A Champions adventure of superheroic cosmic horror:
ANOPHELES: Atrocities From Beyond
by Allen Varney
[Published as "Horror World" in the 1990 Champions Fourth Edition supplement Champions in 3-D, edited by Rob Bell. Copyright (C) 1990 by Iron Crown Enterprises, Inc. Reprinted by kind permission of Hero Games.]
"Spade the grass, and turn up worms and beetles; slice a maiden's shapely stomach, and bloody intestines burst forth like snakes uncoiling. Never tear beauty's mask! Reality is horror! And now they come, buzzing --"
-- last entry in Dr. Gregory Kulik's notebook
Remember all those 1920s horror stories, by H. P. Lovecraft and many others, about heroes who faced demented cultists, squamous human-monster hybrids, and mind-shattering elder gods from another dimension? The heroes uncovered and defeated schemes to liberate these gods, thus saving our universe from conquest by loathsome abominations from beyond the stars.
In the alternate Earth presented here, all this really happened. Except the part about saving the universe.
(GM note: This section includes scenes of graphic horror inappropriate to some campaigns. If you or your players are likely to take offense at grisly sights, STOP READING HERE.)
As the chronogate closes, or the magical mists swirl away, or the dimension-spanning DeLorean coasts to a stop -- for methods of reaching this dimension, see the Introduction -- the heroes see a deserted downtown street, preferably in the campaign city. The sun shines brightly in a clear sky. Shop windows look out on wide sidewalks; skyscrapers tower on either side. Everything looks normal . . . until the PCs notice the corpses.
Businessmen, derelicts, ladies in furs, children (lots of them), even pigeons and stray dogs -- all dead. Some look pale and ghastly, for they are completely drained of blood. Others still have blood, pooled around their bodies, but their eyes and the soft parts of their bodies have been eaten away. Lines of bloody circular welts mark the skins of some.
The heroes hear a metallic clanking around a corner. A hunched-over bag lady, dressed in a ragged overcoat, pajamas, and galoshes, wheels a shopping cart onto the street. The shopping cart holds plastic trash bags loaded with clothing and garbage. The vagrant ignores the heroes and sets to looting the corpses. She babbles constantly to herself, her eyes glazed.
When the insane woman passes a manhole in the street, the cover bursts high into the air. Suddenly a long white tentacle reaches up, grabs her, and tries to pull the screaming woman down into the sewer!
From this point, go to "The Plot,'' below. But first, the background of this dimension.
Anopheles, a genus of the mosquito family, contains the only species of mosquito known to transmit malaria. In 1928 Dr. Gregory Kulik used the name to describe mysterious insectile shapes carved on stone tablets he discovered in the East African Rift System.
Kulik, an eccentric but adventurous archaeologist, believed that the area around the source of the Nile River held the ruins of humanity's earliest civilizations. His search for knowledge (and treasure and tenure) ultimately took him to the Lotagipi Swamp, a hundred miles east of brackish Lake Rudolf on the border between modern-day Kenya and the Sudan. In this isolated region his small expedition did indeed discover a forgotten civilization . . . but not humanity's.
Older than the pyramids, predating Babylon and Ur, ancient even at the discovery of agriculture, the ruined city yielded its secrets to Gregory Kulik. He uncovered an entire deserted metropolis built by, as he put it, "inhuman monsters.'' Fields of rubble indicated that an unimaginable battle had destroyed the city's builders. (This battle was the work of one of Earth's prehistoric Archmages.)
Kulik did not realize until much too late that the battle had not destroyed the Anopheles, but only banished them. Carelessly destroying certain sigils on an ancient reliquary, Kulik unwittingly allowed the monsters to extend their influence across the chasm between dimensions. From their home realm, the monsters psychically possessed him. He only had time to write his last hurried journal entry, reproduced above.
Now the creatures had a slave, but they remained trapped in their own dimension. Working through Kulik, they ensured no other members of the expedition survived. Then they commanded Kulik to return to his home city (the campaign city), a powerful source of the psychic energy the monsters needed. There, heeding his alien masters' commands, Kulik started a secret cult of Anopheles worshippers. Over the course of months they constructed an elaborate ritual to summon a swarm of Anopheles insects from the "Other Side'' -- the creatures' home dimension.
The cult's activities attracted the notice of several heroic investigators. Piecing together clues, they discovered the plot and rushed to the site of the ritual. They arrived just as Kulik and his minions were about to summon the Anopheles invaders. Intent on disrupting the ritual, the heroes attacked.
But they failed. The ritual succeeded. Transformed into a "Queen,'' a bloated producer of Anopheles larvae, Gregory Kulik brought the Anopheles to this dimension. The heroes themselves became the first of what would eventually be billions of victims. Now, over 60 years later, a new generation of heroes must discover and try to correct the earlier mistake.
1928: Anopheles-possessed cultists travel to all inhabited continents; slowly implement major plans to produce chaos and death, which their servant monsters feed on.
1930s: In the Depression years the creatures possess unemployed workers, foment labor unrest, polarize the classes, and create nationalist fervor in Europe. Subterranean construction beneath major cities worldwide.
1945-60: With rise of multinational corporations, business-minded servants of the Anopheles establish International Investment Developments (IID) in New York and London, umbrella holding company for diverse properties and businesses. Through selective possession of executives at target companies, IID acquires large market shares in Third World countries; establishes cults of Anopheles worshippers there.
IID profits from arms sales, due to continued Cold War tension fomented on both sides by Anopheles servants. Covert underground construction continues.
When and if superheroes appeared in the campaign world, at that point the Anopheles struck early, in secrecy and force, to destroy the heroes while they were still inexperienced. No heroes appeared on this world. (The GM can rule otherwise if it would make a more interesting tie-in with his campaign.)
1960-80: Rise of global telecommunications prompts Anopheles servants to infiltrate major television and radio network news operations. Behind-the-scenes workers only, such as producers; no on-screen reporters. After 1975 print media expose of IID corporation's illicit practices, IID reorganizes as Kulicorp (referring to Gregory Kulik); acquires hidden control of major newspapers in North America and Europe.
Infiltration of national governments and finance community continues. Anopheles exert considerable power at world level, less locally. Ongoing campaign to establish repressive Third World dictatorships, feeding servant monsters' hunger for fear and hatred. Power base here expands, outside media notice.
1981-86: Anopheles servants take steps to weaken world economy through massive debt buildup. Kulicorp instrumental in landslide re-election of American President. To date underground construction has been safe in event of nuclear war, but growing nuclear stockpiles finally threaten even Anopheles strongholds. Servants take immediate steps to reduce superpower tensions; still foment Third World warfare on unprecedented scale.
Three years ago: Kulikorp, now in top 10 of Fortune 500 list of world's largest companies, begins first strike in takeover plan. With tacit government approval it initiates quasi-religious "retreats'' -- actually large hives producing human-monster hybrids and Queens. Media attention easily diverted; those who investigate on their own disappear.
Two years ago: Air Force Lt. Gen. Harold Carruthers, one of the few not yet possessed by Anopheles, discovers hives and attempts to alert the President. Failing, Carruthers launches a nuclear strike on his own iniative against hive site in eastern Nevada. Surviving Anopheles block similar strikes elsewhere; forced into open takeover slightly ahead of schedule; impose media silence, knock over fragile world economy, sabotage supply systems, prevent further nuclear strikes. Carruthers killed.
One year ago: The takeover worked. Not only were the monsters numerous and deadly, they held a crucial advantage: Their intrinsic nature, in and of itself, drives humans mad.
Like some monsters in horror literature, the very sight of Anopheles creatures causes mere mortals to go insane. In the HERO System this works as a Transform Power.
Sanity losses: Some extradimensional creatures possess a major cumulative Transform that gradually induces insanity in a victim. The rationale: Their extradimensional nature creates feedback in human nervous systems, inflicting damage. Each time the victim comes into contact with one of these creatures, he or she gets an EGO roll to resist the Transform effect. The victim does not have to see the monster.
Note that, technically, the presence of more than one monster requires a separate EGO roll for each. However, this can lead to massive losses from even a small party of Anopheles. A forgiving GM can allow a player to roll just once each time his character encounters any group of Anopheles; a failed roll inflicts only the penalties from a single Anopheles, as described below. (That way, PCs don't go completely nuts the first time they meet half a dozen Anopheles.)
If successful, the character takes no effect from that creature for the rest of the encounter. A later encounter requires a new EGO roll. The character never "gets used to'' a particular kind of creature. (Optional: You can become accustomed to a type of creature if you see it as many times as the maximum number of points of Tranform it inflicts. For instance, you must view a 1d6-Transform minor monster six times to become immune to further sanity losses.)
If an EGO roll fails, roll the Transform effect and see below. Note that Transforms of this type are cumulative among all the kinds of Anopheles monsters.
Gaming the sanity loss: For each point of BODY the Transform inflicts, the victim takes 1 point toward a Psych Lim disadvantage, "Anopheles-inspired insanity of the GM's choice.'' The character does not get corresponding Character Points to spend for taking this disad.
Up to 4 pts, the disad has no effect. At 5 pts, treat the disad as an uncommon situation with moderate reaction, like any 5-pt Psych Lim. Every +5 pts inflicted increases the disad by one step, either in intensity or how often the situation occurs (player's choice).
At 25 pts the character becomes fairly useless, but is still coherent. At 30 pts, consider the character completely nuts, incoherent, useless, and, more than likely, out of the game.
Types of insanity: A list of possible phobias, compulsions, and hatreds is beyond the scope of this adventure. PCs may contract sudden fears of insects, tentacles, monster attacks, or physical conflict. They may feel obligated to pause and crush each and every single monster they encounter, even on a tight schedule. They may feel violent loathing of anyone who appears to take this disaster less seriously than they; since some characters joke about anything just to break the tension, this could lead to a fight.
Ideally the insanity type relates to the incident that pushed the character over the edge. Improvise according to circumstances. Insanity never does the character any good; that violates the genre.
Recovering sanity: A character "heals'' the disad points at the same rate he or she would heal a Transform effect. Ordinary physical Regeneration and Aid don't speed the healing, since this is a mental disorder. The GM may require the character to undergo psychotherapy, a stay at a sanatarium, or other campaign-related healing rituals.
With the GM's permission, characters can spend EPs to reduce the Psych Lim disad. However, the GM should only allow this when the character has retired to rest and heal. The character should not just bounce back from any run-in with these creatures.
Characters can achieve greater mental stability by recognizing that they have staved off assaults from these creatures. The GM can award assigned EPs to a character who helps defeat a monster. "Defeating'' can mean killing it, driving it off, foiling its scheme, or whatever. The assigned EPs reduce the Psych Lim by up to the amount the defeated creature inflicted.
Five sixths of the world's population are dead. The remaining 800 million survive mainly as food animals in ghastly camps throughout China, India, and the Third World. Industrialized countries went down fighting hard and are now almost entirely deserted . . . including the campaign city seen above.
A few lonely humans hold out in bases above the Arctic Circle and in Antarctica. Most of the invaders cannot survive in that intense cold. Elsewhere in the world, a few ragged survivalist-type groups still struggle against monsters. Via shielded radio broadcasts the polar groups coordinate the feeble resistance efforts.
Here are specific descriptions and encounters for particular parts of the world. These encounters use the monsters described at the end of this scenario. For convenience, here is a thumbnail summary of the main invaders, using the nicknames that surviving humans have given them:
- Anopheles: Three kinds. Swarms of mosquito-like insects; horrible human-Anopheles hybrids; and bloated, monstrous Queens. These are the only monsters that produce the sanity-draining effects described above.
- Spiders: Many-legged, man-sized, web-weaving monsters only distantly similar to arachnids. Vicious stings and Drains; solitary, except for mothers guarding their thousands of young.
- Starfish: Also many-legged, but these tentacular giants crush their prey in an unbreakable suction grip. Live underwater and in sewers; solitary only when unusually large; often cannibalistic.
- Iron maidens: Humans (both male and female, the nickname notwithstanding) who have been taken over by sentient microbes that reshape the brain and body. Powerful illusions that tempt victims to approach and be impaled on the sharp bone spurs that grow from their skeletons. They live on insects, vermin, and human flesh as well as more conventional food.
THE URBAN LANDSCAPE
Most cities look alike now; they're all ruined. In major cities, use imagination to describe pre-takeover landmarks in their current grotesque state. Put a whole web city between notable downtown skyscrapers; impale a misshapen other-dimensional goliath on the Eiffel Tower; carve weird alien runes in the mountains surrounding Los Angeles. The creators of these strange sights are new monstrous invaders, further allies of the Anopheles left as an exercise to the GM.
Absent notable landmarks, here is an overview.
Downtown: A wasteland of broken skyscrapers, giant unnatural webs stretching over the streets, smears of slime around every sewer grate and manhole cover, and decayed corpses everywhere; spiders overhead, starfish beneath, and patrols of hungry iron maidens roaming the streets . . . not to mention ordinary rats and roaches in staggering numbers.
Airports: No air traffic survives. The large open spaces at metropolitan airports would be ideal territories for gigantic tyrannosaurus-like predators not otherwise seen in this scenario.
Bridges: Beneath every major urban bridge, a colony of spiders spins a communal web -- thick, white, misshapen -- to catch the insects that feed the spiders' million young. The web stretches onto the bridge's upper surface too, to catch the larger prey that feeds the adult spiders. The web is cluttered with drained corpses of wild dogs, alleycats, and humans. (A sadistic GM can deposit the body of a hero's DNPC here. This is the alternate-universe counterpart of the hero's true DNPC.)
Waterfronts: Rusting hulks of ships lie partly submerged in the harbor. On the decks and the wharfs lie skeletal crowds of dead refugees who were trying to escape overseas. Under the wharfs, huge numbers of starfish lie in wait.
Parks: Run this encounter in the park nearest the city's ghettos. Under a footbridge over a weed-choked stream, the PCs may discover a gang of six young teenagers and children, all orphans. Grubby, starved, and at least slightly insane, these kids defend themselves with handguns and automatic weapons they took from the bodies of drug gangsters in the ghetto.
The children attack when discovered. By calming the kids, the heroes can gain information that points to the Survivors; see the "Survivors'' section under "The Plot,'' below.
Introduce this kid gang with care. The PCs are likely to take them under their protection, and that should slow down the heroes at later points in the story. However, this encounter can deepen the heroes' emotional commitment to saving this world.
Suburbs: Almost deserted. Chewed skeletons in every house or lying in the overgrown yards. Heroes looking for a fight might track down a pack of wild dogs or a death squad, a wandering patrol of insane, renegade army troops (two for each PC). Use Skilled Normal stats; arm the squads with a miscellaneous assortment of firearms doing up to 2d6K damage.
Heroes can't travel across this world except in their own vehicles or under their own power. Major highways and bridges are shot, or more precisely blasted; human armies destroyed them while trying to prevent the Anopheles-controlled armies from spreading.
Communications: Very little interaction between cities. The polar headquarters of the resistance broadcasts one-way messages of news and morale-building. In warmer climates, the servants of the Anopheles control all remaining broadcast stations (see below for an example). Telephones are gone.
Countryside: Farm livestock is dead. Cropland is a burned waste. Intact grain silos hold spiders and other monsters of the GM's choice -- a nasty surprise for PC investigators!
A few hardy survivalists remain barricaded in the hills, living on crackers and trail mix, cleaning their semi-automatic rifles five times a day. They were crazy even before the invasion, and it hasn't improved their temperament.
The seas: Asymmetrical multi-tentacled monstrosities, like the terrestrial nudibranch but as large as oil tankers, writhe across the seas. On the ocean bottom starfish proliferate by millions, eating everything alive. The oceans are nearly dead. The entire ocean ecosystem, on which all land life depends, has been destroyed.
Underground: Wormlike burrowers eat the tunnels that the other monsters use to build their underground complexes. These dark catacombs are mazes of living chambers, hatcheries, nurseries, larders filled with rotting corpses, and ceremonial areas for mating and sacrifices. The burrowers are not described in this adventure.
Outer space: Some of the other-dimensional invaders can survive and travel in open space. Heroes with spacecraft may encounter horrendous tube-shaped monsters like the giant sandworms in Frank Herbert's Dune, or living, scintillating clouds of dust-motes that eat refined metal. The invaders may also be constructing bases on other worlds, preparing to enact rituals to change the natural laws of the Solar System itself.
Though at first the devastation here may seem too large to face, this dimension is actually a "fix-it'' world. The following plot gives a group of 4-6 experienced superheroes one chance to set things right in this intolerable world. The adventure should occupy one to three long play sessions.
Following directly from the Entrance Scene above, the heroes instantly encounter one of the Anopheles' primary servant monsters: the starfish, described at the end of this adventure. This giant mass of tentacles wants to eat the bag lady it grabbed, but takes time to grab further meals (the PCs) before actually dining. When the PCs fight back, the monster tries to retreat with the bag lady. Because of the restricted field of fire through the sewer manhole, heroes may have trouble targeting the starfish without hitting its victim.
The bag lady, Winona Delmar, is an incompetent normal with INT 5, other Characteristics of 8, and no skills except Survival: Urban Devastation, 12-. Completely insane, the rescued woman believes the heroes to be more monsters. However, she babbles a litany of the horrors she's seen across the country (all true), so she can give newly arrived PCs some idea of the horrors they face.
The PCs may well take Winona under their protection. She won't eat or drink, and unless Mind Controlled she tries to escape at every opportunity. She probably perishes in a later monster attack; her death offers one more note of pathos in this devastated world.
On the streets: The devastation the PCs first saw continues throughout the city. As they explore, introduce optional encounters along the lines mentioned in "The Urban Landscape,'' above.
One curious point: Radios and television sets in store windows or deserted bars are all broadcasting the same station, the only station on the air. It features the usual vapid mix of sitcom reruns, retread crime dramas, daytime soap operas and game shows, and the occasional news program.
The news, offered by a smiling, pretty anchorette (an impostor hybrid), offers an ordinary mix of foreign policy crises, governmental squabbles, and local crimes and disasters, identical to the broadcasts the PCs saw at home. To judge by the news, nothing much appears to be wrong; certainly it doesn't explain this ungodly devastation.
The commercials incite buyers to try products with various brand names, but every commercial concludes "another fine product from Kulicorp!'' Astute PCs can surmise a link between Kulicorp and the situation around them.
This might lead the heroes to the Kulicorp world headquarters described below. They can find its location in any phone book. If the PCs aren't that quick on the uptake, run the encounter with the Survivors in the next section.
Or PCs might investigate the surviving TV or radio station. They find a nightmare-infested building similar to the Kulicorp HQ described below. Worker hybrids and iron maidens run the station, repeating the same programs endlessly. A few impostor hybrids (see their description in the NPCs section) staff the front office, luring suspicious normals (and PCs) into ambush within the station.
Research sources: The campaign city's libraries and newspaper offices still survive, though they're dark and deserted. The newspapers and videotaped news broadcasts date to a few months ago. However, none of the news sources mentions anything unusual taking place. The servants of the Anopheles kept the takeover out of the press.
The only lead that may provoke a hero's suspicion is the extensive coverage the news media devote to Kulicorp, a diverse multinational corporation that does not exist in the PCs' world. Kulicorp constantly made headlines last year with charity work, beneficial research breakthroughs, awards from employees, and so on. No public relations agent could achieve such favor. The news stories mention that Kulicorp world headquarters is based right in this city.
In the sewers: In case the PCs follow the trail of the starfish from the initial encounter, their journey through the sewers leads to encounters with endless numbers of horrible nasties. Let them fight a few starfish and rescue the living but half-devoured victims. The dying people can convey exposition and gasp out a request that the PCs aid the Survivors (see the next section).
Encourage the heroes to return to the surface, so they can meet the Survivors. But if they persist in staying underground, let them follow a trail of slime and corpses to the hatching chamber in the basement of the Kulicorp skyscraper, described below.
The lone band of independent humans in the campaign city trace their origin to Gregory Kulik's original ritual in 1928, the one that brought the Anopheles to this dimension. This ritual, described later in this adventure, sacrificed seven heroic investigators who were attempting to foil Kulik and his cult. All seven heroes died horribly.
But an eighth escaped. Clarence Alsop, once a brilliant university professor in Kulik's own archaeology department, discovered the evil scheme. Alsop gathered a band of allies and staged an assault on a cult stronghold. There Alsop himself, leading the charge, was severely wounded and rushed to a hospital. The rest of his group, though, found the final clue to the whereabouts of Kulik's ritual. They charged onward, minus Alsop -- and perished.
Alsop, escaping alive if guilt-stricken, retired from the university (where his colleagues thought him mad). He devoted the rest of his life to the struggle against the Anopheles.
As one part of that struggle he founded the Survivors. This foresighted (though slightly unbalanced) group prepared caches of weaponry and supplies against the day when the Anopheles would take over. Like the survivalists in the hills, the Survivors made plans to retreat; but they also planned to fight to re-establish the world that was.
FINDING THE SURVIVORS
Perhaps the sightseeing heroes, unaware that they can "fix'' this dimension, simply regard it as an obstacle course and try to leave. As they despair, a lone Survivor runs toward them, pursued by a pack of iron maidens (two per PC). "Run!'' he cries. "They'll get you too!'' Then he falls, exhausted.
Obviously the heroes should rescue this victim. The iron maidens flee after two or three of their number fall. After the battle they can question the Survivor, 28-year-old Malcolm Alsop (grandson of the Clarence Alsop discussed above). He's gaunt, twitchy, with fresh scars on his face and hands. His long straggly brown hair already shows signs of gray. He wears a torn black turtleneck and black pants -- the wardrobe of espionage -- and clutches his empty M-16 rifle tight enough to whiten his fingers.
A Survivor's story: Malcolm's explanation for the chase is ordinary, but true: He was scavenging for food with a band of Survivors, and the iron maidens discovered them. Malcolm is the only Survivor who survived the attack. "Another three down,'' he says grimly, choking back tears. "Twenty-six to go . . . unless even more have died since we left the sanctuary.''
Malcolm asks the heroes to accompany him to the battle site, a ruined delicatessen a few blocks away. There he asks them to help bear away the fallen Survivors to the sanctuary. "We should never dishonor our martyrs.'' Such is his intensity that the PCs may suspect he's on the verge of insanity. This is true; he's already 20 points down on his Anopheles-inspired Psych Lim.
What Malcolm knows: Malcolm can tell the PCs most details of the Anopheles timeline above, the nature of the monsters, and the role of his grandfather, Clarence Alsop, in opposing Gregory Kulik. Malcolm knows little about the rest of the world since the takeover; except for rare transmission from the Arctic, communications have ceased.
Rather than speak about the Survivors, Malcolm demands proof of the PCs' humanity -- or, from nonhuman PCs, proof that they aren't allied with the monsters. Once convinced, Malcolm takes the PCs to the Survivor sanctuary, Eternal Hope.
ETERNAL HOPE SANCTUARY
This concealed, fortified headquarters lies beneath a destroyed subway station in the heart of the city. If there is no subway in the campaign city, the sanctuary lies beneath the city Post Office.
Optimistically named "Eternal Hope,'' the Survivor sanctuary is a refitted Cold War fallout shelter that now shows little of hope and even less of the eternal. Its concrete walls, shaken by the monstrous burrowers' earthquakes, have cracked through and exposed black dirt beyond. Tubs that once held dry rations, mainly crackers and beef jerky, now roll empty across the floor as Survivors kick them from underfoot.
Not that there are many Survivors left kicking. The PCs count only a few dozen, though the shelter appears large enough to hold several hundred. "There used to be that many,'' says Malcolm, trying to keep the strain from his voice.
SURVIVORS ON THE EDGE
The Survivors hardly remind the PCs of a disciplined revolutionary army. The various members could be housewives, bums, lawyers, assembly-line workers, or college students, but not soldiers. Yet their only common feature instantly strikes the PCs: a haggard, haunted manner, with violent mood swings. These people all verge on nervous collapse.
The once-proud human race! Here in this grimy shelter, these ragged specimens argue over whose bunk should be cleaned, bet huge amounts of worthless dollars on gin rummy, or just huddle in corners, weeping. Here is the last hope for humanity, and to the heroes this hope doesn't look eternal.
As the PCs explore Eternal Hope, the Survivors wait anxiously for news. A few hours ago they sent three valued members of their forces on an important espionage mission. The leader is William Alsop, Malcolm's father and unofficial leader of the Survivors. He and two others, a security systems specialist and a demolitions expert, are carrying a large TNT bomb to destroy the penthouse of Kulicorp's skyscraper. The Survivors believe it's the stronghold housing the Anopheles. Its destruction promises to make the city safer.
THINGS GO WRONG
After the player comprehend the stakes of this mission, a trim young man clad in olive coveralls and leather jacket trots easily down into the sanctuary. "Bart!'' the Survivors cry. "Did it work? Where are the others?''
This is Bart Murrell, the security systems expert, a handsome fellow who looks and sounds rather like one of the male PC heroes. But what's that thin whining sound around him? Bart says happily, "It was wonderful. We've made a breakthrough, and I've brought my new friends.''
Then he opens his mouth wide -- very wide -- the jaw unhinges and falls loose, stretching the mouth cavernously -- the whining grows louder -- and from Bart Murrell's mouth swarm clouds of Anopheles larvae!
What happened: The Anopheles caught the Survivor team and turned Bart into an impostor hybrid. The demolitions expert on the team, Hazel Laughton, is now in the subway station (or Post Office) above the Eternal Hope sanctuary; she's setting the bomb that the Survivors intended for the Kulicorp building.
The last team member, Survivor leader William Alsop, is to become a ritual sacrifice to the Anopheles Queen in the Kulicorp building. This is discussed further in the "Aftermath'' section below.
As the impostor lets loose the larvae swarm, he shapeshifts to his hybrid form -- that is, a humanoid but with the sanity-draining powers fully evident. Its awesome Presence attack, as well as the Transform and EGO Drain, occur instantly. An alert PC may want to encase Bart in a Force Wall or otherwise confine the swarm, but the Presence attack may spoil that plan.
This Transform attack knocks about half the Survivors over the edge into insanity. They shriek, tear their hair, and run in all directions, probably interfering with PC attacks during the attack that comes in the same phase.
The assault: Bart's support troops execute their held action. From the stairway behind him, a horde of iron maiden shock troops (three per PC) storm the sanctuary. These monsters were once army troops, and they still wear flak jackets and carry weapons; but the iron maiden infection (described below under "NPCs'') has caused ugly bone spikes to erupt from their faces and joints. They are completely loyal to the Anopheles, but they also want to seize victims, impale them on the spikes, and inject their hideous infection.
For the iron maiden troops, use the VIPER agents described in the Champions sourcebook, but add the Characteristics and Powers described in this scenario's "NPCs'' section. Because of their unwieldy bone spikes, the troops must wear partial armor; give the listed armor a 14- activation roll. The helmets are also modified for the spikes (no game effect).
Divide the shock troops into five-person teams and equip them like VIPER five-team agents. If this comic-book weaponry seems out of place, equip them with assault rifles or submachine guns. They also carry knives (1/2d6K).
The explosion: Though the Anopheles combatants don't know it, they're on a suicide mission. Overhead, bomb expert Hazel Laughton, now a worker hybrid, is setting the explosive that will destroy the building. The iron maidens carried it here, but they think Hazel won't detonate the bomb until they're out. However, she (it) completes the operation one turn after Bart enters the sanctuary, then flies away at top speed to Kulicorp headquarters. The bomb explodes one turn later, probably while the battle is still raging below.
The explosive is a Heavy Bomb (6d6K EX, -1 DC/3''), a steel box weighing 300 lbs. A successful Demolitions roll defuses the bomb. Failure has no immediate effect. The explosion brings down the building, cracks the walls of Eternal Hope, and cuts off every exit. Inside, the PCs have very little time to evacuate the surviving Survivors. Stage this sequence with the suspense of a Hitchcock film.
In the Eternal Hope sanctuary, all hope has vanished. Many of the Survivors, now fully insane, cry openly, hysterically, and even the still-lucid ones are completely demoralized. An insane Survivor, such as a pregnant woman who believes the Anopheles have possessed her unborn child, may attempt suicide; or a lunatic may try to murder Malcolm Alsop on the grounds that "it's Alsops they want, not us!'' Consider these intense scenes carefully before staging them, because they may prove harrowing for the players.
The PC heroes should calm the Survivors and try to rebuild morale. This offers players an opportunity to make moving speeches, vow revenge, or otherwise roleplay.
The rescue: In the face of these efforts, the Survivors bemoan the loss of William Alsop, their leader and an important symbol of their struggle. This is the cue for a PC to suggest that they rescue Alsop; a vengeful Malcolm can suggest it if the players don't. This goal goes a long way toward cheering the Survivors.
But where is William Alsop being held? The most obvious place is Kulicorp headquarters, now clearly an Anopheles stronghold; a surviving iron maiden can confirm this under duress. Let the PCs plan their rescue strategy, then go to the next section.
Kulicorp's 88-story skyscraper offices lie in the downtown financial district of the campaign city or the nearest large city. This towering steel-and-marble monolith (DEF 6, BODY 4), windowed with curtain walls of dark green glass (DEF 1, BODY 1), dominates the skyline like a monstrous invader.
Something else heightens this monstrous effect -- a misshapen insect-type hive or nest that covers the upper three stories of the building. Like a wasp's nest, this bulging, ridged mass looks and feels like paper (DEF 0, BODY 1). However, its magical nature obscures the interior from view by N-Ray Vision or Clairvoyance. Construct this as Images vs. these senses, Area Effect, only to simulate empty space (-1, solid simple image).
Inflict at least a -10 penalty to the heroes' PER Rolls to spot anything inside. That way they'll be more afraid of the horrors awaiting them inside.
The whole inside of the building, every floor, is alive with bugs: Anopheles swarms, newly-hatched spider young, and millions of centipedes, wasps, beetles, and houseflies to feed the iron maidens. The terrestrial insects feed on the human carrion in every office. Flyspecks and slime tracks dot every wall. A noxious smell of rotted meat pervades the building.
And there are worse adversaries throughout the building.
Entrance lobby: Here human-Anopheles hybrids (one for each PC) guard the shattered entrances. Just inside, piles of dead dogs and cats -- city pets -- litter the floor, providing food and hatching grounds for swarms of housefly maggots.
Basement: A long shaft leads from the penthouse down to the basement; the Anopheles have blocked off every other conventional access with concrete (DEF 6, BODY 5) or rubble. See "Boardroom Battle'' below.
Stairwells: Each of the building's four corners has a stairwell, and there are two in the center of the building next to the elevator banks. Between each floor are two flights of stairs, each 3'' long (total 6'' per floor). Optionally, a GM can say that running up stairs costs a character +1 END per full move, unless the character's Running is 0 END.
All stairwells are concrete (DEF 6, BODY 5). All are intact, but the stairwells stop one story below the penthouse floor. Heroes must enter the 87th floor and go down a hall to a separate stairway leading up to the penthouse. Four hybrids guard the stairway, and others can be summoned from the offices on the 87th floor.
In each stairwell lurk a few iron maidens and hybrids searching for food. They flee in the face of superior opposition, sounding the alarm on the nearest floor. See "Office Floors,'' below.
The invaders have scrawled odd runes on the stairwell walls. These have no function, except to delay curious heroes. See "Elevators,'' below.
Elevators: There are four banks of three elevators each. Doors are DEF 4, BODY 3; they can be pried apart by STR 20. However, only two elevators go all the way to the penthouse; the others stop on the floor below. In the penthouse elevators, passengers must insert a key in a lock next to the "88'' button in order to activate it. However, any successful Lockpicking or Security Systems roll easily defeats this lock.
The penthouse elevators are labelled on the ground floor, but not on other floors. PCs who don't pay attention to the labels stumble onto the penthouse elevators on a roll of 1 on 1d6.
The elevators still work; the hybrids need them as much as human workers did. An elevator starts moving two seconds after the doors close. For convenience, assume an elevator moves one floor per second, so the journey from the ground floor to the penthouse takes just under a minute and a half. The doors open two seconds after the elevator stops moving.
Strange runes, drawn in slime, cover the walls in the elevators and stairwells. These are quasi-religious symbols of the Anopheles triumph; heroes will see them everywhere on the building's upper stories. Though disturbing, the symbols are red herrings without explicit function.
Noise in the elevators draws the attention of two spiders who live in each shaft, one above the elevator cabin, the other below. One turn after the noise occurs, one spider, recognizing the heroes' non-hybrid speech, rips open the cabin roof and tries to Entangle everyone inside. The other spider rips open the floor one turn after that, and everyone inside who isn't Entangled must make a DEX roll to avoid falling.
Each floor measures five meters (2.5'') high, except for the penthouse floor, which is ten meters (5'').
Office floors: The decor here was once cool, gray, and dignified; now each floor is ruined. Most windows are shattered. In the openings, young spiders weave their webs. Two or three adult spiders maintain clearly-marked territories on each floor. The few hallways not blocked with webs lead to empty offices.
If the PCs have overlooked important clues as they head toward the penthouse, put a hybrid-run torture chamber in an office on an intervening floor. The heroes rescue a deranged Survivor, who blurts out the missing clue and dies.
Top (penthouse) floor: Before the invasion this was a high-ceilinged, immaculate reception lobby. Now bones and refuse pile in every corner. Blood stains the expensive carpet. At the reception desk, now smashed, a demented hybrid "secretary'' munches on a haunch of meat -- the type is better left unsaid. The secretary flees if attacked through a hole in the ceiling. No other furniture has survived.
All the dozens of ragged holes in the roof lead to the papery "wasp's nest'' the PCs saw outside. Inside the nest, a dark labyrinth of narrow tunnels, hundreds of worker hybrids supervise the breeding of humans -- children, mostly, barely past puberty -- as meat animals.
Behind the secretary's desk, a carpeted ramp leads up to a double door made of thick walnut (DEF 2, BODY 4) and labelled EXECUTIVE BOARDROOM. Through the door the heroes can hear tortured human screams; a Survivor can recognize the voice as William Alsop's.
THE KULICORP BOARDROOM
A nightmare made solid. A long, low-ceilinged room of walls that drip slime. Blood is painted on the carpeted floor in strange ritual symbols like the PCs have seen elsewhere. Webs in the corners hold the dessicated bodies of executives who once worked here. There are smells of blood and vinegar and various human wastes.
Along the walls scuttle former human beings, now distorted into a hunched mosquito shape -- drones and worker hybrids. There are 10 drones and eight workers. Collectively these require four EGO Rolls to resist their sanity-draining effects. Malcolm Alsop barely makes these, but other Survivors with the PCs fail and go into catatonic withdrawal.
When the hybrids see the PCs, they retreat into a defensive position before a paper wall that marks off a corner of the room. The wall (DEF 0, BODY 1) is no different from the nest walls that cover the penthouse exterior. But the PCs must fight off the hybrids to get through it -- and Alsop's screams are coming from beyond the wall.
The Queen: Ripping aside the wall may drive vulnerable characters over the edge. Beyond it, indolent and repulsive in its slimy stronghold, lies the Anopheles Queen: huge, bloated, pale and doughy, like a tremendous mound of flesh. Two stubby arms and two atrophied legs protrude; a small human infant's head, bald and drooling, holds itself up with effort.
As the PCs reel from this shock (note the Queen's armor-piercing Presence attack in its statistics), the Queen, with a repellent liquid sound, lays a huge quantity of eggs. These collect in neglected, viscous brown-yellow drifts, then gradually slop over and ooze down the open shaft in the back of the room (see below).
Despite their horror, players may be thinking of this as the typical final assault in a superheroic scenario. Let them think so -- and then let the horror grow beyond anything these players expected.
An unexpected failure: This is the big moment, the heroic rescue. By preventing Alsop's sacrifice, the PCs can strike back at these monsters and relight the flame of hope in this world! Can they do it?
No. Sadly, the PCs arrive too late to rescue William Alsop. As they enter, the monstrous Queen has just removed the top of Alsop's skull; it now munches on Alsop's exposed brain while his still-living body twitches uncontrollably. The Queen, blase, its small mouth smeared with neural tissue and blood, gloats, "I like forebrains best. The convolutions give such a nice texture.''
Though he clings (barely) to sanity, young Malcolm Alsop furiously launches himself at the Queen. It calmly allows him to pound on its rubbery form; he makes a few gashes, a little blood spurts, and then he falls to the floor, crying.
Meanwhile, the Queen tries to engage the heroes in polite conversation. If this comes immediately after its Presence attack, it should have little problem.
"I like the look of you fellows,'' it says in a high, babyish voice. "This organization could use you. Excellent benefits, travel opportunities, meet lots of interesting friends. What do you say?''
Should the PCs pursue some devious strategy and agree, the Queen asks for a token of their new loyalty: the murder of the Survivors. If (when!) they refuse, the Queen opens its mouth very wide and spits a foul, slimy white muck -- its Entangle attack -- at the most vulnerable PC. The battle begins.
Tactics: All 18 hybrids fight to the death to protect the Queen. They interpose themselves between Queen and PC, and throw themselves into the path of PC attacks (Dive for Cover maneuvers). If the battle goes too smoothly for the PCs, more hybrids appear from the nest entrance in the boardroom ceiling, one every two Segments. (Time to seal the entrance!)
The Queen Entangles as often as possible, then strikes the Entangled victims with its deadly acid spit. It bellows threats at the hybrids to protect it. It cannot move, so its options are sharply limited.
Knocking out the Queen is a death sentence. Its head flops down, blocking its breathing; unnoticed by the heroes, the massive body soon suffocates. But that is not all: In its body's dramatic death throes, the head rips loose from the body in a shower of gore. The detached head extends spidery legs and scuttles for the rear of the boardroom! (This grisly sight calls for another Presence attack, so the head can reach its goal without PC interference.)
With the death of the Queen's body, the surviving hybrids scurry around in confusion. They present no further threat to the heroes.
Aftermath: Looking around, or following the fleeing head, the PCs discover a shaft leading downward. It was concealed behind a papery wall. The Queen's eggs fall down this dark shaft, which extends the height of the building and ends in the hatching pool beneath the skyscraper.
The shaft is four meters (2'') square in cross-section. The walls are thin stainless steel (DEF 3, BODY 2). Heroes can't see the bottom, and they hear and feel only a moist wind from below. In short, it seems an eerie and threatening place. Yet that's where the Queen has gone, or in any case that's where they must go next.
Malcolm Alsop, still holding onto sanity -- at least, the PCs think so -- insists on coming along. Since he knows so much about the monsters, the PCs should take him. If they refuse, the GM can have Malcolm follow secretly, then appear when the heroes most need exposition.
GATE TO HISTORY
The Kulicorp building's basement and sub-basement, now joined into one enormous chamber, hold the Anopheles hatching pool for this city. There are similar hatching pools beneath most major cities and in strategic points in the countryside.
PCs can reach the basement from the shaft leading down from the executive boardroom. Persistent heroes can also unblock the one of the two ground-level stairways, currently sealed with concrete. And strong-stomached heroes can crawl through narrow sewer access pipes and enter through a drain in the concrete floor. First, though, they'll have to break through the steel grate blocking the drain (DEF 3, BODY 2).
All hatching pools hold a gate to the Anopheles home dimension. The pools and gates exactly resemble those described below. The gates are indestructible without magic; in fact, one floats above a radioactive crater in the Nevada desert -- it survived the direct nuclear strike that destroyed its Anopheles nest.
Fighting the Queen: As the PCs arrive, the Queen's head (if it escaped above) is racing for the gate, which is described below. Capturing the head should be straightforward; if not, the head passes through the gate and does not reappear in the adventure.
THE SLIME LIGHT
A giant elliptical frame floats at an angle above the hatching pool, apparently filled with slime that glows with a dim green light. Though the frame has no bottom, the slime remains inside it without falling. The frame measures about ten meters (5'') along its narrow axis, 18 meters (9'') at the widest point, and about a foot thick. Its alien material looks like smooth, pale-green bone.
The frame, oriented at a 60-degree angle to the pool, has its own gravity. Occasionally, on either side of the frame, a bubble grows on the slime's surface, then bursts with a soft blup; the slime droplets from the explosion fly outward, but defy Earth's gravity and fall back onto the slime. This vertiginous effect reveal the frame's true function: It's a gate to another dimension.
Construction: The frame is built as Extra-Dimensional Movement (single other location, time travel, 40 pts), 32x mass (25 pts), 0 END Persistent (+1), Area Effect 27 hexes (+1), continuous (+1), usable by eight others (+1 1/4) (total active cost: 406 pts), always on (-1/2), open at both ends (-1/2), Unbreakable Universal Immobile OAF (-2), Independent (-2), doesn't work in intense cold (-1/2). Active cost 406 pts, real cost 62 pts.
"Open at both ends" is a new Limitation on Teleport and Extra-Dimensional Movement introduced in the Mystic Masters campaign supplement. This means the Power not only transports you from point A to point B, it also lets anybody at point B use the Power to visit point A. This Limitation is only available for Powers that are already Continuous and Usable By Others.
The light: This dim spherical source shines through the translucent pale-green slime. From either side of the frame it appears to lie far distant. The light bathes the entire hatchery with unwholesome radiance. Without it, the eggs will not hatch.
PCs can discover the source of the radiance by entering the gate, swimming through 2'' of slime (normal Swimming rate halved) and emerging in the dimension at the far end -- the home realm of the Anopheles.
THE ANOPHELES DIMENSION
As one might expect, the home of these sanity-bending monsters is a hellish place, damaging in itself to human sanity. Human characters in this dimension take a 1d6 Transform attack and 1d6 Ego Drain upon entry, the standard Anopheles-related power described under "Special Rules'' above and "NPCs'' below. Another identical attack follows one minute after entry, then five minutes after entry, and so on for each step down the Time Chart. Characters cannot remain here long and stay sane.
Description: What's so horrible? First, the heroes can't see much; thick, moist fog clings everywhere, carrying the pungent odor of burning rubber.
But the PCs hear all too well: shrieks, atonal piping, onrushing wind. The wind blows through their minds more than their bodies -- a psychic wind, turning their thoughts into awful new directions. (Mentalists can undergo a "radiation accident'' to gain new powers here. But the powers may have unpleasant side effects!)
There's slime everywhere. It's unclear whether this is the surface of a landscape, or a layer of gravity floating on nothingness through some variant natural law, or even a consequence of a barrier between dimensions. Movement rates through the slime are halved. Flight above the slime eventually sends the flyer into it; is the slime stretching up, or are the flyer's perceptions mixed up? There's no way to tell.
Through the fog the PCs can make out moving shapes. These could be small and near, or gigantic and distant. Flying after them gives no information. But now and then something large swoops by, shrieking just overhead, too fast to attack.
In general, ration information here jealously, and create endless numbers of repulsive sensory details.
Approaching the light: Lacking other clear goals, the PCs probably move toward the light source they saw through the gate. A few dozen meters above the slime, connected by an umbilical of thickened, semi-solid slime, floats a phosphorescent blob of -- is it flesh? Are those limbs? Can that be . . . a human head?
The light source is a living, grotesquely enlarged, obese human form, its flesh phosphorescent like a day-old corpse. Naked, deathly pale, crouched in a fetal position, it hardly resembles a baby: too many warts, thick reddish hairs, and weeping sores for that.
Malcolm Alsop recognizes the figure, and he barely keeps his composure. Intensely calm, he says, "That's Gregory Kulik.''
It's true. The Anopheles "rewarded'' their loyal servant with this position, an incubation light for their hatching pools across the Earth.
Communicating with Kulik: This man, the villain who brought the Anopheles upon the Earth, now babbles to himself of childhood camping trips and school homework. Insofar as the PCs can understand anything he's saying, they realize he's no longer under the Anopheles' mental control.
The PCs can penetrate his haze of insanity through successful Conversation, Interrogation, or Persuasion rolls; the GM should assign minuses at his discretion. Mental Powers like Telepathy and Mind Control also force Kulik to communicate.
Once he comprehends the heroes' presence, Kulik begs that they kill him. Or, should the players sound too eager to oblige him, Kulik can offer to send the heroes back to Earth "so you can undo my doing of this travesty.'' However, he shouldn't volunteer this unless necessary; let the players discover for themselves that Kulik possesses the ability to time travel.
Travelling: Actually, Kulik himself cannot travel through time. He has become an integral part of the gate that allows this. But, as he demonstrates to the PCs, he can control the gate's other endpoint, sending it to any hatching pool on Earth -- at any time since they were established. The views through the gate pass from one to the next, click-click-click. Kulik eventually stops the views at the site and time of his original summoning ritual, in the campaign city in 1928. Entering that era is simply a matter of clawing through the slime again. (If PCs leap through the slime at some random point, they also end up there.)
Alternatively, the GM can keep all this secret. The PCs explore the Anopheles dimension, a futile and deranging process, and return to the gate, only to discover that it changes its views endlessly. They have to pick what looks like a good landing point, then slime-swim blindly. They appear at the ritual site, but may take a while to discover they've traveled into the past.
In this (literally) historic scene, Dr. Gregory Kulik is still human and still the pawn of the Anopheles. That he may serve them better, they have granted him superhuman magical power (see "NPCs'' below).
The scene: This is the same basement chamber the PCs left. The hatching pool is gone, or rather, it hasn't yet appeared. The red brick walls and floor will later be replaced with reinforced concrete, and the clanking furnace will give way to a more modern central heating system. The shaft to the penthouse is not yet built, and the stairways up to the ground floor remain clear. Otherwise, it's the same high-ceilinged basement.
The same gate floats at a slant overhead. The PCs can look through the gate into the room without being detected, though they'll have to hold their breath while doing so. In the basement they can see a strange central apparatus, a crowd of figures, and Dr. Gregory Kulik.
The crowd: There are over 100 of these hulking, unshaven brutes. All wearing slime-green robes tied at the waist with beltchains made of human finger-joints. These are Anopheles cultists, Kulik's demented followers; they're described in the "NPCs'' section.
As the PCs arrive, the cultists are chanting in unison in a language the PCs have never heard, a ritual language of the Anopheles. A few cultists are renewing the paint on several runic symbols on the basement walls. The heroes saw duplicates of these symbols all over the Kulicorp building.
The room smells of the cultists' perspiration and the blood smearing the apparatus (see below). The entire atmosphere is tense and expectant.
As the PCs watch, a cultist, overcome by the ritual fervor, goes berserk, starts screaming incoherently, and lashes out at his fellows with a thin sacrificial dagger (1/2d6K). The others fall upon him like jackals, ripping him apart. All cheer madly.
The apparatus: This is a weird super-science setup. Seven people, clearly helpless victims, are strapped head-down on tilted granite slabs (DEF 3, BODY4, 300 lbs) inclined one above another. An apparatus of shiny brass-colored pipework (DEF 1, BODY 2) supports the seven-layer setup, which reaches almost to the room's high ceiling.
For the victims' descriptions, see the following subsection.
The seven victims are connected with rubber intravenous tubes. The blood of the person on top flows into the next one down, and from him into the one beneath him, and so on.
Hunched over the bottom slab: Dr. Gregory Kulik.
Kulik: PCs may hardly recognize him from the globular monstrosity they met in the Anopheles dimension. Kulik here is a slender, almost dowdy gentleman with a full head of white hair, muttonchop whiskers, and heavy white eyebrows. He could be somebody's uncle.
But his eyes gleam insanely as he stoops over the bottom victim, a shapely young woman, and begin to cut -- oh, so delicately -- to cut her throat. Beneath the bottom slab is a large, shallow brass urn that will collect the blood. Within one or two turns, starting with the person on top, each victim in sequence will bleed to death.
What's happening: Having created the gate earlier in the ritual, Kulik is now breaking the ancient ward that keeps Anopheles monsters from using the gate to enter this dimension.
To do this, Kulik and the cultists must drink "the blood of seven,'' blood that has flowed through the veins of seven people. This will endow them, so they think, with the power to summon an Anopheles swarm through the slime.
This is false. The Anopheles have convinced Kulik this will happen, but the reality is far more horrible. The blood of seven provides a source of magical energy; the Queen in the Anopheles dimension can draw on that energy to exchange itself and Kulik. And the other monsters waiting to invade can exchange themselves with the cultists.
If allowed to proceed as it did historically, the ritual will end when the seven victims die of blood loss. At that point Kulik's body swells terribly, becoming an Anopheles Queen; the other cultists, wracked with pain, transform into hybrids, spiders, starfish, and iron maidens; and in the Anopheles dimension, all those monsters' bodies transform into the people they have just replaced. Between each pair of bodies, monster and human trade awareness.
And while the cultists are consumed in the Anopheles dimension, and Kulik becomes the atrocity the PCs have already seen, a horde of monsters shambles forth to conquer humankind.
Explaining all this: If Malcolm is along, he looks around, drags the PCs back to air in the Anopheles dimension, and tells them about the victims, Kulik, the cultists, and the ritual. All these details, discovered by Survivors founder Clarence Alsop, have become part of Earth's new folklore.
WHO ARE THE VICTIMS?
These are the seven investigators, capable heroic-level PC-types, who joined Clarence Alsop to capture Gregory Kulik and stop his ritual.
If the players have ever played PCs in a pulp-era crimefighting campaign, use their PCs as the seven victims. That should involve the players' emotions! If seven PCs aren't available, the others can be their DNPCs or NPC allies from previous adventures.
If the players have never played 1920s characters, use the following NPC substitutes if necessary. This adventure doesn't give their stats, inasmuch as they probably don't play much part in this final battle.
- William Rhames, notorious playboy and insouciant Errol Flynn-type adventurer. 5'11'', 160 lbs, age 34.
- Coy MacAfee, tough-talking female cat burglar. 5'3'', 105 lbs, age 16.
- Darrell "Slugger'' Soames, sailor with one wooden leg, a game heart, and lots of tattoos. 5'9'', 170 lbs., age 42.
- Leonard Terwilliger, absentminded scientist specializing in extra-dimensional physics but well versed in just about every subject (he has Eidetic Memory). 5'6'', 130 lbs, age 58.
- Sheila McBride Remington-Astorbrook, society pacesetter and expert horsewoman who speaks eight languages. 5'6'', 120 lbs, age 30.
- Khofir, gigantic, mysterious Hindu manservant of Sheila Remington-Asterbrook. Great strength and unusual powers of mind. 6'3'', 250 lbs, age highly uncertain.
- Jack Lance, sleazy private investigator who usually carries three packs of cigarettes and a customized WWI revolver he calls "Bess.'' 5'10'', 190 lbs (way overweight), age 45.
DISRUPTING THE RITUAL
How can the PCs materially alter this situation to foil the Anopheles invasion? Here are a few ways:
1. Kill Kulik or his victims: If Kulik dies, half the cultists try to drink the blood of seven themselves, thereby letting at least some monsters enter this dimension; the other cultists attack the PCs. Killing the victims before Kulik can collect the blood of seven defeats the ritual, but it lacks heroism (to put it mildly).
2. Exorcise Kulik: A powerful Suppress or Dispel, against the active point value of Kulik's strongest spell (75 pts), destroys the Anopheles' control over him. Mind Control at the EGO+30 level also breaks the control. Other methods may work, but simply talking to Kulik does not; he's an insane fanatic.
Restored to his senses, Kulik keeps his presence of mind, tells the cultists he "mystically detects intruders'' outside the building, and sends them out to investigate. When they're gone, he releases the victims, thanks the PCs for curing him, and surrenders himself to Alsop's comrades or to the PCs as appropriate. Then they have to figure out how to handle the cultists.
3. Interfere with the ritual: This is more complicated than just throwing a rock at Kulik to break his concentration. Those waiting on the other side can maintain the summoning spell while Kulik and his mobs dispose of the interruption.
However, after major interference, magical energy builds while the battle rages. This provides time-sensitive tension as the heroes mop up the agents and confront Kulik. Even after they've screwed up the ritual beyond hope of salvation, the heroes may suffer from this magical backlash -- perhaps they're temporarily transformed into some weird monster?
4. Wait until the ritual is over and kill all the monsters that arrive: It's not dramatic, not heroic, and doesn't save the innocent victims. Also, the heroes probably get their brains fried when all those sanity-draining monsters show up. But this will work if all else fails.
The ideal solution should also dispose of all the cultists who would try again in the future (i.e., after the PC heroes return to their own time and dimension).
Standard sanity-related Anopheles powers
This EC writeup assumes a campaign standard of 60-pt attacks for PCs. A convention of the genre holds that these monsters are far more powerful than their mortal opponents, so the mind-shattering Transform attack runs to 75 active points. Adjust the value to at least +15 pts above the PCs' strongest attacks.
32-point EC: Standard Anopheles Mindblasting Powers a-26: 1d6 Transform (major, described under "Special Rules'' above), cumulative (+1/2), Affects Desolidified (+1/2), 6'' radius (+1), NND (+1) (defense: successful EGO roll; other defenses listed in individual writeups), 0 END Persistent (+1), always on (-1/2), reduced by range (-1/4) (75 active pts) b-17: 1 1/2d6 EGO Drain, return 5 pts/week (+1 1/2), 5'' radius (+1), 0 END Persistent (+1), always on (-1/2), linked to Transform (-1/2) (67 active pts) c-23: +40 PRE, 50 PRE Armor Piercing (+1/2), only to frighten (-1/2) (65 active pts) 98: Total EC cost for a standard Anopheles
Major-league Anopheles, the kinds that drive normals crazy instantly, have the following power levels:
45-point EC: Even Worse Mindblasting Powers a-37: 1 1/2d6 Transform, 12'' radius (+1), other advantages and limitations as above (110 active pts) b-23: 3d6 EGO Drain, 7'' radius, otherwise as above (90 active pts) c-30: +57 PRE, 67 PRE AP, as above (90 active pts) 135: Total EC cost for a major Anopheles
These major creatures also have Change Environment, 2'' radius (10 pts), Persistent 0 END, no range (-1/2), always on; real cost 10 pts. This creates dimension-bridging special effects: a shimmering gray-greenish aura that hurts the eyes to look at, obscene angles neither acute nor obtuse, and all that Lovecraftian stuff.
0 STR -10 11 DEX 3 5 CON -10 10 BODY 3 INT -7 3 EGO -14 50 PRE * 0 COM -5 1 PD 1 1 ED 4 SPD 19 0 REC -4 10 END 13 STUN * PRE cost figured in Elemental Control. POWERS 98 EC: Mindblasting Powers, END 0 80 75% Damage Reduction, resistant PD/ED, not vs. Area Effect attacks (-1/2) 20 5'' Flight, invisible to sight, END 0 30 Detect suitable host, sense/range/targeting 8 +4 to Detect roll, 14- 14 Clinging, 12 STR 14 7'' Knockback Resistance 100+ DISADVANTAGES 20 2x BODY from heat or cold 12 -6'' Running 25 No hands 0 Dependence: Find host in one day or die 25 Dist. features 20 Extreme reputation 25 Monster bonus OCV: 4; DCV: 4; ECV: 1; PHASES: 3,6,9,12 CHAR (-37) + POWERS (250) = TOTAL (227) = DISADS (127) + BASE (100)
Appearance: A human-sized swarm of tiny mosquito-like insects. Unlike most true insect larvae, these can fly. Their beating wings make a high-pitched whine. Each larva measures about 1/4 inch long; a swarm includes 500-1000 larvae.
Lifespan: One day.
Background: Hatching from minuscule eggs in stagnant water, or in the soft tissues of a host (living or dead), the larvae, capable of long-range flight, seek out a new host and burrow, painlessly and often unnoticeably, under its skin.
POWERS: Once inside a host, the larvae's extra-dimensional nature produces stress in the host's central nervous system -- in other words, sanity-draining effects. These render the host harmless . . . a gibbering lunatic, true, but harmless to the larvae. The defense against this NND attack is not an EGO roll, but resistant defenses, airtight armor, or Desolidification.
The larvae multiply in the host, spread through its body, and over a few hours transform the host into a man-monster hybrid, described below. By this time the larvae have become so deeply integrated into the host's biology that they cease to exist as individuals. The hybrid resumes its normal functions.
To reverse the hybrid transformation, use Dispel or curative magic. Advanced medical treatments may also work. The sanity loss, though, must heal as discussed above.
ANOPHELES: HYBRID (Worker caste)
10 STR 18 DEX 24 15 CON 10 10 BODY 10 INT 10 EGO 50 PRE * 0 COM -5 2 PD 5 ED 2 3 SPD 5 REC 30 END 23 STUN * PRE cost figured in Elemental Control. POWERS/SKILLS 98 EC: Mindblasting Powers, END 0 15 +5d6 HA, END 2 15 Armor (+5 PD/ +5 ED) 10 10'' Flight, OAF (wings), END 2 10 Clinging, 10 STR, END 0 10 IR/UV Vision 26 Skills and Talents of host 100+ DISADVANTAGES 10 1 1/2x STUN, BODY from cold attacks 25 Berserk when Queen threatened, 14-, 14- (unc) 25 Obeys Queen (total) 10 Fears cold (unc, strong) 5 Sluggish in cold 15 Susc: intense cold, 1d6/phase 25 Distinctive features 25 Extreme reputation OCV: 6; DCV: 6; ECV: 3; PHASES: 4,8,12 CHAR (31) + POWERS (184) = TOTAL (215) = DISADS (115) + BASE (100)
Appearance: Three castes of hybrids all take different forms. Some unknown factor of the host's makeup determines which caste it transforms into. The larvae's Transform makes all hybrids instinctively loyal to the Queen, other hybrids, and allied monster species.
Worker caste: Humanoid but thin, covered with ugly brown scales that shed freely. Clawed hands, elongated neck and head. The worker flies on large, thin wings resembling a mosquito's.
Drone caste: Radically transformed into a mosquito-like posture -- hunched over at the waist; limbs lengthened, splayed, and bent; head shrunk and neck elongated. The tongue becomes a long tube that rolls out and grows semi-rigid, letting the drone drink its blood meals and tend the Queen. The drone's wings are almost atrophied, reducing its flight to 5''. Add 2'' Running.
Most dangerous is the impostor caste. Impostors retain their original form, betraying no hint of their new loyalties until they attack by surprise. Use the host's original stats; add the Mindblast EC, but remove the "always on'' limitation. Replace the Flight with Shape Shift (human to hybrid form).
Lifespan: Unknown; probably decades.
40 STR * 21 DEX 33 30 CON 40 16 BODY * 18 INT 8 18 EGO 16 67 PRE * 0 COM -5 2 PD 6 ED 6 SPD 8 REC 60 END 36 STUN * * PRE cost figured in EC. Growth stats already added in. POWERS/SKILLS 135 EC: Major Mindblasting, END 0 60 Growth, 30 pts, Persistent 30 Armor (+10 PD/ +10 ED) 30 Regeneration 3 BODY/turn 34 Slime spit: 6d6 Entangle, takes no dmg from attack (+1/2), sticky (+1/2), no DEF (-1 1/2), OAF (mouth) 45 6d6 NND EB, OAF (mouth; acid spit) 10 Change Environment, 2'' radius (described above) 10 IR/UV Vision 12 Bribery, Conversation, Interrogation, Trading, all 19- 100+ DISADVANTAGES 30 1 1/2x STUN from all KAs 10 Enraged when servants harmed 11-, 11- 10 Toys with prey (com, mod) 20 Immobile 15 Susc: intense cold, 1d6/phase 25 Dist. features 15 Hunted: Survivors (less pow, 14-) 233 Monster bonus OCV: 7; DCV: 3; ECV: 6; PHASES: 2,4,6,8,10,12 CHAR (92) + POWERS (365) = TOTAL (458) = DISADS (358) + BASE (100)
Appearance: A grotesquely obese gigantic blob of flesh with tiny, atrophied limbs and a human baby's head. It stinks of blood and decay.
Lifespan: About two years.
Background: An infant hybrid -- a human baby taken over by monster larvae -- can mature into a Queen. Hybrid drones spray it with their internal fluids, feed it regurgitated cud from their stomachs, and rub it constantly. The infant gradually swells into the Queen form.
Once mature, the Queen feasts on living flesh, especially brains, and recycles the neurotransmitters into its own biology. Highly intelligent, it uses a distributed network of brains throughout its body. It inherits the knowledge of all previous Queens through DNA transcription, giving it vast education.
In emergencies, the Queen's head can tear itself loose from the body and crawl away on vestigial legs (6" Running). If it escapes successfully, it can regenerate a new body.
GM note: The GM may want to assign a Queen a small Magic Pool to represent miscellaneous magical plot devices. For instance, a Queen in the Anopheles dimension possessed Dr. Gregory Kulik via a device, 18D6 Mind Control, Indirect (+1/2), Trans-Dimensional (Earth only, +1/2; see the Mystic Masters supplement for details), only in Anopheles city beneath Kenya (-2), OAF (reliquary, -1), one charge that uses END (-2 1/2), Concentrate 0 DCV (-1/2), Gestures, Incantations, Skill Roll, for a real cost of 23 pts.
DEF 1, BODY 1 per 1000 eggs (wt. 1 lb).
Appearance: Brownish-yellow drifts of slime shot through with tiny translucent spheres.
Incubation period: In optimum conditions -- warm stagnant water or healthy flesh -- 12 hours. Unhatched eggs in hostile conditions can become dormant and survive for years.
Background: With a brain feast (a meal of a human brain or other developed intelligence), the Queen can lay fertile eggs by the millions. She either deposits them in stagnant water, or in a willing hybrid host. The host incubates them, sacrificing itself when they hatch and eat it alive. (This also lets the hybrid host carry swarms around inside it, for release against its foes.)
40 STR 30 24 DEX 42 30 CON 40 13 BODY 6 3 INT -7 8 EGO -4 30 PRE 20 0 COM -5 15 PD 7 15 ED 9 6 SPD 26 14 REC 60 END 48 STUN POWERS 80 4d6 Entangle, stops all vision senses (+10 pts), one hex (+1/2), sticky (+1/2), END 8 40 6d6 NND EB, no range (-1/2), vs. resistant DEF (poison fangs), END 6 28 2d6 BODY Drain, return 5 pts/hour (+3/4), requires successful Grab (-1/4) 33 Darkness, vs. all vision senses, 2'' radius, 0 END, Personal Immunity, no range (-1/2) 10 Clinging, 40 STR, END 0 10 +5'' Running (11'' total), END 2 10 IR/UV Vision 5 Extra Limbs (number varies) SKILLS/TALENTS 10 Find Weakness 11- 6 +2 w/ Entangle 12 +4 w/ Grab 3 Combat Sense 10- 3 Double Jointed 3 Immunity to its own poison 3 Lightsleep 100+ DISADVANTAGES 20 2x STUN, BODY from light-based attacks 30 Berserk when hurt 14-, 11- 15 Fears light (com, strong) 20 Always hungry for blood (com, total) 20 2d6/phase from Flash attacks (uncom) 20 1d6/segment in sunlight when Darkness is drained (uncom) 25 Distinctive features 5 Hunted, Survivors (less pow, 8-) 15 DNPCs: Newly-hatched young (incompetent, 8-) 10 2d6 Unluck 145 Monster bonus OCV: 8+; DCV: 8; ECV: 3; PHASES: 2,4,6,8,10,12 CHAR (164) + POWERS (256) = TOTAL (420) = DISADS (320) + BASE (100)
Appearance: Though they seldom appear in light strong enough to show their forms, these alien spiders closely resemble terrestrial black widows, except they're the size of a large man. They have large compound eyes, each eye resembling a human eye complete with white cornea and iris. The bulbous body is suspended beneath high segmented legs -- the older the spider, the more legs it has (typically 10-12). Each leg ends in mandible-like appendages that permit fine manipulation.
Lifespan: Typically a year or two before it's eaten by another spider. But if the spider survives to age three, it grows large enough to fend off attacks from its fellows. Then it can grow indefinitely for upwards of 50 years. The stats above describe the largest specimen the PCs would normally meet.
Background: The spider's ecological role in the Anopheles dimension remains unknown. Here it weaves massive webs (DEF and BODY 4) to catch prey of rat-size and larger. Many spiders can inhabit a communal web, preying on each other as well as their kills.
Any spider may breed by consuming another spider. The surviving spider paralyzes a fresh victim, leaving it alive, and lays upwards of 10,000 eggs in the victim's flesh. When the eggs hatch some days later, the young make their first meal on the victim.
Powers/Tactics: A spider moves in a hazy sphere of magical darkness, never dispelling it except at night. The spider can see through its own darkness. It is cowardly by nature, casting its Entangles from a distance and fleeing from serious opposition.
55 STR * 10(14) DEX 0(6)# 20 CON 20 19 BODY * 5 INT -5 3 EGO -14 30 PRE 20 0 COM -5 12+ PD 10 4+ ED 2(3) SPD 0(3)# 6 REC 40 END 29 STUN * *Increased stats from Growth already added. #DEX 14, SPD 3 only in water (-1) POWERS 60 Growth, 45 pts, 0 END Persistent, always on (8'' wide, 4'' high, 50,000 kg, +45 STR, +9 BODY, +9 STUN, -6 DCV, -9'' KB) 17 +8d6 HA, only w/successful Grab (-1/2), END 2 20 Invisibility, 0 END, not while moving (-1/2), END 0 15 Armor (+5 PD/+5 ED) 15 Damage Reduction, 25% rPD 5 Flash Defense 5 Lack of Weakness (-5) 5 Life Support: Breathes water, Vacuum/High Pressure 5 Regeneration, 1 BODY/5 hrs (-1) 4 +2'' Swimming (3'' total) 10 Clinging 5 Extra Limbs (number varies) 10 Disc. Smell and Touch 15 UV Vision, 360 degrees SKILLS/TALENTS 6 +3 w/Grab 3 Contortionist 11- 3 Stealth 11- 3 Ambidexterity 5 Combat Sense 11- 3 Double Jointed 10 Find Weakness 11- 100+ DISADVANTAGES 20 2x STUN, BODY from Armor Piercing attacks 20 2x STUN, BODY from chemical attacks 30 Berserk when hurt 14-, 11- 5 Dislikes bright light 15 No fine manipulation (com, great) 6 -3'' Running 5 Susc: 1d6/minute in very dry environments 25 Dist. features 5 Hunted, Survivors (less pow, 8-) 10 2d6 Unluck 18 Monster bonus OCV: 3+; DCV: -3+; ECV: 1; PHASES: 6,12/4,8,12 CHAR (35) + POWERS (224) = TOTAL (259) = DISADS (159) + BASE (100)
Appearance: Not quite like terrestrial starfishes, this creature looks more like them than like anything else recognizable. It's actually an irregular mass of tentacles, like an octopus without a head. Color varies from minute to minute, but the starfish's resting color is a dull greenish-gray.
Lifespan: Four to 40 years.
Background: Starfish grow continuously all their lives. These stats describe a very old starfish; note that age doesn't slow it down much. The smallest starfish the PCs encounter have only 15 pts of Growth; those with more than 30 pts of Growth are never met out of the ocean. Young starfish remain in their home dimension, and so starfish breeding habits remain a mystery.
Powers/Tactics: An Anopheles-type starfish can change its color to match its background. In dim light this works as Invisibility, but only while the starfish holds still.
The starfish has no eyes. But light-sensitive patches dot its surface -- thus the ultraviolet "vision.''
These monsters aren't much danger if you spot them from a distance and steer clear. But they excel at waiting, well hidden despite their bulk, and strike suddenly from surprise. And when they're around, don't go in the water.
+10 STR 10 +5 DEX 15 +10 CON 20 -- BODY -- INT -- EGO +10 PRE 10 -10 COM -5 +2 PD +2 ED +1 SPD 5 +4 REC +20 END +10 STUN POWERS IRON MAIDEN TRANSFORMATION POWERS 7 1d6 major Transform (described below), NND (+1; defense is resistant defenses), continuous (+1), uncontrolled (+1/2) (52 active pts), three charges that cost END (-1 3/4), one day extra time (-3 1/2), Personal IAF (bone spikes, -1/2), no range (-1/2), requires successful grab (-1/2), runs off END Reserve 25 10d6 EB, STUN only, no range (-1/2), linked to Transform (-1/2), runs off END Reserve 2 Mind Link, any victim (15 pts), three charges that cost END (-1 3/4), linked to Transform (-1/2), no range (-1/2), extra time (once victim is totally Transformed, usually about three weeks; -4), runs off END Reserve 31 END Reserve for Transform, EB, and Mind Link (300 END, 1 REC) OTHER POWERS 10 IR/UV Vision 10 Detect Suitable Victim, sense, range 0+ DISADVANTAGES 20 2x STUN from sonics (makes bone spurs vibrate) 15 Berserk when bone spurs broken (unc) 14-, 14- 15 Compulsion to grab and impale victims (com, strong) 5 Moves awkwardly (no Acrobatics, Breakfall, Contortionist) 15 3d6 STUN when bone spurs broken (unc, instant) 25 Distinctive Features 5 Hunted, Survivors (less pow, 8-) 5 1d6 Unluck 35 Monster bonus OCV: +2; DCV: +2; ECV: unch; PHASES: +1 CHAR (55) + POWERS (85) = TOTAL (140) = DISADS (140) + BASE (0)
An iron maiden is not a character in itself, but a transformation of an existing character or creature. The victim's existing stats are increased or decreased as shown, and he gains the listed powers and disadvantages. The transformation is built on a zero-point base.
Appearance: As the creature transformed, but with long yellow-white spikes of bone thrusting through the skin at each joint, along the eyebrow ridges, at the sternum, and so on. The victim's eyes are glazed, its expression insane.
Lifespan: Unknown; perhaps inapplicable.
Background: An iron maiden results from infection with an extra-dimensional intelligent microbe colony. The microbes, carrying knowledge encoded as DNA-like genes, infest a living body, first taking over its cardiovascular system, then its bone marrow.
The intelligent infection promotes the growth of long, pointed spurs at most skeletal strongpoints: joints, sternum, ribcage, spine, and skull. These spikes soon rip through the skin and become reservoirs for the production of new microbes.
The infection next controls the host's mind, instilling an urge to impale new victims on the bone spurs. When thrust into a victim, the spikes inject their fluid reservoirs of microbes. This attack's resemblance to an infamous medieval torture device prompted the Survivor nickname "iron maiden.''
Powers/Tactics: The Charges Limitation on the Transform power indicates that an iron maiden can inject its infection into a victim only three times a day. Once injected, the infection spreads through the victim as long as its END Reserve holds out; the Charges Limitation does not apply here.
Each 1d6 Transform attack takes one day and uses 5 END; an iron maiden usually allocates 100 END to each infection. The entire transformation usually takes about three weeks. If the victim avoids succumbing to the Transform before the END Reserve is exhausted, he has fought off the infection and can heal the damage normally.
Because the microbes transcribe new information as alterations to their own genetic codes, every new generation of infection knows everything that the previous generations have learned. This works as a Mind Link linked to the Transform, representing a "download'' of the attacker's mind into the victim's. It occurs upon injection, but the information isn't revealed until the victim is completely transformed (thus the Extra Time Limitation).
GM note: For an example of intelligent microbes, see the excellent science fiction novel Blood Music by Greg Bear (Arbor House, 1985).
DR. GREGORY KULIK
10 STR 18 DEX 24 23 CON 26 10 BODY 20 INT 10 25 EGO 30 20 PRE 10 8 COM -1 10+ PD 8 10+ ED 5 6 SPD 32 5 REC 46 END 29 STUN POWERS ATTACK POWERS 20 Multipower: Anopheles-bestowed Magic, 60 pts (-2) * 2u Blight of Anopheles: 4d6 EGO Attack, invisible, END 6 2u Withering Hand: Drain 1d6 CON, 1d6 COM, continuous, range, END 6 2u Heart Clutch: 2d6 RKA, fully invisible, END 6 2u Wrath of the Monster's Gaze: 12d6 EB, END 6 2u The God Commands: 9d6 Mind Control, telepathic, END 6 DEFENSE POWERS 66 Mosquito Staff (OAF; runs off END Reserve): +20 PD/+10 ED FF, Trigger: When holder is hit (40 pts), END 4 Missile Deflection (all) 12- (22 pts), END 2 3d6 EGO Attack, invisible, damage shield (60 pts), END 6 END Reserve (50 END, 5 REC) (10 pts) 35 Mental Defense (fanatical insanity; 38 total) 10 +20 PRE, only to defend vs. PRE attacks (-1) 10 Damage Resistance, 10 PD/10 ED 5 Flash Defense 5 Life Support: no need to eat, excrete, sleep OTHER POWERS 2 1'' Flight, END 1 20 Mind Link w/Anopheles in their dimension SKILLS/TALENTS/PERKS 40 128 25-pt Followers (cultists, described below) 9 +3 Range Skill Levels (all attacks) 10 +2 w/ranged combat 12 Scientist, Scholar, Traveler, Linguist 4 Sciences: Anatomy, Anthropology, Archaeology, Entomology, all 11- 9 KS: Anopheles rites, monsters, invasion plans, all 13- 4 AK: Campaign city, Kenya, two others, all 11- 4 Languages (fluent): English (native), Swahili, Anophelean ritual language 5 Well Off 15 Danger Sense, combat 11- * All Multipower slots have the Limitations Gestures (-1/4), Incantation (-1/4), only during cult rituals (-1 1/2) 100+ DISADVANTAGES 10 Enraged when taunted (very com) 11-, 14- 25 Completely nuts 13 Watched by Anopheles 14- 5 Rivalry with other magicians 5 1d6 Unluck 15 Secret Identity 266 Villain Bonus OCV: 6+; DCV: 6+; ECV: 8; PHASES: 2,4,6,8,10,12 CHAR (144) + POWERS (295) = TOTAL (439) = DISADS (339) + BASE (100)
Appearance: As described in the ritual scene above, Kulik (in 1928) is an elderly, avuncular man, thin and white-haired, but with wide, glazed, bloodshot eyes that betray his insanity.
The old man's movements, though rapid and sure, are jerky, as though his limbs were being pulled into place by puppet strings.
Powers/Tactics: The mad wizard's most important weapon is the Mosquito Staff, a long, thin rod of ivory -- of human bone, actually -- with a bright brass sphere at one end. When the Staff's defensive powers activate, filaments of lightning crackle around the sphere, and a high-pitched whine fills the air. Kulik created this weapon in a ritual guided by the Anopheles.
Kulik's single inch of Flight, which he uses to hover dramatically during rituals, is less than the minimum cost of Flight for PCs. If the GM disapproves of this, augment Kulik's Flight to 5''.
Kulik retreats from direct conflict when possible. He throws his cultists at all danger and hangs back, making ranged attacks.
Kulik can handle normal-level heroes without sweat, as witness the fate of Clarence Alsop's 1928 investigators. But he offers less challenge to a group superheroes; once they get past his ravening cultists, a coordinated band of PCs can take out Kulik in a turn or two. If the GM prefers a lengthier combat, improve Kulik's physical defenses, boost his REC and END, add two overall combat skill levels, and increase his SPD to 7 or 8.
Kulik transformed: The transformed Kulik in the Anopheles dimension has no abilities except control of the gate, a plot-driven ability. He can talk and retains his Knowledge Skills, but cannot take independent action. He lacks the Mental Defense of his earlier years.
KULIK'S BRUTISH CULTISTS
10 STR 11 DEX 13 CON 10 BODY 7 INT
8 EGO 10 PRE 8 COM 2 PD 3 ED
3 SPD 5 REC 26 END 25 STUN COST: 10
SKILLS: Martial Arts (Dirty Infighting), +1 DC; FAM: Swords (actually sacrificial daggers); FAM: Thrown knives/axes; +1 w/daggers; Concealment 11-; Stealth 11-; KS: Anopheles rituals 11-; Anopheles ritual language (fluent). (Total: 40 pts.)
25+ Disadvantages: Berserk during rituals 8-, 14- (com, 10 pts); Dull-witted and fanatically obedient (20 pts).
Background: Kulik recruited the first of his vapid followers from among the safari bearers on his Kenya expedition, and more from the lowest classes upon his return to the campaign city. In the 1928 ritual described above, they became the first hatching of Anopheles hybrids. The rest of this entry discusses the cult in 1928, prior to that ritual.
The cultists, all male but of many different races and backgrounds, share fanatical solidarity and a love of bestial violence. They have little ideology; Kulik's demonically-possessed personality attracts them to the cult.
To join the cult, a candidate must stand in leech-infested swamp water up to his neck for one hour. This supposedly leeches away the taint of a Christian baptism or other religious rite (along with much of the candidate's blood). Survivors spend a month in total darkness while Kulik or other cultists brainwash them and indoctrinate them in the ritual language used in Anopheles cultic magic.
Cultists return to society in menial positions, but meet at midnight twice each week for reinforcing rites. Once each month the cult stages a ritual involving the violent assault and sacrifice of young women or children.
[NOTE: In the 1990 supplement Champions in 3-D, a typo turned "Kulik's Brutish Cultists" into "Kulik's British Cultists"!]
Use the statistics for a Competent Normal. Add Survival: Devastated Urban Environment 11-; KS: Anopheles Invaders 11-; Lightsleep; Transport FAM: Small Ground Vehicles; and FAM: Small Arms. The Skill Level is with Small Arms; the two +1 skill adds both go to Survival.
Disadvantages are Hunted: Anopheles (20 pts); and Psych Lim: Starved, paranoid, desperate (10 pts).
For Survivor leaders, add further skills drawn from the following package deal.
SURVIVOR PACKAGE DEAL
Fighting the Anopheles menace offers a still more intense challenge in a heroic-level campaign. In this situation the players take the roles of Survivors in a campaign either before, during, or after the Anopheles takeover.
The goal of the pre-takeover campaign hardly needs explanation. In a post-takeover game, the PCs seek safe havens; destroy monsters; rescue individual NPCs and prized objects from hideous fates; and, perhaps, discover the means to banish the monstrous invaders.
To this end, the GM should set up (a) a larger pantheon of monsters, perhaps based on those in horror literature, and (b) devise some method of banishment that is within reach of non-superheroes. This could be an ancient spell, a dangerous journey into the monsters' home dimension, or a pilgrimage to seek assistance from elder, alien deities in a surreal landscape. Or, for an even more downbeat campaign, the GM can decide that the creatures cannot be banished, but only defeated in detail.
PC Survivors may take this package deal:
SKILLS One Weapons FAM: 2 pts KS: Survival, one post-takeover environment 11-: 2 KS: Anopheles Monsters 11-: 2 CK: Campaign City 11-: 2 Lightsleep: 3 One 5-pt Combat Skill Level: 5 Stealth: 3 +2 w/Stealth: 4 +1'' Running: 2 Three Skills from the following list: Climbing, Combat Driving, Concealment, Demolitions, Lockpicking, Paramedic, Security Systems, Shadowing, Streetwise, Tracking: 9 pts DISADVANTAGES Package Bonus: -3 Hunted by Anopheles (more pow, 11-): -20 One 10-pt Psych Lim: -10 PACKAGE COST: 1
THE WAY OUT
By foiling Kulik's ritual, the heroes change history. The invasion is prevented; William Alsop survives; the world develops much like our own, or like the campaign world. The GM can use this rationale, a kind of "pressure of time,'' to return the PCs to the present. "The onrushing currents of history, swirling into their new patterns, carry you irresistibly forward. Don't ask questions, it's time travel.''
If the players would sneer at this as gobbledygook hand-waving, the GM has several alternatives:
- Establish some plot-related goal the PCs must achieve to return, such as uncovering the Anopheles' own time-travel devices in their fallen city in Kenya.
- An NPC magician can send them back; the pulp-era crimefighters sometimes commanded great magic, or could send those in need to the Tibetan monastery or mad scientist who could do the job.
- Let the dying Kulik "curse'' them, banishing them to what he calls "a world on the verge, where at any moment the whole world may explode into nightmare. Can you think, you champions of `good,' how thin a line separates this world from total horror?'' With this melodramatic line, he collapses; but his dying spell sends the heroes to the "world on the verge'' -- a world identical to their own. Does their horror continue. . . ?
Sticking around: If you'd like to keep the heroes in 1928 for a while, skip the automatic snap-back to the present and run a few exploratory adventures in this fascinating time. First the heroes can undertake a small campaign to stamp out the last isolated Anopheles cults in the world. Then have the heroes fight Prohibition mobsters in Chicago and Ku Klux Klan racism in the south; explore uncharted Africa and Antarctica; and debate whether to knock off Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler.
Once they're ready to return home, have the heroes run into a pulp-era mad scientist with a time machine right out of H. G. Wells. This vehicle can return the heroes either to this dimension's changed present (where their meddling in history may have created inadvertent disasters), or to their own home dimension.
These other-dimensional monsters can invade the heroes' own campaign world as easily as they did this dimension. They may recognize the heroes' role in their defeat, magically trace their trail back home, and seek revenge, in their own subtle and terrifying manner.
The conventions of this type of horror story dictate that you can never completely defeat these immortal monsters, only hold them off for a year or a lifetime. Should the heroes return to this realm, you may decide the Anopheles are trying conquest again in modern times. They haven't taken over -- yet -- but their high-tech stronghold is much better guarded this time.
"Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.''
-- the Necronomicon
H. P. Lovecraft's collected works are available in hefty but inexpensive hardcover editions from Arkham House Publishers, Inc. (P. O. Box 546, Sauk City, WI 53583). Principal titles include At The Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, The Dunwich Horror and Others, and Dagon and Other Macabre Tales. Del Rey Books publishes paperback editions of Lovecraft's best work.
Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, based on Lovecraft's work and set in the 1920s, remains the premier horror roleplaying game. Among the best of its numerous supplements, adaptable to the HERO System with a little work -- though the fatality rate is pretty high -- are the brilliant globetrotting campaign Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry DiTillio; the campaign supplement Cthulhu Now (modern-day horror); the scenario collection The Great Old Ones, featuring the astounding "Bad Moon Rising'' by Marcus Rowland; and the slightly less deadly H. P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands, based on the early short novel The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath -- my own favorite Lovecraft.