A Deadlands: Hell on Earth Adventure by T. Jordan "Greywolf" Peacock
PART V: Cobalt Caves
|Part I: Zombie Problems|
|Part II: The Toxic Shaman|
|Part III: The Wild West Museum|
|Part IV: The Hall of Heroes|
|Part V: Cobalt Caves|
|Part VI: Epilogue and Resources|
If the Posse is taking its time exploring the museum, and not necessarily rushing to take on Cries-Burning-Tears, then they may have cause to camp out the night at the museum. (This may be especially attractive to members of the Posse whose powers need "recharging", such as a Doomsayer or Syker.)
This is still up in the mountains, and it gets pretty cold at night. Members of the Posse who make an effort to keep warm won't suffer any problems -- Someone could make a fire, and there are ways of obtaining quilts or even furs if need be, from the exhibits. If anyone has purchased the "tent" from the Gear list, assume that it also includes bedrolls to accomodate two people.
Anyone who doesn't bother bundling up needs to make a survival: mountain roll against a TN of 7, or catch cold. This is a TN of 9 in the unlikely event that someone camps outside instead. This doesn't really do any "harm" to the character, but he'll be sneezing a lot, sniffling, and generally miserable, which will result in a -1 penalty to just about anything he might try to do for the next few days, until he recovers. If this goes on for several days of poor treatment, however, this could develop into a serious illness, at the Marshal's discretion.
If the Posse keeps the doors tightly shut, it's fairly easy to keep the zombies barricaded out of the museum. The zombies are too stupid to be creative in finding other ways to get inside, and the wards -- provided they haven't been blasted by land mine explosions -- should still hold them off. In fact, the Posse could remove the doors and windows with the wards inscribed upon them, and use them to fend off zombies. Sure, it's awkward, but it could be used to provide a means of wading out through the zombies in order to escape the town.
Underneath the ruins of the town of Cobalt are the Cobalt Caves, yet another tourist attraction up here in the mountains. The cavern system stretches on some distance, though not all parts of it are easily accessible from any one entrance.
The cavern directly underneath the Office is a round cul-de-sac with an irregularly shaped "bowl" bottom, and a single tunnel that leads off to the west, partway up the western wall. Cries-Burning-Tears has made a rickety ladder that dangles from one of the more sturdy of the supporting floor boards underneath the Office, all the way down into a pool of glowing green toxic goo. The glow given off by the chemicals is sufficient to illuminate the cavern, though the tunnel leads off into darkness.
The ceiling of the cavern had not been especially thick, and Cries-Burning-Tears, by means of the X-Ray power, was able to determine that the weakest point lie underneath the office of the Wild West Museum, and he proceeded to make his own entrance. This cavern room has served as a sort of oversized cauldron, into which he has concocted a witch's brew of motor fluids, cleaning agents, sewage, and just about everything that shouldn't be poured down a drain, suffused with an unhealthy dose of supernatural radiation.
The pool is sufficiently deep that anyone who falls from above will not take any damage from hitting the bottom (unless someone somehow drains out the pool first). However, the concentrated goo is highly toxic. Anyone who is doused in it must roll a Vigor check against a TN of 9, or else every hit location that is not sealed against contact with the goop will take a 3d6 damage hit. Even if someone manages to get out of the goop, any clothing still saturated with the goop will continue to burn -- though only a Vigor roll against a TN of 7 is required against goop-soaked clothes, and the damage is only 2d6 to each location in contact with the toxins. The damage comes from radiation more than any caustic properties of the chemicals. Any resistances against radiation that a character may have apply to the damage (even if it's a resistance against "background radiation" rather than attacks). Furthermore, since the goo is dangerously close to being classified as "sludge", anyone (such as a Sludge Shaman) who has resistances against sludge can apply that to the goo as well.
One additional hazard is the risk of swallowing some of this goop. If someone is violently thrown into the goop (such as by falling from the Office), the character must make a Vigor test against a TN of 7 or ingest some of the stuff. (If the character has on a sealed helmet, scuba gear, etc., that can keep the mouth sealed, then don't bother rolling -- the character is not at risk.) If the character ingests the stuff, then apply another 3d6 damage hit to the Guts, and, on top of that, the character must past a Vigor roll against a TN of 11, or else he will suffer a Mutation. If he Botches, then it is a Major Mutation (from the "Children o' the Atom" book). If anyone should voluntarily swallow the goop, the same results apply.
In the off chance that a plant-creature should land in the goop, it will be afflicted with a particular Mutation in that it will age at four times the normal rate. (The plants in the woods have been affected at a much faster rate than this, but any 'plant-creature' is not going to be your ordinary shrub or tree.)
The ladder leads right down into the goop, but it is flexible, presenting the Posse with a number of options. Cries-Burning-Tears can just use Resistance in a pinch to allow him to swim right through the goop without any ill effects -- If anyone in the group has resistance to radiation, or is just willing to take the chance, they can try swimming through as well, but this isn't a kiddie pool, so it requires a swimmin' roll against a TN of 3 to make it across, and then it also requires a climbin' roll against a TN of 5 to make it up to the tunnel. (Otherwise, the best bet is to make it to one of the banks and rest there.)
It is conceivable that someone might try swinging the ladder, and then attempt to leap for the tunnel. This is only really possible if there's just one person on the ladder -- More than that, and the weight will be too much to swing side to side. In fact, the ladder can only hold the weight of two people (and gear), and swinging it with two people on the ladder is certain to make it break, sending them falling into the goo. If there's just one person, however, he can try to swing and leap to the tunnel by passing a test of Nimbleness against a TN of 9. Failure means he lands in the goop. A Botch means that he slams into the wall (count as a fall), and then lands in the goop, or, if the Marshal's feeling cruel, the ladder breaks.
The Marshal should reward other ideas of trying to traverse. For instance, wax will float in this goop. It's possible that someone could try making a raft from wax statues! (Or, they could just use the canoe, or make a wooden raft from materials in the museum.) If there's a Blessed in the group, the Walk on Water miracle will allow passage without harm, so long as everyone is wearing shoes. (Otherwise, they'll get 2d6 damage burns to their feet.) Especially proficient climbers might try the formidable task of trying to climb through the cavern, over to the tunnel on the other side. This requires a climbin' roll against a TN of 11, and is only possible if the climber has something other than bare hands to work with (i.e., climbing claws, etc.). Getting back up this way will require a TN of 13.
And, of course, there's always the magical way of bypassing the hazard entirely: A Radiation Shaman could just use Energy Form to become insubstantial, as could anyone with the Ghost ability. China Syndrome could be used to burn a new tunnel through the rock into the cavern beyond. Purify could theoretically be used, though it would likely take several days to expend the Strain required to clean up this much of a mess.
If one person is able to make it across to the tunnel, there is a clear line of sight from the tunnel to the hole in the floor of the Office, so it should be feasible for the person in the tunnel to run a stake into the wall and run a rope back up to the Office, so others can ride the rope down.
It should be noted that the toxic goo here in the cavern is not flammible. However, it still is fairly pungent and toxic, and nobody would want to stay in here for terribly long. For every ten minutes spent in here, breathing fumes, a character will lose 1d6 Wind, unless he has his own air supply (or does not need to breathe). This Wind cannot be regained until the character gets out to a source of fresh air and has time to clear the fumes from his lungs.
There is a narrow tunnel jutting out from the cavern cul-de-sac, heading westward. The tunnel itself is dimly lit from the ambient glow of the green goop in the "cauldron" chamber, but there are no such light sources to the west. The tunnel is especially narrow, only wide enough for a single person to be able to squeeze through. Large creatures (such as Heavy Can Cyborgs, horses, wall-crawlers, etc.) will not be able to fit through without some serious work on widening the tunnel (or "China Syndrome").
The eastern side of the tunnel comes out with a drop-off right into the pool of toxic goo, several feet below. It would take a climbin' roll against a TN of 5 to safely climb down and get to one of the rocky shelves in the cavern on either side of the toxic pool.
If anyone sets off any explosions in the tunnel with the power of dynamite or a hand grenade or higher, this will be sufficient to cause the tunnel to cave in. If that happens, anyone in the tunnel can get out in time by making a Nimbleness, Quickness or Dodge roll (player's choice) against a TN of 5. Otherwise, the character is buried under a cascade of rock, and takes 4d20 in massive damage ... and has to be dug out to get free.
On the other side of the tunnel is a wider chamber, where Cries-Burning-Tears has stationed five of his Cobalt Rad Zombies to cover an escape route. They all have three sticks of dynamite (dam 4d20, burst radius 10) jammed into their rib cages, and they have butane lighters. If they are "activated", and they detect the presence of intruders, they will get up, approach the tunnel, and light the dynamite in their rib cages. If anyone happens to be unfortunate to be in the tunnel when such an explosion goes off, he or she will be blown out through the tunnel and into the pool of goo, and the tunnel will then cave in.
The zombies glow slightly, so anyone who makes a Cognition roll against a TN of 9 has a chance of noticing them moving through the darkness. Remember to apply darkness penalties, if they don't have any light sources. Once they flick the lighters and light the fuses, they'll be very conspicuous, and any Posse members will notice them immediately. They will not spring into action until someone actually enters the tunnel, and they require an action to get up, an action to walk over to the tunnel, an action to flick the lighter, and an action to light the fuse. A hero's best bet is to make sure those zombies can't light those fuses! They have no other weapons other than the dynamite, and -- like other Cobalt Rad Zombies -- they are too stupid to put up a defense in close combat, so anyone who is brave enough to simply rush in and yank the lighters from the zombies' hands can succeed by making a fightin': brawlin' roll against a TN of 1 and not Botching. A Botch means that in the scuffle, the dynamite accidentally gets lit anyway.
If the Posse chases Cries-Burning-Tears this far, they'll eventually corner him in his cavern lair. This location has several tunnels leading off in multiple directions, but Cries-Burning-Tears has his most valuable stash right here, and if he has a chance of defending it against the Posse, he'll do so.
This is a pitch black cavern chamber, with an underground stream running through it. Cries-Burning-Tears has been dumping powdered irradiated ghost rock and other radioactive substances into the stream to please his guardian spirit, though these aren't of the glow-in-the-dark kind.
If the Posse continues along to this chamber, along the way, they'll find examples of mutated subterranean creatures (bats -- hinting that there's a way out of here -- bugs, etc.) along the way.
If Cries-Burning-Tears has any of his pole-traps left, in his haste to flee the museum, he'll set them up here to do as much damage to the Posse as they can, before they reach his cache. If they are relying upon electronic sources of light, he'll almost certainly use Pulse to take them out. (He can't do anything, however, about more primitive sources of light, such as candles, torches ... or bottles of glowing green goo.)
If members of the Posse have some means of seeing in the dark -- and if Cries-Burning-Tears has any way of detecting this -- he will most likely just give up and flee. His only advantage here is to be lurking in the dark, in hiding, preparing to ambush the Posse. He's soused up with spook juice and back up to his maximum Strain, so he'll unload with whatever powers seem most appropriate to use, and he can use Radar Sight to be able to see the Posse before they can seem him, if need be. (However, if the Posse is walking along with, say, bottles of glowing goo, nicely underscoring their locations, without revealing the shaman, he may take his chances, save up his Strain, and just unload attacks on the Posse while he can -- then resort to Radar Sight while he tries to make his escape.)
Truth be told, Cries-Burning-Tears is a coward. If it looks like he has a snowball's chance in Purgatory of living through this if he surrenders, he'll likely do so rather than to put himself through too much risk. And, barring that, if it looks like he can't make a dent on the Posse, he'll try to flee through the tunnels. If the Posse pursues, and they have light sources (or some means of seeing in the dark), they'll catch up with him. Otherwise, if they let him go, he'll rush off, abandoning his stash, and seek to cause mayhem elsewhere in the Wasted West.
If Cries-Burning-Tears cannot beat the Posse or escape, he'll do his best to convince the Posse that he's worth more alive than dead. For instance, he has the Mutate power, so if any member of the Posse suffered a mutation from the pool of toxic goo, he'll offer to use his power to cure the affliction. (He could even offer this if other members of the party bear obvious signs of mutation, but he's wise enough not to make that offer if the person in question is, say, a Doomsayer.) Given the chance, Cries-Burning-Tears will put on his best act of being an innocent. (If anyone wants to test his sincerity, let them try Scrutinize against a TN of 9. If they pass, they can be certain he'll say anything to save his skin, and then try to go on and continue his merry little quest to pollute the Wasted West even further.)
Cries-Burning-Tears' stash underground includes the following:
If Cries-Burning-Tears is able to escape through the tunnels and back to the surface (coming out at the old silver mine, outside of town), he has waiting for him a zombie horse that he can use to carry off his stash. If, however, he doesn't have the idol with him, he's in for some trouble.
This is an idol carved from a solid chunk of irradiated ghost rock, resembling a skeletal-looking crouched animal-man of some sort, though the species isn't clear. This represents Cries-Burning-Tears' guardian spirit, and the idol has been infused with special powers, allowing him to create, animate and control the army of zombies plaguing the town above. The idol pulses and throbs, glowing brightly, and it should be obvious (hopefully) that it contains considerable power. (Or, at the very least, it'd make a dandy night-light.)
The idol can be destroyed as simply as grabbing it and slamming it against a solid rock wall, or hitting it with a projectile capable of causing at least 6 points of damage in a single hit. However, doing so may not be advisable -- It will cause a supernatural explosion of energy that will do 8d20 damage, with a burst radius of 10, ignoring armor. (Yes, this is a lot of damage. No, nobody really wants to be around when this happens. Any Posse member who just grabs this thing and smashes it against a wall might very well be dead.) It is important to note that this is a spiritual burst, and will have no effect on the surrounding cavern, on inanimate objects, et cetera, and doesn't cause any knock-back. It will still affect the Harrowed, and insubstantial beings (such as a Shaman in Energy Form, or a Ghosted character).
The only safe way to destroy the idol is to dissolve it in water. (Not just any liquid, that is, but water, preferably pure. The toxic goo is full of so many chemicals and pollutants that it does not qualify as "water".) The mere touch of a squirt of water will damage it visibly. Just chunking it into a stream isn't necessarily a great idea, since the side effect would be that the water is going to be visibly tainted (glowing green) in the process.
If the idol is destroyed, all zombies animated by it will immediately crumble. As a bonus effect, the toxic goo created by Cries-Burning-Tears will turn inert (and stop glowing). It will still be a messy, sickly creation, which would make a Sludge Spirit happy, but the supernatural radiation imparted on it by the idol is gone, and it will no longer cause damage or cause plant life to accelerate and die.
If someone acquires the idol and wishes to use it, the user must be able to pass an academia: occult roll against a TN of 11 to even have a clue as to how to invoke its powers, unless the Posse can capture Cries-Burning-Tears and force him to reveal it. (And, truth be told, if Cries-Burning-Tears thought he could get away with it, he'd make up some false instructions designed to get the Posse killed ... but a good scrutinize roll would see through that.) If someone can beat this roll, he can also get an idea about the energies stored in this idol, and how to destroy it (as well as the likely side effects).
Someone who holds the idol (even if they don't know how to use it) will not be attacked by the undead creatures created by it, and can use it as a "ward" to hold them at bay indefinitely.
Someone who wishes to use the idol will be able to command any zombies created by it, and can use it to create 1d6 zombies per day. (A large creature, such as a horse, may count as "two zombies" for the purpose of the daily quota.) Whomever possesses the idol will also get Cries-Burning-Tears' Toxic Guardian for as long as he succeeds in appeasing that guardian. If someone possesses the idol who does not wish to use it to spread pollution and mayhem, then he will be afflicted with Night Terrors as the toxic spirit troubles his dreams, and at the Marshal's discretion, the toxic spirit may find other ways to make his life miserable.
If a Posse member happily takes up the idol and uses its powers to create and control the undead, then odds are that there's something wrong with him in the first place. At the Marshal's discretion, the toxic spirit will do his best to corrupt the Posse member further, turning him into a servant of the Reckoners, and grooming him to take the place of Cries-Burning-Tears.