6Sep/110

The Pool of Mr Binh – A short scenario

A short scenario by Brett Kramer intended as an interlude in an ongoing Cthulhu by ARCLIGHT game and focussing on a non-Mythos threat. It is suitable for a single player or small group, and can be used as a ZULU event, leading the players to Delta Green clearance.

Players and Keepers with low SAN should probably stop reading now.

Background:

Many years ago a young couple, their marriage unacceptable to either of their families (as she was too young and he was too poor), took up residence on a remote and shunned plot of land on the outskirts of a village far from their old homes. Everyone in the village said that the small pool near the land, a semi-stagnant thing fed by a fickle spring, was haunted. Having no better option, the couple ignored the legends, their land was not very fertile but they did their best to build a life there, even starting a small family. Things took a dark turn when the Japanese occupied Vietnam. The local commander took an interest in Mr. Binh’s beautiful wife. Several times soldier came and took her away only to return her to Mr. Binh the next day. She would not speak of what had happened.

One day the soldiers returned to the farm and Mr. Binh told them that his wife had gone to the wash the clothes in the pool from which they took their water. The soldiers went to take her but never returned. More soldiers came and Mr. Binh told them the same story and these soldiers too went to the pool but did not come back. At last, exasperated, the commander himself came to take Mrs. Binh and see what had become of his men. He was never seen again.

Ever since then, the local villagers have never seen Mr. Binh’s wife or children, nor does anyone visit his farm. When he must come into the village, everyone avoids him and they burn incense after he departs. Mr. Binh, you see, always buys a new dress when he comes to town…

From time to time outsiders have gone to Mr. Binh’s farm; tax collectors, surveyors, the Viet Minh, ARVN soldiers, Viet Cong, and most recently an American journalist. No one ever returns. Sometimes foolish boys from the local village dare each other to creep close to Mr. Binh’s farm or even the pool itself by night. Sometimes they see weird lights. Sometimes they see a woman in a new dress slowly walking past. Once or twice they have not come back.

Enter the Players

Colin Anders is an American free-lance journalist based out of Saigon. He has been working in South Vietnam for over a year now, mostly writing human interest stories about the local people, profiling GIs, and the like. Following a lead, he came to the village and, despite the warning of the locals, paid a call on Mr. Binh. He has been now missing for five days.

Anders’ father is Douglas "Big D" Anders, a Michigan Congressman and member of several important committees. He has placed a few calls to friends at the Pentagon and Langley and elsewhere and the order has gone out that the missing journalist is to be found and brought back to Saigon, by force if necessary.

The players are assigned to track the younger Anders down. They are given a photograph, a description, and possibly a rough guess as to where he has gone. The difficulty in finding his trail is left to the Keeper, either starting the action in Saigon or some other major city and have the players work to find Anders trail or begin play in the village itself.

The Village

Once in the village, the players will be told that Anders had, despite repeated warnings, gone to see Mr. Binh. They will also be told same stories and warnings about his farm that the villagers have repeated in the past. Presumably they too will ignore the warnings.

Mr Binh's farm

The farm is nondescript and like countless others in the countryside, albeit in a more rundown state than most. A lone ox bleats miserably in a muddy pen and a few chickens dart about from one half-collapsed building to another. Flies are ubiquitous. Mr. Binh, a wizened and gaunt man in dirty clothes and a battered hat, will meet them as they arrive, of course, and invite them into the moldering farm house. His wife is out, sadly, but she has left some soup and some tea if they would care to join him…

The Keeper has several options for progression, depending on what he prefers Mr. Binh's ultimate secret to be:

Option One: The Madness of Mr. Binh

There is nothing supernatural going on, though Mr. Binh remains a dangerous man. After he was cuckolded by the Japanese commander, Mr. Binh plotted revenge against him and his wife. He murdered his wife as she did the laundry, drowning her in the pool. Returning to the farm house he hunted down their children and killed them as well. His mind snapped and he now imagines himself to be her. Dressed as his wife he poisoned the soldiers and dumped their bodies in the pool, likewise the commander when he arrived.

Mr. Binh spends the day as himself and the part of the night as his wife, pacing back and forth between his farmhouse and the pool. When he has guests he drugs them and carries them to the pool that night where, dressed as Mrs. Binh, he drowns them. Most people regard him as harmless until they feel the effects of the arsenic in the tea…

Once Mr. Binh is overcome, the bodies of Anders and his photographer can be found in the pool along with dozens of others.

Option Two: The Vietcong Agent

Mr. Binh is a lie spun off the tragic life and death of the farm’s previous inhabitants who died long ago during the Japanese occupation. The current inhabitant is Nyguen Phung, a Vietcong spy who operates a short wave radio used to relay reports from local agents to the Vietcong and NVA. He masquerades as the harmless old coot to allay any suspicions as to his weird comings and goings and to keep away the curious. He will react to the arrival of Americans very cautiously, hoping to lure them to the pool where he hopes to surprise them with a few members of the local cadre who have been secretly camping there.

As to Anders, his fate is left to the Keeper. Perhaps he and his cameraman were murdered. Perhaps he talked his way into an interview and has departed to meet his contact in the Vietcong. Perhaps he has been taken hostage, having admitted his father is a Congressman.

Option Three: The Haunted Pool

Mr. Binh, a broken man, planned to throw himself into the pool, unable to cope with the suffering inflicted on his young wife and his own shame. Unexpectedly, as sank beneath the waters, he heard a voice promising to free him from his suffering and the hated Japanese. All he had to do was bring the soldiers to the pool and his the voice would do the rest. And so he did just that, leading the soldiers to the pool. He found that the pool was haunted by a spirit; a Ma-gia or drowning ghost. The ghost appears as a beautiful girl and tricks them into entering the pool, where they drowned one by one. After they we dead she told Mr. Binh that he now owed her a great favor, and that as his new wife, she could not have him keeping the old one around. Mr. Binh brought his old wife to the pool and killed her to please his new wife. When more soldiers came, Mr. Binh brought them to the pool as well. Soon after, his new wife said that she also needed him to be rid of his old children and Mr. Binh complied. Still she asked for more, for she was so very, very hungry.

The ghost, unable to leave the pool, uses Mr. Binh as a lure to draw victims into her waters, where she drowns them. Mr. Binh, hopelessly insane, cannot remember which wife is the old one and which wife is the new, so he goes to town to buy her a dress whenever he find enough money on the bodies of her victims. Colin Anders and his photographer are simply his latest victims, until the players arrive at least…

Option Four: A Woman Scorned

As with option three, the pool is haunted by a Ma-gia, though this version retains some small spark of her humanity, if not compassion. The spirit has grown bored of the company of Mr. Binh. He is old and wrinkled and very sad. He no longer desires her embrace nor takes any pleasure in bringing new victims to her. When be brought Colin Anders to her, she found a handsome replacement to her old love and she offered him the same bargain she offered Mr. Binh these many years past; bring others to her and enjoy her love. Anders happily dragged his photographer into the pool and a new bargain was struck.

Mr. Binh was enraged. She was his wife after all, how dare she take up with a new man. Yet there was nothing he could do, for he could not harm her nor did he wish to give up her company, for she mistook his frailty for a lack of passion. He know that if he hurts the American, his wife would never forgive him, but perhaps if he could blame these other Americans things might go back to the way their were.

Anders, for his part, is truly mad. He wants to prove to his new bride that he alone should dwell by her pool and he wants rid of Mr. Binh. He has already crept into town and carried off a child to please his new love, if only he could find some clear way to convince her to be rid of the old man and give up any sentimental attachment to him. The players will make an ideal gift.

In this case, Binh and Anders vie with each other for the Ma-gia’s affections. Anders attempts to lead individual investigators to the pool to kill them while Binh will, when Anders is not around, spin all kinds of tales as to why Anders must return with his American friends and be taken far far way. Binh will happily show them the broken camera and wallet of the camera man and say that Anders is mad and killed him and has threatened to kill poor Mr. Binh if he tells anyone.

NPC Stats

Mr. Binh, 57 – Mysterious, murderous hermit

STR: 8 INT: 10 CON: 8 DEX: 13 AP: 8
SIZ: 8 POW: 11 EDU: 5 db: -1D4 HP: 8 Sanity: 0
Attacks: Fist 50%, damage1D3-1D4
Grapple (choke 60%), damage Special
Pistol (if VC) 45%, damage 1D8
Skills: Agriculture 32%, Hide 50%, Poison Meal 76%*, Radio Operation 55% (if VC), Sneak 36%, Shuffle pitifully 90%, Speak English 10%, Swim 90%

*Mr. Binh uses arsenic taken from rat poison which has a POT of 10, but is somewhat diluted, causing paralysis rather than death unless the Resistance roll is failed by more than ½.

Colin Anders, 25 – Young man with important friends

STR: 14 INT: 13 CON: 12 DEX: 10 AP: 16
SIZ: 12 POW: 10 EDU: 17 db: +1D4 HP: 12 Sanity: 50/25 (option 4)
Attacks: Fist 50%, damage 1D3+1D4
Club 35%, damage 1D6+1D4
Skills: Art: Journalism 35%, Fast Talk 61%, Hide 31%, Persuade 45%, Sneak 25%, Speak Vietnamese 25%, Swim 60%

New Monsters

The Ma-gia – Spirit of the Pool

INT: 10 DEX: 19 AP: 19 SIZ: 9 POW: 13
Sanity Cost: 0/1; 1D2/1D8 (if Hypnotic glance fails, see below)
Attacks: Hypnotic glance 100%, damage see below
Embrace 100%, damage see below
Skills: Malinger 100%, Sing 99%, Weep 99%

The Ma-gia appears as a very beautiful Vietnamese girl clad in wet white dress (Anthropology, Occult, or ¼ Know roll to ID as Vietnamese funerary wear); she can appear as anyone known to those who fall prey to her hypnosis power. She is almost always partially submerged but can come a few feet from the shore, if pressed. Those looking up on her see her beautiful form; should anyone overcome her POW during her Hypnotic Glace, see below, they see her true form, that of a rotted and bloated corpse and suffer the second Sanity cost listed above.

The Ma-gia can either attempt to trick victims into the water in conversation (claiming to be a local woman doing laundry or some such lie) or can attempt to overwhelm a single victim per round with her Hypnotic Glance. With this attach she stares deeply into a victim’s eyes and matches her POW versus the victim’s POW. If the victim fails they will attempt to enter the Ma-gia’s pool unless restrained (as per grapple rules). Those carried at least 100 feet from the pool will come to their senses in as many minutes as they failed their roll by.

The Ma-gia may also Embrace anyone in her pool, matching her POW versus the victim’s strength (or ½ their strength if a Swim roll is failed). Failure means the victim immediately begins to drown as per the rulebook, otherwise the victim manages to keep their head above water. It takes at least two successes to escape the pool; Hypnotized victims automatically suffer the effects of an Embrace, thought they may attempt a new roll versus the Ma-gia’s POW to break free of her control once they being to drown. The Ma-gia may Embrace as many targets as are in her pool, but her POW is reduced by 2 for each additional victim.