A Deadlands: Hell on Earth Adventure by T. Jordan "Greywolf" Peacock
PART I: Zombie Problems
|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|
The Posse encounters a settlement by the name of Blackbird being plagued by zombies created by a Toxic Shaman. The Toxic Shaman is holed up in a nearby museum in the town of Cobalt, where he is following the directions of his guardian spirits and polluting the area. The Posse, hopefully, will put a stop to this, either by defeating the shaman or driving him off. The Toxic Shaman happens to have set up his base of operations in an old "tourist trap" museum of the "Old West". Despite all the cheesy souvenirs, bad layout and poorly-written narratives, this museum is one of the few of its kind still more-or-less intact, and it has quite a number of relics amongst what might be charitably called "junk" on display. The Posse might find an opportunity to bring back to life the spirit of the Old West as they try to save what's left of the New West.
Montana and northern Idaho have avoided the worst of the Apocalypse thanks to its wide open spaces ... which means that any targets worth blowing to kingdom come are spread far apart, and the spots in between have done fairly well compared to much of the Wasted West. That doesn't sit well with the Toxic Spirits -- corrupted nature spirits that pretty much went insane when the Earth was devastated, and, in response to all of the destruction and pollution ... decided that, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! In particular, a toxic shaman by the name of Cries-Burning-Tears has been directed by his "toxic guardian" to head into the mountains along the border between Idaho and Montana, and set up a base where he can spread pollution over the countryside.
A few months ago, Cries-Burning-Tears passed through the survivor settlement of Blackbird, located up in the mountains, on the Idaho side of the border. He asked a few questions about the surrounding territory, and learned about the nearby Cobalt Caves -- the perfect place from which to perform the dirty deeds required of him by his toxic guardian spirit. Cries-Burning-Tears guzzled down some of the spook juice manufactured in Blackbird, then moved on, and wasn't heard from again.
In truth, Cries-Burning-Tears headed down the road to the deserted town of Cobalt, which wasn't much of anything worth putting on the map, except that it happened to have the Wild West Museum -- a tourist trap with a modicum of educational value about the old west. Cobalt didn't take any bombs, but a number of refugees from larger towns came by here ... bringing with them sicknesses that eventually wiped out the town. Cries-Burning-Tears set up shop in the old museum, making his base in the abandoned Office. He detected the presence of another shaman -- a more traditional one -- haunting the museum, but he enacted some rituals to ward off the spirit so it wouldn't hassle him, and then continued with his work. First of all, he used his powers to create an entrance through the floor of the office to the Cobalt Caves, not so very far below. In one of these cavern chambers, he made use of a natural underground pool to serve as an oversized cauldron for a special blend of toxic goo concocted by his toxic guardian spirit, with the help of a cursed idol. With this same cursed idol, he was able to create special versions of toxic zombies. He raised the corpses of the dead in the town, and enslaved them to serve him. With their help, he dug out all manner of chemicals, oils, and pollutants to put into this bizarre "witches' brew" underneath the museum, creating a toxic mutagen substance that would stimulate accelerated growth in plants ... to the point that they would quickly die off as well, in the end leaving a barren waste.
By the time the Posse arrives, Cries-Burning-Tears has a veritable army of zombies serving him, and he has poisoned the land around the ruins of Cobalt. The road between Blackbird and Cobalt has been all but consumed by the forest as part of the "growth" effect of Cries-Burning-Tears' toxins, but not far after, the forest quickly turns into dry, dead, brittle husks where once were trees and shrubs and grass.
The town of Blackbird is the area the Posse will most likely first encounter. It's a fairly basic settlement, comprised of a cluster of buildings surrounded by makeshift barricades, taking up only a fraction of what was once the already small town of Blackbird, with a current population of about fifty or so.
Blackbird has a few things going for it, even though they haven't much in the way of "modern conveniences". First of all, the settlement is far enough from the major roadways that they don't get bothered by road gangs. Second, the wilderness nearby is healthy enough that there's plenty of game for hunting, and the water is (up until now, anyway) free from contaminants. Third, there happens to be a Junker in the village, and thanks to a few ghost rock stores that haven't run out yet, he's been able to supply the town with enough spook juice and spirit battery power to provide a few utilities.
The town hasn't much in the way of bullets or heavy gear. They haven't much of anywhere to go, so vehicles have been cannibalized for parts for the Junker, and most of them have found their way into the barricade surrounding the town, or else they've been turned into generators or pressed into service for farming. As far as weapons go, bullets are saved for dealing with the occasional monster.
One thing of note is that there used to be a silver mine in the area, part of the Cobalt Caves, though the veins have pretty much played out. The town does have some access to silver, and the town smiths have fashioned bullets and arrowheads, especially designed for dealing with werewolves (just in case any should wander into the area again).
If the Posse has it in mind to purchase any silver weaponry, they can buy silver 10mm bullets and silver arrows for $5.00 each in trade goods. Also, if the Posse makes a really good impression on the locals, they may be able to get a special deal on spook juice, at half the usual price.
The locals also have (and wear) lots of pelts taken from local wildlife. A large fur cloak can be purchased, giving the equivalent of a winter coat, and 50% coverage of torso/guts, arms and legs, with AV -2 protection, for $100 in trade items.
If the Posse stays with the townsfolk, they'll be kept plenty warm, but if they camp out, and if they don't have winter coats, bedrolls or other such camping equipment, they'll need to make Vigor tests against extreme cold at night, or catch ill (or worse). Have each Posse member who's ill prepared make a survival: mountain roll (or, if they've got some other survival skill that pertains to really cold environments, use that) against a TN of 7. If the Posse member fails, he comes down with a mild (TN 3) cold that pretty much renders him miserable and sneezy, at -1 to do just about anything until he recovers.
If the Posse stays a while, they'll learn that it's not a good idea to go out at night. That's when zombies come from the woods and try to attack the village. The zombies really don't have much chance to get in, but anyone caught outside the walls is likely going to become a new recruit for the forces of the undead. The townsfolk are willing to offer a bounty to the Posse, if they can do something about the zombies, to the tune of $100 worth of trade goods. (If the Posse doesn't seem interested in such a paltry sum, the townsfolk are willing to go up to $500, but any more than that, and they'll just take their chances and keep fighting off the zombies.)
For all intents and purposes, the Toxic Shaman has an unlimited supply of zombies. He's easily able to send fifty zombies to badger the townsfolk at night, and replace any casualties the next night.
The Posse, if they're interested in finding out where the zombies are coming from, can do so in a number of ways. First, some brave (or foolhardy) soul could simply follow the zombies, when they break off and wander back into the woods at dawn. (If he manages to keep out of sight, the zombies are pretty easy to shadow. To avoid detection, the scout need only meet or beat a TN of 3 with sneak.)
Second, someone could just try to track the zombies. This requires only a TN of 3 with trackin', since it's such a large number of zombies smashing their way through the woods, occasionally leaving body parts stuck in the underbrush.
Third, a Doomsayer with Geiger Vision can find a nice little trail that the radioactive zombies have been using to travel back and forth.
If the Posse is present when the "zombies" attack at night, they seem to be little more than slightly glowing skeletons with bits of rotten flesh clinging to them. Some of them look more like "zombies", some more like skeletons. The thing they all share in common is that enough flesh has been scraped from their foreheads to reveal a radiation symbol and some runes branded onto their skulls. Doomsayers, of course, should automatically recognize this as a hallmark of radiation magic. Traditional Shamans should recognize some of the other runes as being invocations of corrupted spirits. Toxic Shamans should be able to figure out right away that this is the work of a Radiation Shaman (Toxic Shaman specializing in the Radiation Sphere).
These special radiation zombies have 2d6 in all Traits, with a Pace of 6 and Size of 6. There are a few undead critters as well: zombie horses have a Pace of 20, Size of 10, Strength of 4d10. They all have three dice in fightin': brawlin', but these levels do not count in defense -- they aren't swift enough to dodge or dive for cover or otherwise protect themselves. Furthermore, the rad zombies never run -- They only move at their regular Pace. They're too stupid to do anything like open doors. A sturdy wooden door is sufficient to keep one of these zombies at bay. (Now, glass windows, that's another matter.)
The zombies are undead, and count as having AV 2 against all radiation-based attacks. Bullets, arrows and similar attacks have a 50% chance of doing no damage at all, unless they hit in the Head or Gizzards. Fire does double damage, as many of the toxins used to animate these monsters are highly flammable. The special weakness of these monsters, however, is that ordinary water will cause them to dissolve.
Small amounts of water such as the contents of a canteen or a shot with a "super soaker" will do 3d6 damage. (If it happens to be "holy water", double the damage.) If a rad zombie can be doused with a bucket of water or sprayed down with a hose, don't bother rolling for damage -- the zombie begins melting at sufficient rate that it's already out of the action. If a rainstorm should break out -- such as, for instance, summoned by a traditional Shaman -- the entire zombie army will just melt into ooze in a matter of minutes (and, in the meantime, they won't present much danger to the Posse, so the battle's over).
These zombies are particularly stupid -- They aren't your run-of-the-mill Walkin' Dead. Walkin' Dead look good (figuratively speaking) compared to these guys. Although the Rad Zombies should be present in ridiculous numbers, any attempts on the part of the Posse to be clever in dealing with them should be rewarded.
If the Posse tries to lasso a bunch of them, let them. If someone tries running up and twisting a zombie's head around backwards, let the zombie bumble about blindly and then fall over. Individually, these zombies shouldn't be particularly scary ... but if the Posse just tries taking on the whole army head-on, without the least bit of creativity, and without any attempt to set up a good defendable position to fight from, the Posse should be in big trouble.
Fortunately, the town itself is a pretty good spot to defend from, since the zombies haven't much chance of scaling the walls. If the Posse tries to help defend the town -- and stays within the walls -- this should be a good opportunity for them to get in some target practice (and waste some ammunition), and get a basic idea of what they're up against.
If the Posse heads southward along the trail, in pursuit of the zombies, they'll find that the road quickly becomes broken up and overgrown, at a rate of destruction that can't be explained away with just thirteen years of neglect. Up ahead is one of the "gardening" crews of zombies. If someone in the Posse beats a Cognition roll of 11 or more, the Posse gets the jump on the zombies, and is able to detect them before they themselves are detected. If the highest Cognition roll is only 7, then unless the Posse is deliberately trying to be sneaky (beat a TN of 7 on sneak), both sides are alerted, and combat rounds start. If the Posse can't even make a 7, then roll for Surprise, as the zombies ambush the party.
If the Posse gets the jump, they can observe the zombies in action. They are pouring out drums and smaller containers filled with a sickly greenish goo that soaks into the ground, and seems at first to spur rapid plant growth. Grass sprouts, grows tall, then quickly fades and withers away. Larger plants, such as trees, don't seem to be affected at such a noticeable rate. However, the Posse can look at their surroundings to see the damage that's been done -- further away, in the areas the zombies are still working on, the forest seems to be vibrant and alive, in a state of accelerated growth. The further in one gets to where the zombies have been doing their work for the past month or so, the more the plants have expired and withered away, leaving dry, dead husks, as they've accelerated all the way through their life cycles, robbed the soil of nutrients, and died without producing any seedlings. The zombies are systematically killing not only the forest, but the soil as well.
If combat breaks out, the zombies will drop everything and fight the Posse, though there are only six of them, which should not pose too much of a problem. The goo still in any containers is highly toxic, but not flammable. However, once the zombies pour it out on the ground, a chemical reaction with the soil makes it become highly reactive -- When the Posse first encounters the zombies, they should all be gathered around a large puddle of green goo, as they pour more of the goop onto the ground. If someone should use a fire-based attack on the puddle (i.e., toss a torch, shoot a flaming arrow, use the Syker Arson power), it will explode for 3d10 damage, with a burst radius of 5. Especially given the double damage the zombies suffer from fire, this should be sufficient to take the group out with a single blast. However, if anyone tries this route, it will have the unfortunate side effect of starting a forest fire, as the withered trees burn like ... well ... paper. If the heroes dally around, they'll have to deal with a raging fire, but otherwise, if they make a point of high-tailing it out of there, they can outrun the spreading flames. (Plus, if someone thinks to put out the fire quickly, by mundane or magical means, they could avert a disaster.)
If the Posse hangs around too long and makes much noise, they will alert the zombies to their presence, and some of the other "gardening" parties will come to investigate, encircling the Posse. If that's the case, then eventually another 18 zombies (three parties) and two undead horses (pack animals for carrying tanks o' goo) will converge upon the Posse. This time, there won't be any convenient puddles o' goo to take out the zombies quickly, though any fire sources will still easily start a forest fire. If that happens, it's best for the Posse to run, lest they be pursued by flaming undead horses. (The regular zombies are easily enough outrun, but the horses are another matter entirely.)
If the Posse makes their way past the "gardeners", either following the remains of the road, tracing the progression of the withered trees, or running away from a forest fire, they'll eventually happen upon the remnants of the town of Cobalt ... and, odds are, they'll also find a large zombie welcoming committee, coming from the town and the surrounding forest. The radiation shaman didn't really post guards right at his hideout -- since he doesn't really enjoy the company of zombies -- so it's likely to end up that the most inviting building for the heroes to dash to would be the Wild West Museum, which is clearly labeled as such in big, "western"-looking letters on the front.
If the heroes rush up to the museum, and bother to take a look before running up to the front door or peeking into windows, they'll notice a few things. First of all, the windows appear to be by and large intact. Secondly, there are runes and symbols on the doors and windows. Upon closer inspection, any investigators may find that there are sections of disturbed earth just outside the windows ... and there is a little device set up just outside the front door: a laser trip-wire mine.
Anyone with academia: occult can attempt to figure out the runes on the windows and doors. Shamans get a +2 to the roll. Toxic Shamans get +4. A TN of 5 reveals that these are runes of Native American origin, dealing with the warding away of "evil". A TN of 9 reveals that these runes ward off the undead, specifically, and almost certainly keep those zombies from casually wandering up too close. In truth, that's what they do -- Cries-Burning-Tears put these up so he wouldn't have the zombies wandering up and setting off his traps. Truth be told, that may still happen anyway, if the Posse rushes up to the building, and zombies start milling about, but it succeeds in keeping them away if there's nothing in particular to attract them here.
Buried just outside the windows and the side and rear exits are landmines. Anyone stepping directly on the landmine takes a 4d10 damage hit to the feet. Everyone else takes a 4d10 massive damage blast with a burst radius of 5. The trip-laser device outside the front door is set off if anyone breaks the beam. This can be easily done by remote by tossing an object to break the beam, or using a shotgun blast, etc. The trip-laser explodes, doing the same damage as the mines. (It only does full damage to a single location if someone happens to be in bodily contact with it when it goes off.) The trip-laser device can be disarmed with a demolitions roll against a TN of 3, or by use of the EMP power or similar effects. The land-mines outside the windows are a little more tricky, since they're partially buried, requiring a TN of 5 to disarm. (These land-mines are too primitive to be affected by EMP.)
If someone actually steps on a mine, it will make an audible click, and will not detonate until pressure is released. If the character in question has any sort of military background, on a Knowledge or demolitions roll (player's choice) that beats a TN of 3, the hero realizes that stepping off would be a bad thing. It can be disarmed while someone's still standing on it, again, with a TN of 5.
In the event that the Posse goes scrounging through the town of Cobalt, there is still some scavenging that can be done, though the place is pretty well picked over. If the Posse is fending off zombies, then assume that they really haven't the time to do a thorough search. This is more likely to happen if the zombies are somehow defeated and the Posse has time to kill, or while the Posse is being harrassed by the zombies, some lone member decides to do some digging around while the zombies are distracted.
It takes a full day to scrounge this town properly. On a scroungin' roll that meets a TN of 9, the Posse finds the first item on the following list. For each point above 9, they find another item on the list. If more than one person is scroungin', let the helper roll against a TN of 5. On a Success, add +1 to the main roll. Take the highest base scroungin' roll and treat it as the "main roll".
The Posse, of course, may opt not to just take the front door to the museum. It is possible to break in through any number of windows, so long as they take care not to set off a land mine first. The windows to the office are coated in grime to the point of making it impossible to see inside. There is also an entrance to the Wild West Restaurant on the east side of the museum, a door to the Office on the west side, and two fire exits on the south side, leading to the Wildlife Exhibit and the Life in the West Exhibit. The fire exits cannot be opened from the outside without some means of cutting the doors open. The restaurant door is locked, but that can be picked with a lockpickin' roll against a TN of 5, or else the door can be smashed open. The office door is securely bolted on the inside, and would require brute force to open from the outside.
The building is actually built with brick exterior walls, but they're covered with wood planks to give the appearance of something that might belong in the "Old West", with facades along the front that suggest a street front in some old boom town. The interior walls are wooden, and thus much more open to the Posse trying to "make new exits" by smashing them down with brute force. The roof is fairly solid, but there are a number of skylights providing illumination to the exhibits during the daytime, which means that if the Posse opts to do any climbing, they can pretty much bypass the traps and get a peek at the rooms before they go in. (Cries-Burning-Tears has been thinking fairly two-dimensionally in his defense of his "base", and therefore doesn't have any nasty surprises awaiting those who clamber up onto the roof. However, if someone scurries over the rooftop, he's bound to hear it.)