Monthly Archives: June 2015

Jurassic Island!

An Anachronistic Adventures “Adventure Sketch” for four characters of 4th-6th level, set in a Progress Level 4 campaign.

Adventure Sketches are the framework for an adventure, with a rough breakdown of the who, where, when, why and how. A GM still needs to fill in the blanks, but there’s enough here to run a game with some fast thinking (or flesh it out to suit your own needs). Monsters either use options available at various sites online, or give notes how to convert such online resources.

Anachronistic Adventures is a pulp-adventure toolkit for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and is currently available at DriveThruRPG (in pdf and print), Paizo (pdf) and (pdf).

The Sketch

Professor Edward Prendick, Jr., working in isolation on Noble Isle to continue the work of his father, has managed to devolve modern creatures into those of the Jurassic period, especially dinosaurs. To keep them from escaping the Professor created the “Tithonian Tower,” an Eiffel Tower-like broadcast station able to create the “primal wave,” a frequency that forces all prehistoric creatures to move to within at least a few miles of it.

While he is still working to perfect the devolution process (for some reason many of the dinosaurs he devolves from birds maintain their feathers, which he is sure is wrong), the Professor is short on funds and must find a major source of income.

His supply contact on the nearest mainland, Captain Karl Englehorn, convinced Professor Prendick to take on investors. Depending on GM needs the investors might be members of one of the nations of WW I, or of WWII (Nazis are particularly popular, but what if it was an off-the-books American or British plan?), millionaire businessmen looking to create an event destination for the ultra-rich (“Jurassic Island”), or an aging moviemaker looking for his big comeback film. The Professor assumes that as long as the buildings for guests are outside the Tithonian Tower’s range, no dinosaurs will get close enough to cause problems. The big unveiling is in a few days.

Unfortunately, a major storm rolls in, and lightning hammers the island. A lightning strike has taken out the Tithonian Tower, and large waves have broken the sea gates around a saltwater lagoon holding numerous 30-40 foot long pliosauruses, who swim into the waters around Noble Isle.

That’s when the heroes arrive.

They likely arrive as a group. Maybe they are a military analysis team, sent to figure out where money is going during the war. Or a news team, to cover the upcoming Big Event. Or a rich patron and her security detail, coming to see the Big Event. Or the film crew gathered by the aging moviemaker without being told what they’d be filming. Or unrelated innocents who have to be rescued by small Noble Isle boats when their ship’s engine is mysterious torn out and the ship happens to drift by. Or each may have a different reason for being there compiled from those starting points.

In any case, the heroes are brought to the main pavilions, where they are told the seas are getting worse. The small boats of Noble Isle can’t handle the increasing waves anymore, and any larger ships that could do so that might be contacted by radio can’t risk getting close to the island. The Professor is content to just wait out the storm.

Jurassic Swarm

Then the compsognathuses attack.

It’s a sudden swarm of 12 of the dinosaurs into the main dining room, attacking everyone and everything. Present are (at least) the Professor, Jack Wright (the portly chief engineer), and Captain Engelhorn, and likely some serving staff. Not only must the PCs survive, but how many NPCs they save impacts the adventure.

After the attack, if Professor Prendick is alive, he realizes the Tithonian Tower must be down, and an expedition must go restore it, or eventually dinosaurs will swarm the compound and kill everyone. He also notes he has a single man-portable primal wave repeller (+2 deflection bonus to AC against attacks from dinosaurs, megafauna, and pterosaur), at his lighthouse lab (see below) if those going to attempt to make it to the Tower want to risk a trip there first.

If the professor is dead, either a survivor or the professor’s notebook lead PCs to head to the nearby lighthouse lab, where his control panels are, which can ID the problem. If the PCs have to go to the lighthouse, they face an encounter of two pteranodons, drawn to the lighthouse’s light and are unlikely to find the hidden primal wave repeller without some tracking or analysis class features.

If anyone asks if there are velociraptors or Tyrannosauruses on the island, he angrily answers that of course there are not! That would be irresponsible… since both those dinosaurs are from the Cretaceous, NOT the Jurassic. He is, after all, a scientist.

If chief engineer Jack Wright is alive, he can sketch out the things that might have gone wrong with the Tithonian Tower if it was hit by lightning, and raid the beached boats for parts to fix it, giving the PCs the materials they need and a bonus to fix the Tithonian Tower once they arrive and a +4 circumstance bonus for checks to do so. He’ll go along if PCs insist, but he’s a 4th-level expert with low physical ability scores, and is overweight enough to count as heavily encumbered even when not carrying anything. He’s not convinced he’d survive long enough to be any help.

If Wright is dead, either the Professor or his notebook can provide a general idea of what might need fixing, but no one thinks to grab parts from the boats. Instead, either the Professor or his notebook, or Wright’s files (in his office in the same building as the attack) point to an Engineering Shack half a mile beyond the Tithonian Tower, The PCs can get everything they need from there, but they’ll either have to carry enough stuff to encumber at least two of them (thus making the encounters at the Tower more difficult), or they’ll have to go to the Tower to identify the problem, then go to the Engineering Shack for supplies, and then back to the Tower to fix it.

Crossing Jurassic Island

If Captain Engelhorn is alive, he can use one of the small boats to get the PCs halfway to the Tithonian Tower by taking them up a river. No one else knows the islands rivers well enough, and if the PCs try it they end up stuck on a sandbar, needing to walk.

There is a single pliosaurus attack (use stats for an elasmosaurus, though the pliosaurus has no neck) during Engelhorn’s boat trip, but it cuts the number of other random encounters from 4 to 2, so the PCs potentially have one less fight. It also reduced the trip from a six hour walk to a one hour ride and three hour walk, which may reduce fatigue.

Additionally, Engelhorn reveals that he has discovered a hand-cranked Klaxon ™ sometimes drives off dinosaurs, and is willing to part with a spare. Engelhorn hasn’t revealed this to anyone else yet, to ensure he had a bargaining chip for when the big money begins to roll in. (The klaxon takes two hands to operate, and allows a PC to make an Intimidate check to demoralize a dinosaur. On a natural 20, the dino turns away from the noise and flees).

Walking toward Tithonian Tower results in 4 random encounters. Taking Engelhorn’s ride results in 2 random encounters for the last half of the trip only. Staying on the beech results in 1 random encounter every hour, for the 14 hours it is before a ship comes along to rescue people.

Jurassic Island Random Encounters
Roll 1d6. Until every encounter has happened once, don’t repeat any. If in the ocean, every encounter is 1d8-5 (minimum 1) pliosauruses.
1. Brachiosaurus wanders by. As long as it is not attacked, detained, or bothered, it just trundles off.
2. Nest of 10 archaeopteryxes
3. One angry edmontonia (Like an ankylosaurus without the club on the tail, but with boney shoulder spikes. Use an ankylosaurus, without the stun attack, but add a gore attack that acts as the tail attack but deals piercing damage, and it cannot target the same creature with both gore and tail attacks in the same round)
4. Pack of 12 abrictosauruses (use velociraptors without talon attacks, reducing them to CR 1 each)
5. One angry stegosaurus
6. A hunting pair of cryolophosauruses (size large theropod with a distinctive horned crest on its skull). Use stats for megaraptors, but remove talons, foreclaws, and pounce. Add a slam attack (+4, 1d6+3). Its brain is so primitive, it gains the mindless trait. The two cryolophosauruses are a CR 6 encounter.

Engineering Shack

If the PCs didn’t save chief engineer Jack Wright, they must got to the Engineering Shack to find the full blueprints of the wiring of the Tithonian Tower. (Professor Prendick knows the scientific principle behind the primal wave, but he let Wright design the various electrical supply components.)

The Engineering Shack, of course, is in the middle of the stomping grounds of a VERY annoyed camptosaurus (use stats for an iguanodon). However, someone with good wild empathy or similar ability to attempt to befriend animals could, with effort and if allies make no attacks, discover the camptosaurus is annoyed because it has burns on one foot (from a near lightning strike). A successful effort to befriend, followed by a successful DC 17 Heal check, results in the camptosaurus stomping off in peace. It then shadows the PCs, and if they get into serious trouble, comes to aid them.

If no one can attempt to befriend it, or no one makes a Heal effort, or the Heal check fails, it attacks.

Tithonian Tower

Tithonian Tower is a mini-Eiffel Tower (60 feet tall), with electric generators haflway up. To get to them, the PCs must deal with the unquestioned master of Jurassic Island, an allosaurus which is it addicted to (and is now in withdrawal from) the primal wave. The Tower has clearly had one corner generator 30 feet up damaged, and is a DC 10 to Climb. Of course, 30 feet is within reach of the Huge allosaurus (and its 15 feet of reach), and if it notices anyone on the Tower, it attacks them first.

Fixing the generator takes five successful DC 25 Knowledge (engineering) or appropriate Craft checks, and 50 lbs. of electronic parts (or 25 lbs. if material was gained from the chief engineer).

Fixing it also allows the PCs the make Perception or knowledge-gathering ability checks to realize the generator was hooked to wires designed to draw in lightning. Its destruction was inevitable when the first major storm hit the island.

Once it’s fixed, the PCs must escape, because all the dinosaurs are now headed toward them (2 random encounters, or 1 to get back to Engelhorn’s boat if it was available).

Back at the Beach

Returning to the beach, if the PCs investigate they can determine that Professor Prendick sabotaged his own tower. If he’s alive and is confronted, he confesses, and calls for his NEW creation, which he planned to give the island to once the dinosaurs left – Mighty Kon Jo, a girallon with the Giant Creature template. If the Professor is dead, a search of his lab turns up a secret map to a cove with his “New Ultimate Purpose,” and a trip there reveals the angry Kon Jo. If the PCs don’t investigate, anyone they left alive at the beach says THEY searched, and found the map. If no one goes to look at the cove, Kon Jo shows up just before the rescue boats.

If the PCs befriended the camptosaurus, and it hasn’t helped yet, it shows up on the opposite side of the beach and challenges Kon Jo. In any case, Kon Jo either tries to rescue the professor, or avenge him by killing all PCs.

Once Kon Jo is dead, ships show up to rescue the PCs.

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Geek Movie Reviews: San Andreas

Here’s my geek-tinted review of San Andreas. Mild spoilers.
First, this isn’t mostly about the quality of the movie. I like cgi disaster porn, and this was a good example of that genre. It gave me everything I wanted in that regard. If the idea of liking “cgi disaster porn” resonates with you, this movie should be fun. If you want more out of the movie than that, I make no promises.
I’m not saying it’s particularly believable, but at least the giant earthquake movie does focus around a major known faultline, and it doesn’t turn the silly up to 11 by having the east coast fall into the ocean or something.
It DOES have a takeaway I loved.
This is a movie that celebrates things I want to be celebrated by pop culture. The heroes are most often reward for being smart and educated, rather than strong or deadly. Indeed, the heroes never kill anyone. Rescuing people, most often through skill and logic, is the thing that allows the heroes to prove they are brave and heroic.
Scientists are rewarded not for magically fixing things with ray beams, but for running experiments to test theories, understanding the world around them, and using that knowledge to inform people.
No, the science may not be great (though it is better than “mutated neutrinos,” not that such a bar should be hard to clear), but the methods and ideas are recognizably sciencelike. Being at a university is heralded as something positive and awesome.
Also, none of the main female characters are powerless. Without their direct action, everyone else would have died at some point in the movie. Yes, The Rock is the main star, but after him it’s a team effort, and it’s very clear his daughter is the next most crucial protagonist. She gets off to a slow start. But after that her knowledge and decisions making keep people alive (a fact noted by other characters in the movie).
These are trends I approve of.
As a geek who loves largely mindless cgi disaster porn, I give this a d10.