This article originally appeared in Pyramid #17
by Aric J. Liljegren and R. Darrow Dernick
In this world of fast food, express lanes and instant credit, the thought of spending hours searching for original scenario ideas can make even the most committed GM question his sanity. Even though multiple sources exist in the form of "modules" or "adventure books" to solve the problem of scenario development, these are often so involved that they ultimately don't save the GM any time at all and are often too rigid to fit in an ongoing campaign. It is with this in mind that we created and now present Adventure Pizza.
Designed to offer the GM new refreshing ideas in the form of adventure seeds, Adventure Pizza is a tool for those who lack the time to create scenarios from scratch and need that inspirational starting idea. Each "pizza" can be prepared in 20-30 minutes and is written openly enough to be used either as part of an ongoing campaign or as a stand alone adventure.
The "Ingredients" section supplies the setting and opening action through a narrative that fits within the given genre, including a few details suggesting useful NPCs, items, and the like. Then, "Cooking Tips" offers at least three different plot directions, each with multiple "Extra Spice" entries that elaborate on the theme. Finally, "Side Salad" reminds the GM of any areas in the narrative that he/she may wish to develop further. So, preheat your brain to 350 degrees, pop in an Adventure Pizza, and "let the gaming begin."
A forest green Buick Riviera tears past, moonlight glinting off the dark tinted windows, its headlights illuminating the misty air. Somehow the vehicle's tires cling to the wet pavement as it barrels down the twisted mountain road. The rage of its engine echoes off the cliff faces accented occasionally by the squeal of rubber on blacktop. Eventually, the sound fades away, returning the silence of autumn.
The peacefulness of night increases with each step the party takes up the mountain road. After walking awhile a faint squeaking can be heard - metal on metal. The guard rail has been torn from the ground, exposing a 30-foot drop to a heavily wooded downward slope. The squeaking emanates from the broken axle of a school bus that must have crashed through the railing and fallen the 30 feet below. It sits lodged upside down between two enormous pines, unmoving except for the one spinning wheel that slows to a stop as if it had been waiting for an audience before it would die.
The wet, 30-foot climb down to the school bus is uneasy and extremely slippery. Careful inspection of the overturned bus reveals the abandoned property of approximately three dozen elementary school children. There are broken and dented lunch boxes, raincoats and jackets, colored pencils, crayons, paper, and assorted odds and ends. The bus is completely devoid of humans and a trace amount of blood on the steering wheel is the only apparent sign of injury.
Outside the bus, children's footprints lead away in two different directions - heading away from the cliff face and the other following an animal path that parallels the cliff. There are no adult footprints.
Several of the children's footprints can be tracked on a straight course away from the cliff face, into the woods to a small uninhabited lake. The footprints lead out onto a broken down, half sunken dock. On the ground near the dock is an old wooden sign that rotted and fell over years ago. The sign reads, "Iron Lake. The world's best swimmin' hole."
Tethered to the dock and half full of water is an abandoned aluminum row boat. In the boat is a fishing reel with a broken rod, two red and white bobbers, an empty, pull-top Strohs can, and a dark blue metal tackle box.
Mist hovers over the glassy surfaced lake. The thumbnail moon reflects off the water undisturbed. The muddy footprints lead right up to the edge of the dock and do not lead back.
Tin Can Cabin
The animal path found by the bus takes a long and winding route up the mountain. The path is somewhat muddy so the children's tracks are easy to follow. About a mile or so up the mountain is a small rundown log cabin. The cabin has been patched together with flattened beer cans, an antique Frigidaire door, pieces of aluminum siding, and the hood of a 1978 Impala. The door into the cabin is tied closed with a dirty shoelace. Footprints lead in and out of the door continuing up the mountain.
Entry into the cabin is as easy as cutting the shoelace and pushing open the door. The movement of the door sends dust dancing madly around the room reflecting now and then the dim light of the moon through the cracks in the walls. The room smells like a desert at midnight.
In the middle of the room, the body of a man sits in a chair - the only piece of furniture in view. He stares unblinking at the wall. The man looks about 70 years old. He is wearing a bus driver's uniform and is completely desiccated. Pieces of the bus driver break off and crumble when touched.
The Mine Shaft
The tracks lead from the tin can cabin to the mouth of an old abandoned mine shaft. Several of the support structures have collapsed and bushes have grown over the entrances, but proper lighting reveals the tracks heading down the throat of the tunnel. One by one the footprints disappear as they head farther and farther into the mountain. It seems as though something from above lifted each of the disappearing children off the ground without any struggle or conflict from the others.
The dwindling group marched straight into the mountain around pools of water and piles of boulders, ignoring any tunnels that branch left or right.
Eventually there are only five distinct sets of tracks. One hundred yards later there are only four. Another hundred yards beyond that there are only three . . . two . . . one. The remaining set of footprints descends deep into the belly of the mountain where the lone child finally collapsed in exhaustion and apparently began crawling on hands and knees.
The child dragged itself into an expansive cavern with a waterfall pouring out of the ceiling and crashing thunderously into a "bottomless" pool of water. The trail disappears inches away from the pool.
Time and Again
In the early 1980s, the bus had been returning during a severe storm from a day-long field trip. The driver of the forest green Buick Riviera forced the busload of school children off the mountain road. The children were killed instantly, but in their innocence they did not realize that they were dead. Now, on the night before the new moon, the children's spirits return in search of help. The bus driver, who was the only one on the bus to survive the accident, managed to drag himself up to the cabin where he promptly died. He is the only real element in this repeating manifestation apart from the bus ruins. His body was never found by police, his footprints having been washed away in the storm. The party must find a way to lay the children's souls to rest.
Extra spice? What if the party must locate the still-living driver of the Buick and bring him/her to justice? What if the driver of the Buick has since died and a psychic must be found to reconcile the spirits? What if the bus driver is psychotic and purposely sent the bus over the edge, killing the children? (Having dove out into the road at the last second, the bus driver remained relatively unscathed. He then flagged down the Buick, murdered the driver, hid the body in the cabin, and drove off in the Buick. The body the party finds is actually the driver of the Buick wearing the bus driver's uniform.)
The Shadow Hunter
The mountain spirits have grown angry and vengeful toward man and his arrogant tampering with nature. There's got to be a price to pay somewhere. Consequently, during the crescent moon, the Hunter comes and takes those who dare to travel off the road of man, sometimes reaching out to the highway if the reward is tempting enough. The lives of the children were such a prize.
Extra spice? What if the children weren't enough to satisfy the avenging spirit? What if the children have become the Hunter's minions? What if some of the children are still alive on a boat in the middle of the lake?
When sunlight touches the bus, it and all other evidence of the crash will disappear. This is because the crash has yet to happen. The party has encountered a "ripple in time" showing a possible future event. Many of the children that will be in the bus have strong enough destinies to project this prophetic warning. Research of the crash may or may not reveal the future date of the accident, but it is the players' job to prevent the accident from occurring.
Extra spice? What if in the next town the characters come across (a) the forest green Buick Riviera or (b) the school bus. What if the driver of the Buick intends to kill the children? What if the Buick isn't the cause of the accident?
Remember the bus driver's wallet or the gadgets in the half sunken boat.
Thus ends the first delivery of Adventure Pizza - careful how you hold it, it's hot!
Article publication date: February 1, 1996
Copyright © 1996 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to email@example.com.