Into The Desert

Episode three is all about unexpected twists and sudden revelations as everything drops into place. As the players turn their attention to this episode they will be wondering how it fits into the story. Everything so far suggests something strange is happening with time but the Roman soldier is separated from the events in previous episodes by time and geography. This will soon become unimportant as the characters find themselves in the strange extra-dimensional location known as the Tower. As the characters focus on survival and finding a way home they discover everything in the adventure is connected and the characters themselves are at the heart of the mystery. Game Leaders should avoid dropping hints as to what is to come and allow the players to enjoy the sense of revelation as the plot unfolds.

Background Research

The mystery surrounding the legionary has garnered international attention from the media. At first it was a curious local story which everyone assumed was about the tragic death of man dressed, for some unknown reason, as an ancient Roman. When the police could not identify the body, they called in the archeology department at Cairo University to look at the man's equipment. They hoped the experts would be able to identify its source and provide a clue to the man's identity. The archeologists were convinced the equipment was real 2nd century CE equipment, and they called in colleagues from other departments to examine the body. This attracted the attention of Egypt's national news organisations and by the time the University team announced their findings it was a huge international story. Consequently there is a lot of rubbish written about the story but the true facts of the case can be found by the characters. The university has published all its findings and many have been verified by other respected institutions.

The details of the accident are well reported.

Automatic
The legionary was knocked down and killed in the Sinai desert on September 22nd, the night of the meteor.
Easy
The accident happened near the small town of Hasna on the Al Gafagafa / Abou Owagla highway in the Sinai desert (Egypt).
Moderate
The soldier was hit by a truck travelling at about 40mph and killed instantly. The driver, Yusef Greiss, claimed the victim came out of nowhere.
Hard
Another truck on the road that night saw the accident and the police are not holding Yusef Greiss responsible.

A lot of information about the body and its post mortem have been reported in the press.

Automatic
The deceased is an adult European male, 5' 6" tall, weighing about 140 pounds. Pathologists believe him to be between 25 and 35 years old.
Easy
The cause of death was blunt impact trauma to the chest. This is consistent with being struck by a fast-moving truck.
Moderate
The man's teeth show signs of wear which suggests a diet involving a lot of rough unprocessed food. There are no fillings or other evidence of modern dentistry.
Hard
The body lacks any vaccination scars; both the feet and hands are heavily calloused and there is an old scar on the leg which looks like a wound from a bladed weapon.

The results of the University of Cairo's examination of the equipment is attracting the most press interest. Dr Ola Naguib is the university expert on the period and she is leading the institution's efforts.

Automatic
The experts who studied the equipment have declared it authentic.
Easy
The legionary was wearing a full set of armour, weapons and equipment plus a few personal items such as coins. All of it matches the equipment used between the late 1st century and early 3rd century CE.
Moderate
Analysis of the metal in the equipment matches the type and quality of Roman metals found at archeological sites. Carbon dating of the leather and other organic materials was inconclusive.
Hard
The radio carbon dating of the leather has produced nonsensical results. Different samples taken from the same item have produced dates from a few years old to 2000 years old.

Historical research on the Ancient Romans in the Sinai area will reveal:

Automatic
The Romans dominated the Eastern and North African Mediterranean with colonies in modern-day Israel, Syria, Jordon, Egypt, Libya and more. The Sinai desert and nearby areas formed the Roman province of Arabia Petraea whose capital was Petra. The Romans built a road, the Via Traiana Nova, from the ports in Egypt, across the desert through Petra and up into parts of Israel and Syria.
Easy
The only significant event in the region was the Bar Kokhba revolt which took place in 132 - 136CE in Judea (present day Israel). This was the last major Jewish revolt and the Romans were required to bring troops from as far away as Britain to put down the uprising. Over half a million Jews died and Roman losses were also very heavy. The revolt is named after its leader Simon Bar Kokhba. The surname Bar Kokhba translates as "son of a star". [Editor's note - Bar Kokhba's name is a historical fact but an entirely coincidental red herring.]
Moderate
The Roman road, Via Traiana Nova, is believed to run through the Sinai along the route now occupied by the Al Gafagafa / Abou Owagla highway.
Hard
The Roman legion Legio IX Hispana (Ninth Legion, originally from Spain) vanishes from the records around this time. Some historians suggest it was one of the legions moved to the region from Britain.

Into Egypt

Farouk Hosny has arranged for the team to visit the Cairo University and speak to Dr Ola Naguib, the head of the investigation. The body is also being held in the morgue of the University's faculty of medicine. Farouk is hopeful that the team will be allowed to examine and film it. However, the team's first location is the accident site for an interview with the truck driver. Travelling from Hebron to Cairo, it is only a relatively small detour to the town Hasna and the Al Gafagafa / Abou Owagla highway. The driver, Yusef Greiss, will meet the team with his truck at the site of the accident. The spot is a featureless patch of highway surrounded by desert.

The meeting was due for mid-afternoon but delays at the border crossing slow the team down and they do not arrive until around 5pm. The light is beginning to fade so Farouk is in a hurry to record the interview and to get some footage of the desert. He also wants the presenters doing pieces to camera with the sun setting over the desert as a backdrop. Game Leaders should use this situation to split the team up a little bit, just so they are not all standing together when the sandstorm hits.

The driver, Yusef Greiss, is a bad person to interview. He can tell the team very little they don't know but is also not a pleasant or sociable person. He constantly complains about how little he is being paid, will threaten to walk away if he doesn't get more and when asked questions, many of his answers will be monosyllabic. It is hard for the team to get useful information from Yusef but even harder to get footage fit for broadcast.

Automatic
While driving down the Al Gafagafa / Abou Owagla highway the man appeared in front of the truck. There was a sickening thud and after stopping, Yusef saw the body in the road.
Easy
The shooting star caused Yusef to look up at the sky and when he looked back the victim was standing in the road only feet away.
Moderate
The man never looked at the van or reacted in any way.
Hard
Since the accident, Yusef has had nightmares of a giant tongue which makes the same sickening thud when it slaps down on the ground.

Storm

As the team are carrying out the interview with Yusef Greiss and recording other footage, the light will be fading. The near darkness covers the approach of a sandstorm and it is only when the wind speed suddenly picks up that everyone notices it. There will be a mad scramble to protect the equipment but in less than a minute the team, the road and the vehicles will be engulfed in the storm. Ideally all the player characters will be outside and unable to reach the team's vehicles when the storm hits.

The storm is intense. High wind speeds drive sand into the eyes and mouth making visibility and communication almost impossible. Within moments of the storm arriving the characters are almost blind and completely disorientated. Any action the characters attempt, including movement, is resisted by at least 3d6+3 for the storm. The only real option the characters have is to squat down and attempt to ride the storm out.

"We're Not in Kansas Anymore"

After being battered by the storm for an hour the wind weakens but doesn't stop. The characters are now on the boundary between our reality and the outer dark where they experience elements of both worlds. It is dark, but the darkness of night and storm, not the unnatural darkness of the alien dimension. The only obvious clue that the characters are no longer fully in the real world is the disappearance of the non-player members of the team. Even this won't be noticed immediately unless the characters had physical hold of their team mates.

As the wind dies down the characters become more aware of their surroundings.

Automatic
Clearly audible are the sounds of marching men - the shout of orders and the clank of armour and equipment.
Easy
Occasionally a word in Latin is audible.
Moderate
Barely visible are dark shapes moving away.
Hard
The shapes are humanoid but distorted.

The shapes are or-karpi who won't react to shouts or noise - they have no sense of hearing but are extremely sensitive to movement and vibrations in the sand. Characters who move will attract the creatures. The or-karpi sink into the sand and move through it like a swimmer just below the surface. A malformed arm or head made of sand will occasionally break the surface briefly and disappear.

On the loose sand the characters will be unable to escape the much faster or-karpi. The characters will feel hands grabbing their feet and pulling them down into the sand. The attack is worth 3d6+3. Other characters may assist in the resistance but their movement will attract other sand creatures who will also attack. Very quickly each character will find themselves in a struggle against their own sand creature. The only way to avoid being attacked is to stay perfectly still. With each failed resistance action characters are pulled into the ground starting with their lower legs, then the upper legs, waist and chest until finally even their heads are buried. Use the Success +4 scale to indicate how much of the character's body is pulled into the ground in a successful attack. The attacks continue for as long as the Game Leader sees fit but a good stopping point is when one character is completely underground.

Suddenly, the characters become aware of a sound so loud and deep that it vibrates though every part of their bodies. Out of the darkness comes a wall of sand as high and as wide as the characters can see. It slams down on everyone and then everything goes dark and silent. Characters being pulled down by the or-karpi are released and can work their way to the surface to breathe.

The horror of almost being buried alive may leave permanent mental scars on the characters. The attack is worth 1d6+1 for each body part buried by the or-karpi: Lower legs, upper legs, waist, chest, head. Anyone failing their resistance gains the Claustrophobic status effect.

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open/oneshots/petra/act3.txt · Last modified: 2014/08/16 15:12 by darth_tigger
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