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!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Antarctic Discovery?

Conversation for Exploration, a talk show hosted by Laura Lee, claims to have seen video of an Antarctic archeological dig at a city similar to Lovecraft's descriptions of Kadath in the Cold Wastes. It does seem that Laura Lee is a bit off on her Mythos Lore as Kadath in the Cold Wastes is in the Dreamlands. It's The Mountains of Madness and the lost city of the Elder Things that is in the Antarctic.

Click the title to read the full story. Let us know what you think. Is this a joke? Hoax? Viral Marketing for del Torro's filming of At the Mountains of Madness?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chaosium Digest Classics: Children of the Night

by James D. Collins
originally presented in Chaosium Digest v29.10 on Friday, December 31, 1999

The Virus
Feramorbus (wild animal disease) is a magical virus that causes lycanthropy and vampirism. Lycanthropy is the expression of the virus in a living host. Vampirism is the virus expressed in an unliving host.

Feramorbus is a blood born pathogen. Blood transfusions, sexual contact, or exposure to infected blood without using Universal Precautions may result in infection.

The disease incubates for 6d10 days. During incubation, the infected person is incapable of transmitting the disease. Onset follows, lasting 1d10 days. During onset, flu-like symptoms appear, silver acts as an irritant (causing a burning sensation or a painful rash, but no damage), and Feramorbus is contagious. If the character fails a CONx1 on1d100, then the disease is fatal (but see Vampirism). The character will die during their first transformation (see below).

If the character survives onset, he or she is a lycanthrope. He or she gains the ability to transform into an animal form which is half human and half beast. The first transformation will always take place on the night of a full moon at midnight. The transformation from human to animal will take 1d10 combat rounds. It will cost the character 1d10 points of Sanity. At dawn, the transformation from animal to human will also take 1d10 combat rounds. The character will remember a vivid dream that hints at the temporary insanity suffered and the events during the transformed state.

After the initial transformation, the character will continue to change during a full moon or stressful situations. I have characters transform when temporary insanity occurs or they suffer significant amounts of damage (i.e., losing more than half their hit points or when hit points reach three or less). I allow a Sanity roll to avoid transformation. Each transformation costs Sanity (1/1d10) and takes 1d10 combat rounds to occur. The character is unable to act during transformation. If the character makes his Sanity roll (losing 1 Sanity point), he or she remains in control of the animal form. If the character fails the Sanity roll (losing 1d10 Sanity points), the animal form is played by the Keeper (perhaps with appropriate suggestions from the player). On the nights of a full moon, the transformation occurs at midnight and will last until dawn. When the stressful situation has passed, the character will regain human form.

At some point the character will gain control over his or her transformations or go permanently insane. I allow the character control over the transformation once the character has lost 10 points of Sanity due to those transformations. Once control over the transformation is established, the time needed to shift between shapes is one combat round. Transformations will always occur on the night of a full moon, lasting from midnight to dawn.

By far, the human to wolf transformation is the most common manifestation of lycanthropy. In looking over the Beasts And Monsters (Call of Cthulhu, Edition 5.5), I would include transformations for the following: Bats, Bobcats, Black Bears, Bush Pigs, Dogs, Indian Wild Dogs, Lions, Mountain Lions, Rats, Tigers, and Wolves. I have included omnivorous mammals, but change this to suit your own campaign (Condors,Crocodiles, and Pythons are certainly possible).
I have also included wererats (one of the Dungeons & Dragons staples), but the Call of Cthulhu rulebook (Edition 5.5) only includes Rat Packs. I use the Rat-Things found earlier in the book to model that wererat you've been hankering to create.

Regardless of the shape assumed, the lycanthrope's mass does not change. A lycanthrope's CON, SIZ, INT, POW, DEX, APP,and EDU are not altered by the transformation. Strength is altered when in animal form until the transformations are controlled (i.e., a lycanthropic bat gains 2d4 points of STR -- determined once at the time of the initial transformation). The transformed lycanthrope gains the Move (Bobcat Lycanthrope/Move 12), armor (Black Bear Lycanthrope/3 Point Fur), weapons (Bush Pig Lycanthrope/Gore 30%, damage 1d8 +dB), and skills (Dog Lycanthrope/Listen 75%, Scent Something Interesting 90%) of the appropriate animal. Skills may be improved, but may not be available in human form.

Lycanthropes are very resistant to damage. They can only be harmed by fire, silver, or magic. Lycanthropes regenerate one point of damage (unless damaged by silver) per combat round. For every point of damage regenerated, the lycanthrope is forced to spend one day resting. I penalize the lycanthrope's skills if they forgo resting (10% per day of rest required).

Silver is poisonous to the lycanthrope. Damage done to a lycanthrope with a silver weapon is treated as poison (weapon damage vs. lycanthrope's CON). If the damage overcomes the lycanthrope's CON, the lycanthrope dies. If the lycanthrope resists the silver weapon damage, the creature takes half damage. Any damage caused by a silver weapon must be healed normally (1d3 hit points per week). Silver weapons leave scars and may cost the lycanthrope points of APP (I allow a Luck roll to avoid the loss of 1 APP per wound with a silver weapon).

Anyone viewing a transformed lycanthrope may suffer Sanity Loss (0/1d8). A lycanthrope is immune to Sanity loss when viewing his own species (another werewolf will not suffer Sanity loss seeing another). I use a maximum Sanity Loss (after a werewolf has lost 8 points of Sanity fighting werebats, he or she won't lose any more to werebats).

The effects of Feramorbus extend beyond the grave. If a lycanthrope dies after the incubation period ends, then he or she will rise 1d6 days later as a vampire.

The vampire is a character that died while infected with Feramorbus. While death does not cause Sanity loss, rising from the grave does. The character loses 1d20 points of Sanity (if the character becomes permanently insane, the keeper has a new character to work with). A vampire's CON, SIZ, INT, POW, DEX, APP, and EDU are not altered. Strength is doubled once the vampire rises from the grave.

The bite of a vampire can transmit the Feramorbus virus (use a Luck roll to avoid infection). Each bite of a vampire following the first infectious bite will count as 1d20 days of the disease's incubation period (giving rise to the myth regarding the third bite of a vampire). If the victim survives the onset of lycanthropy, follow the above rules regarding lycanthropy. If the victim dies during the disease's onset, he or she becomes a vampire in 1d6 days.

A vampire retains the abilities that it gained as a lycanthrope. In addition to the skills gained as a lycanthrope, vampires can Scent Blood 75%. If a vampire died during the onset of Feramorbus before becoming a lycanthrope, the character cannot transform without magical assistance. If the vampire died after the onset of Feramorbus, they retain the transformational abilities that they had in life. A vampire's transformational abilities depend upon its existence as a lycanthrope, but there are constants to the vampire's nature. Many of the powers attributed to the vampires are the magics of individual sorcerers (many ofwhich were vampires or became vampires).

Vampires are unliving creatures. As such, they do not heal with the passage of time, do not possess body heat, and cannot regenerate Magic Points naturally.

Vampires are highly resistant to damage. They do not die at 0 Hit Points, but the vampire cannot move until it has healed itself. Vampires heal themselves by expending Magic Points (one Magic Point heals one Hit Point). There are spells that are much more efficient.

A vampire's lack of body heat makes it easier to discern their supernatural nature. A successful Spot Hidden skill check will reveal the lack of body heat. A successful Occult skill check will reveal the fact that an individual is a vampire (however, proving it to other's may be somewhat more difficult).

Vampires do not go unconscious at 0 Magic Points. They must drink blood to regenerate their Magic Points. If a vampire kills another vampire by draining their blood, they will gain a permanent point of Power (but no Magic Points).

Vampires are very resistant to damage. They can only be harmed by fire, magic, silver, or sunlight. Silver is poisonous to the vampire. Damage done to a vampire with a silver weapon is treated as poison (weapon damage vs. vampire's CON). If the damage overcomes the vampire's CON, the vampire loses all hit points. If the vampire resists the silver weapon damage, the creature takes half damage. Silver weapons leave scars and may cost the vampire points of APP(I allow a Luck roll to avoid the loss of 1 APP per woundwith a silver weapon). Sunlight causes a vampire to ignite. Each combat round spent in sunlight causes 1d6 points of damage. Once out of sunlight, the burning ceases (but a Sanity roll is required to get out of the sunlight as soon as possible; a failed Sanity roll indicates panic). Sunlight burns scar the vampire and may cost the vampire points of APP (I allow a Luck roll to avoid losing 1 point of APP). If sunlight drops a vampire's Hit Points to zero or negative, they will be destroyed at the end of the following combat round unless they regain one or more hit points.

Vampires cannot regenerate Magic Points naturally. They must drain blood to regain Magic Points. A vampire's bite causes 1d4 points of damage. A successful Grapple attack may be required before biting. On the second and following rounds, the vampire will drain blood, causing the victim to temporarily lose 1d6 points of Strength (due to blood loss), an equal number of Magic Points, and 1d4 Hit Points. The victim will be unable to fight against the vampire's bite after the first round (although nothing should stop friends and associates from interfering). If Strength falls to 0, he or she will become unconscious and further losses will come from Constitution. If Magic Points fall to 0, the victim loses one point of Power (which generates an equal number of Magic Points). If Hit Points fall to 0, the victim dies at the end of the following combat round.

If the victim survives the vampire attack, Strength, Constitution, and HitPoints will heal with the passage of time (1d3 points each per week). Magic Points regenerate naturally. Power losses are permanent. Don't forget that the vampire carries theFeramorbus virus. Medical attention (blood transfusions, First Aid or Medicine) can speed this recovery. Any Magic Points in excess of the vampire's Power are retained for a number of hours equal to their Power.

Vampires gain power with age or by killing other vampires. A vampire gains one point of Power for every hundred years of existence. If a vampire drains all the blood from a second vampire, they will gain a point of Power and destroy the second vampire. Killing another vampire in this manner is very difficult. The attacking vampire must first successfully grapple the defending vampire. On the second and following round, the attacking vampire must succeed with a Strength vs. Strength contest. If successful, the attacking vampire drains blood, causing 1d6 Hit Points of damage. If unsuccessful, the defending vampire frees himself. If the defending vampire is reduced to 0 HitPoints, he will be destroyed at the end of the following combat round by the attacking vampire. The attacking vampire gains a point of Power.

Anyone viewing a transformed vampire may suffer Sanity Loss (0/1d8). Vampires are immune to Sanity loss when viewing another vampire.

As noted above, many of the vampiric powers are the magics of individual sorcerers. There are numerous spells within A Mythos Grimoire that an enterprising vampire may use.Vampires are not immune to Sanity loss from casting spells. Due to their unliving nature, vampires do not benefit from the Heal spell or the Healing spell.

Repair: mends inanimate matter with a Size equal to or less than the caster's Power. The spell costs 1 Magic Point and 1 Sanity. Due to their unliving nature, vampires with sufficient Power use this spell to restore Hit Points.

Strength of Heracles: grants the caster prodigious strength for one combat round (the round following the casting of the spell). Each Magic Point spent adds 1d6 to the caster's damage bonus. The spell costs 1 Sanity point per Magic Point spent.

These vampires are not required to sleep in a coffin and maybe active during the daylight hours (don't forget their vulnerability to sunlight). Garlic, holy symbols, mirrors, running water, and the other legendary vulnerabilities do not affect this type of vampire.

Lycanthropes and vampires are highly resistant to physical damage, but their mental fortitude is vulnerable to Sanity loss just like anybody else. Unless care is taken, the Keeper will end up with an insane character that knows most of the various skeletons residing in the Player Characters' closets.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chaosium Digest Classics: The Lighthouse

by Shane Jackson
originally presented in The Chaosium Digest v29.10 on Friday, December 31, 1999

It's my opinion that there is a shortage of Call of Cthulhu adventures designed to bring a new party together. At one point, rather than try to come up with some explanations for how everyone knew each other, I decided to run an adventure that would bring them together for the first time without any additional explanation being necessary. I also wanted to expose them to enough spookiness that they would have some motivation to stick together and continue as investigators after the adventure was over. I thought it would be fun to insert the players into some situations where they could make some choices that would later turn out to be bad choices.

This is the scenario I ran to attempt to accomplish those goals.

The scenario can be set at any time period, although I'm sure it's much more appropriate to the 1920's as the players will feel more isolated. It could be set anywhere there could be a lighthouse on an island, although I assumed a location in New England.

The PC's have received a letter from a friend with whom they have corresponded for years on varied topics:

My dear friend,

Over the past few years of our correspondence we have discussed numerous aspects of our existence: philosophy, science, religion and medicine. We've covered the gamut of topics that have confounded man since the dawn of history.

I'm now ready to show you some of the fruits of my own personal labors. I'd like to invite you to come and visit me at the lighthouse so that I can show you my success in defeating the ultimate enemy of all mankind, Death.

I hope that statement startled and intrigued you. I've taken the liberty of inviting a few others that I correspond with and, hopefully, they will join us. The best time for you to visit would be next Tuesday, as that is the day that supplies are delivered to the lighthouse. If you could be down at the docks on that day at 6:00 p.m. sharp, the men who bring the supplies will be happy to ferry you across to the island. You're welcome to stay until the following Tuesday supply shipment, or you can make arrangements with them to be picked up at some other time.

I hope to see you soon.

Dr. Aaron Bradley


If the players don't take the bait, then they really need to be playing another game. Things go just as the doctor said they would and the PC's meet each other for the first time down at the docks. They can take some time to introduce themselves. Perhaps the doctor would have mentioned a few of them by first names in some of his letters?

A few minutes before 6:00 P.M. a few men arrive by truck. They are Dale Stanton and Chris Parker. They take some supplies from the back of the truck and load them onto a boat that is just barely large enough to accommodate the party. If the party is exceptionally large, perhaps Chris can volunteer to stay behind if the PCs will promise to help unload the supplies at the island. If the PCs don't initiate a conversation, then the men will ask if they are the people Dr. Bradley invited. Once the PCs have announced that they are, everyone can get underway and head out to the lighthouse just visible on the horizon.

In the event that the PCs attempt to hire their own boat, anticipating some future desire to get off the island with some haste, try not to let them. It seems that most of the boats are out currently and there isn't much in the way of recreational boating done here. If the players are insistent, let them rent out a rowboat too small to accommodate the whole party and let them arrive at the island an hour after the rest of the party, dog tired and ready for bed (-10% to all actions). Anyone not taking the rowboat gets to the island in good time in the motorized supply boat.

Upon arriving at the island, the supplies are unloaded and the investigators are free to make their way to the lighthouse. It's still a few minutes stroll down a well-worn path as the island is rather large with the lighthouse on the seaward side. The supplies are dropped off at this end as this side is the only part of the island with a beach. The rest of the island slopes up to a cliff face overlooking the Atlantic. The supplies, which mainly consist of nonperishable foodstuffs, candles, kerosene and the like, are stored in an unlocked shed. There are no weapons of any kind present, although there are some picks and shovels. The men drop off supplies, get back in the boat and go, just as they always do. Hopefully, the players remember to remind them to pick them up sooner than next Tuesday's scheduled supply drop.

The island itself is rather peaceful looking. For the most part it is covered in grassy fields with a few small patches of trees. Making their way up to the lighthouse, the investigators pass a few dairy cows that roam around the island grazing. To anyone who would know allow an Idea roll: The cows don't appear to have been milked today.

The lighthouse structure itself is a simple tower containing a spiral staircase that stands about thirty feet from the house. It's getting dark now and some storm clouds can be seen rolling in over the horizon. The lighthouse beacon is unlit.

The front door is open. Investigators calling out to the doctor hear no reply.

Entering the darkened lighthouse, the investigators may notice (they can rustle up a candle if they have no light source with them) that the living room is a little messy with some books on the floor, opened haphazardly. There are books present on all of the various subjects that the doctor has corresponded with the PCs over the past few years. As could be expected, there are several books on anatomy and medicine. No Mythos books are present. There seems to be no pattern to the books that are on the floor. It appears that they may have been knocked off of a table. There are also folded up cots and sleeping bags here in anticipation of guests.

In the kitchen a chair has been knocked over, but nothing else is amiss. The doctor's bedroom is also untouched. The bed is made.

Of course it's in the basement that things get really interesting.

The basement is as large as the level above it, and the doctor lies face down at the foot of the stairs. The other half of him lies over by the door to a small storage room. Something has torn the doctor in half! Blood has been sprayed and spattered everywhere and there is an overpowering stench of death and chemicals. The blood has dried, and those with the appropriate knowledge, along with a successful roll, will estimate that whatever happened occurred sometime last night.

The room has all of the normal medical equipment that one would expect a doctor experimenting with life after death would have, with the exception of a Tesla coil. There are scalpels and bone saws and scary looking hypodermics strewn about. Lots of bottles of pills and powders and odd colored liquids have been smashed to the floor, creating all sorts of noxious combinations. A table with torn leather restraints sits in the middle of the room. Somewhere in the sopping mess of chemicals and blood on the floor is the doctor's journal.


The journal contains notes relating to Dr. Bradley's experiments with reanimation. He has been getting cadavers from a nearby university, under the table so to speak, for purposes of his experimentation. For some time, the doctor has been able to reanimate dead tissue, but until recently he was unable to recover any of the intelligence of the subject. He describes the results of the experiments as horrible, mindless things. Disturbingly, it seemed only of clinical concern to him that these things also appeared to be in great pain.

Recently, things seemed to have taken a turn for the better when the doctor managed to purchase a specimen from a Mr. Darke in Boston.

Using a serum (serum "B") derived from this purchase, he was finally able to preserve the intelligence of one of his subjects. It was his joy at this success that prompted him to invite his friends out to the lighthouse.

However, last night things took a turn for the worse and the subject began to devolve. The doctor speculates on problems with the formula and suggests possible changes to the next batch. The journal ends abruptly at this point.


A door in the far wall of the basement leads to a small room that holds some additional supplies. Here the PCs can find extra vials of serum "A" and "B" as detailed in the journal and another marked "C". Also, in a cage on one of the shelves the PCs will find a creature. It appears to be a huge toad, about the size of a large rabbit. Gray, tentacular growths protrude from the back of the creature's head. Cthulhu Mythos (if anyone has it) may suggest that it resembles a Servitor of the Outer Gods, although it is small. It seems to be in a state of hibernation. This is the specimen purchased from Mr. Darke, and extracts from this creature were what made it possible to preserve the intelligence of the reanimated subject for as long as it was maintained.

The creature continues to sleep, oblivious to the PCs throughout the adventure. [It's worth noting that when I actually play-tested this adventure, one of the PCs wouldn't leave the frog-thing alone. He kept poking it and prodding it with sticks, trying to get it to wake up. I finally did let it wake up when the other PCs were out of earshot and had it tell him something that blasted his sanity and resulted in his being institutionalized. To this day the player still wants to know what the frog-thing told him, but, just as Lovecraft understood so well, nothing I can come with will be as horrible as what the player imagines it might be.]


It's almost a certainty that there is something not very pleasant on the island with investigators and there should be much discussion about how to deal with the situation. Assuming the information in the journal is true, how exactly will they handle the thing on the island? How do you kill a man who is already dead? And if the doctor was mad and hasn't reanimated a dead man, who or what _did_ tear him in half? I think the skeptics in the group will have a hard time arguing their position.

At this point, it's up to the players to decide what they want to do. Here are some possible courses of action they might follow:


The PCs should have some motivation to do this since only the doctor has any first-hand knowledge of what they are up against.

As the journal described, Dr. Bradley reanimated his latest experiment a few days ago. Dr. Bradley had kept the subject restrained for the past few days and had almost decided to call the experiment a complete success when the subject began to rapidly devolve last night (although the doctor has no way to be sure of how much time had passed). As the doctor monitored the rate of decay, the subject began thrashing and straining against the leather straps which held him to the table. Eventually he broke them and attacked the doctor. He doesn't remember anything else.

He can tell them that the subject is superhumanly strong and resistant to pain. He doesn't know of any way to kill the creature outright. He has always dismembered his subjects and cast their remains into a pit on the island.

Disturbingly, the doctor seems untroubled by his current state of dismemberment, instead finding the whole thing fascinating. I imagine some very creepy scenes could be played out by having a torn-apart, reanimated doctor carry on otherwise innocuous conversations with the PCs about their personal lives.

Additionally, one could have an interesting conversation with the doctor about the morality of his actions. He could argue the point that it is immoral for medicine to allow people to continue to die if it can be stopped, even if his test subjects have to suffer in the process.


If the players go out and face the thing, you could surround the lighthouse with some fog, or perhaps unleash that storm. Either way, you can give the party a few scares by having a cow run out of the darkness at them. They could also find a cow that has been brutally torn apart. That's when the thing that once was a man finds them . . .


If the PCs try to board up the house and wait till daybreak, the monster gets to pick the most appropriate time to attack. The house's construction isn't that great, and a dead, groping hand punching through a wall is certainly possible. Try to separate the PCs and attack them one by one. Have the monster attack for a few rounds and then disappear again. That should make the PCs nervous.

If there is a storm outside, what do the PCs do when they hear the horn of a ship approaching the rocks with no light from the lighthouse?


I prefer not to include stats in adventures, as I tend to change them to suit the situation. I would suggest that the Keeper imbue the creature with extraordinary strength and endurance. It also seems appropriate that impaling weapons would do minimum damage as the thing is already dead. The only way to deal with something like this would be to hack it into pieces, and wouldn't it be disturbing if those pieces never stopped moving?


Some GMs may feel particularly sadistic and may have the creature kill several of the PCs, forcing the players to use the serum to bring each other back in turn. Of course, once the creature has been put down, the PCs will have to decide what to do with the reanimated PCs (and their half-doctor/mad-scientist friend). Perhaps batch "C" may actually work permanently. It might be interesting to have a dead guy travel on investigations with the party for a while. Of course, it might not be worth taking the chance that he will devolve as well . . .