Railcar City is the name given to the 2-3 spurs of track that lead off the main track on the construction side of Steamtown. This area is home to the several on-site high ranking officials, as well as the jail car and payroll car. At any given time there are half a dozen or more railcars inhabiting Railcar City. Besides the above, any official visitors that arrive by train also use this area. As of right now, the following cars are in Railcar City.
Spur #1 (closest to main track, starting at the end) Presop’s car and Boss Myers‘ car.
Yigfet’s car – Yigfet (CG Male gnome wizard 5/artificer 4) is a gnome wizard and artificer from Samsara. His car contains a small but well appointed chamber with a bed, desk, and sofa; the rest is devoted to his mobile workshop, complete with a small forge and bellows. Yigfet was brought here by Borys to help investigate the relationship between alligotonium and the demons that have been cropping up from time to time. His car is filled with a king’s ransom of the ore, and several unfinished magical items (made from alligotonium) are on the workbenches in various states of completion. He has nothing for sale and offers no services, although he does have knowledge of the strange material’s properties. [Showcased in an upcoming blog entry! – RT]
Spur #2 (between the other spurs
The PCs car, guest car, and jail car
PC’s car – If the PCs acquired the car as living quarters, it is here.
Guest car – This car has 2 separate cabins in it, each with its own external entrance. Guests or important specialists (such as alchemists or specialty engineers) are housed here when they are needed.
Jail car – The jail car is nothing more than a normal boxcar with several iron rungs bolted into the floor. Long term prisoners are not kept in Steamtown—they are either killed or banished, left to fend for themselves in the cold. However, the car is used to hold prisoners, either temporarily before the final punishment is meted out or for short sentences. They are bound in hand and foot shackles, secured to one of the iron rungs in the car. It requires a DC 35 Escape Artist or Strength check to break these bonds by pulling the rung from the wood.
Spur #3 (furthest from track, starting at end) Borys’ car [see his entry for more information], guard car, payroll car
Payroll car – This car is reinforced with iron bands and is made of extra thick wooden planks. At anytime, the payroll for the entire workforce is inside. Only the higher officials get paid in actual coin. Most get paid in company credit, which the quartermaster keeps track of in a logbook (kept inside this car when not in use). There is also a chest that contains 1,100 gp, 768 sp, and 10,000 cp. It is a DC 40 Break/Disable Device DC to get into the car.
Guard car – Four guard sergeants (LN Male human fighter 4) are in or near this car at all times. Their job is to watch both the payroll car (just ahead of them), and the next car down the line behind the guard car—the jail car.
Other than Borys, the residents of Railcar City tend to not socialize with the other parts of Steamtown (although the PCs are more than welcome to do so). For the normal worker in Steamtown—human, goblin or otherwise—Railcar City is off-limits. Unless they have specific business there, they are run off by the 4 guards who are in the guard car. If the adventurers wish to forge relationships or to meet with the residents of Steamtown, they are more than likely to do it outside of their Railcar City residence—Borys controls who is welcome and who is not, and he’s not about to consult the party on the matter.
Also, at any time, one of the guards keeps an eye on the PC’s car, and reports the comings and goings to Borys; a DC 20 Perception check reveals which guard is keeping tabs on the PC.
XP 1,600 CE persistent haunt (random broadsheets from the fortunetelling press[2% chance]) Caster Level 5th Notice Perception DC 30 (to catch the peripheral aura of transmutation magic) hp 22; Trigger reading the article about turning into a wereguten; Reset 1 week Effect When this haunt is triggered, the reader of the Steamtown Herald broadsheet must make a DC 17 Will save or become obsessed with information, doing everything they can to read as much as possible (from every available source) before finally resting to sleep.
When they awaken, their head is transformed into a printing press. Succumbing to the wereguten curse leaves them with a -3 penalty to AC, an inability to speak, and a -4 penalty to all Charisma checks (with the sole exception of Intimidation). While so afflicted, the target gains comprehend languages as a constant spell-like ability (CL 5th), and can print out as many mundane, non-magical pieces of writing as they like, without the need for paper or ink.
Removing the wereguten curse from a creature requires bathing them in holy water for 10 hours while within the area of a consecrate spell. If at any time the afflicted creature reads while undergoing this process, they must begin again from the beginning.
A DC 20 Knowledge (arcana) or Spellcraft check is recognizes how to reverse the effects and how the accursed haunt might be destroyed.
Destruction The most recent cursed broadsheet of the Steamtown Herald must be submerged in holy water and incinerated by flame. A new issue is pressed out every week, taking the magic out of the older editions and turning them into regular, inert mundane items.
Adventure Hook Every issue of the Steamtown Herald includes a small article about the strange wereguten curse, randomly afflicting folks from the city on the rails. PCs that make an investigation of it can find that those afflicted by the haunt are of the same type of blood used to print the press that week (mostly gnomes, elves, and humans) with a DC 22 Diplomacy check to gather information or DC 24 Knowledge (local) check.
As the crowd gathers for their nightly drinking, a light mist settles in amongst the patrons.
Type: magical; Perception DC 27; Disable Device DC 27
Trigger location; Reset repair
The mist only affects those that are drunk. Anyone who comes into contact with the mist after having a number of drinks equal to their Constitution modifier (minimum 1) must make a DC 13 Fortitude Save or lose 1 point of Con due to blood loss and gain the fatigued condition. If already fatigued, then the exhausted condition is gained instead. The mist can affect an area of up to 600 square feet.
The goblins that operate the fortunetelling press need blood in order for it to print its stories. Killing to get the blood would draw undue suspicion. Nobody, however, is going to give a second thought if heavy drinking from the night before leads to some lethargy the next morning. Usually the goblins have the leech mist trap rigged to trigger right at closing time as drunk patrons make their way to their tents. Once the blood is leeched by the mist, special vials hidden nearby collect the mist and distill the blood out of it. It can take several nights to collect enough blood to make a single printing run.
The party has a newspaper from the future, salvaged from the train wreck they discovered last week. Whether or not they act on the foreboding article within it , an PNE employee approaches the party and shows them the paper. The company man shows the adventurers an article on page 3, which has a picture of the group alongside an article entitled, “Laborers Repel Adventurers Returned from theGrave“.He gives the PCs a quick glance and says, “well, I see you’ve arrived. The Timerian wishes to speak with you—this is not optional. Follow me.”
He leads the party over to Rail City, and the personal car of Borys, opening the door and gesturing for them to enter. The rail car is sparsely furnished—a bulky file cabinet is secured to the back wall, behind a simple wooden desk with a single wooden chair in front of it. Borys sits behind the desk reading a sheaf of papers; he pauses for a moment and looks up at the party, unconcerned at the lack of seating or the PCs’ perceived discomfort.
“So, aren’t you supposed to be dead? I read it in the newspaper. This is a problem, yes?”
Borys explains that recently, they have found that one of the printing presses predicts the future, spitting out The Steamtown Herald once a week. At first whatever it printed came to pass but they tended to be minor stories—a murdered goblin here, or a worker death there. Lately however, they have been getting major.
“The stories being reported have been big enough to affect the construction schedule—this cannot happen. So they started acting on some of the stories, and although difficult, there were times when the foretold press did not come to pass, although it was clear that without interaction and foreknowledge, the event would have happened. I believe that you, by your mere presence here, averted your own deaths—with a little help from us, of course. I suppose you think that train crashed on its own?”
“Now to the business of why you are here; you’ve seen the latest headlines for next week?”
Borys shows the PCs a copy of the paper that they probably already have, reading, “Goblin Boxcar Explodes, Showering Steamtown with Rust Mites, Construction Halted.”
“We are well equipped to handle worker uprisings, even a goblin or orc raid. But rust mites? That would be devastating—devastating enough to derail this project. No pun intended, of course. Investigate this article, prevent it from happening, and there’s a 1,000 gold pieces in it for you.”
Borys can pay, too; his initial offer for averting the catastrophe can be bargained up to 10,000 gp with a progressive skill check.
Skill Check Diplomacy DC 20, DC 25, DC 30 Success The checks go until failed.
Each success raises the reward by 3,000 gp, so if all three checks are successful, the reward is 10,000 gp.
If the party accepts the job, Borys informs them that three days ago a boxcar went missing in the middle of the night from near the loading docks. The strange thing is that the cargo was unloaded and left on the ground near the location of the missing boxcar. Obviously there are few places to hide it, and even less to move it to—it has to be on or near the rails. If the party suggests that they search the rails with an engine, he tells the PCs that the engines are refusing to cooperate right now, suggesting instead that the adventurers follow the tracks to the east (the tracks were blocked to the west so it is unlikely that the boxcar was taken that way).
The Trains of Pradjna The trains of Pradjna run on allogotanium. [detailed later this month on Magic Item Monday – RT] Items associated with allogotanium, among other things, possess the chaotic essence of demons—as such, sometimes the items act quirky, malfunction, or just don’t work at times.
About 1/2 mile to the east of Steamtown, the party encounters the Goblin Rocket Car. Before the boxcar is visible, have the party make a DC 30 Perception check, or a DC 25 Knowledge (engineering) check. If they succeed, they notice that the tracks have begun to vibrate a little and they have 30 rounds before the railcar arrives—if not, they soon notice a railcar coming towards them on the rails at high speed, giving them 20 rounds to act before it arrives at their location.
Goblin Rocket Car The goblin rocket car is the stolen boxcar, measuring 50 ft. long by 10 ft. wide. It has been jury-rigged with several rockets and moves at a rate of 100 ft. per round. The doors are on each side, exactly in the middle, and the larger 8 foot sliders are closed.
6 orcs are positioned on the roof. Inside the boxcar, there are 10 large ceramic containers, each one holding a single fiendish rust mite swarm. When the goblin rocket car gets within 500 feet, one of the orcs hops down into the boxcar through an opening in the roof and opens the door. A DC 20 Perception check reveals that he has rolled a large ceramic container to the edge of the door, presumably getting ready to roll this out on the party as the car passes them.
The boxcar is rigged with several small explosive devices on each ceramic container. A fuse runs from each rocket on the outside to the cluster of bombs on each container. When the rockets expire, they light the fuses, causing the bombs to destroy the ceramic jars 4 rounds later, freeing the swarms. A DC 20 Perception check of the fuses reveals to the PC that they are rigged to light if removed. A DC 16 Disable Device check is required to keep them from lighting but of course, they can be easily severed, bypassing the problem.
The party has several options here.
They can block the track somehow in an attempt to derail the train, for which a DC 50 Knowledge (engineering) check is sufficient. For each round spent preparing, a cumulative +1 circumstance bonus is applied to the check.
The tracks themselves can be destroyed. Each section of track has 80 hp and 20 hardness.
The track can be pulled away with a DC 23 Strength check, however, removing a section of track exposes the party to the effects of a frozen ore railroad spike.
Any of these methods causes the car to derail. The containers inside are pretty strong, so if it does derails, each container has only a 5% chance of breaking, freeing one of the rust mite swarms.
The PCs may also try to cause the car to crash by using something like a wall of force, wall of ice, or something similar. The GM should use their best judgement here—something very solid causes a crash, while something like a wall of fire or thorns does not.
If the car crashes, the chance of each container breaking rises to 15%.
If the players come up with something else, determine whether it is a derailment or a crash, and use the appropriate mechanics. In either case the orcs are killed and the fuses become detached from the rockets, immediately lighting them.
Another option is to board the boxcar as it passes. A successful DC 18 Acrobatics check lets the PCs board the goblin rocket car, hanging on to one of the sides. If they try to jump in the open door, the orcs attempt to stop them, adding +2 to the difficulty of the check. When the PCs board the goblin rocket car, there are 26 rounds before the it arrives on the outskirts of Steamtown and the rockets expire, lighting the fuses. 4 rounds after that, the boxcar is in the middle of Steamtown as the ceramic jars are destroyed.
Boarding PCs have to face the orcs. Fighting while holding on to the side of the car imparts a -4 penalty to attack rolls.
The adventurers can either climb in the open door or climb to the roof. Moving laterally along the side of the car requires a DC 15 Acrobatics check to move 10 feet, while climbing to the roof takes a DC 20 Climb check. The orcs interfere, however; each orc interfering with a character’s movement increases the difficulty of the Climb or Acrobatic check by 2. Failure means the PC falls from the boxcar, taking 3d6 points of damage and going prone.
Once inside the car (either through the roof or the door) the fuses can be removed or cut as described above. The orcs try their best to block access, using melee or bull rush on opponents near the door. The brake handle has been broken off inside the car—10 rounds and a DC 15 Knowledge (Engineering) check can fix them well enough to stop the goblin rocket car. If applied, the car comes to a complete halt in 5 rounds.
If any swarms were freed, they spend 3 rounds devouring the metal on the railcar, then they follow the adventurers. If the party’s metal is destroyed, they then begin to rust the track headed to Steamtown, destroying it at the rate of 5 feet per round.
When the players succeed in stopping the car, Borys happily pays them the agreed upon sum and sends a work crew to salvage the car. He offers them contract positions as part of his enforcer squad, complete with a caboose in Rail City as accommodations.
If they fail, however, they aren’t very welcome in Steamtown—they aren’t outright banned, but they are harassed by the workers and overcharged by the merchants.
Shortly after arriving back in town, Borys produces another headline: “Tense Standoff Between PNE Police and Workers as Strike Looms and Work Stops“.
Despite blizzards, demons, unruly orcs and goblins, murderers and thieves, sinkholes, scavengers, accidents, route changes, and a turnover in company management, the Pradjna Northern Express Railroad has finally reached its first milestone. One hundred fresh miles of track lead out of Brahman, headed towards the mineral-rich Samsara, all in the space of one year.
Borys explains that even though they are currently behind their two competitors, S&B (Samsara and Brahman), and UT (Union Tundra), PNE is feeling good about their position.”Even though we are many miles behind our competition, the landscape in front of us becomes easier for quite some time, while our competitors’ routes are going to take them through some nasty terrain. They are going to run into issues that they just aren’t prepared for. Plus, they are going to have to build some bridges now.”
Many are surprised at the progress made by PNE and expected them to fail. After all, it’s a race to build 300 miles of track, not to a finish line. The first company to successfully build 300 miles of track out of Brahman towards Samsara will be awarded the final contract—not only to finish building the railway, but also to run what should be a lucrative trade between the two cities, as the rich minerals found in the Samsara region make their way to market. Once the initial routes were assigned by lottery, PNE had drawn the short stick. Their route took them through the uneven, frozen rocky terrain directly west of Brahman. Filled with sinkholes and revolting goblin tribes, this was widely considered the most difficult route both for practical building and in terms of security. However, PNE seems to relish their underdog role and has met the challenge head-on, now only 15 miles behind as their competitors slow their pace while beginning to venture into more difficult terrain. At the same time, PNE is hitting its stride right as it reaches what looks to be an easy next 60 miles of level terrain, with few natural obstacles.
“We turned some of our misfortune into opportunity“, explain Borys. “Both S&B and UT rely on humans for their main workforce, while we use a workforce that includes several hundred goblins, orcs and even hobgoblins. With their brute strength, single-mindedness, and stamina, we can push these workers harder, for longer periods of time at lower cost. This gives us the ability to hire out exceptionally qualified humans and gnomes to serve as overseers and engineers, using the skill and knowledge that our races have.”
Still, for all the success PNE is enjoying, there appears to be a dark side to this story. Goblinoid deaths are high, and PNE has been accused of using heavy-handed tactics when dealing with worker problems. Steamtown, the company-run mobile town that the workers live in, is racially divided; swift and terrible punishment is the norm for the “lesser” races. The company allegedly uses traditional rivalries among the goblinoids as well to defocus their attention to workplace conditions. But—with Steamtown now 100 miles away from civilization—such accusations are hard to prove, and even harder to correct, as life on the tundra rails has its own system of justice.
PNE maintains that their working conditions are as safe as can be, given the circumstances, and that all workers are treated well and trained in safety procedures—but is it true?
There’s only one law in Steamtown, and that’s the company.
They have only one rule—keep working.
Now 100 miles away from Branham, Steamtown is a temporary, mobile town that provides living quarters, goods, and services for approximately 900 workers of the Pradjna Northern Express Railroad. Along with the laborers, there are approximately another 100 residents that offer goods and services to Steamtown’s residents.
The settlement is made up almost entirely of temporary buildings and tents, moving periodically as more track is laid—Steamtown is never more than 8-10 miles away from the end of the track. Most of the time, the bulk of it is on the south side of the track, with some support buildings on the northern side. Steamtown is very much the wild west; rule enforcement is quick and decisive, fights are common, and workers tend to get into trouble when they aren’t working. Racial tensions between the goblinoids and humans have also grown taut, and they are mostly kept separated, with only the humans and gnomes keeping positions of authority. Goblinoids who have come to escape their own tribes are quickly disillusioned and usually harbor great resentment—while they are technically not slaves, they are not treated well. Most of them have contracts that bind them into virtual slavery, as they would owe a monetary penalty for leaving early (which is never less than a year). Occasionally the leaving date is listed in the contract as a progress goal, replaced instead with clauses like, “after so many miles of rack has been laid”.
Warehouse and Loading Docks
A couple of spurs lead off the main tracks, running into loading docks on one side and several warehouses on the other; as goods are delivered, they are unloaded and stored here. One of the smaller building houses demolitions, and is always locked and well-guarded. Unlike most of Steamtown, these are generally clapboard buildings, not tents.
Another set of spurs leads off the main tracks to a large covered area where trains and equipment are repaired using a large, portable forge.
Just on the other side of the warehouses are where the 600+ goblinoids live in several rows of tents, jam-packed with goblins, orcs and hobgoblins. The tents themselves are not in good repair, and many do not have floors—most are drafty and leak. A vacant field separates the living quarters from a row of squalid latrines.
The tents for the humans (and gnomes, the 150 overseers and foremen) are less crowded and in much better repair than the goblinoids’, and their much cleaner latrines receive far better maintenance.
The center of Steamtown contains several tents where all kinds of goods and services are available, albeit at high prices. Just to the south is a ramshackle collection of marquees where the merchants live. Successful merchants have tents that rival nice houses, while others are little more than a lean-to in the mud—a few special traders are detailed below.
Elridge’s Magical Moving Pictures
Elridge (CG Male human wizard 5; +9 Diplomacy, +9 Sense Motive, +9 Bluff) uses a mix of props and illusions to create realistic scenes of the workers’ homelands. Laborers give a detailed description of what they want to see, and he prepares a show to that effect. His tent can seat up to 20 patrons, each paying 4 silvers to see the show (which generally lasts for about 10 minutes).
Unesco’s Curious Things
Unesco (CN Female gnome wizard 3) makes small items from scrap alligotonium [detailed later this month on Magic Item Monday! -MM]. These range from magical utensils to grooming devices, knick-knacks, and all kinds of miscellaneous trinkets—while generally useful, such items can often cause minor injuries and mishaps.
Gronk’s Kitchen Gronk (CN Male orc expert 1) specializes in preparing goblinoid food—the fare given by the company or at the saloon is rather limited for goblinoids otherwise. The orc chef exploits this gap in the marketplace with his expert care and large variety of strange cuisine.
This houses the foodstuffs and livestock that the company keeps on hand to feed the workers and company men; it is guarded at all times by at least four fighting men (Human fighter 2).
Common House Just to the west of the human housing are two very large tents, the bigger one for humans and gnomes, the smaller for goblinoids. These are the public areas for the workers and simultaneously act as a cafeteria, saloon, gathering hall, or church (and is used for any other function that requires a large space).
Company Housing/Buildings The housing here is mainly for the professional workers (almost exclusively human or gnome) and the enforcers (exclusively human and gnome). There are about 50 enforcers who double as guards for build and surveying expeditions, and about 50 surveyors, demolition experts, engineers, and other skilled employees needed to build the railroad. The building serves as offices as well; the pay and quartermasters do their calculations here alongside engineers and surveyors drawing up blueprints, enforcers reviewing security measures, and company official holding meetings.
Railtown Railtown is where the heads of the company stay, each in their own private railcar. There are three railcars that are here most of the time, while others come and go.
Also knows as “The Timerian”, Borys is the head of the enforcers. He is a short gnome with a nasty disposition who despises goblinoids and can be short with humans; he is the face of the company for the PCs [and star of an upcoming Statblock Sunday! – RT].
Presop Presop (CG Female gnome cleric 3; +10 Heal) has 2 railcars—one is her personal residence and the other is a small chapel. Presop serves as the only priestess in Steamtown and being well versed in human, elven, and gnomish pantheons, happily performs ceremonies for the residents. Goblinoids tend to either be left on their own or can come to a goblinoid-only gnomish ceremony; not surprisingly, few attend. She also serves as doctor and healer, though her magic is limited and generally only suffices for individual cases. The cleric quickly runs out of healing during a large accident, and usually heals humans, elves, and gnomes before tending to other races.
Boss Myers Boss Myers (LN Male human aristocrat 3) inhabits the most luxuriously appointed railcar. He is in charge of the overall project and is answerable to no one here; a board member of PNE, he has carte blanche to do whatever is needed to get the railroad built. Myers generally passes the burden along to Borys, giving the gnome free reign to enforce law throughout Steamtown—so long as progress is made, complaints about heavy-handed tactics fall on deaf ears.
LN Small town Corruption +3; Crime -2; Economy +3; Law -1; Lore +2; Society +0 Qualitiesindustrial, racially intolerant (non-humans, non-gnome) Danger+2
NOTABLE NPCS Boss Myers (LN male human aristocrat 3) Presop (CG female gnome cleric 3) Borys “The Timerian” (LN male gnome inquisitor 10)
MARKETPLACE Base Value 1,100 gp; Purchase Limit6,000 gp; Spellcasting 3rd Minor Items 2d4; Medium Items1d2; Major Items none
The price of goods increases as Steamtown moves; for every 300 miles, the prices increase another 100% of the base prices below (so at 900 miles, the prices would be 300% of what they are now).