Two days ago, the Department of Clandestine Operations, the DCO to you, received some valuable intelligence from one of our moles working with the Bolsheviks. It seems that one of their Tesla’s Kids, Dr. Emil Pegasovich, has decided he isn’t so keen on supporting the Prussian military with his inventions. He’s cooked up all sorts of things for the twin-headed, Black Eagle. Steam injectors, some fish-looking submersible boat, and his latest is some sort of steam powered flying machine. Seems that the Ivans aren’t interested in following grey goose migration patterns.
The mission is simple. Get in, get the Doc and his notes out, destroy the lab where he is working. Easier said than done. We can get you into the Soviet union, but once there, you and your men will have to reach the lab by your own devices, as well as getting back to the spot where we dropped you off. And gentlemen, the clock is ticking, once you are on the ground you’ll have two days at most to get in, do the dirty deed, and get out.
Mission briefing, Colonel St. James, British Intel/DCO
The assembled group of PCs should likely resemble a good cross-section of steam punk archetypes, a gadgeteer, an aeronaut, a marksman, etc. They have all been gathered from various parts of Europe and the Americas to participate in a dangerous mission for the DCO. Why, if it is important, aren’t DCO operatives being used? The answer is simple, the Soviets have an uncanny knack for sniffing out formally trained agents. The spy who can waltz through the Prussian capital of Vienna without a second glance is dog food on the tundra. The PCs have been selected for their acumen with their chosen profession, and for the fact that no one would expect a motley group of adventurers to be working a dangerous mission for the DCO.
The following dossiers are provided for the PCs:
Emil Vasiliy Pegasovich, a.k.a., "Dr. Pegasus", is perhaps the worlds preeminent scientific mind, a brilliant, if eccentric innovator. Son of a decorated soviet general and a Parisian cabaret dancer, Emil was born with withered, atrophied, and practically useless arms, a rare genetic defect, which shaped much of Emils early life. Cast aside by both his father, who returned to Russia after his brief extra-marital dalliance in France, refusing to even acknowledge Emil, and likewise his mother, who abandoned the future genius on a random doorstep and fled into the night, Emil survived, and eventually thrived, and never allowed his lifeless arms to betray his destiny.
Emil was adopted by an old childless couple, but ran away from home at thirteen, a bitter and confused boy, but one with a sun-brilliant mind, and for that matter incredibly strong legs, due in part as compensation for the abnormality of his arms. He lived by his wits for some time, but a few years later, Emil somehow successfully accomplished enrolling as a student at the University Sorbonne, despite never having gone to prep school, and despite still only being fifteen years of age. Like many young minds of the times, Emil was fascinated with the power of steam, choosing to study at the Mecanique et Mecanisme de Vapuer, one of the many colleges within the university. Emil sought only one thing. The complete mastery of his chosen medium. And master the medium he did, for Pegasovich turned out be that rare man, one of those that came around once or twice a century. Emil Vasiliy Pegasovich, or "Dr. Pegasus", as he now started calling himself, after that mythical, winged horse of Greek myth, perhaps for obvious reasons, had graduated the university by the age of nineteen, then taught for a time as Europes youngest professor, and finally became known as a virtuoso, a sort of living legend, perhaps, nay surely, the worlds greatest mind. As professor and inventor, he was now in high demand among Europes intelligentsia and ever-burgeoning powers.
The Great War had not yet begun, though the smoke was portending the fire, when Dr. Pegasus was finally seduced by the Soviets. Their offer was simple. Come to the Motherland, where your intellect will be worshiped, they said. The Soviets had offered Dr. Pegasus everything. A state-of-the-art facility, a palatial scientific compound to call his own, where every whim, every one of his needs would be met, and he would be asked to do only one thing. To create, to do as he had done before, to use his mind to satisfy every curiosity he saw fit, and to design, build, and invent for the improvement of all humanity. For several years, Dr. Pegasus was in a state of professional nirvana, but after a few years, it became apparent that the Soviets may as well have been Greeks bearing gifts, for they showed the good doctor their true intentions, he would work to design advanced weapons and machines for the Soviets, even as the worlds political scene began to drastically change.
Prussia, the two-headed black eagle of Europe had reached zenith as a power and began the Great War. Great Britain and France on one side, Prussia, and its Soviet allies on the other. Dr. Pegasus is now a prisoner. But he did not stop inventing. Few of the Doctors inventions saw combat, and the war eventually ended in favor of the British and her allies. Now a second war is looming. Pegasus has some new toys he has created, and we do not want to see in the hands of the Prussians.
Steam Propulsion Pack
The Steam Propulsion pack began as a tech device intended to accelerate the top speed of land vehicles. A pair of packs could be put on an armored car or small tank to launch it with sports car speed. The basic premise failed, as most of the packs blew themselves off of the vehicle. The stroke of genius came when a pack being carried by a conscript had a regulator failure. The man was carried aloft several hundred feet before plummeting to his death. Some work with a control harness and wire controlled thrust vectoring and the Pegasus Steampack was born. The Steampack weighs 35 kilos and holds compressed steam in a thermally insulated alloy tank. A small burner can be used to recharge the pack once it has expended it’s steam supply. A pack can move at full nozzle open for about 8 minutes, reaching level flight speeds of close to 90 miles per hour. At more conservative thrust, the pack can stay airborne for approximately 30 minutes. Steampilots are encouraged to be cautious as the steam pressure tends to slack off suddenly, and a fall with 35 kilos of metal on your back is not a glorious way to die.
Portable Steam Canister
Some of the devices that the Doctor created tended to be too small for their own boilers, so he created a ‘steam batter’ to power these toys or miniatures of his larger creations.
The Ornithopter is one of Pegasus’ less successful designs. With four wings, it generally resembles a large brass and canvas dragonfly. The craft is capable of flight, but the doctor hasnt found a way to reliably sheild the burner to keep the boiler running. While it runs for a while, refueling the boiler has to be done with the wings stopped, otherwise the chaotic airflows blow out the oil flame.
Automatic Entrenching Vehicle
This steam powered monstrosity is a nightmare of gears, mechanical arms, and sadistic looking metal attachments. Moving on caterpillar treads, the Entrenching Vehicle is much like a tank for locomotion. The front end has a pair of brass sheathed steel arms that have four points of articulation. These arms can be used to use a variety of tools. The Entrenching tool is a giant wheel studded with bucket teeth, and when rotated by the arms quickly digs ditches, trenches, or simply very large holes. As a loader, the arms can use compression pads to lift heavy objects and move them. While this is usually crates, there is no reason the arms cannot lift small to medium vehicles, pull down buildings, smash infantry flat, or anything else a pair of giant rubber faced iron pads can do.
Gyroscopic Steam Rocket
Using highly compressed steam, this rocket is capable of reaching hot air balloon altitude. The gyroscope keeps the rocket upright by adjusting the position of the vent nozzles. Steam rockets generally carry either anti-zeppelin grapeshot, condemned men with binoculars and a parachute, or 100 gallons of napalm and a burner.
The Dyna-Baric Submersable Piscoid
Resembling a large fish made of brass with giant glass eyes, the Submersable Piscoid is a marvel of design and complexity. The main screw drive is powered by a central boiler and piston assembly. A secondary system allows the camshaft to wind tension springs to power the screw drive while the Piscoid is underwater and air is more needed for crew than to feed the burner. There is a third failsafe, the piston assemblies can be unbolted from the central drive shaft, and handles attached to drive the main screw by sheer muscle power of the crew. The vessel hunts the wooden schooners and frigates of enemy fleets, ripping into their keels with a hardened steel ram that runs from the bow to midships of the Piscoid. A collision at moderate speed is enough to tear out the guts of most any merchantman or frigate. Larger ships generally have keels too thick for the Piscoid to damage significantly.
The PCs will find the first leg of their trip into Soviet Russia to be easy, almost oppulent. Passage has been procured for them and their gear on the Ottoman zeppelin Astrakhan II. This airliner will carry them from Cairo, Egypt across Asia Minor and to the port of Odessa, in the Crimean Peninsula. THe zeppelin is lush with thick piled carpet in the gondola, roomy cabins, and room in a cargo bay to carry several large vehicles, but nothing even half as large as a land battleship. The ship is equiped with a smoking lounge, an observation deck, and a wine locker.
The port is another matter. Considered a backwater since the Crimean War, Odessa has seen better days. The streets are filled with litter and vagrants and the local government is nothing more than a front for the Russian Mob. Getting anything larger than a loaf of bread or more important than a stamp is going to go through them or their lackeys. The Mozgov rail line starts in Odessa, with supplies coming into the city through the port, or from the Bryansk rail line.
Supplies are going to be expensive, and anyone who asks the same question twice is likely to be watched by the mobsters and the rare political agent slumming in the city. The PCs might have an advantage in looking like lost arrogant tourists trying to enjoy the local sites. Tourists are strange like that.
Top secret laboratory, a former (and once again) weapons factory, and present base of operations for several high-ranking Soviet and Prussian officials. Kulak Mozgov, or "Minds Fist", is also where the world- renowned scientist, Dr. Pegasus, is currently being held against his will, forced to innovate and create the most advanced steam-powered devices, constructs and machina known to man. Kulak Mozgov sits like an eagles aerie, impregnable, amidst a small mountain chain along the south-eastern steppes, two hundred kilometers from the nearest village or town.
It is protected on two sides by curtain like mountains, the lower end of the valley is home to a large military base. The Soviets and the Prussians have sizable forces there, though most are new recruits and trainees. The command staff is seasoned and were blooded in the last Anglo-Prussian war. The upper end of the valley is the site of the Olvashenksy Dam. The lake behind the dam is frozen six foot thick through the winter.
I have a brief dossier on some of the personel who are in command at the Soviet lab. Not your typical Ivans, i must admit. No one said this would be easy
Col. St. James - DCO
The Peoples Ambassador, Major Larissa Zonogin is a virtuoso, a woman for whom everything came easily in life. Top marks in the classroom, top marks in the field, and most of all, an unerring loyalty to the cause.
Larissa Zonogins title is a relatively new one, created by the Soviet regime to denote an ideal. A paragon of the people. The youngest person to ever hold this prestigious rank, Larissa reports directly to the Soviet premier and his cronies. An expert in propaganda, combat and tactical command, she is perhaps the finest example of super-soldier in every sense of the term. If this was not enough, Larissa also happens to be an incomparable beauty, and is not averse to using her charisma to get what she wants if all else fails.
Currently visiting Kulak Mozgov, Major Zonogins responsibilities include keeping the eccentric Dr. Pegasus in check, keeping party loyalty at a fevered pitch, and secretly inspecting the radioactive-steam reactor project, and planning for its use and potential transport. She carries coded messages on her person at all times, and frequently contacts the High Command for orders and information.
She has nothing but contempt for Groskov, an overfed sloth and grunt, she thinks of him, while Groskov in turn despises the major, jealous of her position and talent, but fears her above all else, as does everyone at Kulak Mozgov.
To be clear, Groskov runs the base and commands his soldiers, but Zonogin is the true political force, and the ultimate authority during her time at the base.
She is Joseph Goebbels, if Goebbels also happened to be a super-soldier. Having Zonogin as an enemy is no ones wish. All obey the Peoples Ambassador without fail.
Lieutenant-Colonel Vadim Groskov
The Lt. Cmdr comes from peasant stock, one of the fabled proletariat of the Soviet Union. His father lead Bolshevik troops against the Tzarists, his son picked up the rifle and carried on the political fight. Three decades of keeping the party line have made the Badger of Bryansk into an overweight and sourtoothed bear. It doesnt help his disposition any that he has been liased with Zonogin.
Kulak Mozgov is not easy to reach. While taking sled dogs is likely the least direct route, it is probably the safest. The DCO mole is currently employed as a technician at the dam above the laboratory. As such, the mole will have the ability to leave a door open for the PCs to enter through as well as provide disguises stolen from the laundry department, passcodes, pilfered keys and intel on where the Doctor can be found as well as the lay-out of the installation.
Players being players might instead opt to take the train directly to Mozgov. This is certainly an option but it cannot be stressed enough that it is dangerous as the train is patroled by commisars and Soviet counter-intelligence personel. This is one of the main reasons that no DCO spies have been able to penetrate Mozgov other than their deep placed mole.
Hide and Seek
Unless the PCs have brought enough resources to face an infantry regiment, they are going to have to use stealth and subterfuge to find their way through the base. As the facility grew rapidly, many buildings are close together creating blind alleys, hidden nooks and creches, and no shortage of places to hide. This can also cover the PCs as they depart from Pegasus’ lab with the doctor in their protection.
Pegasus’ lab is a large building on par with a professional gymnasium. The lower most portion consists of the building’s furnace and the core of the Reactive Steam Engine. This is a large sprawling construct of pipes, valves, tubing, and assorted control panels with brass fittings, needle gauges and toggle switches. There are several tanks of water, both for the furnace, and for the engine. They have since found that if there isnt enough watre pumped through the engine when the throttle is open there is dangerous overheating. Dr. Pegasus suspects that if the engine overheated, it could be more devastating than a boiler burst.
The main floor houses his machine shop, metallurgic labs, and his archive where he keeps his notes, a drafting table, and a fully stocked kitchenette. There are all sorts of steam paraphenalia located on this floor. Most of it will be in varying stages of repair, construction, or being salvaged for parts.
The second floor houses the Doctor when he isnt in the lab. Literally under house arrest, he cannot leave the lab, since the second floor has a small library, a toilet, bedroom, and a few amenities to make the stay a bit more hospitable. The floors have animal fur rugs, and the walls are a mix of newspaper clippings, old Bolshevik propaganda, and Californian play bills.
There are two potential methods of destroying Kulak Mozgov. The first method is to sabotage the dam so that it crests over the top and erodes through the face. With an increasing torrent of freezing water and boulder sized chunks of ice, the dam will fail dramatically. everything in the valley will either be washed away, drowned, or pulverized by the ice chunks.
Dr. Pegasus can offer a second means to destroy the facility. The real project that the Prussians and Soviets have been pushing for is the Reactive Steam Engine. Using a special fuel, this reactor boils water without any form of combustion. It has been learned that is too much of this special fuel is misshandled and placed in a certain fashion there is some sort of violent reaction. The effect is rather catestrophic.
Breaking the dam will give the characters a timer measured in hours till the dam breaches. Creating a cascading reaction to reach critical mass within a Reactive Steam engine will only take a few minutes, so either a patsy has to stay behind and sacrifice themselves or the PCs need have a FAST mode of transport out. Hijacking the steam train and pushing the boiler till it starts popping rivets comes to mind.
If the PCs have been resourceful, smart, and lucky they have escaped Kulak Mosgov and saved the doctor. If they acheived all their goals, including destroying the lab, the Prussian-Soviet effort to create superior land battleships is so badly mauled that they end up canceling any further research into Reactive Steam. If the lab is not destroyed, the program is knocked back almost a year and a half by the loss of the Doctor.
If all goals are achieved, the Allies will be able to develop reactive steam engines and will bve able to retrofit many of their current Land Battleships. This will give them a tremendous advantage in the comming war with the Prussian superpower. If the Doctor is killed in the rescue, but his notes are retained, the Allies can develope a Reactive steam engine, but it will take several years and will not be ready in time to face the threat of the Black Eagle.
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? Responses (10)-10
This is most excellent Scras & Muro! Makes me want play in such a world. Well Done!
Top notch stuff. A pleasure to read and very inspiring as well!
Perfect example of what a 5 should be!
Excellent detail and great presentation. I particularly enjoyed the layout style you used and the small highlights of personnel and surrounding terrain.
This beaut needs more attention!
Yep, seems I missed this one as well. I read it, but forgot to comment and vote (cardinal sin, I know). That has now been recified.
For some reason this reminds me of Neuromancer, but I can´t put my finger on why.. Or was it Mona Lisa Overdrive?
Nevermind, this is just as good as Gibson´s novels. And I do like a bit of alternate history.
Absolute top notch!
This is going to come back to bite me....
I am very disappointed in this because it has so much going for it but falls so short. It hits the details of the genre right on the mark, but it lacks a consistency of tone. As a steam punk re-tread of the Professionals, it should pass smoother than vegetable curry but this one strikes me as jumbled and full of useless fluff.
Am I just way off about all this? cause I really think you guys have done better and could do better.
How does this have so much interest in terms of Golden votes, and so few votes in general? Am confused.
You got me on that one Val.
This is comprehensive enough to base an adventure on, assuming previous materials for the system/world were available.
First Golden Vote go!
I just saw that this post won an award, I noticed the Muro award icon at the bottom of the screen for awhile now but never clicked on it. Thank you Muro and Scras. You have written something worth talking about here.
'You start with the briefing, which is good, it tells you everything you need to know about the atheistic of the setting, the powers at play, and the goal of the PCs. Then you get a GM aside, fine, but that slips back into descriptions of the game world. There is extension of the briefing in the GM aside, when the nature of Soviet Union's spy detection is discussed, so it is like GM is getting the briefing. In a GM section reality is flexable, and what we have here should prep GM as to how to handle the logic of the world and more importantly how the setting has been designed to support the narrative. If this is meant to be information for the GM so the PC can have a Q and A with St. James then it could stand a little more fleshing out. Or at least instructions as to what the writers think the GM should flesh out on his own.
Then we have the dossier on Dr. Pegasus, he is all back story, but there is nothing here that gives the PCs the flavor of Emil. We gather he is a survivor, we gather his chief connection in life has been with his work (not with a person), but we do know anything about him. And perhaps the PC handout should share little actual information about, a list of enigmatic facts may be more suspenseful afterall Martin Sheen's character (and the audience) knew only what Kurtz had done and could speculate as to why. But this write up then deviates from a list of facts to a list conclusions. 'For several years, Dr. Pegasus was in a state of professional nirvana' How did the DCO reach that conclusion? Also if you want to make this 'realistic' sounding handout, consider who wrote this, what was their source information and most importantly what is their margin for error. After all didn't one of you once post that uncertainty is the core of drama? The last paragraph doesn't belong in the dossier, it belongs back in the briefing.
But never in this post, even outside the dossier, do you give Dr. Pegasus any humanity, or make him at all interesting. You might give us GM information about the character here, his will dos and won't dos. Is he going to trust another government? Can the PCs trust him? Yes the GM using this could answer these questions, but it hard to believe that the answer to these question's are not part of your vision for this write up. Also if the GM must answer these questions then why write up the character at all, it could just be 'a scientist', as it stands know there is nothing that makes Dr. Pegasus more than that. There are some hints, his rough up-bring, the clippings on his walls but you wrote nothing that will make a GM say 'd**n, I can't wait for players to meet that guy'. Instead he is just a McGuffin that spits out steam weapons. The fact that he has tyrannosaurus arms and is French, gives a GM only shadows. Player gets the Shadows, a GM should get the flashlight.
Next we have some events, the Zepplin ride and Odessa. As it is written know the Zepplin ride is nothing more than a description of a setting. Sure the PCs could yuk it up while they order cognac and coffee on the DCO's tab and the Face character could seduce a Carpathian Countess, but really there is nothing here. Then there is Odessa, which sets the transition from safe Western opulence to dangerous eastern corruption and desperate poverty. GOOD! The PCs have to deal with the Russian mob. What for? Are they going to be the deus ex machina, or a brief violent encounter to cement the PCs' status as unit. Again you give us nothing, other than you enter a mob run town. If that is all you are giving us why even write more than that?
But the Zepplin and the town are also a problem inherent (or limit) whenever you write an odyssey (a group trying to get from A to B). An odyssey is just one d**n thing after another, they need not be connected. I would suggest making this a chase or race. Perhaps the PCs spot a group of Japanese 'tourists' on the Zepplin as well. A rival extraction team, the PCs now must not only to cross a hostile wilderness but they have to do it faster and better than their rivials or defeat them as well. Perhaps there are Prussian agents on the Zepplin, the Russians and the Prussians may be more frenemies than allies. The Prussian's may be on to DCO mission, but not willing to share their intelligence with the Russians. You get my drift. If you are going to make it one thing after another fine, but make sure the events are substantial, help to set a tone and move the narrative.
Then you have a dossier on the agents at the Lab, this is fine except you break form again and reference Goebbels.
Then we get to the heist, you call it hide and seek and it could be series of recon moves and stealth moves (a maze). Which is fine But you could also do this a heist, give the PCs some more information and let them plan an entrance. But I guess a maze is fine, except a maze often comes down to single choice. Ideally in a group RPGs you have each player taking actions as part of a team, thus each gets a choice and a role. Here one player could make the choices keep the map without any help from other players
Finally, where is twist, where is the decision point, the story here is very linear, but at what point are the PC confronted with a novel or unforeseen crisis? When do you give your players a chance to flex their moral muscle, to fall back on all that back-story they wrote to make a decision in character or to come up to a solution to a problem that wasn't foreseen in the GMs original plan. If the PC are smart resourceful and lucky, then almost nothing has happened the way this adventure is written. They get in they get out, the blow up the dam or the lab and move on. They could do it without speaking a single line of dialog.'