Beyond the Mountains of Madness Eternal
This is the campaign Wiki for Beyond the Mountains of Madness run on the Cthulhu Eternal Jazz Age SRD.
I've been a huge fan of the Cthulhu Eternal project since its inception. I've enjoyed Apocthulhu enormously, and I completely endorse the principle of a Cthulhu Mythos SRD based on the huge legacy of material developed since the first editions of Call of Cthulhu in the 1980s. It so happens that, at the time of writing, Beyond the Mountains of Madness is still available only in 6th edition CoC, which happens to be highly compatible with the Cthulhu Eternal SRD. It was a natural opportunity to run a campaign I'd always wanted to run.
This is not quite the canonical BtMoM, though. I've certain issues with some of the choices in the original campaign, and I've modified it accordingly. Even BtMoM veterans should find some surprises.
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The player-characters on the Starkweather-Moore Expedition
|Fred||Bruce Worthington||10||15||75||60||18: 6/6/6, |
|Random Task||Jimmy Chan||12||12||60||48||9: 6/3/0, |
|SirMoogle||Martin Cooper||11||13/10||65||52||10: 6/4/0, |
|Daxian||Drusilla "Dru" Canfield||10||10||50||40||9: 6/3/0, |
|Regular Guy||Sean Ramsey||11||11/8||55||44||9: 6/3/0, |
Important Information and Materials
Please note: Much of this is canonical BtMoM material. Other items have come courtesy of the terrific Mountains of Madness Wikidot (http://mountainsofmadness.wikidot.com/).
This is the general page for details of vehicles and equipment relevant to the campaign:
The SS Gabrielle
(Larger size version of the same image is here: http://sme.wdfiles.com/local--files/ss-gabrielle/gabrielleplan.jpg; much more detailed information is here: http://mountainsofmadness.wikidot.com/ss-gabrielle)
What the World Knows about the Miskatonic University Expedition to Antarctica
Most of the following came to the world via the Arkham Advertiser’s powerful radio installation at Kingsport Head, Massachusetts.
The expedition landed at Ross Island in the Ross Sea. After several tests of the drilling gear and trips to Mt. Erebus and other local sights, the land party, consisting of 20 men and 55 dogs plus gear, assembled a semi-permanent camp on the barrier not far away and readied their five big Dornier aircraft for flight.
Using four of the aircraft, the fifth being held in reserve at the barrier camp, the party established a second base camp on the Polar Plateau beyond the top of the Beardmore Glacier (Lat 86d7m Long E174d23m) and did a lot more drilling and blasting in that vicinity. During December 13–15, 1930, Pabodie, Gedney, and Carroll climbed Mt. Nansen. Many fascinating fossil finds were made using the drill rig.
On January 6, 1931, Lake, Dyer, Pabodie, Daniels, and ten others flew directly over the South Pole in two aircraft, being forced down once for several hours by high winds. Several other observation flights were made to points of less noteworthiness during the week before and after.
The published plan for the expedition at this point was to move the entire operation eastward another 500 miles in mid-January, for the purpose of establishing once and for all whether Antarctica was one continent or two. The public also received word during this period that Lake, the biologist, campaigned strongly for an expedition to the northwest before moving the base camp. Therefore, instead of flying west on the 10th of January as planned, the party remained where it was while Lake, Pabodie, and five others set out via sled to probe overland into unknown lands. This expedition lasted from January 11th through the 18th, and was scientifically successful and marred only by the loss of two dogs in an accident while crossing a pressure ridge. During this same period, many supplies and barrels of fuel were airlifted by the others up to the Beardmore camp.
The expedition’s published agenda was changed once again when it was decided to send a very large party northeastward under Lake’s command. The party left Beardmore by aircraft on January 22nd, and radioed frequent reports directly to the Arkham for rebroadcast to the world. The party consisted of 4 planes, 12 men, 36 dogs, and all of the drilling and blasting equipment. Later that same day the expedition landed about 300 miles east and drilled and blasted up a new set of samples, containing some very exciting Cambrian fossils.
Late on the same day, about 10 p.m., Lake’s party announced the sighting of a new mountain range far higher than any heretofore seen in the Antarctic. Its estimated position was at Lat 76d15m, Long E113d10m. It was described as a very broad range with suspicions of volcanism present. One of the planes was forced down in the foothills and was damaged in the landing. Two other craft landed there as well and set up camp, while Lake and Carroll, in the fourth plane, flew along the new range for a short while up close. Very strange angular formations, columns, and spiracles were reported in the highest peaks. Lake estimated the range peaks may top 35,000 feet. Dyer called back to the ships and ordered the crew there to ready large amounts of supplies for shipment to a new base which would have to be set up in the foothills of the new range.
January 23rd — Lake commented on the likelihood of vicious gales in the region, and announced that they were beginning a drilling probe near the new camp. It was agreed that one plane would fly back to the Beardmore camp to pick up the remaining men and all the fuel it could carry. Dyer told Lake that he and his men would be ready in another 24 hours.
The rest of that same day was filled with fantastic, exciting news that rocked the scientific world. A bore hole had drilled through into a cave, and blasting had opened up the hole wide enough to enter. The interior of the limestone cave was a treasure trove of wonderful fossil finds in unprecedented quantity. After this discovery, the messages no longer came directly from Lake but were dictated from notes that Lake wrote while at the dig site and sent to the transmitter by runner.
Into the afternoon the reports poured in. Amazing amounts of material were found in the hole, some as old as the Silurian and Ordovician ages, some as recent as the Oligocene period. Nothing found was more recent than 30 million years ago. Fowler discovered triangular stipple-prints in a Comanchian fossil stratum that were close cousins to ones discovered by Lake himself in Archaean slate elsewhere on the continent. They concluded that the makers of those tracks were members of a species of radiant that continued significantly unchanged for over six hundred million years—and was in fact evolved and specialized at a time “not less than a thousand million years ago when the planet was young and recently uninhabitable for any life forms of normal protoplasmic structure. The question arises when, where, and how that development took place.”
Later that evening — Orrendorf and Watkins discovered a huge barrel-shaped fossil of wholly unknown nature. Mineral salts apparently preserved the specimen with minimal calcification for an unknown period of time. Unusual flexibility remained in the tissues, though they were extremely tough. The creature was over six feet in length and seems to have possessed membraneous fins or wings. (More detail given, too much for this synopsis.) Given the unique nature of the find, all hands were searching the caves looking for more signs of this new organism type.
Close to midnight — Lake broadcast to the world that the new barrel-bodied animals were the same creatures that left the weird triangular prints in fossil strata from the Archaean to the Comanchian eras. Mills, Boudreau, and Fowler found a cluster of thirteen more of the specimens about forty feet from the entrance, in association with a number of small oddly shaped soapstone carvings. Several of the new specimens were more intact than the first, including intact head and feet samples that convinced Lake that the creatures were his track-makers (an extremely detailed anatomical description followed at this point). Lake intended to dissect one, then get some rest and see Dyer and the others in a day or two.
January 24th, 3 a.m. — Lake reported that the fourteen specimens had been brought by sled from the dig site to the main camp and laid out in the snow. The creatures were extremely heavy and also very tough. Lake began his attempt at dissection on one of the more perfect specimens, but found that he could not cut it open without risking great damage to delicate structures, so he exchanged it for one of the more damaged samples. This also gave him easier access to the creature’s interior. (More details — vocal systems — very advanced nervous system — exceedingly foul smell — weird and complex sensory organs.) He jokingly named the creatures the “elder ones.”
Last report, about 4 a.m. — Strong winds rising, all hands at Lake’s Camp were set to building hurried snow barricades for the dogs and the vehicles. As a probable storm was on the way, air flight was out of the question for the moment. Lake went to bed exhausted.
No further word was received from Lake’s camp. Huge storms that morning threatened to bury even Dyer’s camp. At first it was assumed that Lake’s radios were out, but continued silence from all four transmitter sets was worrisome. Dyer called up the spare plane from McMurdo to join him at Beardmore once the storm had subsided.
January 25th — Dyer’s rescue expedition left Beardmore with 10 men, 7 dogs, a sled, and a lot of hope, piloted by McTighe. They took off at 7:15 a.m. and were at Lake’s Camp by noon. Several upper-air gales made the journey difficult. Landing was reported by McTighe at Lake’s camp at noon; the rescue party was on the ground safely.
4 p.m., same day — A radio announcement was sent to the world that Lake’s entire party had been killed, and the camp all but obliterated by incredibly fierce winds the night before. Gedney’s body was missing, presumed carried off by wind; the remainder of the team were dead and so grievously torn and mangled that transporting the remains was out of the question. Lake’s dogs were also dead; Dyer’s own dogs were extremely uneasy around the camp and the few remains of Lake’s specimens. As for the new animals — the elder ones — described by Lake, the only specimens found by Dyer were damaged, but were still whole enough to ascertain that Lake’s descriptions were probably wholly and impressively accurate. It was decided that an expedition in a lightened plane would fly into the higher peaks of the range before everyone returned home.
January 26th — Early morning report by Dyer talked about his trip with Danforth into the mountains. He described the incredible difficulty in gaining the altitude necessary to reach even the lowest of the passes at 24,000 feet; he confirmed Lake’s opinion that the higher peaks were of very primal strata unchanged since at least Comanchian times. He discussed the large cuboid formations on the mountainsides, and mentioned that approaches to these passes seemed quite navigable by ground parties but that the rarefied air makes breathing at those heights a very real problem. Dyer described the land beyond the mountain pass as a “lofty and immense super-plateau as ancient and unchanging as the mountains themselves — twenty thousand feet in elevation, with grotesque rock formations protruding through a thin glacial layer and with low gradual foothills between the general plateau surface and the sheer precipices of the highest peaks.” The Dyer group spent the day burying the bodies and collecting books, notes, etc., for the trip home.
January 27th — Dyer’s party returned to Beardmore in a single air hop using three planes, the one they came in and the two least damaged of Lake’s four craft.
January 28th — The planes were back at McMurdo Sound. The expedition packed and left soon after that.
Antarctic Survival Clothing
A typical Antarctic ensemble can weigh anywhere between 10 and 20 pounds. The parka is the most widely used single style of garment, typically of reindeer skin if you can afford it.
Parkas are fur-lined coats that fit snugly about the hips and have a flap under the crotch that buttons in front. The hood is deep and can protect the face somewhat from cold air, but additional protection is required if there is more than minimal wind. The armpits are cut very large so that it is easy to draw the arms inside the coat without unbuttoning it.
Pants are also fur lined, but are generally softer and not as thick as the parka coats, since the legs are less sensitive to cold.
The ice of one's breath is the greatest source of frostbite aside from stiff wind. Masks and other protective gear can be devised to keep the rime of breath from the face.
The feet are the most endangered part of the body. Moisture is the greatest source of danger. A recommended boot is the finnesko, entirely covered with fur. Several layers of felt are padded on the bottom, and over them is laid a matting of saennegrass (or siennagrass). This grass absorbs the perspiration and helps to keep the feet dry. When the shoe is removed the saennegrass can be lifted out, the rime brushed off, and the boot itself kept free of damp.
The problem of boots continues with sizing. Cold boots should be big enough to include three to five pairs of thick stockings, plus felt and saennegrass. Thus the boot must be taller and also have an extra-wide throat to admit the muffled foot. Arctic boots have thick rubber soles at least 0.5 inches thick and a reinforced heel. Pucker thongs at the back of the heel and up the rear can be used to adjust the boot to different thicknesses of socks.
Windproof garments (shirts, parkas, pants, mittens, socks, and sleeve protectors) are a necessary complement to the furs. Good ones can be made from aircraft silk and worn over the fur clothes to provide extra protection.
Sleeping bags are fur-lined, possibly of reindeer, and are covered with aircraft silk. They come in many styles.
Each member of the Starkweather-Moore Expedition is provided with one set of cold-weather clothing. Final fittings and alterations of these items, where needed, will take place in New York prior to departure or on the voyage south. Each expedition member is expected to care for his or her own clothing, including the repair and/or replacement of items damaged over the summer. Materials and tools used for repairing damaged clothing items are carried in expedition stores.
The Starkweather-Moore Expedition has a complement of 30 team members (plus the PCs), and the SS Gabrielle has a crew of 47. Below are a few of the key figures, as well as others who'll be added as they appear in the course of the campaign.
- James Starkweather, explorer, expedition leader
- William Moore, geologist, expedition organizer
- Henry Vredenburgh, Captain, SS Gabrielle
- Richard Greene, physician, Starkweather-Moore Expedition
- Douglas Halperin, pilot, Starkweather-Moore Expedition
- Ralph DeWitt, pilot, Starkweather-Moore Expedition
House Rules and Quirks
Spending Willpower to Make Rolls Succeed
You can spend your Willpower Points on a 1-to-5 basis to improve most skill rolls (but not SAN rolls or damage rolls, or POW tests, or to change normally successful rolls into crits etc.): 1 WP = up to 5%. This represents making that extra effort of will to achieve a success. But in doing so, you're running down your Willpower Points, which can be dangerous. Also, you have to take the full 1-to-5 conversion - no fractions. If your roll has failed by 6%, you have to spend 2 WP for the full 10%.
Remember that you can also spend Willpower to project SAN loss onto Bonds, or to repress insanity. This is different to the above use - and a reminder how important it is to hang on to your WP. Fumbles can cost you WP; resisting interrogation definitely does. WP are needed to fuel hypergeometrical rituals and objects, and are sometimes targeted by offensive rituals. They're also very important for survival in hostile environments - like the Antarctic.
Remember that you suffer an emotional breakdown when your WP hit 2 or below, and total collapse when you hit 0 WP. You regain 1d6 WP after a full, proper night's sleep. Exhaustion and sleeplessness cut into that.
Parrying with Melee Weapons
The rules are a little unclear on this point, so to clarify: You can parry a Melee Weapons attack against you if you have the skill (e.g., not surprised), are able to use it, and have a weapon of your own. If your parry roll succeeds and beats your attacker's roll, you successfully parry the attack and take no weapon damage.
If you're attacked by multiple assailants, you can opt to split your parry roll between them, but your percentage chance per attack is divided by the total number of attackers. If you're splitting your rolls, you have to declare this before the first attack, and you can't change the chances if one attacker fails and your parry succeeds.
You can't parry Huge attackers, only Dodge them. You can't nimbly parry a charging rhino's horn with your little switchblade...