Way Down. In Ioway.
Author(s): X.D. Eness
Appears in: Halloween Horror 2.
Set in rural Iowa in the 1920s this adventure incorporates atypical Cthulhu Mythos elements. The adventure has wide application for an experienced group of players who may mistake the adventure’s conventions as an indication that they’ve “been down this road before.” It will instead provide a few refreshing surprises for even the most jaded player.
Spoilers - Keepers Eyes Only
Players should not read any further.
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Sherwin Farner owns Farner Press, the local printer of a variety of daily and weekly newspapers. He is a total recluse, with none of his employees having seen him for years. The truth is that Farner is a man dedicated to tracking and thwarting the Cthulhu Mythos, but in a quite unusual way. He has built himself an enormous library of forged Mythos books, elaborate fakes intended to be attractive to cultists. His idea is that the rumour of such an established Mythos collection will cause these cultists to expose themselves (as they attempt to acquire it). Furthermore if ever the fake books were successfully stolen, Farner believes that the bogus information contained within could be tracked as it is passed from Mythos worshipper to Mythos worshipper -- allowing parts of the intricate network of Mythos cults to become exposed.
The players take on the roles of employees of Farner Press, summoned one day on friendly if mysterious terms to the Farner farmhouse by their employer to house-sit during his absence.
Player Handouts: List the player handouts here.
Locations: Viscill, Iowa, Oct 24-Nov 3 1926
Creatures: various cultists and henchmen, fake "Ghouls"
Tomes and Artifacts: a library full of fake "Mythos tomes"
Campaigns / Scenarios:
Trivia: By default, the scenario is set around the death of famous escape artist and Lovecraft collaborator Harry Houdini's death on October 31, 1926 (Halloween); HP Lovecraft ghost-wrote "Under the Pyramids" (AKA "Imprisoned With The Pharaohs" and "Entombed With the Pharaohs") for Houdini, who appears to have enjoyed Lovecraft's many alterations to his original tall-tale.
The primary antagonist in this scenario has a particular worldview about the Cthulhu Mythos -- that it is actually an elaborate hoax perpetrated by a long-standing secret society. The scenario admonishes the Keeper that a decision will need to be made as to whether this worldview is entirely misguided or has some basis in truth.
This scenario plays against many of the stereotypes and preconceptions of most Call of Cthulhu scenarios, to the extent that experienced players and characters are prone to jump to incorrect conclusions based on their knowledge of what is 'typical'. This could work as a "Halloween prank" diversion to a normal campaign, or as a self-contained one-shot, or as part of an ongoing campaign that assumes the 'atypical' Mythos elements are true.
Setting: 1926 Iowa, USA, but probably easy to reset in any rural location. Several minor plot points specifically date this to around October, 1926, and it may lose a little bit by moving it to another date. This scenario supposedly works best when the PCs don't have firearms, and setting it in other countries might make this easier.
Special Notes: Best for 4-6 investigators, and the scenario includes two optional Pre-Gens to fill out the ranks as NPCs, if needed. This scenario suffers a little more than others in this book from typos and editing problems, but is still readable (and, I feel, quite enjoyable) in spite of that. This scenario should be an accessible adventure for new players, but it is one of the more eccentric CoC scenarios I've ever seen and is designed to throw experienced and somewhat jaded players off balance by playing atypical Mythos elements. The Keeper should try to find a way to plausibly deny the PCs firearms.
Dependence on Halloween: A few minor plot points relate to the death of Harry Houdini on October 31, 1926, and might provide a "red-herring" hint to some assumed occult significance to player assumptions about Halloween, but these are really just red herrings, and don't have any greater importance to the eccentric plot than to add more weirdness to it. The scenario notes that these details can be altered, but if used in a different year and date would be anachronistic.
Sequel Plot Hooks: The villain's odd theory about the Mythos and the questions it leaves might be treated as the campaign's hidden reality and expanded upon to change the perspective and character of an entire campaign. Farner's conspiracy against the Mythos cults and their reaction to it may be used as a springboard for further adventures. Farner himself could become a recurring character, involving the investigators in even stranger plots.