Title illustration taken from the cover of The Red Star Special Edition 2006, © Christian Gossett. Used with kind permission of the artist
The Sword of Lies, the latest installment of The Red Star series, contains a wealth of new material that could never make it into the campaign setting which came out before The Sword of Lies even started. Train Depot takes up some of that material and uses it in a short scenario. Though set during the Nokgorka war it has its roots in the direct aftermath of the People’s Revolution, nearly a century before…
The scenario is designed for a group of characters of third level or higher and pitches them against mortal enemies, ancient ghosts, and secretive plotters. Some of the combats may be very challenging for low-level characters but the most difficult encounters can either be avoided or resolved with a minimum of fighting by resourceful (or lucky) players. The player party can replace any of two groups referenced below. This works best if they share the allegiances of the group they replace, i.e. if they either play members of the Red Fleet or of the Nokgorkan resistance, but the scenario could also be adapted to other group concepts (e.g. scavengers or escaped zeks) with only minor adjustments. As the game master, just ignore the sections which refer to the actions and tactics of the group your players replaced.
After an overwhelming but costly general assault by the Reds, the Nokgorkans are on the retreat in the north. The resistance leadership has ordered its formations to break up into smaller mobile bands to make their way to Bahamut for their decisive final stand, harassing the enemy all along the way. Despite mounting losses and without waiting for much-needed reinforcements, the marshals of the Red Fleet have ordered their depleted forces to the pursuit, in hopes of destroying the fighters before they can regroup.
The scenario starts when two groups of people, a band of Nokgorkan resistance fighters and a squad of Red Fleet soldiers, arrive at a derelict train depot near the northern border of Nokgorka. The Nokgorkans plan to lose or better yet ambush their pursuers, while the Reds seek to pin and destroy their quarry.
The story starts much earlier though when the depot was still in use.
In the aftermath of the victory of the People’s Revolution and the overthrow of the Ancient Dynasties (narrated in the “The Knight and the Goddess” story arc of Sword of Lies), the new masters of the Lands of the Red Star set out to eradicate and bury the last remnants of the old order – sometimes literally so. While many were shot or simply exiled, some of their more loathed foes, devoted Imperial Guard soldiers, the dreaded Reaper spirit constructs, and corrupt Imperial summoners, were herded onto the cars of defunct Imperial military trains by the revolutionaries and left to rot after all exits had been barred, welded shut and warded against spirits.
When the Urrs later began to experiment with the industrial exploitation of soul energy, the sealed death trains once more came to gruesome prominence. With the spirits of so many unredeemable enemies of the state conveniently trapped within, they became the premier testbed for the scientists working on the engines and protocols meant to capture the souls of the dead and extract the energy contained within.
This research was of the utmost secrecy and many of the experiments were conducted at out of the way facilities. The train depot in which the scenario takes place is one such facility. It was closed down and boarded-up when the critical work was done, though much of the old machinery remains – as does one of the old trains and its tortured ghostly occupants.
Due to the turmoil of the fall of the Urrs the location of the depot has largely been forgotten and is no longer recognised as a restricted area. Only Department Three, the guardians and masters of the soul prisons, dimly remember it and have alarms in place to warn them of intruders.
The following section gives a general overview of the train depot along with more detailed descriptions of key areas and their contents.
Outside the depot
Surrounding area: The depot is surrounded by flat but broken ground on all sides. The tracks leading to it have long been dismantled but their former lines are still effortlessly recognisable and offer a direct, easily travelled route to the structure. Anyone checking their communication will notice that both radio and protocol communications are not working (this isn’t that unusual given the state of a lot of the available equipment and the mass use of protocol denial by both sides – in this case though it is due to the proximity to the depot and what is inside).
The depot: The depot itself consists of a single main structure, a giant oblong block of withered bricks and concrete. The wooden side buildings have fallen into disrepair and only rubble remains of them now. In the outer walls of the main structure, the location of three giant doors and rows of windows can still be made out, though all of them have been bricked over. A smaller, man sized entry to the side of the main doors is protected by a heavy locked metal door, which by now is also rusted shut (Hardness 12, Hit Points 49, Disable Device DC 22 to open the lock followed by Strength DC 12 to force open the door or Strength DC 20 to break open without bothering with the lock first – carefully searching the door (Search DC 24) before attempting to open it will reveal an old but rugged alarm system (Disable Device DC 22 to disarm), triggering the alarm will have no noticeable effect within the depot, but will alert the distant guards of the soul prisons that their old facility has been breached). Overcoming the alarm is treated as a level 1 encounter.
Inside the depot
On the inside, the depot is mainly one big hall. Its ceiling is up to 30 m high and supported by a system of girders running at a height of 24 m which in turn rest on a single row of squat massive concrete columns. A few interior walls partition off parts of the main floor but none of these reach to the ceiling. Climbing up to the girders requires a DC 15 Climb check, moving on them is a DC 10 Balance check, getting up on one of the interior walls is Climb DC 12 and Balance DC 15. Three lines of massive tracks lead straight away from the old main doors and run about three quarters of the length of the hall. On one of the tracks there still sits an old multi-storey train with its doors and windows welded shut with metal plates. On a second rest the broken and burnt out remains of another train.
Much of the floor is strewn with rubble, broken machinery, and parts of the ceiling works that came down. Moving through the rubble costs double the normal amount of movement. Larger pieces of machinery (including the destroyed rail cars) can be used for cover or as hiding places.
Due to no windows or other openings remaining, the inside of the depot is dark (treat as near total darkness) until the power is restored (see “power generator” below).
- Entrance: The area right behind the door (see “the depot” above) is illuminated from the outside once the door is open. It is also filled with especially dense rubble and other obstacles in the form of supplies and machinery that had been packed up when the facility was abandoned. Because of this, it is impossible to get a good view of the hall proper from the outside.
- Power generator: The depot was never connected to any outside power grid and possesses its own generator. The machine is obsolete and quite rusty but can be made to work with little effort (Repair DC 5). Like the door, the generator is rigged with an alarm circuit (Search DC 24 to detect, Disable Device DC 22 to disarm) – as above, triggering the alarm will have no noticeable effect at first but will alert the soul prison guards. Once the generator is running, old lights come to flickering life all over the depot, lifting the darkness. Overcoming the alarm is treated as a level 1 encounter.
- P.H.E.-Extractor: An area at the end of the tracks is filled with a giant strange looking machine, surrounded by workbenches covered in tools and more machine parts, an empty desk, and several chairs and stools. Thick cables sneak from the machine to the trains. On the side of the wrecked train, the cables disappear into the molten slag (see “the wrecked train” below). On the side of the intact train, the ends of the cables are rolled up next to a connector box bolted to one of the cars. The machine is a working prototype for the extraction of post human energy. If connected to the intact train and activated, it will send a surge of electricity through the train and drain the energy from any Immortals within. The electricity deals 4d6 of damage (Fortitude DC 18 for half damage) to anybody on board or touching the train (including Immortals and other spirits), in addition, Immortals damaged by the electricity have to make Will saves against DC 10 + damage dealt or be destroyed. The machine continues to deal electricity damage in this fashion for 1d6 rounds after which it overheats and shuts down. In any round on which an Immortal is destroyed by the machine, all protocols kast within the depot are treated as being overkast to one additional grade (i.e. being overkast to grade II when grade I was intended or being overkast to grade I if no overkasting was intended at all) without cost to the kasting character. Correctly connecting the extractor cables to the train requires a DC 15 Repair check, figuring out how to activate the machine is either a DC 30 Knowledge (Technology) or a DC 25 Knowledge (Arcana) check – successfully searching for (Search DC 10) and deciphering (Decipher Script DC 15) the desk drawers, workbenches, and floor for the rest of the scientists’ notes will reduce all of these DCs by -5. Being inside the intact train while the extractor is running is a level 4 encounter. Getting the extractor to run in the first place should be treated as a level 2 encounter.
- The wrecked train: Carefully searching (Search DC 15) the blackened and molten debris of these cars brings to light the charred remains of several human skeletons – the actual number is hard to tell because of the extensive damage. An even closer look (Search DC 20) will also reveal what appears to be great amounts of molten barbed wire clustered around some of the skulls. A look at the cables coming from the extractor (see “P.H.E.-Extractor” above) makes it clear that these were once connected to the cars and an Investigate DC 10 checks reveals that the damage seems to be heaviest around that connection point.
- The intact train: This train is still reasonably intact but all its access points to the outside have been closed off. The heavy metal plates covering external doors and windows all have Hardness 15 and 50 Hit Points and are firmly welded to the train. The welding lines on one of the door coverings are heavily corroded though and it can be pried off with a Strength check (DC 19). The walls (and metal plates) are impenetrable to Immortals or other spirits. The train is littered with the mostly skeletal remains of Imperial Guard soldiers (Knowledge (History or Tactics) DC 15 to identify via the surviving uniform scraps), more than 100 all in all. The inside of the train is cloaked in total darkness (if the lights are running in the depot this changes to near total darkness in all areas with the direct line of sight to an open door or window). Two special areas within the train are described below.
- The wire gallery: This cargo section is filled with barbed wire. Much of it remains stacked in tidy coils, but even more of it is strewn about in tangles, strung from wall to wall, or hung from the ceiling in knots and single-strands alike. Several skulls and some complete skeletons rest among the wire. Moving at more than half speed in this area deals 1d6 points of slashing damage (Reflex DC 12 for half damage) to a character. The wire tangles act as bonds for Immortals, requiring DC 18 Will saves to break free from them. The two “surviving” Reapers make their lair here (see “the White Guard” below).
- The officer’s mess: This upper storey room is dominated by a long dining table artfully carved with symbols of the Ancient Dynasties (Knowledge (History) DC 5 to recognise). Slumped over at the head of the table sits a corpse in a monarchist officer’s uniform. It has a jagged hole in its temple and a rusty revolver lies on the floor by its side. In front of it on the table lies an ornate general’s staff. The corpse is that of count Unstern, whose spirit remains locked in the car (see “the White Guard” below). There are no other corpses in this room.
Enemies and Encounters
This section provides statistics and tactics for the various groups present (or potentially present) at the depot. All encounter levels are based on quick, localized combats with predefined groups of enemies – if combats drag on long enough for reinforcements to arrive or if the players manage to split their opponents into smaller groups, encounter levels may have to be recalculated.
The Nokgorkan Resistance
The group at the depot consists of seven resistance fighters. It is led by Milana, a black widow (see The Red Star Campaign Setting page 177, replace CPSC with RKS-81 submachine gun and 1 clip of armor piercing ammunition, wears night vision goggles), her second in command is named Ortsou (male resistance operative, see The Red Star Campaign Setting page 177), the other five members of the group are all recruits (see The Red Star Campaign Setting page 177, two of them carry flashlights).
They arrive at the depot about 20 to 30 minutes before their pursuers, where Milana decides to use it as a hiding or ambush spot. Her priorities are to protect her inexperienced charges and “kill some Reds” – both her own and Ortsou’s survival are secondary to that in her mind.
After opening the door (without triggering the alarm), Milana orders her small force to split up. Ortsou covers the entrance area. He positions himself in cover out of direct sight of the entry and watches. If he spots enemies, his first action is to throw a grenade – hoping to sow confusion as well as deal damage and alert the rest of the resistance fighters. Ortsou is a level 3 encounter.
The recruits are to find an easily defensible hiding spot and choose the intact rail cars for this. They break open the loose door covering, then go and hide in the train. They stay in one group and when confronted try to gang up on single enemies as much as they can. As a group they have an encounter level of 6.
Milana roams the main hall, ready to mount hit-and-run attacks, preferably against solitary targets, using her night vision gear to greatest effect. She is encounter level 5.
The Red Fleet
The Red Fleet force consists of a 10-man infantry squad. The eight Red infantrymen (see The Red Star Campaign Setting page 178) are led into action by Sergeant Josef Voronkov (Veteran Red Trooper, see The Red Star Campaign Setting page 178) and the Hailer Guard Konstantin (Red Fleet Hailer, see The Red Star Campaign Setting page 176). Josef and three of his infantrymen carry flashlights which can be attached to their hooks.
They arrive at the depot around half an hour after their quarry, bent on running down the Nokgorkans and finishing them off for good. Not wanting to fall victim to a ploy, Josef will detach a two-man vanguard (one with hook flashlight) from the squad to scout out the interior of the depot after finding it open. The rest of the squad forms two teams of four each, one led by Konstantin and the other by Josef himself. The vanguard has an encounter level of 3, while the teams led by Konstantin and Josef are encounter levels of 5 and 6, respectively.
The scouts will conduct a quick sweep of the entrance area and part of the hall beyond it. Meanwhile, Josef and his team check the surroundings and Konstantin stays outside near the entrance.
After making sure there is nothing outside, the entire force enters the depot.
If the scouts survived, they are to guard the entrance while the other two teams push on.
As soon as they locate the generator, Josef will have Konstantin and his men try to start and then guard it.
Josef himself will take his group to and into the rail cars, believing them to be a most likely hiding spot.
The White Guard
Inside the rail cars, there remain three spirits of the Ancient Dynasties’ elite White Guard, two of its terrible Reapers and one of their generals, who committed suicide soon after his capture and internment in the train.
The Reapers are spirit constructs able to affect the world of the living. They are clad in corporeal bodies made-up from their skulls and long tangles of barbed wire, with which they can snare and strangle opponents before ripping out and trapping their souls. Two Reapers remain in the gallery of wire. They will be roused from their long dormancy by living humans trespassing in their lair, but will not move or attack until the ones to wake them have left the gallery again, preferring to stay hidden at first. Once they are alone again, they become active and sweep through and out of the train on the search for victims. After having killed one opponent, a Reaper returns to the gallery to deposit his soul in the wire bonds for later consumption (depositing a soul is a full round action for a Reaper). They operate separately from one another unless in the gallery – singly they represent level 5 encounters, while together they have an encounter level of 7.
Constrict (Ex): With a successful grapple check against a creature of its size or smaller (see wire body below), a Reaper deals damage equal to its barbed wire damage.
Entangle Soul (Su): If a Reaper kills a creature it is currently grappling, the soul of the creature is automatically placed in a bond (Will DC 15+1/2 the Reapers HD to escape). A Reaper can only keep one soul at a time in a bond in this fashion.
Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, a Reaper must hit with its barbed wire attack. If it gets a hold, it can constrict (see above).
Spirit Strangler (Su): A Reapers barbed wire attacks count as infused and it may grapple Immortals.
Undead: A Reaper has the traits and immunities common to undead.
Wire Body (Ex): While being a tiny creature (its core body being just a skull), its long barbed wire appendages make a Reaper count as a large creature for the purpose of grappling.
Reaper; CR 5; Tiny-size undead; HD 10d12; hp 65; Mas —; Init +2; Spd fly 18 m (perfect); Defense 16, touch 16, flat-footed 14 (+2 Dex, +2 deflection, +2 size); BAB +5; Grap +13; Atk +12 melee (1d8+4 slashing, barbed wire); Full Atk +12/+12 melee (1d8+4 slashing, barbed wire); FS 1 m by 1 m; Reach 2 m; SA constrict, improved grab;SQ darkvision 24 m, entangle soul, undead, wire body; AL none; SV Fort +2, Ref +6, Will +10; AP 0; Rep +0 Str 19, Dex 15, Con —, Int 6, Wis 13, Cha 4.
Skills: Hide +8, Listen +6, Move Silently +8, Spot +6.
Feats: Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Weapon Focus (barbed wire).
Count Unstern, a junior general of the White Guard, was a hateful man in life and has grown to be an even more hateful Immortal in death. The count is unable to affect the physical world, but any character with ranks in the Kast or Ritual skills who touches his general’s staff will be able to perceive and communicate with the spirit. The count can relate most of the background information about the depot and can even command the Reapers to cease their attacks, but it will be very hard to convince him of doing anything like that. The count starts at an unfriendly attitude and quickly becomes hostile if a character speaks out against the Ancient Dynasties or for the revolution or the Urrs. Successfully masquerading as a fellow monarchist (via Bluff and/or Disguise checks) will change his attitude to indifferent. He needs to be brought to at least a friendly attitude to give useful information and must be made helpful if he is to command the Reapers. Interaction with the count is a level 1 encounter.
Male Immortal Imperial Guard (Red Fleet) Officer 5; CR 5; Medium-size undead (Immortal); HD 5d8; hp 36; Mas —; Init +2; Spd 12 m; Defense 16, touch 16, flat-footed 12 (+2 Dex, +2 defense bonus, +2 Immortal bonus); BAB +3; Grap +2; Atk +2 melee (1d3, unarmed); Full Atk +2 melee (1d3, unarmed); FS 2 m by 2 m; Reach 2 m; SQ Immortal qualities, undead; AL the Ancient Dynasties, oblivion; SV Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +6; AP 0; P.H.E. 9; Rep +1; Str 8, Dex 14, Con —, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 15.
Skills: Bluff +7, Concentration +6, Craft (chemical) +11, Craft (mechanical) +7, Diplomacy +6, Knowledge (arcana) +13, Knowledge (civics) +8, Knowledge (earth and life sciences) +13, Knowledge (history) +13, Knowledge (tactics) +7, Intimidate +11, Profession +9, Repair +10, Sense Motive +9, Read/Write Language (Red, Völkisch, Gaul), Speak Language (Red, Völkisch, Gaul).
Feats: Archaic Weapon Proficiency, Armor Proficiency (light), Educated x2 (arcana, civics, earth and life sciences, history), Frightful Presence, Gunnery, Iron Will, Personal Firearms Proficiency, Simple Weapon Proficiency.
Should either one of the alarms be activated, Department Three (the secretive third hook of the kommissariat and masters of the soul prisons) will send a team to investigate and enforce containment. This team takes about one hour to arrive at the depot, deployed via Gates from the spirit realm. It consists of three veteran Hailers (see The Red Star Campaign Setting page 176).
They will immediately engage anyone outside or near the entrance of the depot, then start on a systematic sweep of the interior. After eliminating anyone they find, they use special welding attachments for their hailers to reseal the door of the depot, then leave. The encounter level for this group is 7.
For Nokgorkan characters all is over once they escape for good, they might have been strengthened in their belief that the Reds are inhuman monsters and perhaps ideas are fomenting in their minds how they might use some of what they’ve learned against their enemies in the future.
Red Fleet characters on the other hand must be careful lest their adventure at the train depot catch up with them even after their escape. Reporting their experiences – or even the exact location of the battle against the resistance fighters – to their superiors will allow Department Three to learn of them, depending on exactly what they said, they might be marked for further surveillance, covert elimination (maybe being sent on a suicide mission), direct action, or even recruitment.
Floor plans by Shadom.
The Red Star and all related characters are ™ and © Christian Gossett. Used with kind permission.
The Red Star Campaign Setting is © Green Ronin Publishing, LLC.