Thrilling Adventure Stories

ISSUE 2 – THE FOLLY OF THE WISE

This adventure is based on the excellent adventure of the same name written by Marcus Rowland for his Forgotten Futures RPG. I first ran it in 2010 for the Dr Who ‘Timelord’ RPG and revived it because it is so good and atmospheric.

Part 1 – The Disappearing Coachman

Prologue:
A dark, windswept night, the wind rushing through the trees and ragged clouds scudding across the moon. A farm worker hurries along the road, glancing fearfully around and cursing under his breath. “Blast Ferguson, keeping him late. Alright for him, he doesn’t have to … Still, not far now to the village”. Suddenly, on the wind, came a long shuddering moan, followed by a sobbing wail and more moaning. The terrified farm worker looked to his left, towards the trees, his eyes opened wide in terror…

Following their safe return from the South Seas (Issue 1 – The Island of Terror), the PC’s were going about their various interests in Port Douglas when they received a summons from Dr Richard Armitage at the Port Douglas Museum of Natural History. In his office, he handed Zeus a telegram.

“I received this today. Lord Starling is an old acquaintance of mine; I cannot go due to other engagements so I would like you to check it out.”

[IMPERATIVE YOU AND ASSOCIATES COME AT ONCE. INVESTIGATION REQUIRED SUITED TO YOUR TALENTS. ALL EXPENSES PAID. STARLING POOLFORD MANOR LOWER POOLFORD ENGLAND.]

“These were delivered along with it”. Armitage dropped five second-class tickets for the SS ‘Bremen’, departing New York in three days.

Three days later they boarded the SS ‘Bremen’, noting the swastika flag flying at the taffrail and the prominent picture of Herr Hitler; Reichkanzler of Germany as they boarded.* With typical efficiency the ship departed on time and the crossing was made with ease. Jack made a nuisance of himself by making some insensitive comments about passenger liners and icebergs in the North Atlantic and received a warning from the ship’s Purser. Meanwhile, Yoz set about working out how to smuggle Zeus’s lightning gun through Customs

Five days later the ship docked at Southampton and they disembarked. Passing through the Customs shed; only Alex was questioned as he was carrying his rifle. The Customs officer accepted his story that he was a Big-Game Hunter. They went to the railway station and boarded a stopping train for Lower Poolford. At noon, with a hiss of steam, the train pulled into a sleepy little station. They were the only ones to get off; leaving the station, they saw a horse and trap waiting for them with an ancient old man driving it. He had a straggly beard, a foul-smelling pipe and wore a thick overcoat and gloves. He stank like a badger.

“Be you Lord Starling’s party?”

“Yes”, replied Yoz

“Then Old Harry is here to take thee. Mind you, sorr, oi wouldn’t go there, they say it be haunted by the divil, if oi were you oi’d be back to Lunnon while ye can, sorr”

They exchanged a few glances at this, but Harry was not more forthcoming.

Driving through the village, past the pub, village green and tea shop, then along a wooded road, Harry suddenly pulled the horse to a stop. He pointed out the top of a tower, showing over the trees.
“There it be, sorr, yon heathenish tower. ‘Tis said the demons of the pit can be heard there of an evening. ‘Twas overweaning pride that made the old Lord build it, to spite a man o’ the cloth. Much good did it do him….”
Harry swung the trap right through a set of iron gates and into the grounds of Starling Manor. The drive crossed a stone bridge over a stream, swung round a lake through ornamental gardens and up to the manor house. Across the lake from the house stood the folly, a five-sided glass and metal pagoda rising above the trees. Harry dropped them off by the front entrance; then took the pony and trap round the back of the house.

A young man, in his mid-twenties, came down the steps to meet them, followed by the butler.

“Ethelred, Lord Starling. Welcome to Poolford Manor. Armitage wired me to say you were on your way. I expect you’ll want to freshen up; then I’ll introduce you to the others. Groves will show you to your rooms; afternoon tea in the drawing room at four o’clock”

The rooms were on the first floor and were comfortable. The windows looked out onto the gardens, then to the lake and beyond that the pagoda. Yoz spent some time trying to hide Zeus’ Electrical Bolt Gun; finally he stuffed it on top of a wardrobe and put his suitcase in front of it.

Zeus said “I know of this Lord Starling. He’s a doctorate in applied physics and a Fellow of the Royal Society. Quite an achievement for someone in their mid-twenties.”

Afternoon tea was served in the drawing room; there were several other people there. Lord Starling introduced them: –
“Alan Longbaugh, my cousin on the American side.” “Hi guys”
“Richard Barrington-Hill; we were at college together” “H…H…Hel…lo. P..pleased t..to meet y…you”
“Marian Stevens, a friend of Alan’s”
“Michelle Heeny and her aunt Clara”. “Hello. Anyone for tennis? I love tennis. Don’t worry about Aunt Clara; she’s deaf as a post”.

Groves the butler handed Starling a message. “Isadora won’t be joining us tonight”.

“So,” said Lord Starling, “have you any ideas where to start?”

“Start! We don’t actually know what we’re doing here”.

“Oh. Armitage didn’t say anything? Well …”

Alan broke in. “Basically, the folly is haunted and Ethel here wants you to prove that it isn’t”

“It is NOT haunted and there is NO ghost”. Lord Starling’s voice was stern. “Basically, in 1895, my father had a bet with the local clergyman, Rev. Theosophies Downes, that he could prove that the Earth was round (and not flat, as the clergyman believed; otherwise how could angels stand at the four corners of the earth?) My father had the pagoda built to house a Foucault pendulum, using the resources of one of his railway companies. The pendulum worked as predicted; he won the bet but refused the money, preferring instead that the clergyman preach the truth. They became good friends until death. Now I am due to inherit the bulk of the Starling estate, providing the exact terms of the will are adhered to. The will includes the clause “must not have any belief in ghosts or supernatural happenings”, else I will not inherit. About six weeks ago, at night, terrible groaning noises started to come from the folly at irregular intervals; the locals are terrified and unless I can come up with a rational explanation I stand to lose my inheritance.”

The PC’s all reflected on this for some time.

“By the way, my groom wants to know if he should stable your horse as your driver is nowhere to be found.”

“Our driver? We thought he worked for you.”

“I was going to send Perkins with the Rolls to collect you.”

Dinner was served at eight p m, vegetable soup, a magnificent roast pheasant with all of the trimmings; followed by a rhubarb syllabub. It whilst talking over after-dinner drinks that from outside they heard a keening howl, wailing up and down the scale, followed by a deafening rumble that went on for several minutes. The howling came again and again, interspersed with the basso rumble. After several minutes the sounds died away.

“Well, there it is”, said Starling. “What do you make of that?”

At that point, Marian said in a fear-filled voice “I feel … a presence in this house” and collapsed in a faint.

Stay Tuned for the next issue of Thrilling Adventure Stories – The Village of Fear

GM Notes
Again, a fun-filled session; very atmospheric and scene-setting

* This caused some discussion. “Hitler? So Germany won the war? / No, they lost the war / But I was a flying ace in the war / Yes, the Great War / Which war was that? / World War I, World War II hasn’t happened yet / So I fought in World War I? / Yes, but it was called the Great War / Why? / Because World War II hasn’t happened yet / Could we start it early? / (sigh)

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Thrilling Adventure Stories

Issue 3

 

The Tunnel of Death

 

            Having escaped from captivity on the island, Sarah has revealed that she is s secret agent working for the US Government.

 

Somewhat reluctantly, Jack steered the boat out to the artificial island where the tower stood. In the village the fuel dump was still burning nicely, although the flames seemed to be dying off. The tower island was a square, about twenty-four feet to a side. A ladder led one hundred feet up the tower to the metal ball; thick high-tension cables emerged from the concrete floor and paralleled the ladder. In the centre of the island was a hatchway.

Zeus revealed that he had two hand grenades, stolen from the guard barracks when he got the guns. His initial plan was to climb the tower and somehow use the grenades to destroy the ball. This was vetoed by the others on several grounds; firstly that it would need a better explosive like gelignite or dynamite and (OOC; that all of Harry’s characters do not have the best track record in climbing, even when using a ladder.)

Accordingly, they opened the trapdoor and went down a ladder into a basement. Jack and Yoz elected to stay with the boat; so did Helene. They followed a tunnel; the HV cables ran across the ceiling of the tunnel. At the end was a locked door; made of a heavy rubber-like material.

“Don’t suppose there’s an ‘OFF’ switch anywhere?” said Alex. “Hey, I grew up in Chicago. Always found a bullet was a good “OFF” switch there.”

“We need Yoz”, said Sarah. “I have some Lockpicking skill, but he’s better.” Grumbling, Yoz came down and examined the door. It was linked to an alarm; he managed to disable the alarm and open the door. A strong stench of ozone greeted him. “I’m going back up to the boat”, he said.

Beyond the door was a huge room. Banks of capacitors lined the walls and floor; leaving a narrow walkway to a further door. Thick cables liked all of them; there was a low, barely audible humming sound and occasionally a thick blue spark snapped between two discharge points.

“This is it”, Zeus cried, rubbing his hands together. “This is where they charge up the capacitors to fire the tower. I need to re-connect and cross-connect the input/output loop to create a cyclic loop; next time they charge them, they should go boom!” He set to work whilst Alex moved to the far door. A blue spark arced out of a terminal; hitting him on the shoulder and spinning him into the wall.

“Jeez, give me Chicago any time”.

Sarah moved up to the door and found it was not locked. She pulled it open just as Zeus announced “There, finished.”

Up on the island, Yoz found that Jack had moved the boat round to the far side of the tower island. The fire had been put out and it looked like the guards were forming up into search parties. The searchlight from the guard tower flickered into life and began searching the area. They crouched down in the boat, which was barely hidden behind the island.

“THERE ARE INTRUDERS IN THE TUNNEL. GUARDS TO POWERHOUSE AND TO ISLAND. SHOOT TO KILL.”

A squad of soldiers ran down from the blockhouse, armed with sub-machine guns. At the water’s edge, they opened up on the island; using suppressive fire. Jack peeked out and saw another group of soldiers running for the boathouse.

“We’re going to have company.” Scrabbling around under the stern sheets, he found a knife. Yoz calmly pulled and checked his two 1911’s; then blazed away at the soldiers on the beach; taking out two of them. One returned fire and Yoz fell back; a bullet furrow across his cheek.

Sarah stared through the door in horror; six soldiers filled the tunnel leading to the basement of the power plant. Without hesitation they opened fire; Sarah jumped back as one bullet hit the door jamb and a second bullet grazed a furrow across her shoulder. She took out one soldier; Alex joined her and shot another; who staggered backwards.

“Get ready to close the door” yelled Zeus at Alex. “I’m going to throw a grenade.”* The grenade bounced off the walls of the tunnel and exploded, taking out four soldiers. They all ran for the far end of the power chamber; the electrical discharges were increasing in frequency as the cyclic loop built up; both Alex and Sarah were caught by stray bolts of electricity.

On the surface, Jack heard the sound of an approaching boat. He put the knife between his teeth and started the boats engine.

“Arr me hearties, ‘tis Captain Jack be coming for ye” **

He took the boat round and headed on a collision course for the boat with the soldiers. Yoz origami folded his top hat into an Admiral’s fore-and-aft cap and twisted his teapot into a parrot-shape that he put on his left shoulder. *** Despite desperate avoiding action taken by the soldiers; Jack rammed the boat and leapt onto the foredeck. The collision knocked three soldiers into the sea; Yoz shot one of them and Jack knifed the other whilst grabbing his sub-machine gun.

“WUNDERBAR, NOW VE TEST THE WEAPON AGAINST OUR ENEMIES”

A hammering came at the far door; Zeus turned to see Sergeant Fujimo enter; at this point the rumble of the diesels increased and the generators began to whine.

“Run”, yelled Zeus to Alex and Sarah; as he left the Power room the generators noise rose dramatically. They got up the ladder to the island; behind came a massive explosion and the sea and part of the beach erupted. From the blockhouse and power house came massive blue electrical flashes; there was an explosion of flame from the power station. A rumble beneath their feet; they all dived into the water as the island cracked in two. The tower swayed; then fell back across the village; the metal ball crushed the blockhouse into rubble. Zeus grabbed the megaphone and said in a thick German accent:-

“Zere is room vor one only mad scientist in zis vorld”

AFTERMATH

Jack steered the boat (which hadn’t been badly damaged) back round to the beach and they retrieved their weapons. Sarah went to inspect the burnt-out airplane, looking for her luggage.

“What was in it?” asked Zeus. “Agents gear, a radio, spy cameras, code books, that sort of stuff?”

“No”, replied Sarah. “Three brand new dresses, two pairs of shoes, six pairs of silk stockings and a brand new hat”.

Later, at sea.

“By the way, does anyone know where we are?”

END

XP awarded = 3

————————–

GM Notes

* Again, the use of a weapon he doesn’t have any skill in.

** I have no idea what suddenly brought this on

*** I know. Probably best to just go with it. Xref Toht’s coathanger scene in Raiders

Everyone really enjoyed this last session; there were lots of inventive ideas coming out. Some comments were: –

“I like fantasy, with swords and stuff; and I like secret agent stuff with guns and gadgets. Pulp combines both.”

“This is great. It’s so over the top; it’s like Indiana Jones meets The Expendables”

 

“I know what I want my character to do. When’s the next Game?”

“Did anyone survive on the island? I want my character to meet that Japanese guy”. (GM: so we have at least one survivor/Bad Guy)

Thrilling Adventure Stories

Issue 2

 

The Metal Tower

 

            Yozmodius, Alex, Zeus, Jack, Helene and Sarah have crash-landed on an unknown island somewhere in the South Pacific.

           

            Yoz glanced around and noted the absence of Zeus. He handed over both his 1911’s.

“Can I retain my top hat? A gentleman is never fully dressed without his hat.” The soldiers glanced at each other; then the leader barked “March!” “How far are we going?” asked Yoz. “No questions. You walk.”

“Another adventure”, sighed Sarah. “Say, where did Doctor Freeze go?”

After a few hours of trekking through the jungle; following a faintly discernible path; they topped a low rise. Yoz let out a low whistle; Sarah said “Now, will you look at that.” They were looking east, out over the ocean. The ground sloped away from them, down to a large metal fence enclosing a set of buildings. They could make out a gravel airstrip and a hangar building, several stone and wood buildings grouped around a guard tower; a wooded jetty with an attached boathouse and a large windowless building made of concrete. A smaller building next to this had several exhaust stacks and from inside came the heavy throb of diesel engines. The most striking thing was about 400 yards offshore was an artificial island with a tall metal lattice tower on it. Atop of the tower was a large metal ball. As they watched, the pitch of the diesels increased.

“Move. Walk down slope to fence” said the soldier next to Yoz. Yoz took the time to study the man. He was obviously Asian, but Yoz could not place his nationality. He didn’t ask, somehow he doubted the man would tell him.

Reaching the fence they saw there was a gate; guarded by another soldier. Looking up, the guard tower had a searchlight, two Tannoy speakers and a machine gun. There were two guards on duty.

“ATTENTION. TEST WILL COMMENCE IN FIVE MINUTES”

The voice over the Tannoy was harsh and guttural. The soldiers took Yoz and the girls to a large building; a barracks. Yoz was intrigued to see a screen and film projector, plus a stack of Western films starring famous stars like Buzz Barton, Bill Cody and Hopalong Cassidy.

 

“ATTENTION. TEST WILL COMMENCE IN THREE MINUTES. LAUNCH THE BOAT”

“What test?” said Yoz and Sarah simultaneously. “No questions”, was the reply. “Doctor speak to you later”.

The door opened and Jack and Alex were ushered in at gunpoint.

On the beach, the machine gunner on the boat had got the drop on Alex and Jack. Jack held up his gun and made a show of ejecting the magazine; a burst of bullets around him from the machine gunner convinced him to drop the gun. “After all,” he thought, “I can always come back and get it. If they take it and drop it in the lagoon then it’s gone for good.” On the boat, the gunner moved to cover them as they sat in the stern; whilst the boat heeled round and headed north-east.

Approaching the Village from the north, they saw the Metal Tower first, and then the boat nosed into the jetty and ran down into the boathouse. Out on the jetty, some soldiers were preparing a motor boat; there were three passengers in the boat.

“ATTENTION. TEST WILL COMMENCE IN TWO MINUTES. CHARGE CAPACITORS TO FULL POWER.”

Jack and Alex were taken to the barracks where Yoz, Sarah and Helene were. From outside the roar of the diesels rose to a deafening pitch.

“Where’s Zeus?” “I don’t know; he’s out in the jungle somewhere.” “Well, I hope he’s got a plan to rescue us.”

“ATTENTION. TEST WILL COMMENCE IN ONE MINUTE. ALL NON-ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL TO TAKE SHELTER”

Zeus was hiding up on the ridge; observing what was going on and waiting for nightfall. He saw his friends being taken to the guards barracks and, lifting his eyes out to sea, the motor boat and three passengers heading out to sea. Suddenly, the world exploded! A massive purple-blue electric bolt erupted from the Metal Tower and struck the boat; there was a huge explosion as the boat disintegrated.

Sometime later, they were escorted by a group of guards to the concrete blockhouse and placed in a room with a table and a few chairs. The walls were concrete and there were no windows.

“That’s obviously a new weapon of some kind. It’s like a bigger version of Zeus’ lightning gun. I wonder if he saw it; I bet he’ll be interested.”

Zeus got to his feet; his eyes had purple retinal afterimages and his ears were ringing from the tremendous clap of thunder that had followed the discharge. He checked his Belt; it was not quite recharged. He made his way down the ridge, aiming for the south side of the village by the airstrip. He noted that the centre guard tower had a commanding view of the whole camp. It was dusk when he reached the fence.

Inside the room, Yoz calmly sat down and produced his tea-making equipment from inside his top hat and brewed a cup of tea.*

“You are American and drink ze tea? You not drink coffee after your Boston Tea Party?”

“No,” replied Yoz. “I was the one fishing the tea back out of the opposite side of the harbour.”

Alex was all for waiting in ambush when the door opened; this was still being discussed when the door opened. Two guards entered, followed by a balding middle-aged man with gold-rimmed glasses, wearing a business suit. He spoke with an American accent.

“I am Dr Allenbrook. Do any of you smoke?” He lit a cigarette and leaned back in the chair. “This is rather unfortunate, you turning up like this. Tell me, were you shipwrecked or did you arrive by boat? This is a secret project being run by the US Government and you shouldn’t be here.”

Sarah spoke up excitedly. “What are you doing here? What’s the tower for and what was the clap of thunder we heard?”

Dr Allenbrook looked thoughtful. “We are working on a way to detect ships and aircraft by using sound waves. We make it sound like thunder so that any potential enemies cannot determine what we are doing or that they have been detected.”

Yoz and Jack spoke up together. “We were on an aircraft that developed engine trouble of the bullet-related kind and we crashed on the beach. You’ve got an airstrip; if you could lend us a plane then we’ll fly out of here and be out of your way.”

“Regrettably, I must say no. Our supply plane is not due yet and we do not have any other aircraft. I think you will have to stay here for some time as guests until I can arrange for a boat to take you to the mainland.”

He stubbed out his cigarette and rose. “I have other things to do now. Sergeant Fujimo and his men will look after you.”

            Into the room came the biggest man they had ever seen. He was Japanese; he wore a soldier’s uniform; a gun belt with a Colt six-shooter, a Sheriffs star and a large ten-gallon hat. His hands were the size of dinner plates and his moon face had a big beaming grin. “Yee-Haw Americans. I am big fan of your dynasty. I Sergeant Fujimo; I also Sheriff Tex. You like Western films? I have all your culture films and watch it all; Tom Mix, Bill Cody, Hopalong Cassidy. One day I meet them all and have shootout like in Western. I win and become new Big Bronco.”

They were led across the Village and locked into a bare basement with a few inches of water covering the floor.

Zeus waited until nightfall; then crept closer to the fence. A tell-tale humming alerted him to the fact that the upper strands of wire were electrified; although the whole fence was not. The airstrip was gravel; opposite was a hangar. He could make out two aircraft; a biplane similar to the one that had attacked them on the beach, and a twin-engine silver monoplane with a distinctive twin tail.  Next to the hangar was a fuel dump; drums of fuel covered by a tarpaulin. Zeus moved round to the northern section of the fence; aimed and fired a full power Lightning bolt into the fuel dump. The results were spectacular; the dump erupted into a mass of flame. Panic ensued in the Village; several troops tried to fight the fire; some went on patrol; most panicked. He made his way to the barracks; found some uniform items that fitted. He also found Yoz’s guns and a rifle.

Yoz produced lock picks from his hat and set to work on the basement door lock. A scream came from the lower cellar

Helene – “It was a rat, Cherie. Rats are not good for me”.

Yoz got the door open and peered out. There were no guards outside the door; there was a strong flickering glow through the windows. Outside, pandemonium reigned; there were further explosions. It appeared that the fuel dump had gone up in flames. The quickly made their way to the boathouse and boarded the patrol boat.

“Wait,” said Sarah. “We can’t just leave. We need to find out what’s going on here.” She spun round, pulling an automatic from somewhere under her skirt, only to lower the gun as Zeus faded into view.

“Who are you Sarah, if that’s really your name?”

“My name is Sarah and I work for the US Government. I guess you could call me a secret agent. Listen, war is coming; maybe not this year or even next year, but it is coming and the USA needs to be ready. That tower is a weapon of some kind and I need to investigate it more, as well as who Dr Allenbrook is.”

They all looked at each other and sighed. “Okay, let’s go and look at the tower.”

Stay Tuned for the next issue of Thrilling Adventure Stories – The Tunnel of Death

GM Notes

Again, another fun-filled Game; the players are really getting into the genre.

* Yes, he really does carry portable tea making equipment in his top hat. He also carries a set of lock picks.

** Sarah told them she worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a slight anachronism as this wasn’t set up until 1942. Still, this is Pulp.