Slow Boat to China

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Pages: 30

Author(s): Wolfgang Bauer

Artist(s): Stephanie McAlea, Richard Pace, Jonathan Wyke

Setting: Pulp Cthulhu, 1930s, on a ship

Appears in: Pulp Cthulhu: Two-Fisted Action and Adventure Against the Mythos

Campaign: (none)


A voyage from San Francisco to Shanghai promises rest and relaxation, but an evil intent on controlling powers from beyond ensures this trip will be anything but restful.


Spoilers - Keepers Eyes Only

Players should not read any further.


 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

A voyage from San Francisco to Shanghai promises rest and relaxation, but an evil intent on controlling powers from beyond ensures this trip will be anything but restful. A Crawling One seeks power to furnish its own selfish ends by devising and building a great summoning device to call down elder beings so it may control and possess their power. Two years ago in a fusion of science and ancient mysteries, its plans came together as it undertook a great work of occult engineering to construct an aetheric energy device, the Pipes of Leng, capable of summoning creatures and energies from beyond the stars through mechanical means. The device’s blueprints and some of its components were sent to distant Oregon, where a pipe organ company and a small electrical firm have worked in isolation and ignorance to construct the device. The Crawling One believes the device will grant access to divine energies equivalent to those of the Outer Gods, providing the wriggling sorcerer with a well of Mythos power unmatched on Earth.


Player Handouts:

  • Illustration: The Pipes of Leng
  • Ship Statistics (not presented as a handout, but resembles the sort of pamphlet or flyer used for publicity for the ship, it goes nicely with the acompanying map, and players might find it useful....)
  • Map: The SS President Coolidge (Map Key, Deck A)
  • Map: The SS President Coolidge (Lower Decks)
  • Timeline (for Keeper use)
  • Map: First and Third Class Lodgings
  • Handout: Slow Boat 1 (suicide note)
  • Sidebar: "The Book of Red Jade" (for Keeper use)
  • Illustration: The Final Test
  • Illustration: NPC Portraits



Tomes and Artifacts:

Campaigns / Scenarios:

  • (none)



List dedication, trivia, images, anything else of note.

  • Epigraph: I’d love to get you on a slow boat to China, All to myself alone. Get you to keep you in my arms evermore, Leave all your lovers (lovelies) weeping on the faraway shore. Out on the briny with the moon big and shiny, Melting your heart of stone. I’d love to get you On a slow boat to China, All to myself alone." —Frank Loesser, "On A Slow Boat To China"

Keeper Comments

Comments to Keepers about this scenario; Possibly how to run it successfully. Keep general DISCUSSION on the talk page.

According to the scenario's author:

This scenario takes place aboard a luxury cruise liner during 1931 but could easily be transported to a later date if desired, with some minor alteration by the Keeper. The heroes are onboard the ship for no particular reason and consequently, the scenario could take place whenever the heroes are traveling between continents.

Throughout the text, various ideas are presented for increasing the level of pulp this scenario can provide. The Keeper should consider such suggestions and include or reject them based on the preferred level of pulpiness of your games. There’s no reason at all, if you want a very high level of pulp, for the climax of the scenario to not see the ship filled with the walking dead, crazed tcho-tcho, and multiple Mythos monsters attacking the ship. Of course, for more restrained play, ignore such over-the-top antics and concentrate on the plot as written, adjusting as you see fit....

If the group is generating new characters for this scenario the best option, for ease of play, is probably to have them all have tickets for the same class of accommodation... [and] one investigator be a member of the ship’s crew is not recommended.

Setting: A luxury cruise liner on a voyage between San Francisco and Shanghai, December 5-19, 1931; the setting can be adjusted to some other date, and perhaps the destination changed, to suit a Keeper's purposes.

Sequel Plot Hooks: Should the Crawling One escape, it has contacts with a cult in China (Eight Fortunes Mutual Aid Society), which the scenario leaves open as a possible avenue of future adventure.