The Crack'd and Crook'd Manse
Author(s): Mark Morrison
The investigators explore the usual sinister house, only to find a distinctly unusual resident.
- Wordpress CoC Scenario Review
- Demian Katz's review at OgreCave
- Review/Tips by Seth Skorkowsky on YouTube
Spoilers - Keepers Eyes Only
Players should not read any further.
Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)
The investigators are hired to determine the whereabouts of a famous and wealthy archaeologist, Arthur Cornthwaite. No one has heard from him in two weeks and his lawyers have sent the investigators to the Fitzgerald Manse in rural Massachusetts to discover where Cornthwaite has been (and if he's still among the living). The Fitzgerald Manse has had a long and troubled history including murder and suicide, and many nearby residents consider it to be ominous or even haunted. Cornthwaite has owned the property for the past several years, is very generous toward the nearby town of Gamwell, and is generally well-regarded although a bit reclusive.
Two years earlier, Cornthwaite led an expedition into the jungles of South America searching for evidence of a lost civilization. He found what he was seeking in an ancient temple...he also found a spawn of Shub-Niggurath. The only survivor of the expedition, Cornthwaite returned home to the Fitzgerald Manse, destroyed his research, and locked his archaeological tools in the attic.
Unfortunately, a spoor of the creature has been growing in the attic, feeding on local animals, servants, and most recently Cornthwaite himself. The Creature is now a gigantic amorphous mass that can ooze into and through any room, wall, or fissure of the Fitzgerald Manse as well as roam the local countryside looking for food.
The investigators will need to discover just what is happening to the rapidly deteriorating mansion, locate the creature, and find a way to destroy it.
Player Handouts: The Manse Papers #1-5
- Letter from attorneys asking for help locating Mr. Cornthwaite.
- Newspaper article discussing the missing millionaire.
- Newspaper article about a family murder at the house.
- The Missing People book summary.
- Note from Cornthwaite, hinting about the monster.
- Keepers' and Players' maps of the house
Locations: Gamwell, Massachusetts (fictional town); The Fitzgerald Manse
Tomes and Artifacts: none
The scenario includes floor plans for the Fitzgerald Manse.
The scenario was originally used as a tournament module at Phantastacon ‘84 in Melbourne, Australia, and was then published in Multiverse issue 3 (1984). It was substantially revised for its appearance in the Mansions of Madness supplement.
There is a typo in the section describing Gamwell's graveyard: Henry Franklin's gravestone should carry the date 1918 (not 1911).
The scenario nominally takes place in February 1925, but can be changed to another year.
The scenario states that the solution to the adventure does not rely on special skills or magical knowledge, so it would be well suited for beginning players. Ideally, one of the investigators is a private detective in the New England area.
The scenario officially takes place in and near the fictional town of Gamwell, Massachusetts, but it could easily be re-located elsewhere.
The scenario hook letter refers to investigators as "one skilled in locating missing people, particularly those of Mr. Cornthwaite’s persuasion", considers them professionals, and gives them a fairly formal assignment. As such some appropriate backstory or previous gameplay may be called for, to give some more concrete basis than simply being an acquaintance of the missing man.
There are two tragic backstories to the house, but neither has any relevance to the main plot. They can be played up for creepiness or as specific red herrings, or sidelined.
The monster is an offshoot of Shub-Niggurath, though in the scenario as written the only clue is a slight resemblance detectable with a lucky Mythos roll. Moreover, there's little in-game information on the creature's origin, or how it ended up in Massachusetts. A Keeper interested in playing up either angle would need to create further references or clues. The missing man's books might contain further information on his travels, and clues to Shub-Niggurath worship in the area. Players might want to follow up with an expedition to the lost temple, perhaps to destroy the original beast.
The scenario notes suggest that the threat is basically unstoppable, as the creature's spores will spread far and wide. This provides for follow-on scenarios, though making these distinct and interesting could be a challenge. In addition, if this plot point is introduced, the investigators could well spend the next few decades hunting down tiny slime creatures across Connecticut, so perhaps not one to introduce lightly.
The scenario as written makes it more-or-less impossible for investigators to succeed at their mission; they can't produce Mr. Cornthwaite's remains (as he's been eaten), nor truthfully explain his disappearance (nobody will believe them), and the scenario has the monster destroying the house and possibly taking some investigators with it, in which case the investigators both lose their fees and are liable to prosecution. PCs or NPCs eaten along the way may also take some explaining. Since they're likely to have spent a long time poking around and ordered a truckload of salt to dump in the basement, pleading innocence may not be convincing.
If investigators are cunning, it's entirely possible for them to bring witnesses to see the monster, or even take some photographs.
Actually defeating the monster in combat is possible, but very difficult: it can attack simultaneously throughout the house, flood the entire ground floor to prevent escape, retreat into the walls to avoid serious threats, and takes minimal damage from everything but fire and salt. A drive-by salting, as pushed by the scenario, is a much better bet. No other combat is likely unless investigators provoke the local sheriff. As such, while unwary lone investigators may be picked off by the creature, not much actual fighting is likely to occur.
The following tips were posted to the Yog-Sothoth forums by jeferi:
- To not give away that the walls are thick enough to hold the monster, they will be looking for void spaces, but just make it like the plaster is thick; swollen with natural moisture.
- Move it up as they go down, and down as they go up, with a creak and a moan.
- The biggest thing is to have the sheriff and the newspaperman encounters ready to go at a moments notice and as soon as someone suspects something or tries to force the monsters hand, have them appear in at the door, drawing the party away. Don’t be afraid to interrupt the person talking to describe the interrupting event.
- No one ever has the salt delivered so don’t worry about that.
- Make a big deal about a big padlock on the basement doors on the outside, but once they break in the creature should be in the attic.
- Go to great ends to describe the water damage and warping involved, but most people will assume it’s a creature in the room not in the wall.
- A raging raccoon or 2 does wonders to distract the group.
- When they are finally ready and they suspect the worst, try to spring it on them when they are on the second floor and just flood the bottom level so they have to escape by jumping. If you think the players are really with it, put a well in the basement, just a red herring, but they will assume the water came from there or that’s where the monster came from.
- Play up the verdant front yard, it tends to isolate them and make them not to go outside for fear of dark young.
- Suggest that the gates should be locked and provide a padlock for that purpose with the key - good fun once they try to get away and have to scale the gate.
- Use plumbing noises and water pressure to keep them guessing.
Finale - So in summary have a line of well prepared interruptions and throw it out as soon as you think someone is getting suspicious. Never let them do a detailed search of the actual threat without an interruption. Hope that helps! They should really have a thread for discussion of every adventure.