by Scott Paul Maykrantz
Developed by Stephen Beeman
"I need your help, please!" begged the young man, failing to hide a fear so deep his entire body shook. "I . . . have these horrible dreams! My fiancee . . . my poor Alicia . . . is standing on a cliff, watching the sea. The water starts to boil, moving like it's alive! And then it becomes something horrible – a grotesque creature with glowing eyes and twisted claws. It. . . it eats her. . . swallows her whole!"
He nervously lights another cigarette. His hair is uncombed and he has dark circles under his eyes. His expensive suit is rumpled, and he reeks of waterfront saloons. "I'll tell you everything," he continues, after a few shallow puffs. "Let me start at the beginning. . ."
This GURPS Horror adventure begins in Victorian England. It is designed for 100-point PCs who are part of an established group dealing with occult, detective or paranormal cases. They should have a regular meeting place where Youngsten can contact them.
If the GM feels it necessary, he may draw up a map for the Isle of Night. The Isle should be drawn as a typical tropical island – a mile or two across, with wide beaches and dense jungle. A native village and a high cliff overlooking the ocean – both described later in the adventure – should be placed within a quarter mile of each other on the island.
The man is Richard Youngsten, a lieutenant in Her Majesty's Army, serving in India. He returned to London two months ago, upon the death of his elder brother, Capt. Alfred Youngsten. Richard's fiancee, Alicia Fitzhugh, had been visiting her father, Col. Avery Fitzhugh, in Africa; she planned to return with the Colonel to England a few weeks later. Their ship arrived three days ago, without them.
In her last letter, Alicia mentioned that the Colonel had recently rediscovered an uncharted island he had visited two years before, while serving with Richard's brother under the African explorer Sir Lionel Blackston-Smythe. The Colonel – something of an amateur archeologist – intended to make a brief side trip to the island to study its natives before steaming to England.
The Fitzhughs never boarded the ship bound for London. Richard had no idea what happened to them, until last night, when he had the dream described above. He's convinced that it means Alicia is alive, but in terrible danger. "I need your help," he concludes, "because I'm certain that when I find Alicia, I'll find that creature."
Before departing for Africa, the PCs may wish to research the case. The more they know about the Isle of Night, the easier it will be for them to find and prepare for it.
A successful Research roll on each of three successive days will find the journals of Sir Lionel Blackston-Smythe in the archives of the British Museum library. One entry, dated about 2 years ago, reads:
Yesterday night we made landfall on a small tropical island. Leading a party of six men, I struck forth into the island's interior. We soon came across a small village. The natives were engaged in some heathen ritual, in which a young boy was to be sacrificed.
Naturally, we rescued the child. We were able to hold off the islanders long enough to return to our ship. Colonel Fitzhugh, who fought bravely to free the native boy, was severely wounded by the native chief. Captain Youngsten cut down the savage, but was himself wounded in the process.
An entry a few days later reads, "After days of delirium, it now appears as though Fitzhugh will pull through. Youngsten's wound, however, continues to fester, and I'm afraid we'll have to put into port sometime soon to have it tended to."
The journal reveals no other information. It does, however, give fairly accurate coordinates of the island.
Investigation into the fate of Blackston-Smythe reveals – no roll necessary – that he died at his family home near Oxford, Blackston Manor, soon after his return from Africa. A Research roll at the newspaper office in Oxford turns up a story dated soon after Sir Lionel's return. It seems that he was found in his bedroom, apparently tortured to death. His young African serving boy was also found dead in the room; unlike his master, the boy was unmarked, and the cause of his death could not be determined.
Blackston-Smythe's wife, Lady Eleanor, still lives in Blackston Manor. She will not be willing to talk about her husband's death, but a plausible explanation and a Fast-Talk-4 roll will convince her to let the investigators look through her late husband's diary.
The diary also tells of the incident on the island, but reveals a couple of other things as well. First, it mentions that the men on the expedition presented the native chief's ceremonial dagger to Captain Youngsten, for his bravery in defending the fallen Col. Fitzhugh. Second, it tells that Sir Lionel took the rescued native boy into his household as a houseboy. In an entry dated two days before his death, Sir Lionel wondered if this had been a wise decision; the boy had begun to act strangely, staring into the distance and singing or chanting to himself.
If the investigators are unable to get the diary from Lady Alice, they may acquire a copy from the Oxford police with an Administration-2 roll. (The police made a copy while investigating Sir Lionel's death.)
If the investigators attempt to track down the other four men who visited the island with Sir Lionel (Lt. Sadler, Lt. Jonnson, Sgt. Walker and Sgt. Doolittle), they should make separate Research-3 rolls for each. For every successful roll, they will learn that each died by torture since returning from Africa. In each case, the unmarked body of a servant was found nearby, and the murders were attributed to the dead servant, or remained unsolved. Captain Alfred Youngsten, Richard's brother, was the last living member of the expedition aside from Col. Fitzhugh. Richard knows that his brother died under similar circumstances.
The investigators may also research legendary African monsters similar to the one in Richard's dream. A Research-3 or Occultism roll (requiring a full day) uncovers a tale of a creature called either T'Soquat or Tuso, depending on the source. This creature is said to have been called forth by great wizard-chiefs to wreak havoc on their enemies. The creature could only be summoned, however, on a specific astrological date, occurring once every two hundred years. The last such date was approximately 2 years ago.
Research on other topics will prove unfruitful.
The London-Africa trip will take nine days, arriving at Abidjan (on the Ivory Coast) after a few stops at major ports along the way. A first class fare costs 25 pounds first class; steerage, 5 pounds. The group may use this boring trip to study gathered notes, go over Blackston-Smythe's journal or diary, and discuss the upcoming search.
During the Victorian Era, Abidjan is a small trading town catering to foreigners. Through a series of Streetwise, Fast-Talk, Administration or Research rolls, the investigators can soon learn that Col. Fitzhugh and his daughter delayed their passage to London to chartered a small yacht for a short cruise on the Atlantic. Their yacht never returned. This information may be learned from the harbormaster, the local office of the passenger line serving travelers between London and Africa, or from local sailors and fishermen on the Abidjan wharf.
The investigators will need to make a few social skill rolls to charter another vessel to search for the Fitzhughs. The local boatmen will be reluctant to sail after the lost vessel; the charter will cost 10 pounds per day – twice the normal rate.
On the afternoon of the group's second day at sea, the sun begins to set at least an hour early. The wind stays steady and soon a jagged slice of land is seen. It grows with the mystic night as the party approaches, looking like a giant, tree-covered corpse floating in the sea. The investigators have found the Isle of Night!
The Isle of Night takes its name from the mystic quality that keeps it hidden: It is shrouded in perpetual darkness. This unnatural night is not visible from a distance, nor is it suddenly encountered. As the ship approaches within an hour of the Isle, the sky begins to grow dark, as if the sun were setting at an unnatural rate. Anyone with a watch or clock will notice that time is accelerating to match the descent of the sun. When they reach the island, all timepieces stop at precisely mid-night. Directly overhead is a full moon, which never moves. Vision rolls in the darkness are at -3, unless the PCs have some sort of magical light source. (A lantern will not work on the island, for reasons explained below.)
Over the span of the adventure, clever PCs may notice that they never grow thirsty, hungry or sleepy. Time on the island has stopped. This also has an effect on wounds and bleeding – see below for details. Fires will not burn on the island, nor will gunpowder ignite.
The investigators land on a short beach; above the shore, a dense jungle dominates the island. A small mountain looms at the east end of the isle, and a destroyed yacht lies on the beach a few hundred yards away from the party's landing point.
The yacht is wrecked, empty and deserted. A Vision roll at-5 (plus the -3 for darkness) will reveal a small gold locket with Richard's picture inside. If it is shown to Richard, he recognizes it as Alicia's. "She's here!" he cries. "We must find her!"
While exploring the island, give each PC an IQ roll to notice that there is no running water of any sort on the island, not even run-off from the mountain. No birds or insects can be heard, either; the whole island is shrouded in an eerie silence.
A very brief amount of searching will lead the PCs to a village in the center of the island – a rough circle of palm-leaf huts. The village is populated by thin pygmies, clad in "typical native garb" – loincloths and not much else. Give each investigator a Vision roll to notice that about a third of the villagers – mostly adult males – are wearing small amulets of bone about their necks.
There are roughly thirty villagers of all ages. No one talks, and all have blank expressions. In the center of the village, a middle-aged English officer rests on a grass mat. "Colonel!" Richard exclaims.
The officer awkwardly rises to greet the party. "Richard! Thank God you're here, lad! How did you find me? Do you have a boat?" He is overjoyed to see his rescuers. He also seems to have suffered from exposure; he appears thin and weak, and is quite disheveled.
But Richard has only one thing on his mind. "Where is Alicia?" he asks, his voice nearly breaking with the strain.
"She – she's gone," Fitzhugh says softly. "Lost at sea. Our boat was caught in a storm, just as we were approaching this island. When I washed ashore, these villagers brought me here and nursed me back to health. Alicia is gone, though, I'm afraid."Richard is obviously crushed by the news. He keeps mumbling, "No, no. She's alive, I know it." But the Colonel is quite adamant – Alicia went overboard during the storm that wrecked the ship. Questioning the Colonel won't accomplish a whole lot. He sticks to his tale completely, even if confronted with Alicia's locket – "She must have left it on board." As to why he came here, it was to explore the island, just as Alicia's records said. The Colonel will be bewildered if the PCs show him evidence of the mysterious deaths. This, and the Colonel's sickness, is all an act, of course. A PC with Acting or Detect Lies may try to see through the disguise with a Quick Contest of Skills against the Colonel's Acting skill of 15. A character with Diagnosis, Physician or Survival (Ocean) may also attempt a Contest to detect that the Colonel's weakness is feigned.
During the questioning, Richard asks a few more times where Alicia is, then stalks away and slumps beside a native hut, obviously frustrated and distraught. He pulls out an ornate dagger and starts whittling a stick, hacking at it furiously. When Richard does this, the Colonel stares at him silently for a few moments, then returns to the conversation. Any appropriate roll (at-5) reveals that the Colonel's attention was on the dagger, not Richard.
Soon after this, all the natives move off into the huts. If the PCs seem alarmed, the Colonel will calm them. "No, no, they're just getting ready for a feast. They always receive visitors with a feast. Nothing to worry about."
At this, the investigators realize that they're not at all hungry or thirsty. They also notice that there are no torches or campfires in the village. The group doesn't have time to discuss the matter, though, because suddenly the natives attack!
Lay out the village on a blank hex map. Place several 3-yard-wide huts on the map (one for every PC, plus one for Richard), scattered about in a rough circle covering the map. The investigators are in the center of the circle, except characters who specifically stated they were elsewhere. The Colonel is at the center of the map; Richard is sitting with his back against a hut.
Three natives pile out of each hut and attack. They are all unarmed and unarmored. Each will use only All-Out attacks.
A spell has stopped time on the island. Because of this, wounds act strangely. First of all, they cause no stunning or shock penalty to DX – the wounds don't hurt! Second, no one will go unconscious – at 0 or lower HT, they just keep fighting (make HT rolls for dying as usual, however). And third, the wounds don't bleed at all. When a PC discovers that the natives aren't bleeding or being stunned, he should make a Fright Check at -2; when one discovers that the PCs aren't bleeding, he makes a Fright Check at -4! (Don't forget to add +5 for the fact that everyone's in combat.)
Also because of the spell, fires won't light, and gunpowder won't fire! The PCs' guns simply will not work (Fright Check at -2 when this becomes apparent).
During the battle, observant PCs may note that the natives attacking Richard seem to be trying to grab his arm. As soon as any investigator realizes this, Richard lets out a cry. "Fiend! Give that back!" A villager has ripped Richard's dagger from his hand and fled into the jungle.
Up until this point, the Colonel has been grappling with one of the villagers, but when he sees the native take Richard's dagger, he barks a command in a primitive language. His native opponent suddenly releases him, but the villagers facing the rest of the party redouble their attacks. The investigators are able to glimpse the Colonel running off into the jungle after the villager with the dagger.
Allow the investigators to shake free from their opponents to pursue the Colonel. If they don't seem inclined to pursue him, Richard will cry, "Quick! After him!" and charge into the jungle.
The Colonel is easy to follow – he charged down a jungle trail, not bothering to hide his tracks. This is fortunate, because the PCs don't have a lot of time to carefully look for a trail – the villagers are right behind them!
The group follows the trail to the foot of the mountain. There they find a narrow crevice leading up the mountain face. The natives are only few steps behind – the PCs have no choice but to ascend. When they are within 10 yards of the top, they begin to hear chanting, interrupted by screams. Richard yells, "Alicia!" and sprints to the top.
The crevice opens out into a wide ledge overlooking the ocean. At the edge of the cliff, 20 yards from the mouth of the crevice, a young English woman is tied to a stone pillar. Five yards closer, the Colonel kneels within a glowing dome of energy, chanting fervently. "Come, mighty T'Soquat," he cries. "Taste the flesh I have brought you!"
The natives are five seconds away – the group has that long to somehow stop the Colonel before he completes his "Summon T'Soquat" spell. The energy globe is a Force Dome (p. F28), which is impassable to anything other than light and magic. He has his Armor spell going as well; if he is not physically interrupted, he won't fail the roll to cast his Summoning spell.
After five seconds, the Colonel's spell finishes and the villagers arrive at the top of the stairs. The Colonel falls unconscious, the Force Dome and Armor spells cutting off. When the Force Dome disperses, however, so does the time-stop spell that enshrouded the island before. Most of the villagers crumble to dust (Fright Check at -2), but those who wore the bone amulets continue to charge. Furthermore, all the wounds the PCs took during the battle suddenly begin to bleed and hurt characters are stunned or unconscious as if they took all their wounds in one massive blow right now. (At this point, gunpowder will once again work on the island, if the PCs attempt to use their guns.)
As the remaining natives rush the PCs, their eyes begin to glow red, and their hands begin to transform into crab-like claws! This metamorphosis becomes apparent after three seconds, at which time each PC should make a Fright Check at -4.
Ten turns after the spell is finished, a thick gurgle is heard below. From the ocean emerges a huge, shadowed form.
Seeing the creature calls for an immediate Fright Check at -2. The T'Soquat reaches land in 10 seconds, and will reach the top of the cliff 30 seconds alter that. When it is completely out of the water, an additional Fright Check is made, at -4.
The T'Soquat resembles a gigantic lobster with pale gray-green skin and a pair of glowing red eyes. It has no exoskeleton but, instead, has thick skin with irregular bulges and lesions. An acidic slime oozes from these sores, coating the creature's body and burning those it touches.
The T'Soquat will chase Alicia, intent on eating its sacrifice. If she dies, the Creature will attack the nearest human.
Once the T'Soquat gives up or finishes off the group, it will head for the African coast for more food. If it is not destroyed quickly, its DR will reach incredible levels – and it will become invincible!
The most satisfying methods of extermination will be those which require no special abilities or equipment – crushing it in an avalanche, tricking it into falling off the cliff, etc. Allow the players to try any imaginative schemes and at least come close to success.
The adventure is over when the creature has been killed. When the T'Soquat dies, its body melts to a steaming, smelly mound of acid-soaked flesh. It dissolves completely, disappearing in twenty minutes.
If they both survive, Richard and Alicia will be married a month later in London. The PCs are invited, of course. They will also be paid one thousand pounds each on the day they return to England. If Richard dies, Alicia will pay the investigators.
The Isle could be claimed for Britain. The characters can decide on the name and will receive a lot of recognition and publicity.
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