[Historical note: The R101 was an actual rigid airship built in Britain with the express purpose of starting transcontinental air service between England and India. The ship departed with much fanfare on 4 October 1930 only to crash into a hillside near Beauvais, France on 5 October 1930 killing 48 of the 54 persons aboard. The official inquiry stated that the heavy diesel engines providing too little thrust for their weight. Also the total lift provided by the gasbags was far too light for the load carried, despite the gasbags being dangerously overfilled. These two flaws resulted in a ship too heavy and under powered to fly properly. The ship ran into some rain while in France and the added weight of the waterlogged cover prevented the ship from being able to climb high enough to avoid crashing. However, in the rough and tumble world of the pulp action adventure hero, things are rarely what the seem on the surface.]
The long anticipated and highly publicized voyage of the R101 Airship bound from Britain to India has piqued the interest of Sanji Nharr a brilliant devotee of Kali. He has decided to use the westerners own technology to throw off the colonial shackles and lead India to a resurgent Kali and return India to its proper place in the world and of course Sanji Nharr will be the leader of this new Indian regime.
Nharr has a dozen Thugee cultists with him in England, two of which have been planted in the crew of the R101. Using ancient rituals (hypnotism) and a special potion (The Mist of Kali, a quick acting gaseous sleep agent requiring a health roll at –3 that, if failed, leaves the person susceptible to post-hypnotic suggestions. Attacks that cause at least one body breaks the effect.) Nharr’s men have successfully controlled six additional crewmen and, shortly after the PCs arrival, the ship’s navigator Davies Thorndyke. Nharr has also mind controlled Sir Hillery Biggleswade-Scott (A prominent businessman with many holdings in India) and will be aboard the R101 as trusted servant Omar.
Sir Hillery has been forced to transfer large sums of money from his European holdings to “increase my presence in India, big things are coming and the R101 is just the beginning, don’t you know, eh what?” Sir Hillery’s funds have financed Nharr’s excavation of one of Kali’s lesser temples that was spared the brunt of the British and local fury when the Thugs were swept from India. Nharr’s grandfather was the temple’s leader and passed on the traditions and location of the temple when he was forced to flee the mob that attacked the temple. The guards in the temple drove off the mob with a huge explosion of gunpowder that collapsed the narrow canyon that led to the temple. The British commander who surveyed the site the following day was convinced that the temple was destroyed as well. In actuality the temple survived with only minor damage, it was however sealed off. Nharr used Sir Hillery’s money to fund an archeological dig to clear a path to the temple. Using the secret books of knowledge found there, Nharr has recreated the ancient mind control drugs to begin his conquest of first the British parasites then to bring all India under his control.
The PCs are drawn to England to witness the departure of the R101. An old friend contacts the PCs (R101’s navigator Thorndyke) when the flight engineer is found murdered near his flat in one of London’s seamier neighborhoods. Scotland Yard suppressed details in the paper, yielding only that the engineer was found dead and an autopsy will be performed later. Thorndyke, who is quite rattled, says the engineer was found garroted. He also found some brownish powder found at the crime scene that Thorndyke was sure was brown sugar (Indian savoir-faire at –3, Area knowledge: India at –5, or trip to library taking 1D3 hours will yield that the Thugs feasted on brown sugar when someone was killed in ritualistic fashion).
Thorndyke was the one who found the body and although he was bound to silence, he knew his friends were in town and could help the stumped police. Police will not verify a Thug connection unless PCs can make a roll in Diplomacy, Administration –3, or
Fast-talk at –6. If they fail, they will be detained for questioning as well. Thorndyke will not verify story, as he would be fired for having leaked vital information. The ships imminent departure keeps Thorndyke busy on the R101 until the ship departs. When the PCs finally get a chance to speak with their old friend, a sight at –3 will notice friend seems a little “wooden,” but PCs will not have a chance to follow up before having to leave.
PCs will have to stowaway or find someone to sponsor him or her aboard. No crewman or officer will sponsor PCs or allow stowaways. The new chief engineer is controlled by Nharr and has the whole crew on alert. PCs will require a diversion of some form in order to get aboard. (I.e.: some PCs hide while others cause a diversion, then hiding PCs sneak aboard. Without a diversion, PCs trying to sneak aboard R101 will have a –2 to their Stealth rolls. If a Stealth roll fails they are spotted and an alarm is sounded. PCs can flee, but if they fight, they will be caught and arrested. Arrested PCs will be fined £50 ($240 or $4,800 in today’s money) and will be released after R101 departs. PCs better have a plane (or steal one) to try and catch R101.
Any PC that tries to see Sir Hillery will have to make a Administration or Diplomacy roll to get past Secretary Omar (Fast-talk will not work). If PCs are reluctant to mention Thugs in Omar’s presence, Sir Hillery will insist that Omar is completely trustworthy and they can say anything in front of him. If PCs do mention Thugs, Nharr will signal Sir Hillery to sponsor PCs. Nharr wants these meddlesome people where he can see them. They will also make a fine sacrifice to Kali.
Once aboard R101, passage to Paris is uneventful. PCs who failed to get sponsored or sneak aboard will have one last chance in Paris. However, due to tight schedules seeing Sir Hillery is at –2 on all rolls. Sneaking aboard is easier as the flight engineer has relaxed. No diversion is needed and Stealth is at normal. (Unless there was a failed stowaway attempted in England then rolls are as above). If PCs fail to get aboard this time, their only hope is to use an airplane to try an air to air boarding (using climbing, or jumping at –3, acrobatics at –1) crew of R101 is not on guard for this and plane will not be spotted.
Once R101 leaves Paris, Sanji Nharr makes his move. His Thugs hidden aboard the ship and the controlled crewmen try to hijack R101. PCs can assist in defending the bridge, however due to historical preemptive, R101 is doomed. During the fight an attacking Thugee misses a PC with a sword and ruptures gas bag and either a gunshot, engine spark, or sparks from Marconi set (radio) cause fire and complete loss of the ship. PCs can make jumping or acrobatics to escape the flaming ship. PCs still inside the bridge must make 3 Dexterity rolls to escape the flames. PCs inside hull only have to make 2 rolls to escape. Crash does 6D-12. Flames do progressive damage. First failed Dexterity does 1D-3. Second failed Dexterity made at –3 does 2D3. Third failed Dexterity made at –5 does 3D6 from flames and falling girders, as R101 crashes into the side of the hill.
(PCs that only have to make two rolls roll at normal taking 1D–3 and at –3 taking 2D6)
Unless previously and undeniably killed by a PC, Nharr escapes in confusion to become a recurring nemesis.
The Thugee Cultists are Skilled Normals with the following stats:
STR 13, DEX 11, CON 13, BODY 10, INT 10, EGO 10, PRE 10, COM 10, PD4, ED3, SPD 3, REC 5, END 26, STUN 24.
Skills: WF Common melee and all firearms. Stealth at 11or less.
Disads: Hunted by Scotland Yard 11 or less