Tunnel Rats

Discussion of GMing 1879. Warning: Here there be spoilers!
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Tunnel Rats

Post by Slimcreeper » Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:02 pm

Here's a one-off adventure I wrote for general consumption. I haven't played through it yet, so it needs some feedback and balancing. Let me know if any of you run it!

Tunnel Rats


A Ms. Fagin is here to hire you for a quick smash & grab. The materials to be snatched include a book of notes belonging to a scientist of poor moral fiber. His specific moral failing is that he hasn’t paid debts to her employer.

The troop will be sent through the old tunnels under London, a combination of forgotten basements, covered canals, and sewers. The scientist may or may not be there; they are not directed to either harm him or keep him whole. As long as they get the book, they can do whatever they like. Once they have it, they deliver it to another house in another part of town and hand it off to one of her associates, who will give them payment.

The trick is that another party is just as interested in the book and has sent his own team.

The adventure will take place primarily underground. They will be given directions to go from the basement of the tavern to the basement of the scientist’s laboratory. There will be several challenges between that they must overcome. The alacrity with which they do so will determine when they meet the other team. If they get badly hung up, the other team will get to the scientist first. In this case the scientist is alive. He may give them some information as to where the other troop went, or even join them in the search. It will take some skill and luck to catch up to them, and if they do, the other troop will set an ambush. If they they get through with a normal amount of difficulty, the other troop will come across them in the scientist’s lab. If they get through quickly, the other troop will have to chase them and have all of the disadvantages mentioned above.
Once they reach the end, they will receive their payment according to what was agreed - unless they do not have the book or if they try to get more money, or if anything else fishy comes up. In this case, the Dodgers waiting for them will not hesitate to attack them. They are very jumpy!

Player Characters
This is intended as an introductory adventure for pre-made characters, such as the ones in the PG. The players should choose characters that might reasonably take on a dastardly sort of job. If the GM wishes, the players may be given Adventure Points to spend on the premade characters or on the next PC the player builds.

Scene I: Pleased to Meet You, Ms. Fagin
It is a particularly thick pea souper outside, and our heroes are holed up in a tavern overhanging the River Thames. A lovely Ms. Fagin sits across from, with steel in her eyes and an unfashionably Irish smattering of freckles across her cheeks.

“Pleased, I’m sure, messieurs & mademoiselles. It is good to see you present and in reasonably good health, despite the Peculiar. You may call me Ms. Fagin, of course.”

You know that that companies commonly hire people of less than sterling reputations when they need work done that would tarnish their own sterling reputations. Fagin is the surname taken as the nom de guerre of the intermediaries that make the connection so that the companies keep clean. You meet this particular Fagin this evening burdened with all of the tools of your trade, ready for a job.

“You’ll be pleased to know that the task I’ve called you here for will keep you out of the Peculiar for the evening, and set you up for a decent payday. A simple grab and deliver, the thing being under minimal security. I’m not saying there won’t be complications, but it should be a quick indoor job on a nasty day. What do you say?”

Ms. Fagin will pay up to £5 per person, though she starts at £3. She doesn’t have any equipment to offer them, or anything like that. She is willing to pay them up to half up front. They must be ready to leave here and now from the tavern. If they accept, she can give them some or all of this information:

- The item is a hand-written journal of scientific notes. Bound in red leather with brass fittings, it is smaller than a bible and bigger than a penny dreadful. It was written by Dr. Gullivan.
- Dr. Gullivan may certainly be present when they snatch the book. There isn’t any value to Ms. Fagin in harming the scientist. Gullivan hasn’t paid certain debts to interested parties, nor shared the results of his research in a meaningful way. Consequently, his work is forfeit.
- They’ll be able to make their way to the building housing Dr. Gullivan’s laboratory via underground canals, tunnels, and the like. Ms. Fagin can provide them with good directions. It should only take a few hours there and back.

The Book

Dr. Gullivan’s journal is coated with a contact poison (Damage step 7, 1d6 rounds, onset instant) that affects anyone who touches it with bare skin. The writing is encrypted (TN 10) and its Mystic Defense is 5. Once decrypted, understanding the text requires Kn: Chemistry (TN 7). It is locked with brass fittings (Armor 3, Barrier Rating 10, Lockpicking TN 10). Breaking it open will make it obvious that the party was being overly-curious. Using gloves while lock picking means that the character is Harried on the Lock Picking test, with a -2.


If the characters attack Ms Fagin, it shows a very poor understanding of how these things go. She has an arrangement with the barkeep. Should she be threatened or utter a safeword (“Bloody Dublin”), he will reveal an ancient but serviceable shotgun from under the bar and say, “Alright you scabs, time to earn a few free bubs.” At this, the round dozen drunks in the tavern rise up to attack the characters, drawing cudgels and knives.
Should the party not seem interested, Ms. Fagin will try to figure out why. If they can’t come to a reasonable agreement, the adventure is over.

Into Questionable Terrain

When the characters agree, Ms. Fagin finishes her drink in one go and slams the glass down on the table.

“Follow me, then.”

She nods at the barkeep and leads the group through the kitchen and down into the cellars. She directs the burliest of the party to move a few crates aside to reveal a black, empty doorway.

“There’s where you go, lads. Perfectly safe, as long as you don’t get drowned or eaten or stabbed. Here. This letter will give you directions to the good scholar’s basement. Also directions to meet my associates afterwards, who are keeping your payment. Mind you remember the book. Do you have any last minute concerns?”

If none of the characters have a light source, she produces 3 paraffin oil lamps and a box of matches from a shelf.

You Didn’t Know it Was a Race?

There is another party is trying to beat them to Dr. Gullivan. To determine who gets there first, the PCs will make a test using Navigation (defaulting to Perception, in this case) against the highest Dexterity step in the GMC party. How quickly they get through the challenges will determine if they get any bonuses or penalties to the roll. Each time a challenge slows them down, conspicuously give them a marker, such as a poker chip, and tell them it is a -1 penalty. Don’t explain any further - they won’t find out about the other party until they are face to face.


In general, it is pitch black aside from the character’s lights. Oil lamps only have a range of about 3 yards. Also, firearms are loud and will echo. The first time a firearm is used, give the party a penalty marker to indicate that the other party is alerted to their presence. Anyone within 3 yards of the discharge takes 2 points of strain and is deafened for a time. The number of rounds they are deafened is equal to the damage step of the weapon.


- Narrow Corridor - Single file only. Melee weapons larger than a dagger are considered Harried for all attacks.Trolls move at half-speed and are Harried. Penalties stack with melee Harried Penalties to make them Overwhelmed, if applicable. Roll mysterious dice as they move through, but nothing will actually attack. There are possible detours around the corridor, but it will slow them down. Give them a penalty marker right off if they take a detour. Taking a detour will also require a skill test, such as Navigation, Kn: Smuggling, or Kn: London Infrastructure TN (7), reflecting the difficulty of navigating in the dark, winding passages. If they don’t get any successes, give them 2 markers. If they only get one success, give them 1 marker.
- 6-8 Squatters - must be bribed or cowed, or they will threaten to run ahead and warn the target. If they bribe, intimidate or otherwise get them in line quickly, there is no penalty. If it takes more than a few tests to convince them by whatever means to not interfere, give them a marker. If they stop to fight them, give them 2 markers, though the fight will be easy and most notable for the speed at which the squatters flee.
- Underground River crossing - 10 ft wide, 5 feet deep, 5 ft ceiling. Grates will keep those who fall in from washing away, but will pin them and possibly drown them. Because of the low ceiling, it is not possible to jump. Unless they come up with another method, it’s time for a brisk swim. The strong current means that the PCs must make a swimming test (9) to swim across. Once a swimming test is failed, the character is pinned against the grate. Characters that are pinned against the grate can’t breath and may begin drowning (GMG p. 219). For each character that fails a swimming test, give the group one marker.
- Collapsed stairs out of basement - 15 ft climb, TN 9. Unless the party really dawdles here, they aren’t likely to get a penalty marker.

The Laboratory

What happens in the Laboratory depends on how they do on the Navigation test:

No Successes - Kidd & Marie Grace Get There First

After scrambling up past the rotted, collapsed basement stair, the party is is in a dark hall that seems to run the length of the old house. Unlit gas sconces line the hall. At each end there is a window with the barely perceptible glow of the evening light pushing through the thick London fog. Once luxurious but now mouldering green wallpaper can be seen in the dim light. On the right side of the hall there are a number of doors, most closed and dark. However, about 20 feet down one is slightly ajar. The yellow glow of gaslight pours out, and the party can hear soft sobs.

Inside, a sturdy, middle-aged man is sobbing on a bench. He is surrounded by what looks like the smashed remains of his life’s work in bio-alchemy. There is also a body on the floor, slowly expiring. The sobbing man has a hat pushed back on his balding head and a well-made but plain canvas apron. The apron has a number of scientific tools in pockets and the hat is equipped with a number of lenses. He is bleeding from a gash on the side of his head. He doesn’t hear them come in. This is Dr. Gullivan. When they ask him what happened:

“Clearly it’s a night for ruffians. Very well, kill me if you like. They didn’t seem to think it worth the trouble. There’s nothing else for you here but the morbid thrill of murder.”

The other group smashed up his shop while he looked on in horror. Unarmed, and unable to best the least of them in fisticuffs, there was nothing he could do to stop them from finding his notebook and leaving with a decade’s worth of notes. He is naturally Unfriendly towards the PCs. He may be convinced to give them more information (small favor), or even go with them to help (large favor). If they ask about the body, he says that the idiot got into some of the chemicals. He will not tell them that the book is coated in contact poison. The doctor has explored the tunnels some, before the stairs collapsed, as walks in the dark help him think. He is mostly motivated by the idea of getting his work back. Suggestions using any other motivation require an extra success to work. Even intimidation isn’t likely to work. While not formidable physically, he is not cowardly. If they convince him to come along, he gets an old breech-loading medium pistol and ammunition out of a locked cabinet, as well as some battered leather armor out of a dusty wardrobe. “Been awhile since I brought these out. They don’t do much good locked up, do they?”

Chasing the Book

They must make tracking tests to catch up to Kidd & Mercie Grace. They are making the test against the highest Dexterity step of the rival party (6). They make the test four times, one prior to each challenge. They can receive bonuses or penalties based on how they handle the earlier challenges. The bonuses and penalties stack and persist. For example, if the party gets +1 based on how they handle the first challenge, they get +1 to all remaining tracking tests. If they get +2 from their second challenge, they have a total of +3 on all remaining tracking tests. If they succeed, they catch up to their rivals just as they arrive at the next challenge. The scenario, whether combat or conversation, plays out there. If they don’t succeed at all, the rivals circle around and ambush the party.

One Success - Kidd & Mercie Grace Are in the Laboratory

After scrambling up past the rotted and collapsed basement stair, the party is is in a dark hall that seems to run the length of the old house. Unlit gas sconces line the hall. At each end there is a window with the barely perceptible glow of the evening light pushing through the thick London fog. Once luxurious but now mouldering green wallpaper can be seen in the dim light. On the right side of the hall there are a number of doors, most closed and dark. However, about 20 feet down one is slightly ajar. The yellow glow of gaslight pours out. Slouching outside is a human. If the characters poke their lights out, he immediately notices them. If they sneak close enough to eavesdrop, the party hears chattering squeal of a chair being dragged roughly across a hardwood floor. Several voices are arguing.

If they listen closely, they will hear:

Sweetly timbered voice with an edge of malice: “You’ll give us the book, you tumorous old newt. Or we’ll smash everything here and find it anyway. And Grump here will pound your melon a bit for good measure.”

Middle aged male voice: “Do your worst, you scoundrel! I’ll tell you nothing! Should you bash out my brains, I’ll go out with dignity intact!”
A heavy, meaty thud.

A coarse, throaty female voice: “I’ve never seen any dignity come out when I bash in a melon. Only brains. Not dignified at all.”

Sweet voice: “We don’t really have the time for this. Turn the room over. Hit him some more if you want, but we need to get moving.”

Crashing, as of wooden furniture being flung aside, glass breaking, etc.

In the room is another dodger crew consisting of Felix Kidd, Mercie Grace, and enough human goons to make it a one-on-one fight. Felix will immediately cast Doggo on himself, then Glim Down to give himself and Mercie the advantage, then use Surprise Strike with his sword cane. Mercie Grace will use Battle Shout and concentrate fire on the toughest looking melee combatant before directing the goons to swarm him or her. When she’s emptied her pistol, she’ll roll into melee combat. Dr. Gullivan will try to get to a couple of unbroken vials. If he does, he’s able to produce an acrid smoke. Everyone must make a Toughness 6 test or be Harried for 2 rounds. He will use Slough Blame to make it seem like one of the Goons did it. (“You fool! What have you done!”) He’ll then try to abscond with his book, making a run for the front of the house. There is a secondary front door at the end of the hall. If he gets out into the Particular, he’s as good as gone. When he tries to go, the elf Mumper will call out to his goons to catch the fleeing scientist. If he escapes with the book, the adventure is effectively over.

To the Exchange

At the GM’s discretion, they may play out some of the challenges on the way to the exchange, but the adventure has reached the climax in this battle. The players have done well and should feel pretty gratified and not be made to jump through a bunch of hoops to get their reward.

This is a climatic battle, and several PCs may die. If it looks like a rout, Dr. Gullivan may get to his pistol, or use Chemistry to create a quick splash weapon that will reveal the invisible Kidd. Or he might try to bribe the goons.

Two or more Successes - They Get There First

After scrambling up past the rotted, collapsed basement stair, the party is is in a dark hall that seems to run the length of the old house. Unlit gas sconces line the hall. At each end there is a window with the barely perceptible glow of the evening light pushing through the thick London fog. Once luxurious but now mouldering green wallpaper can be seen in the dim light. On the right side of the hall there are a number of doors, most closed and dark. However, there is the yellow glow of gaslight spilling out from under one, about 20 feet away.

Dr. Gullivan is happily sciencing away, mixing chemicals, making notes, and humming a little Brahms. His master notebook, the one they have been sent after, is hidden in a secret panel in a wardrobe. Finding it requires an Awareness test TN 9. The book is dusted with a contact poison (Damage step 7, 1d6 rounds).

If the party fails the test to find it, it means that they take too long and make too much noise finding it. The rival party will ambush them, with Kidd having rendered everyone Invisible (taking 7 + the number of goons in strain; his Wound Threshold is 7 so he will have a wound). As described in the previous section, Dr. Gullivan will try to escape with the book during the combat.

Scarper On

Kidd & Mercie Grace will try to catch up to them once they realize their target is gone. Kidd casts Scarper on Mercie Grace and himself and ditches the goons. He has taken 6 in strain. One PC can make a Navigation test at the conclusion of each challenge. The TN is 8, Mercie Grace’s Tracking step. The GM may give them bonuses if they handle each challenge quickly. If the Navigation test is successful, they stay ahead of the NPCs and they can make a Danger Sense test (5) to realize they are being followed. If they fail Navigation, the NPCs come up behind them in the corridor and a fight ensues. Kidd’s first action will be to cast Invisibility on himself, then Glim Down, and then use Surprise Strike when possible. Mercie will simple charge. She won’t use her pistol except as a last resort. Remember, both Kidd and Mercie Grace can see in the dark.


The following challenges can be run in any order. If they wind up confronting Kidd & Mercie Grace, the remaining challenges can be skipped.

- Pit trap - part of the old tunnel collapses under them. GMG p. 207.
- Tunnel workers - Workers have just cut across a section of the old canal the party is following. They are using a 20’ diameter tunnelling shield, and the canal intercepts it right across the middle. There are about a dozen workers and one foreman. They have a portable telegraph for communicating with the surface. They aren’t interested in fighting if they can help it, but will send for the bobbies if they see a murky lot of dodgers.
- Pipe choke point - Several main water lines come together, requiring climbing or other applicable tests (TN 6) to get through. On a rule of one, a character kicks a damaged pipe and a spray of water jets out. Any equipment that could be damaged by water is at risk, such as guns, lamps, electrical devices, etc. Roll step 10 for the water’s ‘attack’. For each success the water gets against the target’s PD, an additional item is ruined until it can be repaired. Further climbing tests require an extra success. On either side of the broken pipe, the ground is flooded to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.
- Rat vortex - rats inexplicably drawn to a single point. The ones in the middle have died and the others are eating them. There are 20 to 30 rats. The party can sneak around them, but if they harm even one rat, the others will swarm. There is a door just past the rats that the party can close behind them, if they do set off the rats.

A Polite Exchange

The party finds themselves in a series of nicer basement rooms. Finally it opens out into a reasonably sized room, some 40’ x 30’.There are crates and shelves to the ceiling, and it smells of tea. You see 4 humans, Harry, Todd, Lacey and Will, sitting around a little table playing cards by the light of a lantern. There is a flask on the table and some coins in a pile in the middle.

“Took you long enough,” says the woman, pushing her cap back.

“Yeah, yer simple blagging taking all evenin’. Lacey here has nearly got all my coppers. You got the goods?”

The goons are a little miffed and jumpy at having had to wait so long. They’d like to make the swap and get on. They will not take responsibility for Dr. Gullivan, if he’s with the characters. Once they’ve convinced the goons they are the right people with the right goods, and made the exchange, one of two things can happen. First, if they have dealt with Kidd & Grace, the adventure is done and the party can go upstairs to a pleasant tavern.
However, If the characters have not dealt with Kidd & Grace yet, they burst into the room. Mercie Grace brandishes her pistol and demands the book. Kidd will use Flim-flam to make himself look like Ms. Fagin and Bribery to get the goons on his side. Harry, Todd, Lacey and Will need to be convinced that this isn’t a set up, but can be convinced to fight with the characters although, Mercie Grace will find it pretty easy to intimidate them.


If Harry et al. side with Kidd & Grace, the PCs may be badly outnumbered. If the party seems to be openly antagonistic towards them before Kidd & Grace show up, let them make a Streetwise (6) to know that they might need them as allies in the future. Dr. Gullivan may show up, if he’s not dead or already present. He’s as likely to take the side of Kidd & Mercie Grace as the PCs, depending on the needs of the narrative, and use his acrid smoke, invisibility-defeating splash weapon, or pistol.

Also, how does Kidd know what Ms. Fagin looks like? There is a mystery here!


Ms. Fagin

The characters will never know more than her physical description. She seems to be Irish, pretty, and about 20 years old. Combat stats shouldn’t be necessary. She does carry a medium revolver (Attack 12, damage 6, RoF 2, rng 20/50, Bonus +3) & has Avoid Blow 10.

Dr. Gullivan
D: 6 S: 4 T: 5 P: 7 W: 5 C: 5
PD: 8 MD: 10 SD: 7 PA: 0/3 MA: 2
Initiative: 6 Move: 6 SL: 2
Karma: 6 Max: 6 Die: d8
Uncon: 37 Death: 42 Wound T: 8 Rec: 2 Durability: 3
Attack: Medium Pistol - Breech loading (A: 9 D: 6 R: 20/50 SB: +3)
Armor: Leather (3)
Languages: British (S & R/W), Latin (S & R/w
Skills: Chemistry (5, Pro), Awareness (3, C), Craft: Sci.Instruments (3, C), Eidetic Memory (3, C), Evidence Analysis (3, C), Research (5, C), Cryptography (3, O), Firearms (3, O), Mechanic (3, O), Kn: Botany (2, F), Kn: Ancient Natural Philosophers (2, F), Kn: London Tunnels (2, F), Evaluate (2, F), Artist - singing (+2, F),
Equipment: Apron with Scientific tools. In locked cabinet, pistol & leather armor. Well-made but well-used work suit. £6/4

Felix Kidd, elf. Professional Rank 3 Mage - Mumper
D: 11/5 S: 9/4 T: 10/5
P: 15/6 W: 13/6 C: 12/5
PD: 7 MD: 9 SD: 7 PA: 0/4 MA: 2
Initiative: 5 Move: 7 Social Level: 1
Karma: 12 Max: 12 Die: d6
Uncon: (20) 35 Death: 25 (43)
Wound T: 7 Rec: 2 Durability: 3
Attack: Sword Cane (As Rapier, +2 to Conceal Object. Forged +2. A: 10 D: 10)
Armor: Cotton Ballistic Vest (4)
Racial Abilities: Low-Light Vision
Languages: British (S & R/W)
Professional: Spellcasting (6) step 12;
Core: Astral Sight (5); Awareness (5); Dispel Magic(5); Magic Theory (5) Arcane Mutterings (5) Empathic Sense (5);
Optional: Artisan (Drawing, 3) step 8; Streetwise (5) Per/Cha step 11/10; Danger Sense (5) step 11, Melee (5) step 10; Slough Blame (5) step 10; Stealthy Stride (5) step 10
Free: Kn: London Geography (3), Kn: Criminal Organizations (3), Flirting (3), Seduction (3), Forgery (3), Bribery (3), Surprise Strike (3)
Equipment: Elaborately cobbled-together fancy suit. £1d4, 1d8 s.
Spells - Initiate
Darkness/Glim Down
Range: x5 ft radius Dur: x5 min Effect: +Will Str: 4
Illusion/Flim-Flam KAV: Self only, strain -1
Range: self Dur: x3 rnds Effect: Spec. Str: 3 Cast: 2 rnds
Detect/Butcher KAV: Detect Curse
Range: x10 yds Dur: 1 rnd Effect: +Will Str: 2
Range: Touch Dur: Instant Effect: +Will Str: 3
Spells - Novice
Improve Movement/Scarper
Range: 5 yds Dur: rnk min Effect: +rnk to move Str: 4 + (# of targets up to 5),
Range: Touch Dur: x5 min Effect: +Will Str: 5 + (# of targets up to rnk)

Mercy Grace, troll. Professional Rank 3 Soldier - Criminal
D: 15/6 S: 19/8 T: 16/7
P: 6/3 W: 15/6 C: 12/5
PD: 9 MD: 4 SD: 7 PA: 0/5 MA: 3
Initiative: 6 Move: 7 Social Level: 1
Karma: 9 Max: 9 Die: d4
Uncon: (32) 53 Death: (39) 63
Wound T: 10 Rec: 3 Durability: 3
Attack: Heavy Pistol, Revolver (A: 12 D: 8 Cpy: 6 Rof: 2 Rng: 30/100 Bonus: +4), Spiked Mace (A: 11 D: 14)
Armor: Flak Jacket (5)
Racial Abilities: Heat Sight
Languages: British (S)
Professional: Firearms (6) step 12;
Core: Avoid Blow (5) Str 1, Step 11; Melee Weapons (5) Step 11; Shake It Off (5) Step 12, use Rec. Test; Sprint (5) Str 1, +rnk to Move; Anticipate Blow (5) Str 1, Step 8 vs MD, reserve act to get rnk bonus on attack; Battle Shout (3) Str 1, Step 8, Rng rnk x2 yds, -rnk to target’s tests 1 rnd; Riposte (3) Str 2, Step 9 vs melee attack test, if extra success then use result as counterattack test; Wound Balance (3) Step 11
Optional: Streetwise (3); Unarmed Combat (3); Climbing (3); Haggle (3)
Free: Kn: Gambling (3); Etiquette (2); Frighten (2) Step 8, -1 per success for rnk rnds; Gambling (2); Swimming (2); Conversation (2); Tracking (2)
Equipment: Woman’s work-a-day suit, battered, with military insignia. Chatelaine with flask, large folding knife, snuff box. Busted top hat. £1d4, 1d8 s.

Harry, Todd, Lacey & Will, humans, and other criminal goons.
D: 5 S: 5 T: 5
P: 5 W: 5 C: 5
PD: 6 MD: 6 SD: 6 PA: 0 MA: 2
Initiative: 5 Move: 6 Socal Level: 1
Uncon: 20 Death: 25
Wound T: 7 Rec: 2
Attack: Club (A:8 D: 8)
Armor: N/A
Languages: British (S)
Optional: Streetwise (3); Unarmed Combat (3); Melee (3)
Equipment: Cruddy clothes. 1d20 pence

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