by Graham Kinniburgh
An illegal auction of stolen artworks is rudely interrupted by the cult that they were stolen from. Chaos ensues.
The less influential Asian street gangs of Chicago's underworld have become increasingly resentful of the growing dominance of their ‘Chauchas’ rivals, the White Shadows. Since the Shadows enjoy a truce with both the Mob and the Tong, the smaller gangs have become ever more desperate to make some kind of stand against their detested enemies.
Ten days prior to the commencement of the scenario, one such stand was made. A Hmuong street gang known as the ‘Banzai 23’ mounted a raid on Tiger Transit's warehouses out near Chicago's Midway Airport. Guided by inaccurate street rumours, they hoped to find some Black Lotus or even the secret to making ‘Reverb’; what they got instead was a bunch of occult ‘art’ recently flown in for the delectation of Cho Chu-tsao - sorceress and corporate climber who leads the Tcho-tcho in Chicago.
The raid went unreported to the authorities - the White Shadows want to handle the matter themselves - as the agents will soon discover.
Cutting their losses, the ‘Banzai 23’ have arranged a hasty sale of the items they stole via an art dealer of their acquaintance with a dodgy reputation and unscrupulous contacts; the word is now out to ‘those in the know’ that some interesting items are coming up for sale in a black market auction. Word of this has now reached ‘A’ Cell via a friendly and particularly concerned about one of the works reputedly up for sale, they have decided to send a Cell to ensure that it is recovered and destroyed.
Involving the Player Cell
The Cell leader is couriered a package containing a labelled key to Locker # 23 at the ‘left luggage’ office of Chicago's Union Railway station. All agents are advised as follows:
- Proceed immediately to Chicago's Union Railway Station and retrieve the contents of Locker # 23.
- Said contents will be:
- 4 tickets which should allow entry to a ‘black market’ auction to be held the following day (the 23rd of the month) at 11pm @ Unit 23, 2323 E. Schiller Street, Chicago.
- A catalogue of items for sale at said auction.
- Agents should assume that the auction is being organised by criminal elements; security arrangements are presently unknown and they should proceed with caution.
- By whatever means the Cell thinks appropriate, recover and destroy ASAP item # 3 on the catalogue list. This item should be assumed to be ‘dangerous’ and contact/exposure should be minimised.
The Cell may have some questions / queries:
- Keeper's discretion whether there is a Green Box that the Cell can use.
- ‘A’ Cell provides no money; actually bidding for the lot seems out of the question.
- McFadden's ‘art’ has previously been encountered; it is considered ‘paranormally dangerous’.
- ‘A’ Cell has no intelligence to suggest that any of the other items are dangerous.
Next Steps / The Catalogue
At Union Station, the Cell will find things as described in their briefing; the locker contains 4 simple ‘Admit One’ tickets, and a one page card catalogue listing the items for sale.
Keepers should note that the actual appearance of the items, and what the agents might be able to discover about them, is also given here now for convenience
Item 1: Painting entitled ‘Nightmare City’ by Umberto Lenzi'. A garish work depicting a modern city being ravaged by violent, feral humans who appear to have descended on the city via a plane on the runway of a distant airport.
Library/Internet research on Lenzi uncovers little personal data; only that he is thought to be one of a ‘new wave’ of exciting Italian artists.
Item 2: Riveted Brass Head: German circa 13th Century. Artist unknown.' An ugly depiction in riveted brass of a screaming human face.
Library / Internet research based on this description reveals nothing. Occult or Mythos checks may be more fruitful: (see ‘The Asylum’ scenario for more details).
Item 3: Painting entitled ‘The Lizard King’ by Mark McFadden.' A disturbing character portrait of a brooding, staring man dressed as an 18th Century ‘Highland Jacobite gentleman’. The figure has a repellent quality and the skin depicted seems almost reptilian when studied closely. The worst is the eyes, which seem to gleam with something quite inhuman. (See ‘stats’ for more details).
Library / Internet research on McFadden uncovers that he was born in the parish of Cannich, Scotland on 23rd March, 1923. He exhibited a collection of ‘scandalous’ artworks in Edinburgh in 1940 before joining the British Army and serving in the Far East (where he was alleged to have mastered and then taught several oriental fighting techniques). Last heard of in Singapore in 1958, his eventual fate is unknown but his work is considered "collectable' in certain quarters due to the scandal which it attracted.
Item 4: Painting entitled ‘Feeding time at the Manchester Morgue’ by Jorge Grau'. Depicts an ‘occupied’ mortuary table laid out as a dinner table.
Research on Grau uncovers that he is German, and that his ‘Body Horror Art’ is considered very desirable in certain ‘avant-garde’ quarters.
Item 5: Painting entitled ‘View of Summerisle’ by Rowan Morrison. Landscape piece depicting moorland descending to a headland with a tall indistinct figure on a hill looking out to sea.
Morrison has been considered a cult collectible artist since her mysterious disappearance in Ireland in 1823.
A note concludes that sales will be only be concluded by ‘Wire transfer; account details to be confirmed’.
Unit 23 and what will happen there
Located in Chicago's 23rd District, prudent agents scouting the location early will discover it to be a disused warehouse amongst an entire wasteland of abandoned and run down industrial units. It's exactly what it is intended to be – a quiet makeshift spot away from traffic where illegitimate business can be conducted.
Here's what will happen there if the agents put it under surveillance and/or attend the auction:
3pm. An advance party of 12 ‘Banzai’ thugs, all armed with pistols, drive to the warehouse and begin to tidy it up. Appropriate skills/knowledge (anthropology, gang cultures or successes on Spot Hidden and languages - to read the many tattoos) may help the agents ‘make’ these guys depending on how successful they are. These guys have only the vaguest notions of tradition; they hate the White Shadows and that's about it: all other ‘Asian’ ‘culture’ is up for grabs.
5pm. A van arrives with about thirty plastic chairs and a few tables – the thugs take them inside to create the auction ‘space’.
6pm. Another van arrives with a small diesel generator, along with some lighting and sound equipment
8pm. The thugs change out of their casual clothes to ill fitting suits. They have been told to smarten up, but all they have is their court appearance / funeral wear. As a final touch, they wear black eye masks.
9pm. All but a handful of the rest of the gang show up. They all take up positions inside and outside the warehouse.
10 pm onwards. The prospective customers start showing up. These guys are all from out of town; most are dodgy art dealers, collectors or agents thereof and all of them are a little nervous in the circumstances. Tickets get them into Unit 23 through a small well guarded door; inside they are searched and any weapons are ‘detained’ for safekeeping on a table at the rear. Mobiles are permitted.
10.45pm. Another van shows up containing the final 3 members of the Banzai 23. It also contains the ‘stock’ and Victor Milliard, the bent art dealer who has set this up and who will conduct the auction. A bay door is raised at the rear of the unit to allow the van entry and stays open for the duration.
11.00pm. The auction ‘begins’. The first 5 minutes is taken up by some griping from the few clientele who were expecting something more legit/secure. This quickly subsides with a few threats from the leaders of the Banzai 23.
11.05pm – 11.15pm. The first two items are purchased for $160,000 and $300,000 respectively.
11.20 pm. ‘The Lizard King’ is bought for $230,000 by Chris Bradley, one of the roadies for goth/punk recording artist Krip Krippenz, one of whose many stage ‘personas’ just happens to be ‘the Lizard King’.
11.23pm. The White Shadows, some 20 odd strong, mounted on motorcycles, armed with SMGs and fortified with doses of Shzor-shzong, mount a lightning raid on Unit 23. Their priorities are to:
- Eliminate all members of the ‘Banzai 23’.
- Recover the Brass Head.
- Recover the other items.
However, they are not above shooting up any of the potential buyers on a whim - especially if they are stupid enough to resist. Otherwise they will be allowed to flee.
As an added bonus, Mok Bin Taa, the White Shadows leader, has summoned a dread Child of Shugoran which lurks in the disused industrial estate ready to pick off any gangers who escape the initial assault.
The challenge will be for the agents to survive and recover ‘the Lizard King’ before the authorities eventually show up to clean up the mess. Encounters with cannibalistic White Shadows or the Child of Shugoran may hinder their chances.
Unit # 23 Stats
Typical ‘Banzai 23’ Gang member
STR 12 CON 13 SIZ 12 INT 12 POW 13
DEX 13 APP 12 EDU 10 SAN 65 HP 12
Dodge: 35 %, Hide: 30 %, Sneak: 35 %, Drive Auto: 35 %
Grapple: 40 %
Knife: 40 %
Kick: 35 %
Glock 9mm: 40 %
Typical ‘White Shadows’ Tcho – Tcho
STR 13 CON 13 SIZ 8 INT 12 POW 13
DEX 14 APP 6 EDU 9 SAN 10 HP 10*
*While under the influence of ‘Shzor-shzong’, subjects cannot fall unconscious due to Hit Point loss.
Armour: 1 point Motorcycle Leathers and helmet
Dodge: 45 %, Hide: 40 %, Sneak: 50 %, Drive Auto (Motorcycle): 40 %
Grapple: 40 %
Knife: 60 %
Kick: 45 %
Glock 9mm: 45 %
Mac-10 9mm SMG: 35%
Child of Shugoran, Amphibious Horror and herald of death
STR 19 CON 22 SIZ 15 INT 14 POW 12
DEX 19 HP 18
Sanity Loss: 0/1D6
Armour: 3 point slime and hide.
Damage Bonus: + 1D6
Sneak: 55%. Hide: 35 %.
Claw: 25%. Damage: 1D6 + db
Proboscis: 30 %. Successful Attack means the victim is helpless and must be treated as 'Suffocating' until saved or is killed.
See: Malleus Monstrorum page 84 for further information.
Also: See Delta Green Countdown for further information on Tiger Transit and the White Shadows and for stats for Mok Bin Tau.
Victor Milliard, Out of his Depth Art ‘Dealer’
STR 10 CON 11 SIZ 13 INT 14 POW 12
DEX 14 APP 14 EDU 13 SAN 60 HP 12
Bargain: 60 %, Art (Paintings): 31 %, Fast Talk: 45%, Persuade: 40 %, Credit Rating: 25%
Chris Bradley, Roadie in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
STR 14 CON 14 SIZ 15 INT 14 POW 13
DEX 14 APP 13 EDU 12 SAN 65 HP 14
Dodge: 40%, Art (Rock Music): 80%, Fast Talk: 40 %, Drive Auto (Motorcycle): 55 %
Grapple: 40 %
Kick: 45 %
Head Butt: 30 %
Damage Bonus: 1D4
‘The Lizard King’ by Mark McFadden
This dangerous painting is magically linked to the mind of an ancient Serpent Man sorcerer who lies in deathless hibernation under the cold mountain ranges of Northern Scotland.
While mostly dormant, the Serpent Man occasionally wakes (every 10 years or so) and uses its link with the painting to gather information about the world of men and have some malign ‘enjoyment’ along the way. When ‘active’ the Serpent Man should be considered to be able to cast the following spells ‘through’ the painting at nearby observers with an effective POW of 22:
While the painting itself is as physically fragile as any other painting, attempts to destroy it (for example by burning it or throwing acid on it) may 'awaken' the Serpent Man and it may be able to cast a malign spell at anyone it can ‘see’ through the eyes depicted. Agents beware.
And a follow up explanation of the references used (so that I can go whoring after those bonus votes up for grabs ;) )
Name Dropping: Both Mark McFadden and 'The Lizard King' used for the painting and its artist respectively.
Plots riffing Cult Movies: Ok here goes. The basic idea of an 'Asian gang mounting a mad SMG laden motorcycle raid, on another gang, in a warehouse, is lifted from John Woo's 'Hard Boiled'. The 'Banzai 23' are also a delibrately lame-arsed tribute to the 'Crazy 88' from Kill Bill.
As for the auction lots:
'Nightmare City' and 'Manchester Morgue' are references to cult zombie movies and the 'artists' are the directors of said movies.
The 'Summerisle' painting is of course a reference to 'The Wicker Man' and the artist name is that of the girl whose disappearance is being investigated by the ill fated policeman in that movie.
Since my scenario contained an auction I also thought I'd use the Brass Head which featured in the old Cthulhu scenario 'The Auction' - which I had the pleasure of Keepering aeons back when it first came out for the game.
Of similar vintage is the reference to Cannich which I included in 'Mark McFadden's' bio. Astute / ancient readers will recall that Cannich is the seat of a Serpent Man cult in the 'Shadows of Yog-Sothoth' campaign……
Tcho-fu. When this was mentioned I of course immediately turned to the 'Tiger Transit' chapter in Countdown. The White Shadows, transportation of occult artifacts…..it seemed a credible way of having both the Tcho-Tcho and Serpent men linked in one scenario. But you will be the judge!
'23'. I've sprinkled the scenario liberally with references to the magic number. Hopefully it will have the players scratching their heads over its significance or lack thereof. And yes it is a blatant attempt to get the extra votes :)
'Serpent People'. Like I said, its for you all to judge whether including a Serpent Man possessed painting qualifies. It's the best I could come up with without turning it (I hope) into an utter Mythos Hoedown.
And that's all she wrote…….Thanks to Adam for organising again and I've certainly enjoyed reading the other entries.