Saturday, March 19, 2011

From the journal of Harrison Challenger

It is quite the mess I fear I've gotten us into. Things have been moving fast and nary a chance to lay pen to paper. But here appears to be the lay of the land. A Mrs. Roweena Preston approached us with a story of pirates murdering her husband and making off with his experimental cloudship. I have a keen ear for languages and was certain that she was not British, as she claimed, but instead perhaps German. But a fine adventure was afoot, and I am certainly not one to shy from that. So off my companions and I went on Captain Shoolo's cloudship-for-hire in search of said pirates in the highlands. We caught up with the scoundrel and apprehended him. My loyal Baraak and I had to stop (lethally) a few of his bodyguards, but we've been in many similar pickles in the past requiring such forcefulness. Captain Shoolo deftly dodged the pirates' pursuing ship and we did a bit of interrogating of our prisoner. Long story short, it turned out my suspicions were correct and the "Lady" Preston did no less than shove a revolver straight in my face! A fierce scuffle ensued and we managed to subdue her (while Baraak dealt, lethally, as is his way, with her maid servant). Our sponsor, Thurston Howell, is in a bad way, but survives. Meanwhile the ship awaits us, and I feel adventure's siren call. Now, down goes the pen and off we go!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Anturiaethau Cymro ar Fawrth

(An excerpt from Anturiaethau Cymro ar Fawrth: y llythyrau Dafydd Thomas (The Adventures of a Welshman on Mars: the letters of Dafydd Thomas, ed. Owain Thomas, trans Prof. Horace Percy Smythe-Bigglesworth, London, 1917)

Dear Nan;

How are you? Please send my love to Grandpa. Also, say hello to Hywel and Gareth and their kiddies. I hope my mother is alright and please keep checking on her like I know you do.

Things here on Mars have become more exciting. One day, some fool of a Midas
(ed. note - a Welsh colloquialism for Martian, based on the golden yellow skin of those first Martians to come to Earth) was jabbering at me in the street, so I clattered him. I was about to throw him into his stall and pelt him with his own vegetables, when a hand grasped my shoulder! I turned to see who was going to get hammered next, but to my surprise it was a very English gentleman. He told me that he wanted to hire me on as a bodyguard of sorts, as he had never seen anyone hit so hard. You should hear him talk, Nan, with all of his "chappies" and "pip-pips" and such he sounds a real english bastard, that's for sure. But his name is Hywel, so he must be one of those Welshmen that went to England with Henry Tewdr back in ancient times, like you told me about. But he is still a rich English bugger alright. So since I was getting on at the shipyard, I agreed.

After a day or so of lounging around and fighting whatever poor boyo got in me and Mr Hywel's way, we met up with a English explorer and his pet Midas, a real savage from the mountains. I am sure you have heard stories of the red indians but these mountain Martians are like nothing anyone has ever seen. They are real bloodthirsty buggers. Along with him was a young english army officer there for protection and I think to keep the mountain savage under control. There is also a doctor, and a guide - a woman, if you can believe it. Soon another lady came and Mr Hywel agreed to find her air-boat that her husband had lost. We had to chase a Martian pirate to a wild city and there the explorer, Mr. Challenger, killed two men in cold blood. I had run up to the pirate, and dropped him with only a few jabs and a hook, but I looked back and the Sais bastard had chopped two martians with a machete, and then we had to stop the savage from killing the pirate too, even though he was already out cold. I tell you Nan, it made my blood cold to see those men cut down like that. I have beaten many men, but have killed noone. Mr Hywel took care of the police, and he tells me that it was alright what happened, but I didn't like it.

But we had to get away quick, so we got away. Then we found that the lady who was with us was crossing us, and had hired the pirate. She was going to shoot Mr Challenger. Before we could grab her and her maid, the treacherous ship captain who we had hired spun the wheel, upsetting the ship. I almost fell overboard to the ground, and Mr Hywel got shot badly, also the guide, Miss Johnson. The young officer grabbed the lady and got the situation under control, but not before the Midas savage killed the maid, an Irish who I quite fancied. She didn't need to die either, but he would have eated her if Mr Challenger had let him.

So now I am in a right pickle. I think the ship captain is not on the level, and wanted some of us to fall overboard. I will see, but if he plays us false I will give him a sore jaw and that is for sure. The explorer and his pet are more a problem, they do not care about anyone and kill right easily. I thought the officer was there to protect them but now I think he is there to protect others from them. I will have to watch my back around them, but you know that God and my ten knuckles will see me through. I hope Mr Hywel will be alright, but now we have to get the boat back from the other pirates.

Love Thomas

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Black Bird

We have started a Savage Worlds Space:1889 Campaign. At the end of February we made characters and over the last couple weeks have started adventuring on Mars. A few of which you can find backgrounds for on this blog: Daffyd "y Gordd" Thomas, Thurston Howell I, and Lieutenant William Montgomery. The others include Dr Alexander Carstairs (Medical Doctor), Ruby Johnson (Guide), Harrison Challenger (Intrepid Explorer), Baraak (Beastly High Martian Savage), and Haarn Shoolo (Martian Cloudship Captain).

We have been playing The Black Bird by James L. Cambias, which was originally published in the Volume 4 of the Transmissions of the Royal Martian Geological Society (Players please refrain from reading these adventures!).

So far they have been approached by a Mrs. Rowena Preston, who recently arrived on Mars only to discover he husband murdered and his experimental cloudship stolen! The Group decided to help her out (as she promised a cut of whatever the cloudship could be sold for when recovered) and traced it to a pirate operating out of Kharkarham.

Shortly after their arrival in Kharkarham they spotted the pirate’s chip and followed the captain into town…

Some Sudanese fuzzies standing in for Martian extras until I get some more proper figures…

They managed to trap him in a dead end street and murdered his two guards and a bystander he’d hastily recruited to help against the alien Earthlings. Having rendered the captain unconscious they carted him off to their ship, bribing some local officials along the way (for the corpses left in the street).

Haarn Shoolo deftly evaded the pursuing pirate ship. During the group’s interrogation of the Pirate Captain they discovered (when Miss Johnson inquired how exactly a pirate from Karkarham even found out about such a vessel being built in Parhoon) he had actually been HIRED to steal the ship, but then double crossed his employer when he found the ship would be worth far more to him as a new pirate ship! Somehow they made the connection that “Mrs. Preston” may actually be the “Frau Gutenburg” he claimed hired him.

Challenger led the group down to her cabin to confront her only to find a pistol being shoved in his face and “Mrs. Preston’s” Irish maidservant, Rose, covering them with a double barreled shotgun! All were forced back up on deck where there was a bit of a stand off….

Haarn yanked the wheel of the ship throwing everybody off balance (and nearly throwing at least one character overboard – who had to benny his agility roll). It was enough to distract and throw Mrs. Preston and Rose off-balance and a confused melee ensued:

Melee on Halfbuilt model of Haarn Shoolo’s coudship…

The overconfident Thurston Howell jumped up on the guwale railing of the ship and raft afterwards to give Mrs. Preston a good whack with his walking stick – for his troubles she shot him square in the chest (four wounds – soaked only one!). Miss Johnson was also shot in the brawl, though she was only grazed on the arm. Rose was run through by the Baraak, the beastly High Martian savage, and ingloriously heaved over the side.

…and that’s pretty much where we left off.

You can read Thurson Howells letter to his mum about it or Lt. Mongomery’s letter to his dad about their escapades elsewhere on this blog.

Hopefully next week will be the stunning climax to this adventure!

Thurston's Letter to His Mother

To My Dearest Mother Lovelia,

You were certainly right about non-British women mummy.

I met a lovely lady, Ms. Roweena Preston who knew the Stevensons from Buttridge and many other common acquaintances. She had recently been widowed, not three days earlier! She begged for help recovering an experimental new Martian cloud ship of her husband's invention. This ship had been stolen, evidently by pirates, and her husband had been murdered during the attempt. Intrigue! Excitement!

Anyway, we got on rather well, and she swooned with gratefulness when I hired my own cloud ship and financed an expedition to pursue the thieving brigands. An adventurer, Mr. Harrison Challenger, and a Lieutenant William Montgomery of Manchester joined me, along with a Dr. Carstairs. Regarding Ms. Preston, this Mr Challenger felt he had to challenge 'er (ha ha, great pun, eh mummy?) as he suspected early on that she was perhaps not as British as she seemed. Something about her accent, though it sounded lovely to me - lilting and resonant like when you sing at bath time.

We travelled to a very distasteful Martian town, Karkarham, where we dispatched a few ne'er-do-wells and captured the pirate captain. His mongrel crew had the nerve to pursue us, but of course we evaded them, with the pirate tied securely to the mast of our ship.

Well, it turned that Mr Harrison was right about Ms Preston. It seems she was not Ms. Preston at all, but some German, name of Gutenburt or some such. I should have known that no self-respecting British lady would have a bloody Irish maid-servant! Anyway, this so-called lady actually shot me! With a gun mummy! I think I shall finally have a few fetching scars to show off. Anyway, we were on the cloud ship and I'd just done a really marvelous trick running along the railing (way up in the sky, mummy!) and jumped in behind to strike her (with the cane you'd given me. Remember it, with the sword inside?)

In the resulting fracas, the lieutenant helped subdue the German woman, and somebody tossed the Irish maid over the side. At the moment, things are calm again and I've got time to write this note over a well-deserved cup of tea. I expect we'll be heading to get the stolen ship back from the pirates next, after I get patched up a bit. Then I expect we'll turn the pirate and the German woman over to the authorities, and find an interested buyer for this new cloud ship technology. I wonder if that Edison fellow might be interested? I found him surprisingly bright for a colonist.

Wishing you all the best. I will post as often as possible.

All my love,


Williams Letter Home

Dear Father,

How are you and mother? I am well. We are currently in the area of Karkarham. We have learned that the Pirate captain Graasth of The Hawk has stolen the ship. We confronted him when he came into town, there was a scuffle and we ended up capturing him. When we were returning to Haarn's ship we were spotted by the crew of the Hawk. They pursued us but we managed to escape them. After interrogating Graasth we learned that he had been hired to steal the ship by a German woman. We then discreetly brought the widow Mrs. Preston up on deck and after she returned to her quarters Graasth said that it was her. I was not sure whether to believe him. I know he is a pirate but he was also being threatened by a High Martian, which would make many people cooperate. Mr. Challenger thought that if Mrs. Preston were actually German then she would react to him speaking her native language. He went to talk to her and ended up being forced at gunpoint back up onto the deck, where I was waiting with Haarn and the High Martian. After trying to convince Mrs. Preston to drop the gun, it turned into a fight. Regrettably I had to resort to restraining Mrs. Preston quite forcefully. We are now on our way to attack a pirate fortress and reclaim a prototype ship. If I weren't assigned to protect Mr. Challenger then I almost certainly wouldn't be in this situation. But then again, there will be many a chance to prove myself.

Your adventuring son,

Lieutenant William Montgomery

Lieutenant William Montgomery - Wild Card Officer of the British Army of Mars - Patrick

Ag d8, Sm d8, Sp d10, St d6, Vg d6,
Pace 6, Parry 6, Toughness 5
Skills: Fighting d10, Shooting d6, Notice d8, Stealth d6, Intimidate d6, Riding d4, Persuasion d8
Edges: Rank: Officer, Command
Hindrances: Loyal (To the Regiment and Crown) Obligation (Army, Mionr), code of Honour
Gear: Sabre (Str+d6), Pistol (Range: 5/10/20, ROF1, Damage: 2d6, AP: 1)
Languages: English, Koline, Parhooni, French

William Montgomery was born on February 10th, 1860 and is 29 in 1889. He was born in the booming borough of Manchester, England. His father is Thomas Montgomery, born March 12th, 1827 and is 62 in 1889. His mother, Elizabeth Montgomery nee Powell was born on April 7th, 1842 and is 47 in 1889. William was their fourth child but the first to survive past his second birthday.

In his childhood William was teased by other boys because his father could not afford the commission for the ranks that their fathers were. William knew that his father was as good of a soldier as their fathers but he never retaliated because he knew that it wouldn’t help him or his father.

William did not receive schooling other than Sunday school but he could read and write as well as the next person. His parents did not pay for him to attend a school because they were saving to buy him a commission; though even when they saved they would not be able to afford a rank of any prominence.

This made for a joyful day in the Montgomery household when they learned, in 1871, that the practice of paying for a commission had been abolished. This meant that rank was no longer based on how much money you had but how good of a soldier you were, and that William would have the opportunity to pursue higher ranks.

In 1872 William’s father Thomas volunteered to go to Mars and help establish a British colony. He has not been back to Earth since, but has had contact with Elizabeth and young William.

The money that had been saved for William’s commission was then used to pay for an enrolment at Sir Warren Picket’s Fencing School. William excelled under Sir Picket’s tutelage and in his fifth and final year of lessons, 1875, William placed second in Sabre fencing and fourth in both Epée and Foil fencing at national competitions. Even when William won a match by a great margin he would not gloat. This brought great honour to the Montgomery’s and gave William a reputation of being a gentleman. His foes respected him and he returned the favour. To this day he will give his opponent the option of surrender before fighting.

In 1876, the year after William’s success in fencing he started his military training. He attended the RMC and he graduated in 1878. William easily qualified for the free commission with some of the best marks in his class. In 1879 William and Elizabeth travelled to Mars to join Thomas. William managed to get a spot in The Parhoon Rifles, the same unit as his father.

Though Thomas had fought some minor skirmishes in the Gorovaangian War, neither father nor son fought in any major battles until the Second War of Parhoon Succession in 1880. Thomas was the Senior Officer in his unit at the time, the same one that William was the Junior Officer in. Their unit was assigned to capture and hold a small outpost outside of Syrtis Major. The task was a minor one but the garrison of Martians did not give up easily. The attack was going well but then Thomas, who was 53 at the time, was wounded. After checking to make sure his father was stable, William rallied the troops and they pushed onwards to reach their goal. Thomas retired from the because of his injuries. He retired on full pay because he had served for the required thirty years.

Thomas and Elizabeth are both very happy for and proud of William; they are now living in Parhoon.

After the dust settled in and around Syrtis Major, William was recognized for his resourcefulness and adaptability. He was personally assigned to protect the explorer Harrison Challenger by the Regent-Commissioner Sir Phillip Adelaide.
And so it begins….

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thurston Howell I

Thurston Howell I - Wild Card Nouveau-Riche Industrialist/Dilettante Traveller - Dave

Ag d4, Sm d8, Sp d10, St d6, Vg d8,
Pace 6, Parry 6 (7), Toughness 6
Skills: Fighting d8, Shooting d8, Notice d6, Stealth d4, Intimidate d12, Throwing d6, Riding d6, Gambling d6
Edges: Filthy Rich, Strong Willed, Snob
Hindrances: Stubborn, Jingoistic, Overconfident
Gear: Sword Cane (Str+d4), Revolver (Range: 5/10/20, ROF 1, Damage: 2d6, AP: 1)
Languages: English!

Matthew Howell, our hero's father, was a classic Industrial Revolution success story, turning his back-breaking beginnings on a coal shovel into a vast enterprise in the emerging steamship business. As a nouveau-riche industrialist, Matthew was very proud of his wealth, and celebrated it at every opportunity. His desire for the best of everything won him the hand of the very lovely Lovelia, whom he married in 1847.

On March 14, 1849, Matthew and Lovelia welcomed young Thurston Howell into the world at their estate outside London. The regrettably shallow Lovey showered little Thursty Kins with unconditional affection and praise. His messiest scribble was the greatest art; his shortest recitation was the noblest poetry; the simplest toss of a ball was the greatest athletic achievement. The proud Matthew showered little Thurston with whatever his heart desired, for no son of Matthew Howell would ever know want. This was not to be true for Matthew though, as little Thursty Kins became the center of Lovey's world, and she no longer had time or interest for Matthew. Needless to say, it got a little weird, and Thurston would remain an only child.

Thurston grew accustomed to getting his way, at home, at school, at everything he put his mind to. Thurston always seemed to end up on top - academically, athletically, and socially. He was actually quite smart and capable, but where that left off, blustering and bullying always seemed to get results. Little did he know that, at Lovelia's urging, daddy's very significant "donations" were an ever-present force, paving a very smooth path for little Thursty to tread. But, whatever the reasons, Thurston experienced unbelievable success in everything he put his mind to.

International travel on daddy's steamships exposed Thurston to many adventures, with Lovelia praising his every move, and well-paid servants working in the background to assure little Thursty Kins' success. Despite Lovelia's constant attention, an increasing series of uncomfortable incidents with strangers led to some slivers of self-doubt in young Thursty Kins minds, but Lovelia always wrote it off to "unreasonable and disrespectful foreigners" and Thurston quickly grew completely intolerant and unforgiving of anyone not of pure British stock.

In 1868, on a trip to America, Matthew's business connections found the family spending a few days outside Boston, as witnesses to Thomas Edison's launch of a prototype ether flyer. When the device's inaugural trip to the moon proved a success, Matthew Howell saw the opportunity and immediately made arrangements to finance further development. He also positioned his firm as the supplier of choice for the design and manufacture of the ether ships and for the complicated solar steam boilers that would be required.
The vast steamship enterprise of Matthew Howell would now extend into the conquest of space, adding millions of pounds to the Thurston family's already considerable wealth.

In 1882, the explosion of an experimental boiler tragically took the life of Matthew Howell, leaving Thurston the heir to the vast industrial empire. Lovelia scarcely seemed to notice her husband's death, and continued to dote on young (thirty-three year old) Thurston, who still lived at home. He had never had much luck with the ladies, and had not yet found a girl that Lovelia felt was a "suitable candidate."

In running the family's industrial empire, Thurston's bold and confident approach to business proved surprisingly effective, and he found that he could always get his way in the business world as well. (It seems that vast wealth, combined with stubborn, unwavering confidence, is surprisingly effective at convincing people to do what you want!)

In 1885, after three years at the helm, he decided one day to sell it all. Within a month, he had liquidated all the family business assets and tidied his affairs.

So, as we start our adventure, in 1889, forty-year old Thursty Kins has left his mother Lovelia at home, and has set out, full of unwavering confidence, to sample the mysteries of the world, the mysteries of women, and the mysteries of outer space. Surely nothing can stop him!

Daffyd "y Gordd" Thomas

The first of our new characters for a Space:1889 Campaign (which we we be playing occasionally -interspersed between Cthulhu and occasional East Front Adventures)

Daffyd "y Gordd" Thomas - Wild Card Pugilist - Chris

Ag d10, Sm d4, Sp d6, St d8, Vg d8,
Pace 6, Parry 7, Toughness 7
Skills: Fighting d10, Shooting d4, Notice d4, Stealth d6, Intimidate d6, Throwing d4, Repair d6, Streetwise d4, Climbing d6, Survival d4, Piloting d4, Boating d4
Edges: Brawny, Martial Arts, Pugilist,
Hindrances: Arrogant, Vengeful and Minor Enemy (the Farrellys)
Gear: Clothes, Knife (Range: 3/6/12, ROF1, Damage:Str+d4), Satchel, Bedroll, Sundry Items…
Languages: Welsh, English

Daffyd "y Gordd" Thomas is a deceptively thin, wiry man of average size, but he possesses unusual agility, strength, and stamina. Now working as a steam engine mechanic, Dafydd has a colourful past as a bare-knuckles boxer, and has never been truly defeated in the ring, due to his speed, heavy punches, and sheer unwillingness to admit defeat. He is very prideful, has a great belief in his own toughness and ability to overcome, and is quick to take offense to any perceived slight. If the situation permits, this will be redressed immediately by a barrage of punches, but Dafydd is willing to wait if heavily outnumbered, or if trouble with the police would be in the offing.

It is fair to say that there have been two major influences on the life of Dafydd Thomas. The first was his father, and the second the coal mine.

Dafydd was born in the northeastern Welsh coal mining village of Rhosllannerchrugog (Rhos) in on Jan 15 1863, the fourth child of Caradoc and Meredith Thomas. There were eight children, but only four survived past the age of three, all brothers. Like all the men in his family, Caradoc Thomas was and is a miner, and the older boys, Gareth (b. 1860), and Hywel (b. 1862), along with Dafydd, went to work in the mine when they were five, first working opening and closing ventilation doors 12 hours a day, then graduating to moving tubs of coal back from the coalface to collection points, then eventually to working the face itself with pick, shovel, and hammer. Caradoc was always a harsh father, ever quick with the fists whenever his wife or children fell out of line, to the point that relatives at several points attempted to remove Meredith and the children, to no avail. There was also muttered talk about the deaths of the other four Thomas children, but nothing was ever proven, and the rest of the immediate family never breathed a word.

The poor treatment at the hands of Caradoc intensified in 1870, when Hywel, Dafydd and the youngest brother, William (b.1865), were forced to attend school, which had became mandatory for children aged five to ten in that year. The loss of three wages in the family placed great stress on Caradoc, who responded by becoming even more of a drunk, and beating the children even more for trying to become "craff", or clever. This influenced Dafydd in several ways. First, he got good at taking a beating, even trying to fight back on occasion. Second, he spent as little time at home as possible, and thus spent a lot of time in the village getting into trouble and fighting with other youth. As well, watching his mother take repeated beatings has given him a low tolerance for those who threaten or strike a woman - Dafydd will always take such behaviour as an insult, and seek redress, although, paradoxically, he will deal swiftly and brutally with any woman who threatens or attacks him personally.

After only a year at school, Dafydd, now 10, went back to the mine, spending two years pushing coal tubs before moving to working the face. This has made him very strong for his size, although people often underestimate his strength and toughness due to his build and stature. One would think that his treatment at the hands of his father would have improved, but Dafydd's extracurricular activities (fighting, small scale theft, etc.) convinced Caradoc that his sons were sinners who would only be saved by having the devil beaten out of them. This all changed in 1880, when William, having left school in 1875, was killed in a mining accident. Daffydd was 17, and his brother's death convinced him that he had to escape the mine, his father, and Rhos itself. Already a feared local scrapper, Dafydd's opportunity came when a traveling fair visited the town. The fair included a boxing challenge, and Dafydd, egged on by his cronies, was unsurprised when he was able to defeat the professional pugilist. Taking his meager winnings, Dafydd decided to strike out for the big city (in this case Cardiff) and become a prize fighter. He enjoyed some success, developing his skills, and moved to London, where the boxing world is controlled by the criminal elements, but his unwillingness to cooperate and take a dive meant that he was never able to move up in the sport, nor make much money doing it.

In 1884 he decided to try and apprentice as a mechanic, which despite his age he was able to do for a year before he got in enough trouble to have to give it up and go back to the world of boxing, although he displayed a talent for it that was surprising given his lack of education and extremely limited upbringing. But he had had to call in a few favours in order to get the apprenticeship, and his return to boxing was with the understanding that he would cooperate with the 'fixers' when told to do so. Dafydd found himself under the thumb of John and Terence Farrelly, gangsters who controlled a tidy slice of South London and its criminal trade. He spent some time winning as the Farrellys groomed him as an "up and comer", but in early 1887 he was told he had to throw a match. He did it, but swore to himself afterward that he would never do so again. Saving his money, he had a friend bet on him in his next big match, which he was supposed to throw. He won, and, making a quick escape from the Farrellys and their enforcers, he decided to use the winnings to get out of London for a while - where better than a whole planet away?

Since then, he has been working as a screw boat mechanic in Syrtis Major, although this is starting to pale, and his quick temper and even quicker fists get him in increasing trouble. As well, he could have sworn that he saw a man by the name of William Davis outside the pub the other day. This is troubling, because the last time Dafydd saw William Davis, he was having a rather hurried conversation ringside with a certain Terence Farrelly. In short, he is looking for a change of pace and of scenery.