A spooky child’s drawing depicts a cryptic staircase that goes “to the bottom of the universe”, a blood-drenched skeleton, and a shadowy monster. What might it signify (other than “these parents are so neglectful they not only produce children who make such drawings, but also exploit them when they’re in need of a quick Page XX article)?

Four scenario seeds for four different games:

Ashen Stars: The child is somehow partially immune to the memory-dampening effect of the Bogey Conundrum, and can recall events during the Mohilar war that no-one else can remember. A careful analysis of the ‘staircase’ shows it’s actually a map of warp corridors, leading to an unknown system. Might that system be the homeworld of the fabled Mohilar, or some other relic of the war? That skeleton looks human – is it a warning, or a sign that humans once visited there? And if the Mohilar are still out there, the Combine needs to know…

The Esoterrorists: One Esoterrorist cell is playing a long game. They’ve spend years implanting monstrous hypnotic suggestions in children, subliminally exposing them to the Outer Dark. These psychic seeds take years to germinate – this particular child is in no immediate danger, but in twenty years time, he might be a gateway for the Outer Dark. The real threat, though, are past pupils of the same teacher, any of whom might be about to tear through the Veil.

Fear Itself: The monster lurks at the bottom of the staircase – any staircase. Any flight of steps can suddenly elongate,dropping down and down and down forever. Think of it like a Hound of Tindalos, only with stairs instead of sharp corners. Can the player characters find a way to banish the monster from the city when they’ve got to avoid going down any stairs ever?

Trail of Cthulhu: The stairs lead to the Dreamlands. The skeleton is a talented human dreamer, who descended too far into the labyrinths beneath the sunlit lands of slumber, and was captured by some eldritch horror. However, he’s able to send his mind back to the waking world in search of aid, and has latched onto the child.

Meditating on the drawing allows the investigators to enter the Dreamlands near his prison. What they don’t know, though, is that the horror knows about the escape attempt and intends to possess the child and use him to erase the drawing, trapping the investigators in dreams forever at the bottom of the stairs…