A series of unnatural earthquakes and tremors have struck a major city that doesn't normally experience earthquakes.
Then Shit Gets Real.
3-5 Player Characters. This scenario is ideal for starting level characters or for higher level one shot characters.
- Socially Awkward Scientist: PC has some scientific background, ranging from being an actual scientist to being a high school science teacher. The character should be able to handle dissecting a monster, and possibly performing first aid.
- The Jock: A physical take charge kind of character with good stats for melee combat, forcing open doors and lifting debris. The Jock can also double as a potential authority figure and can be a football coach, a professional football player, a police officer, or some other profession based around physical activity and teamwork.
- The Professional: The Professional has a special skill set that might seem odd at first but should come in handy later in the adventure. Some examples include professional spelunker, military survivalist, Internet hacker and so on. The professional is a wild card, and can being some unique skills to the table without requiring in depth explanation.
- The Veteran: This character is the voice of reason and experience, likely retired and twice the age of the other characters. He can be a military veteran, a retired police officer, or retired from another profession and now spends his or her time with handy things like boats, shotgun collections, and dispensing wisdom and insults in equal measure. The Veteran MUST pick some sort of physical flaw or handicap related to their profession ala a war wound, or have a medical condition that requires attention.
- The Cheerleader: A vital member of the party, the cheerleader has social attributes first, and really shouldnt be good at anything. The Cheerleader should have some sort of Devil's Luck, or be immune to critical failures in game tests. The prettiest girl doesn't ever fall when running from the bad guys.
The PCs have all met one another, or have been moved into close proximity. Ideally there should be the nucleus of the group formed, while there should not be more than two groups to maintain a constant narration. The PCs all meet in a bar, or a diner, or are all on the same bus heading downtown. Coincidence is a perfectly acceptable method in this type of game, as development of character personas is not really important. (If no one has figured it out, this is cheesy beer and pretzels gaming theory.) The PCs can be given a few media based expositions, such as panicked 911 calls being reported by the news about giant spiders, a potential gas fire and so on. These are the first sign that there isn't something wrong. The dog went out to pee but there was a yelp and Fido never came back.
DUN DUN DUUUUNNNNN!!!
Enter Monster Stage One
Spiders, it always has to be spiders. Those unblinking eyes, and they way the move all of those legs, or is it the way they impassionately suck their prey dry? Spiders are damn creepy when they are smaller than pocket change. The first spiders encountered are small, the size of large tarantulas or rats. Killing them is easy, they have no special powers and their bite is poisonous but the PCs should be able to escape sans bites. These spiders can be dispatched with a boot heel, baseball bat, hardback book and would basically be 1 Hit Point Monsters.
NPCs NPCs and NPCs
One of the most important things about a good pulp horror movie is that lots and lots of people are going to die in the course of the movie. Many of these characters are nameless, one dimensional caricatures or portrayed archetypes that we cheer for when they get killed. The game should start with there being three to five NPCs to each player character. The Players can feel free to make up these mooks to have some sort of connection to their main character, but they have no sort of Game Immunity. The Cheerleader can have a greaser boyfriend, a back stabbing not quite as pretty friend, and maybe a pair of nerds in lust for her, as an example.
Uses for NPCs
Meatshielding: A Player can substitute one of their NPCs to protect their PC. When the first encounter happens, a swarm of spiders attacks the Cheerleader, but the player can divert the spider bites from the PC to the not as pretty back stabber. NPCs have very little health and will not survive anything but the most superficial injury.
Pull the Lever!
An NPC can be sent to do a seemingly suicidal task, heroically sacrificing themselves for the good of the group. The Party needs to cross a raised drawbridge to get to the other side of the river, but the control shack has been cocooned by spiders. They are small and not immediately dangerous, but whoever goes in is going to be bit and will die. Nerd 1 volunteers, because he thinks he can get in and get out without getting bit. And then he does, only to be killed in a Dues ex Machina, a falling car, shot by an overzealous spider killing badass, or crushed under a giant spider. Be cruel, be unusual.
The NPC has a one shot useless skill. This can be planned out ahead, such as being a helicopter pilot where there are no helicopters, or knowing morse code, or some other assinine ability. It can also be held in reserve, with the NPC being seemingly useless until a situation warrants an obscure skill and the NPC busts out with said skill, either because they didnt think it was relevant (shallow boyfriend knows about C.A.D. programs) or because they just didn't know they could do it (Nerd II can repair car engines).
We have met the Enemy and they are spiders! The PCs encounter the main antagonists, Spiders of Unusual Size. These spiders are strong and fast, their bite is both physically agonizing and even more lethal than the smaller spiders. A victim of a small spider bite can linger several scenes before dying. A victim bit by a regular size spider will perish by the end of the scene they were bit in. This would normally be plenty enough for a B grade horror movie, but it's not far enough. The spiders are physical hunting spiders but they are still capable of spinning web. These large spiders can quickly and efficiently spin webs to make traps, such as snares between buildings, fishing people off of the street Spiderman style, blocking roads with silky barricades or turning public buses into snack packs for later use. This being based off of the SyFy Movie Arachnoquake has to bring in the most ridiculous aspect of the movie: fire breathing spiders.
Breath of Fire!
The entire concept of fire breathing spiders is in itself ridiculous. Spiders have book lungs in their abdomens, not their mouths. A more accurate description would be fire puking spiders but that's just gross and doesn't sell half as well. The regular sized Spiders have a lethal bite attack (damage from bite as handgun damage, plus sustained damage until dead) and fire blast attack (molotov cocktail damage) with short range. The spiders are not immune to their own fire, or fire in general. The 1HP minion spiders have no breath attack. The MegaSpiders (detailed later) have a flaming attack that has the same range and damage as a large flamethrower and their bite is impaling (Shotgun damage, plus poison) so most bite victims will succumb to physical trauma long before poison trauma.
The PCs should start out with a bullshit plan. Let them decide anything they want or give them a reasonable objective. Some good ideas are getting out of the city, reaching the military base, getting to the airport, or something that keeps them from barricading themselves in and getting locked and loaded. This is an action horror, not a zombie movie. About two thirds of the way, to being just in sight of the initial objective the rug should be pulled out from under them. The army has enforced a killzone around the contamination zone and if the PCs keep going they will be shot, the military base was on top of a major nest and has been wiped out, or the airport is now full of really big spiders!
Big Poppa Spider
I mentioned MegaSpiders earlier, they should show up at this point. The PCs shouldn't be able to take out a megaspider on their own without some innovative thinking and possibly some A-Team montage work. A corollary of this adventure: there is no military hardware the PCs can get their hands on. No weapons larger than handguns (police, gang members, Dirty Harry grannies) shotguns (police, hunters) or hunting rifles (Hunters, sportsmen) should even be seen. The PCs absolutely positively cannot have grenades, RPGs, anti-tank weapons, landmines, tanks, APCs, or anything of that sort. If they do come up with an assault rifle, be hardcore with ammunition scarcity. The cheerleader with a .22 pistol can have infinite ammo but the veteran marine has exactly 22 rounds in the M-16 confiscated from the dead national guardsman.
The Big Spiders should take damage like a vehicle, and have scads of hit points. They will go down, but it should involve something cinematic, like a flaming garbage truck ramming attack, or dropping an Escalade on it with a crane. The military can prove it doesn't suck be proving that they can take out the monster spiders but being just as vulnerable to the little ones as everyone else. The Big Poppas show up to funnel the PCs along, close off certain avenues of their escape and control the flow of the plot. Use them wisely.
Time for Plan B
The PCs have been hit hard by this point. Quite a few of their NPC shields should be gone, and the biggest spiders have made their appearance. The initial plan is dead and it's time for plan B. Don't be coy, you know what Plan B is. The nest has to be found and the PCs have to go find the biggest, baddest of all the spiders! The Spider Queen! Considering that the spiders can breath fire, it's almost logical that the entire species is hive organized. Why else would the spiders know how to coordinate their actions? The PCs are the only people who can find the nest (surprise surprise!) and it is up to them to save the day and their own lives. There has to be an ante to push them in the right direction: the military can destroy the nest with smart bombs, or a space laser, or poison bombs, but they have to know where it is, and they have to kill the queen too, or if the spiders aren't contained within a certain timeframe, its fallout time! This information is best conveyed through a walkie talkie with someone in charge who has the ordnance to end the spider issue. An alternate is that the smart scientist knows the spider's weak spot and if the PCs take out the queen, the rest of the spiders will become defenseless or even just die without their queen.
The PCs prepare to descend into Hell. They have to find a fissure originally opened by the earthquakes, then make their way into the dark underground confines of the Earth. Experienced dungeon crawlers should be able to fill this out with spider tunnels and chambers full of paralysed humans wrapped in cocoons. Its too late for them, they have been pumped full of spider eggs and the only merciful thing to do is to kill them before the baby spiders eat them from the inside out. The horror! This is a good time for mysteriously vanished NPCs to make their tragic reappearances, and not a bad time for a tearful farewell or emotional breakdown. Also a good time for a small arms firefight against regular spiders.
Encounter with the Queen
The surviving PCs have finally found the queen's chamber, and are in mortal peril. She can call all of her spidery brood down on them, plus this is likely to be a location thick with webbing and egg sacs (treat as advanced security systems (motion sensors) and claymore mines (hundreds of baby spider bites)). Once the PCs find the heart of the nest they can activate the dingus ala calling in their location, or dropping a beacon for the bombs to home in on, or execute their plan to kill the queen with whatever anti-spider device they have concocted along the way. (This can be a side part of the encounter, ask the players how their characters could possibly kill a spider the size of a bus without resorting to military equipment, and then have them execute that plan).
The PCs might or might not survive the raid on the queen's nest, but in all likelihood the players should know that they have saved the city from spidery hell and the beer supply should be just about gone.
Thank You and Good Night