by Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 1999, portions Copyright © 1985-98
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Crime does not pay.
This adventure is designed for the "theatrical company" style of play described in the Recurring Roles section of the worldbook; pregenerated characters are provided, but for an ongoing campaign add appropriate skills to characters that are already in play. The "doubled" roles described in section 3.7 should also be used, if your players can handle it; this style of play must be explained carefully at the outset. The plot is largely driven by the motivations and secrets of the characters; in view of this the referee must be flexible and prepared to improvise rapidly if things seem to be going too far off track. Because the plot is largely driven by the decisions of players, the time required can be very variable; a minimum of three or four hours with some telescoping of game time by the referee, considerably longer if players want to explore the relationships described or expand on the charactarisation.
Conversion to a live action "freeform" game should be simple, and some notes on this are provided at the end of the adventure.
The use of Asides etc. should be encouraged, and players should be warned that they (as the audience) will soon know things that their characters are unaware of, and will have to remain unaware of for much of the game.
Setting The Scene
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This section summarises information known to all of the characters.
The setting is Aubrey House, a modest country house on the Cornish coast. It's about two miles from the nearest village and ten from the nearest town, and is occupied by members of the Pellew family and their servants and guests.
The head of the family is Professor John Pellew, a scientist currently working on the curative properties of radium rays. He is married to Norma; their oldest son, Captain Roderic Pellew, serves with the forces of the Raj in India, but is currently home on leave. Their other three children are dead, killed in a tragic fire ten years ago. After their death Norma turned to spiritualism, and holds a seance every year on the anniversary of their death. It will be the tenth anniversary this coming weekend.
The other members of the family are Colonel Tom Pellew, John's somewhat elderly and eccentric father, and Norma's cousin Avril Baxter, a former medical missionary. There is also little Tim, a foundling who was left on the doorstep five years ago and has been bought up as John and Norma's son. Recently they formally adopted him.
The remainder of the household consists of John's secretary Fox, Potter the butler, Sugden the cook, housemaids Agatha and Dorothy, Scoggins the nanny, Roderic's batman Gupta, and ten or so other servants of one sort or another (e.g. the gardener, the groom, the boot boy, more maids) who will not appear on stage in speaking roles.
There are currently only two guests; Lady Maureen Kincaid-Speller (of the Loamshire Kincaid-Spellers), and her aunt and chaperon Miss Rose Piper. Lady Maureen met Roderic aboard ship when they were returning from India, and it is generally believed that they have formed some sort of understanding, and that an engagement may be announced over the weekend.
It is now mid-morning on Thursday. The summer weather is fine, in fact somewhat over-warm; fans and parasols are much in evidence, and collars and stays would probably be loosened if it were not for the demands of decorum. Ladies occasionally feel faint (especially at dramatically appropriate moments) and dab themselves with cologne, and cold drinks and damp handkerchiefs are very popular.
The briefing that follows should be added if players are unfamiliar with this style of play:
This is an adventure in the style of a period melodrama, in which a relatively large number of characters are being played by a small cast. Accordingly, you (the actors) are playing at least two characters each, who will never appear "on stage" simultaneously. Remember that they do not share knowledge or goals, and that one character must be assumed to be busy doing something (such as sleeping, washing dishes or taking a bath) while the other is on stage. If for any reason a scene seems to require both characters to appear on stage, one of the two will be somewhere else where the audience (e.g. the other players) can't see or hear them; for example, Lady Maureen might talk to one of the housemaids through an open door or via a speaking tube, but only she (if anyone) can see the housemaid, and only her side of the conversation can be heard by the other players. If you want to make sure that the other players know which character you are playing, say "Enter (name of character)" as the character appears.
If one of your characters wishes to persuade the other to do something which goes against the character's nature, or wishes to do something to the other character, this should be negotiated with the referee while the characters are off-stage. However, all actions must occur on stage.
You are encouraged to stage quick-change scenes, in which one of your characters goes out of one door or behind a scren and another enters a few seconds later, and generally ham it up as much as possible. While the first character listed for each player is usually the more important role, both should be played to the full; in playtesting the secondary characters often got the best lines...
Note that it is impossible for any of the characters to notice that these double roles are in use, and that certain people never seem to be seen together, unless noticing would be dramatically appropriate.
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This section contains briefings for three or more players running doubled characters. The first three briefings must go to players, the other characters can be run as NPCs if there aren't enough players. If you don't want to use doubled characters, give each player the first character of each section only, with the second run as an NPC.
For a longer adventure with more attention given to the "below stairs" characters add plot elements from The Servant Problem, one of the adventure outlines.
Lady Maureen Kincaid-Speller (of the Loamshire Kincaid-Spellers - age 21)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Actor (musician esp. violin) , Artist (watercolours) , Brawling , Linguist (French, German, Italian, modern Greek) , Marksman , Riding , Scientist (botany and natural history) 
Equipment: Fashionable summer clothing, fan, opera glasses (useful for bird-watching), parasol, sketch pad, pencils and paints, violin, bow and arrows (in your trunk), Muffin (a poodle).
Quote: "Hello trees, hello flowers, what a wonderful day..."
Notes: You are the third daughter of an extremely good family, and have very little money in your own right (although your parents could probably scrape a modest dowry together if necessary). You have recently returned from a tour of Europe, intended to broaden your mind and possibly introduce you to some eligible bachelors; on the way home you met Captain Roderic Pellew, a handsome young Indian Army officer, whom you think you might possibly love, but you are inexperienced in such matters and not entirely sure.
You have accepted an invitation to visit his family home, accompanied by your aunt who is acting as chaperon.
You feel instinctively that it is a sad home, and would like to bring some joy into the lives of the family if you can. Your Marksman skill makes you moderately good at croquet, golf, and archery (although Aunt Rose is much better at the latter), but you have never fired a gun and don't think you'd like the bang. You play the violin quite well, but are very shy about performing for others.
Your goals are to make everyone happy and be completely sure of your own heart.
Role-Playing Hints: Think of the young Julie Andrews. Sing a tuneful melody, arrange flowers tastefully, be a sympathetic listener, play with Muffin and little Tim the foundling. But you must always be a lady, and you must never be alone with Roderic or any other man of marriageable age.
YOU ARE THE ROMANTIC LEAD! You are beautiful and charming, but useless in a fight. If kidnapped you batter prettily at your captors with ineffectual blows. If tied to a railway track you swoon or scream, rather than trying to wriggle free of your bonds. You tend to faint at the sight of blood, if threatened, if abducted, on the receipt of bad and/or good news, or for no readily apparent reason but at a dramatically appropriate moment. Fortunately there are advantages to this role, which may emerge in the course of play.
You are also playing
Agatha and Dorothy (The housemaids - ages 17, 19)
Captain Roderic Pellew DSO (Indian Army - age 23)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Actor (Disguise) , Brawling , Driving (carriage) , Marksman , Melee Weapons , Military Arms , Morse Code , Riding , Stealth , Thief 
Equipment: Service revolver, .303 rifle, ammunition, various souvenirs of your campaigns including knives and daggers, and a hideous bronze idol with a large green gem in its forehead, obviously far too big to be real. Disguise (see below).
Quote: "Fine fighter the Gurkha, brave as a lion..."
Notes: Everyone around you regards you as a hero, tall and handsome, home from the North-West Frontier for some well-earned leave. They couldn't be more wrong. You despise your entire family, and don't care if they are destroyed - provided you inherit.
Ten years ago, during the school holidays, you managed to set fire to the nursery and kill your appalling little brother and sisters. You somehow avoided suspicion, and have gone on to other crimes, latterly including the odd spot of murder, rape and pillage in Her Majesty's service. Unfortunately you never were good with money, and you are now several thousand pounds in debt. You could probably arrange a loan based on your expectations if you were the only heir, but your parents have officially adopted the foundling brat they took in a few years ago, and your father is the prudent sort who makes a new will for every new circumstance. You're sure that he will have left the little swine a good share of the family fortune, money that should rightfully be yours. That will have to be seen to...
Your goal is to eliminate little Tim without arousing any suspicion; if you could get rid of your parents and grandfather so much the better, but Tim is the main target of your plans.
On the way home from India you met Lady Maureen Kincaid-Speller; she's decorative and innocent, you think you could have a lot of fun corrupting her if you play your cards right. Trouble is she'd expect you to marry her, and at the moment you can't even afford a mistress. You've invited her to visit your family for a few days, if you pretend to be preoccupied with her it might make a useful cover for other activities. If she isn't willing, and your physical needs become too pressing, there's always the maids...
As well as the resources listed above, you are accompanied by your servant Gupta, a money-grubbing native who'd sell his mother for twenty rupees. You doubt he can be trusted to help you dispose of your family, but he might have his uses - as a scapegoat if nothing else.
Your Acting skill is used mainly to pretend that you are not the murderous Villain that you are - however, you have practised one special role. With the right clothes and a grey wig you can disguise yourself as the butler, Sylvester Potter. It won't fool anyone in a good light, or if you say more than a word or two, but by candle-light or in the dark you can probably get away with it. You have impersonated him successfully on several occasions.
Role-Playing Hints: A useful role model is a younger version of Terry Thomas (Monte Carlo Or Bust etc.) adding much more cruelty and a callous disregard for human life. You are not good with children.
YOU ARE THE VILLAIN! Like all melodramatic Villains you favour vastly over-complicated plans and "foolproof" death traps, and tend to underestimate the intelligence of your victims. You feel a strong urge to soliloquise about your evil genius or laugh with sinister intonations; provided that you do so as an Aside, nobody else on stage will know what you say. Remember that your Villainy must take place on stage, and in the full view of the audience (the other players), but the other characters won't see or know about it unless they are present, or find out about it some other way. It is probable that your plans will eventually fail - that's what melodramatic Villains are for - your role in this adventure is to fail with style.
You are also playing
Sylvester Potter (Drunken butler - age 55)
Thomas Fox (Secretary - A.K.A. Detective Constable Fox - age 24)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Actor (pianist) , Athlete (running) , Brawling , Business , Detective , Drive (carriage) , Marksman , Melee Weapons , Ride (Bicycle, Horse) , Stealth 
6 bonus points - may be used to improve dice rolls or for luck ONLY.
Equipment: Handcuffs, police uniform, etc. (usually in locked case in your bedroom), bicycle (in shed in kitchen garden).
Quote: (as secretary) "Should I end that 'yours sincerely' or 'yours faithfully'"
(as D.C. Fox) "I must inform you, sir, that I am a police officer"
Notes: You are a hard-working detective. Recently there have been several well-planned and violent country house robberies, and your superiors think that the gang spend several weeks reconnoitring before picking their target. The criminals seem to be moving towards Cornwall, so you have been assigned to keep watch at the largest mansion in the neighbourhood, Aubrey House, and report any suspicious strangers you see lurking in the vicinity. Fortunately the post of secretary was vacant, and you can type and take shorthand. Naturally Professor Pellew knows who you are, but nobody else does. As part of your work you help look after the laboratory animals and with the Professor's experiments; his Radium Ray really does seem to speed healing, although it is still too early to try it on humans.
The most wonderful girl you have ever seen, Lady Maureen Kincaid-Speller, is currently staying here. Obviously she would never dream of looking at a lowly secretary, or a lowly Detective-Constable for that matter, and of course you can say nothing to reveal your true identity or feelings; in any case she does seem to like Captain Pellew.
Role-Playing Hints: Your meek mild-mannered exterior hides a man of action, and potentially of great passion. An excellent role model is Clark Kent (without the x-ray vision etc.). You ache for a chance to prove yourself to the police force and Lady Maureen.
YOU ARE THE HERO! You must never strike the first blow, fire the first shot, etc., unless you are escaping from captivity, have ten seconds to save the world from certain destruction, or have no alternative if you are to rescue the Romantic Lead or some other innocent. You may never harm a woman. If a fight begins, you will always use fists in preference to a weapon, a sword in preference to a gun, etc. You can knock out most foes with a single right hook. You will always be true to the woman you love, regardless of temptation, and are beginning to believe that she is Lady Maureen. You have a strong sense of duty to the Force and society in general.
You are also playing
Colonel Tom Pellew (Retired soldier - age 75)
Avril Baxter (Cousin of Norma Pellew - age 34)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Actress (juggler, magician, fake medium) , Artist (embroidery, knitting, etc.) , First Aid , Medium , Scholar (Geography, History, English) 
Equipment: Embroidery needles etc.
Quote: "Knit one, pearl three..."
Notes: Unknown to anyone else in the family, you are little Tim's mother. Twelve years ago you scandalised your own family by running off with a music hall memory man without the formality of marriage. They disinherited you, and when he died two years later you were too proud to beg them to take you back. Instead you developed your own act as a magician and juggler, with a side line as a fortune teller and fake medium. Nobody in the Pellew family knows this; to hide their shame your family told them that you were abroad as a nurse with a medical mission to Africa! There was a grain of truth in it, since you were training for this vocation before you met your first lover, and have always been good at first aid.
Your career (and a series of brief relationships) continued for another four years, but eventually you became pregnant and had to leave the stage. Tim's father deserted you as soon as he heard the news, and you have no wish to find him.
You were desperate, and knew your cousin had lost her children, so abandoned the child on their doorstep. Fortunately they took the boy in, and he is now living with them as their adopted son. But you couldn't bear the thought of staying away from him, and three years ago, following the death of your parents, found excuses to move in with the family where you can see him every day. You are even helping to teach him, poor Nanny Scoggins is a dear but she just can't cope.
You often wish that you could tell the truth, but little Tim is happy here, and the thought of revealing your shame as a Scarlet Woman is too much to bear. Also, saying anything would upset Norma and John, and that's the last thing you want. Naturally you would do anything to protect Tim, even risk your own life.
You are worried about your cousin's obsession with spiritualism, and have a plan to help her come to grips with the death of her children. At the next seance you intend to fake a trance and deliver a message which will reassure her that they are in heaven, but can't be completely happy until she stops grieving for them and blaming herself for their deaths. You don't like to lie to the people you love, but it will be better for them in the end. Just be careful not to say anything too specific, you don't know all the details of the fire and would hate to ruin everything by a mistake, and emphasise that it wasn't Norma's fault - but remember to call her "mummy"!
Role-Playing Hints: You are cheerful but don't talk much about your earlier life, if questions are asked you generally try to imply that something horrible happened in Africa that you don't want to discuss. Your dextrous hands are always busy with embroidery, knitting, etc. You treat Tim as though you are his aunt. You are still attractive, but would prefer to fend off any romantic involvements at present.
You are also playing
Nanny Scoggins (Tim's Nanny - age 35)
Professor John Pellew (Humanitarian scientist - age 44)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Business , Detective , Doctor , First Aid , Scientist (biology, physics) 
Equipment: A fully-equipped medical laboratory including chemicals and surgical tools, samples of radium salts, an experimental radium healing ray (the referee will decide how this works if you use it.)
Quote: "Now if we bathe the wound in radium rays for about thirty seconds..."
Notes: A preoccupied scientist who hopes to find the secret of rapid healing via radium rays. Your main income comes from the family fortune (founded on your grandfather's prize money; he was a naval Captain during the Napoleonic wars) and several medical patents. You have a medical degree but no longer practice, except in emergencies, you feel that you can do humanity more good by developing medical science. Your prototype ray seems to heal animal injuries quite well, but you are still checking its long-term effects and are nowhere near ready for human experiments.
You are disturbed by your wife's spiritualist interests - she is obsessed with contacting the ghosts of your younger children, Alan, Gwen, and David, killed in an accidental fire ten years ago - but can see no easy way to discuss the matter without distressing her. You had hoped that adopting young Tim would help, and he is a sweet enough child, but she still perseveres with her hopeless dream. Maybe you can persuade Avril to discourage her.
Thank goodness Roderic seems to be taking an interest in young ladies at last, it's one thing less to worry about, although how he hopes to support a wife is beyond you - he has always lived beyond his allowance, and you have heard that he may be in debt. At some stage you'll have to give him a little talk about the birds and the bees and fiscal responsibility.
Your secretary, Thomas Fox, is actually a policeman whose superiors believe that thieves may be planning to rob houses in the area. He has been assigned to look out for signs of criminal activity. He seems a nice enough young man, and can even type quite well. You give him as much free time as you can, provided he remembers to feed the guinea pigs and the rats and take care of your correspondence.
Role Playing Hints: A dedicated scientist, who neglects other matters in the search for medical knowledge. A useful model is Edward G. Robinson as Paul Ehrlich. You do not like to be disturbed while you are working, but try to spend a few hours a day with your family - when you remember.
You are also playing
Gupta (Captain Pellew's servant - Age 27)
Norma Pellew (John's Wife - age 42)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Actor (sing lullabies etc.) , Artist (flower arrangement) , Athlete (Tennis) , First Aid , Medium , Ride 
Quote: "...of course that was when the children were alive... (sob)"
Notes: Ten years ago this coming weekend your younger children Alan, Gwen, and David and their nurse died in a horrible nursery fire. Your eldest son Roderic escaped, as did the rest of the household, but you have never fully recovered from the fearful memory of that night, and you will always blame yourself for leaving a candle in their bedroom. You have turned to spiritualism and other religions, and have found some solace there, but would dearly love to hear from the children once more, to put their memories to rest. You lavish love and affection on little Tim the foundling, who is now your adopted child, but you are not sure that he will ever fully replace your lost children in your heart. You hold a seance every year in their memory; the next will be on Saturday night.
Your goals are firstly to see the children again, secondly to protect Tim at any cost.
You have been stealing small quantities of laudanum from your husband's surgery, which you take to help you sleep. Without it you suffer from insomnia, but occasionally you fear that this is a step on the slippery road to addiction.
Role-Playing Hints: Sad, wistful, and full of remorse. As a result of taking laudanum you occasionally suffer short mood swings, which leave you angry with the world and hating Tim, who can never replace your children. They never last more than a few minutes.
You are also playing
Mrs. Sugden (the cook - age 45)
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The goal of this adventure is for the principal characters to interact and reach a happy ending (for everyone except the evil Roderic, who will probably come to a very sticky end, but that's what Villains are for.) Ghosts may appear at the seance to satisfy Norma's longings and absolve her of blame for their death, Fox may get his burglars (and the girl) and prevent infanticide, Lady Maureen may find true love, John may perfect his ray and become reconciled with his wife (although not, alas, his son), and Avril might find the courage to admit she is Tim's mother, although this is not a particularly good idea. There should also be some surprises along the way...
Little Tim is unreasonably lucky; he is also being helped by the ghosts of his three dead cousins, who really are present and are determined to redeem Roderic by making him voluntarily give up his plans. Attempts to "eliminate" him may run into both obstacles; some suggestions on dramatically appropriate effects are provided in later sections.
Lady Maureen is also protected by her role as Romantic Lead; she cannot be killed, or even badly hurt, and every possible circumstance will combine to save her.
For the most part what follows describes the house (as a stage setting), its environs, various useful "props" (such as the radium ray and the idol) that might become important in play, and some NPCs and events that can be used to keep the plot moving. However, the plot should ideally be driven by the players, not the referee. Try to keep things moving and bring things to a head during and after the seance, but don't be afraid to abandon this scheme if the players have other ideas.
The Cast of Thousands
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This section describes the NPCs who will appear in this adventure. With the exception of little Tim and the ghosts, who are undoubtedly being played by child actors of astounding talent, a highly-trained animal star, and a guest appearance by a celebrity, think of them as the names in smaller type at the bottom of the programme.
|Keeping Tim Alive is actually
a lot simpler than it might seem; just don't give Roderic an even break.
Whatever he plans, however "foolproof" it might appear to be, will go horribly
wrong, preferably without immediately tipping everyone off to his murderous
activities. For example:|
The Scene of the Crime
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Because this is a melodrama, the precise layout of the house and surrounding area is unimportant; it consists simply of stage sets. All sets are built on the same plan, shown to the right, an oblong box that may be divided into two rooms separated by a wall. The numbers show doors, windows, or openings leading off the set. Not all sets have all the exits shown. Characters may enter and leave sets only by one or another of the entrances shown; the "audience" direction doesn't exist, or at least movement in that direction is impossible and unimaginable to the characters, although they may occasionally refer to off-stage locations while pointing in that direction! Despite the fact that this is a stage set, all walls should be treated as made of strong brick, stone, or whatever seems appropriate, since characters are part of the melodramatic "universe" and can't cut their way through the canvas or walk off into the audience; anyone who claims otherwise is obviously a dangerous lunatic. Anyone who actually tries this bloodies their nose on the wall that they have just walked into...
All areas of the house and surrounding grounds etc. are designed as variations on this plan. There is no need to enforce the routes shown if they are slowing play, but in a real melodrama continuity would usually be carefully planned. Note that some of the limitations of the routes shown are important; for example, it is impossible to get from the family bedrooms to the guest rooms without going through the hall or the servants' quarters, the only quick routes from the hall to the library are via the dining room or drawing room, etc. A plan of the house drawn from these links would look very odd; some liberties are taken to avoid exits on the audience side of the stage. If an exit isn't mentioned in the list below there is a blank wall there instead.
All lighting is via oil lamps or candles; gas hasn't yet reached this area, electric lighting isn't available. If oil lamps are dropped the oil can catch fire as a small pool of flames:
If anyone wants to hide in any room there is always at least one suitably sized and located cupboard or screen, or some other article of furniture to provide temporary concealment. Once someone is hiding they will not be discovered unless someone searches the room, someone else tries to find a hiding place in the room, or discovery is dramatically appropriate.
Note that any book, map, magazine etc. that might plausibly be found in a well-off British home in the late nineteenth century is here if it is dramatically appropriate that it is present. Books that are specifically here (the audience can see the spines) are the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Who's Who, a Baedeker railway guide, a dictionary, an atlas, and some bound copies of Punch and the Strand Magazine.
A bench to the right at the front of the stage bears a microscope and a strange assemblage of glowing crystals, wires, batteries, and lenses, Professor Pellew's Radium Healing Ray. The ray is typical of those described in the worldbook; a brief summary follows:
Healing rays help the body's natural healing processes. The treatment time (in
hours) is their Effect, attacking the Difficulty of the injury, any success
halves the recovery time; on a 12 the device burns out and treatment must be
stopped. Unfortunately there's a snag; the cumulative time of all
treatment within the last month also attacks the BODY of the
patient, with the following results:|
Whenever the ray is used both men wear thick leather aprons and gloves,
and dark goggles; an impressively bright cone of green light projects from one
end towards the wall between windows 3 and 4, where an upended leather couch is
fastened to the wall, with straps to hold the
motionless; there are also fittings to hold a small cage in the target area.
A large safe in front of (2), with its combination set to Roderic's birth date, contains four large ampoules of radium and £350 in slightly radioactive gold; John knows that radium is dangerous, but has no clear idea how dangerous it is:
The idol and gem are exactly what they appear to be; junk. However, the idol is weighted with a lump of lead, soldered into place, that conceals two .500 cartridge cases, each containing four flawless pearls the size of a marble, padded in cotton. Individually each pearl is worth about £250; as a set of eight they would be worth £2500 or more. Roderic and Gupta do not know that they are there; Roderic killed the idol's previous owner and stole it as a souvenir, and has come close to throwing it away on several occasions. Selling the pearls wouldn't come close to paying Roderic's debts.
Use the same layout, without the spears etc. and with appropriate replacement, for the Colonel and Avril if their rooms are needed; if John and Norma's bedroom must be shown the bed is a little larger but the decor is similarly dull.
Use the same general layout for rooms occupied by Aunt Rose and any other guests you may care to add.
Potter and Professor Pellew have the only keys to the wine cellar. There are racks of wine and a few kegs of spirits and beer, plus a chest containing silver plate for large gatherings, worth a few hundred pounds.
||Outside drawing room
Note that if Roderic goes here planning to drown Tim and wades out into the water carrying him, he will inevitably find the only patch of soft sand on the entire beach, sinking rapidly to chest depth. Tim will slip out of Roderic's hands at some point and run off, happily walking away across sand that Roderic sinks in. It should take several minutes for Roderic to get free.
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As already noted, the events of this scenario should mainly come from the players, not the referee. Each of the principal characters has some goals and plenty of motivation; there is one central event, the seance, which should bring matters to a head if things are not already proceeding to a climax, and some incidents which should be used to stir the pot if the pace seems to be slackening.
The most likely problem is that Roderic may be played over-cautiously. This is a demanding role which assumes that the character has a lot of misplaced drive and ambition, and will attempt to kill Tim regardless of the possibility of eventually falling under suspicion; anger at repeated silly failures should be one spur, some others are provided in the incidents below.
Lady Maureen may be too eager to fall into Roderic's arms (or Fox's arms); remind her that long courtships are customary, and that she must be completely sure of her heart. With luck the other mysteries will help to keep the romance plot on a low simmer, not a sudden boil, until the end.
Fox may concentrate too much on the burglars, and not enough on the other mysteries, or vice versa. He's a detective, so any mysterious activities should at least arouse his interest. Saving Tim and arresting the burglars should improve his standing with Lady Maureen immensely; neglecting either should lead to tragedy or an abject failure, with the burglars escaping with the family silver.
The seance is set for Saturday evening, the tenth anniversary of the death of the Pellews' younger children. Each player can have one character at the seance. If Lady Maureen is present she will be accompanied by Aunt Rose. Avril and Norma are committed to attend, each of the other players should decide which character (if any) will go along. There is nothing to compel anyone to attend. The most likely combination of characters is Lady Maureen and Rose, Fox, Avril, and Norma, with Roderic going about his evil deeds, John boycotting the seance, and Tom either present (but probably extremely sceptical) or asleep. If John and Tom are NPCs, Tom should attend but falls asleep before the ghosts appear.
The seance can be held anywhere in the house; the most likely location is the drawing room, and Norma will select it if she is run as an NPC. Another possibility is the old nursery where the children died (layout as the current nursery, but now used as an ironing room and laundry store). The room is set up with a table and cloth, trumpet, tambourine, oiuja board, candlabra, and enough chairs for all the participants.
If Avril is being run as an NPC she will wait several minutes after everyone joins hands before going into her fake trance. She moans slightly then falls back in her chair and says (in a childish voice): "Hello mummy, we're here", then tells Norma not to blame herself for the fire. "It wasn't your fault, mummy, it was an accident."
At this point (or at a comparable point if Avril is being run by a player), a pair of sparks rises from the candle flame (or appears from nowhere if the room is completely dark) and start to spin very slowly around a common axis, like light reflected in someone's eyes as they slowly turn their head. A voice breaks in, apparently without source:
|(a small boy's voice)||"He he! That wasn't us, mummy, that was cousin Avril."|
|(two more sparks appear)|
|(a little girl's voice)||"She was pretending."|
|(another pair of sparks appears)|
|"She wants you to be happy and stop worrying about us."|
|(girl)||"Well, she's right about that, but she shouldn't fib."|
|(older boy)||"Don't be rude, Gwen, I'm sure she meant it for the best."|
|(girl)||"Mummy, we're here and we love you. We're happy, and you must be too. We can't finish things while you blame yourself."|
|(older boy)||"Avril was right - it wasn't your fault. You didn't start the fire."|
|(girl)||"No, nor did poor old nurse. She's happy here too."|
|(little boy)||"Don't say too much, you know the rules."|
|(older boy)||"Look, we can't really say much. We just want you all to be happy and safe..."|
|(girl)||"But we have to tell you...|
|(young boy)||"No you can't, it isn't allowed..."|
|(older boy)||"They'll have to work it out for themselves..."|
|(all three)||"We've got to go. Goodbye!"|
The seance can go on for as long as the players like after this; nothing more will happen, unless someone fakes it. Discussion of exactly what was said, and its implications, can continue for some time, and if anyone was taking notes every possible interpretation will probably be examined. If Avril is an NPC she will admit that she was pretending at first, to set Norma's mind at ease; Norma, if an NPC, will forgive her. Anyone who knew the children around the time they died will be convinced that they were present. However, this should not stop anyone looking for speaking tubes, concealed phonographs, secret passages, and other trickery. Nothing will be found.
If Roderic decides to do something about Tim during the seance he should run into the burglars described above, a scene taking place just after the ghosts vanish, or into some other problem if the burglars have already been encountered. He'll be left, unconscious or bound, for discovery by one of the adventurers or a suitable NPC.
After the seance anyone who was present and awake can see and hear the ghosts, on a roll of SOUL or Medium versus Difficulty 6, with Difficulty dropping by 1 each time they are seen to a minimum of 2. Reduce Difficulty by 1-2 if the ghost is doing something obvious to attract attention, such as waving a piece of paper or tapping a table with a pencil. They will be seen as a faint transparent shadowy vision of a child, with the details little more than subtle variations in shade. They will not say what they want, except to call or beckon for help if Tim is in danger. Anyone who wasn't present at the seance must initially overcome Difficulty 8.
There are several possible groups of mysterious strangers in the vicinity, any of whom can be used to stir things up if the pace seems to be slackening.
They will break in at exactly the right moment to frustrate any nocturnal activities by Roderic, but will retreat after encountering him (and possibly Scoggins, who will be found bound and gagged if this happens in the nursery).
They should try again a night or two later, this time encountering resistance led by Fox, who should be the first person to hear them if he is on the alert. Ideally this ends with all of the burglars under arrest, and Fox revealed as the heroic policeman responsible. When Fox contacts his superiors he will be told to stay at the house until questioning is complete, in case the criminals are just the scouts for the larger gang that is allegedly in the area. If Fox hasn't been keeping a look-out for the burglars, they get in undetected and escape with the family silver.
A Shooting Accident
The Colonel is getting on, and his eyesight isn't as good as it should be. Sooner or later he will accidentally shoot someone or something he shouldn't. Muffin is probably the target of choice, taking a Flesh wound or Injury from the shotgun blast. Fox or John should quickly think of taking her for radium ray treatment, which will rapidly restore her health.
After this John will insist that the Colonel stops shooting, but the Colonel should not want to agree; Roderic may think of using this situation to shoot Tim and blame the Colonel for his death. But with the ghosts around it's likely that the gun will have a few little problems, like mud blocking the barrels, and Roderic should come away from this scene lightly singed by the gun backfiring.
Wrapping Things Up
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Ideally this adventure ends with Roderic stopped, the burglars arrested, and Lady Maureen and Fox in each other's arms. Fox should be the main beneficiary; if he handles the burglars efficiently he will be told that he is being promoted to Detective-Sergeant; the criminals he caught are the ringleaders and have given away the rest of the gang, and all of them have been rounded up. If he has also stopped Roderic without causing a public scandal he will receive a second promotion, to Detective-Inspector, within a few weeks.
This still leaves him as Lady Maureen's social inferior, and much too lowly to marry her. Aunt Rose has the solution; if he works really hard and is promoted several times he could become the Chief Constable within a couple of years, and that post is automatically accompanied by a knighthood. Some influence might help him, of course; has she mentioned that she went to school with the Home Secretary's wife...?
Roderic should be stopped; if he is stopped without a public scandal everyone benefits. His earlier crimes were committed as a child, or in India, and if he hasn't hurt anyone this time around the situation can be handled discreetly. There's a Doctor Freud in Vienna who is said to be achieving wonderful things in cases of sibling rivalry... This should follow a voluntary confession, perhaps bought on by the strain of successive failures. Remember that he is likely to be hurt by many of his failures; you can only be knocked out by burglars, half drowned in quicksand or blown up by an exploding shotgun so many times before you start to think that there are better things to do with your life.
It's more likely that Roderic will have to be stopped forcibly, with Fox and members of the family finally confronting him as he tries to murder Tim. Discreet hospitalisation gets him out of the way, although there is always the possibility of an escape and a sequel. If Roderic is actually killed more questions will be asked, and everyone (including Fox) will have to work out an explanation that doesn't shame the entire family.
There can be no entirely satisfactory solution for John and Norma, or for Avril; solving the mystery of the fire is a relief, of course, but discovering that Roderic was to blame is hardly good news. If Avril reveals her secret Norma is likely to feel worse, not better.
Once Roderic is stopped the ghosts appear for the last time; this time only Tim and Muffin can see them. Tim waves "Bye bye Alan, bye bye Gwen, bye bye David.", then says "They going home now. Come on Muffin, let's play..." and heads out to the garden.
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If you are using the "theatrical company" style of play all of the players should earn 2 bonus points if they ran one character who survived, 3 points if they ran two or more characters who survived.
Lady Maureen gets 3 extra bonus points if she preserved her honour, but only 1 if she was at any point engaged to Roderic. She loses 4 points if Roderic had his wicked way with her. She gains 3 if she ends the adventure engaged to Fox. Add 2 points if the housemaids were also played well.
Roderic gets 2 extra bonus points for successfully becoming engaged to Lady Maureen, 4 if he succeeded in seducing her, 2 for seducing anyone else, 2 for each attempt on Tim (whether or not it succeeds), and 4 for any member of the family killed (including Tim). Add 2 points if Potter was also played well.
Fox gains 2 points for arresting the burglars, 3 for stopping Roderic, 4 for becoming engaged to Lady Maureen. He loses 3 points if there was a public scandal about Roderic. Add 2 points if the Colonel was also played well.
Avril gains 3 points per occasion on which she rescues Tim, and loses 2 points if she admits the truth to Norma - it really isn't a good idea. She should gain 2-4 points for an exciting seance, and 2 points if Scoggins was played well.
Norma gains 3 points per rescue of Tim, and 4 points for forgiving Roderic once his evil is unmasked; this must be voluntary, not prompted by the referee. She should get 3 more points for playing Sugden in suitably comic style.
John also gains 3 points per rescue of Tim, 4 points for forgiving Roderic once his evil is unmasked. Add 2 points if Muffin (or anyone or anything else other than experimental animals) is successfully treated with the Radium Ray, and 1-3 points if Gupta was played well.
Points should also be given for playing in appropriately melodramatic style, and for all the usual reasons.
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The remote coastal setting is very useful for an adventure involving pirates, smugglers, or spies. Perhaps foreign coiners (counterfeiters) are planning to flood Britain with forged sovereigns minted in the caves along the coast, or modern wreckers plan to lure an ocean liner onto the rocks at the tip of the Cornish coast.
John's Radium Ray experiments could be a prelude to bigger things; perhaps he'll discover the secret of rejuvenation, or a way to raise the dead. And if Roderic has been killed his body might be the perfect sample to test new discoveries...
What really happened to Tim's father? Avril presumably knows who he is, could he be someone so powerful that none of the family would be safe if he learned that the boy existed?
Eventually Fox, now Sir Thomas Fox, will marry Lady Maureen. But she is a beautiful woman, and there are many jealous eyes on the couple. Perhaps some cunning villain (such as a reanimated or escaped Roderic) will decide to seek revenge on the honeymooners...
Appendix: Conversion To Freeform
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Converting this adventure to a freeform scenario should be relatively easy. There are detailed descriptions of six leading roles, less detailed notes for several more. The doubled roles are probably impractical for a live action game, as is the Villain's disguise, unless the players are quick change artists, but the secondary roles can easily be expanded by adding a few more subplots. There is a useful subplot in The Servant Problem, one of the adventure outlines, and more ideas are provided below:
The housemaids are both in love with Fox, and jealous of each other. Despite the fact that he has given them no encouragement they should vie for his affections. Both want to see the other fired, but must be careful to avoid discovery. For added complications one or both may have been seduced by Roderic, and just aware of pregnancy.
Sylvester Potter believes that he may be Tim's father, but has no real evidence. Now his doctor says that he is suffering from a serious long-term illness (not unrelated to sexual misconduct) which he must have had for many years. Any children he has fathered in that time will also carry the dread disease, one so shameful its very name is taboo. If Tim is his son the disease must be treated soon, before serious damage occurs. This also affects any marriage plans he may have.
Gupta is a member of the cult of Thugee, and is sworn to revenge on Roderic and all his family for his crimes in India. The idol in Roderic's room was looted from a Thugee temple, and must be purified with Roderic's blood at exactly the astrologically correct time - a time that may be curiously close to the start of the seance.
Nanny Scoggins is tired of playing doormat to Tim. Some time over the weekend she's going to snap, and start planning a little accident for him.
Tom Pellew is suffering from the onset of senile dementia, and has just decided that he is God. He isn't strident about it yet, but he soon will be, and he plans to smite anyone who fails to worship him with a thunderbolt delivered by his trusty shotgun.
Sugden is actually Typhoid Alice, a typhoid carrier who has an odd obsession with working with food. The police are on her trail, but she is determined to serve one last gourmet supper with everyone's favourite delicacies before they track her down.
Aunt Rose seems to spend a lot of time playing gooseberry and practising her archery. Could it be that she has some hidden agenda, such as secretly being an Amazon warrior sent out to recruit more women for the dying tribe? If so she will have some remarkably good armour and weapons concealed somewhere in her luggage, and any male who tries to harm any woman while she's around faces very serious problems. OK, this one is a little silly...
Tim is probably best be played by a suitably prepared adult. He's a foundling, small, agile, and can see supernatural creatures such as ghosts. Maybe he's a fairy changeling...
Finally, the Ghosts probably have more than one agenda in a large freeform game. Stopping Roderic is the good side of their plans, but maybe there is something more sinister behind it all. Who, or what, is stopping them from revealing the truth...?