The Complete Canal Priests Of Mars is now available!The original publication of Canal Priests Of Mars cut slightly over a third of author Marcus L. Rowland's manuscript to fit GDW's adventure format. The Complete Canal Priests Of Mars restores the cut material, features all new artwork by Paul Daly, and adds many useful player handouts. Enjoy the "author's cut" of a classic Space 1889 adventure, or experience it for the first time!
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Space: 1889 is copyright 1989-1999 Frank Chadwick, and is used by permission.
... 11 October 1896: The dreamless tranquility of cold sleep was rudely shattered by the incessant and inhumane shrieking of the emergency klaxons. Though my sleep capsule still maintained vestiges of ice encrusting several metallic surfaces, it was obvious that the analytical engine had initiated the thawing process several hours ago. A quick glance at the ship's chronometer embedded in the wall of the sleep capsule revealed that we were more than two weeks out from Syrtis Major. Releasing the sleep restraints, I quickly exited the capsule, grabbing my service revolver from the case outside the door. I was greeted by other crew members who had been awakened as well; most unusual was the apparent absence of Captain Cumberland from the assembled party. Hurrying to the Captain's capsule,which was still encrusted in ice, I initiated the manual override and entered to discover, to my utter amazement, that he was missing. All that remained were a number of small metal nuggets that the doctor quickly confirmed were dental fillings. There was no sign of a struggle‹what could have forced the Captain to leave behind his fillings??? -Entry from the Ship's Log of the First Officer of the HMS Conqueror, discovered orbiting Saturn by salvage crews from the recovery tug HMS Aurora, on 31 October 1997
In the depths of space, a horrifying mystery and adventure begins to unfold for the senior officers of the HMS Conqueror. This adventure, designed for use with the Cthulhu 1889 system rules presented in the last issue, will challenge any group of 4-6 experienced gamers. The adventure take place completely onboard the HMS Conqueror, an armoured ether transport (described in detail below), in the year 1896. Several new advances in technology have allowed mankind to colonize the known universe more effectively, the most important of these being the invention of cold sleep capsules and the widespread use of analytical engines. The development of the process of cold sleep in 1893 has revolutionized the transportation of mankind in space, allowing larger groups to travel on vessels no bigger than those in use prior to the invention of cold sleep. Though no major passenger vessel would tout cold sleep to its potential customers, the process has found a steady outlet in the Royal Navy. Freezing large numbers of troops, placing them on a new class of specially designed armoured ether transports, then shipping them off to the slaughter on the Oenotrian front has saved Her Majesty's government millions of pounds in "freight" charges and has enabled large numbers of troops to cross the vast interplanetary gulf.
Since the crew of these ether transports are asleep during the entire mission, someone or something is necessary to guide these vessels through the eddies of the ether. It was here that the analytical engine found its primary role, acting as a primitive ship's computer, overseeing its sleeping charges and steering the massive behemoth to its safe arrival around Mars. Silently clacking away, the tens of thousands of punch cards whirl through their endless dance, each instructing the analytical engine to make some minor course alteration or verifying if its sleeping passengers are safely within there norms. In emergencies, the analytical engine is instructed to wake the senior officers who are better equipped to deal with emergencies that the limited "memory" of the analytical engine's punch cards. Once the senior officers are awake, there is no way for them to return to sleep and so sufficient foodstuffs, water and oxygen supplies are on hand for them to survive the journey to Mars or to Earth. Remember, it is one thing to feed and water six senior personnel for four weeks, it is another to try and stretch those supplies to feed the more than one hundred soldiers on board. It is important that the GM remind his players that awakening the rest of the passengers is not an option; however, if they are foolish enough to do so, do not have them die of starvation or thirst, but of oxygen deprivation. The green house provides more than enough fresh oxygen supplies for the crew while they are in cold sleep, and can be stretched to provide sufficient oxygen should the senior crew be awakened. However, the plants will be overwhelmed within hours by the demands placed on them by one hundred oxygen breathing humans. The players should simply begin to fall asleep from oxygen deprivation, a sleep from which they never will awake.
The senior crew members of the HMS Conqueror have been awakened from cold sleep by the vessel's onboard analytical engine which detected that Captain Cumberland was no longer in his sleep capsule. As the capsule had not been tampered with or the captain revived, the analytical engine defaulted to a "program" which initiated the revival of the senior crew members to deal with the sudden disappearance. The players awaken in their sleep capsules: they wear no clothing, nor are the equipped with anything at all. As the sleep capsules are dual occupancy, each player will awaken at the same time as another player. Remember that none of them are clothed and this is the late Victorian age‹ the first thing on every player's mind should be securing clothing for their respective character's. Outside of every capsule is a small cabinet, unlocked, which contain two sets of "one-size fits all badly" temporary uniforms. Outside of the First Officer's and the Captain's capsule are two larger cabinets, each of which can be locked. Inside is a set of keys to lock/unlock every door on the vessel (exceptions are noted below), a .455 Webley revolver, lanyard, and six rounds of ammunition. These are the only weapons immediately available.
The assembled crew should quickly notice that the Captain is missing. Upon examining his cabin, they will find that there are four small, silver nuggets of metal on the floor of the capsule. The Doctor, with an Idea role, will quickly realize that they are dental fillings. A successful Spot Hidden will discover the only other clue, traces of a fine green powder in the ventilation duct in the Captain's cabin. If the Doctor examines the material under a microscope (available in his lab), a successful Botany or Chemistry role will determine that it is a plant like material. The only other clues immediately available can be found first by checking the status board of the sleep capsules. All capsules properly functioning are colored green, those malfunctioning are red. Two other capsules will become red as the players check the board. If they investigate the capsules, only one will still contain the body of a soldier, and this one has a hole in his back, surrounded by the same greenish material discovered in the Captain's cabin. The body is obviously dead; if an autopsy is undertaken, the doctor will discover that the body is undergoing a metamorphosis into some kind of plant like creature. His skin is becoming greenish as the doctor watches, his blood being replaced by chlorophyll. There is nothing that can be done to alter the process, other than ejecting the body into the ether.
Hopefully, the players will now be looking towards one of the greenhouses for possible clues. The forward greenhouse appears normal (and is, at least for now), filled with several different species of plants from Earth, Mars and Venus. The aft greenhouse is a different story. As the players head up the gangway at the aft end of the vessel, they will begin to hear the voices of their missing comrades calling for help (SAN Loss: 1/1d4). With a successful Know role, they will clearly hear Captain Cumberland pleading for their help (SAN Loss: 1/1d4). As they approach the aft greenhouse, they will quickly notice that the ceiling is buckling in several places, and that there is occasionally small clumps of dirt falling through the cracks. If they attempt to open the door to the greenhouse, they will be attacked by three plant zombies (see stats below). Within four rounds, vines will begin breaking through the ceiling of the storeroom (G Aft), and will become obvious that they players should escape back into the ship before becoming engulfed by the plant or killed by the zombies.
What has happened, unbeknownst to the players, (and it would be the most unlikely of circumstances if they ever found out) is that a Venus flytrap in the aft greenhouse has been genetically modified. The ether transport was boarded by a pair of the Great Race of Yith (Yithians) (see stats below) who easily bypassed the primitive sensors of the analytical engine, and began experimenting on the plants in the aft greenhouse. The Yithian scientists, intrigued by the presence of a Venus flytrap (placed there to eat any bugs that may have been accidently introduced to the greenhouse), began to genetically alter it into a sentient and carnivorous plant. The plant spread its tendrils through the vents onboard the ship, eating and absorbing the captain. The plant also began to convert some of its new found victims into plant zombies, hoping that they would eventually be able to bring it more human food. The Yithians are still nearby, intrigued to see what will occur when the crew is entirely absorbed by the plant, either as food or as plant zombies. It should be obvious to the players that they must stop the plant before it kills more crew members or destroys the vessel. The Yithians will only interfere with the crew if they exit the vessel and are obviously attempting to harm the plant.
Follow this link to deckplans for the HMS Conqueror.
The GM should also use the ship's design to enhance the terror filled atmosphere. Unlike regular interplanetary ether vessels, an armoured ether transport is much like the Nostromo in the movie Alien: dark, cramped, hissing pipes, deep recesses filled with shadows, the incessant clacking of the analytical engine, dim red emergency lights that hide more than they reveal, and the thrumming of the oxygen/carbon dioxide exchangers. Underneath it all, and clearly heard only at the aft end of the vessel, are the cries of fellow crew members demanding help and to be put out of their misery. The sleep capsules, at least those in operation, have thin coatings of frost on the outside. Finally, remember the plant is still growing, and occasionally warning klaxons will sound as parts of the interior structure give way and new red lights appear on the sleep capsule status board.
* Doors: the doors between all sections are lockable, airtight, bulkhead doors. They are normal kept closed, but not locked. The Captain's keys can override the door locks on any door, or make sure that the doors are unopenable by anyone else. GM's remember this when the player holding the Captain's keys goes insane.
A. Gallery: a lounge area for the ship's crew should they be awakened due to an emergency. Much of the space is generally taken up with crates of military or medical supplies for the military garrison on Mars.
B. Ship's Mess
C. Stores: more supplies and personal lockers for the ship's crew members.
D. Head (washroom)
E. Kitchen: about half of the ship's emergency foodstuffs are stored in this room.
G. Stores: Forward- personal weapons for the ship's crew and officers (see character sheets for available weapons); Aft- weapons lockers for the military troops onboard. Only the Captain and the Military Commander have keys to these lockers. Remember, the weapons in this area will quickly be unobtainable once the plant begins to expand. Players attempting to venture in this area once the tendrils have broken through the ceiling will be subject to 2d6 attacks per round; see stats below for damage. See O below for weapons stored in G Aft.
H. Officer's Bunks
I. Sleep Capsules: an alteration to the map needs to be done- there is only one central gangway (J) and the capsules are pushed against the outside hull. There are two rows of capsules, two high, each double occupancy, twenty four on one side, twenty six on the other. In the spot opposite the additional capsules are a stairway to the second level gangway and the sleep capsule status board. The only way to open a sealed capsule is to use the manual override located on the door to each capsule. Approximately every 20 minutes, an additional capsule will be compromised by the plant's tendrils. Though they are invading through the ship's ventilating system, simply closing the ventilation system will not solve the player's problems‹the ventilation systems provides needed oxygen to all the sleep capsules, as well as providing the refrigerants necessary to maintain the "cold sleep".
J. Gangways: metal gratings on the floor and on the second level.
K. Batteries: sealed rooms containing large lead acid batteries which are necessary to run the analytical engine. There are no internal doors leading to these rooms, and the external doors are sealed shut and can not be opened except by cutting the seals off with an acetylene torch. The interior walls can be breached as well, and a stray round may rupture a battery. The batteries (armor 3, strength 4), if punctured, will leak acid which will eventual eat through other batteries and eventually the hull of the ship as well.
L. Analytical Engine: (remove door on the upper left side): this room is filled with an analytical engine, a primitive computer using tens of thousands of punch cards, which store information allowing the analytical engine to perform simple and repetitive tasks, such as flying the vessel to Mars and maintaining the sleep capsules at a constant temperature. The room containing the analytical engine is considered "sealed"‹ it is off limits to all but trained personnel. The outer door can be opened using a key, but the inner, barred door can only be opened in port. The reason for this is that the punch cards are made of camphorated cellulose, a process that makes them extremely flexible and damage resistant, but also highly flammable. Ten thousand cards are equal to several pounds of dynamite, enough to several damage the ship should they exploded. Also, the analytical engine is a very precise machine; disrupting the cards in the slightest could set off a chain reaction killing the crew in their sleep capsules. The GM should make the players realize the consequences should they attempt to gain entry.
M. Bridge: should the analytical engine be shut down for any reason, control reverts to here automatically. The bridge is one of only three rooms with windows opening onto space. The windows are armored, but additional protection is usually provided by large external metal plates.
N. Engine Rooms: Effectively off limits to the players; however, a control station and panel will allow the players to shut down or restart the engines from here.
O. Military Stores: personal uniforms and equipment of the one hundred or so troops on board are stored here. The unit's weapons are stored in the two rooms marked G: 90 Lee-Metford Carbines, 90 Bayonets, 6 Webley revolvers, 6 Sabres, sufficient ammo for one reload on each weapon. The bulk of the unit's ammunition is shipped separately in order to make the armoured ether transport less of a tempting target for pirates.
P. Greenhouse: Level 2, forward: normal greenhouse; Level 3, aft: experimental greenhouse containing the mutated Venus flytrap. These two rooms are the only other spaces with windows. The windows (armor 20) are covered with large metal plates which are opened twice per day by the analytical engine to expose the plants to sunlight for four hours. The plants are watered and kept warm by pipes running through the ventilation system in these rooms. Excess water is collected and recycled for the next watering cycle.
Q. Sick Bay, Recovery Room and Lab: the lab contains all the necessary equipment to run most basic experiments. The chemical supply in here is limited, but a generous GM might allow creative players rig up almost anything within reason in their attempt to stop the plant.
R. Captain's Cabin
S. Captain's Day Cabin: In here is a locked safe, containing the ship's log, an updated listing of every item onboard the ship, and its location (some things may be missing or misplaced to add tension), a second revolver, a box of twenty five rounds of ammunition, and a book containing procedures on how to override the analytical engine while maintaining the sleep capsules' temperatures. The book instructs that the engines be shut down, the battery leads to the analytical engine be disconnected (thus stopping the analytical engine without disrupting the card sequence), that a number of wires be directly connected to the either the engine or battery leads, and then that the engines be restarted. The sleep capsules will be kept cool, but there will be no way to regulate the temperature precisely, more importantly, the sleep capsule status board will no longer function at all.
T. Chart Room
U. Storage: Emergency oxygen supplies and storage for up to four bridge personnel.
V. Air Locks and Ethersuit Stores: Four DeLacy ether-suits (see Transactions # 1) are stored near each airlock.
Great Race of Yith, #2
STR 42 CON 26 SIZ 64 INT 23 POW 13 DEX 10
HP 45 MOVE 7
Weapon: Pincer 40% // 1d6+1d6
Lighting Gun 30% // Varies (20 charges, max. damage 20d10)
Armor: 8 point skin
Mutated Venus Fly Trap
STR 25 CON 40 SIZ special INT 08 POW 16 DEX 35
HP varies MOVE 0/12 (body//vines)
Weapon: Vines 25% // 1d4+ special
Plant Zombies see below
*SIZ: SIZ begins at 8 and increases by two for every crew member/soldier consumed; thus by the time the players first meet up with the plant, it will be SIZ 14.
* Special damage: the vines will entangle the victim (STR vs STR to break free); within 1d4 rounds, the vines will secrete an acidic compound which will bore through the victims back, allowing him to either be dissolved as food or to begin the process of becoming a plant zombie; to see either process will cost the viewer 1/1d6 additional Sanity loss.)
Armor: 12 point body, 6 point vines (note: the plant has been genetically altered to withstand vacuum and will survive if exposed to the ether.)
STR 12 CON 10 SIZ 10 INT 0 POW as fly trap DEX 10
HP 10 MOVE 4 (limited)
Weapons: Fists 30% // 1d6 plus entangle
Armor: 2 point skin
* The plants zombies are limited in range since they are still attached to the Venus fly trap by vines; however they are extremely flexible (having largely been converted to plant material) and can travel just about anywhere on the aft end of the vessel.
Dr. Michael Plimpton, RN
Medical Officer, HMS Conqueror
STR 08 CON 14 SIZ 11 INT 18 POW 14 DEX 11
APP 12 EDU 16 SAN 70
Skills: Botany 30, Chemistry 25, Climb 50, Biology 50, Diagnose Disease 55, Dodge 25, First Aid 80, Hide 20, Pharmacy 25, Pilot Ether Flyer 10, R/W Latin 30, Spot Hidden 95, Treat Disease 55, Treat Poison 25, Zoology 30
Weapons: Fist 50% // 1d3
Handgun 45% // 1d10
Scalpel 65% // 1d4
Equipment: Uniform, Personal Gear, Doctor's Medical Bag, Robb's Medical Companion, Dissecting Kit, Microscope, .38 Adams Double Action Revolver, Chemical laboratory
Lieutenant Commander William Harcourt, RN
Chief Engineer, HMS Conqueror
STR 12 CON 14 SIZ 13 INT 18 POW 09 DEX 16
APP 08 EDU 11 SAN 45
Skills: Astronomy 30, Climb 50, Naval Architecture 25, Dodge 35, Electrical Repair 30, Hide 50, Mechanical Repair 60, Operate Heavy Machinery 50, Pilot Ether Flyer 25, Sneak 50, Spot Hidden 35, Throw 45
Weapons: Fist 70% // 1d3+1d4
Handgun 40% // 1d10+2
Rifle 35% // 2d6+3
Equipment: Uniform, Personal Gear, .455 Webley Revolver, Engineer's Tool Kit, Ether Drive Speciality Repair Kit
Ensign Duncan Campbell, RN
Asst. Engineer, HMS Conqueror
STR 16 CON 12 SIZ 14 INT 14 POW 10 DEX 18 APP 12 EDU 09 SAN 50
Skills: Climb 50, Dodge 55, Electrical Repair 60, Fast Talk 35, Hide 60, Jump 40, Listen 40, Mechanical Repair 50, Operate Heavy Machinery 40, Pilot Ether Flyer 25, Sneak 60, Spot Hidden 65, Throw 55, Track 30, Treat Disease 20
Weapons: Fist 95% // 1d3+1d4
Rifle 50% // 2d6+3
Throwing Knife 75% // 1d4+1d4
Equipment: Uniform, Personal Gear, Engineer's Tool Kit, Electrical System's Tool Kit, 4 Throwing Knives
Captain Peter Alan Landsdowne
Senior Army Officer, 1st East Surrey Regiment
STR 12 CON 08 SIZ 12 INT 12 POW 15 DEX 18 APP 14 EDU 12 SAN 75
Skills: Play Cricket 60, Debate 50, Dodge 50, Hide 60, Make Maps 40, Repair Small Arms 20, Pilot Aerial Flyer 40, Spot Hidden 40, Track 20, Pick Locks 25, Leadership 45
Weapons: Fist 70% // 1d3
Handgun 55% // 1d10+2
Rifle 60% // 2d6+3
Sabre 55% // 1d8+1
Equipment: Khaki Uniform, Personal Gear, Sam Browne Belt, .455 Webley Revolver, Cavalry Sabre, 2 Cricket Bats
Sir Alan Spencer-Compton, KCB
Foreign Office Diplomat Travelling with the 1st East Surreys
STR 14 CON 08 SIZ 11 INT 16 POW 15 DEX 10 APP 14 EDU 17 SAN 75
Skills: Accounting 25, Chemistry 20, Biology 15, Debate 70, History 80, Physics 40, Spot Hidden 75, Speak 3 Languages each at 30, R/W 3 languages each at 55
Weapons: Fist 80% // 1d3+1d4
Handgun 35% // 1d8
Shotgun 50% // 4d6/2d6/1d6 Equipment: Expensive Suit, Personal Gear, Pocket Watch, Briefcase with Official Papers, .32 Hopkins and Allan Pocket Revolver, Shoulder Holster, Double Barreled 12 gauge Shotgun
This scenario was originally run as an open gaming segment at Origins 91 where many of the bugs were worked out. The original group tried to storm the aft green house with their personal weapons and weapons gathered from the arms lockers. They were unsuccessful and were forced to regroup in the area near the sleep capsules. Dr. Plimpton and Sir Alan found the Captain's safe and discovered the procedure to shut down the analytical engine and still maintain the sleep capsules. The party then cut through the barred door leading to the analytical engine, took a number of the punch cards, and put together a primitive bomb. Placing the bomb and its fuse in an ethersuit, they tied the bomb to a magnetic soled boot, suited up Engineer Harcourt, and sent the two outside to blow the armored glass window of the greenhouse and expose the plant to vacuum. It was an interesting idea, but doomed. The window exploded, the plant began to be sucked out into space, but it Śs vines managed to grab hold inside the vessel and it pulled itself inside; they did manage to destroy some of the plant zombies however. They also attracted the attention of the Yithians. While the plant was occupied with resecuring itself inside the ship, the remaining players inside the ship where attacked by the Yithians. Harcourt, trapped outside, was able to move towards the huge solar mirror and turn it towards the aft greenhouse, eventually direct the sun's powerful rays directly on the plant and burning it up. Meanwhile, the players continued to hold off the Yithians, but they were slowly being pushed back. One Yithian was killed when his lighting gun exploded and the other was eventually destroyed through sustained firepower. The remaining players gathered in the lounge, surveyed their loses, and settled in for the two week journey to Mars.
A second playtest group followed the same general course of action after two unsuccessful attempts to destroy the plant by direct assault. However, this time two players traveled outside to set the explosives. The window exploded, the plant struggled to hold on (eventually succeeding again), but the group was ambushed by the Yithians. One was instantly killed, while the other player escaped back inside the ship. This time, the battle did not go as well, and the players were eventually forced up to the bridge area where they attempted to hold on to the very last moment. Using the bridge air supplies and scavenged ether suits, two of the players were able to survive in the forward greenhouse until the ship reached Mars. The plant creature was killed in the end, but only by destroying the aft end of the transport through a combination of explosions, decompression, and structural weakness caused by exploding battery acid. Less than a third of the troop complement survived to reach Mars in this second playtest. Nevertheless, this may have been a more exciting adventure for the players as the action was quick and deadly, sniping at the Yithians as they moved through the damaged corridors of the ether transport. Ultimately, the GM can allow any method the players choose to destroy the plant, but the more audacious the better chance it should have to succeed. If the players are having too easy a time of it, increase the plant's attacks on sleeping crew members, or bring the Yithians in earlier. If they are having a very difficult time of it (more than half the group dead or insane), drop the Yithians, and allow any sane plan the players come up with to destroy the plant. Remember, though, that this is Cthulhu 1889, people are supposed to have a tough time of it !!!!
Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:49:30 EDT