This past Tuesday was my second outing as a store GM for Just Games Rochester, once again running Call of Cthulhu 7e with a one-shot adventure at the big front table right by the register. I had four players this time around, and we had a couple people wander up to the table to ask what we were playing - though I think they were mostly just confused and looking for a D&D 5e game that was taking place in the store's back room.
The adventure this time began life as an updating of the classic introductory adventure "The Haunting" to the modern day, and quickly took on a life of its own - I think less than 30% of the original adventure was left when I was done with it.
The investigators were the cast and crew of "Haunt Hunters," a third-rate ghost hunting show on a fifth-rate cable network (the players decided it was "MTV 8"), gearing up for the fourth season premiere, in which they'd gotten permission to check out the De Morcey House, long reputed to be the most haunted residential building on the East Coast. They first tracked down the "kids" of the last family that lived there, now in their fifties, for some on-camera interviews (and, out of character, as fodder for anything bad in the house) and then checked out the Chapel of Contemplation, a spiritualist group, now long-disbanded, that De Morcey had been a member of back in the 1920s and which had maintained his estate after his passing. In a buried basement of the ruined church, they discovered evidence that De Morcey had been buried somewhere on the property and that the Contemplationists worshiped something referred to as "The Caller of the Black."
Once in the House (I used a Clue - Cluedo to those in the UK - board as a layout, just for fun) they soon began to experience strange things - doors closing on their own, for example, and rats pouring out of a mattress once disturbed. Then one of the "Haunt Hunters" tried looking out a window in one of the upstairs bedrooms...at which point a bed suddenly lurched and slammed into him, hurling him out the window.
In another room, the Haunt Hunters' "team Psychic," actually an eye-liner wearing conman, spotted a gold ring in the shadows under a piece of furniture, but when he tried to pick it up it transformed into a worm that burrowed into his arm. After a few seconds of trying frantically to get it out, he suddenly spaced and came to with no recollection of the incident,
In the Lounge - the room William De Morcey had died in in 1928 - they heard voices, first a man bellowing "Caller of the Black, Reverser of Fortunes! Observer of All, Past Present and Future! I beg of thee – Return my children to me!" followed by another man laughing and saying, "I know how we can get De Morcey - run over his kids with a car! Then tell him we can help..." Consulting their history of the House, they recalled that De Morcey joined the Chapel of Contemplation after his three young children were killed in a freak auto accident - a car hopped a curb and hit the three of them all at once. They realized that De Morcey had been manipulated into joining the Chapel as part of some sinister plot.
Investigating the Library looking for more information on the Chapel, maybe a "Cult Bible," they instead notice some strange imagery in the grimy stained glass windows. Cleaning the windows, they found images of the Zodiac sign of Aquarius, flanked by two knights or saints holding banners, the banners bearing seemingly random jumbles of letters.
Deciphering the lettering, they found a coded message - "Bury me where the water is drawn." To the old well out back!
Descending into the well, they found a bricked over doorway that they were able to kick in. Here, they found a chamber containing not one, but four human skeletons - one of average size and three little ones, as well as a statuette carved from some black mineral, shot through with veins of amber-colored crystal, a perfect likeness of the entity the production assistant saw in his vision. When he picked up the statue, the ground suddenly began to boil and churn, as hundreds of thousands of worms - nightcrawlers, bloodworms, maggots - began to force their way up out of the soil.
To their horror, the worms began to coalesce, clinging to each other to form a rough, humanoid shape. Panicked, the production assistant smashed the statuette to shards - and the shape raised a squirming "arm," pointed at him, and a bolt of crackling, black energy shot forth, The PA, caught in the blast, began to shrink, blacken and wither, until he was reduced to a skeleton covered in too-tight, dried out skin, cracking and flaking.
The rest of the investigators fled at this point, content that they had enough footage for a two-part episode to open season 4, and made a call to the police to report what had happened - and getting told that prank calling the police with reports of hauntings was no laughing matter - before leaving the area for good.
Their last glimpse was of the worm-being carefully arranging and polishing the bones, and the realization that the worm-being was De Morcey, his consciousness still alive somehow, and had collected the bones of his wife and children at some point in the preceding eighty years, a happy family reunited at last.
I had four players this time around, mostly familiar faces but a new guy as well. Everything went pretty smoothly - I went through two bottles of water during the course of almost three hours of play, so I wasn't too scratchy afterwards, Several of the players had Cthulhu experience, and one of them is actually running an unmodified version of "The Haunting" in a couple weeks at a convention. I'm pretty happy to say it took him about a half-hour of play to realize this was the Haunting underneath all my tweaks, and he was really impressed at the revisions I'd made.
The big challenge that this session presented was actually with scheduling. The store announces events on Facebook, and at the owner's prior suggestion and reshared this game on a local Meetup group to try and get a full table. At one point it looked like I might have as many as twelve people showing up, which is way too many - twice what I'm generally comfortable as a maximum for running for, and no place in the store to seat that many. When I posted about this on both sites, it led to a pretty spirited discussion on who expected to be seated, as well as a number of people deciding not to attend. So I'm looking into better ways to present an online sign-up sheet for players.
Overall, however, good session and I've got people looking forward to my next session on March 22nd. I'm giving myself a bit of a challenge there - I'm running an unmodified published adventure for the first time since probably 2009.