Forgotten Futures VII

Adventure Outlines
Short scenarios for the world of The Angel of the Revolution and Olga Romanoff

Marcus L. Rowland

Copyright © 2001

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These adventure outlines are incomplete, and most need a lot of preparation before they can be used. Detailed character data is not provided; all NPCs should be designed to fit the needs of the plot and the capabilities of your players.


THE aftermath of the Revolution. With the defeat of the Tsar and the triumph of Socialism Natas has retired, and the old Terror has mutated into the nation of Aeria and the government of the Federation. Suddenly revolutionary socialism is flavour of the month... but the exact flavour isn't to everyone's taste. The old alliances that made up the grass roots of the Terror have begun to fall apart, as dozens of Nihilist, Socialist, and Anarchist factions start to remember their differences, and argue about the direction the new regime is taking. Some feel that things are going too far, others that they are not going far enough. For example:

Most of this is just a war of words until the first meeting of the Federation Council in 1906 is disrupted by the discovery of a bomb, designed using the Terror's old techniques and powerful enough to kill everyone in the room. This is followed by a series of explosions in public places, all apparently designed to discredit the Council.

The adventurers are agents of the Inner Circle, assigned to investigate one of these splinter groups, an organisation (of your choice) with a reputation for extreme violence and a dislike of inquisitive strangers. In theory the alliance that formed the Terror still holds, and they have carte blanche; in practice things have become a little strained, and they will have to combine diplomacy with ruthlessness to get results.

Heart of Madness

This is an alternative scenario suggested by some of the characters of Adventure 3, The Tsars Are Right. For obvious reasons it is probably not advisable to run both with the same group of players, although it is possible to run it as a sequel to one of the variant forms of the adventure. A setting before 1930 (the death of Natas) is needed for this variant; if it is used as a sequel to The Tsars Are Right this won't be possible - set it in the 1940s, with an Aerian scientist the first to spot the problem described below.

EARLIER today Federation Intelligence Bureau agents raided the offices of the Scientific Gazette and Rhode Island Journal of Astronomy, an amateur publication circulated to a few hundred subscribers in America and a few dozen in the rest of the world. One of its readers is Israel Di Murska, better known as Natas, now in retirement in Aeria.

The last issue, published three weeks ago and only just read by Natas, contained an article by the magazine's founder and former editor, entitled "Reaching for the Moon". It describes various fictional and theoretical means for travelling through space, concluding that some form of gun or rocket offers the best chance of success. An appendix sums up various propellants that might be used for either purpose, concluding with a few sentences that imply a good deal of forbidden knowledge:

In my studies I have come across a certain class of inorganic chemical reaction which may be the key to future success in this field, but has largely been ignored because of the extreme danger of experiments; the literature describes several fatalities in earlier research. Without going into details that might harm an incautious experimenter, a fuel of this type consists of two gases, each relatively harmless in itself. A mixture of the two spontaneously explodes with immense force, and can either be used to propel a shell, after the manner of Monsieur Verne, with extraordinary power - so much that I doubt passengers inside the shell could withstand the forces involved - or as the motive power of a rocket. I have already achieved a modicum of success in small-scale experiments, and hope to make a larger trial shortly.

Some like-minded friends and I will soon depart for a less populous area, where we may pursue these experiments without the risk of harming our friends and neighbours. Assuming that all goes well I hope to report on the results later this year; if not, the reports of our failure should make interesting if somewhat fragmentary reading.

H.P. Lovecraft

Natas immediately realised that Lovecraft might be on the trail of Arnold's fuel, or something like it, and passed on the information to the President and Arnold. A raid was the inevitable result; the publisher is in "protective custody" and all records have been seized - the next stage will be a raid on Lovecraft's home, now his address is known. In view of the possibility that he has been experimenting with Arnold's Explosive the FIB wants military backup, and the adventurers, plus some NPC soldiers, have been chosen to spearhead the raid.

Needless to say things aren't entirely as they seem. Lovecraft is a monarchist who supports the restoration of the Tsar and other rulers; he even wants America to be ruled by the King of England. He is also a brilliant amateur inventor. He has known the secret of the fuel for more than a year, but hasn't been able to build an air-ship because he can't work out the fuel injector system used in Arnold's engines. He and his associates plan to take on the Federation and end centralised Socialist government. The article has been planted in the magazine precisely because Natas is a subscriber; they hope to lure at least one Federation airship into a trap and use it for an assault on Aeria itself. Lovecraft is aided by various friends including Robert E. Howard (in a Rambo role), Clark Ashton Smith, etc.

Lovecraft's home is deserted, but shows (faked) signs of a hasty evacuation. As the adventurers are removing boxes of documents someone stumbles across a concealed panel covering a complex (and heavily armoured) infernal device. As soon as it is opened it starts to count down the seconds to the release of two gases - when combined there will be an explosion that destroys the house and most of the surrounding area. There is no time to defuse it, anyone who doesn't run will die. Most of the papers removed before the explosion are irrelevant, but some make it clear that Lovecraft has found the secret of Arnold's explosive (as if the explosion wasn't proof enough anyway). There are also odd doodles; hundreds of crudely-drawn pictures of bat-like creatures, and endless repetitions of the word "shantak". Some of the other letters should lead the adventurers to the home of Robert E. Howard, also (apparently) hastily deserted, and the discovery of a concealed armoury containing dozens of illegal weapons and a LOT of empty spaces on the racks and shelves. Partially burned papers in the stove are copies of correspondence with the Brazilian embassy (Brazil hasn't yet joined the Federation), confirmation of a land purchase on a tributary of the Amazon.

In Brazil the government has to be persuaded to reveal the location of Howard's land claim, hundreds of miles from the nearest civilisation. It's barely accessible by boat, there are rapids in the way, and adventurers should think of going in by air-ship. This, of course, is exactly what Lovecraft wants....

Lovecraft's "Shantaks" are one or another of the following, as preferred:

Real Rockets
As an optional alternative, Lovecraft may have genuinely developed a rocket ship powered by his version of Arnold's fuel. In this case his objective in luring the adventurers to the jungle is to have witnesses to his triumph who can return to Aeria carrying various ultimatums. To do so they must be taken alive and held prisoner aboard the rocket, which is large enough for a sizeable crew and the adventurers. Once in space the rocket has the range to make a round trip to the Moon, which is as described in Griffith's Stories of Other Worlds (FF2). Give the adventurers a chance to escape once the ship is in space; needless to say they should have no idea how to control a rocket even if they can overpower the crew, but a good pilot should soon figure things out...

This version of the scenario can be a lead into one of the variant Astronef / Aeronef campaigns described in the worldbook, with rockets replacing the R-Force described in FF2

Lovecraft and his allies have several launch sites and dozens of native observers in in the jungle, linked by field telephone, and will launch or release shantaks as they hear the whine of rotors overhead. Optionally there is a decoy site with a mock-up of a large (Buck Rogers style) rocket, set up to draw the air-ship into range, and the Shantaks will attack after it has been destroyed. Alternatively this may be a real rocket as described in the side-bar to the right.

The pilot can try to dodge the Shantaks, and they can be shot down (but this means reducing speed to allow access to the guns), but sooner or later they will cripple the air-ship, forcing it to crash-land in the rain-forest.

Once the air-ship is on the ground Lovecraft's native allies, who worship him as a god, start to pepper anyone on deck with poisoned darts and arrows. They can't penetrate the hull or deck structures, but anyone trying to get to the guns or repair the fan-wheels will be hit. There are some gaps in their coverage of the surrounding area, giving a chance to escape into the forest. Meanwhile drums and smoke-signals pinpoint the location of the air-ship. There's time to make simple preparations - for example, send off homing pigeons warning of the danger - but not enough time to build effective armour or repair the ship. One obvious precaution is to arm the ship's scuttling charges (see worldbook) using the timer; the fuel tanks (and the ship and a good chunk of the countryside around it) will blow if it isn't stopped. Keep up the arrow bombardment for a while, giving the adventurers chances to escape on foot if they want to, then Howard arrives and demands their surrender. He's festooned with bandoleers of ammunition and carries several guns. Dozens of natives back him up with spears and bows, and he naturally makes sure that he keeps his guns well out of reach of the adventurers.

If the adventurers have armed the scuttling charges the ship explodes a little later, either on schedule or when someone tampers with the clock. Stones and fragments of iron and aluminium, wood splinters, and possibly a few body parts shower down onto the surrounding forest. With the loss of the ship the crew (if free) are prime targets; Howard and his natives set off in pursuit, determined to catch the adventurers and drain them of any knowledge of flight.

Lovecraft's headquarters are several miles from the crash site in an old (and extremely unlikely) temple complex concealed from aerial view by camouflage netting and the surrounding forest. He has fifty or so native helpers, plus a dozen or so Americans. If the adventurers have been captured they will be bought there; if not, they can probably track the hunters back to this lair.

Eventually the adventurers should confront Lovecraft. His "office" is hot and humid, with geckos chasing insects around the walls and a python curled on one of the filing cabinets. He makes no apologies for his crimes; if they have the upper hand he makes it impossible to take him alive, if they are prisoners he begins an extended rant on the subject of monarchy, the first American Revolution's betrayal of the crown, and the later betrayal of Royalty in the captivity of the Romanoffs. It should gradually become obvious that he is insane, and truly believes that he is a rightful heir to the British throne and (through the principle that monarchs are a naturally superior race) the only person entitled to the Russian throne. Fortunately he is careless in his ranting, and gives the adventurers an opportunity to turn the tables. Again, he will not let himself be taken alive.

As he dies he pulls a lever concealed behind his desk, and a concealed (and well-protected) phonograph begins to play the hugely amplified sound of the fan-wheels of an air-ship. In the distance the adventurers hear the noise of Shantak engines igniting, or the shrieks of hundreds of bats....

Give the adventurers a chance to get out and grab weapons as the natives panic, a final firefight with Howard (if he isn't already dead) interrupted by the explosion of dozens of Shantaks in a truly apocalyptic blast, and the chance to watch an explosion to rival a tactical nuke from close to ground zero. This ought to be (barely) survivable if they can run very very fast...

As the last of the debris clears, and the surviving natives begin to think about taking a truly horrifying revenge, the drone of more Federation air-ships signals the arrival of a rescue fleet. Fortunately no Shantaks remain to pose a threat, and the adventure ends with the natives going down to the Maxim guns and cannon of the fleet, and (optionally) a tinny phonograph recording of The Ride of the Valkyries played by one of the more eccentric captains.

Reservoir Frogs

THE adventurers are criminals in 1940s Hong Kong, recruited by an Evil Genius who wants them to hijack an Aerian air-ship. Needless to say they fear him much more than they do the Aerians.

The plan is simple; twice a week an air-ship delivers dispatches to the F.I.B. headquarters in Hong Kong. In view of the city's crowding there are very few places where it can land, but the HQ happens to be located near a fire-fighting reservoir large enough for the courier ship to make a water landing. Accordingly troops arrive every Wednesday and Friday at noon, and set up a perimeter guard around the reservoir before the air-ship arrives at one-thirty. Fortunately they haven't yet thought of probing the depths, and a Frenchman named Cousteau has recently invented a gadget he calls an aqualung which makes it possible to stay underwater for hours without an air line. Unfortunately a new rooftop landing pad is under construction at the HQ and will be ready in about a month, once it is open this opportunity will be lost.

The adventurers have three weeks to prepare for the operation, and develop an attack plan which will let them get aboard the ship, take control, and fly the air-ship to a rendezvous on the China coast. This ought to involve learning to use the aqualungs, finding ways to waterproof guns and other weapons, and get aboard the ship silently. It won't be easy, and even if they succeed none of them know how to fly a ship... unless, of course, they can take a hostage and "persuade" him to co-operate.

Somehow at least one fully-armed Aerian will also remain aboard the ship, and make life extremely awkward for the adventurers. And even if they do somehow overpower the steward (not the cook, who is fat and cowardly), the F.I.B. has learned about the plan, and a reception committee will be waiting at the rendezvous point...

Vril Warriors of the Aerian Valley

THE year is 1961. The adventurers are Aerians, members of the first generation trained in Vril and Vril-Bartitsu, and recently graduated from Aeria's finest military academy. They should be generated on 25 points with minimum characteristics of BODY 3 and MIND 3, the Vril skill at default value or better, and the Martial Arts (Vril-Bartitsu), Marksman, Melee Weapon, and Pilot skills. Linguist is useful but not essential. All are equipped with Azurine rapiers, Aerian belts, and 10-shot .45 magazine pistols, and wear tough tunics, the latest Aerian style which just happens to reduce the Effect of clubs and blows by -2, knives, other edged weapons and bullets by -1. Optionally they may add more concealed weapons; a boot or belt knife, a hold-out gun, knuckle dusters, or whatever else the player prefers within reason.

Their assignment is an unusual honour; they and several NPCs with similar skills are to act as bodyguards to the Vice-President of the Federation, Eric Blair, who is travelling to Japan with a small diplomatic team. Although the agenda is secret, it's widely rumoured that the Japanese Empire will join the Federation. If this is correct Japan and its empire - most of China, Tibet, Mongolia, and Korea - are about to be catapulted into the modern world. If it is true there is likely to be some opposition, from isolationists and other groups with their own axes to grind; despite Japan's old rivalry with Russia, there may even be supporters of the old Russian monarchy at work behind the scenes.

At the time of the Revolution Japan was in a state of flux, modernising and preparing for war against Russia. The Revolution made that war impossible, by making Russia part of a global state that couldn't possibly be defeated, so the Japanese continued to modernise and develop their industries and armaments for the "inevitable" war against the Federation. That came in 1928, when Federation air-ships crushed the Japanese war-balloon fleet and bombed the balloon yards at Hiroshima, but allowed Japan to continue its conquest of China; again Japan chose to rebuild and rearm, but by the 1940s it was obvious that Japan was continuing to fall further and further behind the Federation. Eventually production was turned to more peaceful ends. Today the martial tradition is largely forgotten, and Japan is a modern industrial nation, lagging somewhat behind the Federation but eager to close the gap. In the relentless press to modernise many of Japan's traditions have been neglected; in particular, martial arts are in decline, the province mainly of elderly aficionados. Bartitsu was originally copied from Ju-jitsu, and it is ironic that in Aeria it probably has a wider following, at a higher level of proficiency, than the original martial art. Other respects in which Japan differs from the Federation include widespread use of petrol-engined motor cars, to the point where crashes and traffic jams are common events, severe pollution, and high levels of crime and corruption. To any Aerian the place is a grim hellish reminder of the evils of Capitalism and the need for the Revolution.

Although the Vice-President spends much of the time closeted with his advisers, the long journey from Aeria to Japan aboard the Zaphkiel, a sixteen-gun air-ship with ample passenger accommodation for the diplomats and the team, gives time for the adventurers to meet him. As far as the adventurers are concerned he is "Senator Blair", since his Aerian rank takes precedence and he is not vice-president of Aeria. This is perfectly normal Aerian usage. He asks friendly questions about the adventurers and their families (all of them known to him; Aeria is a very close-knit community) but says nothing about the mission. If asked directly he will admit that the Japanese have asked for this meeting, and that there have been hints of a unification treaty, but the Japanese approach has been so delicate that it is possible that their real goals are different.

During the trip encourage the adventurers to develop their own ideas of an Aerian martial arts tradition based on Bartitsu (originally an Anglicised version of ju-jitsu, but now loaded with sixty year's worth of ritual) combined with manipulation of Vril. For example, the tea ritual is accompanied by biscuits and small cucumber sandwiches, meditation sessions revolve around controlled use of Vril to light a glass sphere filled with rare gases, and so forth. Combat training sessions involve all the usual throws and trips of ju-jitsu, but also use sticks, swords, cloaks loaded with lead shot and throwing weapons. For safety reasons combat training does not use Vril.

When the Zaphkiel reaches Japan a reception committee is waiting at the harbour serving the Emperor's palace; the Prime Minister, several diplomats, and rows of police and soldiers. The air-ship lands in the dock, and puts a gang-plank ashore; Japanese officials quickly rush out a red carpet for the Vice-President. After a few moments he steps ashore. As he shakes hands with the Prime Minister one of the adventurers should notice someone move on the roof of a warehouse a hundred yards away, and the glint of a telescopic sight...

Give the adventurers one round to react before the first bullet strikes. If they throw themselves on Blair they are behaving correctly for bodyguards; if they try to fire back with handguns at a hundred yards they are idiots - the target is well out of range and the bullets will drop into the crowd and hit someone. Nevertheless shots will hit if they think of using their Martial Arts skill to fire, not Marksman, take a round to aim and meditate, and successfully overcome Difficulty 8. It isn't very good ballistics, but it's true to the Martial Arts genre. Don't suggest this to players, let them think of it for themselves. Another move would be to fire on the warehouse using the Zaphkiel's guns or machine guns; the guns will destroy the entire building and a few innocent bystanders, the machine guns have the range to take out the sniper without much collateral damage, at Difficulty 6.

The sniper's first shot hits a Japanese policeman; if none of the adventurers try to protect Blair an NPC bodyguard will be killed by the second shot as he tries to shield Blair with his body. Any adventurer leaping in front of Blair will be hit instead, but will be injured (and out of action for a few days) rather than killed. Meanwhile the Prime Minister is hustled to a car by police and driven off at high speed.

Keep up the attack for a few rounds, until the assassin is killed (by the police or the adventurers, a shot from the Zaphkiel, or by taking a cyanide capsule); Blair should be unharmed, several Japanese policemen and soldiers are dead. As things settle down it should slowly become apparent that the Prime Minister is missing, apparently kidnapped under cover of the shooting; the bodies of several policemen are found in the warehouse, the officers who hustled him away were impostors. This should be realised too late for the car to be traced by aerial observation from the Zaphkiel; it is already lost in the traffic of Tokyo.

An hour later the Japanese Foreign Minister arrives to apologise for the shooting and promise that no effort will be spared to find those responsible for the attack. The sniper hasn't been identified, but he had the tattoos of a Yakuza gangster; some criminal conspiracy must be at work.

Blair listens courteously, then explains that if those responsible aren't found quickly the incident will be treated as an act of war against the Federation. He requests (or rather demands) that his own men should take part in the investigation; needless to say the adventurers are assigned to the job...

What's really going on is left to the discretion of the referee, but any of the following ideas ought to work reasonably well:

Whatever the option chosen, the adventurers must unravel the plot by tracing the dead assassin, either to his underworld masters or to whichever faction is really behind the crime. This should involve several fights in which their martial arts prowess is the deciding factor; for example, a few thugs sent to beat up the "foreign devils" might be in for a nasty surprise. Each lead will take the adventurers further towards the truth. For example, if the Yakuza are working for Russians, the trail might be:

Identification of body leads the adventurers to a fugu restaurant where the assassin sometimes worked as a waiter...
A more senior Yakuza gangster is dining at the restaurant with his own bodyguards, and panics when he sees the Aerians. Mayhem ensues - when he is interrogated (with a little vril to shock him into talking) the gangster reveals that several other gangsters of similar stature have dropped out of sight recently. He thinks that they might be involved. All of them are associates of a more senior gangster, who runs a gambling club in the most fashionable part of Tokyo...
A raid on this club leads to another fight. Several thousand pounds worth of roubles are found in the safe, but the boss escapes...
except that (hopefully) he will be tracked to...
A warehouse where the Prime Minister is imprisoned, guarded by more gangsters, Koreans who are proficient in karate and are a near match for the adventurers. Meanwhile...
The Prime Minister is in a cell slowly filling with water. He must be rescued - perhaps by zapping the pump with Vril - before he drowns. His testimony reveals that the ringleader is one of the Russian-born clerks at the Federation Embassy! Tracing him back should be another clue towards the continued existence of a Fiendish Tsarist Conspiracy; it shouldn't be destroyed at this time, but solving the mystery and rescuing the Prime Minister should be a major step towards the treaty.

Similar trails can be developed for any of the other plots above.

Gorilla Warfare

THE adventurers are Aerians assigned to an unusual mission; they are to study, capture and transport breeding groups of the three Aerian ape species to London Zoo, where a new ape house is opening. Equipment available includes nets, tranquilliser guns, large cage traps, and a good supply of bananas and other fruit.

Aeria has three families of apes which are not found elsewhere, all apparently anthropoid but classified as members of the Baboon family. Theropithecus aeria is the largest, a tailless ape roughly comparable to the smaller gorillas in size and behaviour. Theropithecus holti is a smaller tailless ape roughly the size of a chimpanzee but somewhat more intelligent, while Theropithecus jacksoni is a very similar tailed species. All avoid human company, and at least six T.aeria and twelve each of the other species are needed.

T.aeriaBODY [7], MIND [1], SOUL [1]
Brawling [9] Effect [7], A:F, B:I, C:C/K

T.holtiBODY [4], MIND [1], SOUL [1]
Brawling [6] Effect [7], A:F, B:I, C:C/K

T.jacksoniBODY [3], MIND [1], SOUL [1]
Brawling [6] Effect [7], A:F, B:I, C:C/K

Unknown to anyone in Aeria, enemies of the revolution (this time Swiss nationalists) have recently begun a programme of espionage against Aeria. A dozen mountaineers have secretly crossed hundreds of miles of jungle and scaled the cliffs around the valley; they are now camped in a cave in the ape reserve, living on concentrated rations and using powerful telescopes to watch construction at the nearby naval yards. Their equipment includes cameras and equipment for copying their reports to microfilm, which is sent off by pigeon at weekly intervals. They eventually intend to steal an air-ship, leaving faked evidence that Tsarists are behind the theft, get it to a mountain base in Sicily, and copy the design. It's an old trick and it has never worked, but counter-revolutionaries still insist on trying it. Needless to say they are well-armed and ready for almost anything, but the ape hunt will take them by surprise. They'll do everything possible to avoid contact with the adventurers, but sooner or later an encounter will occur.

Try to run this so that the players start out thinking that they are going to find some exciting zoological discovery, then gradually realise that they aren't alone in the forest. The exact nature of the threat shouldn't be obvious at first; kill off a couple of NPC assistants as messily as possible, with the trail of blood going back into ape country, destroy traps and scatter their bait, and try to lure the adventurers deeper into the forest where the final confrontation should occur. Think of The Thing and Predator and you won't go far wrong. If possible the adventurers should be captured by the "Russians" (use the worst Russian accents you can fake) and left bound and gagged while the intruders set off for the naval yard. But by now the apes are seriously annoyed by the disturbance, and will start to pursue their own agendas...