A free RPG scenario
Suitable for Yellow Dawn & Call of Cthulhu
Dr Thomas Merkerson is an independently wealthy and publicly celebrated figure; highly educated and gifted in the science of palaeontology, he has dedicated much of his life and disposable income to the pursuit of knowledge regarding the distant epochs of Earth’s history – and the remarkable creatures that once crawled, slithered and raced across and above its surface.
13 years ago his wife gave birth to their only child, a son: Willian – spelled with an ‘N’. Sadly, the new mother died following complications. Devastated by the loss, Merkerson threw himself into prolonged and complex projects – burying himself in work to deflect the grief, and to a greater extent rejecting the son that caused his wife’s death.
Willian grew up in the care of expensive nannies, chaperons and a prestigious boarding school.
His father changed rapidly during those years.
Coming back from an extended project in Peru, Merkerson became reclusive within the home town and educational faculties he once attended so regularly. The community bazaars, once often held at the large estate, took place elsewhere. The famous dinner parties and social invitations dried up. Instead, the large estate where Merkerson’s family had lived for several generations became a quiet place of solitude and scientific investigation… because Merkerson began to publish information about prehistoric life that was sensational in its vision, research and accuracy.
Many in the field suspected Merkerson was working on something truly significant and only releasing these tantalising morsels to keep the pressure off. The reason for this suspicion was the amount of time Merkerson was spending away on large, complex and secretive projects; projects that always relied on the same group of skilled and successful people.
Meanwhile, young Willian came home ever less frequently. A combination of his father never being there or never showing any affection when around; and the increasingly “strange” atmosphere of the place that was technically his home but never was… and the hostile and aloof behaviour of the small army of staff that Merkerson kept on to attend to the estate.
Age 13, Willian’s plans of spending the school’s winter break away heli-boarding at an exclusive snow resort were put on hold when a freak winter storm shut down every airports across the whole area – and, then a car crash placed Willian’s regular chaperon in hospital. The principle director of the boarding school decided to send Willian home for the interlude whilst other plans were made.
Willian turned up at the boarding school three days later, in a taxi that had travelled several hundred miles, nearly catatonic, visibly terrified by some-event, covered in dirt, stinking of a zoo, and clutching what appeared to be the non-fossilised bone of a vast carnivorous dinosaur.
The principle director, Rhonda Patete, is a master of discretion particularly where the reputation of wealthy and powerful clients are concerned. Yet she is unable to sweep the incident under the carpet; only a couple of the boarding school staff are aware that Willian is back – and being cared for by Rhonda at her home. She has not called in the police or any authorities – and a casual telephone enquiry at the Merkerson estate revealed nothing “seemed” to be out of the ordinary: Thomas Merkerson was away, as usual, on some kind of project.
What really bothered Rhonda Patete was the way in which the person at the other end of the phone had subtly enquired if SHE knew about the location of Willian; something about the tone of voice, the deceptive, cunning structure of the enquiry had made her skin crawl, her hackles rise and set off alarm bells.
Rhonda Patete requires investigators; either she is able to contact them directly, or they are recommended via an intermediary.
After his wife died, Merkerson stumbled across a potential paleontological “gold mine” – rumours of the entrance to an ancient structure found after a massive rock collapse in a remote mountain plateau in Peru. It was found by a semi-amateur group of rock-hunters, self-funded, travelling the area looking for fossils. When they went inside – they found the remains of a temple (Serpent People) that had been buried and locked away for millions of years.
The dormant serpent people inside woke-up, killed the rock-hunters and their local guides and took on their identities – but not until they’d tortured and interrogated the humans to understand as much as they could about the world they had returned to.
Merkerson was the primary financial and academic sponsor of their Peru journey, and they’d sent him an email detailing their preliminary discovery before really going inside. At the loss of contact, Merkerson went there!
And never came back.
What did come back was a Serpent People in disguise and a whole entourage of fake rock-hunters.
They took over the Merkerson estate, killed the staff and imitated them – and launched long-range and difficult projects to discover other temples that hadn’t been crushed, buried or lava-boiled out of existence as the Earth changed through the epochs. With each discovery – they ship back any Serpent People, either in suspended animation or hidden from view. [Leading to some strange tales by shipping handlers and agents].
Now, in the basement of the Merkerson property – caverns are being dug out and an army of Serpent People (most of them in hibernation) is waxing. How far these plans are, and to what level the Serpent People have infiltrated the local community – or further – is down to the GM.
When Willian arrived more-or-less unannounced, after the snow storm cancelled his plans; the staff at the estate did their best to keep him contained. They couldn’t kill him because he is too small to imitate or replace – and his murder and subsequent disappearance would create too much risk.
Willian however suspected something was far from right and so snuck out and explored the property; he found his father’s treasure trove of dinosaur bones – not fossilised because they’d been preserved intact within the magickal temples of the Serpent People.
And then he discovered a way down into the caverns… and saw a scene of utter horror.
Somehow, with his sanity barely intact, Willian had the presence of mind to make an escape and find a cab that would take him to the one place his considered safe – the one place he thought of as home: the boarding school.
Willian – is suffering deep psychological trauma. If the characters are able to get him to talk about his experiences they should be disjointed, manic and partly nonsensical. GM’s should consider the short story by H.P.Lovecraft – The Nameless City – for inspiration of what Willian may have encountered down there in the caverns at the Merkerson estate.
Optional clue: When William turned up at the boarding school, he may have had a scrap of old, leathery parchment in his pocket. A “mythical” map – alluding to a land called Valusia (see attached image below)
This scenario could be about tracking down Merkerson wherever he is and stopping him, or exploring the temples he (or the Thing pretending to be him) is in the process of rediscovering; allowing characters to find arcane technology with terrible power and enjoy fantastic yet alien riches. Or it could be about destroying a nest of Serpent People at the Merkerson estate.
Things could become difficult for any group of investigators if and when the staff at the Merkerson estate begin to suspect where the boy may have vanished to; and especially when Dr Merkerson himself appears at the boarding school, along with attorneys and other officials demanding the immediate return and custody of his boy. There are not many powers in the land who would be willing to stand up to Dr Merkerson’s political, academic and financial influence; needless to say that if Willian is taken away his life isn’t long for living: something bad will happen, and made to look like an accident.
Is Merkerson resurrecting the ancient Snake Cult of Valusia?
Has he made contact with or found a location deeply sacred to Yig? And what is the ultimate plan for this?
A “mythical” map – alluding to a land called Valusia
Valusia was a kingdom to the west of the Thurian continent in the Thurian Age of Earth’s pre-history. At first ruled by Serpent People they were overthrown by their human slaves. After much time, when humankinds’ memories of the wars had faded to whispers and legend, the Serpent People tried to control this human kingdom through cunning magick, using illusions and subtle coercion to rule from behind the scenes – but were defeated once again, this time in a secret war. Finally then, they created a religion, the Snake Cult, to ensnare the passions and loyalties of cruel men but this plan was destroyed when Kull, an Atlantean barbarian, gained of Valusia by force.
– History and Legend of Valusia
Audio Story of The Nameless City – H.P.Lovecraft, narrated by Nick Gisburne
- Read the text of The Nameless City by H. P. Lovecraft – click
- Excellent reference material for Serpent People
Update – December 2014
My Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur, player group have just tackled this scenario. It was really good fun and created a massive amount of tension. They actually failed to complete the scenario due to casualties and fear – backing away after the Chief of Police of the Living City they’re in warned them not to mess with these people or suffer legal consequences. The team are planning to lick their wounds then go back – visiting the remote dig site that has Merkenson’s interest. Session notes here: https://davidjrodger.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/yellow-dawn-session-notes-7th-october-a-terrified-boy/  If you’d like some more details on this then ping me a note.