["A Typical Dunwish Farm" and its companion piece "Earth, Sky, Soul" are meant to add on to Chaosium's RETURN TO DUNWICH book. The second piece is the only thing resembling a scenario in TUO4. — John Scott Tynes, 1994]
A Visit to Dunwich
In which lost material is brought to light and a horrific scene awaits inspection
(Chaosium’s Return To Dunwich book [see review in TUO3] saw publication minus a couple of bits deleted for space reasons. “A Typical Dunwich Farm” is one such selection, printed in TUO3 thanks to the author. This new scenario/encounter rounds it out.)
Earth, Sky, Soul
©1991 John Tynes
[I'm still very pleased with this little encounter. The title is taken from a Love & Rockets album, though I didn't recall where I'd heard it at the time [I'm not an L&R fan]. One of the subheads, “Down There,” was lifted from the translated title of a 19th-century French novel about diabolism called La Bas, written by Huysmans. —John Scott Tynes, 1994]
Now that you have a better idea of what a typical Dunwich farm entails, your players will find out about an atypical Dunwich farm. “Earth, Sky, Soul” is a very short scenario, little more than an incident, that may be placed whenever and wherever is convenient. It points towards one of the larger secrets of the area, and may be inserted at any appropriate point in play. The tone attempted is one of shock and revulsion, and it may well be the investigators’ first look at the dark underbelly of Dunwich. Assuming that this is early in the campaign, play up the gruesome accents of this episode. It should contrast nicely with the rather sedate (if decayed) vision of Dunwich that your players probably have formulated at this point.
The night or morning before you wish this encounter to occur, stage a small earthquake, a tremor, heavy enough to rattle dishes in a four-mile radius from the planned site of the encounter, but not heavy enough to do much damage. The investigators will probably be elsewhere when this occurs, but you can volunteer this information at any point, prior to the encounter or during it.
As the investigators move towards the rim of a steep rise in the road (whether on horseback, driving, or walking) call for Listen rolls with a 20% bonus. Successful rolls hear a series of two gunshots, followed a few moments later by two more. Impaled rolls suggest that the gunshots are shotgun blasts, and are curiously muffled.
Cresting the rise, the investigators see a stretch of road with a few farmhouses spaced apart by an acre or so (again, this may be wherever you wish it to be; adjust the description according to locale). Investigators who impaled their roll are certain that the shots came from one of the farmhouses up ahead; others may attempt an Idea roll for the same purpose, but only if they ask where the sound originated. The lack of nearby woods dispels the possibility of hunting.
Assuming they aren’t flying along at full speed, as the investigators progress along the road some residents of the houses will walk out of their front doors and peer ahead, wondering what is going on. According to the Keeper’s wishes and the player’s actions, they may need to ask a couple of farmers where the shots came from; shortly they will be pointed towards one quiet-looking farm up the road. If the investigators are on foot, they will probably join a small cluster of farm folk heading up the road to check on the trouble.
Arriving at the farm in question, all will be quiet. If anyone hails the house (whether the investigators or any accompanying them), no response is heard. Asking any nearby residents identifies the farm as belonging to the Arkins, a family of five — Ethan and Virginia, along with their adolescent offspring March (14), Henry (16), and Banford (17). A fourth child, Dee, perished a few months ago of fever at the age of 15. The run-down house sits on an 8-acre lot, with furrowed land extending behind. A small garden runs on three sides of the house, broken up by a well in the far corner of the yard. Observant investigators who succeed in a Spot Hidden roll as they cast their eyes about may notice a small burying ground behind a copse of trees past the well. An impaled Spot Hidden will indicate motion there.
Entering the house will reveal little; the building contains six rooms, consisting of a sturdy kitchen, master bedroom, two smaller bedrooms (one for the girls, March & Banford, one for Henry), a largish pantry and a sitting room. The furnishings are unremarkable, though antique-seekers in decades to come will no doubt coo over the simple, workman-like furniture typical of the period. Halved Idea rolls will notice that several things are either missing or in disarray (roll for each or for the sum as you wish); a single shotgun rack above the fireplace is empty; the pantry has several empty shelves and a mason jar or two on the floor; dressers in the bedrooms are lying open, with clothing hurriedly removed. Neighbors queried will respond that the Arkins haven’t been seen today.
In the backyard, the storm doors to the cellar are open, from which issues an unpleasant smell of gunpowder and (with Listen rolls) a low moaning.
The Arkins are a deeply religious family, firmly opposed to the Believers; witch-globes hang presciently on their front porch. The parents harbor an almost masochistic fascination with the book of Revelations in the Bible.
Last night, a minor tremor opened a rift in the earth beneath the Arkin house, temporarily releasing a miasmic cloud of spores from the vast caverns and tunnels that riddle the rock beneath the region. These spores (see Dunwich, pages 22-23, for more info) filled the root cellar, the fastened storm doors keeping the filthy air from circulating with the clean. Early this morning, Ethan Arkin went down into the cellar to fetch some tools. There he was overcome by the POT 12 spore-air and beheld therein a vision of Judgment Day. Weighted down with religious hallucinatory awe, he hurried inside and roused the family, importuning them to come below and hide whilst the unclean roamed the earth, awaiting the rapture that would come and take them away. Virginia, the more prudent of the two, grabbed several jars of preserves and instructed the children to bring clothes. Henry grabbed the shotgun and an old box of birdshot shells.
Once within the cellar, the family was overcome by the spores to varying degrees. Ethan and Virginia both felt the coming of Judgment Day, and trembled in awesome fear. March and Banford suffered only from an extreme paranoia.
Henry felt something quite different. Henry and his late sister Dee enjoyed an incestuous relationship during the year prior to Dee’s death. Dee died giving birth to her brother’s son; the child was born dead. As the spores entered his circulatory system, Henry became possessed of his own vision of Judgment Day, in which those worthy of the kingdom of Heaven would rise from their graves and ascend towards the Lord. Paramount in this vision was Dee, buried in the family plot behind the trees, their child crying for aid.
Undergoing a bout of spore-induced paranoia, Henry became convinced that Dee and the child would be unable to ascend unless freed from the coffin where they lay. He attempted to flee the cellar where the Arkin family hid and breathed in the contagion, but was stopped by his father. As adrenalin and the spores coursed through his bloodstream, Henry finally grabbed the shotgun and murdered his father and mother. As his helpless sisters cried and huddled in a corner, he re-loaded the shotgun and killed them both in turn. He then dropped the gun and fled the cellar for the burial ground.
Investigators descending into the cellar will not need a source of light; two lit lanterns provide sufficient illumination. The root cellar is a single, simple room, holding several shelves of preserves along with potatoes, rhubarb, and various tools. It also holds 4/5 of the Arkin family. Ethan Arkin lies in the middle of the room, nearest the stairs to the storm door, his face a mass of bloody sundered flesh. Forty-five degrees to his left, Virginia sits against a support post, still living but within minutes of death from the shotgun wound to her abdomen. In a dim corner, March and Banford lie in a heap, covered in blood and the acrid smell of cordite. Seeing the remains of the Arkin family here costs investigators a 2/1D6+1 SAN roll. Virginia is the only family member alive, but she will die almost at once without a successful First Aid roll.
With a successful First Aid attempt, she remains alive just long enough to murmur into the kindly investigators’ face, “Oh my lord, oh my lord Jesus, ye’ve come…” before expiring. Otherwise, she dies with a short rattling breath that never quite leaves her throat.
Casting about the cellar for clues, the investigators will be aware now of an acrid smell below the fresh reek of cordite. Once they have been down here for a couple of rounds (probably just after Virginia has met her final fate), have them make POW resistance rolls versus the spores, at a POT of 10. With a success, the investigator feels ill and is aware of the cellar as a source of uncleanliness. A failure instigates a brief but horrific hallucination; the lanterns seem to dim, and the corpses began to shift and move, as if struggling to get up. Affected investigators should make a 1/1D10 SAN roll for this vision. Those taking five or more points and making an Idea roll will flee screaming; the rest will be convinced of the movement and may attempt violent action against the corpses or may flee, according to the predilections of the investigator.
At some point after any mayhem has passed, the investigators may head back outside. Alternately, if the investigators noticed the movement by the burial ground and went there first, they will encounter the following first and the cellar only as an epilog.
The burial ground consists of five graves, all dated within the last one hundred years and holding the remains of Arkin family members. By one of them crouches the temporarily-insane Henry Arkin, frantically unearthing the corpse of Dee and the infant. Whenever the investigators arrive, he is cradling their stiff bodies in his arms, murmuring softly to the still forms. Seeing this pitiable but unsightly display is worth a 1/1D3 SAN roll.
Investigators who flee the cellar under the influence of the spores have a still-worse vision awaiting them should they run in the direction of the small family plot. There, the exhumed bodies of Dee and the infant — both shrivelled and worm-eaten — will claw at the investigator over Henry’s shoulders, struggling to reach him or her with evil intent. This vision also costs 1/1D10 SAN.
Henry is unapproachable, wracked by sobs. If forcibly pried away from his beloved Dee, he will attack his grapplers with furiously swinging but largely ineffective fists and arms. He can be subdued easily, dissolving into helpless sobs for his lost sister and child.
Free from the influence of the spores, Henry will regain his senses and fall into a depressive melancholy at what has happened. Extended interviews will eventually untangle the truth of the story, though not the cause. Henry will face four counts of murder, and eventually be turned over to a state institution for the insane for several years (perhaps in Arkham?).
No Sanity gains exist for this episode; no solutions exist to the problems and tragedies of the Arkin family. But the curious presence of the miasma in the cellar (since stopped by shifting earth and rock) may alert the investigators to one of the larger problems affecting Dunwich and the area. As a pointer along that path, this encounter may eventually lead to their resolution of the threat and the peace of mind that may result.