Author: Brian M. Sammons, Paul Carrick
Page Count: 50
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $4.95
Print – Prices vary on the open market
The Unsealed Room
by Brian M. Sammons
Unlike my previous two reviews, which were purposefully selected, this one was not. Instead, I compiled a list of every scenario I have in my collection, and let a random number generator decide which would be next. It landed on The Unsealed Room from a 1997 book called Secrets. The introduction to the book tells us that it contains four scenarios intended for a single session by novice Keepers and players. Fair warning to readers, as with all my deep cuts, there will be spoilers. With this in mind, I jumped in.
As with my last review, The Evil Gun, this scenario is quite short. The scenario text comes to just under five pages. Both are intended for a single session, so it makes sense that they’d be similar in length. Something I’ll note here, as I’m not sure where else to bring it up, is that the second-last page contains a full-page piece of art, which in the PDF is almost indiscernible. This is a shame because from what I can make out, it looks like it was very high-quality. Hopefully, it looked better in the print version. All the other art in the PDF is equally as dark, so it’s likely the person making it simply set the contrast too high.
The backstory the scenario presents is quite an interesting one. In 1921, a dilettante named Byron Merton inadvertently summons a star vampire, which then escapes, leading the townsfolk to believe that Merton himself is a vampire. He manages to then contain the creature in a room of his house, yet the scared townsfolk still break-in, and hammer a stake through his heart while he sleeps, boarding up the house behind them. The house remains untouched for 76 years.
The scenario is set in the modern-day, which at the time of publication was the late ‘90s. It could simply be played as a ‘90s era setting, though with minimal effort it could easily be moved to the present day. The intervening years would need to be added to the 1921 backstory (e.g. It would become 1944 if set in 2020), as well as perhaps the opening hook being changed from a letter to an email.
Speaking of the opening hook, it is probably this scenario’s weakest aspect. It says one investigator “should have survived one or two previous adventures, or be in some way interested in the occult.” As there are no pre-gens provided, playing as a one-shot means one player will need to conform to this requirement. The player is then handed a letter from their good friend, Alex Walden, as well as a summary of what they know about him. This is a very clichéd hook by 2020 standards, though I can’t speak for whether it was 23 years ago. The letter invites the investigators to join Walden at his rented cottage to investigate a historic vampire case he has recently learned about—that of Byron Merton.
With regard to the handouts, I need to point out one glaring error. The character is named Alexander Walden, yet the large-typed letterhead of the letter says, “From the Desk of Alexander Hammond. AH”. Presumably, they changed the character’s name at some point during editing, and Find/Replace didn’t pick this up because it was an image. It’s not something the Keeper will likely be able to change either, due to the use of unusual fonts. My recommendations are to either cut the letterhead off or simply mention the error to the players up-front.
Once the investigators arrive at Walden’s cottage, they find it vacant, with many interesting clues to discover, most of which lean towards vampire hunting, such as stakes being fashioned out of chair legs. The scene would make for some fun investigation, and provide false leads to the true nature of the scenario. One of the clues here is a voice recording, which is provided as a typed handout, though a creative Keeper would do well to record this as an actual voice recording for the players to listen to.
One detail in this scenario which completely threw me off, is the referral to Walden’s assistant, Hume, as his servant. It’s written a few times, and in the voice recording it even says, “I ordered Hume to break open that heavy door”. As this was written for a contemporary setting, I’m not sure why this is in here. Perhaps it was originally intended to be a period piece? If these references were simply Keeper-facing, it would be easy enough to ignore, but the letter from Walden actually says, “I and my loyal servant Hume leave today”. Keepers will want to update these outdated references to refer to Hume as an assistant rather than a servant.
The next stage of the scenario involves researching Merton by going through the library’s newspaper archives. It’s disappointing that these are only given as bullet-pointed paragraphs rather than actual newspaper clippings that can be handed out; I guess I’m spoiled with Chaosium’s current publication standards. A further lead comes from these clues in the form of a 109-year-old retired sheriff, now residing in a nearby nursing home. These clues further lead to the idea that a classic vampire is involved, which is a nice misdirection.
After the research is done, the investigators will need to find their way to Merton’s old house. Finding where it’s located isn’t specified by the scenario, so the Keeper will need to place this information wherever they see fit. Inside the house, the ground floor provides the first hint of Merton’s true activities, all those years ago, as well as the means to contain the star vampire. There is also some powder of Ibn-Ghazi here that can be used to reveal the creature, as it’s otherwise invisible. The second floor is where the investigators will encounter the star vampire. Each room is given a different percentage chance of an encounter, cumulatively coming to around 98%. If the investigators happen to fall into the remaining 2%—or choose to head straight there—the attic is where the star vampire will attack.
The scenario ends with several possible outcomes: containing it in the same room that Merton had; sending it to whence it came; or killing it. The first option is provided for within the scenario, though it will require a living lure of some kind, whereas the second option isn’t at all, so it would require some Keeper/player impromptu roleplaying. The last option—killing it—is probably the most difficult of the lot, as star vampires have 4 armor, take only half damage from bullets, and are normally invisible, requiring a penalty die on attack rolls. Regardless, all of these options would be equally satisfying as a climax.
All in all, The Unsealed Room is a very well-constructed scenario, with an interesting story, plenty of clues for investigation, and practically every thread accounted for. Besides its anachronistic use of the term servant, its main weakness is in its formulaic structure. However, as it’s intended for new players, that shouldn’t really be an issue.
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Want to check out more of Dingo’s deep dives?
Dingo’s Deep Cuts: The Return of Old Reliable [Atomic-Age Cthulhu]
Dingo’s Deep Cuts: The Evil Gun [Blood Brothers 2]
Dingo’s Deeps Cuts: The Unsealed Room [Secrets]
Dingo’s Deep Cuts: Fear of Flying [Fearful Passages]
Dingo’s Deep Cuts: The Pale God [The Great Old Ones]
Dingo’s Deep Cuts: Trail of Yig [Tales of the Miskatonic Valley]
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