THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE HAIRY
- An horror scenario by Brett Evill
This adventure was originally run using the Age of Reason supplement for ForeSight, but is suitable for any role-playing game able to cope with play set in this century¹ (eg. Call of Cthulhu, Justice Inc., Danger International, MSPE, GARPS).
At least two player characters are probably necessary. More than six will almost certainly find the going a bit slow. The PCs really ought to be heroic (i.e. highly talented or competent), although there is nothing in here which an imaginative and determined person off the street can’t cope with. The introduction assumes the PCs are on a caving expedition, but the GM can easily work up another intro.
The adventure was originally set in 1927, although any time since 1900 could do, and the present day would perhaps be best. The scene was originally set near Falmouth, Massachusetts, U.S.A., though any quiet backwater near a large city in an advanced country will do.
This adventure is not a mystery, but it depends on mystery, so intending players should read no further.
The party are enjoying an elegant dinner with some new-met acquaintances, one of whom is a vampire. Dinner is disturbed by a car crash outside. The survivor urgently needs a blood transfusion, cannot be taken to hospital, and has a blood type matched only by that of the vampire. He catches vampirism from the transfusion, refuses to help prevent the proliferation of the disease (which is incurable), and has to be destroyed. For this operation the help of the PCs is sought.
Barnabas Ussher is a tall (6’ 4") man, with fine, straight, dark brown hair, a pale complexion, aristocratic good looks, and, should a PC ever get to see it, an impressive physique. His manner is pleasant and courteous, and his learning encyclopædic. Although he appears to be in his forties, he is actually nearly three hundred and eighty years old. He is, in fact, a vampire. Unlike the stereotyped sufferer of vampirism he is able to control his paranoia and lust for blood. Realising, however, that most people lack his willpower, he is very careful not to contribute to the spread of the disease.
Either the nature of vampires is not that portrayed by Hollywood, or Barnabas is an exceptional specimen. Although he has no reflection in a mirror, abhors the smell of garlic, must make a considerable effort to approach a bible or blessed crucifix (not cross, crucifix), finds sunlight and holy water painful (the latter very much so), and is weakened during the day, finding it most comfortable to rest in his coffin, he is much less helpless than a movie vampire. He enjoys, however, most of their privileges. He is very resistant to damage from weapons, or, indeed, unarmed attacks. Injury sufficient to damage his body beyond function will instead reduce him to a vapour which will return to his coffin (or, failing that, some other safe, dark place) and then coalesce into an unhurt Barnabas at the next sunset. He is enormously strong: being large and well-built he is stronger even than most other vampires.
Like other vampires, Barnabas can be destroyed only if a consecrated communion wafer is placed in his mouth, and then his head is cut off with a sexton’s spade. Any other procedure will at most incapacitate him until sunset. He has limited powers to control the minds of others, including the ability (at great effort) to alter their memories. He can also can summon, control, and assume the shapes of “the creatures of the night” (i.e. nocturnal vertebrates).
Barnabas has medical qualifications but no licence, and is engaged in research into cures for vampirism and lycanthropy. Most of these researches are conducted after midnight, but he pretends to be busy with them during the day, when, in fact, he rests.
Quentin Ussher is Barnabas’s first cousin sixteen times removed, but mentions only being his his “cousin”. He is a young man (35 years old) of above medium height (6’ tall), with an athlete’s frame and bearing. His eyes are of a striking blue, his skin tanned, and his hair wavy, blond, and somewhat longer than is fashionable. Quentin contracted lycanthropy while working as a medical corpsman in Southern Africa. He now works as a lab technician for the Vladimir Apradergivat Medical Research Foundation.
Quentin is capable of transforming himself either into a large wolf or a Lon Chaney -style wolfman at will. He is invulnerable to everything except silver weapons and fire, and it takes a lot to kill him, even of these. During the night of the full moon he is forced to transform himself so, and becomes uncontrollably manic and homicidal. Every month he comes from Boston (where he works) to Barnabas’s house near Falmouth to lock himself in a cell in a secret basement for the night.
Dr. Elizabeth Browning
Dr. Browning is a slender, raven-haired, attractive woman of medium height. Because she is blind, she wears dark glasses at all times, carries a collapsible white cane, and is led by a large black Labrador guide-dog, Max. Dr. Browning is research administrator for the Vladimir Apradergivat Medical Research Foundation, where Quentin works. She is the only living person who knows of the Usshers’ various maladies, which she is trying to cure. She provides Barnabas with a supply of human blood bought from volunteers, ostensibly for research purposes. This blood contains preservatives and anticoagulants, and therefore is not transfusible.
Quentin loves Dr. Browning, but she will not allow him to ‘waste his life’ on her.
Barnabas’s manservant, the “butler” at Lychgate. He’s sixtyish, balding,and grey, six feet tall, and very dignified, loyal to his vampire master, and not above average intelligence. Most eras in which you might set this adventure he’s likely to be black.
Weatherby’s wife, the cook-housekeeper at Lychgate. She’s sixtyish, warm and motherly, devoted to her vampire master and solicitous of Dr. Browning, and not especially shrewd. Most eras in which you might set this adventure she’s likely to be black.
Adolph-Augustus von Saxe-Erfurt
Saxe-Erfurt is a person of unquestionably bad moral character — Central European tyrant, South African industrialist, Central American dictator, Mafia don, drug magnate, vivisectionist, and/or pædophile — whatever type of villain suits your setting and will incense your players. Of course, since he is neither famous nor foamingly psychotic, his bad character will not at first be apparent. On the contrary, he is a wealthy, charming, well-mannered, fashionably dressed, and extremely handsome man. He should make an excellent first impression.
This is a mansion which was built by Barnabas two hundred years ago. Since then he has three times sold it, emigrated for thirty years or so, returned, and bought it back. The last time he bought it back was twenty-five years ago, shortly after his last return from Cuba, since when it has been thoroughly renovated. As well as the usual appurtances of a mansion, it has a small but well-equipped biomedical lab, an extremely well-kept basement animal house (where Barnabas keeps experimental animals), and, in addition to its normal cellars, a secret basement accessible only by way of a trapdoor in the floor of the cupboard under the main stairs. In this basement is a cell in which Quentin locks himself on the night of the full moon. The small mausoleum in the garden has nothing to do with Barnabas, who keeps his coffin safely in a bonded warehouse in Boston.
Lychgate is eight miles (13km) along the Boston road from Falmouth, and is set in extensive grounds between the road and the sea cliffs.
The Howling Caves
These are an extensive set of caves under the sea cliffs near Falmouth, having two significant (for our purposes) openings.
First is the mouth, a large opening in the cliffs at sea level, about seven miles (11km) from Falmouth, and near Lychgate.
Second is a man-sized opening into the kitchen cellar of Lychgate, blocked for the purposes of access or exit, but not for that of ventilation, by a four-ton block of limestone (about 60cm by 120cm by 190cm). This is approached by a shaft, from which a narrow fissure through a thick wall allows one to see (or for that matter shoot), but not reach, into the secret basement.
This is a small (population 5,000) town on the Massachusetts coast. What economy it has is based on fishing, tourism, and service industries for the surrounding countryside. The significant facts for this adventure are that it has a library, a newspaper with extensive archives, a small hospital, a police station, and only one decent place to stay.
The introduction envisaged for this adventure has the PCs staying in Falmouth for a visit of some days’ duration, during which they go caving in the Howling Caves. Unless you wish to re-write the beginning of the adventure, tell them that this is what they are doing.
To build up a feeling of apprehension at the beginning of this adventure, try to keep the players in the dark as to what the adventure is about. To do this, use misdirection, and, less subtle, the ploy of inserting gothic horror descriptions of random objects. The caves and the character Quentin are provided as red herrings, to draw attention away from the main characters, Barnabas and Saxe-Erfurt. Do not try too hard to keep Quentin from being discovered, but try to make it seem that you are trying to keep his lycanthropy secret. The PCs may come to the erroneous conclusion that they are supposed to hunt down and destroy Barnabas. This is intended as another red herring. As he is not your standard vampire, he should be fairly safe from anything they can do until after scene five, when he explains his weaknesses.
(The caves. Starting in the early morning.)
The PCs abseil down the cliff to enter the caves at low tide, intending to lunch in the caves and leave on the next low tide, which is at dusk. When they return to the cave mouth in the late afternoon they find that a storm has blown up, and that huge waves make exit impossible. Using some standard spelunker’s trick, such as tracing the draught with a damp finger or a guttering torch, they find their way to the bottom of the shaft leading up to the coal cellar at Lychgate.
Purpose: To get the characters into the shaft, and to build up apprehension.
Notes: People rarely carry weapons on caving expeditions. It’s dangerous. Dynamite more so.
(Under Lychgate. Early evening.)
The PCs chimney up the shaft. Their noise and scent disturb Quentin, who, in his wolfman state, is locked in the cell in the secret basement. The hurricane lantern on the floor of the secret basement does not illuminate the cell very brightly, and the PCs are unable to tell what is in it, except that it is hairy, has fangs and claws, roars, howls, and wants to get them. In the circumstances, each of them should have only a small chance to notice the key on the floor outside the cell. The party get to the top, and find their exit blocked. Before they become discouraged Mrs. Weatherby (Barnabas’s cook/housekeeper) comes to investigate the noises of the wolfman and the PCs’ shouts. The PCs’ voices frighten her off, but she returns a little later with Dr. Browning, who talks to the PCs, discovers their plight, and sends Mrs. Weatherby to fetch Barnabas. Barnabas comes with Weatherby (the butler) and a long crowbar. With the help of Weatherby and the PCs, the mechanical advantage of the crowbar, and much feigned effort, Barnabas shifts the block of stone and allows the PCs to leave the caves. He invites them to share his dinner and to stay the night. During dinner (?) he explains the wolfman away as a chimpanzee on which he has been experimenting.
Purpose: To introduce Dr. Browning and Barnabas, and to establish that there is something weird going on in Lychgate.
Notes: There is no silverware on the dinner table (it might give Barnabas away by failing to show his reflection). All the plates, covers, cutlery handles &c. are porcelain. Do not emphasize this. The PCs may search the house in the night (ungrateful wretches). Have Barnabas (in a dressing-gown) discover them before they get to the secret basement. Of course, Barnabas has been in his lab, so they won’t find his supply of blood this time.
This is, of course, a full moon night, but don’t draw the players attention to this. They will, after all, be inside most of the night.
The PCs are woken late, and introduced to Quentin at breakfast. Barnabas is not there. Quentin says that Barnabas is an early riser, and has already started work. He drives them to their car or cars, and before he leaves them there, invites them in Barnabas’s name to come to a more formal dinner a few days later (at latest — perhaps that night would be better). If the party search the house between now and scene four they will find the secret basement empty.
Purpose: To introduce Quentin, and to suggest that he is Barnabas alter-ego, like Jekyll to Hyde, and to make Barnabas’s work seem mysterious, and to suggest that he is inquiring into things best… not inquired into. In addition, to get the party back for scene four.
Notes: There are mirrors in the guest bathrooms. Also, if you are setting this adventure during a period when such a house as Lychgate might be expected to have a telephone, you must establish during this scene that the telephone lines were torn down in the night by the storm. Take the electric power lines too, if you like. There are plenty of lamps in Lychgate, and the stove is gas- or coal-fired.
After-dinner coffee, being taken in the drawing room, is disturbed by a loud bang outside. A car has crashed into one of the gateposts, blocking the driveway. The passenger, a pretty teenaged girl, is dead, and the driver, Saxe-Erfurt, is unconscious and bleeding copiously from a groin injury. Barnabas rips the car apart enough to extract Saxe-Erfurt, applies direct pressure to his severed femoral artery, and, with help, carries him to the lab. There the artery is sutured, and Barnabas, Dr. Browning, and any medically-trained PCs form the opinion that Saxe-Erfurt is suffering from concussion and critical exsanguination, and needs a blood transfusion within fifteen minutes if he is to survive. The blood of all present is cross-matched with that of Saxe-Erfurt, and only that of Barnabas is found not to clot it. While Quentin and the rest clear the driveway, Saxe-Erfurt is given a direct transfusion from Barnabas. The PCs are asked to take messages to the hospital and to the police on their way back to their hotel or motel.
Purpose: To introduce Saxe-Erfurt, and to infect him with vampirism. Also, to establish Barnabas &c. as being decent people.
Notes: Saxe-Erfurt is drunk (unless this is during Prohibition), which will be apparent to those who know the signs. He picked the girl up in Falmouth and was taking her to Boston. If you have made Saxe-Erfurt a drug magnate she will have traces of a fashionable drug in her blood, but none will be found in the car or on Saxe-Erfurt. By the way: people rarely take weapons to dinner-parties. It’s rude. Dynamite even more so.
Interlude – don’t no-one leave town
A few days elapse, during which the police take statements from the PCs, and ask them to be in town for the inquest. If the PCs plan to drive a stake into Barnabas or shoot Quentin with silver bullets in this time, remind them that the police will probably notice if one of their witnesses goes missing. The PCs will probably try to investigate Barnabas’s or Quentin’s background in the library, the newspaper archives, and the land records office (attached to the courthouse). Use delaying tactics.
Saxe-Erfurt is released from hospital, having made a good recovery, but still weak. He is required by the police not to leave town until the inquest, and moves into the same hotel or motel as the PCs, in a room adjacent to a PC. The PCs, interacting with him, notice that he seems healthier and more cheerful at night, and shows an aversion to sunlight. By the time he takes to sleeping during the day they should be downright suspicious. Saxe-Erfurt’s room is too publicly visible for the PCs to raid during the day, and on the night they try to make some positive test as to whether he is a vampire, or spontaneously if they prove sluggish, the story presses on to the next scene.
(The PCs’ hotel. Late evening.)
Barnabas comes secretly to Saxe-Erfurt’s room to explain what has happened, apologise for infecting him, and to describe to him how to cope with being a vampire. He urges Saxe-Erfurt not to spread the disease further. Saxe-Erfurt is more interested in the advantages of vampirism: Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old… The PCs may (should) overhear:
… that a transfusion of your blood made me into a vampire?
Yes. I wasn’t sure vampirism was transmissible by blood transfusion, and you urgently needed blood. I’m terribly sorry.
Hah! You make me immortal, immensely powerful– and then you apologise. It’s not like you gave me AIDS. I’m not going to waste away, I’m not going to die. (Pause.) I’m never going to die.
Don’t be too sure. You can be killed quite easily really.
Sure. In a bizarre rite with a communion wafer and a sexton’s spade. I’m shaking in my boots. No-one will even think of doing anything like that. This is the twentieth century!
That’s what they said in the seventeenth. (Pause.) More or less…
But that aside, it’s a terrible affliction. The disease seems intelligent. It wants, it yearns, it urges to be spread. One can feel it warping one’s mind. The lust for blood is sometimes overpowering. The feeling of isolation from one’s fellow men…
I don’t plan to isolate myself as you have done.
You’ll have to. Vampirism corrupts the reason. Unless you seclude yourself from people, especially large groups, you will find that the temptation to kill becomes too much to bear. Delusions of power swarm upon the mind…
Delusions! What delusions? I’ve… We’ve got power greater than I’ve ever dreamed of. The world’s our oyster. Life’s a peach. Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old… (laughs)
Oh well. I suppose you’ll learn. The strain shouldn’t be unbearable with a steady supply of human blood. Dr. Browning will arrange that for you.
Be careful. Don’t spread the disease any further. Don’t take risks with it. It’s deadly.
I’ll be watching you.
(Sounds of Barnabas leaving. Pause.)
Purpose: To explain what has been going on, and to establish that Barnabas is a good guy and Saxe-Erfurt isn’t.
Notes: Do not make it too clear that Saxe-Erfurt is evil at this stage, or the party will jump the gun.
(The PC’s hotel. Morning.)
Saxe-Erfurt has attacked and killed a young woman who was walking home from a dance, preferably on a night when the PCs have been on some nocturnal expedition, and has drunk the blood of the corpse. He now looks very healthy — in the pink, in fact. The police will question the PCs, either because of their nocturnal venturings, or just on general principles (the PCs are strangers, after all). The attacks will continue until the PCs decide to make a move, and if this takes more than a couple of days more vampires will begin to rise from their graves. The police or the National Guard may cordon off the town, setting up roadblocks on all roads. While all this is going on, further interactions between the PCs and Saxe-Erfurt will reveal his utter moral worthlessness.
Purpose: To produce a large number of vampires (no reason why Saxe-Erfurt shouldn’t make more than one attack per night), and to establish the certainty that something needs to be done.
Notes: Delay the PCs, if necessary, with difficulties in obtaining communion wafers, having crucifixes blessed (sceptical or unco-operative parish priest), and getting hold of a sexton’s spade (both those in the graveyard in Falmouth will already have been stolen when the PCs go for them). If possible, make them find out what a sexton is, and suggest that their enquiries are attracting attention. There is no gunsmith in Falmouth, and silver bullets will prove difficult to get. In this time Saxe-Erfurt is making preparations against the Usshers, in particular, sending to Boston for silver bullets, communion wafers, a sexton’s spade, and a water-pistol (the type used by bank managers for dye, if available– remember, he cannot afford to have the stuff leak out onto his hand) or fire extinguisher full of holy water. He cannot approach, much less carry, a bible or blessed crucifix.
Just as the PCs are about to make their move against Saxe-Erfurt, Barnabas and Quentin come to them for help. As neither Barnabas nor Quentin can walk on hallowed ground, nor touch communion wafers, nor bear contact with holy water, nor carry a bible, the PCs’ help is necessary. On the other hand, Quentin has secured a sexton’s spade. The group invades Saxe-Erfurt’s room, but he is not there. Barnabas flies off in the form of a bat (the PCs will notice that he doesn’t change size, just form) to use his powers to prevent Saxe-Erfurt from escaping. The PCs and Barnabas will scour Falmouth for the vampires made by Saxe-Erfurt, and destroy them all in bloody, macabre, and hair-raising encounters. Remember that all this has to be done at night, to avoid attracting too much attention, and that the vampires will therefore be active. Quentin’s hearing and tracking scent in wolf form, and combat prowess as a wolfman, will come in very handy.
7a. The hospital
Many of the more recently created vampires are in the morgue at the local hospital. Quentin and the PCs go there first, and start searching through the lockers for suitably mutilated corpses. After a while they become blasé about dealing with supernaturally strong, horribly mutilated, animated cadavers. Then they will open one locker and find the freshly-killed body of a nurse. One of the vampires is prowling the hospital! The PCs and Quentin start a search through the darkened wards. A masculine scream draws them to the duty sister’s office. When they arrive they find the duty sister hanging by her heels from a light-fitting, her throat torn out. Nearby, the resident doctor has been impaled through the head on a letter-hook, and is slowly and noisily dying. They follow the trail of blood left by the vampire, and bring it to earth in the steam laundry, where the circumstances of a rather violent fight encourage them to par-boil it with live steam. The vampire turns out to have been the hospital laundryman.
7b. The Old Walpurgis Place
Next the PCs and Quentin go to the graveyard, which is very cold, covered with mist, and occasionally disturbed by the hooting of owls and the stirring of medium-sized animals, where open graves yawn wide amidst the rank, untended weeds. Here they exhume and deal with any vampires that have already been buried. The grave of the first victim, Henriette Walpurgis, proves to be empty. Quentin tracks her by scent to her home, the dilapidated Georgian mansion of the Walpurgis family. The party creep through the creepily decorated and cobweb-festooned halls of the Old Walpurgis Place in the dead of night, and finally find Henriette dripping blood from the severed head of her father onto the face of her fear-paralysed mother, while his decapitated corpse twitches and oozes in the bed beside her.
Purpose: To have lots of fights, horrific and macabre descriptions of vampires doing mad and bloodthirsty acts, to destroy the vampires, and to build up a sense of camaraderie between the PCs and Quentin.
Notes: No trace of Saxe-Erfurt is found, and most of the wafers are used.
(Lychgate. Just before dawn.)
Just before dawn, as everyone is wondering where Saxe-Erfurt is, it suddenly occurs to someone (Quentin if necessary, but preferably a player), that Lychgate has been left unguarded. Quentin rushes off to check on Dr. Browning, and the PCs follow. When they arrive, Quentin rushes in the front door, and is shot dead by Saxe-Erfurt, from ambush on the stairs. The PCs give chase, but Saxe-Erfurt delays them with gunfire and makes good his escape. A search of the house discovers the dead and exsanguinated bodies of Dr. Browning and the Weatherbies, which have, of course, to be wafered and beheaded.
Barnabas, fleeing the Sun, returns home.
Purpose: To cause the tragic deaths of several sympathetic characters, thus giving the players a strong urge to kill Saxe-Erfurt.
Notes: Saxe-Erfurt is using a weapon suitable for firing enough silver bullets to be reasonably certain of killing one werewolf. Probably a bolt-action hunting rifle or a large-calibre revolver. Either way, he has limited ammunition capacity, few reloads, and no other firearm. Silver is not a suitable as lead for making bullets, and the damage should probably be reduced slightly. Also, hastily and unskilfully made silver bullets, such as Saxe-Erfurt’s, should have a considerably increased chance of jamming a self-loading weapon. Saxe-Erfurt, in his hurry to leave, will leave behind a sexton’s spade.
(The caves. Just after dawn.)
Someone, preferably a player, but Barnabas if necessary, will work out, perhaps after consulting a map, that the only shelter from the sun Saxe-Erfurt could have made it to is the cave mouth. Barnabas will stay behind in the cellar to prevent his escaping from that end, while the PCs go in through the mouth of the cave, to hunt down and destroy him before he can escape (and become a lot more dangerous) at sunset. In a cliff-hanger finish the PCs engage him in a gun duel, exhaust his ammunition, grapple him to the ground, fill his mouth with communion wafers, and cut his head off with the sexton’s spade just as the sun disappears below the horizon.
Purpose: To have another exciting fight, and to destroy the villain, thus resolving the adventure.
Notes: The PCs won’t be able to see the sun set when they are in the caves, so have them find out at what time sunset is due, and nervously watch their watches. If only one character is regularly consulting his watch, have it either stop or run slow, so that the party get a sudden panic when they discover how late it has become. Although Saxe-Erfurt knows that he cannot be killed by bullets, he will still have the reflexes and reactions of someone who has reason to be afraid of guns. Afterwards, Barnabas will use his power over weak minds to clear up any messes the PCs have made, allowing all to live happily ever after.
The the easiest way this scenario can fail is if the PCs offend Barnabas before scene four, and the most likely way for this to happen is if they use weapons or explosives in the caves, say in firing at Quentin. Firmly discourage the PCs from taking weapons or explosives with them, and if they insist, let accidental discharges maim or kill a few of them.
Another disaster that is not unlikely is that the PCs discover that Barnabas is a vampire or Quentin a werewolf, and try to kill them, before scene four. It is okay if the party plan to kill one or the other or both on the night of scene four, because the dynamics of scene four should deny them a chance. In order to forestall this, if you don’t feel you can rely on the players to forebear, hold scene four on the night after scene three. An attempt on the life of one of the Usshers during the interlude can be prevented by interrupting the attempt with scene five. Difficulties in securing blessed crucifixes, and communion wafers might also be helpfully employed.
After scene five there should be few problems, as the scenario should carry the players along with the flow.
Perhaps the worst thing for this scenario would be if some whacko PC had taken a vampire-biffing kit along with him on his holiday. Use characters unfamiliar with the supernatural, dissuade or forbid the player taking a sexton’s spade on a holiday, or have part of the PCs’ luggage stolen.
If the worst comes to the worst, you can retrospectively change Quentin, Barnabas, and Dr. Browning into villains, and run a scenario in which the PCs have to deal with a mob of supernatural terrors who are right up on modern technology and techniques, and carry firearms to protect themselves from van Helsings. They will flee, of course, at the first opportunity, and have to be tracked down with great diligence. Finding Barnabas’s blood supply and coffin will be important goals.
¹ That was last century, you understand. The adventure has to be set after blood transfusions became safe, which was in 1901 when Karl Landsteiner published the discovery of blood types. It also really needs to be set before everyone started carrying mobile telephones, though perhaps you can work around that with a bit of remoteness and by having the storm destroy the cellular coms tower that serves Lychgate.