The Chaosium Digest

The Chaosium Digest supports the role-playing games produced by Chaosium Inc. and all content is fan submitted. Begun in 1994 by Shannon Appelcline who passed it to myself in 2000 and previously distributed via email, this is the newest incarnation of the Chaosium Digest. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chaosium Digest Classics: Turkey and Jaguar

by Prof. Richard Scott Nokes, Ph.D
Originally published in The Chaosium Digest v38.07 on Sunday, November 13, 2004

Seeing the wild turkey on the hillside reminded Pete Byrd that he would miss Thanksgiving with his family this year. Archaeologists spent most of their time in classrooms and at colleges, but when they had to go out into the field they had to stay for long periods. Only seven months remained on Prof. Sinclair's grant to study the ancient Maya city of Tikal in the Peten rainforest of Guatemala, and he could not afford to lose any of that time. No days off, no slack days. He'd rest when the grant money ran out. Of course, Prof. Sinclair had flown out on Tuesday; No such luck for Pete, his research assistant.

Pete lugged his laptop and machinery through the low brush on a small hillside, the worst part of his job. He was mapping out the still-buried structures of the city, which involved hauling three heavy trunks around each hill in the stifling Peten heat and getting an "image" from sound waves bounced off of about two dozen spots around the hill. The image was a fuzzy jumble of lines and blurs, but in later months he would clean up the images and construct a three dimensional image of each structure. The dirty, sweaty, boring nature of the work, and the excess of turkey droppings on this particular hillside did not make the job any more fun, Thanksgiving fantasies aside.

At first he ignored the muffled sound of someone yelling up the path. The main temple square and north acropolis were off a way, so tourists generally did not get out to where he worked, but when they did they tended to be loud and annoying. As the person on the path drew nearer, though, Pete thought he could make out his name. Yes, it was his name. Sighing, he lumbered down the hill, knees aching. Like many Maya archaeologists, his knees were starting to give out, the result of spending a career climbing up and down steep pyramid steps. If they're aching at the beginning of my career, what'll they be like by the time I retire? he wondered to himself.

Luis was running up the path, out of breath and drenched in sweat. Luis qualified as the laziest assistant Prof. Sinclair had ever hired, so to see him moving so quickly was a surprise. Something was wrong. Even though the graduate student had good Spanish, Luis jabbered with such excitement that he could not make out what was being said. After repeating himself three times, Luis simply shook his head, gestured for Pete to follow, and sped back up the path. Pete followed.

Soon he found the cause of all the excitement, and became excited himself. Recent rainfall had knocked over a tree. Rain in the Peten region had only two settings: on and off. The area saw no drizzles, showers or sprinklings. Rain either thundered down like a waterfall, or not at all. In fact, atop a pyramid you could see the rain coming in like a gray wall, a spot of twilight moving across the sky. Earlier that morning a torrent had come down for about forty minutes. That forty minutes had apparently been enough to fell an old, rotten tree on a hillside near where he was working.

Luis's excitement did not come from a fallen tree, however. The root system of the tree seemed to have burrowed into a buried wall of the city. From his previous work, Prof. Sinclair believed this particular section of the city had been an acropolis, but it had never been excavated before because of the cost of labor, as well as the cost of preserving it from tourists and the elements. Indeed, now that the tree had fallen, the professor's hypothesis seemed correct, because the place that the tree had stood was now a gaping hole in the earth. The fierce sunlight revealed stone walls below.

The excitement Luis had felt now infused Pete, and he recognized an opportunity. With Prof. Sinclair gone for at least another two weeks, Pete would have time to examine the interior on his own. If he moved quickly, he might be able to submit the initial findings under his own name, rather than as "second author" status under Sinclair. This find, Pete realized, could mean the difference between getting his first job at Podunk College for the Semi-Literate, or getting his first job at Ivy-Covered Research University. He would have to cut corners, he would have to move fast, and he would have to document his findings in some public way.

Pete ordered Luis to stay and guard the entrance from tourists, who might disturb the site. He ran - yes, sprinted in the Peten heat - to get a flashlight. Though he was flushed from the heat and the exertion, Pete didn't notice. His career was made, and next time it would be he who flew back to the States for the holidays, while his own assistant stayed behind to do the grunt work. The hotel in which they were staying was not, unfortunately, air conditioned. Some of the nicer hotels were, but they were too far from the site. Pete's shirt was dirty and heavy with sweat by the time he arrived at the hotel. He fumbled for the flashlight, smearing it with sweat and dirt on his hands.

Luis squatted with a friend outside the hole when Pete arrived. They were munching some greasy chicken from "Pollito", sucking the taste off their fingers. Pete panted and gasped. When he brushed back his matted hair, Pete's finger (which had somehow ended up in the dirt) smeared a filthy line across his forehead. Luis looked at Pete with a little disgust, but kept it to himself - it wasn't smart to disrespect the Yankee archaeologists, not if you wanted to keep this cushy job for the next research grant. "Señor Byrd..." he began, wiping his fingers clean. Luis pulled a video camera from his bag. The camera belonged to Prof. Sinclair, and in his excitement, Pete had
forgotten about it. He snatched it from Luis.

Pete stripped off his sweat-drenched shirt, leaving him in just his ripped shorts and worn sandals. Just as Pete started to climb down into the hole, Luis heard him mutter something about "rats." The American then climbed back out, picked up a large branch off the ground, presumably to use to club rats, then descended into the cave-like hole.

When Prof. Sinclair returned from America, the police had already found Luis and his friend, Enrique. Luis had refused to talk about what had happened to Pete Byrd at all, but Enrique, being a more practical man, had shown the police the hole, but refused to go near it, pointing from a distance. Since Tikal was a UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity Site, the police had stayed out of the acropolis entrance, but insisted on sending an officer down to accompany Prof. Sinclair. Once in the hole, they found that only two rooms were connected. Another wall was completely obscured by ages of dirt, which the professor assumed led in the direction of more acropolis. The first room was simply stone, with two jaguar heads carved in relief on either wall. A low doorway led to the second room, which was simply small and cramped. On the ground was the flashlight, batteries dead, but in the "off" position, and the video camera. The dirt on the ground was disturbed, apparently from Pete walking around in the room, but there was no other sign of him, and only the one exit.

The policeman apologized to Prof. Sinclair for the inconvenience, and he promised that someone would be punished for the disappearance of Pete. Obviously, he said, Luis and Enrique were involved in some conspiracy, perhaps a ransom plot gone wrong, and they had waylaid poor Pete when he was cornered in the second room. As Pete had been missing for two weeks and no ransom notice had been given, the policeman did not offer Prof. Sinclair much hope.

That evening, Sinclair watched the video recording in the camera. It was rather short, less than four minutes long. It began from the base of the hole, spent a minute or so panning close-ups along the stone jaguar heads, then went into the next room. On the tape, Pete could be heard to laugh, as the flashlight and camera light revealed that a wild turkey had gotten into the second room and was staring up at the camera light rather indignantly.

The last brief, chaotic images did not reveal much, and were of little use to the police; Pete's finger had come off the camcorder button before anything of use was filmed. A low rumbling noise, almost like a growl, could be heard. The camera swung wildly, randomly. A quick shot of Pete's dirty knees, a few words from Pete, so garbled that they might be English, might be Spanish, maybe neither, then static.

The police never found Pete's corpse. They charged Luis and Enrique, but they knew they had no case, so after the grant expired and the professor returned to Los Estados Unidos, they quietly dropped the charges. They had found a pile of bones not very far away, but the bones were not human. They looked like the bones of wild turkeys and other birds.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Chaosium Digest Classics: The Balance and The Girl

by Nikos Moshonas
Originally presented in The Chaosium Digest v30.9 on Saturday, March 18, 2000

This is an introductory adventure for Stormbringer/Elric! to demonstrate some aspects of Law, Balance and Chaos.

Background on Troos

The following information can be given partly as background knowledge to the players and partly as a result of research.

A great mystery covers the forest of Troos and the general area of Org. Even the forest's presence contradicts with the barren land that surrounds it. According to rumors, the forest is old, older than the holy states of Vilmir and Ilmiora, older than The Melnibonean Empire, even older than humanity. The opinions of the relationship between the Melniboneans and the forest are many and contradicting, while they agree on one point, both are spawns of Chaos.

After the emancipation of Northern Continent, Troos was located within the state of Vilmir. The governors and the holy men of the new kingdom showed interest in the area. A group of woodcutters and investigators were sent in order to clear the land and search for the truths that it was believed such an ancient place would hide. None returned. An army was sent immediately afterwards but faced the same fate. After that the forest was blockaded and guard points were set around the border with the purpose of prohibiting travel into or out of the forest. The name Org was given to the area, taken from the cries of some repulsive creatures that were known to live there. The creatures, while appearing humanoid, look more like a blasphemy of humanity.

Research in the library of the Church could reveal references to the forest in Melnibonean manuscripts which are thousands of years old. It seems that the Menliboneans were not responsible for its creation, even though many of the clergy have different opinions.

A caravan route goes through the northern part of Org and is the fastest way of communication between three states of Vilmir, Ilmiora and the Weeping Waste as well as many cities.

Another story

It is a warm summer evening in the year of purity 373. The initiate priest and nephew of the Vilmirian king, Calvan Fornova lays abed in his tower in Jadmar, next to his servant girl Anna. He is already sorry. The worst is yet to come.

Anna was pregnant, but she was no servant girl. The young warrior-priestess of Phum received a prophesy of a birth. It spoke of the birth of a child that would help dearly the cause of the Order and spoke of a holy man with royal blood who was a foreigner to this world. Note that West was another world for the Easterners. The rest was hazy for Anna, but then again, so are most prophesies.

After Calvan had learned of the pregnancy he became miserable. He was the nephew of the king and he could aspire only to the title of duke, already possessed by his father. The clergy offered him another opportunity for further advancement, but after the recent revelations everything he possessed and even his family name is in danger. He could not marry a lesser woman and he could not "remove" the problem since it would have been a mortal sin. So, after seeking the advice of Chancellor Pedron he placed Anna in a convent and relinquishing his status as a priest. The whole thing hadn't gone beyond the circle of him, his father and the Chancellor, so he could forget for some time.

When the birth came, Anna gave the newly born girl to a nun and asked the child be take to Calvan. After that she disappeared from the convent and traveled back to the East. According to the prophecy she would have to leave the child behind for six years. The first part of her quest was over and she would leave the rest to Fate.

With the child back in his hands, Calvan became a ghost of his former self. He wanted to be rid of the spawn of his sin and suddenly the gods gave him the solution. At that time a strange black man (Erekose) had visited the city. He showed no respect to the gods and the authorities put him into prison. Calvan found his salvation in this man. He was an outsider with no interest in money and civilization. He had a strange accent and though he wouldn't say where he was from the only thing he wanted was to leave. That was ideal for Calvan who offered him the baby. Refusing any money he took the infant, went away and no man learned anything of him again.

That was six years ago. It is now 379 YK. A caravan, in which Count Calvan Fornova had financial interest, was attacked by the beast-men of Org three months ago. During the ambush by night, one of the surprised guards was chased into the forest and became lost. After running blindly, he fainted. Wounded as he was, he would have died, save for a miracle. He awakened in a hut in the middle of the forest. Nobody thought that humans, save minions of Chaos dwelled within the forest, but here was his savior.

This was Erekose who had retreated to Troos, away from humans and gods. He had a little girl with him. The girl was maybe even stranger than the silent old man. With black hair around a moon-shaped face, her round black eyes were piercing and oddly knowing. The mercenary guard spent most of his time in the forest in a coma and does not remember much. The black man helped him out of the forest after he recovered.

Calvan heard the story and felt the old demons along with new ones to come back to haunt him. How had the black man survived in that place? Maybe he was a wizard preparing the child as a nemesis for him. Maybe the girl would come back and ask for her righteous heritage, or maybe the gods where testing him? Anyway he had to know and here is where (at last) the players come in. One of them should be the mercenary, in order to guide them. Another can be a priest, particularly a young and romantic one. Due to the humid environment of the forest and the swamps that can be found in it, a barbarian hunter of the Weeping Waste can be of some help. They found someone, a slave along with his mother at the mines of Dolgar that can undertake the task in exchange for his freedom. Finally, some other lowlife can be drawn from the prisons, or from the list of supects (a suspected witch, a thief, or both). These people (the players) will be traced by servants of Calvan and agents of the Chancellor.

On a warm summer day, the PCs will meet each other at the office of the Chancellor of Jadmar. Calvan will be in attendance. Chancellor Pedron will tell them of a secret expedition to Troos that he wants them to undertake. Calvan will tell them that he had made a mistake in the past and now he wants the child back (actually he isn't planning to keep the child but to put her in a convent or something like that). The Chancellor will explain the other side of the journey that he has in mind. The priest must keep a diary and take notes of everything of importance to the Church they find in Troos. Many truths concerning Law and the history of humanity could be waiting to be revealed in the ancient forest (Insight rolls may reveal that Calvin is more upset than interested in the fate of the child, also that the Chancellor is a very intelligent man whose interest in the welfare of the Church and the state is beyond doubt). The Leader of the expedition, which is to be kept a secret, is supposed to be the priest.

The adventurers are to be guided, until they reach the forest, by two servants of Calvan and another priest. It is Summer and the weather is warm. They need about 9 days to reach the guard posts outside Org.

On the road (see Atlas of the Young Kingdoms, vol. 1 for more information)

Not all the details are given here, just basic descriptions I considered important. These can, of course, be altered, or others can be added to at the option of the GM.

Duchy of Rignarion

Marble Highways, windmills and endless fields with weak plants. Hints of drought. The farmers look very poor and underfed.

The city, the granite palace, the golden pyramid-temple. Also, the beggars. The adventures are supposed to know about the statue of the prophet Vil Vilario and the supposed miraculous powers of it. Nevertheless, only known followers of Law can be granted immediate entry into the Gardens. The priest is the obvious candidate for that.

If the priest sleeps under the statue, he will be visited by a dream. The dream starts with him in a misty and dark place. He will see the form of an unknown woman and she will call him. He follows and finds himself in a dark room. Light is provided by a glowing object which dominates the center of the room. It is a large golden scale, taller than a man. The woman is nowhere to be seen.

The golden scale doesn't balance perfectly. Instead, it bends a bit towards the left side. Suddenly he will feel something in his right hand that he hadn't noticed before. Ii is a small, oval, black stone, plain but strangely beautiful. The scale seems to be unbalanced and the stone looks like the stones used by the merchants to weigh the products they sell. Whether he puts the stone on the left or on the right side of the scale, destruction is the result. The scale collapses with a deafening sound to the floor. A feeling of ultimate guilt overwhelms him.

The dream is a prophecy of the future dilemma that the adventures will face. The message of it is that they should not try to upset the balance. Of course, they may never understand it.

On the road again the PCs are treated to depressing views of the never ending plains.

One of the stops is a convent. It is a tower-like building with a large yard where gray-dressed nuns work and praise Donblas. Shelter will be given to them due to the presence of the two priests in the party. Anna will be there, pretending to be a young nun. After dinner during the night she will approach one of the adventurers (the one she thinks more likely to support her) and explains that the mother of the child exists and longs for her. She also tells the PC that she would need him/her to support her when the time comes. The approach can happen during the confession of one of the players, somewhere in the convent halls, or in the PCs cell. Anna would do whatever she thinks is necessary to bring the PC to her side excepting violence.

After a few days, on a country road, they will be approached by a hunched-back old woman. She is actually Anna under a Linken Shape spell and will offer to the two priests one of the two breads she carries. Only critical Insight roll will reveal that there is something suspicious about her. Anyway, the other priest will take the bread. It has been laced with a sleeping drug (POT 16). Whoever eats the bread and fails the CON vs. POT roll, will fall asleep in half an hour. Anna does this to get rid of the adventurer's escorts. She approaches the camp in the night wearing a peasant-woman dress and without signs of her Chaos-worshiping nature. She wakes all the adventures up and tells them her story. She tells them that she is the mother and that she was parted from her child because the Count was afraid of the scandal. She says that the Count will never acknowledge the girl as his, that he only wants to avoid the scandal around her and that he will probably have her exiled or killed.

If they ask her how she knows all these things, she will reply that she has conducted an investigation on her own and that she has some friends near the Count. Insight rolls will show her true interest in the child, and that she is a very intelligent and cunning person that can hardly be just a peasant girl.

Sometime during the next day the group will encounter a band of ragged, cloaked people walking in column. The man at the head of the column is bearing a censer and is chanting. A Search roll will reveal that their faces do not look exactly human. A critical Search roll is needed to reveal that they are just lepers. The lepers will not respond to any call, since they are under an oath of silence. The priest may understand the situation with an INTx1 roll. He is supposed to have lived in Jadmar and he has no experience of such sightings.


The group will have to pass through this land in order to enter Org from the western border. Sightings of beggars might occur. The beggars may be a threat, people just asking for some food, or just observers.

The next and final stop for their guides, is a watch tower at the western border of Org. The soldiers can help them and their animals cross the river. They may choose to cross it from a point further to the north, but Valkark is a wide and deep river. The soldiers will not give them a boat.

Org (see Atlas of the Young Kingdoms, vol. 1 for more information)

The Road to the Forest

According to their information, the hut of the old man is somewhere between two marshes, the Sucking Swamp and Mudmere. The best way in my opinion, to start is to follow the river, which flows along the western side of the forest, north until they reach the Sucking Swamp and enter the forest from there. The description that follows is based on this schedule. It may be left to the players to discover a the less dangerous way.

The trip along the eastern bank of the river to the north lasts about three or four days (with horses). The weather is warm and at the beginning of the journey and met by warm winds. The weak grass and some rocky hills on the west contrast with the rich flora of the eastern bank composed of willows, great poplar trees, bushes and tall grass, and even more with the main bulk of the forest which lies a few miles east. Very few birds live in the trees of the eastern bank.

The trip takes them further to the north. Day by day the vegetation becomes thicker and unrecognizable plants become more frequent. On the third day, a feeling that they are watched will possess the PCs. It will not leave them until after they have left the forest.

At the Swamp

The river leads to the Sucking Swamp, which provides a sight of desperation. It is an endless flat area of black mud, bogs and a few very lonely swamp trees emerging from the gray waters. With an INT check, they can note that there are no birds at this place.

No more than 20 miles separate them from the hut. Considering the thick vegetation of the forest, someone could cover the distance on foot or with a horse in two days if he/she knew the exact place where to find the hut. Daily Navigate rolls from the mercenary will be needed in order to keep moving in the right direction.

In the Green Hell

The vegetation of Troos is weird and of completely unknown species that grow to supernatural proportions. The forest itself is a very dark bulk in the midst of almost desert land and its blasphemous flora looks like a mockery of gods, humanity and even nature. Sometimes it seems like it is one gigantic malevolent being. The GM should create the eerie atmosphere of the forest and give the players the feeling that they are in constant danger. The forest is, of course, dangerous by itself and apart from Orgians does not host any other form of intelligent life, or even fauna. The characters do not know that. It is said that demons and ghosts haunt the forest, and this is all they know. For a more complete description see "Atlas of the Young Kingdoms, vol.1".

They can take the horses with them, or not. Movement is a difficult and tiring process and the horses can only serve as pack animals. The animals are nervous and get easily frightened, throwing off burdens and riders. With or without animals, it will take them 1d6+1 days to find the second swamp and the hut (or the same time for Erekose to find them). Every day the GM should roll the following checks:

a) Check for madness (Atlas of the Young Kingdoms)

b) Check for bogs. The leader should roll under POWx3 in order to avoid falling into a bog.

c) Check for drinking water. A successful Natural World roll is needed. Failing that the water will be harmful (POT 8+1d6) and drinking it may cause stomach problems. Assuming they have fresh water, check every 3 days.

d) Check for burning woods. The one who looks for them should roll under his Natural World/2 skill, or under POWx2, in order to find and cut some harmless burning woods. In a different case roll 1d8:

1): The root lash out and hurt the woodcutter for 1d6+1 points of damage.
2): The juice of the woods cause itching for a whole day (-20% in every roll) and the smoke from the campfire smells awful.
3): The bark is extremely hard and rolling under STRx5 results in breaking the axe.
4): The blossoms of the tree shoot seeds (a POWx2 is needed to avoid being shot). On the next day, if the roll was unsuccessful, a rash grows on the skin of the woodcutter causing 1d3 points of damage per day and loss of 1 point of Constitution. Erekose can heal this.
5): Acidic juices spray the woodcutter (POWx4 to avoid being sprayed in the face and a loss of 1 APP) damaging for 1d6 points.
6): Who ever carry the pieces of wood gets poisoned (POT 13) and gets blisters.
7): Madness of Troos (no CON check).
8): Encounter with a dead tree that looks like a body, but nothing else happens.

A Night Attack

The feeling that they are being watched and followed is not without reason. The Orgians have spotted the group and there is a small band that watches their moves. Due to their knowledge of the forest and stealth, they will remain undetected by the characters. In a few days the Orgians could gather a bigger war band and kill or capture the characters, but in the mean time these four get greedy and ambush the characters during a night when most of them will be asleep. They are mainly after the horses or some of the characters' belonging, so they probably mount a diversionary attack, while one of them steals what they want. In the dark of the night they would look like devils. If one of them gets killed they try to take him, leaving no bodies behind.

#1 18 14 13 5 7 10 2 14 +1d4
#2 17 19 12 6 7 11 2 16 +1d4
#3 22 19 12 5 6 10 2 16 +1d6
#4 17 15 13 7 8 11 2 14 +1d4
Armor: 1d2-1 thick muscle
Weapons: Cleaver 60%: 1d6+1+db
Crude Club 60%: 1d8+ db
Dodge: 35%, Jump: 70%.


Erekose may find the PCs at a time of danger or the PCs may find him if they are successful enough in finding the right way to the hut. He will treat their wounds and heal their diseases, if any.

He lives in a hut in the middle of a pond of fresh water, just north of the second swamp (Mudmere). He knows the ways of the forest. It seems, also, that the Orgians are afraid of the big black man and they consider him an evil spirit. A young girl lives with him. He calls her Agnes. The girl is of the right age (about 6) and has black hair and piercing black eyes that resemble Anna's. She is actually Anna's daughter.

Erekose would not like the girl to leave. He was like a father to her and he knows that her father is a man that cannot be trusted. He does not say much, but it is clear that the presence and purpose of the characters upsets him. Agnes will immediately recognize the reason for the characters "visit". Her trust could be gained by a sincere and, preferably, female character. Nevertheless Erekose will not be easily persuaded to give them the child. Intense role-playing and maybe a successful Oratory roll could change his mind. Nevertheless, he will escort them out of the forest, not leaving the girl unprotected.

There are a lot of interesting things in the hut. The man has a great variety of herbs and potions, mainly for healing or protecting purposes (not an ointment of Invulnerability though). Apart from that, a successful Search roll could reveal an old but impressive set of armor, some weapons, a golden comb that belongs to Agnes and a few other things from the world of Erekose. The strange man will set fire to the hut before they leave.

After that he speaks even less, his face becomes even darker and his eyes seem to attend the Fate that is about to strike.

The Way Out

The Orgians know the group's moves at all times. They are be afraid to attack Erekose and they will not hurt the girl since they recognize divine qualities in her. Instead, they will try to capture the girl and kill or capture the characters. Erekose suspects this and will propose to follow a trail through places like Mudmere, The Deep Tree, The Barrow Glen or/and The Old Thing. Erekose can provide the priest with details for his diary. These include a theory of the Orgians being unevolved humans (which means that humans were once like that), hints of the long gone existence of a certain people called The Doomed Folk, and anything the GM would feel appropriate and upsetting enough for the Vilmirian priesthood.

Mudmere could provide them with the bark of the silver trees, which after the proper preparation can enhance stamina for a few days. It should be difficult to attain , needing successful Climb and DEX rolls. With it they will be able to move fast and they will be out of the forest in three days. With Erekose with them, the characters will have no problem finding fire wood, fresh water, or avoiding the bogs. With his knowledge of natural potions, the chance of being affected by the Madness results only on a roll above CONx6.

Since the Orgians are following them, they will have to move fast and carry the girl as well. The girl can feel the Orgians, but the characters would need a critical Search roll to spot them. If one of the PCs fails a CONx5 roll, the Orgians will catch them. If this happens, Erekose will propose a duel between two warriors, one of the Orgians and one of the characters. There are 20 Orgians. Use the statistics of the four above. The leader, though, is tougher.

Warband leader
24 17 13 6 6 11 2 15 +1d6

Armor: 1d2 thick muscle
Weapons: cleaver 78%, 1d6+1+db
thrown rock 50%, 1d4+2+db/2
Dodge 40%

If the character wins, the Orgians will let them go. If the characters still have any of their horses, offering them to the Orgians would be even more convincing.

Leaving Troos

When they are, at last, out of the forest the group will be tired and hungry. Since they cannot cross the river they will have to head south. The same night Agnes will face the character from the Weeping Waste and will say to him: "Your mother is dead".
This is true, since the old woman could not bear the work in the mines any more. If asked she will say simply that she just knows. Insight rolls will reveal that she means what she says, but there is no other way to verify her words. This twist is added in order to free the character (assuming that he believes her) from his duty to his mother, and force him to make a personal choice.

Erekose's face will be like stone. He says almost nothing and Insight rolls will show that he looks like a man with death in his eyes, that he is ready either to die or kill...

A day after, they will encounter a rider from the guardhouses in the south. He will give them some food and water and order them to follow him across the river without explaining anything else. If pressed he will say that these are his orders from the Count.

They will cross the river by a boat. After that they can leave the soldier and head for the place where Anna had asked them to meet her, just a few miles north, or follow the soldier to where Count Fornova is waiting. No matter what they do, there should be a dramatic closing to the story, with both groups facing each other and the adventurers, while waiting for their decision.

Assuming that the characters follow the soldier (the most conservative choice), they will arrive at a hilly field, somewhere in eastern Nadsokor. Some people are waiting for them. There are ten riders standing silent and a heavy dark coach behind them. As soon as they arrive, the soldier will depart without another word.

The riders are obviously of the Gray Defenders and they are actually foot soldiers using horses for transport. At the head of them is Brother Rodrigo, knight-monk of the military order of the Cleansing Flame. The coach hides the Count and his friend, Chancellor Pedron, but only Rodrigo will do the talking. He may consult the passengers of the coach, but will not reveal their identity. Rodrigo is distant and offensive, he is the only one to ask questions and he will only tolerate answers coming from the priest character. He will demand the diary and a briefing of what they encountered. This is a critical moment. Depending on what the characters say they may be considered dangerous heretics or receive their payment. If, for example, they speak of missing links in human evolution and of lost races that created Troos, they will be immediately arrested. Even if they are careful with what they say, Rodrigo will demand they leave Vilmir, except for the priest. After that he will ask for the girl.

At that point, a strangely armored rider, obviously a follower of Chaos will come riding down a slope, followed by four other riders. This is Anna with some bandits that she hired at Valkark Gorge. She will shout that she is the mother of the child and call for the help of anyone who values justice.

Erekose will protect the girl, not giving her to anyone. He will do nothing else and will be killed, probably by Rodrigo unless the PCs intervene. After that Rodrigo and most of his men will attack the riders, leaving behind two soldiers to guard the girl. The coach will depart at the first sight of hostility. What will the players do? Will they side with Law and the father of the child, or with Anna risking with the company of Chaos, or they will just try to keep the child protected, as Erekose
did? The fate of the girl and themselves is in their hands

I played this adventure with two different groups of players. They all sided with one or the other of the opposing groups and only one thought of taking the child away without taking any part, but rather late and he did not succeed to keep the balance.

If Ana wins, she will take the girl (who is to be named Sorana) on her horse, pay the characters that helped her and leave. Obviously the characters have to leave Vilmir and not come back for a long time.

If the Law party wins they will take the girl to the Count. The characters that helped them will receive their payment, but are expected to leave Vilmir. The surviving ones who opposed them will be executed if they are captured.

The characters should also receive some Chaos, Law or Balance points, according to their acts.

Appendix-Characters and parties

Anna, Warrior priestess from the East, mother of the girl

Tall, feminine, well built, with black hair and round charming eyes. She is a woman with many secrets who knows how to get what she wants. Her life is dedicated to Lady Eequor. She is wearing a characteristic black jewel around her neck.
Age 27, C81 B16 L20
STR 14 CON 15 SIZ 13 INT 17 POW 20 DEX 16 APP 16 HP 14 DB +1d4
Longsword 105%, 1d10+1+db
Small Shield 60%, 1d3+db+knockback
Akras 59%, 1d3+3+db
Desert Bow 55%, 18+2+db/2
Armor: Demon plate 1d10+2+1d10
Magic: Sphere of Flesh, Rune of Enhancements. Among other effects, she can produce the following: Demon's Eye, Seduction, Horns of Hionhurn, Linken Shape, Speed of Vezhan.
Skills: Dodge:66%, Ride:100%, Potions:70%, Insight: 40%.

Hired bandits from Valkark Gorge
#1 15 14 11 12 11 13 09 13 +1d4
#2 14 12 14 10 10 15 12 13 +1d4
#3 12 16 13 12 12 13 14 15 +1d4
#4 16 15 13 13 12 14 13 14 +1d4
Sample weapon statistics:
Broadsword 65%, 1d8+1+db
Flail 70%, 1d6+2+db
Spear, Thrown 50%, 1d6+1+db/2 (db of the horse, if charging)
Shield, small 55%, 1d3+db
Hunting bow 60%, 1d6+1+db/2
Armor: Various, mostly leather and rings: 1d6+1
Skills: Hide: 50%, Ride: 70%
They fight on horseback. They are quite loyal to Anna, expecting a handsome payment.

Erekose, Old Hero from another world

A tall, heavy build black man approaching the winter of his life. He is a man of few words and most of the time he seems lost in deep thoughts. It is not known how he came to this world. He might have been serving Fate or trying to get away from her. He lives the life of a hermit by choice, not wanting to get involved in the affairs of men or the gods anymore.
Age 60, C27 B88 L124
STR 17 CON 16 SIZ 17 INT 17 POW 23 DEX 14 APP 13 HP 17 DB +1d6
Weapons (though he would never use them against another man):
Warsword 180%, 1d10+1+db
Staff 120%, 1d6+db
Large shield 90%, 1d4+db+knockback
Skills: Follow Fate 85%, Dodge 79%, Knowledge Troos 85%, Natural World 90%, Physick
80%, Potions(healing) 70%, Protect Agnes 99%.

Calvan Fornova, remorse haunted noble

Of medium height, with nicely cut blond hair and small brown eyes, Calvan would not be someone to remember as special. Thatis, of course, if there had not been his royal blood and his education that makes him a quite capable debater. He also has a good knowledge of Vilmirian Theology.
Age 32, C13 B05 L34
STR 11 CON 11 SIZ 11 INT 12 POW 10 DEX 12 APP 13 HP 11 DB 0
Weapons: Dagger 35%, 1d4+2
Skills: Art(Conversation) 45%, Insight 25%, Vilmirian Geography 60%, Law Theology 55%, Myths and Legends 35%.

Chancellor Pedron

Tall and gaunt with straight brown hair. Deep wrinkles cut across his face, which hosts an ever-expressionless mouth of thin lips and a pair of grim brown eyes. He is the only man that Calvan trusts absolutely. He is cunning and would do anything to preserve order, the high status of the Church and his position in it.
Age 51, C18 B09 L75
STR 11 CON 12 SIZ 13 INT 16 POW 15 DEX 10 APP 12 HP 12 DB +1d4
Weapons: none
Skills: Art(Organ) 35%, Art(Conversation) 48%, Bargain 65%, Fast Talk 30%,Insight 68%, Oratory 70%, Theology 80%, Politics 90%

Rodrigo, Knight of the Church, religious fanatic

Tall with extremely close cut hair.
Age 34, C08 B11 L70
STR 16 CON 16 SIZ 13 INT 13 POW 13 DEX 13 APP 12 HP 15 DB +1d4
Armor: Chain mail 1d10
Weapons: Cavalry lance:80%, 1d8+1+db
Broadsword:115%, 1d8+1+db
Full Shield:75%, 1d4+db+knockback
Skills: Dodge 50%, Give Orders 80%, Obey Orders 95%, Ride 96%.

Gray Defenders

Sample statistics are given for the nine soldiers.
HP 12, DB +1d4
Weapons: Broadsword: 55%, 1d8+1+db
Kite shield: 45%, knockback
Skills: Ride 45%
They fight on foot.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Chaosium Digest Classics: Conducting an Investigation

by Tom Liberman
Originally presented in The Chaosium Digest v30.08 on Sunday, March 5, 2000

Any good Cthulhu scenario starts off with some small amount of initial information. It is up to the group to take this and expand to the point where they have a good understanding of their opponents. There exist three main ways to better inform yourself before taking on the enemy in his lair. Research, Stakeouts and Confrontation. They do not always go in that particular order but it is generally a good idea to do some research before a stakeout and a stakeout before a confrontation. The difficulty often arises in the difference between a confrontation and a fact-finding interview. All this is discussed below in the appropriate category. This area often includes searching the corpse. Many times the group becomes involved when someone drops dead in front of them. Always search the corpses wherever they might be found.

The group has some initial information and is now looking to expand it through research. This takes place at libraries, newspapers, city hall and other places where records of those involved might be lurking. This stage is often returned to each time more information is gathered in the interview stages. Many items of interest are dug up during these sessions some of them valid and others Red Herrings. How you interpret the information gathered here through the interviewing and further research process is essential to solving the problem correctly. Notes are very important during this stage, as it is easy to forget pertinent information during a crisis later.

You will gather many clues during this stage and storing this information is vital. Often times you will reference things that make no sense in the current investigation but down the road will prove invaluable. Often a group will note a clue but then when the time comes to use this clue have forgotten all about it. You must physically write down clues and check your notes each time you get new information. Note taking is essential to good investigating. Not all clues are vital but you will most likely gain necessary information for success during this stage. Note everything.

You’ve gathered what information from your research that seems pertinent to the task at hand and now you’re ready to interview victims, suspects, bystanders and anyone else who might have a clue. The first thing you must have ready is your story. You’re not going to tell them about Mythos material initially so you must have a good cover story. You never know who the real villain is and if you reveal yourself too quickly you and you’re friends are doomed. Always have a good reason to ask questions. During this phase you will be using your skills. See that section for important information.

Some of those involved will give you hints to what is going on. Sometimes you might need to push the interview if this is the case but generally it is good to go back and do more research before pushing your case into dangerous territory. You can always go back and re-interview. Sometimes there is a rush but generally being patient and careful is the proper attitude at this stage.

You’ve done your interviews, gathered clues and gone back and done more research. Now its time to make decisions. Who is the bad guy, who is an innocent bystander? Who needs to be re-interviews with more pressing questions? Who needs to be told about the Mythos? Most importantly you will still have questions about what to do with certain people. If you are in doubt about anyone, the best solution to discovering more is the stakeout. The option after that is the break-in. Information gathered from the stakeout and break-in will help you greatly in determining who is the enemy.

Possibly the most important aspect of the entire investigation. People you talk to will often be lying and the stakeout will determine some reasons for those lies. Who comes to visit, where the suspects go. Not all suspects are the villain but they might well have important information they don’t trust the investigators with. Stakeouts answer many questions and lead the group to new suspects. Stakeouts also generally bring up more questions and often result in a renewed research phase.

When you’re certain that someone has some vital clues and you’ve exhausted legal methods of obtaining that information its time for the break-in. This act is illegal and often holds great danger. If the person is not a cultist then police might be brought in and you could be arrested. If the person is a cultist then there might well be traps and monsters awaiting you inside the forbidden doorway. Take extreme precaution and have a story ready in case you’re caught.

You’ve decided to tell the person about you’re involvement in the Mythos. This is a dangerous tactic often taken too early in an investigation. Players often become frustrated and try to shake up the barrel to see what falls out. This sometimes works. If you take this method with a cultist you’ve revealed your true nature and opened yourself to attack. The more the villain knows about you and your plans the less chance you have of succeeding. This will often lead to the climax of the adventure and if you’re not prepared for the decision-making solution then you are doomed. When you confront someone who is not the villain they might well be willing to aid you if they have knowledge of the Mythos. This is a double-edged tactic and must be used with extreme caution.

You know who the enemy is and now its time to destroy. Many scenarios require a violent solution and this often the proper course. Remember though that cultist will respond in kind. Know what you’re dealing with before attacking if at all possible. Have a plan of attack. Coordinate, organize, set diversions, hit hard and finish the job right the first time. Going back after a botched job is the leading cause of death among investigators. Creatures are smart and will make plans against you. Once you’ve reached this stage plan well and do it right or doom awaits.

Your clues and hints are vital to solving most scenarios. The greater the threat the less likely you are to be able to solve it through shear violence. You will have to use items found to close gates, dispel creatures, and banish nastiness among other things. Often this final solution is only a temporary delay of the inevitable. Accept this. Many times no perfect solution exists and striving for it will only get you killed. Do what it takes to stop this particular manifestation. Remember the world is doomed eventually and so are you. Do what you can and sacrifice yourself if necessary. Be prepared. Don’t start the chain of events leading to the Final Solution unless you have a good idea of what is going on and how to stop it. If you missed vital clues and start this sequence you are doomed.

Involving those not directly associated with the Mythos leads to death for those individuals. Anyone you encounter in a Cthulhu game is living on borrowed time. The more people you involve, the more will die. Avoid this at all costs. Send people away to far off places. Hide them as necessary. Your sanity is at stake. The more people who know who you are and what you do the more people who can betray you.

The law is similar but different than innocents. Most of the time you don’t want to bring in the law but sometimes the case is just too big for you to handle by yourself. The research, stakeout and break-in stages are vital to making this decision. The more you know about you enemy and the greater your evidence of illegal (not immoral) activity the better chance you have of letting the law handle the problem. Often law enforcement officers brought in prematurely will die, be driven insane or worst of all join the cult. Be careful involving anyone but don’t be afraid to have someone help if the situation is bigger than you can deal with.

This is one of the most forgotten aspects of the game. The Keeper isn’t going to tell you to use your skills when appropriate. You must make this decision. Often you try to do things that skills cover without using those skills. The Keeper isn’t going to help you. Familiarize yourself with all your skills and use them early and often. A list of often overlooked skills follows.
1. Accounting: Useful skill when digging through organizational records.
2. Credit Rating: Much overlooked. Opens doors and mouths.
3. Fast Talk: All the time. Role play it but tell the Keeper you’re using it.
4. Mechanical Repair: Opens locks.
5. Psychoanalysis: Anytime you’re dealing with a loony this can be vital.
6. Psychology: During every interview to check for reaction. Tell the Keeper.


Role-playing is everything to Cthulhu. When we sit down you will be asked to become the character in question. You will not be yourself. This is often difficult but is made easier the more you understand the character and his/her motivations. You will probably develop phobias. Role-play your fears. Don’t take a character that is so alien to you that you can’t get into the role. Use your skills and profession as often as possible. If you're a doctor then make sure you're the one who goes to the asylum seeking records. If you're a lawman then you deal with local law. Don’t let others do your job for you. Whatever your characters background keep it in mind during the investigation. Cthulhu often goes beyond the bounds of the written scenario. Surprise the Keeper. Go to areas your character has knowledge about even if they don’t seem involved in the story line. The Keeper will be happy to expand to accommodate your interests. If you speak any language go to a part of town that speaks that and use your knowledge to gain information. Try not to get frustrated.

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Chaosium Digest Classics: A New Past Life for NEPHILIM -- MEDITERRANEAN, 10,000 BC

by Ian Young
Originally presented in The Chaosium Digest v30.08 on Sunday, March 5, 2000

The Great Compromise and the Drowning of Tarshish


Once properly embodied you were able to see what was going on. Here is a synopsis of critical events.

A "New Atlantis", founded 14,000 years earlier upon the Promethean principles of harmony between Nephilim and humans, reached its cultural height at this time. Tarshish was an isle of fertility in the middle of a great salt plain now recognized as the floor of the Mediterranean Sea. From this central kingdom, colonists set out and began to settle the lush river valleys where the vast basin met the highlands, creating still smaller kingdoms built upon the same Promethean model. Out of this companionship between Nephilim and Man rose the Great Compromise, an agreement wherein the humans allowed the Nephilim permanent possession of their bodies, permitting the Nephilim continuous progress along the Golden Path toward Agartha. In return, the Nephilim shared with them the secrets of the sky -- astrology, mathematics and the arts of civilization.

In this time, only the Priest-Kings and Priestess-Queens served as Simulacra for the Nephilim. From their positions of authority and power, they imparted the wisdom of the immortals upon the people of Tarshish, and all benefited thereby. The Compromise required that toward the end of a Simulacrum's life, the current ruling Nephilim would offer its life up in ritual sacrifice, returning to its Stasis. The next Nephilim in due succession would be wakened and allowed to manifest in the body of the next priest-king or priestess-queen chosen to house the "divine reincarnation". Within this environment of co-operation and enlightenment, human culture flourished as it has not since. However, here in Tarshish, jealousy flourished as well. This tradition effectively denied whole castes of servitors of the ruling hierarchy access to the divine power of immortality and fostered a resentment of the Nephilim and their rule. Ironically, it was the co-operative nature of the Great Compromise that allowed one of the greatest enemies of the Nephilim access to their power and the opportunity to turn it against them.

The lesser members of the priesthood, those not destined to become Simulacra, were the first to grow resentful of the Nephilim. Certain factions of Orichalka Men, soon to become known as the Black Star, were able to use this dissent as a means of infiltration into the very ranks of the Nephilim. It was often the responsibility of these lesser priests to preside over the ritual sacrifices of their Nephilim leaders. With agents in position to perform the rites, the Black Star gained access to the bodies and the blood of the Simulacra. Years of subsequent research led to the discovery of a distillation of the blood of the Simulacrum into a source of wieldable power -- the Elixir. Soon, the celebration of the passing of one Nephilim leader to the next became an occasion upon which the Black Star would destroy yet another Nephilim, adding another phial of power to their secret storehouses.

The Black Star conspiracy continued to grow spreading to the secular elements of society. Before long an underground organization of soldiers and commanders was formed under the leadership of a Black Star initiate known as Heracles. His army, hidden within the ranks of the faithful soldiers, called themselves the Men of the Lion for the symbol of their strength and their devotion to their Solar cause.

No one is quite certain how the conspiracy came to light. Eventually, the Nephilim must have noticed their inability to revive their compatriots from Stasis and confronted the corrupt priesthood. Their secret exposed, the Black Star must have attempted a popular uprising among the humans of the Mediterranean. What is known for certain is that some time around 9600 BC, a great and terrible civil war erupted among the once-peaceful Promethean kingdoms. The Men of the Lion, with Heracles at their lead wreaked great destruction across the lands, and the sorcerers of the Black Star intoned grave magics upon the legions of their former masters. However, the rebels lacked the popular support to triumph, and ultimately, their efforts slowed under the inertia of a prolonged fight. Faced with eventual defeat, the Black Star decided that their last desperate hope would be to destroy the Nephilim kingdoms entirely. The remnants of the Men of the Lion rallied in a final push toward the Great Dam at Gibraltar. Once there, the rebels fought a staying action, waiting for the Sun to reach the height of it's power. Then Heracles, with the aid of a centuries-old hoard of Elixirs and Orichalka weapons, invoked mighty spells and curses, granting him the might to smash the Great Dam.

The destruction that followed was horrifying. Millions upon millions of gallons of water cascaded through the strait, flooding the basin of the Mediterranean, scouring the very earth as it rushed inward. Tarshish was not only drowned, but uprooted from its foundations. The kingdoms of the river valleys were flooded and destroyed. There were, however, survivors who fled inland to smaller settlements, bearing what elements of Promethean society they could. In the wake of the destruction, Heracles was hunted down and as punishment was forcibly possessed by the remaining priest-king of Tarshish who had managed to escape the drowning. The Black Star was hunted and scattered throughout the land. Though shattered and diminished, Nephilim society survived, spreading outward to establish the rule of the Great Compromise in new settlements throughout the Mediterranean region. However, the last great dream of re-establishing Atlantis had vanished forever.

Secret Societies

The Black Star
The origins of the Black Star have their roots in a subversion and betrayal of the highest order. Seizing upon growing resentment within the ranks of the priesthood, the Orichalka Men found the them ripe for infiltration. Creating a network of priests, scribes, petty bureaucrats and servants throughout the temples, all loyal to their cause, these Orichalka Men established direct access to the estates, and even the bodies, of the Priest-Kings and Priestess-Queens of the Mediterranean. Utilizing their research of Nephilim Stases, they perverted the very life-blood of the Nephilim to their own purposes. Calling themselves the Black Star, they nurtured their influence within the temples of all of the Nephilim kingdoms. Their eventual discovery and subsequent persecution scattered them across the Western world. Their close association with the Nephilim, however, inflicted damage that could never be undone.

The Men of the Lion
Under the leadership of Heracles, the Men of the Lion formed the secular, militant branch of the Black Star conspiracy. Joining in a common cause with the lower orders of priests, these warriors created a conspiracy of arms, waiting for the order to fight against the Nephilim in the name of Humanity.

Your Simulacrum

You awoke for unknown reasons, and had a very short time to find a Simulacrum. Roll 1d100 on this table to find what Simulacrum you chose.

Simulacrum Selection

d100 Simulacra
01-50 Priest-King, male
51-00 Priestess-Queen, female

Art (choice)
Astrological Lore
Build or Farming
Fast Talk
Life Experience (Tarshish/Colony)
Read/Write (Tarshish)
Sorcery, Lower Magic
Sorcery, Higher Magic
Speak (Tarshish)

Art (choice) or Craft (choice)
Astrological Lore
Farming or Pharmacy
Fast Talk
Life Experience (Tarshish/Colony)
Natural Lore
Read/Write (Tarshish)
Sorcery, Lower Magic
Sorcery, Higher Magic
Speak (Tarshish)

Simulacrum Age
* Roll 3d6 x5. This gives your Simulacrum's age before incarnation.

Simulacrum Skill Points
* Multiply age times 4. This gives your current Simulacrum skill points. You may spend these points on the skills listed with your Simulacrum's profession, up to 50 points per skill in this past life, and to a maximum of 90 points.
* Add pre-incarnation age as value of Life Experience.
* Roll (2d6+6) x5. You may spend these points on any spoken language skills.

Your New Life

You undertook a new life of embodiment. Find out how long you lived in this new body, and what you learned for that time.

Nephilim Age
* Roll another 3d6. This number x5 is the number of years you lived in the Simulacrum after incarnating.

Occult Development Points
* Multiply the number of years your Nephilim was incarnated by 2 to determine how many occult development points you have to spend on occult skills. Distribute occult development points among available techniques, spells, occult Lores or a specific Arcanum Lore, up to 50 points per technique in this past life, and to a maximum of 90 points per technique.

Available Techniques
Sorcery, Lower Magic
Sorcery, Higher Magic

What Did You Do?
You were one of the great priest-kings or priestess-queens of the Mediterranean kingdoms at the height of the Great Compromise. What secrets of civilization did you grant your subjects? Did you do battle with the Black Star and Heracles, or did you manage to escape the conflict?

Stasis Event
What events led to the death of your Simulacrum, and your re-imprisonment in your Stasis?

Stasis Event

d100 Event
01-20 Died peacefully of old age
21-50 Voluntarily killed in ceremonial sacrifice
51-66 Killed by the Black Star
66-85 Killed by the Men of the Lion
86-00 Killed in the flooding of the Mediterranean

Stasis Form
For Nephilim of the first incarnation

Stasis Form

d100 Stasis
01-16 Small stone idol
15-25 Mammoth ivory carving
26-35 Stone axe head
36-45 Obsidian blade (arrow point, knife, or axe head)
46-60 Ceremonial sacrament bowl (stone)
61-70 Jewelry of beaten metals
71-85 Ivory bead
86-92 Animal teeth
93-98 Crystal (quartz, diamond, etc.)
99-00 Natural feature of landscape (Carving of stone outcrop, cave painting, etc.)

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