a Traveller/pulp-Cthulhu scenario (derived from a PoD campaign)


Banded Mongoose
(quick write up of scenario I ran recently, first and probably only draft)

Location: any high tech world where simulation fantasies are a recreation
(in this case: Tech World... 4000 sophonts, 1 million robots.. this screamed West World setting to me, even though I never saw the movie or TV series)
(idea: several wealthy people live near these locations to live out fantasies on a constant basis, and tell of their adventures at the local Poser Bar)
(the players came here to spend money to finally fix the Harrier completely, and buy battle dress, they have to wait awhile)

Setting: 1930s private detective/film noir
(could also be set in any era/TL and could be Ancient tech instead of Cthulhu-esque, but I was in the mood to run a pulp-Cthulhu scenario; yes, I made them roll up a Sanity score)

Main characters
- Richard Hillson, private investigator, grizzled ex-cop (inspired by Picard's Dixon Hill holodeck character)
- Salena Smith, on/off girlfriend of Hillson, femme-fatale (or ditzy dame, depending what the player wants to do)
- Andrea Braxton, Hillson's secretary (same, or competent enough to keep Hillson from bankruptcy)
- Brad Worthington, friend of Hillson, ex-football star, tough guy
- Timothy Worthington, younger brother to Brad, tough guy
but mentally handicapped, Hillson helps to keep Tim out of mental institutions (this was an extra in case a certain player showed up that session, he didn't)
Supporting characters
- Officer James Angston, police officer, former partner of Hillson, poker buddy, always owes Hillson money
- Professor Ben Irving, historian of ancient cultures and their beliefs
- Little Joey, shoe shine boy, informer for Hillson

[one piece of equipment given to each character: a "Dick Tracy" watch so that they can reference things they are not familiar with; I thought about letting them have one skill-1 (expert software) of their choice, mainly Investigation since none have it; it didn't matter much although using it as a reference was useful for people of the 52nd century]

Act 1
Dr. Chin enters the office followed by two big guys who stand on either side of the doorway. They say nothing, and only move to provide payment once the deal is set. Dr. Chin introduces himself and wants to hire Hillson to retrieve an item stolen last night. He will pay the usual fee, plus an extra 2000 if Hillson keeps the police or anyone else out of it. Once Hillson accepts Dr. Chin explains that the item, a cat statue named Saturn Cat, was stolen while being moved from the seller to Dr. Chin's residence. Dr. Chin gives the location where the robbery takes place: on a back road near the Patterson farm.
At some point a phone call will interrupt the conversation. It is Officer Angston calling to apologize about not being able to pay what he owes, again. Dr. Chin is upset about the interruption. (red herring, not much of one as it turned out but then I was making up the scenario as it went along)
(the phone call was also used as a fun moment when no one answered the strange looking black tower on the desk as it rang, Salena, as a robot NPC, finally answered it showing disdain to the secretary, who was a PC, for not doing her job)

Act 2
The theft occurred on a damp dirt road, it lightly rained the evening before, where a black van sits on the side with all the doors open. Not far away a light pole with a sign under it saying "Patterson's Farm, produce for sale". Three men lie about, all dead (Sanity check, average), two being shot and one being viciously mauled by some animal (Sanity check, difficult). A brown cotton torn piece of cloth hung on a door with a symbol of a gold ankh inside a gold circle. Four different footprints can be seen: one is high heels, one is large man's loafer, one is a smaller man's, and a large four-toed(3 forward) animal around the mauled victim.

If old man farmer Patterson is questioned, he will have a shotgun in hand, he says he heard the gun shots, a woman's scream, and some weird animal howl. When he got up to look outside he saw a car speed off and saw it was dark blue when it passed near the light pole. He dared not go down to the black van. He did not call the police as he has no phone.

Distinctive tire tracks can be seen by the black van, and appear to turn towards the city where the dirt road meets the main highway. Or at least none appear to turn the other way.

Little Joey can direct Hillson towards Professor Irving about the symbol on the cloth, for a shoe shine and a fee. He does not know who drives a dark blue sedan. Several exist in the city. If Little Joey is not consulted then Andrea will finally remember about her old college professor Irving.

Professor Irving is at the local university and lecturing a class about ancient Egyptian cults. He mentions the cult of Bast that uses an ankh symbol which he draws on the chalkboard without the circle (I didn't say he's accurate). In his cluttered office he will pull down a few books and shows pages about the cult of Bast (if the characters did not enter and sit in the class room waiting, one did in my case) but not an ankh in a circle. He says to talk to Professor Kyle Martin who is just a few doors down. Professor Martin does not answer the knock on the closed locked door (Hillson has a set of lockpicks with him). If the tidy office is entered a pair of slightly muddy shoes will be found behind the planter with a rubber tree, a brown robe with the encircled ankh is found in a desk drawer. Various pictures around the office show a young Professor Martin with wife and child, an older version with a young coed, more recent photo of him and Irving holding up a string of fish in front of a lake shore cabin in the woods. If anyone is asked they will say Professor Martin drives a dark blue sedan. He was seen early in the morning but not since. His classroom for the current hour will have a sign saying that the class is cancelled.

During the time on campus several police cars show up. Officer Angston will mention they are looking for student Angela Johnson who has been reported missing since last night. Rumor is that she and Professor Martin have been seen together often.

If asked Professor Irving will tell where the cabin is located. If they go to Martin's house they will see it being run down and an elderly neighbor lady is watering her flower garden. She has not seen him since last evening. She did hear a dog barking late last night which only happens when a car drives through the area. She will talk about how he has not been the same since his wife and child disappeared years ago. She mentions how happy he was going on fishing trips with Irving and the cabin being on Lake Blue.

Act 3
At the cabin a dark blue sedan is sitting. Professor Martin is in the driver's seat with his neck broken (yes, he's dead). A woman's scream from inside the cabin will be heard. Inside a young woman (Angela) is tied to a large table with a large man in brown robe standing at her head with knife in hand. At the other end is a blue-green statue of a weird looking cat (Sanity check, easy). The large man will cut the woman, through the throat if not maneuvered in some way (tackled or gun shot which is what happened) but he will still draw blood. The statue will then come to life and grow to the size of a large dog (Sanity check, difficult). It will keen a weird howl each round (Sanity check, average). The cat, when severely wounded, will jump out a window but turns back into a statue then or when "killed".
Sirens can be heard in the distance, just time enough to get any story straight and hide the statue. Otherwise the police will confiscate the statue and Dr. Chin will be angry.
Drizzt meets Sam Spade for the macguffin, huh? :D

Sounds like a cool time. So this was more of a "holodeck" adventure than something happening for real in the Travelverse?
Yeah, a Traveller (or at least non-Star Trek) version of the holodeck, although they are actually at those places, like a backlot of a movie studio.

Something I thought of to add at the end: When P.I. Hillson hands over the now-packaged "item" to Dr. Chin with his outstretched arms, a brown sleeve with the golden ankh symbol can be seen extending past the suit jacket sleeve. Dr. Chin smiles, says "Excellent, good day", and leaves. Cue music: *Dun Dun Duuuunnn!*

Next episode: The Cult of the Golden Ankh

As for the item to be real, the closest thing might be an Ancient artifact, perhaps a guardian robot that disguises itself to be less intrusive for the people it's guarding.
Yeah, players do what players do being what they are. You need a good RP group to get the whole pulp vibe and see the set up for the next adventure. Also, it would depend on timing: if this scene is near the end of the usual session ending time they may get the idea.

Or force it.
I'm picturing it similar to the end of a Batman TV episode.
<Dr. Chin takes the package> (end music). Narrator (William Dozier, had to look it up): "But what is this? Dr. Chin is a member of the cult! Who is this Dr. Chin? Stay tuned next week to find out in The Cult of the Golden Ankh, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel."

Unfortunately, most of my group are murder hobos. "Kill them all, take their loot, level up"... sigh.