Second String

About the Adventure

"Second String" is a light-hearted humorous GURPS fantasy adventure for five players. It takes three to four hours to run, and is perfect for conventions; we first ran it at U*Con. Besides the GURPS Basic Set, GURPS Magic and GURPS Bunnies & Burrows will also be helpful in running this adventure. Pregenerated PCs which are highly recommended for this adventure are included.

The Adventure in a Nutshell

Doktor Schrincker (not a real doctor, not even a wizard, just an alchemist) is a stereotypical villain. He does evil just for its own sake. This time, he has developed a shrinking potion, which shrinks people (and, strangely, their clothes as well) when ingested. He has shrunk Prince Kehndall, and is threatening to do the same to the rest of the royal family, then the entire kingdom, if he is not paid the entirety of the royal treasury. Actually, Schrincker really just wants to shrink people, and if he happens to get rich in the process, well so much the better!

Normally, the King would call in the Heroes of the Realm(tm) to stop Schrincker, but they're off killing a dragon or some other such nonsense. The PCs in this adventure play second stringers; characters who are almost heroic, and in some cases even almost competent, but perhaps will rise to the occasion. Then again, perhaps not. In any event, forced to settle on something less than the best, the PCs are called in to save the day... During the course of the adventure, they will journey through the desert, meet an unusual sphinx, meet Schrincker and his golem servants, be shrunk down to six inches tall, combat tiny woodland creatures who are now much larger than they, and perhaps, if they are lucky, survive all that to somehow defeat Schrincker and save the world.

Part One -- The Gathering

The PCs are gathered together by the King and presented with the 6 inch tall Prince Kehndal, who has been shrunken by the evil sorcerer, Doktor Schrincker, who is threatening to shrink all of the people in the kingdom if he is not given the entirety of the royal treasury (by two-thirty in the afternoon, next Thursday). Their mission: to confront the evil Schrincker, stop his nefarious plan, and restore Prince Kehndal to normal size. The only clue to where Schrincker might be is the location on the drop-off point for the ransom: one days journey into the northern desert. (A successful AK: Desert + 3 roll will allow a PC to recall that there is an oasis about a day's journey to the north.)

Assuming that the PCs accept the mission (or else the adventure is over real quick!) the King assigns his assistant, Mr. Smithe, to see to their needs for the journey. Mr. Smithe (and it is always Mr. Smithe) is a very proper gentleman, speaking with perfect diction and grammar. He will get the PCs anything they need, within reason, but will never say outright that he can get it for them, only that their request is "probable" or "possible". Within two hours of their requests, Mr. Smithe will have all of their equipment waiting at the north gate for them, all perfectly packed and ready to go.

Part Two -- The Journey

The desert is a dangerous place; well not really, but there is a lot of sand and a lot of sun. Traveling in the night is better, but if the PCs insist on traveling during the day, have them make Survival Desert rolls and let those who fail come down with heatstroke (lose 2 fatigue for every point the roll is missed by, which can be gained back by resting out of the sun and drinking water).

While in the desert, the PCs encounter a sphinx, who tells a really simple riddle: "What has four legs, a tail, and goes 'Moo'?" When the PCs answer it, the sphinx gets all upset because it never gets a chance to eat anybody because everybody always guesses his riddle. The sphinx will break down sobbing uncontrollably. The PCs can try to appease the sphinx by giving him a new riddle; the sphinx will promise anything to get a new riddle, but will conveniently forget all promises once he is placated and will go bounding off happily into the desert. (Should the PCs survive long enough to come back through the desert, have them encounter the sphinx again, who will this time ask them the new riddle that the PCs just gave to him. Repeat the same sobbing...)

Part Three -- Confronting Schrincker

Doktor Schrincker lives in a large tent on the oasis. His flesh golem bodyguards stand idly in a circle around the tent; if asked by the PCs, the golems will politely show them in to see Schrincker. The inside of the tent is quite opulent; Schrincker sits in a throne-like chair being fanned by a golem with a large palm branch, with his pet tigers sitting calmly on either side. Schrincker acts as though he is pleased to see the PCs and offers them fruit to eat and wine to drink. Both the food and wine are laced with a sleeping elixer; any PCs who choose not to eat or drink will be quickly overcome by the bodyguards. While unconscious, Schrincker gives them his shrinking elixir and deposits them in his garden.

Part Four -- The Garden of Doom

The PCs awake just outside of Schrincker's garden, with a note telling them that if they can make it to the other side, they can use the antidote they'll find there to return themselves to actual size. The PCs are now only six inches tall! Simulate this by keeping their normal stats but define them in GURPS Bunnies & Burrows terms! (If you don't have B&B, just wing it.) Fake the new distances by multiplying the real distances by a factor of ten or so. After fighting off giant creatures and crossing a stream (see the map and encounters below), they'll reach the other side of the garden and be presented with a puzzle: a box with two trap doors, each with a string attached. Opening one will give them the antidote, while the other releases poisonous tarantulas. They of course should choose the second string...

The Garden Encounters

The hedge surrounding the garden is six feet tall around the outside, and three feet tall for the part running down the middle. At their small size, the PCs can pass through the hedge, but their passage will be slow as they duck, climb, crawl and cut through the branches in their way. The garden is filled with beds of various flowers, and several dirt paths running here and there around the garden. The stream flows rather swiftly from west to east; it is five yards wide in real size, which is more like fifty yards at the PCs' present size. The PCs may want to build a raft of some sort from the grass and branches around the garden.
Numbered Encounters
  1. This is where the PCs awake, just north of the garden.

  2. Wasps (see p. BB92): 4 swarms of 12 each await inside this former rabbit hole; see page B143 for swarm rules.

  3. Ferret (see p. BB88): Hiding inside another vacant rabbit hole, it will wait for the PCs to walk past the opening then attack them from behind.

  4. Pike (see p. BB90): will attack any PCs swimming anywhere near it, and will bump the underside of any rafts to try to knock off anyone riding on one (a DX roll is required to stay on).

  5. Snapping Turtle (see p. BB92): Any potential prey unlucky to be in the water will find themselves being sucked under by the turtle, as per its special attack.

  6. Harrier (see p. BB88): Flies around and will swoop down on anyone out in the open.

  7. Box with tarantulas: if the PCs guess wrong, stats for the tarantulas can be found on p. BB91.

Part Five -- Stopping Schrincker

The PCs should be able to capture Schrincker easily, because he has sent all of his golem servants to the castle to take the place of the servants there and feed the royal family food tainted with the shrinking elixir. (Note: Schrincker always caries a vial of the shrinking antidote on him, so if the PCs shrink him with the elixir, he will chose an inopportune time and grow back to normal.) Madcap antics will ensue as the PCs rush back to the castle, only to discover that the antidote had a side effect: they all speak an entirely different language! So as they conveniently arrive just in time to save the day, they must shout gibberish and try to stop the royal family from ingesting the food while wrestling with the golems. Just as the PCs are about to fail, the Heroes of the Realm(tm) return, and stop the King from eating the tainted food.

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Rev. 6/95

Copyright 1994 David S. Carter. All Rights Reserved