Supply and Demand [Adventure]

Discussion of GMing 1879. Warning: Here there be spoilers!
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Supply and Demand [Adventure]

Post by Slimcreeper » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:38 am

Supply and Demand

The water near the Ditchburn Boarding House has been acting up for a week or so, but now it seems to have cut out completely. Complaints to the waterworks has resulted in bureaucratic runarounds, since they don’t really understand what’s going on and don’t want to admit it. Mrs. Aulukh has asked the party to investigate.

The party might simply head down to the sewers to see what they can find. In this case, they will need some luck with Navigation or someone with some knowledge of the Underground or they will get terribly lost. Alternately, they may try the waterworks to see if they can get more information. The waterworks will claim to have workmen on the case and refuse to give information. The party may try to crack it with a Byron, try to find the engineer who designed that section or a street urchin with some knowledge of the Underground.

If they don’t head straight underground, the party will find the best entrance to the service tunnels guarded by a couple waterworks goons. The waterworks, unwilling to admit that they are having trouble, have hired their own crew to sort out the mess.

There are some hazards underground to negotiate, but eventually they find the problem. An enormous serpent has glommed on to the main and is pilfering the water. If forced to release the pipe, pressurized water hisses out with enough force to knock a man down. The serpent has been touched by water elementals, although it is not an elemental itself. It is consuming the water and somehow processing it for the elemental, purifying it and carrying it to the Thames. It will absolutely defend itself if attacked, and simply killing it will definitely bring the ire of local water elementals. The best possible outcome would be to provide some sort of offering for the elementals and getting the serpent tasked somewhere else.

Unfortunately, the crew hired by the waterworks only has extermination in mind.

Resolving the issue without killing the Sewer Serpent will result in a great deal of good feeling and prestige with the Ditchburn Boarding House Lodge.

Setting the Stage
Cusa takes his duty going to the stand pipe to get a couple of buckets of water. While Ditchburn does have running water, it only runs a few hours a day and the system needs a bit of help filling the cistern. The more so now that there is so much more custom than when the boarding house was established. When he gets there he finds that there is a much longer line than normal. In fact, some are taking their buckets to the next standpipe on the next block. If he tries to fill the water himself, he’ll find that the pressure is extremely low, and in fact will shut off entirely while his bucket is only half full. No amount of spirit work or investigation will reveal any answers.

When she sees the half-bucket of water, Mrs. Aulakh sighs. “It is getting worse, isn’t it?”

She will ask Cusa to gather some of his clever friends and see if they can figure something out. The Lodge cannot offer a great deal of money, but she offers to go around to the local residents and businesses and take up a collection for a reward. (The result will be £2d4 per person). Plus, she will feed the party for the duration of the investigation, and she is an unreasonably good cook. The party gets a +1 on anything that could be described as a ‘morale check’.

Lines of Investigation
The East London Waterworks supplies water most of east London, including Blackwall. They are not in it for the betterment of mankind. No one has forgotten the cholera outbreak of ‘66, when the firm was found to be delivering contaminated water from open reservoirs. Their offices and pump house is located at the Lea Bridge in Hackney just north of the eponymous Marshes. The offices are located just off of Lea Bridge road. They are large buildings, some 50 years old and well tended. The building housing the pumps and Engines are nearby and much bigger - as much as 5 stories, with large windows allowing a lot of light in.

Secretary: Ms. Alice Vernon raps rapid fire on a keyboard with one stuck key. She always seems to be in the middle of a paragraph when the party approaches her. She will have them wait for hours to find out who to speak to before waiting hours to speak before finding out they are out for the day.

Security: pairs of goons patrol the facilities at night. Pairs of goons are posted at all entrances at all times. There is rigorous Engine Security on all doors (standard door security terminal PG p 437). There are sensors on all ground and first floor windows. Treat as traps (Det: 15 Disarm: 8 Initiative: 13 Trigger: Opening window. Effect: turns on klaxon on side of building that can be heard across the waterworks. A Mage is on staff at all times, and a water elemental (use Undine p 472) is tasked with protecting the grounds at night.
Asst. Manager of Distribution, Poplar division: Mr. Germaine Sanders has a magnificent moustache, but that is his only redeeming feature. He will be persistently unhelpful and unnecessarily loud.

Clues Available:
The waterworks thinks there is an illegal tap underground causing the disruption (Novice TN)
The waterworks has a group of plumbers dispatched to find said tap. Plumbers in this case are quite combat-capable (Journeyman TN)
Service maps that give +3 to Navigation, Kn: Underground tests (High Journeyman TN)

Street Folk and Smugglers
A number of people find the sewers and access tunnels useful, and the party might find a guide. Said guides will not be combat capable and will need to be kept safe, but will have Kn: Underground step 10.

Engineers or Workers
Finding and interviewing the various engineers and workers that laid those pipes will provide anywhere from +1 to +3 to Navigation tests.

Heading Under
Easiest Access
The waterworks’ plumbers will be guarding the best access to the service tunnels. The party can get into the tunnels from another area, but it will require 2 additional tests. A pair of goons are standing outside the manhole cover at all times. They have 3 shifts, at 8-4, 4-12, and 12-8.

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.

The party must make 3 tests. Kn: London Underground or Infrastructure TN 7. Related skills such as Navigation have a TN of 9 or 11. At the same time, the plumbers are making the same tests. On a rule of 1, they have to make an extra test. On 0 successes, they have a tough challenge (see below) On 1 success, the have an easy challenge. If they get any extra successes, they have no challenges and the plumbers get -2 to their next test and each plumber takes step 6 damage.

If the plumbers get the exact same result, they meet the party.

At the end of the tests, compare which group got the most successes. Whoever did gets to the ‘tap’ first and deals with the Elemental Sewer Serpent. If they tie they arrive at the same time.

Some challenges may give a bonus to the Plumbers.

Easy Challenges
- 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 the plumbers +1 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 the plumbers +2. If they only get one success, give them +1.
- Collapsed stairs- 15 ft climb, TN 9. Unlikely to give bonuses to plumbers.
- Pit trap - part of the old tunnel collapses under them. GMG p. 207. Unlikely to give bonuses to plumbers.
- 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. Unlikely to give bonuses to plumbers.

Tough Challenges
- 1/2 dozen 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 the plumbers +2, 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 plumbers +1.
- 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. Give the plumbers +1 if they have to explain their presence.
- 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. Give the plumbers +1 if they set off the rats.

Elemental Sewer Serpent
The Party Arrives First
You come into a large chamber, some 30 feet across and deep enough that you can’t easily see the other side based on typical lanterns. The stench here is considerably lessened. It is no less musky, but it seems like a pure, clean musk, if that makes sense. You can make out a number of pipes and cables along the wall, most only a few inches in diameter, but some as much as a foot or more. One weird, rubbery pipe, at least 3 feet in diameter, is lying along the stonework, pulsing with its flow. On the right side of the chamber a 5 foot-wide channel has been cut into the floor that is draining some buried stream. It rushes cold and quick and black through a grate in the wall.

As you get closer to where you believe the tap to be, a golden eye swivels, catches the light and looks straight at you. That rubbery pipe is no pipe - it is a great serpent. Its massive jaws release the pipe it has been clamped on to and an immense spray of water arcs through the air. It raises its head and hisses.

The Party Arrives Second
You hear the deafening report of a gunshot. You come into a large chamber, some 30 feet across and deep enough that you can’t easily see the other side based on typical lanterns. The loud noise of a battle fills your ears. A massive serpent is writhing across the floor, a good three feet in diameter and 40 feet long. You can make out number of humanoid figures struggling, weapons out, and the head of the snake with some unfortunate’s legs sticking out.

What happens here depends on what order the parties arrive and what choices the party make. Godspeed, good Gamemaster.

Again, what happens here depends on what the party does. Best case scenario, they appease the elemental spirits by arranging for an alternate sacrifice. If they restore the waterflow, through whatever means, they get paid, but if they anger the elemental spirits the Lodge will be less pleased. If they do well, they may get extra favors from the Lodge, such as potential Favors or tutelage.

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Re: Supply and Demand [Adventure]

Post by Andrew1879 » Sat Jul 13, 2019 2:01 pm

Intriguing premise.

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Re: Supply and Demand [Adventure]

Post by Slimcreeper » Sat Jul 13, 2019 5:59 pm

I figure there is a contingent of air and water elementals that considers London an act of war.

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Re: Supply and Demand [Adventure]

Post by Andrew1879 » Sun Jul 14, 2019 1:04 pm

Oh yes, there most certainly are. We even wrote up one of them, that's gone toxic.

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Re: Supply and Demand [Adventure]

Post by marryjanes » Tue Jul 18, 2023 3:55 am

I imagine that some of the air and water elementals saw London as an act of war.

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Re: Supply and Demand [Adventure]

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