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Steamtastic Vagabond

Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats, One-Shot Adventure

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An early draft on an adventure I've been brewing for quite some time, criticisms and suggestions for improvement would be greatly appreciated.

And before you ask, the inspiration was a Billy Talent song.

 

The Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats

Introduction: The Pre-Neverborn Ship

Way far into the past of Malifaux’s history before even the first breach, an early inhabitant of Malifaux made an attempt to construct a vessel capable of travel over land, sea, and sky.

This ancient Neverborn was never able to finish construction of the vessel and with time it became a relic buried below Malifaux City.

Over the centuries, countless rats found their way into the chamber where the vessel was buried, but were unable to escape the chamber.

Over the years, countless rats found their way onto the ship, but food began to run out, and the water became toxic. In order to survive, the rats resorted to cannibalism to stay alive, but in time every last one of the rats died, their spirits trapped on the ghost ship.

Recently however, a minor tremor in the Howling Slums has weakened a passage blocking the exit from the chamber, and the starving spirits were finally able to break free.

In their wake came a curse affecting many of the rats they passed, bestowing cannibalistic tendencies and rabid aggression to many of the living rats they come across.

 

Prologue: George Octane

George Octane (an Arcanist codename) specializes in spectral monitoring equipment and has various stations set up all around the city to keep tabs on aetheric anomalies. Recently, one of his devices in the  Howling Slums has begun violently reacting to an unknown anomaly.

The Fated are ideally mercenaries, private investigators, or individuals interested in exploring the paranormal.

Octane will reach out to anyone willing to investigate any paranormal activity in Howling Slums. Posters will be plastered around the community about the job. Octane will be waiting in his observatory in the Howling Slums for anyone interested in the case.

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The address listed on the posters leads you to what on the outside resembles a shack overflowing with cables. Double checking the address on the poster confirms that this is indeed where you’re supposed to be.

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George Octane appears as an old man with grey hair borrowed from a textbook mad scientist. He wears a tweed suit and constantly mutters to himself about aetheric anomalies and paranormal activity.

The inside of the shack is also a huge mess of cables all converging onto a device the Fated can’t discern the purpose of.

George Octane will cut straight to the point during negotiations requesting them to investigate any paranormal activities the see going on and will offer 2 Scrip per hour as compensation so long as a reasonable report can be made. A TN 12 Convince, Bewitch, or Barter Duel will convince Octane to allow the Fated to borrow a Portable Aetheric Disrupter which functions as a Counter-Spelling Toolkit.

 

Scene 1-A, Neck Biter

Once all of that is out of the way, have the Fated carry on with their routine, interrupting them with the sound of 2 incredibly angry animals. Should the Fated investigate which hopefully they will, they will find 2 rats each about the size of the cat, one is bleeding and the other is still fighting. The 2 rats use the stats of a Malifaux Rat, but the wounded rat only has 0 Wounds remaining and Bleeding Out+3, but can survive with negative wounds,, if the Fated ignore the Rats, the feral rat will deal 2 damage to the wounded one and inflict an extra Bleeding Out+1 every round. (on top of the bleeding condition’s natural growth), If the feral rat is wounded or intimidated, it will retreat. Other Social skills will not work on the rat (obviously).

If the Fated scare off the feral rat, they’ll still have to deal with the other rat. A Heal spell will mend its wounds, but it won’t stop the blood loss. To do that, the Fated must make a TN 12 + 1 per negative wound, Husbandry duel to perform minor surgery. For each failed attempt, a round will pass raising the rat’s Bleeding Out by 1. Success will end the Bleeding Out condition.

The rat will not show any sort of gratitude and will simply scamper off if healed, but the Fated can at least feel good about themselves for doing a good deed.

 

Scene 1-B, Ankle Biter

After dealing with the feral rat, or ignoring it, the Fated will hear panicked shouting nearby. An important looking business man is on the ground screaming and kicking at nothing, his pants are torn up and his legs are bleeding. The businessman doesn’t know what he’s kicking at if its anything at all… it is…
A pack of ghost rats decided to attack the business man who is literally becoming haunted from the attack. A crowd of people will gather around the man, concerned about what’s happening, but are ultimately powerless to help.

Because the rats are obfuscated, someone must make a TN 10 Necromancy or Willpower duel to notice the rats. If the Fated has at least 1 completed step in the Medium Pursuit, they gain [+] to the flip.

There are 4 Ghost Rats attacking the businessman. Not a significant threat, but enough to alert the Fated to there being something wrong. Despite already being dead, being shot still hurts and the rats are willing to run away. 

If half of the rats are defeated, the others will retreat, any rat will retreat if reduced to 1 wound.

The businessman if saved will be quite grateful for the rescue, will shake the hands of the Fated and will be on his way, noticeably twitching.

If the businessman isn’t helped, he will carry a number of nasty haunts and diseases, will likely die a few days later leaving a sort of Plague Spirit in his place.

If the Fated question the businessman, he will be noticeably anxious and rattled from the attack. The businessman is very shy around crowds and cannot properly process the crowd’s attention. Convincing the crowd to move on will require a TN 9 Leadership or Intimidate duel.

Trying to pry information from the businessman with the crowd’s direct attention is next to impossible as anything he tries to say will just end up being a jumble of “um’s, ah’ oh’s”

Some things the Fated might ask about are:
 

    -Businessman’s identity: The businessman is named Charles Marks, not at all related to Karl Marx, an unfortunate last name to have nonetheless. Charles isn’t actually a businessman at all, he was just on his way to a job interview at a furniture store, and thought that he should look good during the interview, a prospect that was ruined by the rats.
 

    -The ghost rats: Charles knows nothing about why the rats attack him, or even that they were rats. He did however, notice something in the corner of his eye shortly before he was attacked. He will gesture to an alley blocked by a cut up chain link fence. Getting through it won’t be much of an issue.

Fear not should the players ignore the breadcrumbs, or fail to find anything there. If things are unresolved, things will only get progressively worse.

 

Scene 2, The Side Path

If the Fated choose to investigate the alley, they will find it to be blocked by a chain link fence, there is a hole large enough for a small individual to pass through, certainly a rat. Any height 1 character can duck under the fence without much issue by crawling. Anyone larger though will have to climb over, a task which requires a TN 8 Athletics or Acrobatics duel.

There is hardly anything in the alley at all, save for some garbage and a broken wall next to a boarded up metal door. 

The building was a brewery, owned by a woman named Grace Cooper. The distillery was originally called “Original Charm Brewery,” known for making original Irish style whiskey. The business was relocated however, along with quite a bit of the equipment, but a lot of it couldn’t be transferred. And no, there is not any whiskey left in the vats. Squatters were staying in the building for a time, but have moved on, some evidence of their camp can still be found, but its been picked over to just being some blankets and crushed cans of beans. They were probably responsible for the missing whiskey.

There are a number of places to investigate:

-Upper Balcony: The upper balcony is fitted with lookout points for foremen and overseers to watch over the factory workers. There is an office up there as well. In the offices there are a lot of chewed up papers and rat droppings. Nothing written on the papers are particularly relevant, save for a blueprint that can be found. 

Locating the blueprint requires a TN 10 Notice or Literacy duel. Any Fated who reads the blueprint will have an easier time locating anything else in the building. The blueprint will also reveal a safe in the basement.

-Factory Floor: The factory floor is lined wall to wall with empty vats that used to contain whiskey. There are a few rats scattered throughout the factory floor, but none of them are particularly interested in quarreling with the fated and will run if threatened. 

If the Fatemaster wishes, they can add some fights with Feral Rats to better set the scene, but is ultimately unnecessary.

A TN 10 Notice duel or similarly appropriate flip will uncover a set of tools best used to break open crates and brick walls, tools that are more or less useless at a distillery. The tools were in the possession of the squatters before they were forced to leave. They simply left the tools behind however. They were originally used to break into the basement of the distillery, hopefully to find something of high value, but no such thing was found.

-Basement: The basement of the distillery is quite small compared to the factory floor and upper balcony. Its depths contain a storage room, broom closet, boiler room, and an office. 

Inside the office is a variety of scattered and torn up paper work as well as a significant amount of rat droppings. Under the desk is a fully loaded Chesterfield 1880 and a box of shells totaling 6 shots. At the back of the room is a safe containing 26 Scrip, and a deed for the building which is worthless now. The safe can be opened with a TN 18M Lockpicking Duel, a TN 12 Athletics Duel if the Fated find the squatter’s tools, or a sufficiently powerful explosive.

The broom closet contains a lot of brooms, and nothing else particularly useful. Who would have thought.

The storage room contains a variety of supplies including sacks of barley, tool boxes, and spare parts meant to maintain the machines on the factory floor.

The boiler room contains a large, inactive boiler that is meant to provide power to the building. Attempting to start the boiler is futile as the furnace has no fuel, and the boiler has no water. However, a broken down wall can be found with bricks falling to the inside of the of the boiler room. When the Fated reach this point, a few rats will scamper in from the sewer and run upstairs. The rats are non-hostile unless attacked, there will be 2 + 2 rats per Fated if they attack.

If the Fated ignore this entirely, or miss the opportunity, the scene can play out more or less as written, just in an improvised setting.

 

The Sewers

The Ghost Ship:

While the Fated are certainly in the sewers, they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for. If the fated are decent trackers, they should be able to locate the ship in a short time, but the clock is ticking. If left for a few days, the rift on the ship is only going to grow and more destructive things may begin manifesting than rats.

Searching for the Ghost Ship is handled with an Ongoing Challenge.

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Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats

Skills Allowed: Engineering, Navigation, Necromancy (If Medium), Track, Wilderness

Duration: 30 Minutes,

Target Number: 12

Success Requirement: 4 Per Participating Fated

Failure Requirement: 1 Per Participating Fated

Whenever a Catastrophic Failure is scored, it only means bad things about the rift. Participating in the Ongoing Challenge to close the rift later in the adventure will only grow more difficult. More details will be put on the ritual itself.

After resolving a Duration, if the Fated still haven’t succeeded, move onto another scene.

When the Fated eventually succeed, advance to All Aboard.

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Scene 3-A, A Sign of Light

The sewers are overall quite dark, and maneuvering through the oddly spacious tunnels almost necessitates a light source. A few people have gotten creative and have etched some runes into the wall that are designed to emanate light. The Fated can safely hang around these runes, and a TN 10T Sorcery Duel will identify the runes as harmless. Scoring a Margin of Failure with either a missing Tome or standard causes will identify the runes as Unholy Beacons that are designed to attract the Undead. Scoring 2 Margins of Failure will identify the runes as explosive runes that could detonate at any second.

Following the runes will grant [+] to any Fated using Engineering, Navigation or Wilderness on the next duration. Fleeing the runes imposes a single Failure Requirement on the Ongoing Challenge.

If the Fated are convinced that the runes are Unholy Beacons have a few Ghost Rats show up to better sell the fake danger of these runes.


 

Scene 3-B, Patches the Rat Catcher

In this scene, the Fated meet one of the more eccentric of the sewer dwellers, Hatchworth Finch, better known as “Patches.” Patches is a rat catcher of the brotherhood of the rat, but he’s also surprisingly incompetant in basically every other regard.

Really, his being part of the brotherhood of the rat is more of a token thing than anything. Despite this, Patches could be a valuable ally in the pursuit of the ghost rats.

When the Fated meet Patches, read the following text.

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In the corridor ahead of you, you can make out the shape of a man amidst the darkness of the sewer. 

[If the Fated decide to continue]: Getting closer, you can begin to make out more of the man’s features. Your lantern reveals a middle-aged man with a receding hairline. He’s dressed in oiled leather clothes that look a tad too tight and is carrying an empty cage. The most notable features about the man however are his oddly pale skin, unibrow, and mischievous look on his face.

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If the Fated leave after seeing Patches, they can choose to make TN 11 Stealth Duels, if they fail, or choose not to, they’ll attract Patches’ attention. If the Fated seem untrustworthy, Patches will stalk them from the shadows, looking to find out just what kind of trouble they’re looking to get into. If it’s the kind that threatens him, or his home in the sewers. Patches will try to take action, meaning that he’ll run away and alert the proper authorities to the Fated. Patches will stop following them after an hour, or 2 Durations of the Ongoing Challenge. When that time comes, advance to Scene 3-CC, unless the Fated have found the Ghost Ship in that time, in which case, Patches will make an appearance there.

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If the Fated approach Patches, he will try chatting them up, greeting them with “ello, ello,” and speaking in an otherwise fragmented version of English reminiscent of the way a pirate would talk.

Attempting to get Patches to help them will be difficult unless they mention that they are investigating the Ghost Rats, which will immediately get Patches’ attention. Otherwise, convincing Patches will require a TN 13 appropriate Social duel with a [-] imposed on it.

If the Fated can ally with Patches, he’ll mitigate Margins of Failure scored on the Ongoing Challenge if they were made with Navigation or Wilderness.

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Le Gasp! Betrayal!?

If it’s appropriate for the Destiny Step in question, Patches could betray the Fated at the last second on the Ghost Ship. If such is the case, Patches will become a dangerous foe as there are a lot of rats for him to control on the ship.

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Scene 3-BB, Caught in the Act 

After an hour’s time, Patches will break off of his surveying of the Fated. Thus far, he has been keeping his distance as to not alert them, but as he breaks off, he’ll trip over a loose brick, notifying the Fated to something being up.

The Fated must make a TN 9 Notice duel to catch sight of Patches. After tripping over the brick, Patches will break into a full on sprint.

If the Fated pursue, they must participate in the following Ongoing Challenge.

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You Bloody Rat… Catcher!

Skills Allowed: Athletics, Track

Duration: 6 Seconds

Target Number: 10

Success Requirement: Special

Failure Requirement: 2

Each Fated must participate in this challenge individually.

If a Catastrophic Failure is scored, that Fated gets left behind and cannot catch up to Patches.

At three successes, the Fated can freely attack Patches or try to tackle him.

At two Successes, the Fated may attack Patches with a Ranged Attack. Only one is needed if the weapon used has the Rifle ability, but trying with a rifle automatically scores a failure on the next duration. 

If the Fated successfully attack him, he will scream a protest, shouting things along the line of “I knew’s you was bad people!”

Calming him down is next to impossible, prying information from him is easier than taking candy from a baby.

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If Patches escapes and deems the Fated as bad news, or is let go after being attacked, he will try to alert proper authorities, passing an anonymous tip about the Fated, resulting in increased Guild activity in the sewer.

If Guild patrols become more active, they will force a +1 TN penalty for the Ongoing Challenge but allow Stealth to be used as an available skill.

If Patches sees that he got caught up in mostly innocent business or something that may actually benefit him, he will leave the Fated alone and resume rat catching

 

Scene 3-C, Children of the Sewers

As the Fated wander down a straight passage, they will notice a fog beginning to form, at first the fog is little more than a light mist, but quickly it becomes something reminiscent of pea soup.

The cause of the fog are Crooligans that have made a makeshift home in the sewers, able to avoid authorities and Resurrectionists looking for quick study alike.

The Crooligans were child labourers that died in an industrial accident only to be reanimated through the power of industry, literally, they were resurrected by the flames of the forge the three of them worked on. Ghost rats are accompanying them, the Crooligans have adopted them as pets.

Communicating with the Crooligans will be exceptionally difficult as the kids lost their voice in the industrial accident, they are capable of sign language however. The children can still hear at least.

If attacked, the Crooligans will just run.

It may take a bit of persuading on the Fated’s part, but a TN 12 Convince, Deceive, or Bewitch duel can convince the children to take the Fated to where the rats are coming from, immediately adding a success to the ongoing challenge. Conversely, if a Margin of Failure is scored, the Crooligans will lead the Fated astray, adding a failure to the Ongoing Challenge.

 

Scene 3-D, Carrier of the Damned

Even in death, the rats are still natural scavengers drawn to the carrion of the sewers. Given the relatively plentiful zombies to be found in the sewers, the ghost rats have found makeshift “nests.”

The Fated see someone shambling at the end of a tunnel in front of them, frantically scratching at their arms and chest. Should the Fated investigate, read the following text.

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In the corridor ahead  you, you spy a human shape frantically scratching it its arms and chest before it rounds a corner.. 

The air fills with groans of pain as you round the corner. The shape from before fits the form of a person keeled over facing the walls of the damp sewer. The person before you itches at their arm, more and more violently as you watch flakes of skin fall like leaves onto the ground, they keep digging at their arm and it soon starts to bleed.

They cry out in pain before turning their attention to you, eyes white and empty accompanying a face only a mortician could love. The man keeps digging into his bleeding arm as he shambles in your direction.

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The man before the Fated is a Ghost Nest, a zombie that haunted the sewers before being infested with Ghost Rats. The man is constant pain at his condition, but his undead hunger makes the pain not much more than an irritating itch.

If the Fated want to examine the Ghost Nest, they can see a typical rat catcher’s uniform with large wound in the torso. This wound was left by a burrowing Ghost Rat.

Once defeated, a map of the sewers can be found in the Ghost Nest’s pockets. The map will grant [+] to future Navigation and Wilderness Flips to explore the sewers.

 

Scene 4, All Aboard

As the Fated near the Ghost Ship, read the following text.

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You can feel your spine chill as you approach an upcoming arch. An all pervasive sense of dread floods your body as an unusual feature graces your senses; wind.

It starts off slow but grows stronger as you approach a passage only revealed by bricks exploding outwards from the wall.

Approaching the hole is rewarded with a howling wind and the stench of thousand years rot.

You can feel it in your shivering bones, whatever it is you’re looking for, it’s only just up ahead. 

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Ahead of the Fated is a short downwards tunnel carved in the stone underneath Malifaux City, at the other end of the tunnel is a huge chamber lit by inhuman alien light sources embedded in the walls, but the Fated’s attention is immediately drawn to a large ship at the centre of the flooded tunnel. Surrounding the ship is a boardwalk that forms a ring around the chamber. There is no ceiling to the chamber and looking upwards reveals a dark and starry sky regardless of the time of day.

Part of the boardwalk leads up to the deck of the ship, a space absolutely infested with Ghost Rats.

 

The Ghost Ship

The Ghost Ship is a beyond ancient Neverborn artifact that in actuality barely resembles a ship, but looks that way for the Fated to be able to properly fathom it. On the main deck are countless Ghost Rats milling about. They aren’t aggressive, but will bite it the Fated come too close. Crossing the deck requires a TN 7 Acrobatics or Stealth duel to avoid pissing off the rats. Failure means suffering 1/1/2 damage, but the Fated crosses the deck regardless of outcome. 

Once the Fated are on the deck, they will notice a wind blowing from the captain’s cabin. 

As the Fated inevitably approach the cabin, read the following text.

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You approach what in any other context would obviously be the Captain’s cabin, the door separating it from the rest of the ship wildly swinging with a strong wind bellowing from within.

As you enter, your eyes are drawn to an colourless portal hanging in the air above the alien skeleton of a humanoid creature that hardly resembles any man or creature you’ve ever seen. 

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This tear is the rift, the epicentre of all the paranormal activity involving the Ghost Rats. Attempting to seal the rift is handled with an Ongoing Challenge.

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Close the Rift

Skills Allowed: Counter-Spelling, Necromancy, Prestidigitation, Special

Duration: 6 Seconds,

Target Number: 10

Success Requirement: 3 Per Fated

Failure Requirement: 1 Per Fated

If the Fated have enchanted weapons, they may use a relevant Combat Skill to close the Rift.

If the Fated have nothing, they can make Willpower duels while in direct contact with the Rift to try to close it.

Every catastrophic failure scored while searching for the Ship increases the success requirement by 1.

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Once the Fated make their first attempt at closing the rift, the Ghost Rats will not respond kindly.

 

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As you focus everything you have into closing the anomaly before you, behind you is cacophonous orchestra of ghostly hissing as the rats start pouring into the room, piling atop one another amidst their shrieking.

Soon the mound of rats grows higher and higher, taking on a new form beyond that of a rat but instead resembling a quasi-humanoid shape built entirely of the ghastly rodents.

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This creature is a Ghost King, and it does not appreciate the Fated trying to cut off the only source of its afterlife.

If the Fated score a Margin of Failure attempting to close the rift, it will summon an additional Ghost King.

Whenever a Ghost King is slain, a new one will appear at the end of the next round.

When the Fated close the Rift, read the following text.

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For a moment, the world flashes into a colour-less void reminiscent of a photograph, the rats take on a form more akin to a demon then mere ghastly rodents, before they simply disappear without any fanfare, colour returns, and the rift is nowhere to be found.

The Ghost Ship is silent, the wind has ceased, and for a second everything seems relatively peaceful.

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Conclusion:

If the Fated successfully close the Rift and return to Octane, he will be overjoyed with the Fated’s success and will be dying to know about what happened. If the Fated mention the vessel, Octane will pass it on to other Arcanists who will do a more thorough investigation of the ghost ship and perhaps get it running.

If the rift stays open, it will only grow more and more potent as the ghost rats spread out further through the city, causing a scourge of hauntings the Guild will try to contain.

Regardless, the businessman and any character who was inflicted with the Haunted Condition will continue to see the ghost rats until the inevitably kill their host.

 

 

Ghost Ship Fatemaster Characters.docx

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