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"Honey, I'm Home"

A short Call of Cthulhu scenario
George Ruban, July 18, 1989

Introduction

The Investigators are approached by a young couple in fearful trouble. The couple have heard of the Investigator's expertise in solving seemingly supernatural prolems, and need help. They will pay any reasonable price straight off, or even a completely unreasonable price if convinced by an Oratory, Fast Talk, or Bargain roll. They would prefer the investigation be kept quiet if the Investigators have a choice, since ther story seems unbelievable, and they don't want to look ridiculous, but they will even agree to publicity if the Investigators think it necessary. They need help badly.

Ellen Cooperrider, néé Wheeler, is an attractive woman of 23. She is slim, blonde, and unusually pale, perhaps because of her experience. Her fiancé is Aaron Driben, a dark haired, also slim, 25 year old, ex-Army lieutenant. He is now working in security, perhaps eventually to get a job with Pinkerton's or some other agency. He has scars and bruises, recently inflicted, and his left arm is broken and hangs in a sling by his side. He carries a pistol (the same type as most of the player characters carry).

The story they have to tell is a harrowing one. About a year ago, Harry Cooperrider, Ellen's husband of four years, died of heart failure (natural causes). She grieved for about six months, then eventually started dating again. She met Aaron, they fell in love, and he proposed. Two nights after the engagement, they were sitting at Ellen's home one late evening, when they heard a knock at the door. It was what appeared to be the departed husband, somewhat the worse for wear. Ellen screamed, and Driben tried to keep the walking corpse from her. It appeared again three nights after that, breaking in through a window, then again after two nights, at a friend's house, then again yesterday, at a hotel room in another city.

The Play

The characters will probably try to hide Ellen and Aaron, while they do some background work. Or not. In any case, their story is true. There seems to be nothing unusual about Harry, Aaron, or the graveyard where Harry is buried, unless the Keeper is feeling sadistic, and wants to throw in some red herrings about ancient Indian burial grounds or similar legends. Talking with the couple's neighbours, friends, and relatives provides nothing more fruitful, except - if the Investigators specifically ask about this - a successful Oratory or Psychology roll when speaking to Ellen's or Harry's friends and relatives will tell that they think it was perhaps too early for her to marry again, and that they have told Ellen this.

The grave where Harry is buried is curiously undisturbed. If the Investigators come back one dark night and unearth the body (graverobbing is normally considered illegal) they will notice that it shows no signs of walking about. What's more, a Spot Hidden, or any Investigator looking specifically for this, will notice that the marks of decay on the body are different from those on the corpse that walks. This is not the same corpse!

Wherever Ellen is hidden, "Harry" will be able to find her. The Investigators should be able to destroy him several times, but he will just keep coming back, stronger. If the Investigators decide to break off, and leave the couple to their fate, eventually "Harry" will kill both of them. When the Investigators hear of this, it will cost each 1d4 SAN, +1 for each day over the first that they have spent with the deceased.

Harry Cooperrider, the Corpse

Its goal is to kill Ellen Wheeler Cooperrider, with its own hands. To achieve this, it will attack anyone and anything that stands in its way, until it is destroyed for the night. It does have a rudimentary level of intelligence - if the obviously easier way is to go around something or someone, it will do so. Every night, it will come back at full Hit Points, and basically the same appearance (decaying, but recognizable), no matter what was done to it last time. What's more, every night it is destroyed, or physically thwarted (by walls and such), its Strength and Constitution will go up by 4 points each, up to until about 25, or when it really starts to give the characters trouble to dispose of it (Keeper's judgement), they they will go up by 2 points each night. At STR 20+, it should be able to break down doors - at STR 30+ it can knock holes in walls. Think "Night of the Living Dead."

Every night, at total darkness, about an hour after sunset, it will rise out of the ground, preferably at the graveyard where Harry is buried, but in any case no more than about two hours walk/shamble from where Ellen is. It will then proceed towards her. It will always infallibly know the direction where she is. When it takes enough damage to be destroyed, or at sunrise in any case, it will vanish without a trace (not even the graveyard odor it carries with it, or any muddy footprints) until the following night. It may be played either as the strong, menacing, silent type, or with entreaties, such as "Darling, why have you forsaken me? Come back to your husband now, please. We can be together again - forever," in a deep, graveyard or monotone voice. In any case, it is an automaton, and will not respond to speech or even understand it.

The Solution

What is causing the corpse to walk? Why Ellen is, of course. If the investigators specifically look into Ellen's early history (Library Use and/or Occult skill may help), or ask her parents about it, they will find out that when she was very young, she displayed some card reading ability, and when she was thirteen, their house in Ohio was plagued with Poltergeist activity until the family moved away. When the Investigators first meet Ellen, she is too shaken for a Psychology roll to tell more than that she is scared, and she isn't very useful to talk to, as she jumps at shadows. If they manage to survive the first night, though, a successful Psychonalysis roll on any following day will calm her down some, and enable conversation, when a Psychology roll will tell that she is deeply worried about her future marriage, and not at all sure that she is ready. A second Psychology roll will tell that she blames herself for Harry's death, and feels very, extremely, guilty, about being about to marry again.

She is creating the corpse every night.

There are several ways to solve this problem, and it is the Keeper's choice which of these will work.

First, and easiest, there is just telling Ellen that she is causing this. It would take either an Oratory or a Debate, plus either a Psychoanalysis or Psychology roll, to convince her enough so that the corpse would not walk - but Ellen, and Aaron, will both be initially hostile to the idea. It could even take several successes, or several days, or require Impaling rolls, if the Keeper likes the nightly combat or chase sequence with the monster.

Then there is Psychoanalysis, just to make Ellen feel less guilty about Harry's death, and re-marrying. Though it would, of course, take time far beyond the span of the game to "cure" Ellen's problems, it would only take abut 1d3+1 days of successful Psychoanalysis rolls to stop the corpse from coming. During this time, the corpse will keep showing up, but on any day that the roll succeeds, it would not gain any Strength or Constitution, and on an Impaling roll, it would lose 4 points of each. The advantage of this method is that it doesn't require the Investigators to confront Ellen, and they might even happen on the cure without even realizing what was going on, just from seeing that Ellen needs to talk.

Then there is always Magic. If the players figure out an ingenious use of the spells they have, it might work to dispel the corpse permanently. "Mundane" spells, such as damage causing spells, or summoned creatures, or tricking the creature through a Gate, would only get rid of the creature for the night, like normal weapons, but perhaps the Investigators could Mind Link with Ellen somehow. Let them be creative.

Finally, there is Catharsis. If the corpse seems on the verge of destroying the Investigator group (after all, they only heal at normal rates), and you are feeling like a particularly kind Keeper, let Aaron Driben (or, if he is being played as a Player Character, some relative of Ellen's, a parent or such) rush forth and be destroyed. Then Ellen can, with a horrid scream, confront "Harry," realize that she is animating him, and dispel him. But don't even think about how much SAN loss that would cost her - if you, the Keeper, change your mind later, and decide that you were too generous, this would be an excellent excuse to have her show up in a future scenario as the adversary, summoning up all sorts of imaginary - but - deadly creatures.

Keeper's Notes

The wounded state of the fiancé is meant to give the Investigators a clue that though the thing they are dealing with can be handled by bullets, this will not settle it. Driben should be presented as good physically and with a gun. If your players don't get the hint immediately, don't worry, they will in two nights. Driben can also be used as a Player Character, if you want to introduce one to the group in a dramatic way. Obviously, don't use Ellen as a P.C.

Whenever the characters think of even a marginally reasonable stratagem to destroy the corpse, let them get away with it - the corpse is, after all, not too bright, and it will just come back the next night. But it will not fall for the same trick twice, and its very stupidity may help it evade some traps. If the characters cast spells against the corpse that it needs to resist with POW or Magic Points, the first time each spell is used, treat the corpse's POW as 1 - for subsequent uses, treat the corpse's POW or Magic Points as Ellen's 25. If most characters in your campaign carry guns, the corpse should take half damage from all guns, due to being a corpse and not really caring about being shot through any vital organs. If few characters in your campaign have or use guns, do not do this, since they have to be able to destroy it a few times while they investigate. It just shouldn't be too easy.

SAN loss for the NPC's

Aaron takes standard SAN losses, Ellen takes 1d8 SAN loss, no save, each night she meets the corpse, but has no chance of going Indefinitely Insane. She can go Temporarily Insane, which would result in her just staring glassy-eyed as the corpse approaches, or she can go Permanently Insane when her SAN reaches 0 - which would not be at all healthy for the Investigators, as she gradually realizes that she controls the corpse, and can do interesting things with it... Anyone who knew Harry well in life would also take 1d8 SAN losses, but could go Indefinitely Insane.

Dramatis Personae

Aaron Driben
STR:14 CON:13 SIZ:13 INT:12 POW:11 DEX:11 APP:12 EDU:12 SAN:50
HP:(13) currently 11
Credit Rating 25%, Dodge 42%, Drive Automobile (40%) currently 30%, First Aid 50%, Handgun 80%, Hide 35%, Law 25%, Listen 45%, Sneak 35%, Spot Hidden 45%.
+1d4 Hand-to-Hand Damage Bonus

Ellen Wheeler Cooperrider
STR:8 CON:10 SIZ:10 INT:13 POW:25 DEX:9 APP:15 EDU:10 SAN:40
HP:10
No Useful Skills. Others (Dance, Cook, R/W English, etc.) 55%.

"Harry Cooperrider," the Corpse
STR:13 (goes up) CON:13 (goes up) SIZ:14 INT:5 POW:1 (or 25) DEX:8
HP:14 (goes up) SAN cost: -1d6/-0
Fist 50%, Grapple 25%
+1d4 Hand-to-Hand Damage Bonus,
Takes Half Damage from all guns.


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