Ancient Scroll’s Secret Room: One Bad Hand (Open-ended Adventure Seed)

(Editor’s Note: Robert offers us something a little different this week with an adventure seed that could be used for a modern horror setting…)

Sometimes all it takes for a murder is a bad hand of poker

PC Entrance… team has been called to visit a crime scene. The dead body of a middle-aged man lies on the floor of a small apartment.

Setting and Background

The story takes place in an older, poor suburb. A few old
townhouses are packed together and there are a few shops around.

The party may have been called to the scene by a friend or relative of one of the PCs (perhaps an aunt or grandmother). She was so terrified after finding the body that she didn’t call the police. The dead man, her neighbor, was very nice and had been doing her shopping each morning. When he didn’t come by for a few days, she decided to visit him and stumbled upon his corpse.

Important Details for the GM

  • The dead man was both a fortune teller and a hypnotist. A few years ago he faked his death and assumed a new identify, living a hidden life. He went underground a few years ago after working with a questionable businessman whose son disappeared. The fortune teller, let’s call him John, was supposed to find the boy, but all his tips were misleading. They never found the child. As a result, the businessman, angry and desperate, told John it would be better for his sake if he disappeared… If not, the man couldn’t be held responsible for his actions. John, being a bit superstitious, faked his death just in case.
  • The neighbor will say she saw people visiting John sometimes. Was he telling their fortunes? Or was he hypnotizing them?
  • When the PCs check the body, they won’t find any signs of murder. The only odd thing is a red mark around his neck. It looks something like he might have been strangled, but also might have been a burn.

Points of interest

  • http://www.freefoto.comOther than the neighbor, the person who saw John the most was the owner of the local grocery shop. She’s not very talkative, but if convinced to open up a bit she says that John was very nice. He often brought her messages from her husband. Of course her husband has been dead for a few years…
  • John was also seen by a guy running a cigarette stand. Though he coughs often, he admits that he went to John to help him stop smoking with hypnotherapy. And it worked! After his last visit a few days ago, cigarette man woke up with heavy coughing and a cloud of cigarette smoke coming out of his mouth. From that moment on, he stopped smoking!
  • Near the suburbs is a small graveyard full of graves. The PCs can find the grave of the grocery store owner’s husband, which looks well tended with fresh flowers.
  • The only person alive in the graveyard is the gravedigger, who smells like alcohol. When asked about the grave of the shopkeeper’s husband, he says he didn’t know him. If the PCs get him some “help” for his “headache,” he can be convinced to say a bit more. Rumor has it that the shopkeeper’s husband was playing poker with the preacher. The gravedigger was playing with them.Who else was playing poker with them? Though the gravedigger is reluctant to say more, eventually he tells of one more – a car salesman.
  • The preacher can be found near the church, but he won’t talk about poker. Gambling is a sin! He doesn’t remember the shopkeeper’s husband. The gravedigger is obviously drunk and speaking nonsense.
  • The car dealer is an elegant man in his fifties has an athletic body and wears a nice suit. He never takes off his sunglasses. Other than his wedding ring there are two signet rings on his right hand. If the PCs notice and put some effort into it, one of them can be recognized as a Foreign Legion ring. If mentioned he says “Old times, when I was still stupid…”A black and white photo of a smiling teenager hangs on a wall in the dealer’s office with a black ribbon around it. That’s the dealer’s son. He disappeared a few years ago without a trace. The dealer won’t talk about the boy. He was working with police, detectives, and fortune tellers to find him, almost going bankrupt in the process. Unfortunately nobody ever found a clue. His wife, lost in a deep depression, committed suicide three years ago. He plays poker, but he won’t tell with whom. He says he’s not interested in the identities of the other poker players…

Adventure ideas

Here are a few different ways this setup could go…

  •’s Do The Hustle…To get some money from the rich businessman, the preacher, shopkeeper’s husband and gravedigger decide to get some extra money from the dealer. They know he’s rich and he is good at cards. They’ve lost a large amount of money to him. So they decide to get the money back in some other way. They set up a plan to kidnap the dealer’s son. The boy was kept in an empty tomb. They just wanted to scare the dealer but the boy died… Maybe from hunger, maybe from lack of oxygen.The dealer paid the ransom but the kidnappers began fighting among themselves.That’s when the conscience of shopkeeper’s husband woke up. He said he would go to the police. The next day he was hit by a car and died. The hit-and-run driver was never caught. And today in one of the tombs lay the bodies of the shopkeeper’s husband and the kidnapped boy.
  • Smoking is not healthy… While treating the cigarette seller with hypnosis to stop his smoking, a fit of coughing suddenly turned into an exorcism. John released a very bad spirit which was haunting the smoker for years. During the last session, the spirit fled from the smoker as a cloud of tobacco smoke and a few hours later killed John. Now it is wandering through the townhouse, a constant threat to those living there.
  • Spiritual trinity… Here we have a more complicated setup involving other worlds. The spirit of the shopkeeper’s husband fights with a spirit of the dealer’s wife (because of the crime of the former she lost her son). The spirit of the woman tries to reach the criminals. It’s not easy with the preacher as he is a priest. But she has a grasp on the gravedigger and he tries to drown stress in booze. The woman tries to cause an accident by making him go driving drunk at night. There is a weak spirit of the son, an agonized teenager provoking bad behavior in the kids from neighborhood. He’s trying to convince them to burn down the shop. The boys manage to start a fire but it is quickly extinguished. However electric wiring will be damaged. During the day, the doors in the shop will lock themselves (son’s spirit will be responsible for this). A short circuit will cause fire in the back room. Cardboard boxes and wooden palettes will start to burn. The fire will reach a mobile gas tank. It will blow up when the shopkeeper is locked inside along with few customers…


Obviously there’s more work to be done with this open-ended adventure idea, but you can start to see how a variety of types of plots could unfold with these pieces in place. Whether it’s a straight-up murder investigation or a group hunting poltergeists or simply a series of inter-connected crimes perpetrated by everyday people, each offers a different point of view on the scene.

Where would you take this plot thread? How could you twist it to fit your game? Leave comments and let us know!!

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