Sleigh Ride

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Details

Front Cover

Pages: 105-126

Author(s): Steve Kluskens, Liam Routt

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

Setting: 1920s, nominally 1926

Appears in: Fearful Passages

Summary

In this lengthy adventure the investigators journey across Siberia in search of a lost race, and find human hearts colder even than the frozen wastes.

Links

TheSteelTsar's review of Fearful Passages

Spoilers - Keepers Eyes Only

Players should not read any further.

Synopsis

"An ancient anthropological riddle leads the investigators to Siberia. They travel by freighter, train, horse sledge, and reindeer. The perils of winter and the suspicions of Soviet secret police make the trip perhaps the most fearful passage in this book, and a worthy interlude in any globe-trotting campaign. After this expedition, investigators may choose to stay home by the fire for a while."

Certain Siberian tribes have long-standing bargains with hairy subterranean creatures to help them survive harsh winters; they consider them to be spirits or gods, and give them food in exchange for their help. In reality, the creatures have their own bargain with a powerful god, and must provide human sacrifices to placate it. The Investigators will discover and eventually confront this being.

The Investigators are friends with one Dr. Chance, a scientist, who invites them to join him on an expedition to find Dryopithecus giganteus, an enormous ape-like creature he believes to be the Yeti. Unlike most, he thinks the creature can be found most readily in Siberia. Investigators have a few weeks to prepare, study notes, research and learn some basic Yakut language. After a boat trip to Japan, they enter the USSR in the guise of mining engineers employed by an international company. Although the Investigators pass without suspicion, they are assigned a tail as a matter of course. They travel by train to Chita in Siberia; a one-week journey. From there they set out by sledge for Vitim.

Along the way, the group encounters a number of problems. There is an accident along the way, and prisoners are brought in to retrieve the sledge. There may be an attempted escape during the work. A little later, the party is overwhelmed by a savage blizzard, and trapped for three days: they begin to hallucinate, and risk wandering off to their deaths. After the blizzard clears, some may develop influenza, and be treated by a local wise woman, who also gives them an amulet. The following day, a sledge begins to sink through the ice, and may be lost or rescued depending on the party’s response. They will have the chance to chat with and befriend a colonel in the secret police, regardless of their political views. Finally, they face a bandit ambush and possible capture for ransom.

Eventually they reach a Yakut village, where they are welcomed. The elders will tell them something of their local lore, including the protector-spirit Tabba.

The investigators’ tail poisons the village dogs, to simplify his task of sneaking around to spy on them. The Yakut view the deaths as a bad omen. After a fierce argument, the villagers agree to let them stay providing they take part in the ceremony and provide gifts to appease Tabba. Once the ceremony is over, Chance and the party return to watch. During their vigil, a gigantic ape approaches to take the gifts, but another sneaks up on the party and kills Chance. The party must fight them off, possibly capturing or killing one in the process.

At this point the party may alienate the villagers if they display the body of their gods. If they leave the village for any reason, they are captured and interrogated by the tail, Borisovich, for anti-revolutionary activities. Whatever happens, they will be attacked and captured by a band of angry giganteus overnight, and taken away to their caves. Here they are kept prisoner for a few hours, with the villagers and many other locals, then herded out to a cave where they will be sacrificed to what turns out to be a cthonian. After some horrible deaths, the wise woman’s amulet will reach the cthonian one way or the other and explode in a burst of magic that stuns the creatures, allowing the party to escape.

From here, they must find a way to leave the USSR.

The scenario offers a couple of options, chiefly sledging or taking the train to the coast. Investigators are expected to collect an NPC from earlier in the scenario for assistance in leaving the country. It's assumed that they will not be able to leave by official channels, due to reports from the spy Borisovich (though Investigators may need prompting to reach this conclusion).

If they sledge to Vladivostok, they will encounter impoverished Amur villagers and may receive blessings or curses, depending on their actions. These become important days later, when another snowstorm arrives, bringing supernatural visitors, the spirits of those exiled to die in Siberia. Eventually, they will reach the coast. If they have the NPC with them, they can be smuggled out to Yokohama, otherwise a confrontation with the customs officials will be necessary. This is as difficult or straightforward as the Keeper wishes, though the scenario recommends not allowing them to leave with a giganteus.

Taking the train is a fraught business, with a number of spies on board and the same snowstorm to contend with.

Their reception back in America depends on whether their passports are stamped (creating suspicions of Communist affiliation), whether they have any proof of the giganteus, and whether they rescue the NPC.

References

Player Handouts: None

Locations: Siberia

Creatures: Giganteus, chthonian

Tomes and Artifacts: Stadling’s diary, Stadling’s notes

Campaigns / Scenarios: None

Comments

  • Further reading for Siberia
  • USSR passports and visas
  • The USSR in 1926
  • Notes on the OGPU secret police
  • Map of Siberia
  • Map of sledge routes
  • Extensive notes on sledging in Siberia, with diagrams
  • Notes on bandits
  • Map of giganteus cavern
  • Various images

Keeper Comments

Some aspects may not be relevant with non-American Investigators.

If Investigators do not receive the amulet, they are doomed. If they do not befriend Colonel Ratzul, they will struggle to survive. If they do not befriend Bootin, they will struggle to escape.