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The Derelict – Advice, Tips, & Ideas for Keepers

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I’m going to run the Derelict scenario soon (the version from Petersen's Abominations), and I came up with the following ideas that I’d like to share and discuss.



- I made character sheets for the captain and first mate. If a PC dies, they can take control of a NPC until they are used up.

- Decide ahead of time if the PCs can bring shotguns and other weaponry on the Yacht, and if satellite phones  / Walkie-Talkies are available (I allowed a single shotgun).

- I gave a distinctive item/piece of clothing to each NPC – if a NPC is left alone and gets killed by the Sciapod, it may remove the corpse but leave the item behind as an ominous sign.

- If the group parties hard on the Yacht, they may leave some empty bottles around. If they later try to hide on the Yacht, they may bump and break some, revealing their position to the Sciapod

- After the initial attack from the Sciapod, the party may start to relax and spent a lot of time discussing what to do next. I'd roll two dice in secret, and told the group the Sciapod would show up again in a number of minutes equals to my dice roll. It's a nice way to keep the tension up!

- The Sciapod is extremely lethal, and can kill a PC in a single hit. I think most of the fun of the scenario is to have the PCs die one by one. However, I would try to make sure the PCs always have a way out or a chance to survive, so that their deaths are not seen as outside their control. I would have its first melee attack to be the "Clutch and Crush" maneuver instead of a simple Fighting action
for this reason.

- If someone sees the Sciapod, make sure to make it know it is incredibly muscular and powerful. You want to avoid the case where 3 PCs try to do an opposed strength roll against the monster and become upset when it fails without a roll (the rules for combining investigator strength is found on page 88 in the CoC 7th Core Book, under "Physical Human Limits")

Creepy events, for investigator in the yacht:

- Investigator may see a splash in the water, then something driving through the water towards the yacht

- Investigator may hear something jumping on the boat

- Investigator can spot the Sciapod on the Reefer

- The Sciapod can dramatically enter the Yacht, such as jumping through a window

Creepy events, if the Yacht has a NPC in it

- PCs may see the sciapod heading toward the Yacht – it’s up to them to warn its occupants, lure the sciapod away, or just run in the opposite direction

- The PCs may later return to the Yacht and find the place wrecked and the NPC dead, with a 6-foot long crystal harpoon embedded in their corpse

- The PCs may later return to the Yacht to find the place wrecked and no trace of the NPC. They then hear some scary rustling from a closet/bathroom/etc! which is then revealed to be the NPC, who having managed to hide from the Sciapod


Creepy events, if the PC are communicating through Walkie-Talkie with a NPC

- The NPC may not answer because it is dead

- Alternatively, have the NPC not answer because the Sciapod is near it. The NPC can call later and describe how close it came to dying

- Or, have the NPC answer normally. The conversation can be then cut short by a sciapod attack (either on the PCs or NPC)



- The main deck makes a nifty location for the Sciapod to ambush the PCs, perhaps after they come back after finding the mountain of corpses in Hold 1. It’s interesting because the PCs have a lot of choices on how they escape (run to the Yacht, hide in superstructure, return to the cargo holds, jump off the reefer, etc.). The main deck is effectively the “hub” through which all important locations in the adventure are connected – having an attack there will make the PCs uneasy each time they switch locations


- The superstructure has a lot of rooms – I think there is a danger of a keeper spending too much time here.

- There can be creepy noises periodically through the structure – it could be straining metal, or it could be the Sciapod.

- The PCs may return to the superstructure later on to access the CO2 canisters, the kitchen, and the lifeboat.

- The lifeboat been lowered from the fourth floor could attract the Sciapod. The PCs would then be trapped at the top of the structure, and would have to figure out a way to go down

- The scenario recommends that the Erik the Red’s Saga book in level 3 be found “once the investigators have done an initial inspection of the vessel”. However, it’s unlikely the investigators will go back to explore level 3 once they are done with the superstructure, and it’s hard to justify the investigators missing the book the first time around. Maybe the book can be found elsewhere – such as in the engine room.

- The PCs may revisit the CO2 room in their fight against the Sciapod. They will probably try to move the CO2 to another room and/or make a trap out of it. Have the Sciapod comes around that time so they'll have to distract it while they set the trap up.

Cargo Hold:

- If the PCs ignore the Superstructure and go straight to the Cargo Hold, I’d consider moving the creepy pile of bodies from Cargo Hold 1 to Level 5 of the superstructure. I think it’s important to build tension through the exploration of the superstructure before the pile is revealed.

- If the party doesn’t have a shotgun, they could spot one in the body pile in Hold 1. A PC wanting it would then have to dig it out of the frozen pile of human corpses – causing a sanity loss.

- When climbing back up, the PCs may see a tarpaulin moving from one of the crates below (the Sciapod waking up). A spooky way to give the players a warning that something is coming for them.


Delusions from sanity loss:

- Once the controls of the Delilah are destroyed, a delusional PC may believe that the Delilah remain operational. The insane PC may start hearing an imaginary voice on the broken radio, or believe that they are piloting the Yacht.

- The piles of corpses in Hold 1 may appear to be ghouls, who wake up and roam the ship

- A delusional PC could hear voices, or creepy music, from the intercom in the reefer 

- A PC could start receiving calls on his phone, even though they don’t get signal

- Appropriate Phobias: Claustrophobia, Hydrophobia (fear of water), Ichthyophobia (fear of fish), Cheimaphobia (fear of cold), Megalophobia (fear of large things), Monophobia (fear of being alone), Necrophobia (fear of dead things), Phagophobia (fear of being eaten), Thalassophobia (fear of the sea), Xenoglossophobia (fear of foreign languages)

- If the cargo has not been explored, a mad character could find himself returning to his senses in the cargo hold surrounded by 13 sailors who apparently survived. Of course, it's an hallucination: the 13 sailors are actually 13 corpses. 

Edited by Merudo

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This scenario really reminds me of the Jonny Quest episode "The Sea Haunt."  Might view it for additional inspiration (and the groovy 1964 opening theme).

Also William Hope Hodgeon's 1912 short story "The Derelict."  Good creepy bits there, too.

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On 8/2/2018 at 6:43 PM, seneschal said:

This scenario really reminds me of the Jonny Quest episode "The Sea Haunt."  Might view it for additional inspiration (and the groovy 1964 opening theme).

Thank you for letting me know about that episode - it was eerie how similar it was to The Derelict!

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Heh, Jonny Quest investigated mysterious events and battled monsters, mad scientists and well-organized goons.  You could build a pretty good campaign emulating his adventures 

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