Pointed Development

First Ever Session of Call of Cthulhu – the Haunting

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Wherein I take a break from being a nerdy developer in order to terrorize a group of hapless investigators.

A couple of months ago I purchased the 6th Edition Call of Cthulhu role playing game as published by Chaosium. Tabletop role playing games have always piqued my interest, but I’ve never participated in any way, not as a player nor as a game master.

I was fascinated, though: As a family, we play a lot of Mansions of Madness published by Fantasy Flight Games. MoM has a little bit of room for role playing on the part of the investigators, but not much, but regardless we’ve had several dramatic sessions: Players negotiating and playing out who should to be locked up in a room with the Thing from Beyond, sacrificing their investigator to give everyone else a chance to escape, that kind of thing. It’s all really great fun, but it’s still a board game confined by the limits of board games.

With Call of Cthulhu, I was looking for a much richer, completely fleshed-out world with the same tension and depth of despair as Mansions of Madness.

After weeks of planning, our first session began on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012. Spoilers ahead..

This is what it felt like to terrify everyone.

The investigators were deep in the weeds at the old Corbitt house.

We began the evening with good food, better drinks and great friends: Jay and Sarah brought the Dutch Harbor Breeze Grog and an amazing assortment of cheeses and crackers.

We made tacos.

After dinner and the usual catch up chatter (and maybe a few drinks), we set out to adventure. The lights were dimmed, the candles lit and the music began.

Side note: I created the following playlist to set the mood:

  • Subterranean Empire – Hellsaw – Cold
  • Not Human – Javier Navarrete – Pan’s Labyrinth (OST)
  • Night of the Wolf – Nox Arcana – Transylvania
  • Shadows Fall – Nox Arcana – Carnival of Lost Souls
  • Mind Heist – Zack Hemsey – Mind Heist
  • Overture: Atmospheres – Sudwesfunk Orchestra – 2001: Space Odyssey
  • The Road – Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – The Road (OST)
  • Redemption – Zack Hemsey – The Way
  • Journey to the Line – Original Soundtrack – The Thin Red Line (OST)
  • Lux aeterna – Cappella Amsterdam & Daniel Reuss – Ligeti: Lux Aeterna
  • The Descent – David Julyan – The Descent (OST)
  • Ofelia – Javier Navarrete – Pan’s Labyrinth (OST)
  • Kanon for Orchestra and Tape – Leonard Slatkin – The Exorcist (OST)
  • Ground Zero – Terence Blanchard – 25th Hour (OST)

The following player aids were set aside in an old humidor, the dark wood case adding to the overall atmosphere.

Player Aids  from Yog Sothoth

A couple of the player aids I printed from Yog Sothoth and aged with coffee – The Haunting

The Introduction

It’s 1920 and the investigators are in Boston on business. We have Vernard ‘Barney’ Honeythorpe, antiquarian and resident newt expert. Prof. Penelope Wellington in Boston on teaching assignment, and Margaret ‘Mag’ Benson, studying at the University. Together they meet with an older fellow who would genuinely appreciate it if they could look in to a mysterious circumstance surrounding one of his rental properties: The last renters were driven mad and the older fellow is concerned that there may be some sinister cause, but he can’t be sure. He wants the investigators to look in to the matter and clean it up, if possible. He agrees to pay them $20.00 per day, plus an extra $100 each if they can resolve the matter.

The Investigation

Right away the investigators split up: Mag has the bright idea of heading straight to the Boston Globe to research current affairs. She’s immediately stopped by a young Mr. Pete Adeo who insists she cannot possibly see the archives. Not without approval, of course. She’s friendly enough with him, however, and agrees to have drinks with him later if he’ll let her just take a quick peek. He agrees, and she spends half the morning researching editorial archives concerning the rental in question.

As Keeper, I missed a good opportunity here: I missed the whole 1920s Prohibition thing. Live and learn!

Meanwhile, Barney and Penelope journey to meet with the children of the former occupants. They don’t learn much: The children speak of a horrifying, malevolent presence, of glowing red eyes and a foreboding evil throughout the house. They really can’t say much more, though.

They miss their parents.

When the three investigators meet back up, they compare notes: Mag shares with Barney and Penelope that the house may have had a series of brutal murders and unexplained illnesses. Barney and Penelope relay their encounter with the children. Together, they agree to continue their investigation into the history of the old home.

The next day, Prof. Penelope begins her research at Boston’s main library. She quickly uncovers a multitude of old, buried articles about the house and that of a particular Mr. Corbitt. She learns that the late Mr. Corbitt was a strange man, indeed, and learns of several court proceedings around this peculiar individual. She learns that he may have been buried in the basement.

While Penelope’s busy with research at the main library, Barney and Mag drive up to New York to pay a visit to one of the former occupants of the home. There they learn more about the mysterious force in the house and of unexplained accidents.

As the day concludes, the investigators agree to pay a visit to the house itself.

In the morning, of course.

The House

The investigators find themselves standing before an unassuming home settled amid the shadows of the surrounding commercial property.

Barney scans the perimeter, looking for anything unusual.

Mag and Penelope unlock the door and venture inside. Barney enters the home after his two companions. The house is stale, old food rotting in the kitchen, the dining table set for a family of four. Obviously abandonded with haste.


They hear a loud crash upstairs. Cautiously, they ascend the darkened stairway to the second story.


Another sound, this time from the room at the end of the hall. Sweet Cthulhu, what could it be?

Mag approaches the door first. As she’s about to open it, a pool of dark liquid begins to pool near her feet. Backing away from the foul thing, the investigators decide to test it.

Mag dips her finger in the brackish liquid, touching it to her tongue.


The pool of blood begins to drip up toward the ceiling. Worried, but not terrified, the investigators force open the door and behold…

A mostly empty room.

A naked bed frame sits near one wall. On the opposing wall, a window with a shutter.

The shutter slams shut.


Mag decides to check out the shutter. Penelope walks into the room. Barney waits outside the door near the pool of blood.


The bed lurches forward! It catches Mag with a force strong enough to send her flying out of the window, in an explosion of glass and splintered wood.

Barney flees down the stairs consumed by terror and an overwhelming urge to help his friend while Penelope recoils in horror. Incredibly, Mag suffers only minor injuries.

The Chapel of Contemplation

After much discussion and a reformulated plan of action, Barney heads to the city courts where he learns of a certain Church. Wishing to learn more, the investigators set out to discover what secrets they can unearth at the Chapel of Contemplation and Church of Our Lord Granter of Secrets.

Much to the investigators surprise, the Church is a burned out wreck of a building. Very little remains of what once may have been quite a majestic building. They notice a freshly painted symbol, that of an eye surrounded by lines to form a sort of triangle. Baffled, they make note of the symbol and begin examining the ruins.

That’s when the ground caves in.

The investigators are lucky, however, and manage to claw their way to safety before the ground fully consumes them.

They stand around a hole in the ground that recedes into Darkness for a moment deciding what to do. “I’ll get the rope,” suggests Barney.

Without fear, Mag and Penelope lower themselves into the pit. They find a large open room and see two very dead, very rotten corpses that appeared to be attempting to claw their way out of the room during some unknown conflagration.

Mag disrobes one of the corpses. “Maybe we’ll need it for later.”

Searching, they discover on a dusty desk a large tome that they learn is most likely covered in human skin. Mag steps back, sick to her stomach. Penelope grabs the book.

Finding little else of value, Mag and Penelope scramble out of the pit, helped by Barney. They decide to rest for the evening, hoping tomorrow to return to the house.

The Basement

Wishing to learn its secrets, Barney begins an earnest study of the skin-bound tome. Meanwhile, Penelope and Mag find themselves in front of the old Corbitt house.

Knowing full well that the basement holds the key to the insanity of the whole adventure, the two investigators resign themselves to a singular fate: Search the basement.

Mag brings a shotgun.

Standing in the doorway to oblivion in front rickety old stairs twisting down into a black void, the two investigators decide (smartly, I might add) to use the same rope they had from the Chapel to assist their way down into the Darkness.

All at once chaos ensues: Mag – suddenly consumed with hatred – readies her shotgun and, with steady aim, fires directly at Penelope! She misses, Penelope barely dodging to the side. Penelope quickly wrestles the gun from Mag and hits her over the head, knocking her unconscious. Not wishing to leave her friend to a worse fate, Penelope drags Mag’s unconscious body out of the house.

Later, they meet back up with Barney.

In Darkness

As if the first episode wasn’t bad enough, the investigators resign themselves once more to a singular fate: To venture into the dark void of the basement and unlock its terrifying secrets.

This time, they immediately notice that one wall is not like the others: Intuition tells them to pry open the boards. Mag runs back up and grabs a crowbar from the trunk of the car.

Little by little they pry open the wooden boards. They’re presented with a small opening leading to a small chamber beyond, sealed in shadow.

Crawling through one by one, the three investigators find themselves in a tomb: A corpse – stinking and earthy in appearance – lay stretched out on a palette in the center of the room.

Penelope gets close enough to examine the body.

Its eyes burst open! With a speed belying its appearance, the corpse bolts upright!

All at once, both Penelope and Barney black out: With nothing more than a simple crowbar, Mag summons every ounce of strength and resolve and – with a vengeance – pulverizes the monstrosity.

The corpse disintegrates into a fine dust.

Barney and Penelope regain consciousness.

Somewhere in the distance, the investigators hear chirping of birds.


The investigators ultimately solved the mystery, escaping with their lives and their sanity from the vile Mr. Corbitt. Some unanswered questions still linger, however: What happened at the Chapel of Contemplation? What does the Symbol of the Eye represent? What was Mr. Corbitt attempting to accomplish and why was he buried in his home?

Perhaps later, once they’re rested and healed, the investigators can continue their research into the Strange and Unusual.

Who knows what madness they’ll uncover…

This is what it felt like to terrify everyone.

The investigators were deep in the weeds at the old Corbitt house.

Player Aids from Yog Sothoth

A couple of the player aids I printed from Yog Sothoth and aged with coffee – The Haunting