Payday was developed from a scenario for Call of Cthulhu that I first heard on the RPPR Actual Play Podcast run by Tom Church.
General knowledge of the NWoD setting will be helpful for context.
Centuries ago a spirit of death and darkness called Essernacht claimed a dark hedge sorcerer as it’s host. While in that original body the spirit penned a book entitled Cultes des Goules that was filled with all manner of vile rituals meant to generate a particular type of essence. Eventually the hedge sorcerer was discovered by religious authorities and was executed. Essernacht fettered itself to the book at that point in order to remain in the material world. When book came into the possession of a new mortal, the spirit would claim them. This cycle of possession and execution would happen many times over the centuries, an imparted Cultes des Goules with a reputation for being a real occult tome.
A few weeks ago the FBI tracked down a serial killer called ‘The Sin City Ghoul’. This murderer earned his moniker by leaving behind corpses that showed obvious signs of being partially consumed by a human mouth. When the feds raided his house they were able to determine that the Ghoul had an occult motivation. His home was setup as a place to perform vile rituals that included consuming parts of his victims. Because the of occult connection the FBI confiscated all of the Ghoul’s ritual materials, which included a book called Cultes des Goules.
When the evidence was cataloged and entered into the federal database flags were triggered within certain governmental agencies. Taskforce Valkyrie was one of those agencies; the organization had Cultes des Goules flagged as a potential legitimate supernatural object. Measures were taken to ensure that the entire lot of evidence was transferred and stored at a ‘friendly’ evidence lockup, and a team of agents, including an authenticator, was dispatched to retrieve the book.
A corrupt FBI agent, know in criminal circles Johnny Utah, was also notified of the books recovery. That particular book was an shopping list of a certain collector of occult tomes, and this collector was willing to pay in excess of $1M to acquire a copy of the book. Johnny brokered a deal and set out to put together a team of criminals to steal the book.
Enter the players.
A few days ago you were contacted by a fixer called ‘Johnny Utah’ with a simple offer: ten grand to show up in Reno and consider a job that pays another ninety. The proposal was simple: a few weeks ago the FBI arrested ‘The Sin City Ghoul’, a serial killer who mutilated his victims before eating parts of them. The Ghoul had some kind of occult motivation so the FBI confiscated all his occult paraphernalia; that just happened to include a rather rare book called Cultes des Goules. The entire lot was relocated to a federal evidence warehouse just outside Carson City. Johnny Utah has a buyer that will pay top dollar for that book. Now your job is to break into the warehouse and get it.
Running The Game
Payday is designed to be a pseudo-sandbox style game in which the players are presented with a task and are then left to their own devices on how to accomplish it. The stated goal of the scenerio is for the players to retrieve the Cultes des Goules from the agents that have it. Johnny can provide the following information:
- The federal evidence warehouse facility is located 30 minutes south of Carson City, Nevada (that players start in Reno, which is just north of Carson City).
- The facility is actually part of larger facility used for municipal material storage, vehicle maintenance, and vehicle storage.
- The evidence warehouse is actually three interconnected warehouses, within their own fenced off section of the larger facility.
- There are usually 9 armed guards on site at an given time (2 gate guards, 2 patrolling outside, 5 interspersed within the warehouses.
- Recently some ‘Agents’ have appeared. Two of them have been on site since they arrived in town. Johnny does not know what agency they work for.
- The book is scheduled for transport to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport in a couple of days. It will be out of reach one it is in the air. (The specific time time table is up to you, I provided 72 hours. The shorter the time, the more tense the game will be)
As the players have flown into Reno Johnny provides a slush fund for the team to equip itself. The amount can vary depending on how difficult you want the scenario to be. I provided $50,000 to my group which provided for a couple modified vehicles, weapons, and miscellaneous equipment.
Johnny tells the team to call him once they have the book, and he will give them a rendezvous location in Las Vegas (some seven hours away).
Stats for guards are linked in the Characters section below.
The agency has dispatched five agents and an occult scholar to authenticate and then transport the book. The authenticator and at least one agent is at the warehouse facility at all times. The rest of the team is staying at a motel in Reno. They have three full size SUVs at their disposal.
Stats for the agents and authenticator are linked in the Characters section below.
The spirit know as Essernacht begins the processes of claiming the occult scholar as soon as the scholar begins to read the book. It’s goal is to claim authenticator, then kill everyone present. Once that is done it will escape the facility with the book in tow.
Stats for Essernacht are linked in the Characters section below.
I purposefully left pre-written scenes out of this scenario. The players will likley spend some time gathering equipment and surveilling the facility before breaking in. All of this can be played by ear. The guards will call in the police if anything particularly suspicious happens, as will the Taskforce Valkyrie agents that are on site. Response from Carson City will take 20-30 minutes to arrive.
The on exception is the moment when the player make their play for the book. By that time Essernacht will have claimed the authenticator and will be in control of the body. With it’s influence over Death and Darkness it can generate many different effects including:
- Extinguish light sources.
- Create constructs of solidified darkess such as tentacles and weapons. Use our imagination.
- Animate dead bodies.
If the body of the authenticator is killed Essernacht will return to the book and wait for someone else pick it up. It’s preference is to claim whomever reads the book, but merely being within a few yards of the book puts mortals in danger of being possessed. This is important because the spirit will attempt to possess the players (via the Claim numia) on the long trip to Las Vegas.
The only way to prevent Essernacht from claiming more victims is to banish it back to the spirit world. In order to banish the spirt it’s host must be killed while the Cultes des Ghoules is far away, or is being bathed in extremely bright light. Essernacht is aware of this weakness and will take steps to prevent it. Remeber that the spirit can use its influence on the material world even when it is not in a host.
Should the players make it to Las Vegas the hand off happens without incident (unless your players have done something during the course of the game to warrant further complication. Once of my players tipped off Taskforce Valkyrie at the very beginning of the game and was a mole the entire time. Consequently a fresh batch of agents were waiting for them in Vegas).