By Jay

Alanna al Malik has gone missing in the city of Pompeii and it's up to the PCs to find her, the right one that is.


Criticorum, a convenient continent but not the one with the capital. It really only needs to be a fairly high tech world but you could even change that. Pompeii was a city of about 500,000 19 years ago, year 4981, during the height of the Emperor Wars. The local Engineers Guild was performing biological weapons research on Xyll Warbeasts and other bio-nasties for the war effort, unbeknownst to the local lord, Baron Reza al Malik, a younger brother of the now-famed Sister Theafana al Malik's father.

The Jakovian Agency got word of this research being carried out by House al Malik and fed the information, suitably sanitized, to the Hazat along with plague bombs filled with the dreaded and invariably fatal agent Anthrax-Leprosy -Mu, developed by the twisted genius Dr. Charles "Hand Washer" Mocinego (later found as a pile of goo, murdered in bed with a courtesan infected with Anthrax-Leprosy-Mu :). The Hazat decided to preemptively strike and, with no warning, bombed Pompeii with Anthrax-Leprosy-Mu following up with a fairly large amount of more conventional weapons on crucial places such as the power plant and air/spaceport.

Baron Reza al Malik and all his family except one were wiped out by this attack, along with over 90% of the population of Pompeii and the surrounding areas, amounting to well over a million people. Orthodox Bishop Paul remained in the Cathedral to the bitter end. Temple Avesti moved in and cordoned off the area declaring it anathema for the usual 101 years (usual in the sense that it's a figure that makes sense to them, regardless of the facts of how contaminated things really are). Ironically--but predictably--the reason for the bombing, the bio-weapons lab, was in the process of moving just prior to the attack and only a few of its personnel were killed and the Xyll Warbeasts and other horrors went on to be produced anyway.

Alanna al Malik, at the time age 9, the youngest daughter of Baron Reza al Malik was off-planet. She had shown the potential for Psi talent and was being evaluated by House al Malik's Dervish Corps. After the bombing, a trusteeship was set up in her name for her now much-diminshed holdings under Sir Smergway al Malik, her mother's somewhat ne'er-do-well cousin. She went on to become a successful and noted Dervish in al Malik service, leaving the maintenance of her lands to Smergway, who rises heroically to the now- drastically reduced task.

Flash to ninteen years later....

Temple Avesti still occupies a large chunk of land around Pompeii and refuses to take down its cordon. There are 3000 Avestites around the city as it is used as a training command for newly-made brothers as well as a manpower reserve for the Criticorum system. There is a Hearth Frigate there as well. Approximately 1/10 of these Avestites are highly skilled. They maintain a cordon about 20KM radius around Pompeii, which lies on a lake. The Hazat mined the harbor and water approaches and eliminated the railheads and roads into the city, etc., so the Avestites' job is made easier. They patrol in aircars in the city itself and hold lots of maneuvers around the perimeter. (Basic gist: it's hard to get in and out of here and things must be kept unobtrusive.)

No one knows if the plague is still there. ALM has the rather unfortunate and spectacular result of having absolutely no symptoms until about a half an hour or so before it kills its victim by causing them essentially to fall apart into a mass of goo over this time unless stopped by super high-tech or Theurgical intervention. So far this can be found pretty easily. What follows will require a lot more digging to find out as the plague has taken on rather legendary proportions since then. ALM kills any mammal that gets it. However, it cannot reproduce normally and so burns itself out after the initial infection (Mocinego was evil but not stupid). The PCs shouldn't know this, however, and will have to take precautions. If aerial or space IR shots are taken of Pompeii it will show there is small animal activity. Also, some records may be found for those with al Malik military or Engineer contacts. (Somewhat over the top but it kept them scared and in spacesuits soaking action penalties for a while.)

Sir Smergway dies and, because peace has broken out, it's time for Alanna to pick up her duties. Unfortunately, Alanna has been a bad girl and developed an Urge doppelganger. She's not too happy about this for obvious reasons, and tries to track it down, which leads her to Pompeii and inside the Avestite cordon. Alanna disappears. Drop hints early on about Alanna if you want and also about Pompeii itself in advance, perhaps a few stories prior to when you want to use this. Alanna is the main hook into this adventure, but other research can get some info on this place. For instance, digging could show that the evacuation of Pompeii was haphazard at best and that few escaped. Most of those who tried to leave were gunned down by military units trying to halt the spread of plague.

However, Alanna later reappears. Only it's not Alanna, it's Sister Theafana using a Synthface disguise to masquerade as her first cousin. She-- masquerading as rightful heir to Pompeii--will make an offer to the PCs to allow a quick trip to loot the basically untouched city under the noses of the Avestites so long as they help her recover something from her family's crypt in the Cathedral....

(Big side note: IMC, Sister Theafana and Alexius have permanently split over the Salandra episode. Theafana has grown disgusted with the eye of fame in the capital and other places and wants to shake the inevitable train of hangers-on who follow her when she's public. She's worried about her cousin Alanna, who had confided in her somewhat about her problems and wants to follow up on this. Also--this relates to the whole storyline I'm running-- Theafana has reason to believe that there is Antinomist activity at high levels in the Imperial Government but doesn't know who it is. She hopes to find out more about this by going undercover for a while and feels that she can't trust a lot of the people she usually relied on. You may want to use some other character of suitable power if Theafana is busy with other things in your campaign.)

A Tourist's Guide to Pompeii

I'll go over the significant locations that I examined. Obviously in a city the size of Pompeii you could put in lots more stuff. Of course, with the Avestites patrolling as heavily as they do, sticking around for long is not wise.


Weeds and lots of overgrown stuff, pretty much what you'd expect. I set Pompeii in a temperate climate much like the American Midwest.


Mostly small animals, including quite a number of hull rats, giving the makings of a good random encounter and a great clean-up crew. Hull rats will eat anything and everything, including bones. There are few large animals here as between the Avestites' flaming everything that moves that could be remotely mistaken for a man on the assumption it's a plague-bearing Mutant > From The Forbidden Zone (eh?) as well as the fair number of landmines scattered around the area during the Hazat bombardment, the place is dangerous indeed for anyone on foot. The presence of animal life which can be verified by aerial reconaissance is one sign that the plague is indeed gone--or maybe it's mutated into something else....


Pompeii has very roughly the layout of Chicago at the turn of the century, so check a city map of Chicago and just leave out lots of stuff. The air/spaceport is to the southwest, roughly where Midway is. The harbor is to the southeast, roughly where Calumet Harbor is. The industrial sector corresponds to the region around 20th-40th South and Pulaski. Both ports are connected by subterranean rail to this area, and subterranean railways go throughout the city itself. The business district corresponds to the downtown area of Chicago. Between it and the lake to the east lies quite a number of now-overgrown parks. In between the business district and the downtown are high rise residences for industrial workers. North of the business district are the noble district and the Cathedral. Various noble villas are scattered around the outskirts of the city but most of these have been the recipient of heavy damage from Avestite target practice. A lighthouse about five miles out in the heavily mined bay is manned by Avestites.

Getting in and out of Pompeii: Examination of the radar records of the Avestites shows that the southern sector has a gap. It's possible to slip an aircar into the air/space port undetected with some luck. [Most of the radar/observer network has goal numbers of 7 to detect something and three opportunities to roll on any given approach but the southern sector only has goal numbers of 3 due to faulty equipment.] Traveling around is pretty hazardous, between patrols and landmines, but sticking to the subway tunnels helps enormously. Of course, who knows what one may find in the subways...?

Sites of interest

Air/Space Port

The air/space port has a repair bay which is definitely of interest to looters, particularly since aerial reconassance will reveal the presence of one or more ships inside, although most of the area has been bombed thoroughly. However, after some careful poking around will show that the area has been previously looted by someone else.

Charioteer's Guildhall

This building is not far from the air/space port. It has been damaged heavily and there is a lot of evidence of Charioteers themselves destroying the things they could not save using shredders, incendiaries, etc.

However, in the whole confusion, one room was not purged: the room that contained the jump key encoder. (Who knows how this happened?) It's behind a vault door but a fusion torch can burn through given suitable time. [Extended action: Tech + Mech Redemption, accumulate 12 Victory, each roll takes 10 minutes]. I highly recommend arranging for a suitable encounter here, but don't beat on them too hard as they won't much like what they find on the other side.

WARNING: This is--and should be--a NASTY encounter and someone very well may die here. The purpose is to put the fear of the Pancreator into those who go digging blithely around in ruins.

Inside the room are several terminals, a safe, some shredded records, and two piles of dessicated goop with some bones inside (plague fear check time :). Hiding in the HVAC duct is a Golem Insurgent. [See DBtS for stats or substitute your own stats for a nasty grav-levitated floating ball of ceramsteel armored death armed with blasters and a wireblade that detonates like a hand grenade when finally defeated.] The Golem Insurgent's not that bright so make a Wits + Warfare (Tactics) (goal = 10, IIRC) roll for it to choose a time of maximum nastiness for the characters, like say when a few are in the room and it can split the group in two. If it fails, it comes out guns a-blazin' when they open the door.

This whole encounter should make the characters suspicious; someone else has gotten to most of the choice goods ahead of them, moved a lot of stuff out of Pompeii (or not?), and has, seemingly, left behind a nasty surprise in one location in particular.

The Engineers' Guild

Set in the industrial sector, this plain building is as mysterious and annoying as most such places, with no markings at all (the markings that are present require electricity and only activate on a need to know basis as authorized by the central computer normally, but there's no power here). It's pretty hard to find one's way around here but Engineers will know that the important stuff is liable to be far underground. It's up to you to put what you want here. The only thing I showed was the ruins of a bio-lab with a half-formed monstrosity in a cloning tank, which showed evidence of having been looted.

The Cathedral

This is an Eight-Sided cathedral, quite magnificent, set in a mile radius park. No mechanical transport goes to the cathedral; it's necessary to walk through the park from the nearest roadway or subway tunnel. The building itself is made of white marble and has eight entrances, each with very tasteful Hellenic statuary showing a Disciple with the Prophet in the canonical scene of their lives (Ven Lohji and the Prophet under the tree with a sparrow on her shoulder, Maya breaking her chains, Paulus and the Prophet in a ship going through a gate, etc.--see PotCS). Each entrance goes into a large toroidal (doughnut-shaped) chamber inside, which has more depictions from the life of the Prophet as well as local saints. There are stairs going up to balconies of pews above this area and four entrances to the center fane, in which lies the altar. The altar itself is a large set of reflecting mirrors that take the sunlight, gathered above in the gilded dome, and reflects it out into the pews--a truly spectacular sight that shows the reflected light of the Pancreator in all glory.

[When entering the chapel, have all the characters make a Faith + Empathy roll. Those who succeed get a creepy feeling. Also note that clouds are slowly creeping across the horizon, covering the sun.]

Standing on the altar is a bearded man dressed in the vestments of an Orthodox priest. He is, in fact, Bishop Paul, who stayed in the Cathedral during the bombardment. However, Paul is no longer the holy man he once was, and has become, in fact, a very powerful Antinomist. He will greet the characters soon after entering the Cathedral proper and talk with them for a time. Ever so slowly while he talks to them the clouds overhead gather, which the characters might notice if they are watching. Sister Theafana, who wasn't entirely sure what she'd find here (Eskatonic Oracles not being _that_ precise, after all :) is here to kill Paul and recover his Ring of Office, but will try to get the characters to leave before she engages in combat. Paul, however, will try to mess things up and keep them there and turn them against Theafana if he can. He will eventually reveal the Urge Doppelganger of Alanna (up in the pews) hoping that the group will turn on Alanna/Theafana. Eventually it will come down to a taking of sides and Paul will--somehow--close the doors to the fane and the fight will commence, with the clouds fully covering the sun and the whole place being bathed in darkness. (OK, the latter move is cheap horror movie scripting but it works for me. :)

[Stats: Make your own up to provide a suitable challenge. Bishop Paul should have great social stats and some really nasty Antinomist powers, particularly one with "Suggestion" powers. I gave him the Dragon Form, a Life Drain, and inverse power of Shield of the Pancreator--see DBtS for ideas. He is, however, primarily Theafana's opponent, although their fight will do a lot of collateral damage. To keep the PCs busy, Alanna's Urge Doppelganger has Alanna's stats; remember she's a potent Dervish. If that wasn't enough, Paul has secreted two Xyll Warbeasts in the priest's ready rooms to either side of the fane. Add/ subtract/modify Xyll Warbeasts as necessary. For extra screw, Paul has secreted a Vautech Shield Dampener in the building. When it's time for a PC's shield to activate, things should get plenty scary.]


If the characters defeat the baddies, several things will come out. First, they will find Alanna (the real Alanna) comatose in the family crypt. Who knows what happened there, but waking her will necessitate a trip to somewhere exotic--Pentateuch, Artemis, or Nowhere being prime locations.

Second, they can do some looting. Even though the Cathedral has been desecrated by Paul, Theafana will not allow excessive looting. She will allow the characters to keep most of what they find, however, contingent on them not taking any Antinomist artifacts and letting her see any information they find. (She feels bad about the deception and also thinks that a little bribery wouldn't hurt getting further favors out of them in the future.)

The Shield Dampener is also available after some digging although exactly what it does or how it works should be quite mysterious pretty much forever (it's Vautech after all). They will also find a black leather bound book (dubbed "My First Big Book of Demonology" by my players :), a jumpkey, and a small notebook computer with some disks.

The disks have several encrypted files with notes and some records. The machine is a TL 5 laptop (basically one TL above the laptops of today). A bunch of Wits + Think Machine rolls will decrypt the files. [Extended Action: 10 VP, one roll per day.] The notes and records indicate that several shipments have been removed from Pompeii and taken to Site 1 and Site 2. Some digging will reveal that Site 1 is in space (shipping records show life support equipment and other things needed for a space station). Site 2 is planetary, but it's unknown where it is. The jumpkey is also unlabeled and there is no way--short of visiting the Charioteers' Guild to use a jumpkey encrypter--to find out where it goes without going around to different gates and trying it. I leave it to you to decide where it goes.

By now it should be clear that there is a traitor somewhere in Temple Avesti who has control over what happens in Pompeii, since large shipments of looted goods have been removed from the city, a fact that should disturb the characters quite a bit. Exactly what they do with that fact is up to them.