GM Note: The thief is referred to as “Xavier Riser” in this adventure.
Once again, the party is summoned into Punwick’s office for a mission briefing. Standing next to Punwick is a man in full military uniform, who Punwick introduces as Major Doyle of the British Special Air Service on Earth. Apparently, several members of the SAS were on a retrieval mission when their returning aircraft vanished from RADAR and radio contact somewhere over Lebanon. Apart from the obvious problems, another one is that it wasn’t supposed to be over Lebanon. Wishing to avoid an international incident, Major Doyle has arrived in Sigil to recruit the help of Gillespie & Haggard in finding out what happened. The players’ mission is to determine what happened to the lost aircraft and retrieve its crew and its cargo.
GM Note: Yes, I know this is a far cry from standard operating procedure as any competent military wouldn’t outsource a search and rescue op to a company with a history as… colorful as G&H, but I’ve never worried much about steeping my games in too much realism. If the party can beat up a bugbear in a Miami nightclub run by a drug-dealing Alabama gnoll then I think they can take the time to do a job for the SAS that would normally just be relegated to another special operations team.
The players ask a few questions, and are understandably suspicious about not knowing the nature of the cargo (the word “classified” is sure to instill that kind of feeling in people) but ultimately accept the job; they’re trying to establish a reputation after all, and they don’t want the good jobs going to the next team down on the roster.
The party is then provided with transportation (via portal and then private car) to an air base in southern England, where they are given a crash course in HALO jump procedure. Gorak, having spent most of his life significantly closer to the ground than most people, is more than a little unnerved about flinging himself out of an airplane nearly 35,000 feet in the air, but insertion by parachute was deemed the most effective means of entering the country unnoticed.
GM Note: Also, it’s become something of a running theme for me to throw my players out of an airplane at least once per campaign.
The party is outfitted with their jump gear (primary chute, reserve chute, oxygen mask, etc.), given final orders from Major Doyle, and boards a waiting C-17 Globemaster III for the flight to the Middle East. The trip is long and boring and the players exchange idle talk before approaching the initial point, when a red light next to the exit lights up, indicating that the cabin is about to be depressurized and the rear cargo door opened. The players don their oxygen masks and wait while the interior and exterior pressure is equalized so they won’t be sucked out of the plane when the door opens.
Finally, the cargo door lowers and the sound of rushing air fills the cargo bay. The light turns green, prompting the players to jump. There is a moment’s hesitation, which is quickly abandoned as Norm charges down the cargo ramp and throws himself into open space. The rest of the players quickly follow, Gorak lingering for a moment longer than the others as he debates the wisdom of spending that much time with his feet separated from the ground. Ultimately, he gives in and all four players begin their freefall towards the earth, Xavier accompanying their descent with Tom Petty songs (you know which one) belted into their personal radios.
The fall is a long one and the players don’t open their chutes until they are at comparably very low altitudes. The players land in an open expanse of field and after disconnecting their chutes, cover them over with dirt to hide their presence and gather together to debate their next move.
Consulting a map of the area, they determine that they’ve landed several miles to the west of their intended location; the last known position of the SAS aircraft. They discard any gear that they deem unnecessary (though Norm holds on to his reserve chute) and strike out for the coordinates marked on their map, an open expanse of terrain several miles outside the village of Barouk. The trek there is relatively easy, passing through a few hills and clumps of trees, their only notable contact being with one very confused-looking goat herder.
Eventually they approach the map coordinates and make visual contact as they crest one final hill: in the distance is a large crowd of people, gathered around what looks to be one central point. Pulling out a pair of binoculars, Xavier attempts to get a better picture of the scene. None of the people appear to be armed, probably civilians from the nearby village. They are all scouring an area strewn with bits of metal, the grass surrounding it having been scorched black. Xavier concludes that the locals must have come to investigate the crash site, though he’s unsure what they’re still doing there.
Xavier decides that he wants to have a closer look at the scene and attempts to disguise his elven features as best he can. Telling Strauss to cover him from the hill, he sets off toward the crowd.
Most of the civilians don’t pay much attention to him, thinking that he’s just another person here to scavenge from the wreckage. Though at this point there isn’t much left to scavenge: the outer “skin” of the helicopter has been almost entirely stripped away, likely for use as building material, leaving only a skeleton of the aircraft. The electronics have been similarly “salvaged”, along with the cargo rigging, seats, and virtually anything else that someone could potentially find a use for. Xavier searches the crash site and some of the carts and trucks parked alongside it for signs of the aircraft’s black box, but finds no sign of it.
Hoping to get a clue from some of the civilians, he tries to ask them if anyone knows what happened to the pilots. There’s only one problem: he doesn’t speak Lebanese.
GM Note: D20 Modern language skills work slightly differently from those in traditional D&D, mostly because it has to deal with modern earth’s entire cornucopia of spoken languages. Whereas in D&D you could just put a rank into goblin and be able to speak to goblins, in D20 Modern you instead choose language skills based in the root language. So for example, Xavier speaks Romantic, Chinese, and Germanic languages meaning he can speak English, French, Italian, Mandarin, German, Dutch, and any other language with their roots in one of the three aforementioned categories. Unfortunately for him, he did not select Semitic languages, which includes Arabic (of which Lebanese is a sub-language).
Xavier: (speaking into radio) “Uh, guys? Any of you speak Lebanese?”
Gorak: “Is that like Dwarven?”
Xavier: “Not even a little.”
Gorak: “Then no.”
Xavier goes around to a number of civilians, trying first English, then French, and nearly every other language in his arsenal. All he gets are odd looks and apologetic shrugs.
Frustrated, the party agrees that they’ll simply approach one of the civilians as he leaves the area and try to communicate with rough hand gestures, as they don’t really have another viable means of communication.
After a short time, one of the members of the crowd apparently determines that he’s not going to find anything more valuable than what he already has and begins to head away from the crash site toward a nearby road, a section of cargo netting slung over his shoulder. The party waits until he’s sufficiently distanced from the main group before following him. They approach the man from the rear, shouting out a greeting in French. He turns, though likely just in response to the shout rather than what was said. Once again, the same old language dance is carried out to which the same steps of shrugs and shaken heads are repeated. The party tries to question him using crude drawings in the sand, inquiring as to what happened to the pilots. The man appears to understand the question but still shrugs, saying something in Lebanese. Apparently he doesn’t know where the crew is.
The party lets the man go, but they decide to follow him, just in case. They let him get a sufficient distance ahead of them and then set off in his footsteps, hoping that he’ll lead them somewhere where they can get more information.
As they follow along behind the unsuspecting man, they hear vehicles approaching. Up ahead, two jeeps come around a bend in the road with several paramilitary-looking individuals riding in them. They pass the man in front without appearing to pay him much attention at all, but they pull up in front of the party and stop. The man in the passenger seat of the lead jeep stands up and removes a pair of aviator sunglasses from his eyes, looking at the party suspiciously.
He asks who they are, and the party is relieved to finally find someone who speaks English. This relief is short-lived, however, as they now need to come up with a story to explain their presence in Lebanon, the four of them being rather conspicuous foreigners.
Or, y’know, they could just start shooting with virtually no provocation.
Strauss raises his rifle and fires a round that takes the English-speaking man through the shoulder. He staggers backwards in pain and Norm, who if you’ll remember is still carrying his reserve chute with him, heaves the bulky package at him with both hands. Amazingly, the thrown object connects with enough force to knock the man unconscious, sending him spinning back against the jeep before he falls to the ground. Gorak and Xavier raise their weapons and open fire at the remaining two paramilitaries, inflicting some minor damage. The men in the first jeep return fire while the driver of the second attempts to ram Strauss, who manages to roll out of the way and start to work his way towards some rock cover on the side of the road. Norm jumps up into the first jeep and slashes a katana through the driver’s throat, then unceremoniously kicks his body out of the driver’s seat. While Gorak keeps the pressure up on the gunmen in the second jeep, Xavier reaches down and picks up one of the fallen AK-47s from the ground. Chambering a round, he turns on the second jeep and lets fly with an autofire burst.
GM Note: While this isn’t the first time we’ve encountered automatic weapons, it is however the first time the players have picked one up for themselves. While any automatic weapon can be fired single-shot (and usually are) D20 Modern rules for firing full rock ‘n’ roll dictate that you don’t target an individual enemy, but rather a 10 ft x 10 ft (2×2) square with a defense of 10. The attack expends ten rounds, and any enemies within that square must then succeed on a DC 15 reflex save or take the weapon’s damage. While this slowly loses effectiveness as you encounter higher-level enemies with better saves, at lower levels a good autofire attack can deal damage to up to four enemies at once, provided they fail their saving throws.
The barrage of automatic fire kills one of the gunmen, but one of the remaining two still manages to get off a few rounds that deliver some minor damage to Xavier. Norm, having just gained de facto ownership of a somewhat beat-up jeep, lowers himself into the driver’s seat and cranks the wheel hard to the side while accelerating. Slamming his own vehicle up against the side of the second jeep, Norm brings the jeep to a stop directly up against the side of the other vehicle, preventing its occupants from easily getting out the side doors. Strauss and Gorak concentrate fire on the passenger, killing him and effectively dropping the group’s fighting strength to zero. Xavier then lets loose with another ten rounds, wounding the driver in the arm.
The driver, realizing he’s now wounded, alone, and unarmed decides to cut his losses and run. He tries to turn the car around and accelerate away from the battle, but a combination of Norm’s obstructing second jeep and reckless acceleration results in him failing to complete the turn, sending him nose-first into a ditch running parallel to the side of the road. Xavier once again raises the Kalashnikov and prepares to pepper the jeep with bullets. But this particular AK suddenly decides to buck the trend set forth by many of its brethren and jam, locking up the rifle and making it essentially useless. Of course, the beauty of Cold War weapons is that whenever one breaks, it’s easy enough to find a new one. Tossing the old rifle aside, Xavier walks over to another fallen gunman and picks his weapon up off the ground.
By the time Xavier has secured new armament, however, Strauss and Gorak have managed to fill the interior of the jeep (and its occupant) with more than a few holes, polishing up the first combat encounter of the session.
While Xavier and Strauss loot the fallen paramilitary forces for weapons and ammo (a few more AKs with additional magazines and a Makarov pistol) Norm and Gorak secure the unconscious English-speaker from the group and load him into the back of their newly-acquired jeep. Norm also makes sure to retrieve his reserve chute, as it apparently of more use than anyone initially thought, though in an admittedly unorthodox manner.
Driving towards the town, they eventually pull off the road as they approach and park amidst a small grove of pine trees. By this point, their prisoner has regained consciousness and is looking noticeably less confident than he did when he had a small squad of riflemen with him earlier. They drag him out of the back of the jeep and toss him up against the rear tire.
Xavier: “What’s your name?”
Xavier: “What were you and your boys doing out on the road with those guns, Amad?”
Amad: “What were we- what were you doing shooting at us?”
Xavier: (Smacks Amad in the side of the head with the barrel of his revolver) “I’m asking the questions here, Amad; you’re the one tied up with a bullet in your shoulder. So let’s rethink the perks of our respective positions, shall we?”
Amad: “We were ordered to be on the lookout for anyone suspicious around the crash site.”
Xavier: “Ordered by who?”
Amad hesitates and Xavier slaps him with the revolver again.
Xavier: “Ordered by who, Amad?”
Amad: “Gabir Malick. My commanding officer.”
Xavier: “And why doesn’t Gabir want anyone ‘suspicious’ poking around the wreckage? You guys wouldn’t have anything to hide, would you? Maybe some kidnapped military personnel?”
Amad stays silent.
Xavier: “C’mon, you’re gonna show us where this Gabir guy is. We need to have a chat with him.”
Xavier hauls Amad to his feet, once again loading him into the back of the jeep. The rest of the party mounts up and they drive into the village of Barouk. They see a few civilians, most of whom upon seeing the jeep approach suddenly remember something very important they had to do in the other direction. Clearly the paramilitary forces in the area aren’t the most endearing characters.
Amad directs them through the streets of the village until they reach a small hut, haphazardly constructed of mud bricks, wooden planks, and corrugated metal sheeting. They don’t approach the hut immediately, instead the party decides to leave Strauss a short distance away with the jeep, just in case they need to make a quick escape or if reinforcements arrive should things go south. Xavier, Gorak, and Norm retrieve Amad from the back and free him from his restraints, telling him to request a meeting with Gabir and to act like everything is normal. Knowing that his life is on the line, Amad agrees.
They approach the hut, with Amad in the lead. He knocks on the door and a small slit opens, revealing another man’s eyes that dart back and forth suspiciously between Amad and the strangers with him. He exchanges a few words with Amad in Lebanese and then the eye slit slides closed. There is a brief rattling heard from the other side of the door and then it opens outwards, revealing a small, sparsely furnished room containing two men with rifles.
GM Note: I should be ashamed of myself for this. I somehow completely overlooked the fact that seeing as how none of the players spoke a word of Arabic, I could have just had Amad say “These lunatics killed my men and are holding me hostage. Please shoot them.” And the players wouldn’t have any idea what was happening until they already had a few bullets in them. I’m really not sure how I missed that.
Gorak: (To Amad) “So, is this your whole operation, or…”
Amad says another few words in Arabic and one of the men lifts a tattered rug on the floor and tosses it aside, revealing a metal trapdoor. He slides the door out of the way, and a set of stairs appears leading belowground.
Amad leads them down the stairs into what appears to be some kind of command bunker, significantly larger than the hut above it. Inside are three more men with assault rifles and another man sitting at a crude metal desk covered in maps. He looks up and frowns when Amad enters followed by the players.
Xavier: “Gabir Malick, I presume?”
Gabir: “Amad, explain yourself: who are these men?”
Xavier: (pushing Amad into a nearby chair) “Why don’t you have a seat there, Amad? Let the grown-ups talk for a minute.”
The other guards in the room tense slightly and adjust their grip on their rifles, but Gabir holds up a hand.
Gabir: “Who are you?”
Xavier: “We are representatives of Mr. Mannheim. We’re here to retrieve some lost property that he has a vested interest in, along with the personnel accompanying said property.”
Gabir: “I’ve never heard of any Mr. Mannheim.”
Xavier: “You will.”
Gabir: “And what exactly led our mutual friend Mr. Amad to direct you to me about this?”
Xavier: “We ran into Amad and a few of his buddies outside of town. There was a bit of a…”
Gorak: “A fight.”
Xavier: “A misunderstanding. When we got to talking afterwards Amad here told us that you might know a thing or two about that crashed bird a few miles from here.”
Gabir: “Did he now.”
Xavier: “He did indeed. So… do you?”
Gabir sighs and reaches into one of the desk drawers. He removes a Jericho 941 pistol and inspects it, removing the magazine and re-inserting it before chambering a round.
Norm: (Under his breath) “Ah, crap.”
Gabir: “I’m not exactly in the business of revealing information about such things to outsiders. Or anyone, really. As it happens, Amad knows this. So…”
Gabir raises the pistol and fires one round into Amad’s head, the force of the impact knocking Amad over in his chair, dead before he hits the ground.
Gabir: “Do you have any other questions?”
Xavier: “No, I think we’re pretty much done talking.”
Xavier reaches behind his back and pulls the pin on one of his smoke grenades, a thick black cloud slowly enveloping him as the enemies in the room open fire. One round grazes Xavier’s arm as he shouts into his radio.
Xavier: “Strauss, we could use that backup right about now!”
Topside, Strauss guns the engine on the jeep and tears down the street toward the hut. Throwing the car into a tight 90-degree turn, he comes to rest facing the façade of the small building. Now, while most people would be content to just disembark and kick down the door, that’s not good enough for Strauss. No, Strauss decides instead to rev the engine, accelerate towards the building and just crash the entire jeep right through the damn wall. As was mentioned before, the structure itself isn’t made of particularly tough stuff, so it’s actually not a terrible idea, just unusual.
Gaining as much speed as he can in the short distance to the front door, Strauss sends the jeep hurtling through the flimsy exterior of the building, tearing nearly half the hut down in the process. The two guards inside were completely unprepared for the sudden assault (who really expects a car to fly through the front of your house, anyway?) and one is run over as the car tears down the wall while the other is crushed between the grill of the jeep and the rear wall.
Downstairs the other three party members are each engaging a guard apiece, Xavier once again making good use of autofire attacks to negate his enemy’s AC. Not that AC matters much when you roll back-to-back natural 20s, which is exactly what happens here. Bullets shred the guard from head to toe, dropping his tattered body to the floor. Norm similarly cuts down his own opponent and combined fire from Gorak and the newly-arrived Strauss make quick work of the remaining guard.
All four players simultaneously turn on Gabir, who to his credit, knows when he’s beat. He tosses his pistol on the desk and raises his hands in the air.
Xavier: “Now then. Let’s see if we can have a real conversation, hm? Why didn’t you want us looking around the wreckage?”
Gabir: “Because we brought the aircraft down ourselves. I don’t care if a few locals scrap the thing for parts, but if anyone were to take a close look at it then they’d know it wasn’t just a malfunction; anti-air missiles tend to leave evidence.”
Strauss: “What’d you do with the cargo? It wasn’t at the site.”
Gabir: “Wasn’t it?”
Strauss: “Gorak, kick him in the balls.”
The dwarf is all too happy to comply.
Strauss: “The cargo.”
Gabir: (in slightly higher-pitched voice) “We took it into the mountains. We have cave networks there, very secure.”
Strauss: “And the pilots?”
Xavier: “How many people do you have up there?”
Gabir: (Laughs weakly) “More than you can handle, westerner.”
Gorak promptly delivers another kick to Gabir’s junk.
Gabir: (Gasping) “30 men. Give or take a few for patrols.”
Xavier: “Anything else you want to tell us, Gabir? Cuz I’m more than willing to let my dwarf friend here hang around and work on your testicles some more.”
Gorak: “Can we rephrase that?”
Xavier: “You get my point.”
Gabir: “Do whatever you want, I have nothing more for you. Just know that you cannot hope to win, westerner.”
Xavier: “I’m not from the west.”
Xavier aims his .44 over the desk separating himself and Gabir and pulls the trigger, executing him with a headshot.
Xavier: “I’m from Sigil.”
Turning away from the body, Xavier looks down to the desk and picks up a map with several markings on it, likely indicating more precise locations of the caves Gabir was talking about. Gorak then directs him to a room on the opposite side of the bunker behind a locked door. Xavier inspects it for traps and finds none, picking the lock and pulling the door open to reveal a small-sized armory. Stacked along the walls are a number of Tavor Tar-21 assault rifles, and several Izhmash Saiga 12k shotguns. Gorak eagerly grabs one of the shotguns, happy to upgrade to the new semi-automatic weapon, while Xavier tosses aside the rusted old Kalashnikov and picks up a Tavor for himself. Norm and Strauss are content to keep their current armament.
Freshly armed, the party looks over the map they acquired and plots out a route that should allow them to drive up the mountain to gain access. Their jeep has been pretty much totaled after Strauss crashed it through the hut above, so they steal a small, beat-up sedan and pile in for their drive into the Lebanon Mountains.
Approaching the location indicated on the map, the party decides to survey the area on foot first, hoping to stay out of sight as opposed to driving up in a vehicle. Norm and Gorak stay with the car, prepared to offer backup, while Xavier and Strauss climb over the lip of a rock formation and descend into a small canyon that houses the cave entrance.
Surveying the scene from a distance through binoculars, Strauss sees a technical improvised fighting vehicle parked alongside several fuel tanks covered by camouflage netting, and several sandbag walls set up outside the entrance to the cave. However, he doesn’t see any people posted at the entrance, which seems odd if this place is supposed to be housing captured prisoners and cargo.
Xavier tells Norm and Gorak to bring the car forward cautiously while he and Strauss move in closer to investigate. As they approach the entrance, they discover that the ground is littered with spent shell casings. Strangely, these shell casings are concentrated only around the entrance, which would seem to suggest that whoever they were shooting at was unarmed. Something strange clearly happened here.
Norm and Gorak park the car and join up with Xavier and Strauss and together they slowly move into the caves, weapons drawn. It’s not long before they find the bodies. Strewn about the floor of the cave are the eviscerated corpses of several paramilitary gunmen. They appear to have been torn apart, as though by some kind of wild animal. Their weapons lie equally mangled, sometimes several yards from where they were killed.
Further on, the passageway splits in three directions. Taking the path to the right, they find a wooden door leading to a small food storage area, another dead paramilitary strewn across several boxes of canned goods. Left leads to a small office area with a few additional maps, nothing they haven’t seen before. Finally they go down the center passage that leads deeper into the cave complex. This passage winds along for a while before emptying out into a larger cavern. Another door is located on the east side of the room, and a small, fenced-in area lies directly ahead, linked to an electric generator by a pair of jumper cables, one of the paramilitary soldiers lying dead next to the cage, though not torn apart like the others. Inside the cage are three individuals in British Army uniforms. Two appear to be dead, but at least one is alive and notices as the party enters. He stands up and approaches the fence, being careful not to actually make contact with it.
Soldier: “Please, you’ve got to get me out of here!”
Xavier: “Don’t worry, we’re here to help. What about the other two?”
Soldier: “Dead. The guards tortured them.”
Gorak: (Looking to dead guard on the floor) “What happened to him?”
Soldier: “Tried to get through the fence. Electricity got him.”
Gorak: “And what about the others? We saw more outside-”
Soldier: “Listen, there’s no time for that. We’ve got to get out of here now before they come back!”
Xavier: “Before who comes back?”
Suddenly, a long, piercing howl echoes through the cavern. In the silence that follows you could have heard a pin drop.
Norm: “Oh, shi-”
GM Note: This was easily my favorite moment of the session. Doing something like howling like a wolf at the table will usually just make you look like an idiot. This was one of those rare instances where it actually worked. The players literally froze for a moment before taking action, and there was actually recognizable apprehension in their faces when they realized they were going to be fighting werewolves. These are the moments that you live for as a GM.
Quickly trying to come up with a plan, Xavier runs to the generator and turns it off while Norm throws open the door, letting the SAS trooper out. Gorak meanwhile dashes to the east door and attempts to brace it with his body in case anything tries to come through. He isn’t there for more than a few seconds before the door explodes, flinging Gorak several feet backwards and knocking him to the floor. Standing in the threshold of the doorway is a massive werewolf, standing on its hind legs and letting out another howl.
Soldier: “Do you have another weapon?”
Xavier reaches into his pack and tosses him his spare Colt Python revolver.
Soldier: “Save one bloody round, right?”
Xavier: “Just get ready to fight.”
Gorak rises to his feet and immediately engages the werewolf standing over him. Swinging with his saber while he rises, he cuts the werewolf across a leg, evoking another, angrier howl from the beast. Norm charges to Gorak’s aid, tossing aside one of his katanas and instead pulling out the crowbar with the faint magical aura that he lifted from the goblin leader after the first adventure. Swinging the crowbar, he lands a light blow to the werewolf’s arm and though it’s far from a heavy hit, the creature clearly didn’t like whatever magic was stored in the heavy tool.
Everyone else brings their guns to bear on the werewolf and opens fire, a cacophony of shots echoing through the cavern as the players and their (not quite) rescued companion unload everything they have against the seemingly invulnerable beast. Round after round embeds itself beneath the werewolf’s fur, but it only growls and grows more angry with each shot. Norm appears to be the only one doing any serious damage to the creature.
GM Note: As many of you know, D&D werewolves while in wolf form have the damage reduction trait. This damage reduction ignores the first 15 points of damage dealt by any weapon that is not silvered or does not posses at least a +1 magical enhancement bonus. Is this fair to throw against a group of fourth-level characters with only a single, comparatively weak magic item between them? Probably not. But I wanted them to fight werewolves, darnit.
Norm continues to chip away at the werewolf’s health with the crowbar, until a powerful swipe from its claws knocks Norm down to exactly zero hitpoints. Effectively incapacitated, but not yet entirely out of the fight, Norm summons up one last surge of strength and hits the werewolf again, the exertion knocking him to the ground. Gorak dutifully picks up Norm’s dropped crowbar and stands over his unconscious figure, shielding him from further attack.
Between the rest of the party’s concentrated firepower and Gorak’s shielding of them with his own body, the players eventually manage to start wearing the werewolf down, mostly through continued damage dealt from Strauss’ sniper rifle. Only a few points of damage manage to make it through each round, but eventually it proves enough as Gorak smashes the beast across the face with a hit from the crowbar, and Strauss fires two more bullets into its head, the creature finally falling to the ground and letting out one last whimper before succumbing to its wounds.
Exhausted, wounded, and paranoid of another attack, the party applies medical aid to Norm, getting him back on his feet, if not to top fighting shape. While they’ve recovered the surviving member of the SAS team, they still need to recover the cargo. They ask the soldier what it was exactly that he was transporting and after some hesitation he tells them that they were transporting an experimental compound that could probably best be described as “weaponized lycanthropy”. The players collectively groan as they realize that the people they’re working for are essentially directly responsible for making them fight a werewolf. There will be harsh words when they return.
They decide that Norm will take the rescued SAS soldier back to the car while the rest search for the lost cargo further into the cave complex. However, the soldier, beaten though he is, refuses to simply go wait in the car, saying that this was his mission and that he’s duty-bound to see it through. Not wanting to take the time to talk him down, Norm instead opts to simply beat him into submission, delivering a savage blow to the side of the man’s head and carrying his unconscious body back outside to the car.
The rest of the players advance deeper into the cave system through the now-broken door on the east side of the chamber. Descending a rough hewn staircase they eventually find another locked door, which Xavier picks open to reveal a small weapons cache. Most of the guns are Cold War relics, but Strauss wastes no time in acquiring an RPG-7 leaning against the far wall for himself. Xavier and Gorak, however, pay more attention to a medium-sized crate in the center of the room, stamped with the logo of the Special Intelligence Service MI6. They flip the latches on the crate and open it to reveal long insulated rows of vials filled with some unknown liquid. Several of the vials are missing, but the rest appear undisturbed. Picking up the crate, they conclude that they’ve completed their mission and that it’s time to leave before more werewolves show up.
Back outside at the car, the SAS soldier is beginning to regain consciousness. Setting him down, he goes and sits against the rear wheel of the vehicle.
Soldier: “Ugh, what happened?”
Norm: “You wouldn’t leave. I kinda had to knock you out.”
Soldier: “I see.” (Pause) “I understand. I’m sorry for my behavior, but the cargo is still my responsibility and I wished to see it through.”
Norm: “It’s alright, I get it.”
Soldier: “Good. Now then, we’d better make ready for your friends to get back.”
He attempts to stand, but grimaces when he attempts to do so and is forced to sit back down.
Soldier: “Bloody hell, my leg hurts.”
Norm: “Let me take a look at it.”
Crouching down to inspect the wound, Norm discovers about the last thing he wanted to see: a bite mark. Without hesitation, Norm tries to once again knock out the soldier before he can turn, but it’s too late. The soldiers arm flies up to deflect the blow and he stares into Norm’s face, his eyes darkening and his nose and mouth elongating into the snarling visage of a wolf. Wounded, alone, and not knowing when his friends will get back, Norm did the only thing he could:
Turning and sprinting back into the cave, Norm desperately tries to put as much distance between himself and the newly-formed werewolf as possible. Werewolves move faster than humans, but Norm is no slouch when it comes to speed either and he has a brief head start. Tearing down the passage that leads to the large cavern with the cage, Norm can hear the panting and heavy footfalls of the creature behind him, slowly closing the distance between them. Norm bursts into the cavern at the same time the rest of the party enters from the opposite direction, looking at him in confusion. Norm tries to explain.
Norm: “He’s a-”
Before he can finish, the werewolf decides to make his own entrance, lunging forward and attempting to tackle Norm to the ground. Frantically, Norm lashes out with a foot, catching the werewolf in the snout and sending him staggering backwards as Norm clambers to his feet. Desperate, the party funnels into the cage against the far wall and pulling the generator inside with them, reactivates it, restoring the electric charge just as the werewolf throws itself against the door. The electricity zaps the wolf, and he backs off with a yelp of pain, retreating across the cavern where he then paces back and forth eyeing the party inside their electric compound.
GM Note: I’ll be honest: I was trying to kill Norm here. He had talked to me earlier in the week and had said that he probably wouldn’t be able to continue in the game due to time constraints with school, and that this was likely to be his last session (as you’ll see, this was thankfully not the case). With that in mind, I set up a scenario where he would be alone, lightly armed, and facing down an enemy several levels higher than him. I figured “eaten by werewolf” was a better departure from the adventure for him than “decided not to work with the party anymore” but obviously he felt differently: he decided to fight back and got in some really fortunate rolls that allowed him to survive. I may have been aiming for a player kill (something I’ve never done before) but when the numbers come up and you manage to survive, then that’s the way it is: I don’t really believe in fudging the numbers to get a preferable outcome.
From either side of the electrified fence, both parties debate their next move in this bizarre standoff. Strauss takes potshots at the wolf occasionally, but he knows he doesn’t have the ammo to keep it up forever. He considers using the RPG he recovered earlier, but decides that he doesn’t want to risk destabilizing the hastily-bored cave structure, possibly sealing them inside. The werewolf meanwhile is perfectly content to prowl outside the cage, waiting for his enemy to make their move. The party, for their part, knows that the fuel in the generator will run out eventually, and when that happens they’re as good as dead.
Putting together a desperate plan, Xavier suggests that they try to goad the werewolf into charging the fence again, hoping to hit him with another electric shock. Short on options, the party agrees to give it a try.
Xavier removes the cable clamps from the cage as Norm opens the door invitingly and Strauss and Gorak attempt to taunt the creature into attacking. The werewolf’s ears twitch as it assesses the situation; it knows that something is wrong, but its animal instincts can’t determine exactly what. It hesitates on the opposite side of the room, frozen in contemplation.
Finally, Xavier tries one last, long-shot tactic. Locking eyes with the creature, he defiantly spits out these words:
Xavier: “F*ck the Queen.”
Blinking in confusion at first, a low growl gradually begins to build in the werewolf’s throat. Seeing that Xavier might be on to something, the other players join in.
Gorak: “I hate tea!”
Strauss: “The Beatles sucked!”
Norm: “My, Grandma, what terrible teeth you have!”
Deep inside, some hint of British-ness still existed within the werewolf, and he hurls himself at the open gate, snarling maliciously. The party waits until the last possible moment to make their move.
As Xavier reconnects the clamps to the metal cage, Norm attempts to slam the door closed on the charging werewolf, while Strauss and Gorak keep their guns trained on it should anything go wrong.
And of course, it does.
While Xavier does manage to electrify the fence just in time to shock the werewolf, Norm isn’t able to remove his grip from the gate fast enough. The electrical current transfers from the metal into his body, sending him twitching to the ground, incapacitated. The wolf receives the same voltage, but manages to survive the shock, pushing its way into the compound as Strauss and Gorak fire on it. It takes both shots at center mass, but closes the distance to Gorak and delivers a devastating bite attack. Gorak is still up, but he’s now been bitten by a werewolf: a bad scenario no matter how you look at it.
With one of their party members down, another severely wounded and afflicted with lycanthropy, and with his own weapon essentially useless against the powerful werewolf now in the midst, Xavier does the only thing he can think of: he lunges forward, holding the ends of the electric cable in each hand, and clamps them onto the werewolf’s body. The current delivers another electric jolt to the creature, the electricity arcing through its heart as the air fills with the pungent odor of singed fur. Slowly, the werewolf topples to the ground, fried by the persistent electric attacks.
Surveying the two dead werewolves in front of them, and the dead British soldiers in the cage with them, Strauss sums up the feelings of everyone in the party:
Strauss: “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Retrieving the dog tags from the dead soldiers and once again reviving Norm, they pick up the mysterious crate and make a mad dash for the exit. As they pile into the car, more howls are heard from inside the cave, and a pack of six werewolves emerges in pursuit of them. Slamming the car into reverse, Norm accelerates away from the cave entrance as Strauss leans out the window with the RPG, firing into the midst of the pack. Not sticking around to see if the rocket did its job, Norm throws the car into a J-Turn and rapidly accelerates away from the cave, which the party now describes as “terrorist werewolf land”.
While they are offered extraction via the SAS, the party decides that they’ll find their own transportation out of the country. Mostly, this is so they can keep the recovered cargo for themselves. Driving north to Tripoli, they secure passage on a ship to Istanbul where they locate a portal back to Sigil. Reporting back to Punwick he is none too happy about the British government not informing him of a potential werewolf threat, putting his agents in undue danger. He’s even less thrilled about Gorak having been bitten himself, and sends him to see the company doctor, a Tanar’ri named Lawrence, placed under a curse long ago that forces him to provide medical assistance to and for those that hold his contract.
GM Note: Yes, I am more or less directly ripping this character off from a rather hilarious NPC in the game Planescape: Torment. I just loved the idea too much not to use it.
Lawrence is, if possible, even more distraught about having a possible werewolf time bomb in his clinic, and frantically goes about treating Gorak. He will spend the next several days embedded up to his eyes in wolfsbane, with remove disease spells being similarly poured over him during the next full moon (relative to earth, that is: Sigil has no moon).
Somehow, despite the party’s less-than-amazing combined charisma scores they manage to convince their SAS client, Major Doyle, that they were unable to recover the helicopter’s cargo, and that it was likely lost in the crash. What can I say? Sometimes you just roll a 1 on your sense motive check. And sometimes a stash of weaponized lycanthropy virus sticks around to be hung over the GMs head for an entire campaign.
Don’t let your players get a hold of template-changing items, kids. Trust me on this one.