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Corum89

The Haunting

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Corum89

Hello Yoggies!

It's been a while since I posted, and I was getting ready to run an intro scenario for some new players (new to Call of Cthulhu, anyway).  I was looking at resources and I found the handouts created for the scenario in the Files Section.  I read over them, and compared them to the scenario as found in CoC 6th Edition (the one I have on hand).  Then I cruised around on the internet looking for atmospheric photos and art, and I started thinking about the neighborhood and the address listed ont he Handouts:  Copp's Terrace.

The issue I have is:  The Old Corbitt House couldn't be at 20 Copp's Terrace, at least not during the 1920s.  The place would have been directly in the path of a 35 foot tall wave of boiling molasses in January 1919.  It killed a dozen people and destroyed most of residential Copp's Terrace, sparing only the graveyard.  There's also the adjacent graveyard to the Old Corbitt House, if it is placed at 20 Copp's Terrace.  So, even if the house somehow avoided the Great Molasses Flood of 1919, it would still be a house reeking of the molasses smell that lingered in the area for years, and next to one of the oldest graveyards in Boston.  Both of which would be HUGE red herrings to most players.

In my humble opinion a better place for the house would be either in Mission Hill or on the south end of Hanover Street, near Cross Street.  Don't get me wrong, I think the handouts are wonderful; but historically the address is at best improbable.  

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yronimoswhateley

It's only a problem if you make it one by drawing attention to it, or if you absolutely cannot suspend your disbelief after doing outside research.  Unless your players have memorized the exact date and location of the flood for some reason (maybe they live in the neighborhood? Just finished watching a documentary?), it's unlikely they'll notice unless some of the hand-outs you're looking at mention it; in my experience, the majority of players are pretty good at suspending disbelief and paying attention to the facts as you present them.  Have some faith in your players' ability to suspend disbelief, and support your game, surely they aren't THAT tough a crowd?

 

On the other hand, "The Haunting" is a very flexible scenario - the handouts aside, it's extremely easy to reset the basic scenario to any date or location you want, from something as simple as choosing a date a couple weeks, days, or even several hours before the flood, or a neighborhood or two away from the flood, or by doing something a little more exotic, like setting "The Haunting" on a space ship or alien planet in the future (it's not as crazy as it might sound:  several modern sci-fi/horror movies, including Event Horizon and Alien, are basically haunted house investigation stories reset in space!)  You can try setting "The Haunting" in your neighborhood in the modern era; or set it as a reality TV ghost-hunting expedition from the 2000s; or as a traditional or "spaghetti" Western ghost story - or as a similarly-themed "Eastern" frontier horror story set in Eastern Europe or Asia; or in a creepy bunker on a battlefield in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, former Yugoslavia, etc. (war horror stories of this sort are another popular modern horror film subgenre), or in 1990s Japan or Korea etc. ("The Haunting", after all, wouldn't look out of place alongside "J-Horror"/"K-Horror"/"A-Horror" genre horrors like "Kwaidan", "The Ring", "Dark Water", "The Grudge"), out-of-the-way rural areas in the 1960s or so (the setting for well-regarded haunted house films like "The Legend of Hell House" or "The Haunting", both of which inspired this scenario).... 

 

Somewhere between those two extremes, there's really nothing stopping you from moving "The Haunting" to 1920s Kingsport, Arkham, Innsmouth, Dunwich, or some other Lovecraftian or pseudo-Lovecraftian imaginary setting ('Salem's Lot, Derry, Collinsport, etc.), where you have a little more control over history, aside from some minor adjustments to hand-outs and read-out-loud text.

 

It would all depend on what interests you and your group, what setting you know the best and find it easiest to suspend your disbelief in, and what fits in with any plans you have for a larger campaign (I prefer home-brewed one-shot scenarios, but groups that prefer large, elaborate, professionally-written published campaigns might have more limited options), but the possibilities are limited only by you and your group.

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vincentVV

I have another proposition.

 

I've recently read a short story "Medusa's Coil" or something like that from a compilation of lovecraft-like stories (sorry, no title for now). The final twist of the story is (spoiler warning!)

 

 

the main hero spent a night in a house that was burned down 20 years ago and talked to a person who had already been dead for the same period of time

 

 

So, why not use this idea in The Haunting?

 

 

the PCs go through the adventure all the way only to discover at the end that the house was totally destroyed in 1919 and all its inhabitants dead! So - was the whole adventure a dream? a mass halucination? A trip to some other reality?

The idea is very Silent Hill - like.

 

 

Hope this helps! =)

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Gaffer

I set it in the rundown suburb of Jamaica Plain, backing up on a huge cemetery where I located the Chapel of Contemplation.

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ReydeAmarillo

I have another proposition.

 

I've recently read a short story "Medusa's Coil" or something like that from a compilation of lovecraft-like stories (sorry, no title for now). The final twist of the story is (spoiler warning!)

 

 

the main hero spent a night in a house that was burned down 20 years ago and talked to a person who had already been dead for the same period of time

 

 

So, why not use this idea in The Haunting?

 

 

the PCs go through the adventure all the way only to discover at the end that the house was totally destroyed in 1919 and all its inhabitants dead! So - was the whole adventure a dream? a mass halucination? A trip to some other reality?

The idea is very Silent Hill - like.

 

 

Hope this helps! =)

Vincent VV - Love this idea, as you say very Silent Hill. Maybe, for an ongoing campaign, link it in with a cult of Yogsothoth????

 

But, more generally I back up all the other posts that this scenario (with a little work) can be converted to fit anywhere. I am a Londoner and when I ran (a 50% modified version of) the Haunting it was set in a rundown 2 up- 2 down on a working class side street in SW London.

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windandfire

Anything in the handouts that says you can't set it in 1919, just before the flood? :) That'd be an interesting finale if the players get caught in a sticky situation (couldn't help myself)

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ElijahWhateley

Given the strange affinity of Lovecraft fans for the Great Molasses Flood, I would not be surprised if this was intentional.

 

And I'll leave this here:

 

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Rebensteiger

I think you can find ways to incoporate the Molasses Flood into the scenario. Either 

 

1) Like windandfire suggests, push the dates back so it takes place just before the tank explosion in January 1919. it's already set in 1920, one year won't make much of a difference in setting or atmosphere. And after the players face off against Corbitt you can have the molasses wipe out the house and any bodies left within might be mistaken as victims of the flood...

2) imply the house survived the flood through some unnatural force. Perhaps some eyewitnesses saw it part around the house like the Red Sea for Moses, or swatted away as if by an invisible hand... 

 

and if neither option appeals to you as a Keeper then just move the location away from Copp's Hill Terrace. I've seen other custom handouts that place the house on Sheafe Street or on French Hill Street.

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DeUniversumMysteriis

Well, just change the location. All you'll have to do is modify the handouts that mention the address.

In my version of the Haunting, the whole thing takes place in modern day France. With a bit of work everything is possible.

 

 

Or you could simply keep the location and your players will get very suspicious about this house who miraculously survived the flood.

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HelplessBystander

Something similar happened in my run of The Haunting as well. The PCs realised that the house has something very, very suspicious going on, and contact the owner to get a cleaning crew in and a Roman Catholic priest to help them 'exorcise' the house. To make things more complicated, after they found out that ol' Corbitt was buried in the basement, the PCs had decided to go and get an undertaker from a cemetery to tag along to take care of corpse! Their in-game reason for doing all of this was to clear off the bad rep surrounding the Corbitt house (their reasoning was very convincing), and so I had to expand a party of 3 into a party of 9! The Cleaning Crew NPCs, The Priest, and The Undertaker were all improvised on the spot, but implementing the PCs as part of a reverberation effort gone wrong after The Great Molasses Flood could work too, from what I gathered during that session. 

 

Somehow, my session of The Haunting managed to have a body count high enough to trigger my MON flashbacks.

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ElijahWhateley

I would avoid bringing up the Great Molasses Flood if you want to keep a serious tone in your game. Despite the terrifying nature of people dying in molasses, very few players could keep a straight face while discussing it for long.

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klecser

Just like any CoC scenario, the Keeper can often flex any aspect of location and time to suit their tastes.  If historical authenticity is critical for you, move the date or location, as suggested above.

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Gaffer

A shoggoth that they initially mistake for a leftover pool of molasses could be funny.

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HelplessBystander

^ What they said, I agree with 100%

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yronimoswhateley

Depending on your group, I suppose that there could be a certain brand of nihilistic horror to being called in to investigate a haunted house, befriending a few friendly locals (and one or two suspicious or even downright hostile ones) while gathering the history of the house, then over the next couple days finding nothing more haunted than a couple standard-issue local ghost stories, a drafty window or two, and a couple rats in the cellar, and then suddenly, while compiling your report on your last day there, finding yourself right in the middle of one of the more bizarre industrial accidents of all time, with most of the NPCs you've met and talked to over the last couple days drowned or severely traumatized in the senseless, bizarre, but completely mundane horror of the real life disaster. 

 

If you keep things ambiguous and use the old Call of Cthulhu stand-by of never mentioning the name of the horror (a Molasses flood), relying instead only on sketchy, surreal and horrific descriptions of its effects (check out the real-life accounts of the disaster - scenes from the thing were more bizarre and surreal than any fictional monster attack), players may well be uncertain, even after the newspaper reports and such explain everything rationally, that nothing supernatural actually happened, especially if the suspicious minds of players naturally try to find patterns to the whole experience that simply do not exist; the players may well spook themselves more over a senseless and nameless flood of slow-moving, inky black goo than they ever would over a haunted house....

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Gaffer

And then when they investigate and find everything at the molasses factory intact...

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yronimoswhateley

Yes, and nobody in the waking world can remember or find the drowned neighborhood or the Corbitt House again, only a vacant spot downhill from the factory where the neighborhood could have been, and though the name "Corbitt" does figure prominently in hooks and clues to the next scenario, and a deserted village suspiciously resembling the Corbitt House and its surrounding neighborhood can be found in the Dreamlands....

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HelplessBystander

...and eventually leading into a Dreamlands campaign. Personally, I disagree with about 90% of everything written in the sourcebook. It failed to display how to merge something is essentially a glorified D&D Dungeon Crawl with the Horror, and most of my Dreamlands campaign was almost entirely reliant on improvisation. I don't generally bastardise a Chaosium Source-book, but when I do, I change EVERYTHING. I would allow my players the right to read through the Source-book and feed them misinformation ("Think D&D, but with dreams!"), and then...mwhahaha, I would change everything into a nightmarish hellscape where nothing can be trusted a-la Paranoia style.

 

Every team member is essentially in a state of temp. Insanity and will act on their insanity at any given moment, and every creature that you can logically think of being encountered within the Dreamlands can get unfair power-ups and there's blood everywhere, the Great Ones will not help, and everyone of them will experience some sort of stat penalty as they gradually become more and more Dream-savvy. 

 

TL;DR I run Dreamlands campaigns harsher than my Waking-world COC campaigns to make them dread the adventures in the Dreamlands and to deter them from intentionally going there to find clues during adventures. In my group, that was successful.

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boulash

Pretty much off-topic, please kick me out if I start annoying...

 

I actually like the idea of turning something camp, tacky or even ridiculous into a nightmare of horror.

 

After my holidays on the Baleares, I thought about a scene that could start in a trendy night-club, during a "foam" party (one of the most ridiculous thing in the universe, IMHO). The beat is fast, but suddenly people start screaming and running for the doors. The "flashing" lights are on, the foam that was all white starts getting stained with crimson patches. A man lies on a chair, seemingly completely stoned or wasted, characters can only see his upper body (guess what happened to the lower part...). Lots of "Jaws" effects are possible (people disappearing under the foam, hands popping out and jerking...).

 

On top of that, you could scene the demise of the famous DJ (David Guetta or Paris Hilton ?), I'm sure it could be exhilarating.

 

A bad patch of designer drugs ? A construction site that dug too deep and startled some ancient things ? An invocation provoked by the nasty habit tourists have to erect piles of small rocks pretty much everywhere on the island (in this case, Ibiza) ?

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yronimoswhateley

Yes, and yes -

 

I wouldn't go so far as to say the default Dreamlands writing is simply a "dungeon crawl", but with Dunsany's original Dreamlands stories being an influence on Lovecraft, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the majority of other fantasy writers, and the guys who created D&D, it's sometimes easy to dismiss or just let the setting default to a "generic" fantasy kind or thing, when the Dreamlands can be used for so much more than that. 

 

And I definitely agree that the absurd and weird horror can work very well together.  I think the boundary between horror and humor is a thin one, that a lot of Lovecraft's stories are structured similarly to jokes (complete with "punchlines" in many cases - the various episodes of "Herbert West: Re-Animator" are a more obvious example, but the more serious "The Statement of Randolph Carter" is another example), and that the only thing that really separates humor from horror is a question of mood, and the seriousness with which the absurd element gets treated.  (If you've never read it before, the Stephen King story "The Moving Finger" is IMHO a great example of something that should be ridiculous working as horror, and one of those rare situations where Stephen King's brand of horror really worked for me....)

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HelplessBystander

Yes, and yes -

 

I wouldn't go so far as to say the default Dreamlands writing is simply a "dungeon crawl", but with Dunsany's original Dreamlands stories being an influence on Lovecraft, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the majority of other fantasy writers, and the guys who created D&D, it's sometimes easy to dismiss or just let the setting default to a "generic" fantasy kind or thing, when the Dreamlands can be used for so much more than that. 

 

And I definitely agree that the absurd and weird horror can work very well together.  I think the boundary between horror and humor is a thin one, that a lot of Lovecraft's stories are structured similarly to jokes (complete with "punchlines" in many cases - the various episodes of "Herbert West: Re-Animator" are a more obvious example, but the more serious "The Statement of Randolph Carter" is another example), and that the only thing that really separates humor from horror is a question of mood, and the seriousness with which the absurd element gets treated.  (If you've never read it before, the Stephen King story "The Moving Finger" is IMHO a great example of something that should be ridiculous working as horror, and one of those rare situations where Stephen King's brand of horror really worked for me....)

 

Personally, I am a huge fan of Stephen King, and yes, the Dreamlands has the potential to be so much more. But the Dreamlands Sourcebook never expanded upon these ideas and the core tenants of the Lovecraftian Horror was almost completely ignored and hand-waved away. Of the dreamland-adventures that came with the book, only two or three of them really worked. And even then with a lot of modifications on my part to bring out more horror.

 

Personally, I disliked stories like 'Herbet West: Re-Animator', these stories was too tainted with his racism and overall awfulness as a human being for me to enjoy impartially. There are many things that I find myself disagreeing with when reading his works. He often characterised the country folks as back-wards, inbred, and poorly-educated. Please don't me started on his views on race and foreign immigration. You're welcome to have your own views, and I am a fan of his horrors and creations; it's his personality and views on class and race that I truly have a problem with.

 

Yes, I LOVE absurd horror. I have often modified many areas of the Dreamlands to make it into my own brand of absurd horror. The Magic Forest the investigators found themselves in during an intrepid adventure in the Dreamlands was modified by to be dense and foggy, as well as being populated by Horrors Nameless. The trees secret a gooey, honey-like liquid that tastes SO AWFUL that any attempt to eat or digest it will cost 1 HP, and will take 1D20 hours for the Dream-body to process. 

 

The entire intro adventure ended up with the PCs hugging a tall tree with the eyes closed, waiting for the Horrors Nameless below them to pass away. I believe that the only way to do Wickedly Absurd Horror is to make the Investigators confused about everything, so that they could interact with the world using only limited information that make things either more or less intimidating. 

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DeUniversumMysteriis

Yes, I LOVE absurd horror. I have often modified many areas of the Dreamlands to make it into my own brand of absurd horror. The Magic Forest the investigators found themselves in during an intrepid adventure in the Dreamlands was modified by to be dense and foggy, as well as being populated by Horrors Nameless. The trees secret a gooey, honey-like liquid that tastes SO AWFUL that any attempt to eat or digest it will cost 1 HP, and will take 1D20 hours for the Dream-body to process.

 

It's funny.

 

Totally off-topic but this reminds me of the story Splatter from Junji Ito.

 

 

It's about a man who travelled to South America, discovered a tribe worshipping a tree and its honey and brought some honey with him back home. The tribe only warned him about "not being caught eating the honey".

The honey reveals to be the most delicious thing the man has ever tasted. He becomes totally addicted to it, everything else tastes bad in comparison.

 

And one day, the man's friends go to his place because they haven't seen him for days. What they found are human remains splattered on a wall.

Off course, one of the friends tastes the honey...

 

 

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HelplessBystander

It's funny.

 

Totally off-topic but this reminds me of the story Splatter from Junji Ito.

 

 

It's about a man who travelled to South America, discovered a tribe worshipping a tree and its honey and brought some honey with him back home. The tribe only warned him about "not being caught eating the honey".

The honey reveals to be the most delicious thing the man has ever tasted. He becomes totally addicted to it, everything else tastes bad in comparison.

 

And one day, the man's friends go to his place because they haven't seen him for days. What they found are human remains splattered on a wall.

Off course, one of the friends tastes the honey...

 

 

Oh yes, my favourite mangaka is Junji Ito. He's the best in the Seinin Horror business. Personally, my favorite is Gyo. That was SO messed up. The mountain range one was pretty good as well, it's just not cosmic horror. But then again, it's on Steven Universe, so I stand corrected.

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DeUniversumMysteriis

Oh yes, my favourite mangaka is Junji Ito. He's the best in the Seinin Horror business. Personally, my favorite is Gyo. That was SO messed up. The mountain range one was pretty good as well, it's just not cosmic horror. But then again, it's on Steven Universe, so I stand corrected.

 

I love his work too.

 

My favourite would be The Long Dream. It just gives me the creeps. But the Uzumaki series isn't far behind.

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HelplessBystander

Personally, I think that was okay. Didn't really have as much emotional impact as Gyo. And I feel like his benchmark work of Cosmic Horror/grotesqueries are Gyo. I honestly couldn't get enough of it.

 

Furthermore, the mags didn't end with the main characters dying, as with so many horror stories these days. It's much more frightening to LIVE in a horror-soaked world than to die in one. :P

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