Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Lead or Gold

Here's the next scenario in the series on which I've been working, for use with the Savage Worlds RPG using the setting book for The Sixth Gun.


The north coast of Africa has seen plenty of conflict over the past centuries, what with the spread of Islam and resulting religious conflicts, rise of the corsairs and efforts to suppress them, and the like. The particular troubles with which this scenario deals, however, are rooted in an even older conflict, one that erupted between Roman generals almost two millennia ago. While that business resulted from love and betrayal, wealth and power are now at stake—if anyone is so bold as to claim them.

Adventure Synopsis
This adventure begins when the PCs discover evidence of a lost treasure located near the city of Algiers. It is related to the English sorcerer known as Prospero, who fought against the witch Sycorax on a remote Mediterranean island. She had been exiled there by the corsairs who ruled the city—and who, in turn, were trying to claim the cache of relics and lore for themselves. Prospero defeated her and claimed some of her knowledge, which he passed on to another agent of the Invisible College in Algiers. While the two men were able to communicate via pigeon-carried messages, other business prevented them from delving further into the matter. 

Following the hints in the letter leads the across the Mediterranean Sea to that fabled city, from the harbor, through its streets, and then out into the desert beyond. Along the way they'll encounter parties from both sides of the growing conflict. Once they reach their destination, in the tomb known as the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania, a final puzzle remains for them to solve in order to discover what they seek.

For the Gun Master
The Royal Mausoleum was believed to house the remains of King Juba and Queen Cleopatra Selene, the latter of whom was the daughter of the famous Egyptian monarch who had dalliances with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. She received from her mother a precious gift of scrolls taken from the library of Alexadria before it was ravaged by fire. Those, then, contain valuable and powerful lore long since lost to humankind—until now. In truth, the scrolls lie buried in a hidden chamber beneath the Royal Mausoleum, waiting to be reclaimed. 

The heroes are not the only ones who have an inkling about this prize, however. Members of the Invisible College—the occult branch of the Royal Society—have long know that Algiers conceals a valuable secret. Some of those agents come from a faction of that organization that has exploited the fear of witchcraft to find, study, steal from, and then eradicate practitioners of other arcane traditions. Others belong to the more accepting majority, those who wish to learn about other traditions so as to share their learning with all. Some of the prior, then, allied themselves with the Cabal, and have been scouring Algiers for evidence of the treasure. In doing so they've attracted the attention of the brothers ibn Ibrahim, warriors who seek to protect the secret. Now it's only a matter of time before this simmering conflict erupts.

Involving the Heroes
This scenario assumes that the PCs participated in the events of the adventure “Fortune and Glory,” at the end of which they found a curious letter. If that is not the case, then the GM may need to devise an alternate means of letting the party make that discovery.

Scene 1—The Letter
Among the late Prospero's other possessions is a letter that reads as follows.

My Fellow Prospero,
I have made a Discovery regarding the History of the Witch whom you defeated there on your Island.
She was part of a Coven active in the City of her Origin, and among other wicked Schemes they sought
a valuable Treasure that was hidden in this Vicinity.
Although I am unable to send you the Object which I've found that I believe is a clue to its
Whereabouts, know this. A Mole in the City points at the End of the Day to the Place in which I have concealed it.
Your Servant,

This letter should raise some questions for the heroes. To that end, an Academics check (or a Common Knowledge check at -2) recognizes that “the Witch” refers to Sycorax, who is mentioned in The Tempest; a raise reveals that “the City of her Origin” is Algiers. The fact that the letter was sent from Prospero to Prospero should seem odd, too. Finally, an Occult check identifies the sigil combining an I and a C as that of the Invisible College.

Prisoners from the Unfathomable
As long as the PCs defeated, but did not kill, one of the occultists sent by the Cabal to Prospero's Island, then the PCs can question them, too. With a successful Persuasion or Intimidation effort, they can convince that individual to reveal the following details.
  • Prospero” was a codename used by agents serving the Invisible College, an off-shoot of the Royal Society that dealt with occult matters.
  • It was founded during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when an impressive group of writers and artists, explorers and natural philosophers were gathered in her court.
  • The Cabal agents were sent to this island after the PCs (another group of investigators) found a map leading to it, in the hope of acquiring whatever they might find.
Of course, this also leaves the question of what the PCs might want to do with any surviving prisoners, as well as with the ship that they may have captured. Whatever the case, the survivors insist that the PCs had better beware—“The Cabal has agents everywhere, and eventually they will settle the score, once and for all.”

Scene 2—City of the Corsairs
The voyage across the Mediterranean can be fraught with peril or relatively uneventful, depending on the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign. It can be a good chance for the GM to add one or more Interludes, as detailed on page 130 of the Savage Worlds rulebook.

The Lay of the Land
Once the PCs arrive in the harbor, they can head ashore and do some exploring. When they do, refer to the map above. The main features are the natural island, now developed (1) that forms part of the harbor, along with the man-made mole (2) that connects it to shore. In the center of the city is a huge open bazaar (3), from which broad roads lead out to six city gates (4-9). Overlooking all of this is the citadel from which the Dey rules Algiers (10).

Encounters in Town
Detailed below are just a few of the encounters that the PCs might have as they explore Algiers.
  • The first impression that the city makes should be noteworthy, especially for characters who've come all the way from America. For example: the clothing is exotic, with many people wearing flowing robes, headcloths, fezzes, or turbans; various foreign languages, especially Arabic; unfamiliar foods and other smells; etc.
  • At some point—especially when dramatically appropriate—there is a call to prayer, when the voices of the muezzins call out from the various mosques, and all faithful Muslims pause to face toward Mecca (eastward), kneel and pray.
  • That gives the PCs their first opportunity to notice the Cabal agents who are watching them. Although they are disguised as locals, these occultists, mercenaries and thieves don't participate in the call to prayer; instead, they look for other outsiders who also are not doing so. They should make Notice checks opposed by the PCs' Stealth efforts, and vice versa, to determine who recognizes whom first.
  • At another point a beggar calls out to the party, asking the characters for alms. This is something of a test, since giving charity is an important tenet of the local faith. What is more, more than a few of the beggars are spies for the ibn Ibrahim brothers, warriors dedicated to protecting their fellows from the exploitation by outsiders.
  • Shortly thereafter the PCs have a chance to recognize said ibn Ibrahim brothers, Ali and Omar. Once again, they should make Notice checks, but this time they're unopposed. This is because the brothers don't worry about being seen; instead, they're direct and open with anyone who approaches them. They consider themselves to be guardians of the local people, protecting them from being exploited by outsiders. As long as the PCs can convince them of their good intentions, the brothers do not hinder them. Accomplishing this requires the use of Persuasion, with the brothers starting out as Neutral; as always, the GM should apply bonuses or penalties for good or bad reasoning and roleplaying.
Of course, the biggest question in the PCs' minds should be about the mole that is mentioned in the letter.

Interested Parties
Use the following stats for the various other groups involved in this adventure.

Ali ibn Ibrahim al-Saji and Omar ibn Ibrahim al-Jari
These two men have dedicated themselves to serving Allah and protecting the people of Algiers, along with the secret that is hidden outside that city. They are honorable and brave, and respect those who demonstrate similar qualities. For those who seek to exploit their charges, they are unrelenting enemies. They are brothers not by blood, but by creed.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d4, Boating d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d8, Language d4, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d4, Shooting d8, Stealth d4, Survival d6
Pace: 6, Parry: 6, Toughness: 5
Edges: Frenzy
Hindrances: Vow
Gear: Desert clothing, scimitar (Damage d8+d6), Colt Peacemaker (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6+1, RoF 1).

Despite their ragged appearances, these individuals beg not so much because they need to, but rather because they serve the brothers Ibrahim as spies, choosing to play the part because most people pay little real attention to someone in such a position. In this way they garner all kinds of information.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Common Knowledge d6, Fighting d6, Language d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Stealth d8, Thievery d8
Pace: 6, Parry: 5, Toughness: 4
Edges: Alertness
Hindrances: Poverty
Gear: Ragged clothing, knife (Damage d4+d6).

Cabal Mercenary (Novice): Refer to the supplement The Cabal for stats.

Thief (Novice): Refer to the supplement The Cabal for stats.

Occultist (Seasoned): Refer to the supplement The Cabal for stats.

The Mole
Once the PCs recognize the the mention of a “Mole” in the letter refers to the wall in the harbor, they should be able to determine where to look. “At the end of the day” is a reference to how the sun sets in the west; therefore, the tip of the mole that points west is what they should seek. There it consists of a tumble of rocks rising up out of the lapping waves; refer to the map above for details. Area A is where the water is too deep to stand, and thus requires a Swimming check to move. Area B should be treated as Difficult Ground, and requires an Athletics check to traverse. Area C is still Difficult but does not require a check. Area D, finally, is level ground. 

Amid the tumble of rocks there is one that is curiously rectangular; what is more, it is crudely engraved with the following symbol.

This contains, of course, the items referred to in the letter, but it takes Strength checks at -2 to move the chest and then to pry open its lid. Inside they find a wax-sealed cylinder along with four small stone tablets, one larger than the rest, that are engraved with the following markings. 

Inside the sealed scroll tube, then, is an old piece of paper on which is written the following message.

To find what was saved from the great fire, here is where you should inquire:
Look thirteen leagues to the west, in a place where to find their rest.
If you would set this knowledge free, then Julius Caesar holds the key.
Find the solution to find what was saved.

These items provide no fewer than three clues to find the treasure. Two of them will become critical later, but one is of more immediate importance. “Thirteen leagues to the west” is a reference to the fabled Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania, which lies forty miles out along the coast—s
omething that the heroes can confirm with an Academics check, or by asking around town. Of course, the latter option is more likely to attract unwanted attention to them.

The Cabal's First Move
It is while the heroes are exploring the mole that the agents of the Cabal strike, trying to ambush them and steal their prize. Refer to the “Interested Parties” section above to find stats for them.

Scene 3—The Sands of Time
The heroes can procure whatever supplies they need for the trip, including hiring camels, before setting out across the desert. The forty-mile trip, then, could present numerous challenges and opportunities, including those listed below.
  • If they are traveling during the day, then the heroes may face difficulties from the heat; refer to page 128 of Savage Worlds for details.
  • Those who didn't lay in a supply of water face the hazard of thirst, too (page 129).
  • They could run afoul of a poisonous snake (page 188), too.
As always, the GM should adjust the number of encounters as needed.

Time for an Interlude?
The trek, since it should take a number of hours, could also be a good time for the GM to use the Interludes mechanic; refer to page 130 in Savage Worlds for details.

The Mausoleum
This circular structure (refer to the front page for an image) is roughly 180 feet in diameter, and is built from local stone. At ground level it is ringed by 64 column in the ancient style; above that, a tiered roof rises to form something akin to a flattened dome. Clearly time has treated it roughly, since weather and looters have removed pieces here and there. 

Inside the main entrance (A) there is a circular tunnel (B) that runs more than three quarters of the structure's circumference. Along the outside wall there is a series of Roman numerals written in chalk, ranging from I to LXIV (one for each of the exterior columns). The one marked XX can be pressed inward—it is the only whole number solution to the math problem from the larger tablet—and opens a secret door (C) in the wall opposite (Notice check at -4 to spot). At the end of the tunnel is the actual tomb (D), which contains two sarcophagi that have long since been looted of all contents. As soon as the secret door is opened, a swarm of black wasps erupts to attack the people who did so.

Wasp Swarm: Refer to page 189 in Savage Worlds for stats.

Inside the secret door is a spiral staircase that leads down into a hidden chamber (E). It has a vaulted ceiling with pieces of crystal embedded in it; an Academics, Boating or Survival check identifies them as representing the stars in the northern night sky. What is more, some of them—the brightest stars—can be pressed inward like buttons. Most of them trigger dart traps (Shooting 1d6; damage 2d6), but one opens the secret trapdoor in the floor. 

This is where the third and final clue comes into play. The line “Julius Caesar holds the key” is a reference to the play Julius Shakespeare by William Shakespeare; Act III, Scene 1, line 30 of that play reads “I am constant as the northern star.” Pressing the crystal that represents Polaris opens the trapdoor. That chamber, then, is ten feet deep; it contains dozens of scrolls—ones that were indeed taken from the Library of Alexandria before it was destroyed by fire.

Scene 4—Onslaught, Again
Once the heroes have found the scrolls, they need to make sure that they keep them. This is because the Cabal agents make another move against them; how the situation develops depends largely on what precautions, if any, the heroes have taken to guard their backs. For their part, the Cabal agents send their thieves ahead first to scout and, if possible, catch anyone off-guard. After that the occultist uses Boost/Lower Trait to enhance the mercenaries, and then Armor on themselves, before using Bolt to lash out at dangerous enemies. The mercenaries try to storm the mausoleum, but fall back if necessary. They are under stringent orders to acquire the prize, however, and so are willing to fight to the death.

If the heroes can find the scrolls and fight off the Cabal agents, then they score a major victory against the forces of evil. While they don't profit directly from the acquisition—at least not yet—they do gain a bargaining chip that allows them to become important players on the stage of international occult intrigue. They've also become embroiled in a much larger conflict that is only going to get bigger.

Further Adventures
Detailed below are a few of the possibilities for business in which the PCs can become entangled.
  • The heroes need to find someone to translate the scrolls if they want to learn their contents; the brothers Ibrahim can even recommend someone, British Egyptologist Sir Kenneth Allan.
  • Of course, the Cabal is not a group to take defeat lightly, and will want to settle the score—and to take the relics and lore that the heroes have discovered.
  • There is also a lengthy voyage by sea they need to make if they wish to head for England or even back to America; there are all kinds of troubles that could arise during such a journey.

Appendix—The Scrolls
Many of the scrolls from the hidden cache are prayers and spells from the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. They can provide characters with access to the following powers.
  • Properly inscribing the Eye of Horus on items acts like Arcane Protection.
  • Calling up the spirit of a deceased individual functions in a manner similar to Divination.
  • Invoking the judgment of no less than Amun-Ra acts like the Smite power.
  • Finally, proper preparation of a dead body—including the removal of vital organs, treatment of the remaining flesh with special materials, and then wrapping the whole thing in bandages and charms—creates a mummy in a manner similar to that for the Zombie Power.
As always, the GM should feel to add or remove Powers from this list depending on the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign.

No comments:

Post a Comment