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Chapter Two:
THE DESCENT

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.

DESCENT INTO THE MOON

THE EXPEDITION will be able to make progress toward the center of the Moon using ropes and rappelling skills. Progress will be measured in miles climbed downward. Consult the mountain-climbing rule in the "Travel" chapter (page 115). Each mile of descent is treated as if it were a mountain, and the referee makes a roll to see how many rock faces must be descended. However, since gravity is only half that of the Earth, rappelling is much easier and safer, even for inexperienced climbers, and players will descend twice the number of faces per day as normal.
The other possibility here is that the Hydrogen gas bag is repaired, and the players use the ether flyer as an atmospheric craft to explore the gorge. This will be safer than climbing, though they will learn less unless they make more stops on the way down. If you don't want to allow this, you can suggest that the Hydrogen gas bag will not hold for an extended period of time, and that it is not worth risking losing the gas bag for good by exploring deeper with the flyer.

Should the players use the flyer to explore the chasm, they will have to discover the things that would normally have been discovered through climbing by other means. Naturally there will still have to be a first encounter with the Lunar Bats, Caterpillars, glow-fungus, etc. Should these encounters happen within the caves the end result is much the same.

 

The actual descent is examined below, one day at a time. New things will be learned about the subsurface Lunar environment each day. In some cases these discoveries will take the form of a mandated encounter. Animal statistics for the encounters are found on the Lunar Animal Chart on page 212.

 

This is a good way of plotting out the adventure, in day-long pieces. However, the one problem they will have is telling what time it is. If none of the players have listed a pocket watch as one of their posessions, then assume that none of them are carrying one. Even if they are, most such watches will only tell the time but not AM or PM. There is still plenty of opportunity to lose track of time.

While making their descent the party will probably keep going until someone becomes too tired and a mishap occurs. Then the party may realize the inherent danger of losing track of time, and plan accordingly. As it stands, all the party has to go on are how often they have slept and eaten.
Day One: The light from the glow will be sufficient to allow the characters to dispense with any hand lamps or lanterns. This makes the climb easier, but the very slippery nature of the rocks makes it more difficult. The gorge walls are damp and coated with a fine coating of mud, almost slime. Many small stalactites are attached to rock outcroppings. Grant reasons that moisture evaporates deep within the Moon, and the vapors rise until they condense on the gorge walls. The slime is a combination of water vapor, rock dust, and what appears to be organic matter.

Late in the day a variety of small fungi are discovered living in the cracks and crevices of the gorge. This accounts for the organic matter in the gorge muck. These fungi tend to be gray or brown in color and are spongy to the touch, much like fresh mushrooms. They have a faintly musty smell.

Grant volunteers to begin sampling them a little at a time.

"With my bulk, they aren't liable to do me much harm even if they are poisonous. We'll know in a day or two if we've licked the food problem."

This is the part where the players realize that Doctor Grant is insane. What kind of idiot must he be to actually eat a strange and unknown fungus? Instead, the fact that humans can eat the Fungus will eventually be revealed by Tereshkovitch, so why bother making them eat it now? Instead, the tension of food running out can bring on a tense decision by the players as to what sort of measures to take vis-a-vis eating local lunar life. If the players have taken a week or less food supply with them, then they will definitely run out of food prior to reaching Tereshkovitch. This could be a very dramatic moment.

Day Two: With the light drawing ever closer from below, its eventual source is revealed today. A new variety of yellow-green fungus is discovered, and it has a phosphorescent glow. Though faint, in large amounts it could very well be the ultimate source of the glow. A hazard is also discovered, though. When broken open, the glowing fungus leaks a mild acid. It will eat through cloth and other fibers but is only a mild irritant to skin.

One of the party suffers a climbing accident when his rope rubs through a patch of the glowing fungi and the acid cuts the rope. Roll a die to determine which character is involved. All he will know is that the rope suddenly breaks, and he is falling. Have him make a quick roll against his Agility attribute to grab a rock outcropping to break his fall. If successful, he is dangling by a precarious handhold and the rest of the party must hasten to reach him with a fresh rope. If he fails, he lands on a ledge and may suffer an injury. Roll on the Climbing Accident Table to determine the extent of the injury. Examination of the rope will determine the cause of the trouble. From now on, all glow-fungus will have to be cleared away from the area around the ropes.

OTHER FUNGI

IT STANDS TO REASON that the Fungi discovered so far will not account for all the flora seen in the moon, though they will be the most common. Mentioned later are the mushroom trees, which grow to be taller than an adult human. Likewise, there are likely to be other types of fungus, many of which will be smaller than the varieties discovered so far. Below is a list of other possible types of Fungi.

  • Speckled Blue Fungus: This small variety of fungus has a narrow stalk and a dome-shaped head that rarely gets larger than a quarter inch wide. The cap is coloured blue, with white spots, and a blue juice is produced if the fungus is crushed. This fungus can be used to make a good blue dye, and may also have some medicinal qualities.
  • Red Fungus: Another small variety of fungus, the red fungus has a flat cap that can get to be about one inch wide. Colours range from a deep crimson, to a scarlet red and even occaisionally a pumpkin-orange. When ingested the red fungus will cause nausea and hallucinations and is quite unpleasant. If refined properly, the red fungus could be used to create a powerful narcotic. It is likely to have some medicinal qualities as well.
  • Baloon Fungus: Only found in pools of water (which are usually stagnant), Ballon fungus has a large spherical cap which is a dark grey colour, occaisionally shot with brown or white streaks. This "baloon" will float on the surface of the water and may occaisionally be suspended above the water by a few feet, suspended on a thin stalk. The Baloon fungus is a natural electrolyzer, and within the "baloons" are a natural pocket of Hydrogen. Since the baloon itself is made partly with rock debris, cutting them open with a metal knife can create a spark that will cause the Hydrogen to ignite, creating a small burst of flame.
  • White Fungus: A bulbous fungus that bears a strong resemblance to a cauliflower, the white fungus can grow to be quite large, up to two feet high. It is quite chunky and heavy, and younger specimens have a sweet taste, though with a little fishy flavour to them. However, the sugar in these fungi starts to ferment after a time, and the older specimens have a juice with a substantial level of alcohol content, though with a rather nasty flavour to them.

Day Three: The party is attacked by a swarm of shrieking flying creatures. Each animal weighs about two pounds in the current gravity, but would have a mass of five pounds on Earth. They have sharp little teeth and talons with which they will tear at the characters. No one of them has the strength to do any serious damage, but in a mass they are dangerous. This is resolved as an animal swarm attack.

Players who are particularily successful at killing bats should be able to avoid some wounds by killing off the bats in their area. Give a player the option, however, to try to kill off bats attacking another player rather than themselves. Shotguns and Scatterguns will be very useful here but they wil be dangerous to other players if used to get bats away from someone else.

After one or two turns of combat, with the players frantically attempting to drive them off, the shrieking will change pitch, and the animals will immediately leave. As the group pulls itself together and tends to its wounds, it discovers why the flying animals, which Grant dubs "Lunar bats," left.

There are a fair number of dead flyers on the ledge, and Grant is very interested in them. "Look at this here," he says, and points to a group of three of the dead animals. Even as you watch them, their flesh is dissolving and sliding from their platelike bones. "It's that glow-fungus," Grant says. "My revolver was empty so I grabbed a handful of the stuff and threw it at them. These three just dropped like rocks. That's when the shrieking changed pitch, and they left."

Once again it is Grant who makes the discovery that saves the party, and the fact that the party was fighting valiantly against the bats has no effect. Instead, have characters roll against Observation to notice that:
  1. The bats avoid the walls.
  2. Stray shots striking yellow fungus cause the bats to scatter.
  3. A character with a bat clinging to his back or shoulder brushes the glow-fungus on the wall; the bat screeches and tries to fly away (the player may or may not kill it).
These clues should eventually give the players the idea to use the glow-fungus as a weapon. If they do not by the time a character collapses from wounds, Grant will make this discovery and drive the bats off.

Day Four: Descending until about midday, the expedition makes a startling discovery—on a ledge below them is another wrecked ether flyer!

As you look over the lip of the ledge, you see a wrecked ether flyer, its back broken and hull split open, on a large ledge 50 feet below you. It is slightly larger than Grant's flyer, but in much worse shape. As it probably fell farther, its crash was more violent. Grant nods after a moment's thought and says, "This must be Vladimir Tereshkovitch's ship. He disappeared in '87 and no one's ever found the wreck."

Originally the mad scientist villain of this adventure was a Russian named Vladimir Tereshkova." However, it seems that the authors of the adventure were unaware (as I was until relatively recently) that Russian surnames are gender based, and "Tereshkova" is actually a woman's name. I have thus changed the name to "Tereshkovitch."

The wreck of Tereshkovitch's Flyer
Closer examination of the wreck uncovers no bodies, but there are some other factors which are slightly curious. First, many portions of the flyer have been hauled away, such as the furnishings and almost all of the electrical and mechanical equipment. The guts of most nonremovable mechanical systems have been ripped out. Second, around the vessel are several empty crates stamped with the name "Remington"—each of the six crates once held five rifles. Grant is puzzled.

"Why would Tereshkovitch want 30 rifles? He can't have had even half a dozen men in his crew."

Where Tereshkovitch is now remains a mystery, but a broad descending section of the rock face below the ledge has been cleared of glowfungus. It's logical that Tereshkovitch and his men went that way. At least the descent will be easier now since the glow-fungus is cleared out. Add one to the number of rock faces the players may descend each day.

Day Five: Grant prepares a hearty breakfast for the players: brown and gray fungus, which he declares to be free from poison. The gray fungus is firm to the teeth and has a pleasant, almost crunchy, texture. It smells and tastes like soured milk. The brown fungus has a moist, rather slimy, texture. It is extremely sweet, with a very metallic aftertaste. The players spend most of breakfast trying to find the best combinations of the two to mask the worst of both their flavors.

Skip this bit if Grant has not tried out the fungus, though keep this information for later, when the players find themselves forced to eat the stuff.
In the early afternoon one of the party startles several small creatures, apparently feeding on the gray and brown wall fungus. They are about six inches long and have a vaguely insectile appearance, probably due to what appears at first glance to be an exoskeleton. Upon closer examination, this will prove to be a lightly armored carapace, similar to that of an armadillo. The animals have large, black, protruding eyes and small mouths. Grant dubs them "Lunar rats." They, too, may become a source of food, as the expedition's supply is almost half exhausted.

Day Six: The party is attacked by a large burrowing animal, which they will later call a giant caterpillar. It is grayish-brown and nearly three feet in diameter. Its body is composed of multiple segments, ending in a large, dangerous head. The face has two bulbous, black eyes and a wide, gaping maw with a powerful pair of sharp, pinching mandibles. These mandibles are the animal's only weapon. It will attack using the mandibles as fangs until a character is wounded by them. That character is then caught in the mandibles, and the animal will continue to attack using the mandibles as coils. Once a character loses consciousness, the caterpillar will drop him and attack another character.

This caterpillar is pretty dangerous, but once it has latched on to a character, hitting it will be pretty easy. Guns can be pressed up against the body of the caterpiller and fired, resulting in automatic hits. The caterpillar is not particularily smart, and normally it's carapace protects it from enemies, so it does not realize how much damage it is taking from the characters; most of it's prey just runs away.
Once the caterpillar is dead, the players will find that it is inedible. If they cut it open, it will appear to be full of a horrible-smelling, viscous liquid. The players will probably not want to sample what solid organs are floating in this reeking mess. Grant certainly won't.

Subsequent Days: As the players continue their descent, they will have additional animal encounters. Roll once on the Animal Encounter Table below to determine the type of animal encountered each day.

This can get pretty boring. There is no sense having the players forge ahead through more and more random encounters. Once the party has passed all the mandated encounters, you might as well let them discover the entrance to the Selenite caves. Who cares how many miles they have descended along the cliff face - just don't tell the players that.

ANIMAL ENCOUNTER CHART
DieType
1-3Lunar Rat
4-5Lunar Bat
6Caterpillar

Bats will be easy to deal with, as all that players have to do is throw a handful of glow-fungus into the air, and they will flee. Rats will prove elusive but harmless. Given enough time, the players will find them to be edible; they have a flavor similar to pork but with an oily, fishy aftertaste. Caterpillars are a more serious problem, but can be dealt with using firearms.

You might want to add a few other mandated encounters along the way, however:

Wide Ledge: The players discover a very wide ledge, roughly 100 yards wide. On this ledge lives not only the lunar flora and fauna the party has already discovered, but also large "Mushroom Trees," which are of a variety of heights but grow up to 12 feet tall. The stems of these mushrooms are a made from a coarse, springy, pulpy material as dense as balsa wood. The caps are much more leathery, and the spongy underside can be cut off in chunks.

A number of possible constructs could be built out of mushroom wood, and the material also could be pulped to make an excellent paper.

A number of such ledges may be encountered on the way down.

Waterfall: emerging from the rock face below the players is a fountain of water spewing out into the Gorge. It seems to plunge forever, though eventually it must break up into mist. Other waterfalls are visible faintly on the far side of the Gorge. These features may be encountered more than once.

While this represents an opportunity for the players to replenish their water supplies, it also represents a hazard for the players, since the rocks will be slippery in this area. The players will have to move sideways some distance to escape the spray of the waterfall.


After the players have descended a total of 10 miles from their original crash site, they will come to a broad ledge that fronts on a large cavern opening. It appears that Tereshkovitch and his men went into the cavern, as the glow-fungi are not cleared away below the ledge.

The party will probably want to enter the caverns at this point. However, should they decide to continue descending, they may do so. Things will, however, get pretty tough for them if they do, since the Glow-Fungus is thicker here and and has not been cleared.

The party will continue to find other cavern entrances, and with a little juggling, these other entrances may eventually lead to the Selenite villiage. However, there will be less evidence of the Russians on the route the party travels, though the two routes will intersect eventually.


Detailed Start | Quickstart | The Descent | Within Luna | Captured! | The Escape | Selenites