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The Strange: Violet Spiral Gambit - John McLaren Park

BACKGROUND

  • Enkara-ulla identified Node 4: Transamerica Pyramid as a major recursion resonance point.
  • The entire Bay Area contains echoes of this recursion resonance point (and other resonance points).
  • Enkara-Ulla identified the water tower at John McLaren Park (referred to as “Big Blue” by the locals) as the strongest echo of the Transamerica resonance point. This made it an apt testing site for his equipment.

JOHN McLAREN PARK

  • The park is a mess of hills with a tangle of paths winding around them.
  • The water tower (“Big Blue”) stands up at the top of the tallest hill and can be easily seen for miles around (most notably from Interstate 280, which passes about a half mile to the north).
  • Despite this, the water tower is surprisingly isolated (up a trail shrouded by trees).

WATER TOWER

The Strange: Violet Spiral Gambit - The Water TowerADDRESS: 100 John F. Shelley Drive; San Francisco, CA

From the outside, everything about the tower seems perfectly normal. PCs who specifically inspect the top of the tower may notice the laser sight on the upper balcony.

FENCE: Barbed wire. There’s a single gate.

  • Gate Lock: Speed task (difficulty 1)

ENTRANCE: There’s a single door in the base of the tower.

  • Door Lock: Speed task (difficulty 3)

INSIDE THE WATER TOWER

PIPES: Two large pipes (about 3 feet across each) go up through the center of the tower.

LADDERS: Four ladders ascend the tower alongside the pipes (one to each cardinal point).

CATWALK AND HATCH: At the top of the shaft, the ladders reach a circular catwalk. Another short ladder (about 7 feet) goes up to a hatch that leads into the Reservoir walkway (see below).

GNATHOSTOME: The Strange, pg. 269.

  • Crawling along the pipes or walls. (Should probably put in an appearance when the PCs are halfway up the ladders.)
  • Accessing Cerebrospinal Memories: The gnathostome fed on Enkara-ulla’s cerebrospinal fluid as part of exchanging memories with him. These memories can be accessed (see the description of the gnathostome), revealing that Enkara-ulla’s next stop is the Transamerica Pyramid.
  • GM Intrusion: An attack severs one of the water pipes. Water begins spewing everywhere (creating disadvantage on tasks; possibly knocking a character off a ladder).
  • GM Intrusion: A second (or third) gnathostome shows up.

GM Note: A PC who has their own cerebrospinal fluids extracted could realize that memories have been “sucked” out of them; which might cue them to think about accessing them through the gnathostome.

GM Background: The gnathostome was used by Enkara-ulla as a portal analysis lab. The gnathostome, dependent upon the Law of Mad Science in Ruk, is in considerable pain and agony (and has been simply abandoned here by Enkara-ulla, who has no further use for it).

RESERVOIR

The Strange: Violet Spiral Gambit - Water Tower Reservoir

Prop: Photo of the Reservoir

WALKWAY: Circles the entire pool.

  • Prop: Flyer of the 48th Floor (With Blueprints on Back) (laying on the walkway)
  • MACHINERY: Several large pieces of machinery are still attached to the railings and walls and so forth. A few long rods of either brass or bronze (although closer inspection reveals them to be of no earthly metal) descend down into the pool.
  • Any inspection of the machinery trivially reveals that it is no longer running.
  • Intellect task (difficult 6): To figure out what the purpose of the machinery was (i.e., rewrite the laws of Earth to allow Mad Science to function normally within a short distance). The key components are all missing, but appear to have been carefully removed (most likely so that they could be used somewhere else).

POOL: The water in the tower has been corrupted with Rukian biology. Several large, sightless fish (several with electronic or biotechnology components jutting out of them) swim around. Notably alien plant life (festooned with softly glowing bulbs) grows thickly. Phosphorescent colonies of fast-moving plankton-like creatures swirl through the dark depths of the reservoir.

  • GM Background: Although the PCs might suspect that this was Enkara-ulla’s true purpose, the corruption of the reservoir was merely a side effect of the recursion rupture that happened here.

WINDOWS: The windows currently present in the reservoir are not visible from the outside of the building. This is because they look out over the landscape of Ruk.

  • GREY FOREST: A vast grey forest sweeps away from the windows. Exotic fungi, globular sporepods, broad mushrooms, tall stalks of fruiting bodies. (Perhaps one of the huge, mobile factories that harvest the fungi forests is lumbering along in the distance.)
  • GM Background: This is a vestigial effect of the lingering energy field. These windows could theoretically be used as inapposite gates (by crashing through them), but this carries a high risk of collapsing the energy field (causing the gate to shut).

DOORS: There are two doors. Unlike the windows, these lead out onto the outer balcony circling Big Blue on Earth.

  • LASER SIGHT TRIPOD: On the outer balcony, a large, bulky laser sight has been positioned above a telephoto lens on a tripod. It looks north and anyone looking through the lens will see that it’s targeted at the tip of the Transamerica Pyramid (just visible above the Bank of America building).

Go to Node 4: Transamerica Pyramid

Go to Part 1

The Strange: Violet Spiral Gambit - Tomahawk Warehouses

LOCATION

  • 8 22nd Street; San Francisco, CA
  • Down right on the bay, although a veritable ocean of shipping containers stacked behind a barbed wire fence separates it from the water.
  • Walls of iron rusted blood-brown.
  • Lines of windows around the upper level of the warehouse, with a lot of broken glass up there.
  • Whole place is surrounded by a fence, with a sprawling loading dock on the the west side (away from the bay).

CARGO DOORS: There are a total of 18 big cargo doors around the perimeter of the building.

  • East Side: EV 1-4
  • West Side: WV 1-8
  • North Side: NV 1-2
  • South Side: NV 1-4

OLD MACHINE SHOP: The east side also has an old machine shop thrusting out of it. (Doors padlocked. Dusty, abandoned machinery from the ‘70s. Might be ventilation access from here into the ceilings above storage garages.)

UNIT WV8

CRATES: Several dozen crates. A few have been opened and their contents removed. A few have been opened and only partly emptied.

  • The crates contain a lot of machinery components, many of them quite large and almost all of them custom fabricated by a wide variety of firms from the across the United States and China. There’s also a few crates from high-end German companies and Korean electronic manufacturers.
  • Some of the crates were shipped from a local address (Eschaton Electronics).
  • Prop: Eschaton Electronics Shipping Label

CYPHERS: Mixed in with the other equipment are three cyphers.

  • Strength Enhancer (Level 4): The Strange, pg. 329 (takes the form of a multi-jointed mechanical device that attaches over and reinforces the spine).
  • Vocal Translator (Level 1): The Strange, pg. 331.
  • Antidote (Level 6): The Strange, pg. 313 (bulky, mechanical wristband with several glass tubes jutting out of it; when attached, it rapidly cycles the wearer’s blood through the various tubes).

MAP OF JOHN MCLAREN PARK: Pasted to the wall of the storage space.

SURVEILLANCE

RUKIANS IN A VAN: If the warehouse is placed under surveillance, a couple of Rukians show up in a white cargo van, unload several crates of equipment into unit WV8, and then return to Node 3: Water Tower to pick up another load.

  • Observing/Trailing: Unless they’ve been given cause, the Rukians won’t be on the lookout for anybody (-1 difficulty on any Stealth-type tasks to avoid being detected by them).
  • GPS Records: The van is equipped with GPS. The system can be accessed with an Intellect task (difficulty 4). On a success, you can pull up a list of location it has driven to (including Node 0: The House and Node 3: Water Tower).
  • GM Intrusion: The Rukians arrive while the PCs are investigating the contents of WV8.

QUESTIONING RUKIANS:

  • They know the general outlines of Enkara-ulla’s research and his intentions.
  • They participated in the test at Node 3: Water Tower and know that it was a success.
  • They were not told the location of the final test, but they know that Enkara-ulla was observing it from the roof of Node 3: Water Tower.

RUKIAN TECHNICIANS (Level 2): health 6, damage 3.

  • Technician / lab assistant tasks as level 5.
  • Note: These agents translated to Earth. They’re in context and look human.

Go to Node 3: Water Tower

Go to Part 1

LOCATION

  • 12 Liberty Street; San Francisco, CA
  • Half a block off Valencia Street, squeezed into a narrow shop front at the heart of the Mission District.
  • Gray-faced building with dirty white trim. Gilt letters on the glass of the door.

ESCHATON ELECTRONICS

  • When the front door opens, an electronic “bell” plays the Imperial March from Star Wars. (“Technically it’s not in Star Wars,” Soren says. “It didn’t actually show up until Empire Strikes Back.”)
  • The ceilings are vaulted, but with the narrow spaces between a dozen or so shelves thrusting above your head the place still feels crowded and claustrophobic.
  • The shelves are stuffed with eclectic collections of electronics gear. A few smaller shelves near the front desk.

SOREN GINNIS: Either sits behind the front desk flipping through a comic book (an issue of The Invisibles by Grant Morrison) or he’s in the room at the back (and will shout that he’ll be out in just a minute).

CYPHERS: Any browsing the crowded shelves finds that many of the items cyphers. Most of these are exhausted, but two can still be used. (Soren recognizes their value and wants $100 for each “collector’s item”.)

COMPUTER RECORDS: Intellect task (difficulty 3) to access the shipping records on the store’s computer. +2 difficulty if attempting to hack the system remotely. Andrew Uller’s store account shows that electronic supplies have been shipped to three addresses:

  • 10560 Moonshine Road; Sebatopol, CA (Node 0: The House – this is also where bills are sent)
  • 8 22nd Street; San Francisco, CA (Node 2: Tomahawk Warehouse)
  • 100 John F. Shelley Drive; San Francisco, CA; with a note appended “Deliver to the Tower” (Node 3: Water Tower)

SOREN GINNIS

APPEARANCE: A scrawny guy with a spine welded into a permanent slouch. Greasy-haired with a greasy t-shirt.

ROLEPLAYING NOTES:

  • Rubs his mouth with the back of his hand.
  • Darts his eyes around nervously when talking to crowds.
  • Hyperventilates if a girl flirts with him.

BACKGROUND:

  • Soren collects “weird things” and conspiracy theories.
  • He’s sort of “half-quickened”: He can recognize cyphers as being special, but he doesn’t really know what they do.
  • He does know that there’s a market for the “weird stuff”. He ran off Craigslist for a couple of years, then struck it big when he found an Age Taker cypher and sold it to Sergey Brin.
  • He used the proceeds to set up Eschaton Electronics.

NOTES:

Andrew Ullen first came into the shop about six weeks ago. He’s been making regular purchases and special orders. He’s a good customer.

  • Physical Description: Non-descript guy, really. Always wears a suit, but never a tie. Wears weird contacts in his eyes to make them purple (which seems kind of out of character, since everything else about him feels like a muggle).

Intellect task (difficulty 4): Convince Soren to look up Andrew Uller’s file. (Or the file associated with any of the addresses the PCs know.) He can tell them the same information found in the computer records.

  • Offering a cypher counts as two assets for this test. (An exhausted cypher counts as a single asset.)

Go to Node 2: Tomahawk Warehouses

Go to Part 1

The Strange: Violet Spiral Gambit - The House

LOCATION

  • 10560 Moonshine Road; Sebatopol, CA
  • You can read the address of the mailbox jutting out over the faded concrete.
  • MAILBOX: Prop – Bill from Tomahawk Warehouses
  • Up in the California hills. A long drive way drops over the lip of a hill or ridge.
  • House itself is shrouded in a little clot of scrappy pine trees.
  • Thick, waist-high grasses have grown up in front of the house.

 OUTSIDE THE HOUSE

The Strange: Violet Spiral Gambit - Sclerid

SCLERID PATCH: The front yard is occupied by a sclerid patch (The Strange, pg. 298).

FRONT DOOR: A muddy handprint has been partially smeared on the door.

  • Examining – Intellect (difficulty 2): To note that the hand print has a sixth finger.
  • Lock: Speed task (difficulty 2)

BACK DOOR: There’s no sclerid patch in the backyard.

  • Lock: Speed task (difficulty 2)

WINDOWS:

  • Living Room: Blinds have been pulled.
  • Dining Room: Open.
  • Kitchen: Open.
  • Bedroom 1: Exterior shutters are closed and the windows have been painted over with black paint from the inside.
  • Bedroom 2: Exterior shutters are closed. (If opened, you can look in. You can even see the prop stuck between the desk and the window.)

INSIDE THE HOUSE

  • A sharp smell of ozone and chemicals in the air.
  • A thin, greasy coating on every surface. Kind of a rainbow quality on metallic surfaces.

 LIVING ROOM

  • An overturned wooden chair next to a chemical-scarred table. An overstuffed chair with strange stains shoved into a corner.
  • A gritty, ashy dirt muddying the floor.

RUKIAN CORPSE: In the center of the room.

  • Pale, purplish skin. Silvery, metallic hair.
  • A pronounced, but narrow ridge encircles the head.
  • Blue blood leaks from large, anime-like eyes with metallic irises.
  • Intellect (difficulty 4): To identify the corpse as being definitively Rukian (assuming awareness that Ruk exists). It’s out of context, which means inapposite travel.

ANGIOPHAGE: An angiophage rips out of the corpse’s chest and attacks. (The Strange, pg. 258)The Strange: Violet Spiral Gambit - Angiophage

  • Alternatively, the PCs might see something writhing and wriggling under the corpse’s clothing. (Or the angiophage might emerge when they aren’t looking and ambush them.)
  • GM Background: This was one of Enkara-ulla’s assistants. An recursion rupture during the last round of experiments here caused his artificial heart graft to mutate (killing him).

KITCHEN

  • A little niche of a kitchen.
  • The cupboards are bare. The refrigerator is empty.

 


DINING ROOM

  • There’s no furniture here. Wood-paneled, splinter-laden walls. A crooked light fixture of cracked glass.
  • The floor is covered with a strangled patterned, grayish, lumpy shroud.
  • Perception – Intellect (difficulty 4): To realize that the “shroud” is very slowly undulating.

DYING THONIK: Covering the floor is a dying thonik, ripped out of the Strange (The Strange, pg. 294). It’ll rear up and attempt to enfold itself around anyone walking across it.

  • Out of Context: The thonik is out of context and dying. It is at a disadvantage.
  • Cypher Connection: If the thonik can absorb the energy of a cypher (by enfolding someone carrying one), it can tap the latent energy fields left here by Enkara-ulla’s experiments and re-energize its connection to The Strange. Dim, ghost-like fractals will dance through the air and the thonik is considered by in the Strange (see Modifications in its stat block).

BATH

DOOR: The door has been nailed shut.

  • Might (difficulty 5): To break the door down without removing the nails.

SCLERID EXECUTIONER: A human woman. Huge, sclerid vines with acid-tipped stingers grow out of her skin (ripping through her clothes and distorting her features) to obscene lengths. (The Strange, pg. 299)

  • GM Intrusion: The sclerid executioner breaks through the door (perhaps just before they can remove the last nail).

INSIDE THE BATHROOM:

  • Toilet smashed, spilling dirty water across the floor.
  • Shower rod hangs askew from the wall, sending a tumble of plastic curtain cascading across the floor.
  • Bath tub is full of water with a thick, viscous green slime floating atop it in ropy patches.

GM Background: Another assistant of Enkara-ulla. She was infected by the sclerid patch outside. Enkara-ulla’s guards managed to bulrush her into the bathroom and then nail the door shut.


BEDROOM 1

  • Several large, thick cables dangle from outlets incongruously placed halfway up the walls. The paint is mottled and discolored. Dark stains mottle carpet that may once have been cream.
  • In the center of the room, there is a four foot high, bullet-shaped case of gleaming chrome. Atop the chrome case, rotating in opposite directions, are two large dials. Petal shaped holes have been punched through the metal of the dials, and heavy-looking weights fall in a perpetual, eye-bending loop within each petal.

PERPETUAL MOTION ENGINE (Level 5): A perpetual motion engine doesn’t require fuel. It attached to something capable of doing work (and properly brace), the engine can deliver up to 300 horsepower for up to a day (which is considered one use of the artifact. If the engine is depleted, fixing it to work condition is an Intellect task (difficulty 5) and several hours in a shop. (Depletion 1-3 in 1d100)

  • Studying the Machine – Intellect task (difficulty 3): Identifies the machine as a perpetual motion engine. Several parts inside the machine still have stickers on them indicating that they were purchased from Eschaton Electronics in the Mission District of San Francisco.
  • Removing the Machine: It has been bolted to the floor, but it’s relatively trivial to remove it.

CABLES: It’s clear that there were once connected to a large number of machines. (There are matching indentations in the carpet.) One of the cables is a Rukian umbilical.

DARK STAINS: Machine oil. (Although someone touching it receives a painful, but not particularly harmful, electrical shock. If the perpetual motion machine is removed from the room, this effect stops.)

GM Background: This room was the heart of Enkara-ulla’s testing apparatus here in the house. He used the perpetual motion machine as an engine for powering them (after discovering that the power grid effectively grounded out the recursion ruptures if he connected the machines to it). The recursion rupture machines have been removed, but Enkara-ulla left the perpetual motion machine (having no further use for it).


BEDROOM 2

  • There’s a table in the center of the room and a small, antique writing desk sitting underneath one of the windows (to take advantage of the view out of the front of the house). There’s a scattering of miscellaneous papers on the table, and a few stuffed into

PAPERS: An inspection of the papers makes it clear that these are just the remnants of much more extensive files that were kept here. (Somebody cleaned it out and left garbage behind.) There is one thing of interest though; it’s fallen off the side of the desk and is resting on the window ledge behind it.


EVENT: PACKAGE DELIVERY

At some point while they’re exploring the house, the PCs will hear a blood-curdling scream from the front yard.

  • USPS Mail Carrier (Level 2): He’s arrived to deliver a package and unwittingly stumbled into the sclerid patch.
  • GM Intrusion: If the PCs wiped out the sclerid patch, use an intrusion here to have the patch regenerate. (If they refuse the intrusion, then the USPS mail carrier just rings the doorbell and delivers the package.)

PACKAGE: It contains a cypher (a weird helmet with wires, transformers, magnetic coils, and small parabolic dishes attached to it).

 Go to Node 1: Eschaton Electronics

Enkara-ulla, a Rukian scientist working for the Karum has developed a theoretical application of violet spiral which he believes he can use to force a localized pocket of Earth to obey the rules of Mad Science. (Essentially he’s trying to “trick” the Strange into running Mad Science recursion code within the context of the prime world. The analogy isn’t perfect, but he’s basically trying to use Transamerican Pyramidthe violet spiral to force the Strange to read the wrong “memory location” and write Rukian reality into the prime world.) This would be specifically advantageous to the Karum because it would allow them to construct a backpack-size particle accelerator, which would be used, in turn, to “ping” the Strange energy network and provide a path for a planetovore to reach (and destroy) Earth.

Several weeks ago, Enkara-ulla came to Earth in order to conduct a final round of experiments at a small house in California. These alpha tests have caused several ruptures of space-time, opening rifts to various recursions (and possibly even the Strange itself).

Enkara-ulla is now stepping up his testing regime: A beta test is performed at a water tower in San Francisco. And he is now preparing for a “final release” at the Transamerica Pyramid.

PCs may be concerned that Enkara-ulla’s Final Release will actually ping the Strange and summon a planetovore, but that’s not actually the case. What it will do, however, is cause an entire chunk of the Strange to be “copied” into the sky above San Francisco… including a huge fractal worm (Strange Bestiary, pg. 55).

VIOLET SPIRAL (The Strange, pg. 219)

  • A solid purple crystal which his a specific form of fundament from the Strange.
  • Once transported to a recursion, it can be fashioned to create items of great power (like magic staffs on Ardeyn that act as sorcerous assets).
  • White Spiral: Violet spiral processed in a specific way becomes white spiral. Toxic to handle (causing tremors, loss of sensation, and death with prolonged exposure). But incredibly valuable due to is rarity and danger. (Particularly prized in Ruk.)

ENKARA-ULLA: Using the name Andrew Uller on Earth.

PROPS: The props packet for The Strange: Violet Spiral Gambit can be downloaded here.

ESTATE BRIEFING

PC estate agents are briefed by their handler (Melissa Rains).

  • A recent raid on a Circle of Liberty compound outside of San Jose, TX resulted in the capture of financial data from the Circle’s computers.
  • The Circle routinely has dead man’s switches set up to destroy their digital records. In this case, the data was only successfully retrieved because an Estate agent onsite was able to use a cypher to temporally reverse the destruction of a hard drive.
  • This data cache has created a huge number of leads. It’s hard to say how many of them will actually pan out, but the Estate has activated a half dozen teams to investigate them simultaneously.
  • All of these teams will be acting under the codename OPERATION RED HYDRA. (Classify reports and code expense reports accordingly.)
  • One of the financial records indicated that a residential house in California had been purchased by the Circle of Liberty through a front company. The purchase is anomalous and, correspondingly, has been given a high priority rating.
  • No preliminary sweep of the property has been performed. (And the IT guys are tied up pursuing RED HYDRA leads with even higher priority ratings, so don’t expect assistance any time soon.) The Estate has no idea exactly what they might find there. That’s why they’re sending the PCs to figure it out.
  • The house is located in the countryside outside of Sebastopol, CA – not far from Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco and the Bay Area.
    • Address: 10560 Moonshine Road; Sebastopol, CA.

CIRCLE OF LIBERTY (The Strange, pg. 154)

  • A collection of loosely affiliated groups publicly advocating for decentralized government. It’s supplied with millions of dollars each year through hard-to-trace funding networks.
  • Includes charities, think tanks, advocacy groups, and industry associations.
  • The Estate originally suspected that the Circle of Liberty was an Ardeynian splinter group, possibly being run by the Betrayer.
  • Recently, however, it’s become clear that it’s actually a front for the Karum.

KARUM (The Strange, pg. 200)

  • Karum is a Ruk nihilist group which desires to destroy the Earth so that the recursion of Ruk can be “freed” and allowed to continue its journey across the Strange.
  • Karum believes that Ruk’s true destiny can never be fulfilled while tied to Earth. They’re fanatics.
  • Karum agents regularly infiltrate Earth, often using secondary recursions to obscure their trail.

REVELATION LIST

NODE 0: THE HOUSE

  • Estate Briefing

NODE 1: ESCHATON ELECTRONICS

  • Package from Eschaton Electronics (Node 0)
  • Parts from the Perpetual Motion Machine (Node 0)
  • Shipping Label (Node 2)

NODE 2: TOMAHAWK WAREHOUSE

  • Bill from Tomahawk (Node 0)
  • Shipping Invoice (Node 0)
  • Questioning Soren Ginnis (Node 1)
  • Computer Shipping Records (Node 1)

NODE 3: WATER TOWER

  • Questioning Soren Ginnis (Node 1)
  • Computer Shipping Records (Node 1)
  • Trailing / Interrogating Ruk Agents (Node 2)
  • GPS Records in Ruk Van (Node 2)
  • Map of John McLaren Park (Node 2)

NODE 4: TRANSAMERICA PYRAMID

  • Laser Sight Pointed at Pyramid (Node 3)
  • Access Gnathostome Cerebrospinal Fluid Memories (Node 3)
  • Blueprints of the Transamerica Pyramid / Flyer of the 48th Floor (Node 3)

Go to Node 0: The House

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