Monster of the Week: David Cronenberg’s Spider-Man

I’ve run Monster of the Week twice now. Instead of APs of the sessions, I figured it’s probably more valuable to post the mysteries I prepped. Hopefully someone out there can make use of them! Feel free to yoink, swap, and remix these ideas. After all, that’s what I’ve done.

Intro

I set this mystery in Pittsburgh, but that’s because it was a city we all knew very little about yet was in our state of residence. Close but far away. You can set it anywhere with a sizable industrial wasteland mixed with comfortable single-family homes. The monster’s origins are demonic, but that’s because the Chosen was tangled up with demons and I didn’t want to explain the supernatural away with weird science. It would be easy enough to swap out demonic rituals with experimental pharmaceuticals if your own group leans that way.

The Hook

Three Cranolum Pharmaceuticals employees are attacked at the facility’s loading dock. Two are beaten to death and exsanguinated. A third barely survives and claims a “monster” did it.

I like to have a red herring in there just to throw off those players who try to guess what the monster is right off the bat, you know? The spider-man is draining its victims of their juices but your players might go to “vampire” first. Let them!

Countdown

  • Day: Wentworth Richards, the spider-man, attacks the Cranolum Pharma employees at the loading dock. Doug Jameson survives by fleeing into the street, where he is hit by a car and hospitalized.
  • Shadows: Wentworth kills Jameson in Sacred Heart Hospital.
  • Dusk: June Richards kidnaps Alice Kamal from Cranolum’s parking lot and puts her in her home’s basement.
  • Sunset: Wentworth and June torture and kill Kamal. Wentworth dumps the body in the chemical plant.
  • Nightfall: Wentworth kills Yeetcakes when he trespasses into the chemical plant, livestreaming for his urban spelunking channel. The video goes viral.
  • Midnight: Wentworth dies in a SWAT/National Guard assault, killing many officers. Chemical spills cause a state of emergency.

Threats

My group got into the mix right away and managed to put an end to everything before “sunset”, so from there on the locations and bystanders are mostly theoretical.

Wentworth Richards, the Spider-Man

Monster: Executioner. Wentworth is targeting Cranolum Pharmaceuticals to avenge his beloved uncle but is woefully indiscriminate. He relies on his aunt for discretion.

Powers: Climbing, webs, venom, reflexes, strength, multiple limbs, multiple eyes

Weaknesses: Fire. “Kill it with fire” is an easy weakness, but this was my first time running Monster of the Week and one of my players’ first time roleplaying ever. I didn’t want to start off with anything too complex.

Attacks: Webs (0-harm area far restraining useful), venom (4-harm intimate), lots of arms (3-harm hand forceful)

Armor: 1 Harm Capacity: 10

Again, I didn’t want a ridiculously tough monster for our intro session. Beef him up some if your players are more experienced!

Aunt June Richards, the Black Widow

Minion: Thief. June Richards summoned a spider demon into the body of her nephew and embarked on a roaring rampage of revenge against Cranolum because her husband died in a preventable accident on the job. My group did not get into how this little old lady knew how to summon monsters. It may make sense for you to have June be the monster and Wentworth the minion – that was certainly a fuzzy area for us.

Attacks: Lead pipe, taser, tranquilizers, poison syringes, drugged tea. If she’s encountered in her home, June will have these things close at hand.

Doug Jameson, dockworker

Bystander: Witness. As mentioned above, Doug survived Wentworth’s inital attack but got hit by a car. He’ll be in Sacred Heart Hospital desperate for someone to believe his story about a super-fast, super-strong monster that can climb walls and web people. Because it’s a ridiculous story, he’s the prime suspect for the killings and will be guarded by police.

Alice Kamal, Cranolum Pharmaceuticals CEO

Bystander: Busybody, then victim. Ms. Kamal won’t want Jameson’s story to come out, and will send lawyers to try to prevent access. As a pharmaceutical executive, she’s not the most sympathetic NPC. Her company’s lax safety standards did lead to June Richards’ husband Peter’s death.

Yeetcakes, streamer and urban spelunker

Bystander: Victim. If word of the spider-monster gets out, a local livestreamer going by “Yeetcakes” starts poking around. He’s going to get himself killed but he’ll be streaming when it happens. This kicks over the hornet’s nest of police that will sweep in, get a bunch of people killed, cause tons of property damage, and eventually take Wentworth out.

Richards House

Location: Prison

Overgrown 1 acre colonial in an older suburb. Pictures, trinkets, and lace. Has a solidly-built basement with soundproofing and a ritual space (if June is the one who summoned the creature into Wentworth in your story). Alice Kamal will be kept down here until she’s murdered.

Cranolum Chemical Plant

Location: Maze

A labyrinth of pipes, tanks, and catwalks, the chemical plant is still lax on safety standards even after Peter Richards’ death. This is Wentworth’s hunting ground – anyone here counts as an “employee” as far as he is concerned.

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