A single session, 1920s micro-scenario. Suitable for 1 or more investigators.
Pigs have unearthed bodies at Shiloh National Military Park—oddly well-preserved bodies. Farmers from nearby Savannah, TN, have petitioned the War Department to relocate the dead.
Eons ago, the Great Old One Pha’zaqubolas crashed through the salty waters that covered what is now Eastern Tennessee, disintegrating upon impact with the shallow sea’s limestone floor. The alien nature of Earth provided little sustenance to the newcomer, forcing it to reconstitute as a lowly bio-luminescent bacteria that was promptly eaten by an ancient nematode. Pha’zaqubolas, unfortunately for humanity, was not deterred by setbacks like being ingested by terrestrial roundworms—it adapted and bent the Heterorhabditis bacteriophora species to its will, creating a symbiotic relationship.
Unfortunately, for Pha’zaqubolas, it’s been a slow process, as the roundworms it depended on to procreate and move around only liked insects. Everything changed with the US Civil War and the Battle of Shiloh.
Investigators are looking into either the exploding pigs or the preternaturally preserved Civil War bodies. Investigators could be War Department officials, dispatched because of the farmers’ petition about the corpses being consumed by the pigs; locals (citizens or farmers); or even reporters looking for a story about preserved bodies discovered at a Civil War battlefield.
Savannah, population 758
A small town; everyone knows each other. The pigs’ grisly discovery has rattled citizens and they direct investigators to the Buell homestead as he organized the signature drive.
Nathaniel Buell, The Sick Farmer
Nathaniel reported the disinterred corpses first and organized the petition to the War Department. His homestead is closest to Shiloh, and Savannah residents haven’t seen or heard from him in a few days. A visit with his family reveals:
- Nathaniel is at the hospital in Jackson, TN.
- Doctors believe he has a fast-metastasizing stomach cancer—surgery should be any day (Charm, Persuade).
- Most of their pigs have been rounded up. However, a few exploded! Their carcasses were left in the park and the Buells notified the town veterinarian (see Hank Turner).
- Directions are provided to the unearthed bodies and exploded pigs.
The family hog pen has their surviving pigs. Investigators can learn the following from inspecting the hogs at the Buell farm (or if missed, from other farmers or the vet):
- Several have distended bellies, constipation, and blood in their feces which glows a sickly blue in the dark (SAN 0/1).
- Many of the pigs are hypothermic (Medicine). Exposure to heat causes their stomachs to ripple and recoil from the source visibly; “things” can be seen moving under the skin (SAN 1/1D3).
- Investigators seeking a specimen for dissection must succeed at a Fast Talk or Persuade roll (see Autopsy).
Shiloh National Military Park
There is a noticeable lack of insect noise at the old battle site—the roundworms are still vomiting the Great Old One into the stomach of every insect they can find.
Soldiers wounded in battle were infected by Pha’zaqubolas in another attempt to reconstitute itself within a larger, more mobile creature. Then, when they expired from injuries or hypothermia, it changed things up, mapping the human brain and genome, and using the as nematode-incubators. Finally, they were buried where they fell.
- The bodies, while preserved, no longer look “human”; their waxy flesh looks deflated, as if there are no bones to give it form (SAN 0/1D3).
- Moving bodies requires a DEX roll. Failure results in the flesh rupturing and the “insides” spilling out (see Angelic Worms).
Examining the remains of an exploded pig reveals (SAN 0/1D2):
- The “explosion” originated in the pigs’ abdominal cavity.
- No abdominal organs remain (Medicine).
The town veterinarian, Hank Turner, makes his facilities available. Investigators learn the following information:
- The roundworms—and bacteria—actively shy away from heat (35° Celsius, plus).
When a corpse warms up a bit, its skin writhes like with Unexploded Pigs, but even parts that should be bone undulate and crawl. An autopsy discovers:
- Thin glowing roundworms fill the body’s cavities. They range from microscopic to one centimeter in diameter and over ten meters long (SAN 1/1D6+1). They attack if provoked (see Angelic Worms).
Euthanizing and dissecting pigs reveals roundworms, described above, but none are glowing.
- The intestines glow—covered in bio-luminescent bacteria that think of themselves as Pha’zaqubolas (SAN 1/1D3). The roundworms won’t attack.
Complications in Surgery
Nathaniel Buell is sedated and prepped for surgery when investigators arrive at the hospital. When the scalpel slices into his grossly distended belly, it bursts open, covering everyone in the surgery suite in blue-glowing viscera. Buell rises from the table, eyes glowing blue, and the 10-meter long tentacly-roundworms in his stomach lash out at all those within the room (SAN 1D6/2D10).
Keeper’s Note: If investigators don’t go to the hospital, have Buell return home at a time when the investigators are there. Instead of doctors and nurses, it’s his family.
Fire/extreme heat is the best way to hurt Pha’zaqubolas, yet it can never be destroyed…it will come back, with all the knowledge learned of human physiology during its 50+ years inside them, plus more—Pha’zaqubolas learned much from Buell’s conscious mind.
As for the investigators and anyone else blessed with Pha’zaqubolas’s glow….
Rewards and Repercussions
- Each infected soldier/pig destroyed: +1 Sanity
- Destroying Pa Buell: +1D10 Sanity
Characters and Monsters
Hank Turner, age 97, town veterinarian
Hank’s been the town veterinarian for about as long as anyone can remember. In fact, if anyone stops to think about it, they’re not really sure how old Hank is. He fought at the Battle of Shiloh as a young man and has first-hand experience with the Angel’s Glow—but it was nothing like he’s seeing now.
- Description: Short and wiry overall, but sporting a hard beer-belly (despite never drinking), Hank has greying hair and a horseshoe hairline. He appears to be in his mid-60s. He drives a 1923 International Harvester Model S on his weekly rounds to local farms.
- Traits: Quiet, yet always willing to lend a hand and tell a joke or anecdote, he seldom gives advice except about livestock or nature.
- Roleplaying Hooks: Hank does his best to pick up and secure corpses, pigs (exploded and unexploded), and even roundworms for investigators. He is, however, far more fascinated by the blue glow they give off and why he feels like it’s trying to communicate.
STR 55 CON 65 SIZ 55 DEX 50 INT 70
APP 55 POW 80 EDU 75 SAN 40 HP 13
DB: None Build: 0 Move: 6 MP: 16
Brawl 25% (12/5), damage 1D3
Dodge 25% (12/5)
Skills: Animal Handling 60%, Credit Rating 30%, Drive Auto 30%, First Aid 40%, History 45%, Mechanical Repair 25%, Medicine 15%, Natural World 65%, Navigate 50%, Ride 25%, Science (Biology) 55%, Science (Zoology) 70%.
Random Locals Living near Shiloh
Residents in Savannah and the surrounding farms and homesteads are on edge. First, their pigs dug up the dead…sure, they obviously weren’t buried deep, but still—those are their brothers, fathers, uncles, grandpappys, and late husbands and the pigs ate some of ‘em!
Next, the pigs, many of the farmers’ livelihood, came down with something, shivering and cold even on warm days, and their feces, well, it’s got that glow to it. And now, they’re starting to explode!
As he always does for the town, Nathaniel Buell stepped up. He organized a petition drive to get the War Department to investigate and, hopefully, reinter the dead with full honors at a military cemetery.
- Description: While the families rallied to the Confederate cause when the Union “invaded,” most, but not all, have worked hard to put that behind them.
- Traits: Hardworking and salt-of-the-earth.
- Roleplaying Hooks: The fear of their pigs getting sick and exploding has tempered their nominal distrust of any outside investigators—even any ‘Yankees.’
STR 60 CON 65 SIZ 65 DEX 60 INT 55
APP 55 POW 55 EDU 50 SAN 55 HP 13
DB: +1D4 Build: +1 Move: 7 MP: 11
Brawl 25% (12/5), damage 1D3+1D4
Rifle (not carried) 40% (20/8), damage 2D6+4
Dodge 30% (15/6)
Skills: Art/Craft (Farming) 60%, Credit Rating (20%), Drive Auto 25%, Mechanical Repair 45%, Natural World 50%, Operate Heavy Machinery 30%.
Keeper’s Note: Many farmers have war experience, with younger men and women serving in the Great War, and older men having fought in the Civil War.
Doctors & Nurses, poor unfortunate souls
How many doctors and nurses does it take to remove a malignant god-tumor in the 1920s? As many as a Keeper needs for dramatic effect.
Pandemonium is their primary purpose. Assume they all fail their Sanity checks. How quickly the Buell iteration of Pha’zaqubolas dispatches them depends on how much time a Keeper wants to buy investigators to figure out their best course of action before Pha’zaqubolas-Buell walks out of the hospital.
- Description: Clean white uniforms and smiling faces. The bright red blood and guts of Buell will show up nicely on them (the uniforms and faces), and, should the hot incandescent bulbs be destroyed first, the blue glow on everything becomes obvious
- Traits: Some may be idealistic, in it to really help people. Another may be jaded, in it for a job or believing it was their best chance to make it out this town.
- Roleplaying Hooks: Initially, they’ll protect their patient and dismiss the investigators’ claims, slowing things down for either the surgery to commence or Buell to burst. Then comes the panic: nurses pushing to escape; a doctor frozen in place, screaming, the anesthesiologist futilely bludgeoning Buell with a stainless steel tray; etc.
STR 55 CON 60 SIZ 60 DEX 60 INT 70
APP 65 POW 65 EDU 70 SAN 65 HP 12
DB: None Build: 0 Move: 7 MP: 13
Luck: All Out
Brawl 25% (12/5), damage 1D3
Dodge 30% (15/6)
Skills: Credit Rating 50%, First Aid 70%, Medicine 75%, Language (Latin) 30%, Listen 40%, Persuade 40%, Psychology 55%, Science (Biology) 60%, Science (Chemistry) 40%, Science (Pharmacy) 65%, Spot Hidden 45%.
Angelic Worms, symbiotic evangelists
Heterorhabditis bacteriophora is a common, microscopic roundworm used around the world as a natural insectophage. For the ones in south-central Tennessee, however, all that changed in 1862.
Wounded soldiers, left on the field of battle for days and suffering from hypothermia, saw their body temperatures drop enough for Pha’zaqubolas to gain a foothold in them when it was puked up into the wounds of the soldiers.
After eating the bacteria in the mens’ wounds, the worms ate Pha’zaqubolas again, like always. Then, instead of using the sustenance it had consumed to reproduce, they burrowed into the skin and began to grow larger, in an endless cycle of vomiting out the Great Old One and re-eating it—along with whatever body parts it had consumed.
Rather than microscopic roundworms, Angelic Worms grow to be up to a centimeter in diameter and over 10 meters in length!
STR 60 CON 15 SIZ 20 DEX 60 INT 30 HP 3 DB: –1 Build: –1 Move: 4
Attacks per Round: 2
Metastasize: with a successful attack with a tentacle, the angelic worms comprising the tentacle grapple the target while others burrow under the skin, vomiting the Great Old One directly into the victim’s bloodstream (see The Metastasizing Pha’zaqubolas).
Brawl 25% (12/5), damage 1D3–1
Dodge 30% (15/6)
Skills: Wriggle Inside People 75%, Writhe Disgustingly 100%.
Armor: None; most mundane weapons deal minimal weapons; bullets do 1 damage. Electrical and chemical attacks do full damage; Fire and heat-based attacks deal double damage.
Sanity Loss: 1/1D6+1 to encounter a mass of Angelic Worms. Encountered singly, there is usually not a Sanity Loss, barring the circumstances of “how” it’s experienced (like pulling a wriggling ramen-noodle-like worm out of someone’s arm with a pair of needle-nose pliers because it could be seen moving).
Nathaniel “Pa” Buell, what is to come
Known affectionately throughout the community as “pa,” Nathaniel Buell and his family are the epitome of of southern charm and hardwork. Not a barn in the area has been raised without a Buell helping, nor a family (or stranger) been in need without Pa stepping in to help.
This, however, is not Pa Buell: it is a vehicle for Pha’zaqubolas, with 100 billion neurons and over 100 trillion synaptic connections—compared to the 302 neurons and 7,000 connections in a roundworm. And the Great Old One is only getting started.
Eventually, Pha’zaqubolas will begin to work its way through Mythos creatures, treating them much the same as it does humans on its quest to regain its former glory (which will, ultimately, require Pha’zaqubolas to co-opt another Great Old One, and then continue on from there).
- Description: Tall and big-boned, with close-cropped, pepper-gray hair, a classic “farmer’s tan.” A mass of writhing tentacles (reminiscent of 30-pound ball of tangled guinea worms) has burst from his abdomen in a bloody display and lash about—stretching, attacking, and looking to spread Pha’zaqubolas to others.
- Traits: Nothing remains of Pa’s kindly, down-to-earth personality. It has been replaced by an alien horror’s hubris and survival instincts that pre-date the planet it’s found itself trapped on.
- Roleplaying Hooks: Pa Pha’zaqubolas is all about the incubators. Humans are just its next evolutionary step, and it needs them alive (but hypothermic), if it’s to move on to Mythos races and then its fellow Great Old Ones that reside on, or can be called to, Earth.
STR 100 CON 200 SIZ 80 DEX 90 INT 210
APP 40 POW 150 HP 28
DB: +1D6 Build: 2 Move: 9 MP: 30
Attacks per Round: 2–9 (1 fighting farmer + 1D8 flailing tentacles)
Pa Pha’zaqubolas attacks first to eliminate threats (obvious heat sources), followed by eliminating an opponent’s advantages (numerical or otherwise), and lastly, to replicate itself.
Metastasize: with a successful attack with a tentacle, the angelic worms comprising the tentacle grapple the target while others burrow under the skin,
vomiting the Great Old One directly into the victim’s bloodstream (see The Metastasizing Pha’zaqubolas).
Brawl 75% (37/15), damage1D3+1D6
Angelic Worms 40% (20/8), damage 1D3–1
Dodge 45% (22/9)
Skills: Pha’zaqubolas learns and retains all skills as it spreads from host to host, although it may struggle to use them efficiently (penalty die) until it has occupied a lifeform for a while or moved into a new one.
Armor: None; most mundane weapons deal minimal weapons; bullets do 1 damage. Electrical and chemical attacks do full damage; Fire and heat-based attacks deal double damage. Attacks in excess of 4 points of damage sever a tentacle from Pa Buell, which then attacks as an Angelic Worm (above).
Spells: None. Pha’zaqubolas has only just begun to metastasize itself through the up-jumped metazoans that call themselves human; it needs to spread to a few more, learning and adapting as it does before it can work its magick through the primitive creatures.
Sanity Loss: 1D10/2D20
The Metastasizing Pha’zaqubolas
Each round that the bacterial Great Old One is in contact with a wound/mucous membrane, the target must make an Extreme CON roll; three consecutive failures and Pha’zaqubolas survives long enough to reach the hypothalamus. Hypothermia sets in 1D6+4 rounds later, dropping the victim’s body temperature to 33° Celsius—optimal temperature for it to thrive in.
Hypothermia results in –1 MOV and a Penalty Die on all Attack, Characteristic, and Skill rolls for one hour, after which they appear to recover. First Aid or Medicine rolls show that their body temperature is still down (just with no penalties).
Then, 1D4+2 weeks later, the eggs that were laid inside of the victim during the initial attack hatch. If the victim’s body temperature is over 35° C, Pha’zaqubolas “died” during the gestation period and the victim has a severe roundworm problem. If they weren’t medically treated for hypothermia, Pha’zaqubolas survived and, hatched within a human host, begins to take over. In the 1920s, medicine isn’t advanced enough to save them and they become another Pa Pha’zaqubolas.