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An Interlinear Rewrite of
ON GOSSAMER WINGS

This represents a detailed version of the beginning of this adventure. It gives the players more control over the planning of the expedition and the execution of it than the Quickstart version. The Detailed start is recommended for players with more role-playing experience, and will make your adventure take longer to play.

ON GOSSAMER WINGS

IN THIS adventure the players will come in contact with an American inventor named Cyrus Grant who is planning an expedition to Luna. This contact can be established in one of several different ways. If there is an inventor in the party, he will have heard of Mr. Grant and already have started a correspondence with him as to possible means of finely tuning the thrust of an ether propeller. If there is a reporter, then a newspaper will offer Grant financial backing if he will take the reporter (and several other qualified observers, such as the other players) along on the Lunar expedition. Or, some other similar excuse for an association can be invented. The point is that Grant and the player characters meet, and Mr. Grant invites them to accompany him on an expedition to Luna.
Cyrus Grant (Trained NPC)
CYRUS GRANT is an inventor of some repute in the Arizona Territory. His contraptions have gained him quite a reputation among the ranchers he's helped out, the small towns he's worked for, and the awestruck onlookers who've followed his career. But no one was quite prepared to believe that he'd actually contructed a device which would allow acrobatic maneuvers close to the Lunar surface. This time he'd gone too far, and the public turned their backs on him. So when he took a group of fellow adventurers on a trip he claimed would explore the far side of the moon, there was no-one around to watch them take off.
AttributesSkills

Str:4 Fisticuffs 1, Throwing 2,
Agl:6 Stealth 5, Mechanics 4 (machinist)
End:1
Int:5 Observation 4, Science 4 (physics), Engineering 4 (naval architecture)
Chr:2 Eloquence 2
Soc:3 Riding 3 (horse)
 

     Motives: Adventuresome, Curious, Friendly.

     Appearance:Cyrus Grant is a very heavy man, over 300 pounds, and his distant, unsympathetic expression makes him unattractive at first. He wears spectacles and is balding, and his usual attire is a rumpled black suit. His distance, however, is actually shyness, and although he is not blessed with good "people skills", he is actually a very friendly man and will prove a talkative companion once the initial barrier of awkwardness is overcome.
     Grant carries a revolver when necessary.
The stats given for Dr. Grant seem a little strange. After all, he is supposed to be a big fat guy; 300 pounds. Why then is he extremely nimble and not very tough? He ought to have a high Endurance and a low Agility instead. This adjustment is shown here:
Cyrus Grant (Trained NPC)
AttributesSkills

Str:4 Fisticuffs 1, Throwing 2,
Agl:1 Mechanics 4 (machinist)
End:6 Wilderness Travel 5 (Desert)
Int:5 Observation 4, Science 4 (physics), Engineering 4 (naval architecture)
Chr:2 Eloquence 2
Soc:3 Riding 3 (horse)
There are italicized sections scattered throughout the text. These are descriptions of the scene or conversation from one of the non-player characters and should be read aloud to the players. It's probably better to improvise a little than to read straight from the text. These "to be read" passages sometimes come off as rather stilted. It's better to personalize them a little, just as long as all the necessary information is conveyed.
The characters will board Grant's ether flyer and take off for the Moon. a journey of no more than six hours. You should show them the deck plan of Grant's flyer and perhaps have them get to know Grant better. He will be happy to discuss his new Ether Propeller Governor, which uses several diamonds to focus the ether flow with greater precision, allowing him to maneuver with great precision using only the propeller itself.

 

That's it? The players arrive in Arizona, and they take off immediately? The players are likely to want to have a hand in planning the expedition; let them. There are two things that need to be planned:

ADVANCE PLANNING


EQUIPMENT
The party must decide what sort of equipment to bring. Grant may have purchased some supplies in anticipation, but it is up to the players to decide if this is enough, and what else to bring. Have them make a list, although really exotic stuff will not be available in Arizona. Grant will have set a takeoff date soon, so the players won't have that much time to prepare.

DUTIES
The players also must divide the roles within the Ether Flyer up amongst them. Grant should be given roles only if the players cannot fill them.

  • Commander: While Grant may have built the Ether Flyer, he knows little about operating them, nor does he know much about exploring. He will proabaly want one of the players to be in overall command of the mission, and that player should have military background as an officer, or have background as an Explorer. A military man will keep cool in times of crisis, while an explorer will be good at keeping things focused. Either will do a good job, though the player should agree on who will be in overall charge. Grant should only be in charge if the party is composed of novice role-players.
  • Pilot: One of the players with Piloting skill (preferably in Ether Flyers, but Aerial Flyers or Zepplins will suffice) should pilot the vessel. Grant can do it in a pinch, but will not be especially good at it.
  • Engineer: A player who has Mechanics (electricity or machinist) or Engineering (steam) skill should be in charge of maintaining the power supply and ether propeller. Grant can easily do this, but it is still better to have a player do it. Grant is good on theory but short on the practice of operating this kind of equipment.
  • Trimsman: If the party is sufficiently large, a separate person could be assigned to be a trimsman, though if the party is not large enough this post will not be necessary.
  • Mountaineer: Someone in the party definitely needs to be familiar with mountain climbing. The surface terrain of Luna should be enough incentive that this sort of skill is necessary, though it will prove even more valuable than the players think. Grant is unlikely to be much good at this.
  • Biologist/Geologist: Grant's theory about the glow is that it is caused by either a glowing mineral or a phosphorescent lichen capable of withstanding a vacuum. However, he is not a geologist or a biologist, so he will welcome the presence of either.
  • Photographer: a player character, particularily if they are a reporter, ought to be assigned to record the events of the adventure.
  • Archaeologist/Linguist: Grant has also periodically had the notion that the glow might be something left by an intelligent civilization. If so, he would want an Archaeologist around to interpret the artifacts left behind. Likewise, if there are any written records, a Linguist would be useful.
  • Security:While Dr. Grant does not anticipate running into anything hostile (or even really alive) on this expedition, the player characters, if they have played RPG's much, will know better. They will probably insist on bringing weapons along, and may have some characters whose primary skills all are based around combat. This is fine; Grant will not object to such precautions, even though he doesn't think they are necessary. He will accept this on the grounds that "It's always good to be prepared".
Anyway, you get the idea. A variety of useful roles are available, and the GM should try to make sure that there is a role for every player on the expedition. Otherwise, why are they going?
 

APPROACH FROM
THE FAR SIDE

GRANT ANNOUNCES, "I've been gathering eyewitness accounts of this mysterious glow for five years now. According to my calculations we should be approaching its exact position." You are cruising at an altitude of about a mile. The Lunar surface stretches out below you, jagged, gray, and dead. In the distance you can see a soft smudge of light in the blackness. It seems to have a faint greenish tint.

As the flyer approaches the source of the light, Grant descends to an altitude of 200 feet and sweeps the ground ahead with the flyer's searchlight. He brings the ship over the source of the glow. It is escaping from a deep gorge, perhaps 100 feet wide, which cuts down into the heart of the planet as far as the eye can see, After any discussion as to the next course of action. Grant says:

 

"We have found the glow. Since we came here, at least in part, to investigate it, it makes no sense to leave without doing so. The controls are working even better than I expected, and we can easily descend down into the gorge." Really, this decision should not be left up to Dr. Grant, although the players will almost certainly want to enter the gorge. In fact, let the players discuss it, and if they are particularily keen, have Grant himself be against it, suggesting that the party land on the outside and climb down in spacesuits, or that he needs to "take a few readings". The party should be encouraged to think that Grant is uncomfortable with risking his ship, and is simply stalling. Sooner or later the party will get tired of waiting and insist that they use the flyer to explore the gorge.

A SLIGHT MISCALCULATION

THE GORGE is a very jagged and dangerous passage leading straight into the Moon itself. Grant will be able to pilot the ether flyer carefully through the gorge, sinking ever further into the body of Luna. The speed of descent will be a cautious 10 miles per hour. The first several hours' descent into the Moon will bring the glow ever closer, but its source seems still miles deeper. The player with the highest Observation skill will be the first to notice that the rate of descent is gradually increasing, and the flyer is drifting dangerously close to one of the walls of the gorge. Grant notices at the same time and begins adjusting the controls.

"Suddenly this thing isn't handling right," Grant says, as he begins struggling with the controls. The flyer lurches drunkenly away from the approaching gorge wall, but then nearly hits the opposite wall, pulling away just in time. It begins bobbing up and down as well. Grant hurriedly exclaims, "Something's interfering with the propeller's operation, lowering its efficiency. Listen! Hear that whistling on the hull? Good God, there's an atmosphere out there! We'll have to inflate the hydrogen gas bag."

As is typical for this adventure, the fact that the player detects that something is wrong is completely irrelevant, since Dr. Grant notices at the same time. Instead, have the players make observation checks; the player with the highest score will detect the sound of air against the hull. Likewise, the pilot should roll to see if he notices that the ship is handling poorly. Grant should only notice these things if the party fails to do so.

Likewise, if the players know much about SPACE:1889 or ether mechanics they will know that an atmosphere will prevent the ether propeller from working. However, if the players do not draw the connection, then Dr. Grant will make the connection between the performance problem and the atmosphere outside. If the players have not played SPACE:1889 before, they may not know this, so either tell a character with Physics skill or knowledge of the Ether this information, or, if the only such person in the party is Dr. Grant, have him tell the rest of the party what danger they are in.

Grant lurches for the gas generator controls, but too late. The flyer snags on the gorge wall, nearly tips over, and begins plummeting into the gorge. Grant exclaims hastily, "Gas bag's ripped. Hang on. I'll try to hit a ledge to break our fall. Otherwise we're goners!"

The flyer finally smashes into a ledge, and all of the characters are thrown to one end of the cabin in a heap, along with all of the loose furniture and equipment. The flyer totters for a moment, then rolls off the ledge and falls again, but this time for only a short distance. It hits the next ledge with a solid, bone-jarring finality. Have the players make quick rolls against Agility to avoid having suffered a wound in the fall.

ADMINISTERING THE CRASH

The crash is a sensitive moment, so you need to roleplay it with care. Rather than have Grant bear the blame for the party's predicament, it is better to allow a player to control the flyer at this critical moment.

Understand, however, that it is still critical that the flyer crash. Nothing the players do can prevent it, since it is a key event propelling the adventure. In order to administer this, the GM has to "stack" the odds a little.

First of all, everyone will have to make an observation test to detect that the flyer is within an atmosphere, and that the ether propeller will not work. This should be at least a Moderate (8) task and should probably be as hard as Difficult (12). If everyone in the party fails, then Dr. Grant will notice (assuming he is an NPC) automatically, but the subsequent piloting roll will be more difficult.

If Dr. Grant is played by a player character, then assume that the ship starts going out of control, but no-one is sure why. Let everyone make another observation roll again, this time with an easier difficulty level, since the whistling on the hull becomes louder. This will keep happening until someone notices. Keep track of how many tries it took.

Go through the narrative of the crash. Dr. Grant or a player character will now try to inflate the Hydrogen gas bag. At this point, roll a die to yourself out of sight of the players. Whatever the result, shake your head, and announce that the gas bag has ripped on the side of the gorge.

The piloting player must then make a roll to pilot the flyer to safety. The difficulty level of this roll should depend on the Piloting skill level of the player. A level of one should result in an easy task roll, while two or three gives a target of Moderate, and a skill level of four should be Difficult, while five or more will make the roll a Formidable task. However, if the party failed to notice the atmosphere and it was discovered by an NPC, make this one difficulty level higher. If It took the party more than one try to figure this out, then each extra try counts as one more difficulty level higher.

As the Ether Flyer begins to plunge out of control, have the piloting player make his piloting roll, and inform him that the roll may be difficult, as the controls are becoming sluggish. Three possible outcomes are available:

  1. The roll fails by more than one level.
  2. The roll fails, but by no more than one difficulty level
  3. The roll succeeds.
The first two outcomes will result directly in a crash. The third outcome will give the player a choice of actions: he may either try to make a safe landing, or may try to continue to maneuver and hopefully climb out of the gorge. If he attempts this, he will simply have to make more rolls, starting the process over again. However, each time he tries to maneuver, rather than land, the difficulty level gets one level higher, and the ship simply does not have the power required to rise out of the gorge.

Depending on the result of the roll above, go to the numbered section that corresponds with the number of the result.

1.

This section is the result of a serious failure:

"The Flyer drops with a lurch, and everyone goes flying as the bow of the flyer dips sharply. Descending ever faster, the flyer glances off the wall of the cavern with a sickening crunch. The controls are barely responding now, but up ahead you can see a ledge portruding from the wall of the cavern; hauling on the control stick you just manage to strike the ledge. You're thrown against the controls, and for a moment you black out, but you come to a split second later; the flyer is skidding along the ledge, and stops just short of the precipice..."

All players must make a roll agains Agility. Success against a Difficult task level means that the player will not take any wounds from the crash. Success against a moderate task level means that the player takes one wound when the flyer crashes. A failure means that the player takes two wounds, unless this is enough to kill the character (not likely, but possible), in which case he takes one wound.

2.

This section is for a failure that was a near success:

"The controls feel like they're stuck in molasses, and the flyer swerves back and forth crazily. You know you've got to set the flyer down or else you're going to lose what control you have. Fortunately, you can see a ledge ahead of you, and you steer the flyer towards it. You set down with a crash, and a thump, and a screech; things fly off their shelves and people are knocked to the floor, as the flyer skids along the ledge. Finally the flyer hits the back wall of the ledge with a crunch sound. A quiet settles over the flyer, as everything shuts off or cools down. Well, it could have been a lot worse."

All players must make a Moderate roll against Agility. Failure indicates that the character recieves one wound.

3.

This section is for a success on the piloting roll:

"The Flyer manouvers like a pig, but you manage to get her under control; you see a ledge ahead, and you think you might be able to make a landing, if you want."

At this point, the player must make a choice. Does he wish to land? If so, he will succeed; go to section 4, below.

If the player does not wish to land, but rather attempts to maneuver out of the gorge, he must make another roll, this time at one higher difficulty level. Failure or near success will have the results of (1) and (2) above. A success at this stage will result in the following:

"You pull back on the stick, trying to get the nose up, but each time you do, the jolt of thrust from the ether propeller is too weak, and tips the nose down again. You can tell that you're losing efficiency from the ether propeller, and that you'll have to set her down for repairs."

At this stage, the player must make yet another roll to land the craft. This will be the same as the original roll, but the result for #3 will use #4 (below) instead.

4.

This section is for the successful landing attempt:

"You level off the flyer, and steer towards the ledge; you realize that you don't have quite enough power to make it there; the flyer is still descending. You call back to Grant (or whichever crewmember is manning the Engineering section) telling him "I need more power or we'll miss the ledge!" Grant begins to work furiously at the ether propellor, rewiring and unplgging cables.

(If another player is playing the role of Engineer, then have him make a roll against an appropriate skill, probably Machinist - Electrical. Do not tell him the difficulty level, but choose a difficulty level appropriate to the player's skill. Whatever the result, the following will happen; it can seem like both a success - the proper result was achieved - or as a failure - the system overloaded.)

He calls back "there! You've got all the power you'll need!" You throttle forward, and with a surge the flyer lifts a little and leaps forward towards the ledge. Yo're almost there, when a flash of blue light and a sharp crack! sound comes from the engineering section; Grant comes flying out and skidding along the floor, out cold, his face black and bloody. You set the flyer down just as the last bit of power drains from the propeller."

With this result, Dr. Grant (or the Engineer, if not Dr. Grant) is the only one injured; he takes one wound. If the Engineer was a player, then the result of his Machinist roll will determine the result; if he succeeded, the wound will turn out to be only temporary damage.

ASSESSING THE DAMAGE

AS THE players sort themselves out, they will feel a slight breeze. Several plates have popped their rivets and fallen off of the hull, and the atmosphere of the gorge is blowing in. It is cool and damp, but breathable. The characters will also notice that the gravity is considerably higher than on the surface of the Moon. There it is only one-sixth that of Earth; here it seems to be nearly half of Earth's.

The flyer's hull is severely damaged , but reparable. However, though undamaged, the ether propeller will not budge the ship from down here, as the atmosphere is too dense. The hydrogen bag is torn, but temporary repairs would probably be sufficient for a quick ascent up the gorge to where the atmosphere is thin enough for the ether propeller to take hold. But then comes the final blow; Grant's Ether Propeller Governor is disabled, the large diamond used as an ether lens having shattered when the flyer hit the ledge. (If questioned, Grant will explain that the diamond was badly flawed, nearly worthless for jewelry, which is why he could afford it for his governor.)

All the while the greenish-yellow glow from within Luna bathes the ship in a curious light, mysteriously compelling and repulsive at the same time.

Just how badly damaged the ship is will depend on the result of the piloting roll. A complete success (#4) means that the damage is only minor; repairs need be made to the gas bag and the ether propeller, but otherwise the ship is undamaged. Such repairs will take about six hours.

If a near success was achieved on the piloting roll (#2), damage to the hull must also be repaired. This will take a day or two, on top of other repairs.

If a total failure was rolled (#1), the hull is seriously damaged, and will take several days, perhaps a week or more, to repair. Even when repairs are complete, the party will not be sure if the repair attempts were successful; it will be a tense moment when the flyer tries to take off, though the repairs will have been sufficient.

THE EXPEDITION
CONTINUES

SALVAGE FROM the ship will provide sufficient food for two weeks, plenty of ropes and climbing equipment (Grant was very careful to get survival gear ready in advance), and whatever special equipment the characters brought along. The logical course of action is to continue the descent, since there is nothing above the characters except vacuum, and remaining with the ship merely means slow starvation. As Grant points out, however, a fresh, breathable atmosphere implies an active life cycle of some sort, and at the very least that might mean food.


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