s was confirmed.
No barriers to investigation will be put up to slow or block the characters. It is only a lack of local investigative resources and experience that provides them with such a weak starting place.
Investigating the vault reveals nothing conclusive, but lots of physical evidence of theft through secret passages leading to the storm sewers.
Investigating the material taken from the vault reveals that a proper review will take weeks and at least one additional linguist should be brought in.
Once the investigation of the material removed from the vault begins, it soon starts to look like innocuous material. Local police are certain that searching the sewers is the best idea. They have already put it out of their heads that the deceased aged more than 40 years on the day they died.
Of course, new deaths in ambiguous spots in the collection will begin.
What is going on
Symbols on the bronze statue change with each new rising of the moon. Reading them, or sounding them out aloud sends the reader and those near them on a journey to the far reaches of mundane reality. When they die – for whatever reason – they are returned to the moment from which they left.
Discoveries in this seed can be as fast or as slow as you like, with as high a body count as you like. A focus point that might give the tale texture is having the assistant’s figure out the statue and suffering the same fate as their former supervisors. However, having cultist thieves, and/or occultists who seek to obtain the statue and some other artifacts for their own purposes, may allow you to colour the session in whichever shade is necessary for your enjoyment.
Darken others' doors: