The Chaosium Digest

The Chaosium Digest supports the role-playing games produced by Chaosium Inc. and all content is fan submitted. Begun in 1994 by Shannon Appelcline who passed it to myself in 2000 and previously distributed via email, this is the newest incarnation of the Chaosium Digest. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chaosium Digest Classics: Cat's Cradle

by Andy Clements
Originally appearing in Chaosium Digest v28.08, August 15, 1999

Over-view: This adventure is not so much concerned with the mythos as it is with a fringe element of Cthulhu, Bast (although strictly speaking she does not appear in this adventure [not to the investigator anyway]). It may be helpful to read 'The Cats of Ulthar' short story (by Lovecraft, for those who don't know) in order to understand the tone of this adventure...

Anyway, the adventure takes place at a cat boarding home (located in or near the investigators home town/city), where a series of bizarre and grisly murders are puzzling the police. This adventure is set modern day but can be adapted to other eras with a bit of effort.

What the Investigators can be told before the adventure: The cat's home (feel free to select a name for this location which demonstrates the human ability to find a silly pun for any business proposition) has been the site of three grisly murders, where the victim in each case has been a worker found with all the flesh stripped from his bones. The workers have been identified by their dental records. The police are confused... Evidence suggests that the flesh (which has never been found) was stripped from the bodies while they were still alive, and yet took only ten minutes at most in each case (due to window of opportunity of other people passing through etc.).

What is going on: The cat's home unscrupulously hires people who can't find work anywhere else (immigrants are a favorite), and pays them incredibly low wages. The cats are not well treated, partly due to conditions at the cat home (prospective clients are only shown a nice area, where they believe their cat will be looked after in a luxurious manner...), and partly due to low standards and poor training. As a result, the cats have been getting annoyed, to say the least (especially when several of their number became afflicted with malnutrition), which has come to the attention of Bast. She has granted the cats the power to escape from their cages on full moons and to subsequently feast upon one victim on that night. So far, only minor employees have been attacked while the manager, who most deserves this punishment, has been left unmolested since he works from an office elsewhere in cat home, not in the cage area.

Looking for Evidence: Here are some summaries of what players may be able to find - feel free to add to or edit the information given here depending on how hard you want your players to work to get to the truth.

* Autopsy results: characters in the police force, or forensic scientists may be able to find records of the autopsy results. These suggest that the bones recovered have many small scratch marks upon them. A comment is added (in writing) by the police officer in charge of the investigation that no animals were loose in the area. The players will probably need to do some espionage and sneaking around, as this document will quickly be recovered by Delta Green and placed in classified section.

* Interviews with workers at the cat home: These should reveal the lack of skill and experience among the workers at the cat home, but is unlikely to reveal anything else, other than that most are scared and would quit if they could find work anywhere else. Some extreme cases may beg the players to offer them manual work (e.g., mowing the lawn).

* Interview with the manager: He will claim that he follows high standards at the cat home, and if the players manage to see the location of the cat cages, he will try to bribe them to keep quiet about what they've seen (this is how he prevented the police from calling in the authorities in respect to animals). He will be willing to pay up to $500. However, the players may need to make ethical checks if they accept.

* Research in an occult library (probably a firm favorite for experienced players): Will turn up very little, unless a player is clever enough to search for references to cat deities, in which case a reference to Bast will be found, as well as modern claims by authors that Bast sometimes punishes those who mistreat cats. Make sure the players are aware that these latter claims are in the league of people who claim that Elvis has been abducted by aliens...

What can the characters do?: The only way to prevent the deaths (as they'll never be able to convince the police of the truth) is to somehow bring the manager to justice. If the players are moral, this will involve trying to find non-corrupt police officers and showing them the state of the cat home. If the players cannot do this, they might want to contact the cat owners when they return from holiday, who will either sue the manager (thus ending the business), or take the law into their own hands (some owners have been known to kill for their pets...). However, it is more poetic if the players work out from the dates of the deaths that this occurs only on full moons, and then trick the manager into being a victim of the cats, which will finally end the killings.

The method of ending the suffering of the cats is not particularly important, so long as it occurs. If the players fail to solve this mystery, the following murders will cost them 1d4 sanity per case, until about the 4th, when they will gradually become callous to the murders. Of course, the continued suffering of the cats may eventually bring them to the home of the Investigators... If the players do succeed, Bast *may* be grateful enough to reward them with a SMALL gift. Remember that Bast is more likely to send the players pet cats to care for, than a spell which causes wide spread death... at most the spell might offer some protection to the owner from mundane (or possibly mythos) threats.

Hints to the Keeper: The horror in this adventure mostly occurs off stage. If you want to bring the horror to the investigators, casually comment on the increasing numbers of alley cats in their neighborhood, and the way they always stop to watch the players. When they go to the cage area, comment on how the cats make a tremendous amount of sound before they go through the door to the cage room, but become completely silent when they enter the room. Little things designed to make the players scared to death of cats...

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