The Crooked House, a derelict house in a poor neighborhood, has fallen to disrepair long ago. The house is just one of many homes in a district without hope, and the darkness has free reign among indifference and poverty.
The Crooked House is a location for fantasy roleplaying games set in an urban environment. The following is setting and system neutral for easy adaption and improvisation.
With the releases of Ghosts of Saltmarsh for Dungeons and Dragons and Rough Days, Hard Nights for Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, there is no better time to investigate the Horror at Crooked House. Welcome to the neighborhood!
- The Missing Old Lady. Mrs. Mills, the old lady living on the first floor for decades, is mysteriously missing. She always seemed a bit guarded, but kind and supportive of the less fortunate, despite her own poverty. She is one of the few people universally liked in the area, and concerned locals need someone to investigate since the indifferent city watch ignores her disappearance.
- The Serial Killer. There has been a series unsolved of murders in the neighborhood around Crooked House, which is not uncommon in itself, but the missing bodies and the lack of a motive is unsettling. The city watch, who usually ignore complaints or crack down on any dissidents, is under some pressure to solve the mystery quickly. The characters may be hired to round up a few suspects – any suspects – or may even find themselves under suspicion.
- The Rising Cult. The Church of Light, whom many believe is the last hope of the neighborhood, has called for aid as they believe the darkness again stalk the city streets, only to be met with mockery and indifference. The doomsayers claim an evil cult has returned, taking root among the shacks and run-down houses in the poor district.
- The Mysterious Note. A hastily scribbled note with the Crooked House’s address is found in a villain’s records without any further explanation.
- The Blood Trail. Examing the streets may reveal an actual blood trail to the Crooked House.
- The Lost Crates. Talking to both the thieves’ guild and city watch reveal that mysterious crates have been stored in the Crooked House basement by smugglers. Who and why is unknown.
- The Eye Witness. Two days ago a young merchant with a booth on a nearby market said he had seen some of the supposed murder victims enter the Crooked House a week after being found dead in an alley. He swore and was absolutely sure, and expressed dismay at the city watch’s indifference. Now the merchant is missing, and people dismiss him as another victim.
- The Rat-Men. Some claim to have seen swarms of rats scurry about the Crooked House foundation and rat-like men leaving the nearby alley in a hurry. The sewers below the house are partially collapsed and tend to clog, adding to the stench of the area. The city council blame the construction of unapproved basements and renovation in the area and refuse to look into it.
The Crooked House has at least six apartments, in addition to a small cellar and a loft. The apartments are small and cramped, suitable for small families at best. The loft is accessible through a ladder in the second-floor hall. The basement is rat-infested and not supposed to be used by the tenants. There is a forgotten secret room in the basement, which has been used for all manner of vile deeds in the past.
The landlord is left for you to design.
There are at least five tenants in Crooked House, in addition to the missing Mrs. Mills. Any tenants beyond these are left for you to design.
Karl Walt, Watchman, Male Human
Karl Walt is a tall blonde man with short-cropped hair. He always wears his armor and city watch uniform, which he never washes. Walt was a sellsword in his youth but has now served in city watch for years. He is more feared than respected, a brooding bully who has killed the wrong people in the line of duty, and will do anything to cover his misdeeds. He can still call on old sellsword contacts for aid, in the unlikely event he gets involved something too corrupt for the city watch.
Karl Walt lives on the first floor with his wife Magda and surviving child Otto.
Katarina Punt, Baker, Female Human
Katarina Punt is a large blonde woman, with a false smile. She is a baker and is away at all hours. Punt is distant, bitter, and untrusting. She wants to do good but has no time, which leaves her frustrated. She is involved in baker’s guild politics and has just realized that one of her alliances is more dangerous than first believed.
Punt lives on the ground floor alone.
Amalie Zirm, Brewery Clerk, Female Human
Amalie Zirm is a petite freckled redhead with a steely gaze. She usually wears sensible dresses and carries a satchel at most times. Zirm works as a manager at a local brewery, which keeps her busy. She is polite and quiet, with a discerning eye for detail. She knows lots of people, but few friends. She never has visitors, and her windows are covered-up from the inside. Zirm is a single-mum. She is a member for the thieves’ guild, where she has moved up the ladder from prostitution to assassinations.
Amalie Zirm lives on the second floor with Mordo Zirm, her angelic six-year-old boy.
Nicolas Butters, City Council Clerk, Male Human
Nicolas Butters is a thin pale man wearing a once-expensive worn suit. He is an accountant and city council clerk, but has lost is station due to drinking. He is friendly but guarded. He found an occult book last year at the city council archives, describing strange gods and blasphemous rituals. Butters would do anything to get his old life of dignity and wealth back.
Butters lives on the second floor alone.
Bolger, Cargo Hauler, Male Human
Bolger is a large balding man with bulbous eyes and a rare skin condition. He is a cargo hauler working at a warehouse in the merchant’s district. Bolger is quiet and gruff, keeps to himself, and the kids in the neighborhood tease him relentlessly. Bolger just wants to be left alone, and distraught by nightmares and strange whispers in his head. He has seen all kinds of cargo move through the city, some more disturbing than others, and is paid by smugglers for his aid.
Bolger lives on the second floor alone.
The Dark Secret of Crooked House
The secrets of Crooked House is open-ended, and all tenants may appear normal, but all could be the culprit, and investigators should be able to solve something, if not the hook at the beginning.
- The Old Witch. Mrs. Mills is not missing and is, in fact, the leader of the cult. She has killed repeatedly, and there are piles of corpses in the secret room in the basement. She will attack if present, and turns out to be a less than just a sweet old lady.
- The Death Squad. The city watch is behind the killings. The watch have figured they know best how to protect the good people of the city and do not want to justify their actions to well-meaning fools. The city watch will kill anyone who meddles with the operation as any meddlers clearly are part of the criminal underworld of the city.
- The Hidden Coffin. There is a coffin, the resting place of unspeakable evil, hidden in the secret basement floor, which deepens the darkness and heralds evil to come. A cult in the area is guarding it, watching from plain sight, and are ready to strike if anyone comes looking. Cultists, backed by the thieves’ guild, the city watch, and supernatural horrors are prepared to kill anyone looking to close.
- The Eldritch Tome. One of the tenants possesses an eldritch tome, a manuscript of great evil and power, which attracts the greedy and supernatural alike. The tenant is torn, not knowing how to deal with this dangerous artifact, and events have proceeded and spiraled out of control. The tenant will do anything to solve this, but has succumbed to madness and is unable to get qualified help. Cultists and supernatural horrors await in the shadows, ready to tie any loose ends.
Alternatively, pick the players’ wildest theory and run with it.
What Happens Next?
The tenant’s belonging may include clues to a larger conspiracy or a monstrous horror just beyond the threshold of this world. The trail could lead to caves in the Hinterlands or a ruined Binder’s Sanctum in the woods. Crack up your monster book and have fun.
- Into the City, an improvisation environment cheat sheet.
- Into the Sewers, an improvisation environment cheat sheet.
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