Halloween in the Time of Covid-19

Introduction

Halloween 2020 was to be the best Halloween in the last few decades. October of 2020 had five Fridays and five Saturdays! Halloween itself fell on a Saturday, and with a full moon no less! That hasn’t happened since 1944! On top of all that, Halloween was also daylight savings, giving the holiday an extra hour of night! Yes, Halloween 2020 was going to be the best Halloween of all of our lives.

It was…until the Global Pandemic of 2020 shut large public gatherings down. In 2020, things like attending costume parties at bars or clubs, going to the movies to watch the latest horror movie, and trick or treating were dangerous activities. Many industries which relied on the holiday were hard hit, but none worse than the Haunts.

All those haunted houses, trails, and hayrides which attract hundreds of thousands of people each year would stand dark and empty this year or be forced to drastically reduce capacity.  A few attempted to open, with social distancing or greatly reduced staff and capacity. However, the number of people attending them was greatly reduced.

But a few came up with a new model, inspired by curbside shopping and delivery and the reemergence of drive-in movies. Why not do a haunted attraction, like a hayride or walking trail, on an old remote road and let people stay in their cars? This way there is no social interaction anywhere. The Drive-Thru Haunt was born, and Nightmare Road – A Ride into Terror was born.

For the Keeper

Nightmare Road – A Ride into Terror is a new haunted attraction, run by veteran haunters with 15 years in the industry. They usually run a trio of haunted attractions every year: a large, haunted house, a walking trail, and a hayride. This year they have rented out a parcel of land outside city limits or beyond the outskirts of town (where, you ask? Why any city/town USA/International) and constructed a new haunted attraction. Set on the sprawling grounds of an abandoned tuberculosis hospital (Neponsit Tuberculosis Sanatorium). The haunt leads mostly through the complex’s wooded roads and around a few of the outer buildings.

The owners are high risk—a diabetic and a breast cancer survivor—and take safety very seriously. They take the temperature of all their workers at the start of every shift and are housing everyone for the season in a motel and providing meals, to create a semi-secure pod. They feel they have no choice, as they live for the rest of the year off their profits for Halloween. They are just trying to do their best in these, the worst of times.

But for some, these were the best of times. For a trio of cultists, worshippers of the Great Old One Abhoth, Source of all Uncleanliness, these are the best days of their lives. All were blessed by their dark god by being asymptomatic for Covid-19, allowing them to spread it without the risk of dying from it. For the duration of the pandemic, they have protested mask wearing, painted efforts to slow infection rates as political attacks on individual freedom, spread disinformation about the severity of the pandemic and how the disease was transmitted, and fostered distrust in medical experts and the scientific community. As the death rates rose, they celebrated, counting every lost life as a sacrifice to their dreaded master.

The trio have set their sights on Nightmare Road – A Ride into Terror as a grand festival of death.

The cultists have stolen a refrigerated morgue trailer, filled to the brim with the corpses of Covid-19 victims. The trailer was supposed to hold the P. Sherman Memorial Hospital’s overflow until burial arrangements could be made. When the trailer went missing and the staff panicked, making excuses and trying to keep things a secret until the trailer is recovered. The cultists have parked the trailer in the old back parking lot of the Tuberculosis Sanatorium, making it the center of their shrine. As the bodies rotted, a crack between our world and the pit where Abhoth dwells opened, and its monstrous spawn began scuttling into our world, spreading out across the area.

The cult plans to kill or capture the haunt workers, undermine all the social distancing rules to infect as many visitors as possible with Covid-19, and keep the gate between realities open as long as possible. To them, every abomination that enters our reality is a divine being, a sacred child of their dark god.

Involving the Investigators

There are many ways to involve the investigators. Keepers may wish to roll up a new set of characters for their players, creating a carload of people attending the Nightmare Road haunt. These could be anything from a pair of couples, a family and their children, or a group of teenagers just looking for some socially distant fun.

For keepers wishing to run this scenario with existing characters, here are a few of the possible hooks.

  • Distraught Family – The investigators could be hired by a family to recover the body of their loved one, a Covid-19 patient at P. Sherman Memorial Hospital. They are tired of the excuses and run-around and hire the investigators to get answers.
  • Desperate Hospital Staff – The investigators are hired to recover the stolen morgue trailer. The hospital is trying to avoid a scandal but is running out of time. They have NOT alerted the police yet.
  • Angry Parents – A bunch of teenagers have “borrowed” one of their parent’s cars (a 2019 Honda Pilot) and vanished. It’s a group of friends (Keepers should make up names and genders). Fliers for the Nightmare Road haunt are in each of the kids’ rooms, and one of them asked for—and was denied—permission to borrow the car. One of the kids is a recent heart transplant recipient (so at high risk). The parents want them found and dragged back immediately, but don’t trust the police to handle this without using force.
  • Paranormal Researchers – There have been reports of strange lights and sounds at the old Neponsit Tuberculosis Sanatorium, long rumored to be haunted. Having the Nightmare Road haunt opening here seems to have made things worse. (This story is fabricated by the owners of the haunt, as a publicity stunt.)
  • Cryptid Hunters – Someone uploaded a video, just 18 hours ago, from a trail cam a few miles from east of the Nightmare Road haunt. It showed something that looks like a cross between a crab and a giant skull. (Most people think it’s fake, but it is a Spawn of Abhoth.)

The Drive-Thru Haunt

Starting from P. Sherman Memorial Hospital

Investigators starting here have the name of the deceased patient (Jamie Hernandez, born October 5, 1968) that they’ve been hired to find.  They encounter the same runaround, about missing paperwork from the state and a backlog of people trying to claim bodies. However, if they make a successful Psychology check, they realize they are being lied to and that the hospital staff is hiding something.

Should investigators make a successful Fast Talk, Intimidate, or Persuade check, an exhausted Director of Operations, Dr. Bernard Judgekin, brings them into an office and admits what’s going on. He begs them to help find out who stole the trailer and recover the bodies before the authorities become involved. “It would be a public relations disaster.” He is willing to pay the investigators $2500 out of his own pocket to have the trailer recovered without involving the authorities.

Tracking the Trailer

Investigators reviewing the hospital’s CCTV footage see two men breaking in and steal the trailer. They can then use a variety of ways to track the stolen trailer. Hacking into traffic and security cams (with a successful Computer Use check) allows investigators to track the stolen vehicle to Route 185 N, a remote and seldom-used route outside of city limits. After that, the trail grows cold. 

Investigators trying to use the computer to identify the thieves can attempt another Computer Use check, this second time needs a Hard success. They can identify one man as Roger Kraft (age 34), a man connected to several violent anti-vax and anti-mask protests, wanted by police for jumping bail on an assault against a pair of nurses at P. Sherman Memorial Hospital, spitting on police, and throwing feces at a reporter. He was also involved in the armed takeover of a Federal courthouse during a vote on requiring masks in public and is wanted for questioning in a shooting in South Dakota, during the recent Sturgis Rally, after a Walmart employee asked him to wear a mask while shopping there. His accomplice doesn’t appear clear enough on camera to attempt identifying.

Investigators who don’t have the skills or access to a computer can still track the vehicle the hard way. They can do this by going to stores (shops, gas stations, banks) along the vehicle’s route and asking for their camera footage. This requires the investigators to make three Luck rolls to correctly find the truck’s route. In addition, confirming this with witnesses or video requires the investigators to present press or law enforcement credentials, or make three successful Charm, Fast Talk, Intimidate, or Persuade checks. Cash works well, with a $100 bribe granting a bonus die.  This also leads investigators to the remote and lonely Route 185 N.

Going for a Ride

Dusk should fall as investigators begin driving Route 185 N. They notice that it’s an old, poorly maintained road, with thickly wooded areas to either side. Signs line the route—newly printed posters secured over old road signs and illuminated by glowsticks. The first is for Nightmare Road – A Ride into Terror, a brand-new Drive-thru haunted attraction.

However, about every third road sign isn’t covered by a poster or lit by glowsticks. These are old and faded, requiring the investigators to slow their cars down to a walking pace or make a full stop to make them out. These signs list their road’s destination as Neponsit Tuberculosis Sanatorium. Investigators checking on their phones can discover that this Sanatorium has been closed for about 85 years now and is considered one of the most haunted locations for 500 miles in every direction.

Welcome to Nightmare Road

Here the investigators find a large sign across the road for Nightmare Road – A Ride into Terror, with an image of a machete-wielding masked figure and a pair of childlike ghouls in hospital gowns holding hands. There is a trio of masked, costumed figures directing traffic, going over the rules of the haunt, and taking admission fees ($40) with a tablet to run credit cards. There are three cars ahead of the investigators. Admission includes the drive-thru haunt and an all-night drive-in horror movie festival in the parking lot at the end of the trail. The rules: cars are to proceed at 5 miles per hour, max, and are required to stop at three major scene points, denoted by red lights. These scenes last about 10 minutes each and cars can proceed when the lights turn green. NO ONE is to leave their vehicles at any time. NO ONE from the haunt will touch your vehicle. And social distancing must be maintained at all times.

If questioned, these workers don’t know anything about a stolen trailer. However, if they describe the missing car and teens (see Angry Parents, above), they’ll radio down to the end of the haunt to check. After a few minutes, they get a reply that the car and the kids are there, parked and watching the drive-in horror movies. Unfortunately, the only way to get down there is to go through the haunt. If the investigators ask about strange lights or weird-looking animals (see Paranormal Researchers or Cryptid Hunters) the staff says they’ve seen both in the woods around the haunt, but a successful Psychology check indicates they are lying. They are playing up the rumors as a way to attract business to the Haunt.

The Drive into Horror

Things begin normally enough but soon escalate. The first scene on the haunt goes normally, but by the time the investigators get to the next scene, things have spiraled out of control. The investigators must survive long enough to reach the trailer, free those left alive, and seal the breach between our reality and the dimension of filth and pestilence which the Great Old One Abhoth calls home.

The Roads Between Scenes

The road between scenes is very dark, winding, and decorated with sporadic Halloween decorations. The occasional plastic skeleton, foam tombstone, fake bat, or propped up fake owl does little to enhance the already scary nature of the road itself. It’s cracked and bumpy, overgrown on both sides, are barely wide enough for one car to pass another. Worse still, speakers have been placed about the route to pipe in spook sound effects, like moans, growls, footsteps, wolf howls, and screams.  Soon live versions of these sounds will fill the night.

The Witch Burning

This first scene has looks like a classic witch before a burning cauldron, with a black goat beside her. She gives a monologue about how someone in town slandered her so she is summoning the devil to torment the woman. She then says “all things have a price,” and then picks up a “newborn baby” (actually a doll) which starts to cry (sound effects), and casts it into the boiling cauldron, whereupon it starts squealing (pig sound effects). There is a blast of fire and suddenly the goat is gone and a 10-foot man, with hairy goat legs and the head of a goat, covered in black fur, is standing there (a guy in costume on stilts). The creature stalks towards her, saying in a booming voice, “there is a further price, my Bride!” The witch says, “yes, my master,” then turns and drops her cloak and robe showing a nude back and rear, both covered with long, deep scars and ugly bruises (body stocking). The entire scene is obscured by a massive cloud of fog that is blasted in and then all the lights go out. When they come back on, a costumed worker waves them forward towards the next scene.

The Abandoned Car

As the investigators drive to the next set, they find the road blocked by a seemingly abandoned car. The engine and lights are off, two of the windows are broken, and one front tire looks broken off its axel. Investigators looking into the car see torn seats and bloodstains. Investigators stopping the car to look around see bloody drag marks, smell blood, human waste, and the stench of rotting bodies. Those making Spot Hidden checks discover a severed human forearm (female, with painted nails and a double heart ring) has rolled under the passenger side front door of the car, and it’s REAL (1/1D3 Sanity Points).

No one answers if the investigators call out.  Investigators trying to follow the bloody drag marks go to Through the Woods or Down the Road (below).

The Wrecked Set

The investigators come up to the next set to find it in shambles. There is another car here, which seems to have run into a tree trying to get past the scene clearing and back onto the road. It is blocking the road. The airbags on this silver Toyota RAV4 have deployed and the four people inside are all dead (not the missing teenagers). Investigators examining the car see that the people inside are covered with a layer of bloody phlegm and mucus down the front of their torsos. The faces on each are twisted in agony and their fingers are tightly curled into their palms. Those making Medicine checks surmise that they died of asphyxiation due to some sort of massive lung infection, likely pneumonia (those who can run tests will realize it was Covid-19). The car is wedged in quite securely and requires a tow truck to dislodge. Seeing this costs 1/1D3 Sanity points.

The set, what must have been a mockup of a colonial cabin, is now half on fire. The other half looks ransacked and is bloodstained. It looks like people were dragged out of the area, judging by the blood trails and tracks. Those making Spot Hidden checks find a dead body, torn to pieces, in the half burning ruins of the set. Those succeeding at a Hard Track check find strange tracks here, like a massive tripod or tent posts. 

While the investigators linger for too long here, they are attacked by a Spawn of Abhoth, while a second Spawn of Abhoth attempts to disable their car. The first Spawn appears like a massive rotting skull with a pair of enormous bat wings, scorpion-like legs, and mantis-like claws. It flies out of the night, landing on the investigators’ car—caving in its roof and breaking the windows before attacking.

The second one appears to be a large leggy flatworm with a badger’s head. The first one attacks until it kills someone, then tries to fly off with the body, or until destroyed. The second one attacks from below, tunneling underground and biting at the car’s engine, axel, and wheels. If it manages to do 15 hit points of damage (or more) the car is damaged beyond simple repairs. If it is damaged for less than 15 points, investigators can attempt to repair the car, with a Mechanical Repair check. Once the car is fully destroyed, this creature departs. Investigators trying to fight off this second spawn must make all attack rolls with 1 penalty die, as it is mostly hidden below their car.

Through the Woods or Down the Road

By this point, the investigators should be on foot, as the road is blocked by the wrecked Toyota, and their vehicle may be disabled by now. If the investigators attempt to repair their car and clear the wreck from their path, they burn up a lot of time. They’ll hear a rising crescendo of screams and roars in the distance, as the Spawn attack the drive-in.  If they keep trying to use the road and their car, they will, ultimately, arrive too late to stop the ritual or save anyone.

Investigators can make the best time walking the main road. They’ll encounter 1D3+1 more wrecked cars—and 1 more wrecked scene—before they reach the drive-in. They will also be attacked by at least 1 more Spawn during this walk. Spawn have a hard time surprising the investigators while they are on the road, suffering 1 penalty die to their Stealth checks. If any investigator fails a Luck roll, the Keeper should either increase the number of attacks by one or have multiple spawn attack at once. (E.g., five investigators are walking along the road, three of them fail their Luck rolls. The Keeper then has four Spawn to use again them. If the investigators aren’t well armed, have the Spawn of Abhoth come one at a time. If they are very well armed, utilize all four in a single deadly wave.)   

While walking through the woods is a more direct route, the thick woods, hilly terrain, and roaming creatures make it far more dangerous. Investigators are attacked by two more Spawn, plus an additional spawn for every investigator who fails a Hard Luck roll. Keepers can also make it easier for the Spawn to surprise the investigators in the woods, granting them a bonus die to their Stealth checks.

On the route through the woods, investigators find 2D3 dead Haunt workers, torn apart by Spawn. Keepers can allow investigators who make Luck rolls to find one alive but dying, living long enough to answer 1–3 questions. Those succeeding at a  Hard Luck roll find one alive, and able to be stabilized with a First Aid or Medicine check, but unable to be moved. Investigators making an Extreme Luck check find a Haunt worker who is only wounded, having 5 HP left, and is desperate to escape the area. They may be persuaded to act as a guide with a successful Fast Talk, Intimidate, Persuade, or Psychology check.

The Drive-in Massacre

Investigators reaching the drive-in find six wrecked and bloodied cars, smeared trails of filth and stench, splatters of blood, and the occasional body part. Return of the Living Dead is playing on a large, outdoor movie screen, with a blood smear over the front of the projector. The sound is distorted and muffled. If investigators are looking for the “borrowed” Honda Pilot and the missing teens, the car is here. Luckily, there is very little blood splattered inside of it.

Only one body is in the makeshift drive-in lot, a man who got out of his car with a handgun. The cultists killed him with magic and he drowned in his own phlegm, his face covered in bloody, vomited mucus. Investigators find him if they make a Spot Hidden check, and if they make a Hard Luck roll, they also find his gun (a Glock 17, 9mm automatic, with 9 rounds remaining). Seeing this victim costs 1/1D3 sanity points.

A pair of Abhoth Spawn are lurking in the shadows or hiding in vehicles. They attack at their earliest opportunity but will try to wait to see if they can kill or subdue someone alone and drag them off to the temple. One looks like a four-armed chimp, with a spider’s head and a long slug-like body. The other appears to be a rolling ball, with many mouths and eyes on stalks, with dozens of foot-long needle-tipped tentacles. These creatures attack to subdue and anyone they “kill” is actually beaten unconscious and awakes 10D10 minutes later.

Investigators making a Listen check hear the sound of a generator going on the other side of a massive, abandoned building (the isolation ward of the Neponsit Tuberculosis Sanatorium). If they turn off the projector and sound, they hear the generator roaring, as well as the occasional howl, scream, roar, coughing, moaning, and the occasional human voice. This comes from the Temple of Abhoth.

The Temple of Abhoth

Around the rear of the sanatorium’s isolation ward is a loading dock for supplies, nestled between a warehouse and the facility’s crematorium. All the buildings are large and dark, but in the center of it all is a well-lit area. A generator is running with three sets of post-mounted work lights, all shining on the stolen refrigerated trailer (five 2-gallon plastic jugs of gasoline lay scattered around it).

Before the trailer are a dozen people, captured guests and haunt workers, all bound with zip ties and lying on the cold concrete that looks to be covered in a layer of stinking filth. Some are wounded and all appear extremely sick, vomiting up bloody mucus and desperately struggling for each breath. Dead bodies are visible at the mouth of the open trailer, the missing refrigerated morgue trailer from P. Sherman Memorial Hospital. Seeing these prisoners costs 1/1D3 Sanity Points.

Much has changed regarding the trailer. The interior of it now appears to be a swirling void of darkness. A horrific stench emanates from the void, as do horrific sounds of all sorts of tortured creatures being born, killing and eating one another, and dying. Every few minutes, a new Spawn exits the trailer and kills and devours one of the sick and bound prisoners before wandering off. Every time a Spawn exits the doorway and kills a victim the void of darkness inside the morgue trailer seems to grow larger. Seeing this costs 1/1D4 Sanity points.

Investigators who make a Hard Luck roll get here after a Spawn has wandered off and before a new one emerges. Otherwise, there is still a Spawn here, ready to attack anyone, as directed by the cultists. Between the time a Spawn wanders off and when a new one emerges is a gap of 2D12 minutes.

There are three cultists here, led by Roger Kraft. The other two are younger men, in their 20s, armed with AR-15 assault rifles and an assortment of tactical gear. Kraft is armed only with a .38 automatic pistol and dressed in flannel and a dungaree jacket. None, of course, wear masks. All three are having such a joyous time, reveling in the wonders before them, that any attempts at Stealth by the investigators get a bonus die.

If the investigators circle the area unseen, they find the pickup truck used by the cultists behind the trailer. In the back of it are three AR-15 rifles, a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, and an AK-47, all fully loaded. The cultists will fall back here to re-arm and/or escape if pressed.

Conclusion

To close the doorway to the realm of Abhoth, investigators must either kill Roger Kraft or set fire to the interior of the trailer, using at least three of the five gas cans beside the generator. Kraft knows he is the key to keeping the gateway open, so he’ll fight defensively and limit his risk. He will even flee, sacrificing his companions, racing away from the sanatorium in the nearby pickup truck.

For each round of combat, if there are loud noises such as gunfire, the investigators must make a Luck roll. If any of them fail they attract the attention of a wandering Spawn, which returns to the trailer in 3D4 rounds. However, once this link to Abhoth’s realm is closed, either by fire or the death of Kraft, all such creatures who passed through this gate dissolve into pools of rancid rotting meat and sewage.

Closing the Portal

When the portal closes, it first rips open to three times its size. Anyone in a position to look inside catches a glimpse of the Great Old One Abhoth. They are overcome with a feeling of being dirty, nauseous, and feel “things” crawling all over their body. The stench knocks most investigators to their knees if they make a CON roll, or causes fall to their hands and knees retching. The entity itself lies in a deep dark grotto far beneath the surface of the earth. It appears to be a massive lake of grey flesh, covered with limbs and tentacles, constantly spitting forth its hideous spawn, only to grab and devour most of them once more. A few skitter away and wander off into the dark caves or, in this case, through the portal leading to our world. Those seeing all this must make a Sanity Check (1D6/1D20).

Once the portal is closed the refrigerated morgue trailer returns to normal. All is as it was before the portal was open, and all the missing bodies are accounted for. Once this happens, and the cultists are accounted for (killed, captured, or escaped) the scenario ends.

Rewards and Repercussions

  • For Each Spawn Killed                                   +1D8
  • For Saving the Prisoners                                 +1D6
  • For Closing the Portal                                     +1D6
  • For each Cultist Killed or Captured               +1D4

Appendix A – NPCs and Monsters

Spawn of Abhoth, slimy progeny (Temple of Nightmare Road variant*)

char.
STR
CON
SIZ
DEX
INT
POW

roll
4D10 × 5
6D6 × 5
3D10 × 5
3D6 × 5
2D4 × 5
6D6 × 5

average
110 (85*)
105 (90*)
80–85
50–55
25
105

Average Hit Points: 14
Average Damage Bonus: +1D4
Average Build: 1
Average Magic Points: 21
Move: 10

Combat
Attacks per Round: 1 (claw, bite, string, whip, or stab)
Every spawn is unique, with a different mode of attack.

Fighting 100% (50/20), damage 1D4+1D4
Dodge 25% (12/5)

Skills
Climb 45%, Scent/Spot Prey 60%, Stealth 50%.

Armor: None; regenerates 1D6 hit points per round (death at zero hit points).
Spells: None.
Sanity Loss: 1/1D8 Sanity points to encounter the horrible Spawn of Abhoth.

Nightmare Road Variants: These Spawn are smaller, weaker versions of their much more powerful brethren. Unless stopped, they’ll become the advanced scouts to a full horde of these nightmarish creatures.

Roger Kraft, priest of Abhoth, Anti-Vaxxer, and Covid-19 denier

STR 50           CON   45        SIZ 55             DEX 45           INT 60                       
APP    40        POW 70         EDU 50           SAN 0             HP: 10
Damage Bonus: 0               Build: 0          Move: 7          MP: 14

Combat
Brawl 40% (20/8), damage 1D3
Colt Special Combat 35% (17/7), damage 1D10 (RoF 1; 8 rounds)
Dodge 25% (12/5)

Skills
Drive Auto 40%, First Aid 40%, Jump 25%, Intimidate 50%, Listen 55%, Locksmith 75%, Mechanical Repair 70%, Spot Hidden 50%, Stealth 50%.

Armor: None.

Militia Abhoth Cultists (×2)

STR 60           CON   50        SIZ 60             DEX 45           INT 40                       
APP    40        POW 50         EDU 40           SAN 0             HP: 11
Damage Bonus: 0               Build: 0          Move: 8          MP: 10

Combat
Brawl 35% (17/7), damage 1D3
Glock 19 40% (20/8), damage 1D10 (RoF 1; 15 rounds; 1 extra clip)
AR-15 40% (20/8), damage 2D6 (RoF 1 or burst 3; 30 rounds; 1 extra clip)
Dodge 30% (15/6)

Skills
Climb 40%, Jump 40%, Intimidate 50%, Listen 45%, Spot Hidden 40%, Stealth 55%.

Armor: 2 points of tactical gear.

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