Guest Author - Jay Shaffstall
This is a traditional sort of Call of Cthulhu scenario. Give the characters a reason to go to someplace isolated, and then the weirdness begins.
The characters can be anyone, from anywhere around the world. They may or may not know the others, but each has received a legal notification from the law firm of Thurmbottom & Thurmbottom, stating that they are named in the will of Cedric Johnson.
Nearly everyone has heard of Cedric Johnson, the recluse billionaire who lives on a private island off the coast of Maine. The player characters would certainly have heard stories of Cedric from their parents, stories that show the real character of Cedric Johnson. His frequent bouts with madness, and his tyrannical ways that drove his children away from him as soon as they were able to leave. Nobody who knew Cedric personally had a kind word to say about him, yet he has named the characters in his will.
The legal notification included plane tickets to Maine, and a driver to take them the rest of the way to the coastal city nearest Johnson Island. At the docks there, they are all met by a taciturn old boatman who has been engaged to take them out to the island for the reading of the will. The boat ride to the island is just long enough for the PCs to all get to know each other a bit, if they haven't met before.
At the island, they are met on the docks by Reginald Thurmbottom, the grandson of Cedric's original lawyer. Reginald is a likeable young man who has been tasked with carrying out the last wishes of the firm's most eccentric client. The first drops of rain are just starting to fall as they boat leaves for the mainland again, to return to pick them up in the morning (the will specified a night's stay as the condition of receiving their inheritance).
He leads them up the path to the cliff entrance, where he unlocks a steel door that opens into a corridor cut through solid rock. The corridor ends at an elevator that stand open, waiting to take them up to the house itself. Locking the steel door behind them, Reginald leads them into the house, and shows them their bedrooms. After they freshen up, they're to come to the grand salon, where Cedric's body is on display, for the reading of the will.
If you are a Call of Cthulhu player, stop reading now! Send the address of this article to your GM.
When everyone is assembled in the grand salon, Reginald gives them all a few minutes to pay their least respects to Cedric Johnson. Cedric lays on a raised platform surrounded by easy chairs. He's dressed in what must have been his best suit, collar starched and buttoned up to his Adam's apple. His eyes are open, but unseeing (someone will no doubt close his eyes, most groups have at least one character who'll do that).
After they've had their moments with Cedric, Reginald makes sure that they're all settled into the easy chairs, and then stands behind Cedric's body, outlined by the first starts of lightning outside the huge windows.
Reginald reads the will:
"I, Cedric Johnson, being of sound mind and failing body, do hereby bequeath my entire estate to those of my descendants described in the attached codicil." Reginald will describe, if asked, that the codicil specifies characteristics of descendants, not actual names. He was part of the team that researched Johnson's descendants to identify the ones who matched the requirements.
"My estate shall be equally divided among the survivors, who must spend a night in my beloved house on Johnson Island." If anyone asks about the word "survivors", Reginald explains that he thinks Cedric was just talking about if any of his descendants had died before him. He's wrong, of course, but poor Reginald doesn't know that.
"And finally, I leave this bit of wisdom for my descendants, Shag Naggur Rhys!"
At that last baffling phrase, a massive bolt lightning of lightning strikes just outside the house, the thunder shaking the walls as the lights go out, plunging the house into darkness. Reginald is quick to reassure everyone that the generator does go out now and then, and it simply needs restarted. He asks everyone to stay in their seats, he knows the way and will get it started in moments.
The PCs can hear Reginald moving around and passing through a door at one end of the grand salon. After a moment they hear an electrical zap, Reginald's brief scream, and then silence (this is the point at which Cedric's eyes open again, although the PCs aren't in a position to notice yet).
The PCs are on their own until the next morning. Those with cell phones find that they can get no connections on the island. The storm will keep even the strongest of swimmers from trying to make it the several miles to the mainland.
The basic plot going on here is that Cedric has made his billions via dark magic, working with Deep Ones that inhabit the coastal areas around Maine to develop amazingly effective pharmaceuticals. When he realized he was dying, Cedric worked one last magic. This one ensured that he would live forever, immortal, provided that he could drain enough life energy from certain of his descendants.
Every death on the island feeds Cedric a bit of power, more if the death is one of his descendants. Reginald's death provides a nice pick me up, but doesn't really do Cedric much practical good. At the start of the game, he's limited to a few poltergeist like effects, and to speaking mind to mind. His goal is to get the PCs to kill each other off, but he's not above loosening a window over the cliff, and slamming a chair into whoever goes to close it in the hopes that they plummet to their death. He'll keep it private, though.
If it looks like the PCs are not going to kill each other off immediately, he'll speak mind to mind with one or two and tell them that the "survivors inherit everything". Also, if anyone goes insane (drops below 80% of their starting sanity), he'll influence them to be more bloodthirsty.
Any characters that manage to climb down the elevator shaft, pop the hinges on the steel door, and make their way to the dock and boat house will be met by Deep Ones emerging from the sea. The Deep Ones cannot make it up the elevator shaft (it's too small a space), so the house is the only safe haven at first. Later, Deep Ones will emerge from the basement well and invade the house that way.
Cedric's Last Spell
Cedric's immortality spell is embodied in an amulet he wears under his starched collar. Any of the PCs, being of Cedric's bloodline, can benefit from the spell if they are holding the amulet. Any injury done to another PC when one of them is holding the amulet will suffuse the holder with a feeling of energy and well-being. If another PC actually dies while one of them is holding the amulet, the holder is instantly addicted to the rush of additional energy, and will seek to repeat the experience. The Deep Ones will not attack the amulet holder.
Every death of a PC gives Cedric more energy. One death gives him extra telekinetic energy, which he'll use to try and force a second death. The second death allows him to reanimate his body. By the time all but one of the PCs are dead, Cedric is in the full-bloom of youth again, and immortal.
If the PCs survive until morning, the boatman picks them up at the docks and returns them to the mainland. The Deep Ones leave at dawn, or if Cedric or the amulet is destroyed. Those that survive do inherit Cedric's billions, and no doubt spend it on psychotherapy.
Be creative with sanity checks, but here are a few that I use. Sanity loss is in the form of success/failure.
The initial loss of power due to nearby lightning: 0/1
Reginald's death cry: 0/1
First sight of Reginald's crispy body: 1/1d4
First sight of Cedric's eyes open when they had been closed: 1/2
First sight of a Deep One: 1/1d6
Sight of a fellow PC's death: 2/1d6
Cedric's journals: start low and increase the more they read
Johnson Island is several miles off the rocky coast of Main. The island itself is little more than a mile long, and a quarter mile wide. The mainland side of it is level with the sea, and has a dock and boathouse. The land slopes upward to a cliff, and the mansion is built on top of the cliff.
The elevator raises into the main entry way of the house on the first floor. There is a small maintenance shaft that can be reached from the top of the elevator, with iron rungs set into the rock to allow descent if the elevator isn't working.
Note that four bedrooms are shown. Feel free to match the number of bedrooms to the number of characters. The d�cor in the bedrooms is decidedly dark, and seems to be concerned with human suffering.
Note that the secret door in the library is opened using a switch hidden behind some books in the bookshelf. A portion of the bookshelf swings away to reveal the corridor beyond. Ideally this wouldn't be found until late in the scenario. Some of the books in the library can call for minor sanity checks, but Cedric's journals are found in the basement.
The storage area is filled with boxes, and a desk that at one time was used for business paperwork. The generator/fusebox room has the generator and extra cans of gasoline for it. The most likely use of this gasoline is to eventually torch the house.
The kitchen has an assortment of lethal looking butcher knives, and the pantry includes (along with the usual foodstuffs) a collection of unmarked wine bottles. These bottles are Cedric's attempt to distill an immortality elixir from experiments with the blood of Deep Ones. It's actually quite tasty, and anyone who drinks a significant amount of it will dream quite strange dreams (subject to a sanity check at 1/1d4) the next time they sleep.
The wall of the grand salon facing out over the ocean is all windows. The chances are good that a character will be thrown out those windows at some point. It's far more entertaining to allow them a luck and/or dexterity roll to grab hold of the edge of the sill than to just toss them to the death. That way, their comrades must try to save them, while at the same time trying to avoid any Deep Ones that might be nearby.
The basement caverns are where Cedric did his unholy work. The generator there powers lights in the cavern only. The well has water at nearly the top of it (the circular stairs descended far enough that the cavern is very nearly at sea level).
The bookcase contains Cedric's journals, telling of his experimentations. Make up any sort of outrageous activities that you want for the early journals, and assess relatively mild sanity checks for them. Anyone reading all the journals will definitely end up insane, though, as the penalties for the sanity checks increase from journal to journal.
The final journals do tell about Cedric's desire for immortality, and mention the amulet he is imbuing with the power of the Deep Ones. The alchemical workbench has all manner of noxious chemicals, some of which can be used effectively as weapons against the Deep Ones (throwing a bottle of acid, for example).
The Deep Ones use the well to access the house. At the proper time, have them emerge from the well and invade the house proper.