The Damp Man
- or -
Swim Meet of Doom!
Not long ago, I purchased and read the collection called Weird Tales, which included stories originally published in the magazine of the same name. Now one in particular struck me as being very appropriate for a single-session Call of Cthulhu adventure, or "Tale of Terror." What follows is adapted from the story of "The Damp Man" by Allison V. Harding. I've already run this once for a small group of local players, with great success. If you can read "The Damp Man" first, by all means do so.
The adventure works best in a modern setting, but could be moved to the 1920's without much effort.
The adventure begins with the investigators all attending a local swimming competition in which the local girls are working towards the state championship. The contestants are fairly young, ranging from 16-24 years in age.
While you could easily integrate this adventure into an ongoing campaign, I think it works better when the investigators are all ordinary people, who have never encountered the unknown before. Mythos knowledge can be misleading, even downright dangerous in this scenario.
Possible investigators could be relatives of the contestants, college recruiters or scouts, coaches, fans, and of course the occasional security guard.
All of the PCs should be in attendance at the swim-meet. The various contestants perform fairly well, but their performance is marred by a lack of concentration. Observant characters should realize that something is bothering these girls.
If someone manages to gain the trust of one of the girls, she may admit that a strange man has been following them around. She describes the fellow as a large, fat man in a dark suit. Checking with the other contestants will reveal that several of them have seen this man, but none of the coaches or other attendants have seen anything at all. The stalker appears to be quite stealthy, for all his bulk.
Several of the contestants are extraordinarily talented swimmers, Linda Mallory in particular. Their coaches believe that they possess olympic potential; certainly they are much, much more at home in the water than the other girls. It is this small group of exceptional swimmers that the stalker seems most interested in.
The girls may have been approached by Mr. Remsdorf, a large, overweight man with unpleasant looks and an extremely damp and sweaty handshake. He passed around business cards and offered them the chance to attend a very special training camp for particular gifted young swimmers, sponsored by Remsdorf International. Mr. Remsdorf prefers to make this proposal in an isolated area, away from the press.
However, his unappealing manner and something distasteful in the way that he looked at them has caused all of the girls to hesitate about taking him up on the offer.
LOTHER REMSDORF, JR.
Mr. Remsdorf is the billionaire son of the brilliant scientist, Lother Remsdorf, Sr. Remsdorf Sr. was a nobel-prize winner who managed to build a huge international company based upon his discoveries in the biological sciences. He and his young wife died nearly a decade ago in a strange explosion, which destroyed his research facility.
Remsdorf Jr. only came into the light after this event. According to press releases, he suffers from a metabolic imbalance which causes his body to retain water more than it should, resulting in his bloated appearance. He has shown no desire to follow in his father's footsteps, but has instead acted as a talented businessman, making Remsdorf International into an enormous corporate power.
Reclusive and camera-shy, little is known about him beyond his fabulous wealth and odd metabolic problem.
RUMORS ABOUT REMSDORF
Almost nothing unsavory has ever been printed about him. He is the third richest man in the United States and owns dozens of corporations as well as Remsdorf International. If the investigators really dig, they may be able to find a few notes about him from various conspiracy theorists, who believe that Remsdorf, Jr. is not actually the child of Remsdorf, Sr. They point to discrepancies in his birth certificates and claim that the documents may have been forged after the scientist died, allowing this pretender to suddenly appear and claim a huge inheritance.
A few other stories claim that his metabolic disorder is much more serious than he claims and that he will die in just a few short years unless a cure is found. As he has no family or heirs, no one knows what the the future of his fortune would be if he were to perish suddenly.
If the PCs do not immediately become interested in finding this stalker, then one of the girls will be murdered. The police report will tell that the girl was strangled, but not what with. Anyone with police contacts will be able to learn that the victim's throat was crushed but that tests were unable to ascertain what the murder weapon was. Their only clue is the excessive dampness around her neck, indicating that the weapon, whatever it was, was wet.
If they have very close contacts in the police department, perhaps with the coroner, they will learn that she was not raped or abused, but that it appears that a blood sample was taken from her before she was killed.
After the first girl's death, Linda will become terrified. The mystery man will follow her wherever she goes. Finally, she will flee to one of the investigators, preferably a relative.
The mystery man follows Linda everywhere. He is obsessed with her. He does not want to hurt her, yet he cannot permit her to go her own way. He may call her and whisper to her about how she has been chosen to be his bride. He will follow her whenever she goes out on the street.
If an investigator sets himself as Linda's guard, the stalker will become resigned to the fact that he cannot find her alone and will become bolder.
Although he wears a heavy coat and a concealing hat to help hide his identity, it is very possible for an investigator who stands between him and Linda to get a look at his face. The stalker is Lother Remsdorf, Jr., himself, though he will not indentify himself as such to investigators.
If the investigators are slow to protect Linda, or just have one person protecting her, Remsdorf may decide to seize her. He will only do so if he believes that he can do so without being recorded on camera- while he could squash any investigation into his doings, it would incur a lot of unwanted media attention if he were caught breaking into a girl's apartment.
If Linda is kidnapped (which could easily happen- Remsdorf is more than a match for any single investigator), she will shortly thereafter manage to escape and will flee to the police. She will explain that she came to consciousness lying on the back seat of a very posh-looking vehicle, perhaps a limousine. Not daring to move, she waited until the vehicle stopped at a light, then popped open the door and ran for it. She didn't dare stop to look back and see what kind of car it was or who had grabbed her.
Observant investigators may notice a small, blue bruise on her arm. Anyone with medical training will be able to deduce that someone took a blood sample from her, and did so in a fairly clumsy manner.
After this point, however, the stalker will abandon all interest in any of the other girls, and will focus on Linda Mallory alone.
GOING TO THE POLICE
The police are, naturally, supportive of Linda's story at first. If any murders have occurred, they will be glad to offer police protection. Remsdorf International will contact each surviving contestant, saying that Mr. Remsdorf himself is horrified by these events. Remsdorf International will gladly offer a secure lodging and even hire bodyguards for the girls if they so desire. Of course, any girl who accepts this protection will shortly vanish. Remsdorf International will claim that the girl never actually arrived at the supposedly secure location and will deny all knowledge of her whereabouts.
Complaints against Remsdorf International are a complete waste of time. Mr. Remsdorf has billions of dollars to spend and can easily bribe or blackmail any government official that he needs to. If the investigators manage to find a policeman too steadfast to buy off, Remsdorf will merely buy off one of their superiors and have them ordered to drop the case. Company lawyers will quickly leap on any attempts to "defame" the good name of Remsdorf, making investigators look like con-men. Mr. Remsdorf will let it be known that Linda is his fiance, who has been seduced away from him by one or more con-men. Investigators who appeal to the law will be cautioned to butt out or they will find themselves brought up on charges.
If Linda takes police protection, Remsdorf will leave her alone while pushing the department to drop the protection. If necessary, he has the police lawyers appeal to an old regulation stating that police protection will not be provided for more than a week to anyone who can afford to hire their own protection. And since Remsdorf International has agreed to cover all costs involved in hiring such protection...
And remember, if investigators try to accuse Remsdorf of following them, his lawyers can always claim that they have actually been stalking the billionaire, or even that they are criminals who have kidnapped or conned Remsdorf's fiance. Who are the police more likely to believe?
If the investigators make it difficult for Remsdorf to pursue Linda, he will decide that they are coming between him and his bride-to-be. After that, he will start demonstrating his personal power. Bank accounts will be frozen. Assets will be seized as part of a tax investigation. Jobs may be lost when Remsdorf Internation buys the very company that the investigator works for and decides to "downsize" him.
If financial leverage is not enough, or if the investigators attempt to use violence to warn him away, Remsdorf will decide to reveal his true nature. He will simply shoulder his way through any and all opposition, and attempt to chase down and seize Linda. Investigators who put up too much resistance will be killed, although Remsdorf will want to minimize the shock to Linda.
If investigators turn to firearms, Remsdorf will just chuckle at their foolishness. SAN rolls will probably be called for when Remsdorf demonstrates his invulnerability to normal weaponry. Investigators who flee or just stand there muttering will be ignored. Those who keep trying to stop him anyway will be killed or incapacitated.
If someone actually asks Remsdorf what he is, he is not adverse to explaining his origin. Indeed, under the right circumstances, he might unfold the whole story to an investigator just to show them how hopeless their situation is. If Linda escapes but an investigator remains, Remsdorf might explain his purpose to them so that they will understand why it is essential for the future of humanity that Linda Mallory become his wife.
Lother claims that at birth he was premature and sickly. His father's experiments managed to change his genetic structure so that his cells were permanently altered. While he appears to have a human form, his structure is really more like some sort of slime or amoeba. When wounded, he bleeds nothing but pure water, and he can reform from almost any wound. He has massive strength and no vulnerable internal organs to be damaged or fail. He believes that his father's goal was to replace the current, frail human race with a new, superior species. Lother is the first of that stock, wholly superior in body and intellect to poor old homo sapiens.
Unfortunately, due to the vast amount of genetic drift between his genetic structure and that of a normal human, Lother has found himself unable to fertilize normal women. He believes that if he can just find a woman whose genetic code shares even a few of his traits, he will be able to impregnate her and so father a new race to rule the earth. His (fairly unscientific) study has convinced him that a woman with a natural affinity for the water will be most likely to be able to bear his child. Thus he has been attending swim-meets and such, looking for likely candidates.
Of course, even after he finds a likely girl, there must be blood tests and DNA analysis. When a possible subject turns out negative, Lother tends to go into a violent rage and kill her. If he has managed to kidnap Linda and extract a blood sample, Remsdorf will become convinced that her genetic pattern is almost perfect. She is the girl he has been looking for, the woman who will bear his children and allow him to create a new master race.
While Lother appears to have flesh and even scattered hair, if this is removed from his body it melts into water. Any major injuries inflicted upon him (such as being hit by a car) will result in a splash of water, but no blood. Weak blows (such as a punch) will only cause his flesh to ripple, without breaking the surface. Anything that manages to break his skin will cause water to spray out.
He is not wholly invulnerable, however. Fire can turn his watery tissues to steam, and intense cold can freeze him solid. Chemicals which react with water could be used to destroy him, but his "skin" would first have to be penetrated with some sort of physical attack.
Lother Remsdorf, Jr.
STR 45 CON 40 SIZ 20 INT 18 POW 25
DEX 6 APP 4 Move 7 HP 30
Damage Bonus: +3d6
Weapons: Punch 60%, up to 4d6 damage
Grapple 40%, capture or crush for 4d6 damage
Armor: 5 points of surface tension. Remsdorf heals from physical damage at the rate of 10 HP per round. He is completely unaffected by electricity and takes minimum damage from all impaling attacks. Even if sufficient physical force is exerted to tear him apart (such as ramming him repeatedly with a car), he will only melt into water and pull himself back together. Of course, after such damage he will probably be weakened. He will want to retreat and absorb some more fluid to restore himself to full strength.
San Loss: Recognizing Remsdorf's true nature entails a 1/1d6 San loss roll. This will usually come about when Remsdorf first shrugs off a volley of bullets. Similar San loss may occur if investigators see someone killed by Remsdorf's full strength.
Skills: Credit Rating 200%, Stalk Victim 80%, Swim 100%, Persuade 75%, Drive Auto 50%, Hide 60%, Law 25%, Electronic Security 25%
Remsdorf has one really big weakness, however- his superiority complex. He really believes that he is wholly and completely superior to ordinary humans and has nothing to fear from them. He won't hire criminals to kidnap Linda for him, because criminals are untrustworthy and unreliable, and they might go to the press and embarrass him. When it comes to doing something illegal, Remsdorf prefers to handle it himself, not trusting those fallible, mortal scum.
He uses detectives and spies to find out where Linda is, but he will always approach her in person. Somehow he still hopes that she will come to her senses and realize that he is her destiny, but as time goes on he will grow more and more determined to have her, willing or not.
Ordinary means are almost useless against him. Flight merely means a short breathing period before Lother's detectives manage to track Linda down again. He is quite tireless in his pursuit.
Investigators who attempt to stop him by violent means before they understand his nature may well be killed. It will take a creative solution to save Linda from a fate worse than death.
In the original story, "The Damp Man," Remsdorf foolishly follows Linda to a city in northern Canada, then attempts to tail her through a blizzard. He freezes solid before he realizes his danger and becomes a harmless statue of ice.
In play locally, the investigators consulted with a chemist about what sort of chemicals might reduce the surface tension of water. We decided that soap might be able to weaken the structure of his watery body. They loaded up super-soakers with concentrated liquid soap, hocked all their jewelry to buy some shotguns, and laid a trap for him. While the shotgun wielders blasted his watery flesh open, the others sprayed his insides with the soap. The plan didn't work as well as it might have- while they steadily weakened him with their two-prong attack, Remsdorf was still able to kill one investigator and injure another before he became too weak to fight back.
The Keeper should use his own judgement as to the effectiveness of any particular strategy. Remember, what it really boils down to is that Remsdorf is animated water, and anything that could kill a creature made out of water ought to be able to hurt him. Reward cleverness and punish foolishness by having Remsdorf slaughter investigators who foolishly think that bigger guns are the answer.
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