Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Mystery of the Wailing Ghost

I created an image in Blender on the long weekend that was reminiscent of a scene out of Scooby-Doo, Where are you? An adventure immediately came to mind based on the image. I had to decide in what game system to set the adventure.  I happen to have had a copy of Meddling Kids for a number of years and never used it so I dug it out and read them again. Meddling Kids rules are very simple and really designed for kids. But I think any age group could have fun with these rules as a one-off.  Campaign style play I think might be a little more trying.

Quick Overview of the Meddling Kids Rules
The system expects the characters to be kids or young adults in today’s world. But there is really little reason why any modern era could not be used and any age group.

Players create characters using a point method. Split 24 points amongst the four stats in any manner (Strength, Moves, Smarts, Health), an average human would be 6 in all four. Then the character gets 26 points in abilities which are basically skills. Players also need to pick an archetype which adds one free ability.

The rules are simple, roll 3d6 total the result, add the base Stat and any bonus for an ability. If this number exceeds the Target number then the character succeeds at the task. Target numbers are set from 4 to 34. With 17 being an average task and 25+ difficult.

There is no combat. Player characters cannot harm adversaries. Characters can get “bonked” if they fall down the stairs or get hit by something. The damage is compared to the Health Stat and if it exceeds the Stat the character is unconscious for the amount exceeded in minutes.

Creatures that are encountered can only be defeated by being captured in a Trap. Traps must succeed against the creatures Target Number which is its Health plus Strength. The level of the trap is based on the Smarts of the person putting it together. The roll is 2d6 + Level of the trap.

There is an optional rule for Chase scenes which seems like a natural to use for this style of game. When characters meet a creature they have to make a Smarts roll. If they fail they run and the creature chases them until they can outsmart or distract the creature. Each successive time they meet the creature the Target Number should drop significantly.

There are a few other rules, but that is essentially it.

The Wailing Ghost of Serene Bluff

How to start
The player’s characters are in a vehicle returning from a concert in a nearby big city. It is in the early evening (4 pm) and they are traveling along a deserted stretch of single-lane highway taking a shortcut to get home. They have car trouble and luckily see a sign pointing down a dirt side road to Serene Bluff, last gas for 20 miles. Turning down the road they make it to the village of Serene Bluff.  Serene Bluff seems pretty deserted. But there is an open Stop ‘N Go gas station and repair shop.

Serene Bluff was a fairly popular place for people from the big city to come and enjoy the fresh country air and stay at the many local inns. The diner, grocery store and gas station all did brisk business up until the 1990s when people started going to the Caribbean for their holidays and not upstate. Now just the gas station, diner, and one bed & breakfast remain and none of them are doing much business.

The Ghost
To add to the troubles of Serene Bluff, it has always had the reputation of being a spooky place. The Ghost of Clayton Barnes, better known as the Wailing Ghost scaring cottagers away with its blood curdling wailing late at night. Clayton Barnes was the mayor of the town in the 1930s who was involved in a scandal and hung himself vowing revenge of the community that turned its back on him.

Buddy and Scruffy meet the Wailing Ghost of the Old Mill

Scene 1
The characters arrive at the Stop ‘N Go Gas Station. The problem with their vehicle is the starter and the gas station attendant Hunter Ford does not know how to fix it. He tells them that they will have to wait for the mechanic and owner Charley Green to come in the next day and look at it. In the meantime, Hunter suggests they can get a meal at Mel’s Diner.

Entering the diner the characters encounter Melinda (Mel) Law behind the encounter serving coffee to an old man named Corey Stone (the owner of the Applewood Inn). In the kitchen preparing food is Mel’s younger brother Felix.

If the characters stay for a meal (the apple pie is not homemade but still pretty good) a state police car shows up after an hour. Felix disappears into the kitchen out of sight. A state trooper named Damian Cooper enters. He likes to drop in and talk to Mel.

If the characters relate their car trouble to the State Trooper or Mel either will suggest that it is a good thing that Stone is here because he runs the best (only) Inn in town. Mr. Stone grumbles about out of towners being such a pain and so noisy to look after but he will agree to put the characters up for the night. His Inn has six rooms and only one is currently occupied. Mel will caution the characters not to wander around town at night. If asked why she will reluctantly mention the Wailing Ghost of Clayton Barnes. This is something that makes Officer Cooper laugh.

Have the character’s make Smarts rolls at a target number of 27 to notice that Felix makes sure he is not around when the State Trooper enters.

Scene 2
Assuming the characters stay at the Applewood Inn (after all, there is nowhere else to stay) Corey Stone guides them to the Inn a few doors up and across the street. The Applewood Inn is a somewhat cozy (run-down) manor house with a wide veranda. Upon entering the lobby they meet the other resident of the Inn. A Mr. Bob Nansen, who is a large cheerful fellow full of enthusiasm for the new guests. Bob will ask where they are from, where they are going, how long they are staying. He will avoid answering questions about his own background saying only that he is renovating a nearby building.  Mr. Stone or Mel at the Diner knows that he is supposed to be renovating the Old Barnes Mill near the river.

Mr. Stone will not want to talk about the Wailing Ghost, mumbling something about out-of-towners minding their own business. Bob if asked well just laugh nervously. He has only been in town for a short time and has not seen anything.

Scene 3
Later that night, hopefully when everyone is asleep they are awakened by a noise in the hallway. Going to investigate they will find that the door to Bob Nansen’s room is open and a light is on. The room is a mess with clothes and papers and magazines scattered on the floor and a chair knocked over. There is a handwritten note on the night table.

At first, I thought it was just my imagination but soon I became aware something was watching me at the Old Mill. I stayed late one night working in the kitchen and I heard its wail. I dare not stay after dark. I think it is following me back to the Inn now. I must tell….

If characters search around the Inn immediately (it is around 11 PM) everything is very quiet. There are no signs of disturbance or tracks. At some point in the search (especially if the group of characters splits up) they will encounter the Wailing Ghost.  When first encountering the ghost characters should make a Smarts check at a target of 28 or run in fear chased by the ghost.

The ghost will quickly give up the chase. If the characters trail it they will see that it enters a cellar door under the Diner. Following it under the Diner the characters will enter a pitch-black cellar full of food supplies. If they make noise an agitated Felix will come downstairs with a flashlight and confront them.  There is no sign of the ghost. If characters search for clues, make a Smarts rule against a target of 20. They can find a piece of white bedsheet painted with phosphorous stuck in the edge of a floor to ceiling cabinet. They cannot investigate the cabinet now because Felix appears.

Scene 4
Eventually, the players are going to want to investigate Old Barnes Mill. It is down a side road behind the Diner near a river. The building was once a sawmill running on water power. The sluice and water wheel are still around the back of the building. But the building was converted to a home at some point in the past. It appears to have been abandoned for a number of years. There is a pickup truck parked near the front of the building. A few skids of lumber, bags of concrete and a skid of bricks. Work on the front of the building is evident. Bricks have been faced on the building and new windows installed. The door is new and is locked.

Going around the back of the building there is no evidence of construction. The wooden walls are grey and faded. The windows are boarded up with plywood. It is fairly easy to pry a board off a window to gain entry.

The building has twp floors and a cellar. There is no evidence any renovation was being done on the building on the main floor other than a skid of lumber lying in the main hallway. The rooms on the main floor are pretty much empty. The rooms on the second floor have old and decaying furniture. In the master bedroom, there is a picture on the wall of Clayton Barnes looking very stern.

The cellar door has been oiled so it does not squeak and there is a light bulb hanging from a cord. There is power for the light bulb and the switch just inside the door lights a string of 4 light bulbs that illuminate a central path through the cellar. The cellar is piled high with cast iron machinery from the old mill days. In the center of the cellar is a 10 foot long 4-foot high machine covered in white sheets. Pulling back the sheets reveals a printing press. There is fresh ink spilled on the press and on the floor.

A character using Smarts to search the cellar on a 20 discover that a cabinet on the wall can be pulled upon to reveal a rough brick-lined tunnel that leads to the cellar beneath the diner. Just inside the tunnel is a table with a pair of bright lamps. On the table are a clean sheet and a briefcase. Inside the briefcase are the plates for making US $20 bills.

At any point when players enter the Old Mill at night, the Wailing Ghost can appear. If they split up it is possible that the Wailing Ghost will appear simultaneously to both groups. If the players take the counterfeit money plates, both ghosts will appear and wail at the players attempting to get them to drop the briefcase in a chase.

Setting a trap with the briefcase as a lure and using the old machinery from the cellar is the obvious method of catching the Wailing Ghost(s).

Once capture the ghosts are revealed to be Felix Law from the Diner and Bob Nansen. State Trooper Damian Cooper will drive up to arrest the criminals. He was responding to an urgent phone call from Old man Stone who was concerned after Bob went missing. Cooper will tell the player’s characters that he has been keeping an eye on Mel’s miscreant brother Felix who was released from State Prison just over a year ago. Bob Nansen is actually Bob “Fingers” Snider a notorious thief and forger and Felix’s cellmate before his release. He recently got out of prison, shortly after Felix. Cooper became suspicious when he received a phony $20 at the Diner.


Bob “Fingers” Snider
Strength 6, Moves 8, Smarts 5, Health 5, Trap DC 11, Disguise (Health+4), Dodge (Moves+1d6), Drive (Moves+4), Magician (Moves+2), The Whiz at Counterfeiting (Smarts+4), Slam (Smarts+3).
Bob will be encountered as Bob Nansen a contractor from the Big City renovating the Old Mill. He is the primary Wailing Ghost. He has the recording of a ghostly wail on his cellphone he uses to scare people away from the Old Mill. Bob is the muscle of the gang and the whiz with the printing press.

Felix Law
Strength 4, Moves 7, Smarts 7, Health 6, Trap DC 10, Disguise (Health+4), Nimble (Moves+2), Drive (Moves+4), Sneak (Moves+3), Fast Talk (Health+1d6).
Felix was offered a job by his big sister Mel in this small town. He hates it in Serene Bluff but he came up with the idea of using the story of the Wailing Ghost to keep people away from the old mill where he could set up a printing press with his cellmate Fingers. Felix is the brains of the criminal gang. He arranges for the distribution of the counterfeit money. He knows he should ensure it is spread far away from Serene Bluff but he is lazy and occasionally spreads it in nearby towns. He thinks he accidentally once gave a counterfeit bill to the State Trooper that is always coming by but the big, dumb cop did not clue into it.

Damian Cooper (NPC)
He is a veteran State trooper. He has been working on a case involving counterfeit $20 bills. A surprising number of which are found in towns in this backwater area of the State. He stopped once at the diner and came away with a counterfeit $20. A little background checking revealed Felix’s past. He is suspicious but needs proof.

Hunter Ford (NPC)
A middle-aged gas station attendant, NPC, no Stats needed. He is a wanderer who ran out of money in Serene Bluff so he took a job at the gas station. He has been here for 3 years.

Charley Green (NPC)
The young, 25 years old, owner of the gas station. He inherited it when his father died. At the time he was working as a mechanic in a bigger town. He returned and the quiet suits him just fine.

Melinda Law (NPC)
Mel is the owner of the Diner. She moved to Serene Bluff 10 years ago to escape the Big City. Serene Bluff was perfect and quiet and first but the ghost has her scared and the lack of business adds to her stress levels. She offered her ne'er-do-well younger brother a job once he got out of jail. She watched him like a hawk at first, especially around the cash but he seems to be doing his job. She will be sorry that he has gone back to a life of crime.

Corey Stone (NPC)
Old Man Stone is one of the few long time residents of Serene Bluff. He has two children who left home and never returned. His wife passed away 10 years ago. One by one his friends and hired help at the Inn have left for the big city. It has made him bitter and angry and city slickers.

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