ORIGINAL: The Thing in the Coop
First of all the title is a spoiler for the game. We should change that. How about “The Thing on the Farm!”
The investigators are called out to a small farm south of Arkham. The farmer claims that something has been killing his livestock with alarmingly escalating violence.
Wow, wow, wow! What a jump! No set up, no description. Actually this isn’t a bad thing. This is a short game, it assumes a. that the players are people who will care, c. who can be hired to investigate things of weird natures, and b. know what farms look like.
Every night despite his best efforts a clamor breaks out in the various barns and fields and animals are killed. As it gets worse he’s terrified that something might happen to him or his family so he contacts the SOPI to help him.
SOPI stands for special Occult Paranormal Investigators. Look I was young. Obviously to make this a workable scenario I might make this more general, at least include a note that the farmer put an ad in the paper. Something quaint like that would fit the humor of this scenario.
The farm is pretty normal, red painted barns, white fences and various animals. A small chicken coop occupies one pen, some pigs another. Sheep are visible in the fields and two horses are visible in a nearby paddock. The mare seems to have a bell on her neck while the other, probably a stallion seems to walk slowly, feeling it’s way. This should give the investigators a bad feeling.
Pretty good start, easy set up. Spoiler alert though: the monster is a chicken that has mutated into a dinosaur monster. What would happen if an investigator feels pastoral and decides to check out the coop?
The farmer is open enough to talk about his problem and will answer any question the group asks. He has a wife and two small girls. The girls are excited to have visitors but have an eerie habit of finishing each others sentences. The farmer urges the investigators to camp out for the night to see what they can find.
A couple of quick problems. No one is named. Not one. Also does the farmer have a wife or husband? Farmhands? What does the farmhouse look like? The twins are clearly meant to be creepy, but how do they fit into the rest of the game? And what sorts of things does the farmer know? What other clues are around? What violence has the “monster” actually done? It says the attacks have left farm animals dead, which ones and how? This could be a quick itemized list. The scenario also suggests the thing to now is just wait for night leaving little room for investigator planning.
The first half of the night is very quiet. Then suddenly a great shrieking comes from one of the barns. Bursting into the barn the group sees a cow, wild eyed but unhurt. It charges them in panic and DEXx4 rolls are necessary to jump out of the way. As the cow runs out into the night a scream is heard from the house.
Wow, wow, wow hold your horses. Or cows. A quick series of events like this is great for a spooky game, but again its assuming investigator action. If I recall correctly playing this originally went a little like: “you hear a scream in the barn.” “Ok, we wait to hear if anything else happens.” “uh…” Also the inserted rolls is a CoC tradition that isn’t how I like to write encounters now days. Typically these would play out as a series of attrition type scares, whittling away HP until the final fight. But better to set this up as a problem with some kind of stakes, creepy potential, or personality and let the players figure out how to get themselves out of trouble.
Running upstairs the group sees the mangled corpse of one of the girls at the bottom of the stairs and the other alive and gibbering to herself at the top. A MEDICINE roll makes the investigators think that the girl was somehow stabbed with a strange triangular shaped knife or other similar thing. The farmer and his wife are distraught and the other daughter has gone completely mad. “Cluck, cluck, cluck” she repeats to herself and wont respond to anyone. Nothing more happens all night.
This is a nice weird twist and increase in violence. But gives the players no agency, interaction, and the clue is a tad… obvious. Actually I’m pretty happy there are two clues here. Both lead to the conclusion that the attacker was some weird chicken. A more subtle hint could be nice. I think the idea about a “strange triangular knife” is meant to misdirect the investigation a little.
The Next Day
TRACK rolls or SPOT HIDDEN rolls will let the group spot track of something with strangely splayed toes and scales seem to be stuck into the mud in certain places. It goes off into one of the barns where they tail off.
Besides the spelling this is again a terribly rail-roady section. Considering the complete lack of clues prior to the attacks the players really had no way to preempt the violence, and then following up have no other recourse than just rush after it afterwards. While pretty typical for horror style, it comes across in play as a little boring. At least include some choice of action. They could try to barricade themselves in the house and see if it attacks again.
The farmer is sure that it was some wolf or wild animal from the nearby woods. He grabs his shotgun and heads out, wether the investigators go with him or not. There they find the cow, butchered and once again stabbed with a triangular blade. Despite these odd wounds the farmer still thinks the culprit is a wolf.
This farmer is an idiot. Considering the entirely non-wolf like tracks and the fact that they don’t go anywhere near the woods it seems like the investigators might, you know, check all of the barns, sheds, and coops so clearly described earlier. The farmer is pretty likely to come home with the dead wolf/dog below to find a roasting proto-chicken.
Also this bit means the players will probably get a shot gun soon.
Suddenly out of the woods jumps a weirdly deformed dog. Not quiet normal it has extra long legs and a bigger snout. It leaps over them and attacks. Once killed the farmer calls their hunt a success and takes the carcass and the group back to the farm. MEDICINE the wolf is covered with sores and tumors.
I like how I switch between this being a dog and a wolf. Is the fact that it has weird long legs and a bigger snout meant to mean it was reverting, in the same way the chicken is going back to dinosaur form? The farmer remains an idiot.
When questioned about the deformities, the farmer complains that a nearby coal plant has been dumping it’s waste nearby and the fumes and other chemicals has been causing deformities in the area. Another farmer complained that a pig had grown a fifth leg.
This might have been a clue that should have been mentioned earlier. Also if the idea of the pollution cause a genetic reversion is central to the game here would be a good time to foreshadow the shit out of that. Perhaps the farmer should be a little smarter and go off about how he knows enough science to know that neighbor Ted and neighbor Sally are both nuts because they claimed their pigs were becoming freakish boar monsters and their sheep are turning into whatever people domesticated sheep from.
Also the coal plant dumping waste seems suspicious as a Mi-Go wearing a scarf. How is a coal plant causing mutations? This could be expanded upon. It also isn’t really in keeping with HPL themes. Which isn’t necessarily bad, this is a humorous scenario after all.
Triumphant the group sit to dinner with the wife and the farmer. The girl is still very quiet and clucks to herself. As the sun goes down some loud noises are heard from upstairs in the house. Creeping up the stairs a weird and large shape is spotted in the hall way and when shot at it bursts out a window and down towards the chicken coop.
Welp, apparently I thought the players were idiots too. Sorry guys. The players at this point should be pointing at the mounting evidence of everything not being alright. Or if somehow the suspiciously tall dog convinced them with its decidedly not beak and not splayed toes, they would just go home.
Also another case of “aaaah a noise react!” with little to no player agency. I’ve even figured that they would shoot at a shadowy shape with little to no provocation. Also what sounds is the thing making?
What if people go outside while others go upstairs? This doesn’t really allow for a wide range of action.
Following the shape through TRACK or SPOT HIDDEN they see that the creature went straight into the chicken coop.
Why do they need to roll for this? It does say it’s heading for the coop in the last bit. Even the farmer at this point should have figured this out.
The coop is a large structure with room to fit about a dozen chickens and a man could crouch inside of it. The inside of the coop is pitch black and a rasping is heard from inside.
Looking inside they see something horrifying among the chickens. Something like a chicken, but somehow a throwback to some prehistoric creature. Wings, but wings formed into claws, a beak but one twisted and sharp, teeth weren’t too long ago in this creatures evolution, chicken legs, but with huge spurs, normally just for roosters and with other claws. It’s eyes aren’t the normal brown of hens, but a terrible red, blood red, angry at the world, bent to fight back at what made it this way.
The thing should be killed but not without either killing or very badly hurting one of the investigators.
I like this straight to the point description of killing this thing. Yes you GM, you better hurt a player! Or else it isn’t scary! No stats though… or strategy. Useful things to add here are: complications of fighting this thing in the tiny coop, how the other chickens are reacting, its fighting tactics, etc.