Strange Goings On at the Pherivar Awai Oasis


Diary extract 18th September 1894:  Pherivar Awai Oasis, Egypt. Something wasn’t right about the Old Kingdom exiled noble’s tomb we visited this afternoon. Whatever it was, it was troubling me for the rest of the day. I had noticed something subconsciously, something was very wrong about the tomb, not just its unusual construction or even the unusual hieroglyph that I sketched.  So I determined that I had to find out what it was. After dinner and the usual evening pleasantries, when everyone retired for the night, I convinced my compatriots to quietly slip away from the camp and return to the tomb under cover of darkness to look for clues. Together we would enter the mastaba and solve the mystery of Noveribrite, the scorpion inscribed where his name should be and of his strangely constructed tomb.”

The diary, kept in a neat hand with some sketches was found on the body of a Tuareg warrior killed by Egyptian police during a raid on Siwa Oasis.  It belonged to Professor Mildew Staines who disappeared in the Sand Sea on his 1884 expedition. 


Far out in the Sand Sea, west of the Nile lies the plateau of Hiundri, where the pharaohs of Egypt’s earliest dynasties sent the nobles that they exiled to die.  There they built lesser temples and tombs for themselves, their wives, ministers, generals, administrators, and other servitors. During the Victorian and Pulp eras, Characters might visit Cairo and the pyramids at Gizeh for a many reasons under various circumstances and then travel up the Nile.  Some might even catch the exploring bug and travel out into the sand sea.

Although archaeological teams and explorers still examined the ruins on the Gizeh plateau, many westerners in Cairo had other things to occupy their time: running the government, planning desert expeditions, administering the military, conducting trade. The pyramids held less of an allure beyond a simple sight-seeing excursion amidst more pressing business in Cairo.

Heroes, however, might travel far and wide in the desert looking for lost enter the ruins for a variety of reasons including treasure, fame and curiosity. They might pursue some criminal, smuggler, or arch villain into the maze of mastaba tombs, jumbled monoliths, and crumbled temples. Perhaps they seek the secret entrance to a labyrinth of subterranean passages and chambers rumoured to honeycomb the rock beneath every ruin.

To prepare for the action at Noveribrite’s tomb, the heroes have travelled to the site perhaps by aircraft while undertaking one of the missions above (tourism, investigation, pursuit). They leave their camp under cover of darkness to investigate more closely the strange sounds emanating from it.  They are searching the tomb for evidence of something out of the ordinary and keep the ruins under surveillance

Tomb Layout

The characters learned of the tomb’s design, decoration, and form during an earlier daylight visit, but can recall or review those details upon reaching the ruins again or consulting any notes they took.  As the characters discovered during their earlier excursion here, the tomb of Noveribrite is externally of the classical mastaba style: a blockhouse like structure.  Mastabas had a chapel entrance in one side and a filled pit leading to the subterranean sepulchre accessible from the roof.

The entrance of the mastaba consists of stone once well-cut but now pitted with age, sand, and the touch of many hands which is strange given its remote location. Numerous hands brushing the walls of the short passage inside have worn away many of the carvings of priests, animals, offering-bearers, and mourners while all are annotated by columns of relatively untouched hieroglyphics. Burning torches have covered the ceiling with sooty residue that obscures any decoration that once adorned it.  The entrance penetrates the otherwise solid stone monument until it reaches a small chapel. Lightly carved reliefs cover the wall surfaces with hieroglyphics and pictorial scenes: family members bringing gifts of food, drink, and incense; priests attending to the funeral services for Noveribrite; the man himself attending to his official duties counting cattle, baskets of grain, and slaves. A false door carved at the far end of the chamber stands above a low stone slab where priests and visitors once left offerings for the deceased.

A peculiar hole penetrates one of the side walls. The peephole leads a few feet into a small chamber called the serdab containing a statue of Noveribrite. A ventilation hole in the serdab ceiling allows a shaft of light to illuminate the figure, where the ancient Egyptians believed his soul resided after death.  The actual tomb chamber sits deep beneath the stone structure, accessible only through a rubble-filled shaft. Of course, during their previous daytime visit the characters didn’t investigate the shaft, as their main area of attraction was the decorated chapel and the serdab statue.

When the characters return to the tomb at night, give them a chance to observe anything out of the ordinary, particularly when compared to their earlier daytime visit.  These clues should lead them to discovering the secret of the tomb, which may vary. The characters pay their night time visit to the tomb just as people enter or exit the shaft and possibly betray its existence  

Bit of Cloth: One character notices an odd bit of cloth near the chapel entrance. It is old and dried, and extremely tattered. Successfully using an appropriate skill (particularly anything based in archaeology) reveals that it is of the type of linen in which the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead. The dun-coloured, crusty substance crumbling from it seems consistent with the materials used to bind and seal a wrapped mummy.

Debris: Behind the tomb structure, on the far side from the chapel entrance, one character finds a pile of rubble which appears to have been tossed down from the tomb’s roof.  The rocks and loose stones form a ramp one can climb to the tomb roof with moderate difficulty, but not without a decent amount of noise.

Sounds from Above: Those outside the tomb have a chance to hear occasional sounds emanating from the surrounding area: a clattering stone, footsteps shuffling on sand and rock, murmuring voices, squeaking. The moment the characters voice any concern or make an effort to investigate, the noises suddenly cease.

Pile of Rags: A character encounters a pile of mouldy rags nestled against the outer tomb wall. Upon closer examination, he suddenly discovers the rags camouflage what appears to be a mummy, one that springs to life and attacks the characters. Alternately, if the characters spend too much time milling about the tomb, the mummy hears them and ambles around the ruins to confront them. This creature may be a human member of the group using the tomb, or might be some lesser undead monstrosity resurrected by unholy means to serve as a sentry (a much more powerful adversary, but appropriate for characters with greater experience and abilities).

The Scorpion Tablet:  The tablet is actually a section of plaster fallen from the wall – translated it says;

The Lord Noveribrite offered great presents to the Dark One and praised him submitting all his treasures, all his slaves, all his lands, all his property, yea even all his wives and concubines and his own life to the will and command of the Dark One.  All that the Lord Noveribrite asked was vengeance upon the Pharaoh Nutankhmon.  The Dark One bestowed upon The Lord Noveribrite a great boon, the title and powers of Lord of the Scorpions. 

And such was this power that great and terrible was the vengeance he wrought upon the Pharaoh.  Thus it was that Lord of the Scorpions became the Eternal Servant of the Dark One, Sutekh by Name though all feared to say his name.

The Story

Depending on the scenario choose the tomb’s true purpose and the designs of those guarding it:

Tomb Robbers: Rival archaeologists, ambitious locals, or criminal treasure hunters seek to dig out the tomb shaft and plunder a heretofore untouched burial. While several work on the roof at night, excavating rocks and tossing them over the side, one other, disguised as the mummy, stands guard on the ground, ready to frighten and possibly assault anyone foolish enough to wander near the tomb after dark. The thieves have at their disposal tools like shovels, picks, and crowbars (plus plenty of rocks to toss down at characters climbing the tomb walls), but only the most sinister would have swords and sidearms. If the mummy ruse doesn’t scare curious characters off, the robbers know they won’t leave, and don’t risk an open, noisy fight that might bring the authorities. They’d rather come back to retrieve the treasure when things calm down, or allow the characters to continue the excavation and steal any artefacts from them later.

Underground Depository: Criminal elements are using the cleared shaft and subterranean tomb chamber to store goods of their own: contraband, treasure stolen from another tomb or a museum, weapons meant for a local insurrection, kidnapped hostages, stolen goods. A crazed murderer might even use it to store bodies from his hideous slayings in Cairo’s seedier districts where unwary people simply disappear in the dead of night. Once again the mummy serves as a sentry, and the characters return to the ruins just as the criminals are depositing or retrieving their goods.

Secret Entrance: A criminal organization, arch-villain, or secret society might use the tomb shaft as the concealed entrance to underground catacombs beneath the plateau. Beyond the cleared tomb shaft, where the burial chamber would rest, lies a trap and sentry-filled labyrinth of stone passages eventually leading to a hide-out, base of operations, cult temple, guarded treasury, or meeting place.

Giant Scorpion:  A giant scorpion guards the temple.  It is awakened by loud noise (D10 7+) or heavy vibration (D10 5+).  Melee +4, sting strike (D10 6+) poison Str +2.

 Scarabs:  Swarms of scarabs infest various areas of the temple and the surrounding ruins.  They are more annoying than dangerous.

Egypt 1884, archaeologists Dr Mildew Staines and his uncle Professor Avery Wiseman were searching for the lost tomb of Princess Isitnosandiye, the High Priestess of the god Sutekh.

The discovery of the Karnak Necropolis in 1886 led to his first contact with Imhotep, the entity also known as “The Dark One”, weighs heavily on the destiny of the British Empire. After his exchange with the voice from beyond the grave, Dr Mildew Staines became the first English “Hum-Natir” founding the Cult of Sutekh in 1887.

Egypt 1884, Dr Mildew Staines, and his father-in-law Professor Avery Wiseman, a famous archaeologist, were searching for the lost tomb of Princess Isitnosandiye, the High Priestess of the god Sutekh.  Extensive studies led them to Luxor at the time of the discovery of the Karnak Necropolis in 1886.  The Professor found an inscription that he kept secret and that led to his first contact with Yeraw Feertohmi, the entity also known as “The Dark One”.  The Professor founded the Cult of Sutekh in 1887.  After the professor found that he was the ideal medium for communicating with the voice from beyond the grave he took on the role of leader and Dr Mildew Staines became the first “Hum-Natir”.  The voice eventually sent Mioldew Staines, his wife, Souette Staines and the professor  into the desert to the Pherivar Awai Oasis.  There they discovered the temple and mastaba and killed all of their bearers and diggers on the orders of the Dark One.  Over time the Professor became more and more engrossed in the arcane studies and eventually made a pact with Sutekh to raise Princess Isitnosandiye from her tomb under her temple.  Sutekh would only tell him the location of the temple when the time of resurrection came.

The Cult of Sutekh is a union of Fanatical Cultists and Evil Supernatural Creatures – hell bent on locating the reincarnated spirit of Princess Isitnosandiye in Duat, the underworld realm of Osiris, reuniting her with her own body or that of a human host and returning her to her rightful place as High Priestess of the Religion of Sutekh.  There are few who are even aware of the Cult’s existence, and those who talk of it openly are quickly disposed of. The Cult of Sutekh relies on secrecy, and actively recruits its membership from the wealthy and the decadent – with promises of long life, even more wealth and power.  There are sects in many places throughout Egypt and some in the rest of the world.  The professor has become absorbed and spends most of his time in his robes meditating on his obsidian throne.

The Cult of Sutekh

Eternal:  An Eternal is an imposing creature, usually standing taller than a man.  These half-living, half-dead warrior priests have been reanimated for the sole purpose of providing a leader for each of the Cult of Sutekh sects.  Each sect is dedicated to the quest of resurrecting Princess Isitnosandiye and restoring her as High Priestess.  Sometimes an eternal can adopt a human form but this is rare and only of short duration.  They are spine chilling to regard.  Eternals usually unarmed though sometimes they use ancient weapons against mortals. 

The Lords of Death:  the senior, most powerful of the eternals who act as Sutekh’s representatives on earth preparing the way for the return of Sutekh himself.  Although they have considerable supernatural power they have little offensive power and need protection at all times especially when resting or in prayer (communing) with Sutekh.

Hum-Natir (Cult Leader):  These humans are charged with the day-to-day running of the sect and the resurrection and subsequent preservation of the Lords of Death and the Tomb Guardians.  They are the Mortal Leaders of the cult and it is to them that the humans of each sect look for guidance and leadership.  They may be armed with any weaponry available though they are not necessarily skilled in their use.  They are fine orators.

Mazoi (Bodyguard): They are descended from an ancient brotherhood of warriors dedicated to Sutekh.  They are the bodyguards of the Temple itself and of the Hum-Natir.  However, their principal task is the protection of the Eternal while he is at rest.  They Mazoi usually operate in pairs.  They are furious if not skilled fighters and use only ancient style weapons.

Acolytes: they make up the bulk of the membership of cult and may be male or female.  There are several grades of membership: Bearer, Reader, Cantor and Priest.  Female acolytes may also be Temple Dancers.  They may use any cult weapon.

Tomb Guardians:  Little more than mindless raised dead, the Tomb Guardians, are kept as an expendable force of foot soldiers and temple guards.  Although popular belief has them as bandage wrapped mummies in appearance they may be mummified animals, animated statues or even just empty husks.  They degenerate quickly and the Hum-Natir is kept busy maintaining the numbers. 

Sons of Set:  These creatures are the creation of the Dark Lord or the Lords of Death.  Half human, half beast creations, they are indefatigable fighters unaffected by the desert heat or thirst.  They favour ancient weapons.


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