Genius Loci (RonCon Spring 2017)

Danvers State Hospital has been a passing obsession since I saw the movie Session 9.  When Chaosium published an adventure about it (I had some ideas myself) I wanted to run it so badly.  I decided to add a little more horror to the story.

I was disappointed on our the story developed in the adventure as a whole, however – especially with the awkward way MacBride was introduced.  It just seems to rely too much on the spookiness of Danvers itself without really exploring its potential.  I have decided to add a few things to the story to make it more horrific and seeded in the story of Danvers as a whole.



Additions

Don’t go the J3

J was one of the wards where the most violent was kept.  There is one patient that has tapped into the lloigor more than any other person and in truth, Berger believes he is serving this person and not necessarily an unseen being like the lloigor.  Jasper Lee Massey, also known as the the Happy Face Slayer – an axe murderer that dresses like a clown.  To appease the Happy Face Slayer, non-name patients are commonly sent up for him to mutilate.  J3 is his domain and he is given full reign there.

The man has a tattoo of a huge dragon that covers his body.  He has taken it upon himself to be the physical manifestation of the creatures and Berger has mistakenly bought into it.  This does bother the lloigor considerably.  For now, the lloigor is allowing this form of worship but soon (perhaps at the ceremony), it plans on taking the killer out as well.

Idea: He is possessed or obsessed with John Hathorne.  Everyone is a witch!

Clues that can be given are:

  • They see a big hulking creature of a man staring down at them from a window in J section, 3rd floor.  He has blood on his clothes.
  • One patient warns the investigators in a haunting voice “Don’t go to J3!  Stay away from J3
  • Painted somewhere on a door or wall on J section “Long live King Happy Face Slayer!
  • Recent news clippings of the Happy Face Slayer’s transfer to Danvers from Buffalo.
  • Bloody happy faces on the walls

Ghosts of the Witches

The swirl of magic energies surrounding the grounds upon the breaking of the seal has also released the ghosts of many of  the “witches” of Salem Trials.  They are seeking revenge against the lloigor and in truth hope to help the investigators.  However, they will probably act as a distraction.  The lloigor’s power is growing, preventing the ghosts from fully communicating their intentions.

Closer to the Asylum, the ghosts can only be seen.  Further out, they can probably communicate basic cryptic information.

Clues that lead the investigators to this can be:

  • They are being watched from the woods around the Asylum.  Peering out a window, an investigator sees a woman in white standing in the wooded area on the Asylum ground (perhaps in an area patients are not permitted).
  • They always have a sense they are being watched or followed even when there is nothing.  Shadowy  figures of men and woman in torn and tattered 1600s garb (not initially recognizable) staring at them, watching them from afar or in mirrors.

The ghosts don’t actually have to do anything but clue the investigators in that there is something supernatural going on.  They can act as a distraction or red herring- the investigators assume it’s the ghosts that are doing all the strange effects, when in reality, it’s the lloigor. At some point, perhaps, the ghosts can convey the message that it is not them but something else.  For example

  • Written on a mirror in mud or some other foreign substance is the phrase dare libertatem – which means give us freedom.
  • The investigators here whispers in the night and one phrase they can discern is Luna nigrum or Black Moon (see below).
  • Haunting echoes in one of the research locations of a witch trial.

Dark of the Moon Rising

The Dark of the Moon ceremony implies it is to take place on the night of a new moon.  Visions of the new moon can be implanted by the “witch ghosts.”  Moon themes and occult can be seeded into the investigation.  A build up of some kind needs to be developed in the story to give the investigators a sense that something is going to happen on the new moon.

Moon legends and rituals?  Black Moon?  Death and soul sucking? Lunatic?

The Emerald Tablet has several other names: the Smaragdine Tablet, the Tabula Smaragdine and the Secret of Hermes. It is an ancient text said to have been produced by the Egyptian moon god Thoth, who is also referred to as Hermes Trismegistus. The short and highly cryptic piece of writing claims to describe the secrets of the primordial substance and how it can be harnessed. The tablet’s meaning is very obscure. It seems to state that all things come from some primal source of which the sun is the father and the moon is the mother:

Its father is the Sun, its mother the Moon, the wind carried it in its belly and its nurse is the earth.

The chapter describes lunar magic, both white and black. It contains examples of lunar spells and describes how to make magical instruments such as a lunar mirror – essential tool for the lunar magician. It also describes the function of the moon in tarot and has lists of lunar superstitions and festivals.

Meeting/Interacting with MacBride 

{I particularly did not like the aspect of MacBride being let go to hunt down the players and he just so happened to be the one patient they needed to talk to.  I felt that it was too coincidental and easy.  I wanted to create more of a reason for Berger to release MacBride.}  Releasing him does not make sense unless there is another motivation behind it.  It makes more sense that they go see him and encounter difficulty.

He has already escaped – Change one aspect of MacBride and instead of sending him, Berger sends Massey after the players.

{From pg 41} Before his banishment to J Ward, Croswell befriended a fellow patient named Andrew MacBride, who was interred in H Ward. Croswell says, “MacBride is as touched as the others, yet also he seems to know what is really going on.”

However, since Croswell was taken to J Ward, MacBride escaped and is at large somewhere within Danvers.  Who is Andrew MacBride – Veteran of the great war and former cop, saw so much that it finally cracked him. Devout Catholic.  His church is St Mary-Annunciation Church.  If anywhere, chances he would be found under the care of Father Williams there.  At the Church, the Happy Face Slayer (sent to not only scare off the players but also find MacBride) will arrive to hunt them down.  I made him a former cop so they the investigators could gain more information about him from the police once they convinced them they had his best interest at heart.


Post Game Report

The additions of the witch-ghosts and the serial killer really worked well to add to the creepiness and horror.  At one point during a foggy night, the investigators spotted a woman in period night clothing walking in the woods near the Asylum.  One night while sleeping, one investigator heard shouting as if they were in a courtroom during a heated debate.

Additionally, I read somewhere that time loss was also associated to the lloigor, so I had the investigators miss a whole day in their investigations.  Let them come to Danvers 3 days before the New Moon.  They wake up to what they thought was the next day after the arrival only to discover they missed a day.  Roll Sanity.  Made for an interesting moment.

The investigators went looking for the escaped MacBride.  They got a clues about MacBride that he was a devout Catholic and perhaps he was hiding at the local church (St Mary-Annunciation Church).  When they discovered that the serial killer had already arrived at the church (and murdered the priest), a confrontation ensued.  In hindsight, I needed to make him a little more skilled and perhaps supernaturally enhanced by the lloigor because the fight was rather anti-climactic after the serial kill rolled 100 on one of his attacks (fumbled and fell prone).

The ending took a more epic turn as the investigators felt obligated to recreate the stone to imprison the lloigor.  A Keeper probably needs to prepare for that, perhaps have the stone be donated to some museum or local college.

I recommend that they Keeper read through the adventure highlight in its own color the paragraphs he needs to read to the players.  I missed a few points because I did not do that and had to go back and retro a few things.

Additional Resources & Handouts

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