Tuesday, November 20, 2018

South of the Border

This post begins to expand the scope of these adventures, taking the PCs down to Old Mexico.


Little Raven is a Dakota boy who, deciding to eschew the lifestyle of white settlers, tried to steal a collection of items taken from those of his people who'd given up their traditional ways. During his flight with the relics, he was wounded; eventually, succumbing to his wounds, he was brought into the care of a frontier doctor, Mordecai Smith. While the doctor's ministrations helped him recover, when Mordecai learned that Little Raven was a thief, he arranged to kill him and give his severed hand to his wife, Angelica. She used the limb to create a Hand of Glory, a magical item that can be used in finding lost treasures. 

Recently Little Raven's spirit (a haint), unable to find eternal rest because his body is not whole, recruited a band of adventurers to help him recover the lost relics. That wasn't enough to help him reach the afterlife, however; he needs to regain his hand, and have it be interred with the rest of his body. That is why he needs help from a band of adventurers (some would say outlaws) to recover the lost limb from a Pinkerton treasure hunter who's taken it down to Mexico.

The Dead Man's Hand
For more information about Little Raven, please refer to the following short story.

Adventure Synopsis
This adventure begins when the PCs, in trying to help Little Raven's ghost recover his body's missing hand, learn that it was crafted into a Hand of Glory and that the relic is being used by Alexandra Flynn on a mission to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. In order to reclaim that appendage, the PCs must sail from Galveston, across the Gulf of Mexico, to the village of Acumal. There they can equip themselves for an inland expedition and head into the jungle. During the journey they face numerous natural hazards before arriving at a long-forgotten pyramid, which is still occupied by a priest, dedicated to the old gods, who practices blood sacrifice. It is he who holds Flynn prisoner, and whom the PCs must defeat if they want to complete their quest. Of course, there's still the matter of who employed her for her mission, and what they intend to do with a device that allows them to divine the very secrets of the world around them.

For the Gun Master
Alexandra Flynn has headed out to the Yucatan Peninsula, following rumors of an old Mayan pyramid believed to contain a relic called an obsidian mirror—a device that can be used for scrying in the same manner as a crystal ball. She'd also heard about the preist who was known still to inhabit the place, but assumed that she could outwit him.
Now she knows better.
The PCs can ride to the rescue, of course. What they don't know is that she is working for the Sisters of Salem, a group of women dedicated to exploring the occult secrets of the world and using them to strengthen women's place in it.

Involving the Heroes
As mentioned above, the most likely reason for the PCs to become involved int his business is because they are contacted by the ghost of Little Raven, an Indian boy who stole relics from the American authorities, but who was betrayed by Dr. Mordecai Smith. If that is not the case, then they could learn about this business through an intercepted letter or by a similar means.

Scene 1—Sailing the Sea
Assuming that the PCs have been dragged into this business by one means or another, the adventure begins when they are in Galveston, Texas, preparing to sail for Mexico. It doesn't take a Streetwise check to find a a ship for hire, a trim little bark called the Intrepid and captained by one Edward Danielson. He asks for $60 per character to book the charter, , each way, promising to provide food and water for the relatively short journey. Characters who succeed at a Persuasion check can talk him down to a price of $40 each way. As long as they reach an agreement, the PCs can board the vessel with any baggage, find their quarters, and prepare to set sail.

Captain Edward Danielson
Captain Danielson is a daring soul, willing to take anyone anywhere—if the price is right. He has a sense of adventure, too, but is not willing to risk his ship or his crew without there being a suitable profit to turn. To those who win his respect he is a true friend.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Boating d8, Climbing d4, Fighting d4, Notice d4, Shooting d4, Survival d4, Swimming d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 4, Toughness: 5
Edges: Brave
Hindrances: Poverty
Gear: Functional clothes, Colt Navy Pistol (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6, RoF 1), folding knife (Damage Str + d4, Parry -1, -2 to be Noticed if hidden).

These hands are a little rough around the edges, but they know their jobs. They aren't much for social niceties like conversation, but they know how to keep a vessel in good order and have the experience to handle most crises.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d4, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Boating d4, Climbing d6, Fighting d6, Notice d4, Shooting d4, Swimming d6
Charisma: -2, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 7
Edges: Brawny
Hindrances: Mean
Gear: Clothing, folding knife (Damage Str + d4, Parry -1, -2 to be Noticed if hidden), flask of rum.

The Intrepid has a raised sterncastle (1) from which the ship is steered, along with an open main deck (2). Beneath the sterncastle are two cabins for passengers (3 and 4) along with the captain's own cabin (5). The lower deck is divided into two separate areas, the crew's quarters (6) and the cargo hold (7). Because the vessel has limited cabin space, some of the PCs may need to sleep in hammocks down in the crew's quarters on the lower deck. Note, too, that any oversized equipment the PCs bring with them is stored in the hold.

A Storm at Sea
For the most part, the voyage across the Gulf of Mexico is uneventful. The exception to that is a storm, which comes up when the Intrepid is in the middle of the crossing. Dealing with it involves the following elements
  • Seeing the storm coming, Captain Danielson advises the PCs to stay in their quarters; he is confident that his crew can handle things.
  • As the ship begins to pitch and roll with the waves, and the wind howls through the rigging, it should become apparent to the characters that this is a particularly bad storm.
  • Next the characters hear a terrible wooden groan, followed by cracking and splintering; that is the sound of the mainmast collapsing. Then the Intrepid lurches to starboard and Captain Danielson lets loose a string of serious curses.
  • The collapsed mast, which is still partly attached to the bark, acts as a sea anchor, dragging the Intrepid almost to a halt. Because of it, waves begin crashing up onto the main deck, threatening to flood and eventually sink the ship.
  • That, then, sets up a Dramatic Task—cutting away the fallen mast before the vessel founders. To resolve it, one or more of the PCs must succeed at five attacks with suitable weapons (axes or similar blades). Keep in mind that attacks on the mast suffer a -2 penalty due to the slippery deck, blowing wind and the like.
  • To reach the mainmast, characters must make Strength or Agility checks, depending on whether they're able to hold onto the ship's rail or are crossing open deck. Failure means the character is knocked prone by a wave, and is pushed 1d6 squares aft and starboard—and possibly, thus, down the stairwell to the lower deck.
  • As always, the GM may need to adjudicate for any unusual strategies or magical powers that the PCs might employ.

Scene 2—Akumal
Upon arrival at the little village on the coast of the Yucatan, the PCs can rest and recover while Captain Danielson works on replacing the lost mast. Even so, the village has little by the way of creature comforts; it mainly of small houses (1), along with three platforms for gutting and preparing fish (2), and a cantina (3). If they are looking for lodging, the PCs would probably do best to stay aboard the Intrepid.

The Survivor
There is one source of information about the pyramid and its mad inhabitant; it is a local hunter named Jorge, who was captured by Shadow Jaguar and held prisoner for a time, but managed to escape. Jorge can provide the following information.
  • The pyramid lies some twenty miles into the peninsula's interior, pretty much due east of Akumal.
  • Its sole inhabitant is a Mayan priest, one who wears a “skin cloak” and who captured Jorge and kept him, possibly for use as a sacrifice.
  • The priest is known as Shadow Jaguar.
  • After he escaped, Jorge told his story to anyone who would listen—usually for a free drink or two—and eventually was contacted by Alexandra Flynn, who interviewed him before outfitting and setting out into the jungle.
  • That was a month ago, now, and she has not returned.
  • Jorge figures that she is dead, unless the evil priest is keeping her for evil purposes.
Finally, if pressed—possibly via a Persuasion or Intimidate check, or bribery—Jorge admits that he was intended for a ritual sacrifice, but Shadow Jaguar seemed to find him lacking for some reason. Anyway, how about another drink?

Armed with this information, the PCs can procure what items they seek that are available in this little village. That can include clothing, food, and melee weapons, along with general provisions at the GMs' discretion. Other ranged weapons are also available, but rifles and shotguns cost twice the usual amount and there are not pistols. Neither can the PCs find dynamite or other explosives or blasting gear. Finally, the PCs can persuade Jorge to join them with either a raise on a Persuasion or Intimidate check, or a combination of the two without raises, or through suitable bribery. As always, the GM should assign bonuses or penalties for good roleplaying or reasoning.

Scene 3—Into the Jungle
Once they've made their preparations, the PCs can head into the depths of the Yucatan Peninsula. This can be as uneventful or fraught with peril as the GM and players desire, but some of the following encounters are possible.
  • At some point the PCs run into a constrictor snake that tries to envelop one of their party members; refer to page 140 in the core rulebook for stats.
  • In another location a swarm of army ants erupts from the ground to feed upon the PCs; refer to page 141 for stats.
  • It's important to note how much clean water the PCs brought with them for drinking; because of the heat, they need to be drinking four quarts each per day. Failing that, they need to make Vigor rolls as per the rules on page 88 of the core rulebook.
  • The same goes for food, as detailed on page 89.

Finally, this lengthy trek through the jungle could also provide an opportunity for an interlude, as detailed on page 91 of the core rulebook.

Scene 4—The Pyramid
In the heart of the jungle lies the ancient Mayan pyramid inhabited by Shadow Jaguar. It might see unoccupied and even unguarded at first glance, but that is far from the case; refer to the map below for the following location descriptions.

1. Exterior—Stairs
On the outside surface of the pyramid, for sets of steep stairs lead from the ground up to the platform at the top of the pyramid.

2. Rooftop Platform
This open platform was once used for sacrifices. There is a stone table in the middle of it, with a hole beneath it leading into the central shaft in which blood and bones have collected. Additionally, a loose stone in the floor (Notice check to find and Strength check to lift) reveals a shaft and ladder that provide access to the pyramid's interior.

3. High Priest's Quarters
Once this room was frequently used for sacrifices; now Shadow Jaguar makes use of it only when the occasional victim stumbles across his path.

4. Puzzle Room
Four stone pedestals, each waist-high, occupy the outside corners of the four sections in this room. A Notice check reveals that a circular portion in the center of each can be pressed downward. Although the PCs probably won't recognize the fact right away, these correspond with the four urns from Area 11, below. Additionally, characters who succeed at Boating or Survival checks can recognize that the temple is aligned to the four cardinal directions—although the importance of this may not become apparent until later. Note also that, without the urns from Area 11, putting the incorrect amount of pressure on a pedestal triggers a projectile dart trap with Shooting d6 that inflicts 2d6 damage.

5. Chamber of Altars
The walls of this chamber are engraved with bas reliefs depicting various Mayan deities. In front of each sits a small, raised stone platform on which offerings were once placed. A Notice check at a -2 penalty, or a Healing or Survival check, reveals that some of them are stained with blood—stains that are old, but not that old.

6. Storage Room
A broad stone shelf fills the outside wall of this room. While it holds baskets, gourds and pots, their contents have long since spoiled.

7. Junior Priests' Quarters
Four more stone beds stand against the walls of this section. One is occupied by a figure who sits up as the heroes approach, and then screams and attacks them.

8. Hearth
The outside corner of this room contains a recess intended to be used for building fires. A cleverly concealed channel in the wall allows smoke to escape the temple's interior.

9. Prisoner's Cells
At one time, prisoners intended for sacrifice were kept here, tied to the walls. Outside of one skeleton, however, most of the cells now stand empty—except for the one in which Alexandra Flynn is chained.

Alexandra Flynn—Use the stats for a Pinkerton from page 85 of the Sixth Gun RPG rulebook.

10. Crypt
In many ways, this room resembles the storage area, above. The chief difference is that it is filled with urns containing the remains of former priests.
11. Treasury
At first glance, this area is nothing more than a solid wall. In front of it sit four statues depicting divine figures, each with a different color—red, yellow, blue and white. A Notice check reveals that there are doors leading through the wall, but there is no visible means of opening them. The trick here is to remember the pedestals in Room 4, above. The different colors, according to the Maya, correspond with the four directions:

White = North East = Red South = Yellow West = Blue

That fact—which can be recognized with an appropriate Knowledge check, or by asking Flynn or Shadow Janguar—along with the fact that the four pedestals in Room 4 are aligned to the cardinal directions, can be used to open the Treasury. If they do manage to open it, the heroes find that it contains the Onyx Mirror.

The Onyx Mirror
This flat circle of polished, black, mirror-like stone grants the one who possesses it the ability to see other places and times. In game terms, characters without the Arcane Background (Shamanism) gain the use of Farsight power, although the Tribal Medicine check is made at a -2 penalty. Those who have that background, but not the power itself, make the check without a penalty. Finally, those who have the background and the power make their checks with a +2 bonus. Keep in mind that failure for any of these characters still causes Backlash.

12. Calendar Room
The outside corner of this area is filled with a massive calendar stone, a complicated affair that was once used for timekeeping but that is now covered in cobwebs.

13. Bone Pile
This is where the Mayan priests once dumped their refuse, and where the madman now does so. Although there is nothing of interest here, characters who make Climbing checks to investigate it are met by a rat swarm to reward their efforts.

Rat Swarm—Refer to page 141 in the core rulebook for details.

At a dramatically appropriate moment after the PCs have had time to explore the pyramid's interior, Shadow Jaguar returns. He makes Stealth checks opposed to the PCs' Notice efforts; the PCs suffer -2 penalties as he enters on the fourth level, -1 on the third level, and nothing on the second level. In this he is accompanied by his pet panther, which slinks down the ladder behind him.
When they're ready to engage the PCs, Shadow Jaguar opens up with Fear and then invokes Smite, while his panther tries to slip around the PCs in order to flank them. Then both man and beast close for melee combat, which they fight to the death.

Shadow Jaguar
This priest, dedicated to old gods who've mostly been forgotten in the modern world, has descended into madness. Now he continues to perform the ancient rituals, becoming more and more bloodthirsty in the hope that one day those deities will make themselves known again, bringing more followers to his temple.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d6, Notice d6, Stealth d4, Survival d6, Tribal Medicine d8
Charisma: -2, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Shamanism)
Hindrances: Bloodthirsty, Ugly
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10; Powers: Fear, Smite.
Gear: Clothing, crude axe (Damage Str + d6).

Panther—Use the stats for a werepanther from page 78 of the Sixth Gun RPG, but without the Immunity and Weakness (Silver) special abilities.

As long as the PCs succeed in defeating Shadow Jaguar and rescuing Alexandra Flynn, then they have won a victory and can claim the Onyx Mirror for themselves. While it is Flynn who traced rumors of it to the Yucatan, it is the PCs who managed to recover it. For that reason, she is willing to let them decide what should be done with it. Even if they want to deliver it to her buyers, they may want to try using it themselves.

Further Adventures
Even though this business is concluded, there are other opportunities for adventure related to it; they include the following possibilities.
  • First there is the fact that Flynn possesses the Hand of Glory, on loan to her from the Smiths. That is a useful tool in its own right, and especially when it comes to seeking other lost treasures.
  • Of course, if the PCs participated in the events of “Restless Spirits,” then the ghost of Little Raven has some interest in what happens to the hand, since he cannot find eternal rest until it is reunited with the rest of his body.
  • There, too, if the PCs participated in “Hell to Pay” and the other scenarios leading up to it, then the balance of power at Smith's Crossing could have been dramatically altered by developments in the aftermath of those events.
  • Given the interest that the Sisters of Salem have in discovering new relics and eldritch lore, they might hire the PCs for other such investigations.
  • One or more characters might also be tempted to go looking for visions from the Onyx Mirror. This could be used to introduce all manner of new plot hooks, based on information that the PCs seek for themselves, or other illumination granted by the GM—as fits the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign.

No comments:

Post a Comment