Even by the standards of my group’s seasonal specials,
this scenario is an odd one. The specials, held four times a year, are used for
epic events in our regular campaigns. At least, that was the original idea. But
one of our campaigns involves a group of immortal Spartans, and as that
campaign plays out slowly over the centuries, we decided it would be fun from
time to time to have non-canonical specials that would allow us to fast-forward
in the characters’ lives. So, while the campaign is actually now up to the
eighth century AD and the characters recently met Alfred the Great, in various
specials we've played them in Victorian times, 1930s New York, a ‘60s spy
adventure, and even policing the mean streets of Mega-City One.
As you can see
from that list, not only are the Spartan specials non-canonical, they’re
usually an excuse to play around with tone and genre in a way we don’t tend to
do in our regular campaigns. The adventures don’t even have to make strictly
logical sense. You know Moonlighting?
The Taming of the Shrew episode? Like that.
Before I go on,
there are spoilers ahead. If you’re going to be playing in this scenario,
better look away now. Still here? Okay then…
reason I mentioned Shakespeare. This scenario was set in World War Two and followed
on from events in the Immortal Spartans campaign that happened two millennia
earlier. Back then, Julius Caesar had heard of a ruined city across the
Atlantic where there was a marvellous device (alien technology, naturally) that
could make him immortal just like the player characters. He and Cleopatra tried
to use it to raise themselves up to be gods over mankind, but the characters
thwarted that plan and Caesar seemed to be dissolved in the heart of the
Fast forward to
the 1940s. My idea was that on a mission to kidnap Mussolini, the characters
would stray through a “tempest” created by an experimental atomic device,
arriving not in Milan but in a parallel pocket universe where Caesar,
exploiting the consonance between his shadow existence and Mussolini’s
isolation as a puppet ruler, now imposed a different reality in which he was
the exiled duke seeking a return to power. The characters are sucked into this
pocket universe where “Il Duce” = “the Right Duke of Milan” and unless they can
stop Caesar from completing the final ceremony, his reality will overwrite our
timeline. All the centuries in which he was trapped as a shadow, his “gold
complexion dimm’d”, will never have happened and he will become the immortal
ruler of all as his original plan decreed.
As for tone –
exiled dukes, mistaken identities, storms that warp reality, a magical unity of
place and time. It had to be Shakespeare. Try and do some of the NPC dialogue
in Elizabethan style. It doesn’t have to be the Bard, but just a few touches
will add a lot of flavour. Of course, to use this scenario at all you’re going
to need to do a lot of rejigging, even if you run it for one-off characters.
Your best bet is probably just to read through it for ideas and then remake it
in a form that suits your group. Let us know in the comments how it plays out.
[This is how my players came in, but you may decide to ditch the immortal Spartans thing entirely.]
It is the summer of 1943, and you have lived for
nearly two and a half thousand years. You are healthy but, having seen so much,
inevitably some experiences are hazier than others. Sometimes you wake dazzled
by the blazing light on the brass walls of Athena’s temple, or with the taste
of a fresh fig plucked from the groves beside the Eurotas. Early memories are
always sharp. Others may come into focus for a while, uncertainly poised
between recollection and dream, as each successive era sees you in new clothes,
speaking a new tongue. Who knows how many loves and friends and foes you have
forgotten, how many once-cherished experiences are lost forever in the unstopping
torrent of your lives?
mankind, whom you have lived among like gods, is on the verge of harnessing the
power of Apollo. What wonders the rest of the 20th century may bring, if the
world survives the dark abyss of conflict into which it has lately fallen.
You have 480
points to spend. We are using only
the two core GURPS 4e books: Characters and Campaigns, both to keep things
simple and on the basis that some of the later books break more than they fix.
So if it isn’t in those two core books, it isn’t in the special.
cinematic or paranormal abilities. Exotic abilities are probably okay, but
we’ll look at those on a case by case basis rather than list them here.
should not exceed 14. Other stats can go up to 20, and you can buy Lifting ST
and Striking ST up to +5.
excess of 16 are capped by your IQ. For example, with IQ 12 you can have two
skills at 22, or three at 20, etc. Your attitude to modern skills is up to you.
Spartans despised long-range missile weapons such as bows as cowardly, but
twenty-five centuries is a long time in which to moderate your views.
You have no
disadvantages or quirks – at least, not that earn you any points.
wealth is already assumed, so you don’t need to allocate points for that.
You don’t have to bother with allies and contacts;
as the setting of a special is so limited it makes little sense for you to pay
for them. I will automatically assign you contacts if appropriate. However, if
you want to specify contacts, in full knowledge that they may not be
accessible, feel free to do so.
decide if you have sympathy with the Axis or Allies, or are neutral. For the
sake of this scenario, it’s assumed that in June 1943 you are at least
purporting to be on the side of the Allies and so taking status or rank in the
Allied forces may make sense. (If you choose to be a double agent, pay only for
your status/rank on the Axis side; their intelligence resources will have
arranged equivalent rank for you among the enemy at no cost to you.)
have Greek, Latin, English and one other modern language free. You probably
will need more. Area Knowledge could also come in handy. (The adventure will
take place largely in the European theatre.)
mostly going to be standard WW2 kit. Assume that you can have one weapon or other piece of gear of
fine quality (adds +2 to skill) and the rest at good quality (+1 to skill).
Rationale: this is a time of constant missions, so there’s a lot of churn on
the gear you’re using, and not always time to resupply with the top-quality
stuff between operations.
just wasn’t practical for field use in the early 1940s. You might put a
bulletproof jacket under an overcoat if you were expecting an assassin to take
a potshot at you, or don a flak jacket while aboard a bomber (they are
effective at stopping slow-moving shrapnel, not high-velocity bullets), but
you’d be lumbering about like Iron Man with his power switched off. The only armour usable on active duty is a
helmet (DR4, weight 3lbs).
airship, the Apollo, is 250m long
with a duralumin hull and seventeen helium gasbags. It is powered by four 1250
hp engines with swivel mounts allowing them to be angled in almost any
direction. It has a top speed of 85 mph and a range of 7000 miles.
bridge and radio room are in the control gondola located at the fore of the
hull, with a secondary main crew/passenger area molded into the lower deck area
further back. The main quarters include kitchen, dining room, sixteen
two-person passenger cabins, further cabins for forty crew behind a bulkhead,
and an observation lounge. Access between the control gondola and living
quarters is via the interior deck.
control gondola can be detached from the hull in extreme emergency, deploying chutes
that allow a controlled descent to the sea.
nacelles are located fore and aft on the upper curve of the hull. An
observation pod called the Eyrie can be lowered from the midpoint of the vessel
to keep lookout when hovering in cloud.
internal hangar holds five single-seat Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk fighter planes: Phobos, Deimos, Thanatos, Aidos and Aite. These can be lowered for launch by
means of a trapeze mechanism, onto which they can hook to return to the ship.
TESTING THE DEMON CORE
Summer 1943. We open over the North Pole, aboard the characters’ airship Apollo, where they are helping Dr
Otto Frisch and his assistant Auberon
Farley conduct tests using the Lady Godiva Device. The aurora borealis is like being inside a glowing curtain.
When Dr Frisch turns on the device, the aurora intensifies and bends in towards
the ship. Realizing that the Demon Core
of the device is going critical, Farley reaches in and pulls out a component,
deactivating it just as the glowing plasma flows through the ship.
They receive a
message to proceed to Dounreay Castle on the northern coast of Scotland. The message is tagged “Blenheim”, indicating highest urgency.
En route to
Scotland, the airship is attacked by a squad of Bannerboys (Blutfahnejugend). These are young (16-18
year old) Aryan super-soldiers created by a process (“Der Agoge”) developed by
Nazi scientists of the Thulë Society in the early 1930s. Bannerboys refer to
the Spartans as “Die Golemen” (to distinguish them from so-called Übermenschen).
gondola loses contact with the
observation nacelles on the upper part of the hull. (Snipers in the Nazi glider
took out both spotters.)
The Nazis are
attacking in two waves. Inside the hull, commandos are planting bombs while a machine gunner covers them from by the Sparrowhawks. The LMG takes
a few rounds to set up, so if characters move fast they will only have three
covering snipers to worry about.
The second wave
attacks the passenger gondola with the aim of stealing or destroying the Lady
Godiva Device. They abseil down the
hull, blow the windows with concussion
to avoid stun) and move in.
During the attack, the Lady Godiva Device begins to
activate. Physics roll at -2 to deactivate it.
BRIEFING AT DOUNREAY
The characters get their initial mission briefing from
Winston Churchill. The Allied
invasion of Sicily has been brought forward and will begin imminently. They are
to abduct Mussolini to prevent
Hitler from continuing to use him to legitimize Axis control of northern Italy.
ARRIVING AT MALTA
Upon arriving in Malta
they are greeted by Rear-Admiral Gareth “Bay”
Bayswater and his staff.
In Bay’s office
they meet an operative called Rasenna
who gives them a plan of the Italian coastal defences, and tells them that “Il Duce” is in Milan. They will need to grab him there before he returns to Salo, where the German fortifications
will make the job all but impossible.
They need to
decide how to equip for the mission. The plan is to parachute near to the city.
Bay’s people advise that mostly they should be in civilian gear, as military
patrols are more likely to be questioned or even co-opted by superiors.
Two of the
party could go in as an Oberstleutnant
(Wing Commander”) and Feldwebel
(Sergeant) of the First Fallschirm-Jäger Division (“the Green Devils”). As Luftwaffe
special ops, they are not subordinate to the SS officers they may run into.
They can be supplied with forged papers that confirm they are under orders from
General Kurt Student.
will have to make do with concealable weapons. The two German officers can
carry SMGs or FG42 automatic rifles, but need to be careful not to attract
undue attention (no actual machine guns!). They can also wear steel Fallschirmhelms (DR 5 on skull).
we use GURPS 4e for the Immortals Spartan campaign. Why? Here’s why.
There is an Italian agent whom they should
attempt to contact at a nightclub called Il Fungo a Mezzanotte on the Via del Fieno. They are to ask for the head waiter
and say (in Italian) “There is no chance of a mint julep, presumably?” (“Non vi è alcuna possibilità di un Julep di
menta, presumibilmente?”) and the agent will contact them.
The agent will
know Mussolini’s whereabouts and can provide them with whatever clothing and
papers are needed to get access to him. Failing that, they should return to
their radio set (wherever they leave it) and request new orders.
As per orders: take the Apollo over Milan to parachute in, seize Mussolini, and bring him
back alive across the Swiss border 50 miles away. It’s midsummer night.
A fierce storm
is raging over northern Italy. This is where they discover a saboteur (Frisch’s
assistant) has planted the Godiva Device in the upper rigging of the Apollo and set it to go critical. As
they jump, a vortex of glowing light surrounds the city and they leave a
“vapour trail” of sparks as they descend.
If they try to get
away from the city, they’ll find a force field now surrounds it at a distance of a
couple of miles.
(This list of some of the major Milan landmarks may be useful to provide colour.)
AT THE NIGHTCLUB
The nightclub is called Il Fungo a Mezzanotte – the Midnight Mushroom. The agent they have
to meet is Mira. She unrolls from a
carpet and does a slinky Egyptian-style number. (Eidetic memory identifies her
as Cleopatra, but not right away –
say “she reminds you of someone”, then later
give them an IQ roll.)
Mira tells them
“Il Duce” will be at the castle tomorrow morning for a state proclamation, but
that he will be heavily guarded by SS troopers then. She will try to find out
his whereabouts tonight, when it will be easier to kidnap him, but her informer
hasn’t got in touch yet.
“They say his
agents are out searching for something called the Proserpine Key. I don’t know
where that is, but if you find it then you may find him. I was given this ring,
which is supposed to be a clue of some kind.”
As they talk,
there’s a raid on club by the police, whom Mira calls the Calibanieri (sic). They might try to fight it out, but Mira hurries
them to the back door. “They’ll call for Pineborn and Il Brute. Go to the Love-in-Idleness
café near the cemetery. I’ll join you there.”
If they demur,
have Il Brute and Mr Pineborn arrive. (See later for stats.)
Mira’s ring is a large diamond on a silver setting. Scrutinizing
it closely reveals a tiny
imperfection inside the gem. A Vision roll at -10 allows them to see the
“imperfection” is in flux.
To view the
image, they either need a magnifying glass (could break into a jeweller’s) or
hold it up to a bright light like the lamp on the side of the Cathedral plaza. The
image shows Cleopatra and Caesar as glowing figures. (This is a good point for
someone to realize that Cleopatra is Mira.)
The ring itself
is not the Proserpine Key. Mira
herself is the Key.
THE CATHEDRAL and THE INFORMANT
It’s likely that on the way through from the Via del
Fieno to the Love-in-Idleness, they will pass by the Cathedral plaza.
The image of
Mussolini is projected onto the side of the Cathedral at night, hundreds of
feet high. Except… it’s not Mussolini’s face, it’s Caesar’s.
in a guy in a trenchcoat who they need to spot (Vision at -5 for the darkness)
across the plaza. As they see him (100 yards away) he ducks into a telephone
phone call summons the Calibanieri – unless they shoot him, in which case the
shot brings a patrolling SS jeep.
They’re fleeing from police cars (why? maybe they
pursued and killed the informant) and are cornered, until Baron Glauer pops up from a manhole cover and
leads them to safety.
Baron Glauer is
a psionic of the Thule Society. He
tells them that he can see both worlds, theirs and Caesar’s, having the ability
to send out his astral form between realities and even teleport by Tibetan
meditation. He promises to help the characters, warning that they must find the
Proserpine Key or Caesar will use it
to replace their time line with his own. He says that as long as they stay
within five yards of him, he can cloud the minds of ordinary patrolmen not to
In fact Glauer
just wants the Proserpine Key in order to have a bargaining chip with Caesar.
THE CAFÉ / CEMETERY
Mira sends word to them at the café to meet her at the
cemetery nearby. Her note says, “I will wait at the grave of Signor Einstein,” which refers to
Hermann Einstein, Albert Einstein’s father.
At the grave they
do indeed find Mira waiting for them. She tells them Caesar is at the Cathedral.
“He is getting ready for some kind of ceremony at dawn.”
Glauer recognizes Mira as the Proserpine Key and teleports her away with him
just as Mr Pineborn and Il Brute arrive for a big fight.
ENCOUNTERING IL BRUTE AND MR PINEBORN
Some special effects for if/when this happens:
Lights flicker – that’s the “they’re here” warning.
Pineborn may put lights out altogether (both he and Il
Brute can see in the dark).
Il Brute can rip out tables and use them as shields or
Il Brute can throw Mr Pineborn at someone -- a highball special.
characters race to the Cathedral, they’ll see that parties of workers in many
streets are decking out Il Duce’s statues with purple robes and laurel wreaths,
as for a Roman triumph.
STOPPING THE RITUAL
Caesar is conducting a marriage ritual that will
transform him and Mira into full immortals and replace our reality with his.
The characters have to disrupt the ceremony.
They face Caesar
and his bodyguard – not as tough a fight as the one earlier, unless the
bodyguard were alerted to use gold bullets. [The Spartans can regenerate most
damage, but gold weapons disrupt this ability so that they heal from such
injuries only as fast as normal men.]
characters successfully disrupt the ritual, this pocket universe reverts to real-world
Milan, Caesar becomes Mussolini (alive) and they will need to reach the Swiss
border. Baron Glauer could help if they haven’t killed him, though he can only
teleport so large a group a few miles.