Before or after arrival the characters may uncover the following information about the situation in Ramallah by any number of means. This includes Wikipedia and other online resources but also personal contacts at libraries and research centres.

Current Plague:

The situation is confused by the security and political problems in the region but there has been a large-cale outbreak of infectious diseases over the last eight weeks. Hundreds of casualties have been reported and a special UN infectious diseases team has arrived to assist the Palestinian authorities.
It is not clear which disease is suspected in the outbreak but bubonic plague, dysentery and syphilis have all been mentioned by UN doctors.
Both local and UN doctors are reported to be confused by the diseases and symptoms being presented.
In the last few days, specialists in biochemical weapons have arrived to assist the UN team.

Political Situation:

The region is extremely tense following the Israeli air strike in Palestinian-controlled Nablus which killed 15 adults and nine children on the 22nd September. Since then there has been a regular tit-for-tat exchange of missiles from the West Bank and air strikes from the Israelis. There have also been numerous violent protests and terrorist attacks against Israelis around the world.
The Palestinian authorities are blaming the outbreak of the disease on poor sanitation and inadequate medical facilities caused by Israeli restrictions. However, a lot of people in the West Bank blame the Palestinian authorities and this has led to violent internal conflicts between different Palestinian factions.
Israel is co-operating with the UN and allowing the UN teams free access to the region.
Israel's political rhetoric about 'Iran supporting terrorism' has increased.

Security Situation:

The recent weeks have seen an increase of terrorist activity against Israelis and westerners. There is also a rise in inter-Palestinian violence. Western governments are warning their citizens not to travel to the West Bank and advising those in the area to leave.
A new terrorist group has released a propaganda video blaming Western governments for the plague. They are called the Harbingers of Revolutionary Jihad and are a well-armed splinter group of a known terrorist faction. They are typical Koran-spouting, gun-waving jihadists.
Unlike the group they splintered from, the Harbingers of Revolutionary Jihad video suggests they are more interested in enforcing Islamic practice among the Palestinian population than attacking Israeli or western targets.
Expert analysis of the religious texts mentioned in the videos has highlighted a few unusual references. These focus on the sin of idolatry and question the practice of the kissing of the Black Stone. (The Black Stone is the most sacred artifact in Islam and kissing it is part of the pilgrimage to Mecca).

History of Ramallah:

The modern city of Ramallah was founded in the mid-fourteenth century but the site and surrounding area have been occupied since Neolithic times. It is believed to the site of the biblical city Be'eroth and in the 12th century the crusaders built a castle here and named the city Birra. In 1945 the area had a population of less than 5,000 people; now it is approaching 100,000.
The city is built around a ridge which was a major trade route known as the Way of the Patriarchs because it was used by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It connected northern Israel to Petra and ports in Egypt.
The trade route and ridge has historically made the city a key location in the region. There are the ruins of a Roman fort and a Crusader castle in the area.
During the early first century CE, the nearby Roman fort was the base for large numbers of legionaries and auxiliaries. It was abandoned between 40CE and 50CE.

Historical Plague:

The city of Ramallah was devastated by a plague in 44CE which started among the troops of the occupying Romans. It has been linked to a shooting star and the destruction of a temple in 43CE.
According to legend the temple to Ahura Mazda was destroyed when a fragment of meteorite hit the building. The stone was taken by the Roman commander and he was the first to die from the plague in 44CE. When the plague was at its height, the hermit Al-Nazeb entered the city and seized the stone. He then bricked himself up in his cave with the stone and the plague ended. In 1910, a bricked-up cave containing a skeleton and an unusual stone was found by archeologist Sir Percival Moore.
Archeological digs have found mass graves from the early part of the first century but cannot link them to a specific event.
The earliest documents mentioning the plague come from a sixth century historian Procopius of Caesarea. When he witnessed the Plague of Justinian which wiped out one third of the population of the Byzantine empire in 523CE, the historian noted 'the suffering of the victims in their last few days has not been seen since the plague of Ramallah'.

The recent shooting star:

On the night of the 22nd September, on the same night as the Israeli air strike, a shooting star was seen by tens of millions of people around the Mediterranean. Its passage was caught by hundreds of people on their phones as well as on CCTV cameras.
No crater or meteor fragments have been found and it is assumed the impact site was in the Mediterranean sea.
Estimates put the size of the meteor at around 50 metres when it entered the atmosphere. This puts it in a similar scale to the one which caused the devastating Tunguska event of 1908.
Scientists believe the meteor burned up in the atmosphere as even an impact at sea would have been detected. However for a rock of this size to be destroyed before nearing the surface challenges current theories about the makeup of meteors.

There is some information on the shooting star linked to Al-Nazeb and meteors in general.

On the night of the autumn equinox in 43CE a shooting star was seen over much of the Mediterranean region. It was recorded by several writers from all over the eastern Mediterranean and described as being 'as bright as the sun' and being so bright that 'a man could read by its luminescence'.
Based on the eyewitness accounts it is thought the meteor was sizeable, similar to the one which caused the Tunguska event in 1908. There is no evidence of an impact and scientists believe it entered the atmosphere at a very shallow angle and burnt up long before it could reach the surface.
When a meteor enters the atmosphere it often breaks apart and small fragments may reach the surface.
Meteorites are very cold when they impact despite their fiery pass through the atmosphere. It takes time for the rocks to warm up from the near absolute zero of space.

What's Really Going On

Several years ago an ancient and powerful secret society called the Custodians of Writing began to suspect that property developer and media mogul Yousef al-Masri had connections to the outer dark. They started to track his activities using their network of agents but they had no assets in the West Bank where Yousef was targeting a lot of his philanthropic activities. To cover this hole the Custodians recruited and trained Ahmed Yassin as an agent. He was sent to the West Bank and instructed to gather together a small group of associates.

Because of Yousef al-Masri's connection to the Ramallah Museum, Ahmed visited it and saw the display about Al-Nazeb. He realised the stone was connected to the outer dark. Inspired by this he formed the History Club as a cover for his research and occult activities. He also recruited disaffected young men, including Tawfiq Canaan who later worked at the museum as a guard so the group could spy on Yousef al-Masri and anyone else interested in the stone.

This was several years ago and Ahmed Yassin has expanded his knowledge enough to start forging his own path using the power of the outer dark. Amongst other things, he found henna tattoos were more effective at channelling the power of the outer dark than symbols merely drawn on a page. To the Custodians of Writing, Ahmed's growing power and independence were just a minor concern. It happens often with their agents and they were planning to replace Ahmed with someone more manageable when the air strike occurred.

Following the deadly air strike, Ahmed and his group wished to strike back at the Israelis and they took the shooting star as a sign. They stole the stone and planned to unleash a plague on the Israelis. This is how Bulus Farah became the group's first martyr. The members of the History Club performed a rite using the stone and cut the symbols of Death's Door, Mot and Star Stone in to Bulus's back. Immediately afterwards he left and harassed an Israeli patrol until they arrested him. By the time the patrol returned to their base with Bulus as a prisoner, he was coughing blood. Thirty minutes later he was unconscious and within two hours he had died, but not before infecting numerous Israeli personnel. The attack had gone to plan but once Bulus died the spread of the plague stopped. Ahmed needed a better plan.

Wild Magic

After several failed attempts to place their magic on Israeli vehicles the group noticed the road leading to Camp Nathan went over a dry culvert. Ahmed and his remaining associates sneaked into the culvert on the 1st October. They spent most of the night drawing symbols on the tunnel, directly underneath the road. This worked and within a few days Israelis who regularly went on patrol from the base and passed over the culvert started to fall ill.

Unfortunately for Ahmed, the culvert is not dry all the time. When it rains a stream forms and runs through the culvert, past the village of Qira, and enters the drains near the Old City. This first happened around the 5th October and has occurred regularly since then. Around this time the epidemic started in the Palestinian population, centred around the Old City district.

This is not Ahmed's only problem. The Custodians of Writing are now eager to eliminate him and recover Al-Nazeb's stone. In a swiftly-put-together operation the Harbingers of Revolutionary Jihad was formed by splintering an existing terrorist group. They are actively seeking members of the History Club and Ahmed is under no illusions about his fate if they catch up with him.

Aware of the danger from the Israelis and the Harbingers of Revolutionary Jihad, Ahmed and Taqfiq Canaan hid in the Roman Ruins near to Ramallah. Experimenting with Al-Nazeb's Stone to pass the time, Ahmed accidentally turned Taqfiq into an or-karpi. Ahmed fled, heading towards the village of Zayta (see Epsiode Two, Zayta).


The characters land at the Queen Alia International Airport (Amman, Jordan) and then travel to the West Bank. Though only a 40 mile journey from the airport it takes several hours due to the rigorous border and security checkpoints on the way. Game Leaders should impress on the players the level of security and the difficulty getting in or out of the area. The cars will have to be unloaded and reloaded several times to allow all the luggage to be checked. Any characters who have Middle Eastern backgrounds, have been involved in the military or whose passports show they travel a lot will be extensively questioned. As this covers most of the people working on the show the whole process takes a long time. Those team members who have been to the West Bank before will notice the normally tight border security is on full alert and taking no chances.

Tired, dirty and hungry the team will arrive at their hotel around 7pm. The imaginatively-named Hotel International is a good quality hotel run by a faceless international corporation. Its clients regularly include diplomats, UN officials and businessmen as well as rich tourists. At the moment the hotel is very busy with UN medical teams and journalists and when the characters check in they find their rooms are spread throughout the ten-storey building. Farouk will tell everyone to meet in the bar in an hour for dinner and a chance to go over tomorrow's schedule.


During their first evening in the hotel the characters will have an opportunity to mingle with the other guests as well as plan for tomorrow. The Game Leader, via Farouk, will make it clear the schedule is to visit the Ramallah Government Hospital in the morning and the Ramallah Museum in the afternoon. These visits have been prearranged and will involve everybody on the team.

In the bar and restaurant the characters can chat with the numerous journalists and officials hanging around.

There is a serious outbreak of diseases taking place but exactly how large, nobody is sure. The Palestinians and Israelis are both doing as much as possible to obstruct journalists.
The Israelis are very worried about the situation and are treating it as a national security issue.
The Old City is surrounded by checkpoints manned by Palestinian and Israeli security forces. Only residents of the area are getting in and out.
An Israeli military base on the edge of the city has been quarantined.

The Next Day

The characters are scheduled to leave the hotel at 9am and travel the few miles to the Ramallah Government Hospital. Outside the building are numerous Palestinian security forces as well as a couple of military vehicles from the Israeli Defence Force. The two groups seem to spend more time watching each other than paying any attention to who is coming and going.

Inside the hospital the team is met by Dr Bissan Rafe, the hospital's Chief Administrator. Dr Rafe is very co-operative having been briefed by a senior figure in the Palestinian Authority. They in turn have been spoken to by Yousef al-Masri who is a generous friend to many in the government. The characters will be given free rein around the hospital and may interview Dr Rafe, other members of staff and patients.

The visit to the hospital should make the players suspect there is more to the situation than meets the eye. There are also pointers to the Old City and the village of Qira. Game Leaders should encourage the players to role play the filming of the documentary within the hospital. Their actions may have repercussions when they leave the hospital (see the Harrowing section in Episode One, Events).

Museum Visit

Possibly shaken and upset by their visit to the hospital, the characters move straight on to the Ramallah Museum. Here they can learn about the historical plague, Al-Nazeb and his stone as well as the recent theft. The museum is the only reliable source of information on the area's history and it contains a lot of information useful to the characters.

Game Leaders should make the players work for their information and it may take several visits to the museum before the characters have picked up all the clues. The [Automatic] and [Easy] clues generally represent information included in the public displays but other information will require more effort. The museum has extensive but dusty archives where additional clues may be found. Researching the archives takes time and targeting one subject, e.g. Al-Nazeb's Stone, will take a session. Dr Darwish and the rest of the staff are eager to help and kind Game Leaders may use them as a way to aid players who are struggling.

From Now On

After filming at the hospital and museum, the team will return to the hotel. After this point the players are free to plan their own schedule and Game Leaders should allow the characters to bully Farouk Hosny into following their plans. The characters must still film a documentary and cannot simply go off without the rest of the film crew.

The characters may visit or revisit any of the locations they wish in any order but there are repercussions to visiting particular locations. See Episode One, Events.

End of Episode

From the characters' perspective there is not a clear end to the first episode of Science in the Danger Zone! They may succeed in discovering the fate of Al-Nazeb's stone but fail to recover the stone itself. The team will also have unknowingly stopped the spread of the plague by drawing the Israelis' attention to the Culvert. There are also loose ends to be tied up. What is Ahmed Yassin's role in the mystery and where is he? Who killed Walid Touqan and why? Was the bomb aimed at the characters or the Israelis?

The adventure is constructed deliberately to leave things inconclusive and the players uncertain of where it is going. There is no convenient non-player character or clue to provide exposition and explain the plot. The lack of predictability is a key tool for the Game Leader to keep suspense within the game.

It is the Game Leader's role, acting through Farouk Hosny, to wrap up this episode and move on to the next. The players may be eager for this if they have found the ruins and the clue pointing to the village of Zayta. Alternately they may feel they have missed something and wish to continue their efforts in the city. The Game Leader should let the investigation continue for a while but have Farouk Hosny move the team on to the next episode before the players become frustrated.

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open/oneshots/petra/act1.txt · Last modified: 2014/08/13 14:42 by darth_tigger
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