Along the Indus

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Details

Front Cover

Pages: 93-104

Author(s): Sean Branney, Lynn Willis

Artist(s): Chris Johnston, Gustaf Bjørksten, Martin Trengrove

Setting: 1920s

Appears in: Fearful Passages

Summary

Wherein the investigators encounter unusual creatures in an unusual fashion, and learn the Indian sub-continent is truly the land of religions.

Links

TheSteelTsar's review of Fearful Passages

Spoilers - Keepers Eyes Only

Players should not read any further.

Synopsis

"A formal request takes the investigators to a remote part of British India where they travel by elephant looking for the mysterious Black Man, whose sudden appearances and disappearances have spooked the local population, upsetting peasants, workers, and the province’s rulers. No explanation for the apparition is ever provided the idea here is to give the players a taste of a mystery which cannot be resolved. Just as with a religion, each investigator can choose the explanation which he or she deems best-as can the keeper."

The Investigators are summoned by a British army commandant to travel across India to the remote city of Bakhtapur, on a "terribly important matter". They travel by train, escorted by an Indian youth.

The commandant, Major Singeon, reports sightings of a sinister jet-black figure that is terrifying the local populace, his presence apparently linked to horrible accidents and seen as an omen of doom. He is known as the Black Man. Local scholars of both Hindu and Muslim background can offer some insight from historical writings, each coloured by their own traditions. There is very little information available in town, only third- or fourth-hand gossip, and the Investigators will need to head out for Peerut.

The journey requires a trip by elephant – walking is out of the question and the roads don’t allow any other mode of transport. The elder in Peerut dispenses some basic information about the Black Man, suggesting he’s an avatar of Vishnu signalling a change in the way of life – probably an end to British rule. One of his sons has had a personal encounter with the Black Man, and may reveal details of a deeply unsettling encounter if properly encouraged.

The Investigators can set out to hunt along the banks of the Indus, where they will glimpse the Black Man from afar but never manage to find him. When they finally (in their own time) head back across the river, the Black Man materialises and shifts each player’s consciousness into that of an animal. Some of the mahmouts (elephant-drivers) may also be affected, though the most devout retains control and begins urgent prayers as chaos erupts. The Keeper determines whether to have them roll for Sanity to retain control, in which case one of the investigators is liable to cause havoc in the body of an elephant. Investigators may end up fighting their comrade, trying to drive it off with fire or escape from its panicky rushing about, or simply experience a narrated strange experience. Eventually, they return to their bodies, which the devout Ritsar ascribes to the effect of his prayers.

The Black Man is seen no more after their encounter, gaining them prestige with the powerful, though peasants give them little personal credit. Investigators may experience personal revelations as a result of their experience, allowing them to gain a meaasure of inner peace (and regain some SAN).

References

Player Handouts:

  1. Letter requesting assistance
  2. Major Singeon’s report

Locations: The Indus Valley in India (now in Pakistan)

Creatures: The Black Man, elephants

Tomes and Artifacts: None

Campaigns / Scenarios: None

Comments

  • Contains a brief discussion of elephants and their use in Indian culture.
  • Map of the Indus
  • Image of elephant-back ride
  • NPC portraits
  • Statistics for Indian elephants

Keeper Comments

"This scenario requires that the investigators be present in India as visitors or residents of some populous area. For a resourceful keeper there could be a myriad of ways for the investigators to arrive there: most simply, we assume that the investigators are in transit to some other destination."

The scenario can vary dramatically in lethality, depending on the Keeper’s choices regarding how the body-swap manifests itself. It may be a peculiar experience with no physical danger, or it may erupt into desperate inter-party strife as the Investigator in the elephant’s body attacks their friends, which can readily kill some or all of them.

The scenario has very distinct stages of introduction, travel, research and encounter. Investigators can choose when to proceed to the next stage, but have little influence on events.

The ambiguous nature of the Black Man as written makes this scenario quite flexible. It can be played as a standalone supernatural mystery, as an unexplained Mythos mystery, or the Keeper can work in hints that the Black Man is an avatar of Nyarlathotep.

The scenario could be readily run for Gaslight, or any Raj-era period. Other eras might require some adjustment of NPCs, but it should be relatively simple to adapt. The most important change is that since independence in 1947, the Indus has been part of Pakistan, rather than India.