Scenes of terror and trouble: Dreaming of Fire

A free RPG scenario

Suitable for Yellow Dawn & Call of Cthulhu

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Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur, first published in 2007,  is an RPG written by sci-fi & dark fantasy author David J Rodger – it blends the Cthulhu Mythos and cyberpunk genres in a post-apocalyptic setting. Learn more…

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The character awakes to find the immediate location on fire.  Their room is now an inferno.  Although this is a dream (sort of) the character should not suspect this at first.  Indeed, the choking, acrid smoke that claws at their lungs and the intense heat and furious crackling of burning walls and furniture, should seriously convince them this is real.

They will feel pain and fear.  If they die in the flames or as a result of leaping from a window (if they were high up) then they wake-up in a cold sweat, clutching their furiously beating chest. They must also make an Anxiety check or lose 1/1d3 COOL.  The following night – the dream will happen again.

Meanwhile, within the dream – they become aware of horrible screaming coming from a nearby room.   It sounds like a woman.

If they go to the room where the sound is coming from, the inferno seems to be more intense here.

Opening the door the character sees a room that does not correspond to what should be there.  Instead the room is a chamber of dark, smoke-stained stone with strange, unsettling symbols daubed onto the walls in a substance that looks like molten lava… the symbols burn and slither across the walls. However, the character’s attention will be rooted on the heavily robed figure of a woman kneeling on the floor within a set of asymmetrically interlocking circles; set on the floor before her is a blackened book, lying wide open with a jet of super-heated purple and dazzling bright pink flames blasting up from its pages and into her face.  The woman is shielding her face with her hands as if trying to stare through the Sun to read what is on those pages; however, it is obvious that whatever protection she has employed is failing and the fire is now beginning to consume her flesh.

As the character enters – the woman will snap her face away from the book and drop her hands to stare at them.  There is a look on her burned, melted features that is part-pleading and part-furious.  “Help me!” she shrieks, or maybe she said, “How dare you!”

The confusion should delay the character a moment. Meanwhile the hot blast of flame does not diminish and rolling clouds of yellow and orange fire come sweeping along the ceiling towards the character.

The book exudes an incredible aura of potent power; what secrets does it contain for the woman to risk such an agony to discover?

The character will certainly be taking substantial damage from the heat of the flames at this point.  They should make a decision: leave, save the woman or grab the book… a huge, churning plume of super-heated flame is now swirling downwards towards the floor where the woman and the book are situated; the character can only attempt to save one.

If the character rushes in they must roll 25 or more on 1d20+DEX or be consumed in an agonising flare of plasma.  They literally vaporise on the spot.  And then wake-up, screaming, shivering, layered in sweat. Make an Anxiety check or lose 1/1d6 COOL for this horrific end.  The next night the dream will happen again.

Cthulhu Mythos worship of fire - Cthugha - please advise if you know so I can credit artist

Penetrating the flames to seek the truth - image source unknown

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Saving the woman

She clings onto the character for dear life, gasping for breath through heat-seared airways, lungs gurgling as they fill up with fluid.  She is human but odd looking, like no race the character will have ever seen before – whorls and other tribal patterns have been tattooed onto her badly burned face.  Stepping out of the room the character should drag her outside, away from the fire that continues to rage through the building – although from this moment the flames no longer do any damage.  It’s as if some of her residual protection is having an effect.

Outside on the street there is nobody else around; nobody -in the dream – is taking any notice of the fire.

The woman looks around at what is obviously a very alien and unfamiliar world to her; she is certainly from a different time and place (in fact, a different dimension).  She is however, rapidly dying – strange colours pulse and glow through her veins, rising up to the surface of her charred skin to sparkle and evaporate.  During this she does not take her eyes from the character – she grips him tightly, lips quivering and muttering unknown words… but there seems to be a look of deep gratitude on what’s left of her face. Then she takes a final, agonising breath, her chest heaves up sharply, her body stiffens and then she disintegrates into dust.

GM NOTES:
The woman is (or was) a powerful sorcerer whose attempt to read the charred book led to her destruction. In her dying panic she created a blister of dream-reality that has randomly attached itself to the character.  By saving her from the fire, the GM is free to decide what rewards comes through but here are some suggestions:

  • The ash from her disintegrating body drifts onto the character and dissolves into them. They either gain a bonus to their LUCK (guardian spirit) or increased POW, or perhaps a permanent bonus to certain skill checks.
  • The ash from her body glitters in the dream-light – the character can grab handfuls of it as they begin to feel the dream ending.  When they awake the ash is still in their hands – heavy, hard and crunchy like grit.  It can be used for some magickal purpose.
  • Some aspect of the woman’s dissipating energy seeps into the character – leaving them waking with a sense of her lingering on the peripheral of their conscious mind. She remains there – providing some kind of “superhero” ability, or maybe just guidance and advice (can be called upon once a day).
  • DARK TWIST: the woman is furious that she was dragged away just before succeeding in the reading of the book. Her ash clings to the character like something hot, smothering and irritating. They awake to find themselves carrying a curse that affects LUCK and skill checks.

The dream does not recur now.

Saving the Book

The character staggers outside to find the world still asleep and nobody taking notice of the fire.  However, shadowy forms can be perceived on the fringes of the area – standing in street corners or in the middle of the road, watching from a vague distance…. they shimmer and shift, as if made of smoke, and seem somehow menacing.

The book – although badly burned, is still intact with layers of overlapping leather forming the binding, creating complex patterns; charred, the whole thing creaks like splintering wood when opened or closed.  There are words written on the pages but they’re in no language or script the character has ever seen and they appear to have lost their lustre – the ink now a leaden grey that gleams dully in the nocturnal lights.

Before the character can think of doing anything else they awaken – and find the charred book clutched in their hands.

What the book does and is capable of is down to the GM but here are some ideas:

  • It’s a demonic text and contains secrets that reveal the route to heaven (or at least the inner most sanctum of Angelic beings who exist on the outermost rim of the Quantisphere.
  • It contains some incredible +to Occult skill, or Mythos skill (or both), and likely contains potent operations to do with fire and plasma energy.  But the process of reading it requires a special operation in itself – and a ritual of fire.
  • It is a book dedicated to the worship of Sol’indara (a new Great Old One from Yellow Dawn; however, Call of Cthulhu players can use Cthugha). The book contains a way of gaining control of Sol’indara (or Cthugha) and is protected by a powerful fire / heat energy being (or Fire Vampires).

Regardless of what function the book can perform, it carries a (sort of) curse with it – which is the souls of all the people that have ever died trying to read it.  These are the shadowy smoke-like figures who linger on the borders of awareness. How they affect the character going forward is up to the GM; they could be a subtle presence that only appears at certain times – or they can be a perpetual distraction, bringing a smell of burning flesh and fabric, and a dry, rasping chorus of whispering, stopping the character from getting proper sleep without alcohol or drugs and ultimately leading to madness – until the character attempts to read the book (going through ordeal of fire) and dies or succeeds… in which case all  those souls will be released.

The dream does not recur now.

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Sample Rules for fire and infernos

FIRE STARTS

This can be through arson, or an incendiary device or explosion, etc. At this point the fire has small flames licking other surfaces and a small amount of smoke.

  •     Putting out the fire at this point: Needs 1d6 ‘blasts’
  •     Risk of spreading: Every round the GM should roll a 1d20. On a ‘20’ the fire abruptly erupts into a lethal inferno.

FIRE BECOMES AN INFERNO
The room / corridor has burst into flames. It is now filled with choking smoke and intense heat. This inferno is pushing in all directions and will begin to spread through the building unless defeated whilst still within this confined space.

  •     Putting the fire out at this point: needs 2d6 ‘blasts’
  •     Risk of spreading: Every round the GM should roll a 1d20. On a ‘20’ the surrounding area becomes engulfed within the inferno (equivalent to 1 BS space).

The GM should keep rolling 1d20 every round. The next time he rolls ‘20 the surrounding 1 BS (in each direction) become engulfed by the inferno; the next time it is the surrounding 6 BS (in each direction), then 36 BS, then 216 BS, eventually the whole building will be an inferno.

MOVING THROUGH AN INFERO
Once an inferno takes hold the layout of a building, corridor, even a room can change dramatically. Gouts of fire, burning furniture, collapsing structures, all make movement very dangerous, and slower.
To move through a part of a building caught by the inferno (equivalent to 1 BS point), each character or group must roll 1d6 per round. They can only escape that section of building when they roll ‘5’or ‘6’. Each round they fail to roll ‘5’or ‘6’ they are dealing with the consequences of fire changing the terrain, and, they’re suffering damage.
Burn Damage: each combat round spent within an inferno delivers 1 hit-point ‘burn damage’ to one body location. If any clothed-location suffers 4 or more burn damage then those clothes burst into flames, delivering an automatic 1 hit-point burn damage per round.
 Smoke Inhalation: each combat round spent within an inferno the character must roll 25+ on 1d20+CON or face a 20% chance of collapsing unconscious, overwhelmed by the smoke. This includes the act of staying near the floor.
Some things a character can do to avoid smoke inhalation is a) hold their breath, or b) hold a wet rag over face, provides +5 to the 1d20+CON roll for the next 10 rounds.

- Excerpt from primary rulebook of Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur (version 2.5)

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Dog Eat Dog by British sci-fi author David J Rodger cyberpunk crime thriller set in post-apocalyptic world of Yellow Dawn

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