Paper Chase

Description

The investigators are tasked with looking into a minor theft from the residence of a man who disappeared a year ago. This is a beginner scenario converted from the classic Call of Cthulhu scenario by the same name.

Keeper Information

 

Hook

The investigators are tasked with looking into a minor theft from the residence of a man who disappeared a year ago. They uncover a shocking secret behind the disappearance, but will they choose to reveal the truth or keep the secret?

Scenario Issues

Initial Issue

Thomas Kimball asked you to look into the theft of some of his uncle's books, and to find out if the theft is somehow related to his uncle's disappearance.

Additional Issues

Inform Thomas that he need not worry about further burglaries, but what else do you tell him?

Possible Resolutions

Success

The investigators uncover the truth about Douglas Kimball and are able to satisfy Thomas without revealing Douglas' secret.

The investigators uncover the truth about Douglas Kimball but are not able to convince Thomas the matter is settled.

The investigators uncover the truth about Douglas Kimball but reveal his secret to Thomas.

Failure

The investigators fail to uncover the truth about Douglas Kimball in time. Out of patience, Thomas Kimball takes matters into his own hands, confronting the thief in the night. Within days he is committed to a nearby sanitarium, raving that "Uncle Douglas has become a dogman!"

Motivation

Player Motivations

Discovery

The investigators discover a dark secret lurking below ground.

Narrative

The investigators are forced to choose between revealing the truth or preserving a secret.

Submission

This is a simple beginner scenario without any real opposition.

Learning

The players will learn that not all mythos creatures are a threat, and that lying may be necessary to protect the innocent.

Investigator Motivations

Thing

The investigators will be paid for their work.

Ideal

The investigators are forced to choose between telling the truth or lying to protect others.

Fear and Tension

Early clues regarding Douglas' disappearance begin a sense of fear centered around the cemetery. This fear slowly builds as the players uncover more clues from rumors and newspaper articles. Eventually, the investigators will be in a position to encounter Douglas. If the investigators stake out the cemetery or the Kimball House early on, before learning about the stories about the cemetery, play up the sense of dread as long as possible, keeping Douglas out of sight.

When it becomes clear the players are moving to confront Douglas, ratchet up the terror, building towards the climax as they see a shadowy and mishapen figure. When they first get a good look at Douglas, focus on describing his ghoulish features can call for horror rolls. Once the immediate reaction has passed, emphasize his human features and attire - perhaps he chooses that moment to speak - and reveal that this creature is in fact Douglas. Call for a second horror roll as the investigators (and players) realize the implications of this.

If the players encounter Douglas peacefully and learn his story, there may be some more tension as they learn he chose this life willingly. The main tension will then transition to the decision about whether or not to tell Thomas the truth about his uncle.

If the encounter with Douglas takes a more violent turn and Douglas is killed, then a different climax will build in short order. Allow the investigators to inspect the body if they haven't already gotten a good look. Describe the ghoulish features and call for a horror roll. Then quickly shift to ghouls emerging from the surroundings. As ghouls slowly emerge and surround the investigators, dread will quickly transition to terror as they come to grips with their desperate situation. When the ghouls simply carry Douglas away, the players get a brief moment to catch their breath before discovering the spectacles and scraps of clothing left behind. Call for a horror roll as they realize the creature was Douglas. The decision about what to tell Thomas will again be the primary source of remaining tension, only a little more complicated.

The scenario countdown track also provides an underlying tension to help encourage the players to keep moving forward and provide options for how failed rolls can affect the outcome. Taking too long in the investigation advances the countdown as Thomas' patience begins to wear thin. If the investigators fail to resolve things in a timely manner, Thomas' actions and the consequences of the investigators' inaction serve as a sort of anticlimax.

Keeper Notes

No combat or physical conflict is necessary in this scenario, as everyone involved is genuinely peaceful. (Although the ghouls will defend themselves if attacked, they have such superior numbers that it should be clear to the players any such action would be suicidal.) In general, all characters are also willing to help if they can do so without placing themselves in jeopardy.
Edit this block:Paper Chase: Outline  

Scenes

 

Getting Started

Scene at a Glance

The investigators meet Thomas Kimball, who hires them to look into recent burglary of his home and find out if the theft of some books is related to the disappearance of his uncle, Douglas Kimball. After introductions and a brief conversation, he leads them to his uncle's study to begin their investigation.

Location

The Kimball House

Scene Type

Introduction, Exposition

Characters Introduced

Thomas Kimball, Douglas Kimball

Scene Aspects

Modest Two-Story House with Space to Spare; Owned by Thomas Kimball

Core Clues

Douglas Kimball disappeared without a trace about a year ago. (C01) ; Thomas Kimball's house has been burglarized, and some of his uncle's favorite books have been stolen. (C02) ; Douglas was balding, with white hair, average heght, and always wore round spectacles. (C03)

Supporting Clues

Thomas Kimball inherited his uncle's house after his disappearance. (S01) ; Thomas believes a half dozen books were stolen, based on the open spaces on the shelves, but he doesn't know which books. (S02) ; There is no obvious evidence of how the burglar gained entry to the house or the study. (S03) ; Thomas did not report the burglary. The police never found his uncle, and he doesn't think they will bother trying to find some missing books. (S06)

Obstacles and Opposition

Thomas does not provide any opposition and will gladly share what he knows about the theft and his uncle's disappearance. He is will to negotiate the offered fee for the investigators' assistance, within reason.

Setting the Scene

Briefly describe how the investigators came to the attention of Thomas Kimball and how they were contacted. Briefly describe how they travel to Thomas' home. When they arrive, put the card for Thomas Kimball's House in play and read it's aspects (Modest Two-Story House with Space to Spare; Owned by Thomas Kimball). The investigators are greeted by Thomas and invited inside. Put Thomas Kimball in play and read his aspects. Thomas thanks the investigators for coming and for their willingness to help investigate the recent burglary.

Running the Scene, Pacing, and Emphasis

A quick conversation with Thomas provides core clues C01 and C02, as well as supporting clues S01 and S02. At the first mention of his uncle, he will show the investigators a photo from the living room, providing core clue C03. If the investigators ask about police involvement in the burglary, Thomas explains he didn't report it, which provides supporting clue S06.

Thomas expects the ivnestigators to stay in his home, using two of the three bedrooms. He offers to pay their expenses plus $10 (equivalent to about $240) for their services. If the investigators attempt to negotiate, avoid having it become the focus of the scene. Have the players briefly describe how they are trying to convince Thomas to pay more, then explain they will roll using a skill based on their choice of approach (Rapport, Deceive, or Manipulate). If successful, Thomas will agree to pay a higher rate. If not, they agree to the originally proposed amount. Tell the players that the roll will be against a difficulty of Fair (+2), as Thomas is fair but not easily swayed. (This is Thomas' Insight or Resolve skill, but there is no need to roll for Thomas. Just set the difficulty equivalent to his skill and move on.) If successful, Thomas agrees to pay up to $15, but no more. Note that this is an Overcome action, but there's no need to explain that to the players yet. Just be sure you have described the stakes of the roll and the difficulty before they roll the dice. Again, don't let negotiations become the focus of the scene. The goal is to give the investigators (and the players) the information they need, give them the oppoertunity to ask a few questions, and then move on to the next scene.

If you have players that enjoy immersing themselves in roleplaying discussions, you can let them talk to or interrogate Thomas, but he is not hiding anything and there is no reason to suspect him of anything untoward. Otherwise, simply tell the players that Thomas appears to be earnest in his desire for their help.

Finally, transition to the next scene (Investigating the Study) by having Thomas invite the investigators to his uncle's study, from where the books were stolen.

Tension and Fear

Learning about Douglas' disappearance and the theft introduces an early sense of mystery. This will transition to fear in the next scene.

Suspicious players may instinctively dislike Thomas or question his motives. You can play into this, playing into their paranoia as a sort of red herring. However, it is probably better if the players come to like, or at least sympathize with, Thomas. This makes a later decision about keeping or revealing a secret much more difficult and memorable. It also makes failing the scenario much more impactful. Play up his willingness to cooperate, wish to have known his uncle better, and generally pleasant demeanor.

Keeper Notes

Investigating the Study

Scene at a Glance

Thomas Kimball takes the investigators to his uncle's study, where they can look for clues about the burglary.

Location

Douglas Kimball's Study

Scene Type

Exploration

Characters Introduced

None

Scene Aspects

Uncle Douglas' Cluttered Study; Windows Looking into the Woods; Piled High with Books of All Kinds on All Subjects

Core Clues

Older entries in Douglas' journal mention a "network of tunnels" beneath the cemetery and "creatures" that inhabit them that sometimes come out at night. (C04)

Supporting Clues

Many window locks are loose with aged, making it possible to open some of the windows from the outside. (S04) ; The last entry in Douglas Kimball's journal is dated the day before his disappearance and cryptically mentioned "reaching a decision" and "joining his friends below". (S05)

Obstacles and Opposition

Douglas' journal is just one of hundreds of books in the study. Discover roll to find it using Search against difficulty Average (+1).

The wear on the window locks is not obvious. Automatic Success on Discover roll if the investigators search for clues about the bruglary.

Setting the Scene

Thomas leads the investigators from the living room to his uncle's study. Put the card for the study in play and read its aspects (Uncle Douglas' Cluttered Study; Windows Looking into the Woods; Piled High with Books of All Kinds on All Subjects). There is only the one door, leading into the living room. Assuming the investigators will want to get started right away, Thomas invites them to begin searching the room while he takes their belongings to their rooms. He mentions that he believes his uncle kept a journal, but he hasn't had the chance to search through all of the books to find it, he then leaves the investigators to their business.

Running the Scene, Pacing, and Emphasis

The investigators will likely look for the journal as soon as Thomas mentions it, but they may also look for clues about the burglary itself.

Douglas' journal is just one of hundreds of books in the study. Discover roll to find it using Search against difficulty Average (+1). Use Success at a Cost on a failed roll to find the journal but knock over a vase and damage a couple of books in the process. (Don't ask the players if they want to succeed at a cost, just make it automatic, as the journal contains a core clue.) Consult the section below on how to handle Thomas' reaction to the damaged books, as he may either forgive the damage or deduct it from the investigators' pay. Once the investigators read the journal, give them core clue C03 (tunnels in the cemetery) and supporting clue S05 (joining his friends below). Put the card for the Cemetery into play.

The wear on the window locks is not obvious. If the investigators think to look for clues about how the burglar gained entry, treat it as an Automatic Success on a Discover roll. Give supporting clue S04 (the window locks) to the investigator with the highest Tradecraft skill. (If no investigator has Tradecraft, use Engineering or Craft). Give supporting clue S03 (no obvious evidence) to any other investigator. There is no way to determine which books were stolen, as the books in the study are in no way organized.

Once all the clues have been found, ask the players what they plan to do next.

Tension and Fear

This scene serves as the start of the investigation, but there are opportunities to uncover important clues right away. More importantly, depending on what the investigators find and what the players decide to do next, this can quickly lead to the climax of the scenario in just a scene or two.

The sense of mystery that started in the first scene quickly changes to start building fear when the players find the clues in Douglas' journal (Dread). This sets the stage for further Dread if the players learn of the stories surrounding the cemetery in later scenes. If the players seem to distrust Thomas early on, you can have him forgive them for any damages to the books in the study and highlight how he really wants to protect the books that his uncle loved so dearly. Alternatively, if the players are not really interested in Thomas and are more concerned with their investigators being paid for their work, Thomas will deduct any damages from their pay.

Keeper Notes

As long as the players at least attempt to try and find clues to the theft, they cannot really fail to find all the clues at the Kimball House. If the players seem intent on continuing to explore the house after they have already found all the clues, you should tell them they have found all the available clues and ask them what they plan to do next.

Use searching the study as an opportunity to demonstrate how skill rolls work, and don't forget to tell them the difficulty of the roll up front. This is important so that the players can learn to spend fate points on rolls later on. Use a failed roll to demonstrate how failure doesn't block progress or result in nothing happening. Often it just means things get more complicated or otherwise do not go as planned. Searching the study also demonstrates how Automatic Success works and how investigator skills affect what happens even when dice aren't rolled.


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