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The Transactions Campaign:
The City of Madness and Death

by Mark Clark


This adventure begins two months after the events outlined in the adventure "The ARI Strikes Back" from TRMGS #4. The party is in Syrtis Major, having recently recovered from their brush with the agents of Colonel O'Reilly of the Army of the Republic of Ireland (ARI). As a result of the defeat of the evil Dr. McIntosh, the involvement of the German Government in the Oenotrian war has been revealed. Due to European diplomatic pressure, the Germans have withdrawn their aid to the Oenotrians, and the Oenotrians in turn have been forced to sue the British for peace. A fragile cease-fire now exists, and the Royal Martian Geographical Society has taken the opportunity to sponsor an expedition to the Gorklimsk Swamp, to be headed by the noted explorer William R. Mellville. The players are asked to accompany the expedition, which will travel by canal steamer. On the way, the players have a chance to rescue The Most Beautiful Woman On Mars, before they visit Bordobaar, The City of Madness and Death. The players have a chance to explore the city, before one of their number is kidnapped by agents of You Know Who.


In previous issues I gave a summary of all the adventures in the Transactions Campaign. Well, there are too many now for a short summary, so just go re-read them. I'll wait.

Good, you're back. The players will meet Mellville in the offices of the Royal Martian Geographical Society. See later in this issue for Mellville's background. Mellville is familiar with their work, and will ask them to accompany him on his expedition to the Gorklimsk Swamp. Mellville will say nothing about his plans to visit Bordobaar, The City Of Madness and Death. If the party asks around about Mellville, they will learn that he is a steady but unremarkable chap. They will learn nothing about his association with so many ill-fated expeditions. Assuming the players agree to go with Mellville, they are requested to join him in several days time on board the HMS Corgi, an armed canal steamer (see description at the end of this article).

The Trip to Bordobaar

The players can spend their remaining time in Syrtis Major as they wish. You might want to introduce them to the establishments described in this issue's article "Shops of the English Quarter." If the players do research on the Gorklimsk swamp, read them the following excerpt:

The Swamp of Gorklimsk is an unusual area of Mars created by a fairly recent (in a geological sense) major upheaval which has completely destroyed the banks and foundations of much of the Crocea-Gorklimsk canal, as well as several stretches of the Fadath-Gorklimsk canal. The result is a large, shallow swamp with multiply changing flow channels and small lagoons. Although some aerial mapping has been done, it is of little long-term value, as most of the channels are narrow enough to be obscured from the air by leafy overhanging branches. In addition, the actual navigable channels silt up on a regular basis, and the water flow cuts new channels through former islands and land banks. It is, in short, a genuine maze, which can take weeks, or even months, to navigate (except along the most frequently traveled passages).

Canal boats do travel between Gorklimsk and its two neighbors to the west, but do so at the risk of pirate attacks. Numerous small pirate skiffs often lie in wait in side channels and fall upon unsuspecting merchantmen. All attempts to eradicate them have failed, as the pirates simply disappear back into the labyrinth of the swamp when confronted by genuine force. Bands of pirates almost certainly live on the islands of the swamp somewhere, but no military power has yet succeeded in locating them.

Conklin's Atlas of the Worlds and Handy Manual of Useful Information, p. 65.

In addition, the players will learn that oil has been seen floating on the water in the swamp. Feel free to invent whatever rumors you like, since with the cease-fire conditions in Syrtis Major are very unsettled. However, be sure that the most common rumor they will hear is that Mellville's expedition has been charged with the responsibility of finding exploitable oil reserves for use by the Royal Navy.

When the party finally boards ship, they will meet Mellville, who is dressed in brand-new bush clothing. He will introduce them to the officers and crew of the Corgi (the gamemaster is free to provide these individuals with whatever personalities and backgrounds seem appropriate), and one other major NPC, the inventor Temple Covenant Jones. Jones is a confirmed eccentric who constantly cites Bible verses and refuses to use titles. He will refer to the Baron Towster as "Mr. Herring," and at dinner is given to proposing toasts to "Mrs. Saxe-Colberg-Gotha" (Queen Victoria). Despite his odd behavior, Jones is a competent inventor. Mellville has brought Jones along because he thinks that the inventor's "Jonah" diving suit (which looks rather like a small whale) will prove useful for exploring.

The trip from Syrtis Major to Bordobaar is uneventful. During their time in the Oenotrian Empire, the ship will be forbidden to travel by night, the guns will be sealed, and the crew and passengers will be forbidden any contact with civilians on shore. An Oenotrian pilot and military guard will be on board to enforce these rules. The overall impression the players receive is of a rich and well-organized society - the canals are in good repair and the people seem well-fed and happy.

The Rescue of Aurora Nottingham

The first morning the characters spend near the city of Bordobaar is an excellent time to run the adventure outlined in TRMGS #5, "Rescue at Bordobaar." The young woman the players hopefully managed to rescue will tell her story after she has a chance to catch her breath. She introduces herself as Aurora Nottingham, a singer from the United States. She was touring Mars when she caught the eye of the Prince of Notorak's wife. It is customary to execute the youngest wife of the Price when he dies, and since the Prince was on his deathbed, the Prince's wife arranged for Aurora to be drugged and married to the Prince in a public ceremony. The Prince died two days later, and the procession the players saw was for his funeral. Aurora is very grateful to the players for her rescue, and is willing to accompany them.

Miss Nottingham is very attractive (Charisma 6), and will no doubt attract the attention of every man within eyesight. However, she will soon favor Lord Herring (diamonds are a girl's best friend, after all), and will spend all her time with him. Although she is very ladylike, the players will find that Aurora has a number of other talents, including an ability to repair machinery (her father was a watchmaker) and a familiarity with firearms (Pistol 4). Although she can be run as an NPC, she works best as a player character. This is an excellent opportunity to replace one of your players or allow them to switch characters.

Arrival at the City Of Madness And Death

After the rescue, Mellville will reveal to the players that the true purpose of the expedition is not a trip to the swamp, but the exploration of the city of Bordobaar. Mellville will explain that Bordobaar was the administrative center of Mars during the rule of the 3rd Seldon Dynasty (Seldon XXVII to Seldon XXXIX). When the city collapsed due to the onset of the unknown disease that turned it into The City of Madness and Death much of the Imperial Treasury was left behind. Moreover, the Palace of Seldon in Bordobaar is referred to in ancient Martian writings as one of the wonders of Mars. As a result, Mellville has decided that Bordobaar is the perfect place to make his fortune and restore his reputation. The combined lure of treasure and fame should suffice to lure the players into the city. If it doesn't, have Mellville accuse them of cowardice; that should do it.

Exploring the City

As the players steer the Corgi down the canal from Crocea and then turn left towards Fadeth, take the opportunity to describe the city to them. After the parched desert terrain of most of Mars, Bordobaar is a shock. The ruins of the city are covered with a riotous undergrowth, green vines and purple leaves everywhere. Gaudy flowers thrust their way to the sun, voluptuous and fecund. The whole offends the eye - there is something wrong here, nature twisted by some dark power.

The dominant feature of the landscape is a huge tower that stands in the center of the city (7). Mellville will tell the others that this is the fabled Palace of Seldon, the party's goal. Unlike most Martian cities, where crumbled skyscrapers are commonplace, Bordobaar has only one tall building: the palace. It is unique in its form - clad in some mirror-like material, it rises without ornament over 1000 feet into the air, its purity a shocking contrast to the abundant organic forms at its base.

As the Corgi chugs its way into the city, one of the first things to see along the canal is the remnant of the city's fortifications (1), overgrown now and almost unrecognizable. At the base of the tower at the canals edge can be seen the remains of a great chain that once controlled passage of the canal. Going further, there are a large number of bridges over the canal, but all but the one that leads to The Temple of the Worm (2) have been damaged beyond repair. At the crossing of the canals, a huge monument stands (3), covered with carvings commemorating the work of the canal builders. Mellville will stop briefly to photograph the monument, but since it has been described in other traveller's accounts, he does not wish to spend much time with it.

Proceeding down the canal toward Fadeth, the Corgi will pass the remnants of a huge commercial dockyard (4), now overgrown. Mellville will have the ship dock at the Imperial Dock (5), a huge stone structure with a triumphal arch that serves as a gateway into the city. Beyond is a broad avenue that leads to the palace. The avenue is overgrown, but with work the players will be able to force a passage. As the players force their way into the undergrowth, roll a d6 for each third of the journey (three times in all). On a 1 or 2, the players become aware of noises around them, and they catch a glimpse of something furry and humanoid in the undergrowth. They will be unable to follow or shoot anything; if the players try to give chase, they will be hit by a falling piece of masonry (1 point of damage) or will fall into a small pit and twist their ankle (save versus Agility or movement restricted to walking rate for 1d6 days). Make it clear someone is watching them.

The Palace of Seldon

After several hours of effort, the party will reach the base of the palace. The doors are huge: standing over three stories tall, they are made of some sort of metal and are richly ornamented with scenes from the life of Seldon I. Mellville will immediately set about sketching the doors, and will soon suggest that the party take them off their hinges and take them back to Syrtis Major for installation at the Royal Martian Geographical Society. What the players do is up to them, though the Gamemaster should point out that the doors are very heavy and will take a great deal of work to move. Torture the players in any way you like if they decide to take the doors off (it is a rather silly idea, after all, though the RMGS will be quite grateful if the doors do get to Syrtis Major).

The inside of the palace will prove to be rather a disappointment. The interior is much like a gutted skyscraper. The stairs are in fair condition, but the building has been stripped of almost all furnishings. It takes about a day to map each floor (there are 112 floors in all). Feel free to include encounters with failed masonry or weak flooring the building is very old, after all. Each floor will yield 1d6 minor objects, mostly architectural details like broken lamps or furniture. Roll a separate 2d6 for each floor; on a roll of 2 or 12 the party finds some more interesting item (broken jewelry, bones, Steppe-Tiger-In-A-Box, etc.). The basement is flooded; exploration with the "Jonah" diving suits will turn up nothing. Allow the players to explore for as long as you like, then spring the next section on them.

Original TRMGS Artwork

The Kidnapping

Prior to the start of play, take one of the players aside (other than the one who plays Lord Herring or Wentworth) and tell them that you are going to abduct their character. Let them know that that individual will be gone for some time, and have them roll up another character for use the following session. Tell this person that they should arrange for their character to wander off into the city by himself or with a small group of NPCs (not Mellville or Jones) when you pass them a note.

After arranging for the character to disappear, make sure the rest of the party goes off for a rescue attempt. NPCs are useful here; a badly wounded guard who staggers back to report and die no doubt will get things going. The party will find a clear trail; following it will eventually lead to the building marked (6) on the map, the Storehouse of Past Glory.

The Failed Rescue

The Storehouse of Past Glory is a museum. The exact nature of the layout of the Storehouse is up to the Gamemaster, but it should include a large auditorium on an upper floor and a flooded basement. In the auditorium, the kidnapped character is being skinned alive by a group of the hairy humanoids the players saw earlier; four of them are doing the actual skinning on stage, and another hundred or so are in the audience. Although it should be impossible for the kidnapped character to still be alive, he is, and he is screaming in pain.

No doubt the group is thinking rescue. Play out the combat; the humanoids are Martians for combat purposes, except that they never check morale - they just keep coming until all are dead. They are armed only with hand weapons, so the players should make short work of them. However, the four humanoids on the stage will escape out the back with the kidnap victim. The players, after fighting is done, will see a small sky galleon departing when they track their friend to the roof (the blood will leave a clear trail). An easy observation roll reveals the ship is flying the flag of the ARI, and is headed towards Karkarham.

A Bit Of Treasure

The group will no doubt be saddened by the apparent death of their friend, but will of course resume the exploration (stiff upper lip and all that). If the party explores the flooded basement of the Storehouse of Past Glory using the Jonah suits, they will find £5,000 in gold, as well as a number of documents sealed in glass cases. The documents include a number of stock certificates and bearer bonds (the exact nature and value of these items will be revealed in a future Transactions Campaign adventure). If the players have had too easy a time of it up to now, they can also find some nasty canal sharks (see the article following this one).

As soon as the gold is recovered, the players will learn from a passing merchant of the approach of an Oenotrian warship bent on punishing them for the rescue of Miss Nottingham and the violation of the Worm Cult Temple. It is now time to shove off for neutral Fadath the adventure continues next issue with "The Missing Prince."

Her Majesty's Martian Ship Corgi

Research Ship

10 First Class cabins, 20 Steerage Cabins, 500 Tons cargo

Crew: Captain, First Officer, Second Officer, Engineer, 3 Petty Officers, 12 Deckhands, 4 Stokers


Deck: 4 Nordenfelts (2 port, 2 starboard)

Arms Locker: 20 Lee Enfield Rifles, 10 Webley Revolvers, 5 Shotguns

Speed: 10 Knots (speed 2 in Sky Galleons of Mars terms)

Endurance: 100 Days (Coal; range can be extended by burning wood)

The Corgi was built in 1884 in Syrtis Major as a research vessel for the Royal Martian Geographical Society. After a number of successful expeditions, it served as a supply ship during the Oenotrian War. Recently returned to civilian service, it has been refitted for use by the members of the expedition to The City Of Madness And Death.

In addition to the above mentioned statistics, the ship is equipped with a biological laboratory, a chemical laboratory, a small machine shop, and a hand-operated ice-making machine.

Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:51:03 EDT

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