Circle Of Fear -- Part I
A GURPS Atomic Horror Adventure
by Stephen Dedman
For this adventure, the GM will need the GURPS Basic Set, GURPS Compendium I and II, and GURPS Atomic Horror (GURPS Bestiary and GURPS Russia may also be useful, but are not essential). It is designed for 100-point Atomic Horror characters and set in the mid-1950s, but can easily be adapted to any setting where close encounters with UFOs might be expected, such as GURPS Black Ops, GURPS Supers, or GURPS Illuminati.
At least one PC should be a US-based member of a group such as the Theoretical Science Foundation; others may be allied scientists, journalists, feds, or other people caught up in the hunt for the UFO.
(For the sake of convenience, this adventure is set this late in 1954 -- the year of This Island Earth and Monster from the Ocean Floor, the H-bomb test at Bikini Atoll, Kruschev's visit to China, and McCarthy's condemnation by the Senate -- but it can be moved to any other year without difficulty.)
The first indication of anything strange is a sudden rash of UFO sightings and similar reports -- including crop circles and a rain of fish.
Most people would ignore the first few reports -- except for TSF members, and the tabloid journalists who will compete to bring these stories to the world. After that happens, of course, many of the "sightings" will be fakes, and investigators will have to work a little harder to sort the truth from the garbage. The number given after each report is the modifier to Research skill that a PC will have to make to hear of this incident within 24 hours of its happening: halve this penalty if an attempt at Research is made later.
- Tuesday 28 September: UFO seen by crew of Japanese fishing vessel near Kushiro (-10).
- Tuesday 28: UFO seen over Melbourne, Australia (-7).
- Thursday 30: UFO photographed outside Sydney, Australia (-2).
- Monday 4 October: UFO seen over Auckland, New Zealand (-10).
- Early morning, Wednesday 6: Rain of fish near Adrar, Algeria (-3).
- Morning, Monday 11: Crop circle found in garden north of Helsinki, Finland (-4).
- Tuesday 12: UFO seen, photographed and filmed by tourists over Cairo (+3).
Even the least alert UFO researcher should realise that something is going on when the first photographs of a UFO behind the Great Pyramid hit the newspapers. Rolls on Photography/TL7 and Research skills will reveal that the more spectacular photos, those which feature Pyramids or the Sphinx, are faked, while the less clear photos which show a saucer with less glamorous backdrops (slums in the cemetery, sand dunes, roofs topped with TV antennae) may be authentic. Unfortunately, judging the scale when there's almost nothing but desert and/or sky to go by is impossible. The grainy 8mm film of the UFO streaking through the sky, is also almost useless, simply because there wasn't enough light for a clear image, and the hand-held camera shakes too much for a good idea of the speed at which the object seems to be moving.
The photos are clear enough to reveal one thing, though: the saucer looks identical to the one photographed near Sydney, Australia (Research at -1). This isn't particularly significant in itself -- it's the same basic dome-on-a-disc shape commonly reported since The Day the Earth Stood Still was released -- but it matches the descriptions of the UFOs over Melbourne, Auckland, and Japan (Research -3). PCs reading the reports and making a roll on IQ -2 will also notice one unusual detail most of the accounts have in common: the saucer is reported as appearing and disappearing suddenly -- "like a soap bubble", in the words of one witness.
Given travel times and costs of the 1950s, it's unlikely that even the best-funded US-based researcher would be able to travel to all of the places where this saucer has been seen, so some other method of gathering data will have to be used. A member of the TSF should be able to enlist help from the London office, and possibly from field officers near these sites: a good or better reaction roll, or a successful roll on Administration skill, should be enough to persuade the TSF to send someone out to perform interviews, take photos, etc.
PCs who are not members of the TSF who want to conduct research independently will have to rely on their own Contacts in the area (Academic or Journalist contacts would be most useful, but the military may be conducting its own investigations), or hope that Research skill will answer their questions (a modifier of at least -5 in most cases).
If the players don't think of the right questions to ask, the PCs should be able to do so if they roll on Science! or the appropriate scientific skill (listed for each question). Make a Reaction roll to determine the quality of the answer.
Q: Are the reports reliable? (Psychology +2: roll for each incident)
A: (Poor or worse roll) No reliable witnesses found. (Neutral) One fairly reliable witness found, but no collaboration. (Good or better) 1d+1 reliable witnesses found, and stories check out except for minor details.
Q: At what time did the sightings occur, and how long did they last? (Astronomy +2: roll for each sighting)
A: (Poor or worse roll) Uncertain. (Neutral) Time known to nearest hour; duration uncertain. (Good or better) Time known to nearest 10 minutes, duration (Kushiro, 7.50 am; about 20 seconds; Melbourne, 5.30 pm, about 10 seconds; Sydney, 6 am, about 20 seconds; Cairo, 8.20 pm, about 30 seconds)
Q: In what direction was the object traveling? (Astronomy -1: roll for each sighting)
A: (Neutral or worse roll) Uncertain. (Good or better roll) From north to south; uncertain as to speed.
Q: What sort of fish were discovered in Adrar? (Zoology -2)
A: (Poor or worse roll) No evidence found. (Neutral) A variety of sizes and flavors, all unfamiliar to the locals. (Good) Salt-water fish, primarily cod. (Very Good or better) Primarily North Sea cod and others from same habitat.
Q: Describe the Helsinki crop circle. (Botany -1 or Geology -3)
A: (Neutral or worse roll) Simple circle in a garden, about 5 yards diameter and a foot deep, already filling with muddy water from recent rain and may be faked. (Good or better) 5 yards 7.21 inches diameter, approximately 13 inches deep; apparently perfectly round with a flat base, no sign of a hole in center to suggest use of stake and rope. Surrounding plants undisturbed; flowers, including most of root structure, missing. Radiation level normal.
Nothing much will happen for another week, leaving the PCs to puzzle over these results. Before they can renew their passports and book airline tickets, however, the first reported sightings of a similar object start coming in from California.
The first report comes from LA, where three passengers on a flight from Hawaii claim to have seen a UFO through the window of their plane (a Lockheed Super Constellation) just as the sun was rising: some time between 5 and 6 am, on Tuesday 18. While the aircrew report seeing nothing, and dismiss it as a sighting of Venus or a patch of ice crystals, the PCs may consider this worth investigating.
The three passengers -- Linda Jameson, 9 years old; her mother, Barbara, a grade school teacher; and Robert Smith, a machinist on an aircraft production line -- were all seated on the starboard side of the plane. Smith, who also served as an airframe fitter in the Korean War and World War II, is quite sure what he saw, though he will protest vehemently that he doesn't believe in "little green men." He saw a disc, the approximate color of aluminum and without any identifiable markings or lights, that flew beneath their plane for about 12 seconds before disappearing under a cloud. He estimates that its altitude was somewhere between 15,000' and 20,000', that it was between 20' and 50' in diameter, and that it was moving northwards at least as fast as the Super Constellation was headed east. If shown the pictures from Sydney or Cairo (which he hasn't seen before -- he was too busy vacationing to read a paper), Smith will say cautiously that since he saw his from a different angle, he can't be sure it was the same disc, but it looks similar. He suspects it's just an experimental plane -- and hopes that it's an American one.
Linda and Barbara will tell similar stories, but with less detail and more diversions (Linda, especially, would rather talk about her holiday in Hawaii, the new dolls and clothes her mother bought her there, etc. Be as cute as possible.)
None of the other passengers will admit to seeing anything, claiming they were asleep at the time or on the wrong side of the plane, and all but one are telling the truth -- Jack Howe, a lawyer who doesn't want to risk being ridiculed. If the PCs manage question him, he will be able to confirm most of the details of Smith's story, but not to add anything important.
Further reports will come in from LA, and further north, over the rest of the day. The vast majority are either errors or hoaxes, but they can be used to make things a little more challenging for the PCs, and give the GM a chance to do a little acting.
Juan Vasquez is a janitor on the Santa Monica pier, who also saw the saucer, but hasn't told anyone: the PCs will only encounter him if they return to the pier between 5.30 am and 7.30 am any day. While a reliable witness, he speaks almost no English, only Spanish.
Roger "Rocky" Shaw claims to have seen the saucer while surfing that morning. An athlete turned B-movie actor and stuntman, Rocky is trying to convince a producer to let him star in Monster of Malibu, and sees the saucer sightings as a way of promoting himself. His version of events is copied from the newspaper stories, and agrees with Smith's in most details, except that the saucer was heading due south. Fortunately, he's not a very good liar.
David Goldberg, a beatnik arts student in Portland, Oregon, thinks he saw a saucer almost exactly overhead at about 7 am, when he was walking home from a party. While he saw it too briefly to give a clear description, he is sure that it was headed north. He has not reported it, but one of his professors overheard him talking about it, and informed the TSF. Despite his obvious eccentricities and his hungover condition at the time, David is a reliable witness: his distrust of authority figures, however, will make it difficult to interview him.
Many other people across the USA will be watching the skies at this time, and will report anything that might be a flying saucer. A successful roll on Detect Lies will reveal that they believe their stories, but successful rolls on Meteorology, Astronomy, or Science!, will enable investigators to eliminate any false leads. This will be an excellent opportunity for the PCs to meet some Personalities who were in LA at the time -- including Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Orson Welles, Ronald Reagan, Roger Corman, Ed Wood, etc.
There will be even more people watching the skies the next day, when the Midnight Sun newspaper offers a reward of up to $5000 for incontrovertible proof that aliens are visiting Earth. Under the circumstances, the PCs could be forgiven for missing authentic sighting reports coming from Anaheim CA, and Dayton WA, on the night of the 19th, and from Phoenix AZ, Ogden UT, Fairfield MT, and Fort McMurray, Canada, early on the morning of the 21st (roll on Research -3 for each sighting). If they do investigate these reports and can verify them (using Interrogation, Detect Lies or Psychology, Astronomy, Meteorology, etc.), they may begin to detect a pattern amid the noise. If not, an NPC will reveal it to them soon.
One person interviewed by the Midnight Sun and other news media on the 19th is Dr.Homer Evans, a blacklisted mathematics professor well known to UFO investigators for his often-stated opinion that aliens must be friendly, to state and federal government and academia for his requests to build structures signalling our presence to aliens, and to B-movie producers for his blistering critiques of many science fiction films. Every time the PCs attempt to interview somebody who has reported seeing a UFO, or visit a site where the saucer has been sighted, roll 1d; on a 1, they will also encounter Evans and/or his cultists.
Some of the fuss will have died down by Saturday 22nd, when a PC (a journalist, scientist or member of the TSF) receives a letter from Evans. Evans claims that the sightings are following a distinct pattern, and that the sealed envelope enclosed with the letter contains a prediction for where it will be sighted before Monday 24th, with a request not to reveal this information before the appropriate time. If the PCs open the envelope, they will find a small piece of paper with one typed line -- "Bombay India, Sunday October 23rd PM, heading south."
If the PCs attempt to question Evans before this time, he will say nothing except that he is waiting for his hypothesis to be validated. Sure enough, there are reports from Bombay the next day, of hundreds of people claiming to have seen a disc in the sky, traveling south, for a few seconds shortly after noon.
Evans will only reveal his formula if the TSF (or whatever other body the PCs are connected to) will promise to support his plans to build geometrical structures that will reveal to anything orbiting the Earth that the planet is inhabited by intelligent beings -- his favorite scheme is for an equilateral triangle of green plants, miles on a side, surrounded by squares of yellow grain, to demonstrate our awareness of Pythagorean theorem. If the TSF does not manage to convince him (very good or better reaction roll), he will tell them to work it out themselves. Fortunately, even if the PCs can't do it, the TSF's best mathematician, Dr.Schelfhout, will come up with an answer on Monday 24th, after reports come in of sightings in Dodge City KS and Brandon, Canada, and a crop circle found a few miles east of Lenora, Nebraska. The saucer is orbiting the globe approximately every day and a half, and coming east by almost exactly six degrees each time.
Fields of Fire
To confirm or disprove this theory, the TSF sends the PCs to Lenora to investigate the crop circle. Finding the circle won't be difficult: the farmer who owns the field, Peter Hoffman, has put signs up on the nearest road, charging $2 to see it, and his 17-year-old daughter Ellie will be waiting to collect the money. Fortunately, the PCs should arrive before tourists have done much to damage it, though Hoffman's own prints and others are plentiful around it. If they ask Hoffman who has been there before them, he will mention his family, the local veterinarian (an old friend), a few of his children's friends on their way to school, and four city slickers who got out of a black Oldsmobile and took a lot of photographs and left about ten minutes before the PCs arrived.
The circle, less than a hundred yards from the farmhouse, matches almost exactly the description of the one discovered in Helsinki: 5 yards 7.21 inches diameter, approximately 13 inches deep; apparently perfectly round with a flat base, no sign of a hole in center to suggest use of stake and rope. Surrounding plants undisturbed; corn, including most of root structure, missing. Radiation level normal.
Hoffman admits to not having seen the saucer, though he did hear one of his hounds, probably Brutus, barking early in the morning. If the PCs ask to see Brutus, Hoffman will admit that he hasn't been able to find him. If a PC makes a Tracking roll at -6, he will find large pawprints (mostly obscured by later human prints) leading into the circle . . . and none leading out.
Hoffman will leave the PCs at the circle, saying he has chores to do. After about fifteen minutes of investigating the circle, the PCs should roll (smell -5 or Danger Sense) to smell smoke, (roll once per minute, reducing the penalty by 1 every minute). The "city slickers," Evans's cultists, having found a "saucer nest," are trying to carry out one of their mentor's pet schemes -- setting a huge triangular fire to signal the UFO. Unfortunately, they know little about cornfields or setting fires, and this one has gotten away from them.
The sooner the PCs smells the smoke, the easier it will be for them to get away unharmed -- though PCs with an Obsession for "finding out the truth" will have to make Will Rolls to leave the site before finishing their research. Finding a safe route back to their car will require a roll on Meteorology or default (+3 for Absolute Direction, -1 for every minute since the fire started), and considerable haste. If they make their roll to find a safe route out, they will have to cross 6 hexes of fire (see p. B130) minus the slowest PC's Move. If they failed, add 1d to the number of hexes of fire they have to cross. The flames will be too fierce to extinguished without appropriate equipment, but PCs should be encouraged to improvise (if someone's thought to bring a canteen of water, for example, a wet jacket might be used to beat out a hex of fire). They will also have to contend with smoke (see p. B132).
After escaping from the fire, and if not too badly burned, the PCs may decide to stay and help Farmer Hoffman put the fire out, gaining themselves a +2 reputation with the locals (and possibly redeeming themselves with Hoffman if one of the PCs has made a pass at Ellie); if they are uninjured and leave immediately, the TSF will gain a -2 reaction throughout the state.
Making a case against Evans's cultists will be difficult: they disappeared as soon as they realized they'd lost control of the fire, and nobody took a note of their car's registration (though the colors suggest that it came from Colorado). Hoffman's description of them as "four men in black suits and sunglasses, a tad shorter than me and kinda scrawny" and "city folk who looked like they'd been driving all night" isn't much help.
The TSF will send the PCs out again as soon as they have recovered from any injuries received in the fire -- to Texarkana on Tuesday night, to Milwaukee on Thursday morning, and to Augusta GA on Friday evening. Each excursion will be an exercise in frustration, as the UFO is never sighted over those cities (though another TSF team does photograph it near Spartanburg while the PCs are in Augusta).
On Sunday morning, the PCs are called to Washington D.C. as part of a briefing for the President, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other government and military figures. This will give them a chance for encounters with East Coast personalities -- Einstein, Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover, and others). A few minutes after 10 am, they receive a message reporting a sighting approximately 50 miles east, near Cambridge MD -- and a report of fish found on a roadside. The press already has most of the details, so the USAF provides helicopters (two Bell Model 47s) to get at least some of the PCs there ahead of anyone else.
Once the PCs find the site (about half an hour later), it will only take Zoology +2 to recognize at least one species of fish dumped there -- piranha. A roll on Zoology at -2 will help them confirm that the rest are also native to the Amazon river. The fish are scattered along approximately 30' of roadway; the mud beside the road is still wet, as are some of the trees, and there is dark mud spattered over some leaves and branches. A good vision roll will enable a PC to spot a small but very colorful frog, which Zoology -2 will identify as an arrow-poison frog. A roll on Tracking will also reveal that a very large snake seems to have slithered into the woods recently.
Finding the snake -- a large, rather hungry and very aggressive anaconda -- will not be difficult, as it will attack the smallest PC to come within 10 yards. Anyone seeing it attack will have to make Fright Checks at -2: -4 for characters with a phobia of reptiles, -8 for anyone with a severe phobia.
Catching the anaconda alive (as requested by the TSF) will be another matter, particularly as no-one has thought to bring a tranquilizer gun or even a net and the helicopter will have to be sent back to the Zoo to collect them. The only useful item in the helicopter (apart from anything the PCs may have brought with them) is a 50 yard coil of rope.
ST 24; DX 13; IQ 3; HT 15/24. (See Python, p. B143.)
Catching a frog will be safer, but frustrating; their bright colors make good camouflage amid the fallen leaves (-2 to Vision rolls), and catching one requires a contest of DX (the frogs have DX 14).
Once the site and the snake have been examined by the TSF and other scientists, it will be agreed that snake, fish, frogs, mud and water seem to still have been in Amazonia less than an hour before they were found. There is no sign that they were interfered with in any other way.
Riders to the Stars
The TSF's last best hope of learning more about the flying saucer comes on the night of Monday 30th and morning of Sunday 31st; they place as many observers as they can along the projected route through Maine and Quebec, as well as sending a small team to Ulan Bator in Mongolia. The PCs are stationed a few miles west of Auburn, ME. Unknown to them, though, Evans's cultists are also waiting nearby.
At 11.04 pm, the PCs will see lights in the sky, about half a mile away: roll on IQ to recognize as signal flares. More flares light up the sky around them in the next few minutes, some nearer, some further away, as the cultists attempt to attract the attention of the saucer. Before the PCs can pinpoint the cultists and confront them, however, the saucer appears almost directly above the road a few hundred yards away.
The TSF has provided the PCs with a Willys-Overland jeep with a portable searchlight, a movie camera, a Geiger counter, two radiation suits, a tape recorder, a simple first aid kit, and a Colt M1911 pistol: any other equipment they want, they will have to provide themselves. Whether they all pile into the jeep to chase the saucer, or stand around it awestruck, the saucer will pass directly above them and "beam them up" (much to the irritation of the cultists, who were hoping to be "taken home").
The PCs will barely have long enough for a fright check at -3 before being placed in stasis.
Flying Saucers have Landed!
When the PCs regain consciousness, they will be unaware of how much time has passed or exactly where they are. What is immediately obvious will be trapped in a cylinder (15' diameter, 15' high) of some very tough and elastic transparent material -- one of six in a cylindrical room.
- Cylinder 1: Contains the PCs and most of the jeep. While the PCs have all arrived intact with most of their equipment, a vital part of the jeep was clipped off by the teleporter -- the front of the engine, the outside inch of the wheels on one side, a corner of the fuel tank, or something else that will render it useless as a jeep. Environment (air, temperature, gravity, etc.) are normal for Maine on an October night.
- Cylinder 2: A faulty cylinder that occasionally dumps its loads prematurely -- hence the rains of fish, frogs, etc. Contains seawater and various fish from the Caribbean (Zoology -2 to identify.)
- Cylinder 3: Contains a section of Brazilian rainforest, including two small New World monkeys, a well-fed male ocelot, and other assorted small animals (including birds, some small reptiles, and some impressive insects). The ocelot will avoid the PCs if possible, but fight if cornered.
ST 6; DX 14; IQ 4; HT 14/8.
Move/Dodge 10/7: Size 1 (4' long): PD/DR 1/1; Weight 30 lbs; Damage 1d-3 cut; Reach C.
- Cylinder 4: Another faulty cylinder; this one won't release its load at all. Contains beautifully iridescent alien jungle plants and various small animals, including flying lizards, arboreal octopus-like creatures, and so on. Unfortunately, the atmosphere inside is poisonous; if the cylinder is breached, it will contaminate the air in the rest of the room (treat as Flourine, pCII136).
- Cylinder 5: Another cylinder that won't release its load. Contains snow, soil, very cold moist air, and two Tuskers (see Cast, below).
- Cylinder 6: Contains three placid (if rather confused) sheep from the Falkland Islands and some unappetizing grass.
The exterior hull is made of a regenerating metal with DR 30; nothing the PCs are carrying will be able to scratch it, much less penetrate. In the center of the room is a control column that resembles a double helix of semi-precious stones (actually holographs) enclosed in another transparent cylinder (see below for controls and effects).
The cylinders are made of a highly resilient membrane, impervious to crushing damage or energy attacks: hammering at them will do nothing, and bullets fired into them will ricochet directly back at the firer (roll Dodge to avoid being hit, and keep Dodging until the bullet hits something other than the cylinder walls, floor or ceiling -- the jeep's jerry can of water, an Unlucky PC, etc.). A flamethrower will only raise the temperature in the cylinder and fill it with smoke for 2d+1 turns until the life support system brings conditions back to normal. Against cutting/impaling damage, the membrane has only DR 2. It will heal 1 point of cutting or impaling damage per turn, but if the PCs have brought any knives, they should be able to cut their way out: 6 points of damage will make a hole big enough for most characters to crawl through (9 points for Fat or Gigantism, 12 points for Very Fat; each PC should roll DX to get out in one turn, or risk having the membrane seal tight around them and trap them).
If the PCs don't think of cutting their way out, the ocelot will start scratching at the inside of the cylinder. It will be unable to make a large enough hole to escape through, but it will pierce the membrane occasionally. If this doesn't inspire the PCs to start hacking at the membrane, it will inspire the Tuskers, who will slash their way through with their daggers and axes. Fortunately for both the Tuskers and the PCs, the air in the large room, while cold (40 degrees), is breathable (matching that outside the ship, though they won't know that yet).
If the PCs don't have any blades large enough to get them out of the cylinders (the blades in the first aid kit do only Sw -3), they'll have to try to persuade the Tuskers to let them out. This will require good Gesture rolls, as the cylinders are also completely impervious to sound.
X the Unknown
The flying saucer the PCs are in is approximately five million years old, completely automatic, and malfunctioning badly. It is the scoutship for a mothership parked high above the south pole, which travels around the galaxy at near-light speeds collecting lifeforms for study. The mothership had been pre-programmed to return to its homeworld two hundred cycles later -- but when it arrived, the world was a radioactive cinder. After a few months of searching and a moment's thought, the mothership decided to continue with its assigned task until it reestablished contact with its creators.
The mothership is still in remarkably good shape, and crammed with biological specimens, but the scoutship has been exposed to too many corrosive atmospheres and high gravities. Many of its sensors no longer function, so it is effectively blind when it activates its cloaking device, and has to become visible periodically to look for lifeforms. After the PCs were beamed aboard, the scoutship flew over the north pole and was headed south over Russian when it collided with a Russian plane over Lake Baikal; when the stasis fields failed and the PCs found themselves in the cylinder, the scoutship was hastily trying to repair itself but already sinking.
Another thing the PCs don't know: while the saucer's creators were small hive intelligences living on a desert world with no animals bigger than a pig, some of their more imaginative scientists had predicted that larger animals might exist somewhere, and designed the scoutship so that it could shrink samples for easier collection and storage. The PCs, and the other creatures in the scoutship, have been shrunk down to approximately 1/60 their normal height.
While the last PC is escaping from the cylinder, two more systems will fail simultaneously -- the artificial gravity, and the lights. The floor will suddenly develop a 15 degree slope that increases by 1d+1 degrees per minute. PCs will have to roll vs DX not to fall over. The control pillar will provide enough light for people with Night Vision (or Infravision) to see normally, but everyone else will be at -7 to any tasks that require vision.
It shouldn't take long for the PCs to realize that there's no easy way out of the room; their only hope is to try to operate the controls at random, and there aren't even any buttons to press, though some of the lights have begun to flash. Talking to the pillar doesn't work (it has no sense of hearing), nor does thinking at it (it can't telereceive, either). It does, however, produce a subliminal telepathic signal that characters with Empathy, Danger Sense or Telereceive skill should be able to detect, and which will warn them of any potential disasters before they happen.
The helix is an optical computer memory and sensor array -- in effect, part of the ship's central nervous system. If the PCs (or one of the Tuskers) disrupt its workings -- e.g. by bending it out of shape temporarily, or by slicing through the membrane and placing an opaque object (such as a knife blade) between two lights of different colors, roll on the table below. After 4 effects, PCs with Intuition should be permitted to make an IQ roll to find the right light to reflect, diffract or block to open an escape route; Mathematics will also work, at -10.
Computer hacking effects (roll 3d)
All Cylinders jettison contents.
Cylinder A jettisons contents.
Bright flash of light: PCs must roll HT-2 or be blinded for 1d minutes.
Cylinder H jettisons contents.
Temperature in chamber raised/lowered by 5d degrees.
Cylinder B jettisons contents.
Artificial gravity restored -- but to 1d-1 G (min. 0; see p. CII141).
Cylinder C jettisons contents.
Stasis restored/switched off in randomly chosen cylinder.
Cylinder G jettisons contents.
Life support system opened/closed to outside world, flooding room with cold water in 12 minutes without providing an avenue of escape.
Cylinder F jettisons contents.
If a cylinder jettisons its contents, anything inside it will be teleported outside, leaving the cylinder empty (literally -- filled with hard vacuum, unless the membrane is still open). If the PCs get a "jettison" result for the same cylinder twice, the cylinder will fill with water and fish from the lake. This teleportation device is the PCs only hope of escape from the saucer.
After being jettisoned from the cylinders, the PCs will find themselves in cold (but not frozen) water, surrounded by apparently gigantic fish.
To be continued . . .
Dr. Homer Evans
Late 40s; unruly silver hair and beard, green eyes; 5'9", 130 lbs.
ST 9; DX 10; IQ 14; HT 9. Move 4.75
Advantages: Charisma +1; Intuition; Mathematical Ability; Versatile.
Disadvantages: Bad Temper; Pacifist (Cannot Kill); Poverty (Struggling); Reputation (suspected communist sympathizer; -2 to most Americans, recognized on 10 or less); Secret (writes science fiction under pseudonyms, -5 points); Stubbornness.
Quirks: Incompetence (Diplomacy).
Skills: Astronomy/TL7-15; Computer Programming/TL7-13; Computer Operation/TL7-14; Ecology/TL7-13; Electronics/TL7 (Computers)-16; History-13; Languages (English)-14, (Gaelic)-13, (Greek)-12, (Latin)-12; Mathematics/TL7-16; Physics/TL7-14; Research-14; Science!-13; Writing-13.
Dr.Homer Evans is a firm believer in UFOs as alien spacecraft, who maintains that establishing contact with friendly extraterrestrials is humanity's best hope of avoiding nuclear annihilation. This has not endeared him to the more conservative establishment, and cost him his position as a lecturer at a small private college, but it has gained him a cult following.
Evans is not gullible, deluded or fanatical, though he sometimes comes close where UFO sightings are concerned. He ekes out a meager living writing science fiction and science articles under different pseudonyms. He has no contact with his cult, and rarely approves of their actions.
ST 9; DX 10; IQ 10; HT 10. Move 5
Advantages: Ally Group (fellow cultists, appear on 9 or less).
Disadvantages: Delusion, Major (they are the elite, and UFOs are coming to save them); Fanaticism; Stubbornness.
Skills: Area Knowledge (California)-10; Astronomy/TL7-9; Driving-10; Fast-Talk-9; Gesture-9; Guns/TL7-10; Research-10; Stealth-9; other skills as needed.
Gear (per group of four): Flare pistol; Geiger counter; Binoculars; Heavy Flashlight; Camera; Tape Recorder; '51 Oldsmobile 88. Usually wear black suits, shoes, hats and sunglasses.
Evans's cultists are more of a nuisance than a menace: they rarely carry weapons, and many of them have the Pacifism (Self-Defence Only) or Combat Paralysis disadvantages. A few, however, may be more formidable, with Wealth and/or High Status, military experience (with appropriate combat skills and weapons), or Legal Enforcement Powers. The cult is worth -20 points as an enemy (medium-sized group).
Late teens; tanned complexion, strawberry blond hair, blue eyes; 5'5", 105 lbs.
ST 11; DX 9; IQ 9; HT 12. Move 5
Advantages: Attractive; Voice.
Disadvantages: Distractible; Gullibility; Laziness; Lecherousness.
Skills: Agronomy/TL7-10; Animal Handling-9; Area Knowledge (Lenora)-9; Brawling-10; Driving (Car)-8; Guns/TL7 (Shotgun)-10; Merchant-9; Sex-Appeal-13; Stealth-10.
Gear: Jeans; checked shirt; boots.
18 year old Ellie is Hoffman's only daughter, but her desire to leave the farm and see the big city (any big city) is as intense as her father's determination to keep her "safe." Any PC who seduces or is seduced by her is likely to be attacked by Hoffman: depending on how far the seduction progressed, Hoffman might rely on his fists, a whip, a pitchfork, or a shotgun.
Mid 40s; weatherbeaten complexion, greying blond hair, blue eyes; 5'9", 160 lbs.
ST 12; DX 10; IQ 10; HT 12. Move 5
Advantages: High Pain Threshold; Strong Will +2; Toughness (DR 1).
Disadvantages: Bad Temper; Dependent (Ellie, daughter, appears on 15 or less); Intolerance (City folk); Stubbornness; Wealth (Struggling).
Skills: Agronomy/TL6-11; Animal Handling-10; Area Knowledge (Lenora)-9; Brawling-10; Driving (Car, Tractor, Truck)-11; First Aid/TL6-9; Guns/TL6 (Shotgun)-14, (Rifle)-12; Merchant-11; Meteorology/TL6-9; Spear (Pitchfork)-10; Whip-11.
Gear: Ithaca 10ga Shotgun; Pitchfork (each tine does 1d-2 imp; roll for all four); Bullwhip (6 yds); Dungarees; checked shirt; straw hat; boots.
Peter Hoffman is a farmer, a widower, and a protective father. He left school at twelve, has never travelled more than fifty miles from his family farm, and distrusts new ideas and inventions, but he's not as stupid as he likes to pretend.
Mid 20s; tanned complexion, golden blond hair, dark blue eyes; 6', 165 lbs.
ST 13; DX 12; IQ 10; HT 13. Move 6
Advantages: Attractive; Charisma +1.
Disadvantages: Compulsive Carousing; Glory Hound; Lecherousness.
Skills: Acting-9; Bard-10; Brawling-12; Carousing-14; Driving (Car)-12; Fast-Talk-8; Motorcycle-13; Performance-10; Sex-Appeal-14; Scuba-11; Surfing-14; Swimming-13.
Roger "Rocky" Shaw is a pro surfer turned B-movie actor and stuntman, and incredibly eager for publicity.
Humanoid, with silver-gray fur, amber eyes, and huge teeth; 8'4", 450 lbs.
ST 18; DX 12/19; IQ 11; HT 12/22. Move 6
Advantages: Amphibious; Cast Iron Stomach; DR +2; Extra Hit Points +10; Fur, Thick; Infravision; Nictating Membrane/1; Oxygen Storage; Teeth (male has Fangs, 1d imp.; female, sharp teeth, 1d cut); Temperature Tolerance +1.
Disadvantages: Illiterate; Inconvenient size; Increased Life Support/1; Primitive (TL0); Reduced Manual Dexterity/3; Short Lifespan/1; Sleepy/1; Uneducated.
Quirks: Not scared of heights, but hate flying.
Skills: Armoury/TL0 (Stone Knapping)-10; Brawling-12; Breath Control-10; Climbing-12; Gesture-10; Knife-12; Language (Tusker)-11; Running-10; Singing-10; Stealth-9; Swimming-14; Survival (Arctic, Fresh water)-12; Tracking-11.
Gear: Horn dagger (thr -1 imp; Reach C,1; max damage 1d+1); Hand axe (sw-1 cut; reach C; Min ST 12). Both use knife skill; neither can be used to parry.
Though fearsome-looking, and with only a primitive and pre-literate technology, Tuskers are intelligent omnivorous creatures who will only attack humans in self-defense. They are native to a .9G Terrestrial world with a 76% nitrogen/23% oxygen atmosphere at .88 Earth-normal pressure, minor seasonal effects, and most comfortable at temperatures around 40 degrees. Their favorite food is fish, but they also eat plants, carrion, eggs, mollusks, and assorted creepy-crawlies. There are no birds or other flying creatures on their world, and the thought of flight is likely to terrify them.
Article publication date: December 28, 2001
Copyright © 2001 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.