Yesterday I ran The Haunting for a group of players, two of them experienced and two of them playing an RPG for the very first time. The Haunting is a Call of Cthulhu scenario that has become something of a rite of passage for fans of the game, as it's been included in the core rulebook ever since the game was launched in the early 1980s. At it's core, The Haunting is a very traditional haunted house story. The gist of it, SPOILERS, is that an undead wizard reposes in a secret room in the basement of the old Corbitt House and wreaks all sorts of scary shenanigans on anyone trying to take up residence in there. The PCs, of course, are hired to investigate by the house's landlord. I always enjoy reading on the
Yog-Sothoth forums stories about how different parties fare in the house--some flee in terror and never return, some find the lich and kill it or are killed by it in straight-up battle, others do all kinds of funny things like bulldoze the house or blow it up with dynamite.
My PCs yesterday (a journalist, a librarian, a circus dwarf, and a pimp) never even found the secret room in the basement, which I don't think is really that uncommon. They did a pretty good job with unearthing all the history of the house through various records, though some poor Library Use rolls stymied their gathering a complete picture. A minor subplot in the scenario actually provided some drama I'm sure the writer(s) of The Haunting never envisioned. In the ruins of the cultist-run Chapel of Contemplation, the PCs can, with some diligent searching and a little luck, find an occult tome written in Latin. The book takes weeks to read even if a PC reads Latin (none of my did) and isn't intended to have any effect on the scenario. My PCs, however, decided (sensibly) to take the book to the local Catholic priest so he could tell them what it was about. Well, the priest didn't have to skim the book for long to realize it was full of "blasphemies and abominations" and should either be burned or securely lodged in the Vatican's vaults. When the priest refused to give the book back, two of the PCs suddenly turned violent. The circus dwarf punched him in the face, and the pimp broke his arm! The dwarf grabbed the book and ran off, but the pimp was then knocked stone-cold unconscious by the librarian, who hit him with her purse! The sheriff eventually arrived to haul away the pimp, while the others made their final report to their employer.
As a scenario The Haunting isn't particularly good--it has a very thin plot, which the director has to work to flesh out. But as an introductory adventure for two people brand new to role-playing, simplicity was certainly a virtue and I think everyone had a good time. If nothing else, it gave me an excuse to flesh out some locations that may come in handy when my real Cthulhu campaign resumes in a few months . . .