Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Saif al-Ibrahim

This post presents a branch of the Sword of Abraham that operates in North Africa and the Middle East.


Some people might be familiar with the organization known as the Sword of Abraham, which operates predominantly in Europe and North America, which was dedicated to preventing people from using the Six Guns to open the Seal. An offshoot of that group is the Saif al-Ibrahim, which is active throughout North Africa and the Middle East. They still trace their inspiration back to Abraham—or, as he is known in the Quran, Ibrahim—but adhere to Muslim teachings rather than Christian doctrine.

Plot Hooks
This organization can become involved in all manner of adventures and campaigns, including the following possibilities.
  • These warriors seek out relics and lore around the world, not to exploit them for their own gain, but rather to prevent them from being exploited by others.
  • Although the warriors sometimes hold onto less potent items that can help them in their work, the most powerful are hidden away in an unknown location.
  • This has become ever more challenging as many scholars from other countries have begun exploring the ruins of ancient Carthage, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and similar locations, and then sending discovered relics back to their universities and museums.
  • To that end, they are sometimes tasked with watching or even guarding important locations, such as the Royal Mausoleum of Maurtenia and Prospero's Island.
  • This has led the warriors, at times, into conflict with the Invisible College of England.
  • For centuries the warriors have been at war with the Knights of Solomon; this began during the Crusades in the 11th through 13th Centuries, when battles were fought openly, but has continued in more clandestine ways since then.
  • A major focus of this is the accusation that the Knights sought power over the jinn, demons, and other supernatural creatures.
  • There's an old legend that fallen angels once bore offspring through relationships with humans; the resulting nephilim were said to be “giants of the earth.” This bit of lore is one that the Saif al-Ibrahim has been investigating for a long time.

Numerous mosques are home to members of Saif al-Ibrahim, but perhaps the most influential is the one located in Algiers.

Double doors provides entry (1) to the Mosque; from there a short passage opens into the broad central chamber (2), which is used for worship services and has a fountain in the middle. There are niches with tables and big windows for more private meetings (3). From there, side passages lead of to quarters for the warriors (4), along with the dining room (5), kitchen (6) and pantry (7), as well as a room for combat training (8) and the library (9). In the corners of the building, spiral stairways lead up through the minarets (10) to the platforms from which the muezzins call the faithful to prayer, as well as down into the catacombs (11) beneath the Mosque. In the middle of the catacombs is a secret chamber (12).

Presented below are stats for warriors of Saif al-Ibrahim with varying levels of experience.

Warrior of Saif al-Ibrahim (Novice)
Novice members of the order typically live outside of mosques—and, indeed, work at ordinary jobs in the community—but go there to pursue their training.
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: First Strike
Hindrances: Vow
Gear: Desert clothing, scimitar (Damage d8+d6), Colt Peacemaker (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6+1, RoF 1).

Warrior of Saif al-Ibrahim (Seasoned)
Those warriors who've demonstrated their skill and dedication go to live at the mosque, leaving behind other interests to serve the Saif al-Ibrahim.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d6, Boating d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d10, Language d4, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Riding d4, Shooting d10, Stealth d4, Survival d6
Pace: 6, Parry: 6, Toughness: 5
Edges: First Strike, Frenzy
Hindrances: Vow
Gear: Desert clothing, scimitar (Damage d8+d6), Colt Peacemaker (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6+1, RoF 1).

Warrior of Saif al-Ibrahim (Veteran)
Eventually seasoned warriors rise up through the ranks and are given command of their fellows, both in day-to-day life and went sent out on missions.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d8, Boating d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d12, Language d4, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Riding d6, Shooting d12, Stealth d4, Survival d6
Pace: 6, Parry: 6, Toughness: 8(3)
Edges: First Strike, Frenzy, Improved Frenzy
Hindrances: Vow
Gear: Desert clothing, scimitar (Damage d8+d6), Colt Peacemaker (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6+1, RoF 1), chain mail shirt.

Warrior of Saif al-Ibrahim (Heroic)
After serving in positions of leadership for some time, commanding warriors eventually leave the mosque and serve as advisors to local rulers and government officials.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d8, Boating d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d12, Language d6, Notice d8, Persuasion d8, Riding d6, Shooting d12, Stealth d4, Survival d6
Pace: 6, Parry: 6, Toughness: 8(3)
Edges: Brave, First Strike, Frenzy, Improved Frenzy
Hindrances: Vow
Gear: Desert clothing, scimitar (Damage d8+d6), Colt Peacemaker (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6+1, RoF 1), chain mail shirt.

Warrior of Saif al-Ibrahim (Legendary)
Little is known about those members of Saif al-Ibrahim who have served the longest, except that they are fearsome enemies of those who oppose their organization's goals.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d8, Boating d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d12, Language d8, Notice d10, Persuasion d10, Riding d6, Shooting d12, Stealth d4, Survival d6
Pace: 6, Parry: 6, Toughness: 8(3)
Edges: Brave, First Strike, Frenzy, Improved Frenzy, Strong Willed
Hindrances: Vow
Gear: Desert clothing, scimitar (Damage d8+d6), Colt Peacemaker (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6+1, RoF 1), chain mail shirt.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Fort Arneson Revisited

In this post I'm revisiting another location from my The Sixth Gun campaign, this time Fort Arneson in the middle of the Great Plains.


A Bit of History
Fort Arneson was built as an outpost on the Great Plains for the United States Army shortly after the Civil War. It was named for General Anders Arneson, who earned his reputation during the war against Mexico. For most of its history it remained little more than a backwater supply depot, until a major conflict erupted, and was quickly resolved. 

That conflict arose during a treaty conference between the U.S. Army and several Native American tribes. The fort had been infiltrated by Dr. Mordecai Smith along with his wife, Angelique, who was secretly a practitioner of Voodoo. Aided by a band of ghouls and others, they dug tunnels in the form of a pentagram beneath the fort and then detonated explosives in them, killing many of the attendees and triggering a major battle. All of this served as a sacrifice as part of a ritual to open a rift into the Winding Way, and it succeeded. The battle was quickly resolved, however, and those who caused it were killed, due to intervention by a band of American adventurers. In the aftermath of that incident, the Black Stars moved in to work with the U.S. Army to lock the facility. Since then they have brought in others, too, including represents of the Native American tribes, to help study the rift and the world between worlds into which it opens.

The Original Fort and “The Incident”
Refer to the following article and adventure for a layout of the fort's interior and more information about the incident that occurred here.

Recent Additions
The map above provides a layout for the following locations. They include the train platform (A), water tower (B), cemetery (C), council house (D), tribal circles (E), corral (F) and storehouse (G). 

Train Platform

This structure is raised about three feet off the ground, putting it level with many of the train cars that roll through the area. There is a ramp leading up from the ground. Resting on the platform is a small wooden building, one that holds little more than two tables surrounded by chairs. A broad roof extends all around it, including a covered area for those who are waiting for trains outside the building. 

Water Tower
This structure has a cylindrical holding tank raised up on stout wooden legs; a ladder leads up to a narrow platform with a railing around it. In addition to providing water for refilling steam engines, it is used to irrigate the flowers and shrubs planted in the adjacent cemetery.

Not surprisingly, this area—enclosed by a low stone wall, with a gate that allows entry—is filled with eat rows of graves, each marked by a headstone. Included among the names of the deceased are Capt. Anders Arneson III, Lieutenant Sean Fitzpatrick, Dr. Isaac Shaffer, Clement Bonsteel, and Small Raven. All but the last one are people who were killed during the Battle of Fort Arneson.
At the back of the cemetery there is a small stone obelisk that bears the following engraving:

In this place, on 8 January 1887, a band of valiant Americans fought to prevent a great tragedy.

Council House
This building has a broad roof supported by sixteen columns; four doors provide entrance, and the interior is filled with benches. It is intended to be a comfortable place in which to hold discussions and negotiations.

Tribal Circles
Some of these Indian tepees are present year-round, while others come and go with their occupants. There are at least two separate circles, one for each of two bands, led by Standing Bear and Red Hawk, respectively.

To make more room inside the fort—and because of the truce they have with the Indians—the soldiers moved their stables outside its walls. They keep a full score of horses, along with tack and harness for riding them.

This building, with walls made of mud brick, holds not supplies for the fort but rather ones intended for distribution to the nearby native tribes. For that reason, it holds all manner of foodstuffs, blankets and clothing, manufactured goods from back east, and even rifles and ammunition that can be used for hunting.

Inside the Fort
The aforementioned document provides an accurate layout of Fort Arneson, except that the stables which were once located inside the walls have been replaced with another set of barracks. This means that there are two full squads of infantry soldiers, along with two squads of cavalry, each led by a sergeant, and with lieutenants who answer to Captain Jeffreys. 

The Rift

Dug into the ground beneath the fort is a series of tunnels that form a pentagram, the result of magical sabotage that led to the Incident. In the center of these is a broad, open chamber with a gaping hole in the ground at its center; that is the entrance that has been torn open into the Winding Way. The personnel at the fort use this area for storage, including crates and barrels of supplies—and enough gunpowder that, if needed, they could try to seal the rift.

Detailed here are the people who are in power at the fort; they represent the United States Army, the Black Stars, and at least two native bands.

Captain Danforth Jeffreys (Seasoned)
Captain Jeffreys was a cavalry lieutenant during the Battle of Fort Arneson; he took over command after Captain Arneson was killed. Although he might once have been described as pompous, that experience has taught him humility—and made it clear just what the stakes are for successfully fulfilling his duty at the fort. Now he is a very capable officer, even if he does still think rather highly of his own abilities.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d4, Battle d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d4, Investigation d4, Knowledge d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d4, Shooting d4, Stealth d4
Pace: 6”, Parry: 4, Toughness: 5
Edges: Command, Command Presence, Hold the Line!, Inspire, Tactician
Hindrances: Pick one Major or two Minor
Gear: Uniform, Colt Dragoon .44 pistol (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6+1, RoF 1), cavalry saber (Damage d6+d6).

Terrence Taylor, the Indian Agent (Seasoned)
This Indian agent has read a lot about Native Americans, and is entrusted by the government to make annuity payments and arrange treaties. During and after the Battle of Fort Arneson he has even studied under Standing Bear, participating in some of the ceremonies. Given the importance of what lies under the fort, he takes his job as intermediary between the natives and the settlers very seriously.
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Academics d6, Athletics d4, Common Knowledge d6, Notice d8, Persuasion d8, Research d8, Stealth d4, Tribal Medicine d4
Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Connections, Linguist
Hindrances: Cautious
Gear: Fancy clothing, writing materials, Bowie knife (Damage d4+d6).

Red Hawk (Heroic)
For years this hunter and warrior led his people in resisting incursions by settlers, especially the buffalo hunters, railroad builders and ranchers who would follow them. That all changed when he and his people were manipulated into attacking Fort Arneson; he lost many warriors during that battle, and only later learned that it was part of an occult plot. For that reason he has sworn to help anyone who fights to prevent similar tragedies from occurring ever again.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d8, Common Knowledge d6, Fighting d8, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d8, Shooting d8, Stealth d8, Survival d6, Tracking d6
Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 5
Edges: Alertness, Command, Command Presence, Fervor, First Strike, Inspire, No Mercy, Quick
Hindrances: Outsider
Gear: Bow (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6, RoF 1), knife (Damage d6+d4).

Standing Bear (Heroic)
For most of his life Standing Bear has had an affinity for living things—and those that have passed. He is able to communicate with animals, and even to look beyond the physical world and into the spiritual one. He had even visited the Winding Way before “The Incident,” as the White Men refer to it, tore open a rift into that realm. Thus he knows how important it is to keep Fort Arneson and its secrets safe, even if that requires cooperating with the settlers who have altered his people's way of life forever.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d4, Healing d4, Knowledge (local) d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Stealth d4, Survival d4, Tribal Medicine d10
Pace: 6”, Parry: 6, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Shamanism), Command, Improved Rapid Recharge, Inspire, New Power x4, Power Points x2, Rapid Recharge
Hindrances: Outsider
Powers: Armor, banish, beast friend, boost/lower Trait, deflection, dispel, healing, spirit walk; Power Points: 20
Gear: Trappings, staff (Damage d6+d4, Parry +1, Reach 1, requires 2 hands).

Judge William S. Whitaker (Veteran)
In addition to proving himself as a United States Marshal in service to that special branch known as the Black Stars, William S. Whitaker has learned some of the secrets of Voodoo—just like his grandma once practiced, secretly, while she lived as a slave. This gives him an edge as he goes about his job, both acting as a magistrate in this frontier territory as well as conducing special investigations into occult matters when they are needed.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d8, Investigation d8, Knowledge d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Riding d6, Shooting d6, Stealth d4, Streetwise d6
Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 5
Edges: Alertness, Arcane Background (Voodoo), Brave, Combat Reflexes, Combat Sense, Connections, Dodge, New Power
Hindrances: Code of Honor
Powers: Boost/lower Trait, detect/conceal arcana, divination; Power Points: 10
Gear: Suit, pocket watch, gun belt, Stetson hat, badge, folding knife (Damage Str + d4, -2 to be noticed), Colt Peacemaker (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6+1, RoF 1).

Ordinary People
To find stats for typical soldiers, officers and Native people, refer to the following documents.

Plot Elements
Detailed below are just a few of the ways in which the PCs could become entangled in adventures and campaigns settled around Fort Arneson.
  • Characters who entered the Winding Way by other means—such as via the entrance beneath the New Globe Theatre in London—would thus come up from below Fort Arneson, and therefor have some explaining to do.
  • In a similar vein, the heroes could be present when something monstrous emerges from the rift; after fighting with it, they might be recruited to go back into the Winding Way to find and deal with whatever caused its emergence.
  • Although the full story of The Incident is a closely guarded secret, necromancy is a potent form of magic, and thus grave robbery provides enemies of the Black Stars with a means of learning what happened.
  • What few people know is that Clement Bonesteel, one of the deceased who fought in the Battle of Fort Arneson and is now buried in the cemetery outside it, was romantically involved with the sister of Captain Jeffreys, Cora, who lives back east. While she knows that her beau was killed in a battle involving Indians, she is determined to learn the full truth—and she could unwittingly become the pawn in a plot by the Cabal or some other nefarious group.
  • Those who really wanted to undermine the personnel of Fort Arneson could do so by pitting the various parties there against each other—the old “divide and conquer” strategy. Given the bad history between the U.S. Army and various native tribes, that proposition might not be as difficult as it seems.
  • There is also the mystery of a Gatling gun with the name Clementine engraved on it. This, in fact, belonged to a band of raiders who were active on the Missouri-Kansas border during the lead-up to the Civil War. At least a few of those bloodthirsty souls returned from the dead as a ghoul; who is to say that there aren't more, who wouldn't take kindly to Bluecoats wielding their beloved equalizer?

Appendix: The Inscription on the Obelisk

In this place,
on 8 January 1887,
a band of valiant Americans
fought to prevent
a great tragedy.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Perils of the Winding Way

This post presents more locations, encounters and plot elements involving the Winding Way, for use in adventures and campaigns using The Sixth Gun RPG.


The Spirit Realm
Detailed below are a number of locations—along with their inhabitants and connections to this growing conflict—that characters might encounter as they travel the Winding Way.

In the Middle of Things: The Grotto
At the heart of this part of the Winding Way is a section that has come to be known as the Grotto. It is an intersection of numerous tunnels, and one that has come to be inhabited by some of the unusual beings who populate this realm. 

Refer to the map above for the following location descriptions. Tunnel A comes in from the New Globe Theater, which the PCs might have visited if they participated in the events of the scenario “Smoke and Mirrors.” Tunnels B and C lead off to a vision of the past as well as a glimpse at a possible future, both of which are detailed below. 

At the heart of the grotto is a pool of water that has three thick stone pillars rising up from it. This area is home to a small family of skinwalkers, ones who have not fully succumbed to their animal instincts and thus lost touch with their human selves. A narrow passage leads back to the niches in which they sleep (D). On one wall of the larger cavern is painted an image known as “The Sorcerer” (depicted on the cover), which is marked with an X on the map. From there another tunnel (E) leads, among other places, to Fort Arneson.

Skinwalkers (9): Refer to page 79 of The Sixth Gun RPG for stats.

What could be of particular interest is a tunnel that ends abruptly in a small pool of very hot, sulfurous water. This is a connection to the Spirit Realm; by throwing into it an item that was valued by someone who is deceased, the visitor can call up that person's spirit. For that reason the bottom of the pool—which is boiling, inflicting 2d6 damage per round on anyone who reaches into it—contains all manner of items given to conjure ghosts. There is also, of course, the possibility that one or more of the PCs decides to conjure up the spirit of a lost love one, something that is left to the GM to adjudicate.

A Glimpse into the Past: Oasis and Battle Site
Here the long tunnel of the Winding Way opens into a cave entrance in the side of a long, low hillside; in front of it lies a small pool surrounded by palm trees, with sand dunes stretching as far as the eye can see in every other direction. After a moment the grisly truth of what has happened here asserts itself. Dead bodies litter the sands, ones that are clearly part of two different armies. Some are dressed in the robes and head cloths of desert nomads, while others wear the chainmail armor and helmets of northern crusaders. Swords, both curved and straight, are strewn about; a Battle check reveals that the nomads seem to have died defending this location. Before they can do much exploring, however, the PCs must deal with the pack of ghouls that is picking over what little remains of the corpses.

Ghouls (5): Refer to pages 76-7 of The Sixth Gun RPG for stats.

Among the bodies a few items the PCs can recover that shed a bit of light on this piece of history. In addition to the tabards marked with the crusader cross, some of the soldiers carry banners emblazoned with six strange symbols (see below). A few of the nomads carry triangular banners bearing the words ibn Ibrahim, written in Arabic. 

At the GM's discretion, there could be other items of value, including magical relics.

Another Realm of Possibility: The Island
Another branch eventually descends and becomes filled with water; at that point a Notice check also reveals some kind of rumbling sound. Approaching reveals this to be the sound of water, and pushing through it lets the PCs pop up in a pond formed by a waterfall on Prospero's island. While it at first seems no different from previous visits, it is changed—in fact, this is an alternate reality in which the PCs decided to use Prospero's magic to gain control of the local fey creatures. 

The biggest physical difference in this reality is the establishment of a fort down by the island's natural harbor; refer to the maps above for the following location descriptions. There's a rough but comfortable house (A), built from local wood and having two stories. On the main floor there is a front room (1) flanked by a parlor (2) and dining room (3), along with a kitchen (4), pantry (5) and servant's quarters (6). The upper floor boasts various bedrooms (7) along with a study (9). Here is where the PCs dwell in this reality, and so the GM is encouraged to add more details based on their individual characters.

Lords and Ladies of the Island: Use the stats for the PCs themselves.

Fey Creatures: Refer to the supplement of that name for stats.

The New Way of Things
In addition to the fortified compound, the GM can introduce the following elements depending on how the PCs go about exploring this area.
  • As mentioned above, the various local fey creatures—including a dryad, sylphs and vodyanoi—now serve the PCs. The sylphs act as messengers, while the vodyanoi help move logs from the mouth of the river to the steamboat, where they are sawed into lumber.
  • The steamboat—the very same one that delivered the PCs to this island in the first place—lies at anchor in the harbor, close to the shore.
  • Numerous tents are now set up on the sand along the beach; these provide shelter for the agents of the Cabal, with whom the PCs struck a deal in this alternative reality.
  • Finally, the GM should feel free to add more story elements based on outcomes from other scenarios, reflecting how PCs who chose the path of personal gain might have changed things.

More of the Story
As the PCs are exploring these parts of the Winding Way, their guides—be that one of the skinwalkers, Small Raven, or even Gareth Hildebrand—can provide some additional insight, including the following details.
  • There is, of course, magic in the world; there always was, and there always will be.
  • At one time, much of that magical energy was harnessed in the form of six magical items, sometimes weapons or other useful objects. Each had its own power, but when brought together they had the potential to remake all of creation.
  • Recently something happened to the most recent incarnation of those items; they were destroyed, and so their potential was dispersed throughout the world.
  • That is why various occultists—and especially the agents of the Cabal—seek all kinds of magical lore from all around the world, in the hope of once again unlocking that terrific potential.
  • Prospero's books and the scrolls from the Library of Alexandria incorporate a part of that collection, as are any materials previously assembled by the Invisible College, the Black Stars, and others.

Referenced Texts
Refer to the following resources and scenarios for more details about elements referenced above.

The Here and Now: Fort Arneson
On the other end of all these places, times and possibilities lies Fort Arneson, what once was a US Army frontier fort, but has since been commandeered to serve as a regional headquarters for the Black Stars. This was the site of a terrible battle, part of a plot to open a rift in the Winding Way. The fort now serves as the hub of American efforts to combat the Cabal, under the jurisdiction of judge William S. Whitaker. This location will be detailed more in another supplement.

The Puppet Mistress
If the PCs participated in the events of “Smoke and Mirrors,” during which they helped rescue Sir Kenneth Allen from the Cabal in London, then there is also the matter of him being subjected to the Puppet Power by Isadora Bouchard, a Voodoo practitioner. That is why he now acts as her spy, gathering whatever information he can for later exploitation. Since he is currently unable to communicate with her, for now he just bides his time.