Forgotten Futures VI

Wheels of Fear

A Melodramatic Espionage Adventure

by Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 1999, portions Copyright © 1991-98

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This is an adventure for a small group of characters who have contacts (preferably unofficial) with the British Secret Service, and an interest in protecting Queen (God bless her) and country from foreign foes.

Gavin Lyall's series of pre-WW1 spy novels, Spy's Honour, Flight From Honour and All Honourable Men, may be useful in setting the scene; the Secret Service described in this adventure is obviously considerably better organised than its equivalent in the "real" world...

No special skills or background are needed, although skills such as Linguist, Thief, Brawling and Stealth are often useful in an espionage game.

This adventure can be run in any campaign, or with a "theatrical company" team of the type described in the Worldbook. The Villain and Romantic Lead are NPCs, since there is little contact between these characters and the adventurers in the early stages of the scenario. FF3 includes two adventures with a secret service background set before the First World War, albeit in a world with very weird science, and this could easily be run as a prologue to them. A setting after 1896 is assumed; earlier than this the "red flag" locomotion laws still apply, and motorcycles and cars are limited to 4mph (2mph in towns) with a requirement to have a red flag carried in front of the vehicle.

For the benefit of foreign readers, Bank Holidays are a British institution, begun in 1871, in which all Banks, most other businesses, and all schools are closed for a day. Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter Monday are religious Bank Holidays; there are also secular holidays in Spring and August. In this period the August holiday is on the first Monday of the month. Bank Holidays are often the cue for fairs and other special events, such as the races described in this adventure.

In the best tradition of melodramatic fiction the prologue that follows should be read to players. Note that the characters know nothing of it as the scenario begins.


In the capital of a certain well-known European state a meeting of military, political, and economic leaders is in progress. Their conversation touches on many things; the future of Europe, recent wars in a dozen countries, and more. Finally Count Von B_____ grunts and says "Und now, I think, ve move on to item five; veakening the Britishers und their verdamned military. Colonel K________, you haff a report, I think?"

A monacled figure rises and opens a leather-bound folder. "As you know, there are concerns that our long-term plans for domination in Europe vill eventually bring us into conflict mit der British. Much of their military strength is based on their industry; they are likely to produce superior tonnage at sea for many years to come, although for now ve haff the advantage on land. Unfortunadely ve believe that in the event of war they vill soon out-produce us. It is essential that ve identify the most critical aspects of Britisher industry, vile ve are at peace, und find effery vay possible to damage them. Herr Doktor G_________, I believe you vish to comment?"

A corpulent figure in a business suit looks up from his notes. "Indeed. You may believe that the most crucial aspects of Britisher industry to attack are der shipbuilding und armaments industries, und heavy industry in general. You vould not be entirely correct. First, the Britishers are vell avare off the importance of these industries, and are alert for any attempt to damage them. Second, it is possible that light industry may eventually prove to be of equal or greater importance. All our experiments on airships und heavier than air flying machines suggest that small lightweight components, especially engines, vill be crucial to their success. Certain technologies and skills vill be needed; skills which may, perhaps, be removed from British industry by economic means. Chentlemen, I propose a new form of war, und a form that may even be profitable...."

Players' Information
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Two years later...

All of you are surprised to receive messages from Colonel S____ of the Secret Service, inviting you to a meeting at his club. It's months since you last had any contact with the shadowy world of espionage, and you're surprised that the Colonel needs your help again. It's a distasteful thought, but in these troubled times even Britain must surely employ more professional agents, who would be better suited to such activities.

"It's an odd situation" says the Colonel "and rather delicate. Not to put too fine a point on it, we've come across an agent of one of the Central European powers in a rather strange context. Chap called Otto Kronfeldt, he was spotted coming through customs with an American passport on Saturday, we were able to track his movements, a very round-about route to a little town called Loamford, the county seat for Loamshire. As far as we know he's still there. Of course he might have gone on to Loamport, there's a military dockyard there, or left Loamford by road, and I have agents looking into both possibilities, but I've an odd feeling he's still somewhere in the town. Which is strange because there's nothing there, or anywhere else in the immediate area, of military importance.

"Normally we'd get the police to find him, wheel the bounder in for questioning, then deport him, but it happens that their ruler is in Britain at the moment, with most of his family, staying with the Queen at Balmoral. A spy scandal would be... embarrassing. Officially there isn't much else we can do in Britain, which is why I thought that something less... umm... official might be a good idea. What I was hoping is that you might be able to pop up there and see if you can smoke him out, find out what he's up to, and quietly put a spoke in his wheel if necessary. Without involving the police, unless there's no alternative."

"Naturally we can pay any expenses, but apart from that you'd be on your own. And of course, if it should become necessary for you to take any... umm... forceful action the service would have to disavow all knowledge of your activities."

If the adventurers refuse the scenario ends; Colonel S____ apologises for wasting their time. Of course they will never be offered another mission, lose an extremely important contact, and will never find out what Kronfeldt was up to....

If the adventurers agree, the Colonel gives then a summary of the Service's file on Kronfeldt (below), a book containing a simple code that can be used to send telegraph messages to him. The address is The Anglo-American Sago Trading Association, "Angamsag London", and all of the codes refer in some way to sago. If the adventurers want weapons or equipment they will have to provide their own; the mission is entirely unofficial, and Colonel S____ can't risk giving them anything that might prove a Secret Service connection. He insists on taking back the file summary before they leave.

Kronfeldt Otto Kronfeldt
Height  5' 7"   Weight  10st 6lb   Medium build
Age             Approx. 38
Cranial index   Not known
Cephalic index  Not known
Bertillon index Not known
Known Aliases   Otto Kronenberg, Otto Kane, Oliver Kane
Active 18__ to 18__, France and Belgium, posing as agent for Dutch dredging machine company. Believed to have been involved in the assassination of Colonels V_____ and H_______ of the French army, and of Count J____ D_____ in Belgium, but was not suspected at the time. Also suspected of involvement in the sinking of the French submarine S_____ in 18__. Visited Ireland June 18__ and attempted to make contact with Fenian sympathisers; avoided arrest, mission believed a failure. Photographed by hidden camera, Dublin 18__.

He is known to be an expert shot, and has some familiarity with explosives and knives. His cover required considerable mechanical expertise. He does not appear to have any especial skill in disguise. He has been seen carrying (but not using) cameras, it is likely that he has photographic skills.

On Customs and Police watch list, all movements to be reported to the Service.

Entered Britain at Dover, Saturday July 25th 18__, travelling as Oliver Kane; traced to Loamford, current whereabouts unknown.

Referee's Information
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Kronfeldt has been sent to Britain to sabotage bicycle races that will be held in and around Loamford over the coming Bank Holiday weekend. He is doing so at the request of "Edward Dickens", a deep-cover agent masterminding the economic subversion discussed in the prologue. Dickens (real name Deitrich) is Managing Director of Baxter Chains, a rapidly expanding giant in the British bicycle industry, which is secretly funded to acquire a monopoly on the British cycle chain industry and degrade its production until there is no such thing as a quality British cycle chain. They are also expanding into other areas of cycle manufacture, but chains are the spearhead of the operation.

This may sound bizarre, but the cycle industry is at the forefront of British metallurgical technology, and the chains aren't just used in cycles, they are in motorcycles, in the timing mechanisms of most automobile engines, in the transmission of many smaller models, and are soon expected to become important in the engines and power trains of flying machines. They are also vital to the operation of many machines on the factory floor. Crippling this industry now could cripple the British war machine in a few years. Similarly the welding and tube-making techniques developed for cycles will become important in aircraft and airship design and many other aspects of military technology.

With effectively unlimited funds Baxter Chains has conducted several successful takeover bids against rival chain manufacturers, reducing the standard of their products once he has full control, and has even made a small profit. But now Dickens is trying to acquire or destroy Penrose Chains Ltd., a Loamford family concern that doesn't have shares traded on the stock exchange. Instead he has launched an advertising war, claiming that Penrose Chains are too expensive and that his company can undercut them on quality and price.

Penrose Chains Ltd. has responded by issuing a challenge, an offer to run a series of races between otherwise-identical machines equipped with Penrose and Baxter chains. After some hesitation Dickens has accepted. The races will be held in and around Loamford over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Naturally Dickens has no intention of playing fair; his team will be equipped with bicycles and chains far superior to anything the company normally produces; carefully disguised Penrose Supremes, the Acme of British racing chains. He also intends to sabotage the Penrose team, both the machines and their star riders, to ensure that there is no chance of a Penrose victory. Kronfeldt will do the dirty work; he is instructed to meet Dickens the night before the races begin, for final confirmation, then get to work. To avoid suspicion he will try to make the sabotage look like the work of gamblers, not a spy.

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The adventurers may want to do some shopping, and lay in essential equipment and weapons before they head for Loamshire; it's much easier to find the tools of the trade in London. If the adventurers want any piece of equipment it will be found automatically if it is an everyday legal item (this includes most firearms, just go to a gun shop and buy them); if the item is unusual Difficulty should be 2-4, if it is illegal Difficulty is 4-6. Use Thief or whatever skill seems most appropriate to locate such equipment and buy it on the black market without risking arrest. On a roll of 12 the police become involved, and fast talking or fast running are needed to get away.

If anyone wants to check out details of Loamford, they'll find that most of the information notable for its sheer dullness. Nothing particularly interesting ever seems to have happened there, there are no notable political or military personalities, and nothing whatever to explain why a foreign spy might be interested in the place. The entry that follows, from "About Britain", is typical.

...otherwise undistinguished village.

Loamford LOAMFORD (population 23,000): Loamshire's county seat, a country town on the River Loam, served by the London to Loamport railway and main roads to Birmingham and Bristol. Industries include quarrying, light engineering, brewing, textiles, freshwater fisheries and agriculture.
Architecturally the town is mediocre, notable mainly for several uninspired churches, the town hall (described by Ruskin as a "Gothic absurdity"), and the 15th century bridge and 17th century watermill, both painted by Constable towards the end of his career. More recently the Loamford Spire, a 75ft monument to Crimean war dead built on a rise outside the town, has been praised for its classically simple lines.
Accommodation is available, although not of especially high quality. Hostelries include the Station Hotel and Temperance Hotel and several inns of which the most comfortable are the Loamshire Arms and the Queen's Head.
The race course to the North of the town is home to the Loamshire 200 guineas, and other flat events. There are also facilities for athletics and cycle racing.

LOAMPORT (population 24,500): Seaport for the West Loamshire coast, with ferry services to Ireland and Belgium. Naval dockyard, industries include shipbuilding and repair, fisheries....

Nothing else that the adventurers can find in London will say much more.

Welcome To Loamford
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Unless the adventurers seem to be spending an extraordinary amount of time in London they should travel to Loamford on the Wednesday before August Bank Holiday weekend. The railway journey lasts an hour and is completely without incident; see Steam Pirates for much more about period railways if any information is needed.

One thing the adventurers should notice about the journey is that there are a lot of cyclists aboard the train; the guard's van is full of bicycles, and more cyclists board at every stop. Many of them seem to be carrying the same magazine, a garishly-coloured rag called Empire Cycle Weekly and Practical Moto-Cyclist, and chatting about cycle races.

For cyclists throughout Britain the high point of the week is Tuesday, when Empire Cycle Weekly is published. Every issue has a colour cover, got up regardless of cost, and deals with racing and other sports, road conditions, reviews and engravings of the latest models, and legal matters such as the continuing persecution of cyclists by the police in certain counties. Each issue also contains a host of advertisements for everything from the cycles themselves to special clothing for protection from dust and the most serious falls. Recently the magazine was merged with the publishers less successful Practical Moto-Cyclist, and a few pages are now devoted to coverage of electric, steam and petroleum moto-cycles, although cycle purists feel that this is going too far in the search for novelty, and regard them as little more than noisy toys.

If the adventurers get hold of a copy they'll find that the cover illustration is a picture of a beautiful woman riding a cycle, captioned "Penrose Versus Baxter: Beauty and the Beast?"; below the picture is a smaller caption, "Miss Penrose winning the Ladies 20 KM at Monaco". The editorial is a reasonably balanced summary of the situation:

"Many of our readers will have felt some satisfaction with the news that Penrose Chains Ltd. have challenged Baxter Chains to a series of races, to test the quality of their rival products. Both companies are, of course, well known; for many years the Penrose mark has been a familiar sign of quality, more recently an intensive advertising campaign has made Baxter Chains ubiquitous.

"It cannot be denied that Baxter's expansion programme, and absorption of several smaller companies, has led to a reduction of choice, but provided that all sizes remain available this is unlikely to cause problems for cyclists. But if quality is an issue, as has been claimed, there is cause for concern.

"In recent advertisements Baxter Chains claimed that their products are equal to the familiar Loamshire marque, and that Penrose chains are overpriced. Many cyclists are sceptical; no major events have been won by machines fitted with a Baxter chain or sprocket wheel, while Penrose chains are justly sold as "The Chain of Champions". But of course the Baxter chains are relatively new, and sportsmen generally prefer to stay with tried and tested products.

"While the situation might have been resolved by lengthy scientific tests, or gone to law, we applaud the solution Penrose Chains Ltd. has offered, and congratulate Baxter Chains on accepting this challenge. It is a thoroughly British answer.

"We hope that many of our readers will be able to travel to Loamford for the races; for those who cannot our reporters, photographers and artists will be there to capture the event, and full coverage should appear in a fortnight."

On the next pages are the schedule of events, maps of the course, etc.

August Bank Holiday Weekend

Loamford cycle races The events planned for the weekend will pit the Penrose and Baxter teams against each other in a series of races on a variety of courses. Each of the races will be run in three heats over the three days, beginning with sixteen riders (eight for each company) in the initial race, and eliminating the slower half of the field for the next race. Points for those who are not eliminated will be scored as follows

  1. Eight points for first place, seven for second, etc.
  2. Penalty two points for a breakdown not involving the chain etc.
  3. Penalty five points for a breakdown involving the chain or gears.
The courses (shown on the map) and distances selected will emphasise endurance and reliability, although speed is naturally also important. Officials will be supplied by the Cycling and Moto-Cycling Associations, and by this magazine.

There will be a reception for the teams and officials at Loamford Town Hall on Friday evening, 7-10 p.m.; admission by invitation only.

The track events will be run on the cycle track at the race course, a half-mile oval which has a new plywood surface and should give extremely fast performance. Women's races will be over 10 miles, men's over 15.

Women's Races                Men's Races
Saturday  9.00 a.m.          Saturday 10.00 a.m.
Sunday   10.00 a.m.          Sunday   11.00 a.m.
Monday    9.00 a.m.          Monday   10.00 a.m.
Penrose      Baxter          Penrose       Baxter
 1 G Penrose  2 Croft         1 Anderson    2 Neville
 3 Linton     4 Bell          3 Baker       4 Foster
 5 Tucker     6 A Brown       5 Nicklin     6 E Smith
 7 Edwards    8 J Smith       7 Gold        8 Ballard
 9 Jordan    10 Jones         9 Hatton     10 Cohen
11 Bell      12 R Cooper     11 Richards   12 Dickinson
13 Morris    14 Carter       13 S Cooper   14 Abel
15 Alder     16 N Smith      15 L Smith    16 Hall

The cross-country events will be run on a seven-mile circuit to the North of the town, designed to emphasise reliability and the strength of machine and rider:

  1. W from the Town Hall past the station to footpath (1 mile).
  2. W and uphill to the Loamford Spire (2 miles)
  3. NW from the Spire and downhill along another footpath (¾ mile)
  4. NE then NW through obstacle course (¼ mile).
  5. NE past pig farm to disused water mill (1½ miles)
  6. NW, cattle track and ford river (½ mile)
  7. SW through rough fields (½ mile)
  8. SW to town and back to start (1½ miles)
Cross-Country Races
Saturday 12.00 Noon
Sunday    1.00 p.m.
Monday   12.00 Noon
Penrose      Baxter
 1 Keeble     2 Robinson
 3 Wallace    4 D Green
 5 Lewis      6 Wilson
 7 Jeffries   8 A Smith
 9 Clancy    10 T Brown
11 Bisley    12 Henderson
13 Norris    14 Anderson
15 Phillips  16 McPhee

The road race and the moto-cycle race will be held on the same 15-mile "track", consisting of some of the best roads in the area.

  1. W from the Town Hall to the Bristol Road (1½ miles)
  2. SW from the junction to the entry to Gibson's Farm (3 miles)
  3. NE back up the road to checkpoint 2 (3 miles) then on past the Penrose factory and the paint factory to the old Smithy (3 miles)
  4. SW back down the road to checkpoint 2 (3 miles)
  5. E back to the town hall (1½ miles)
Note that on this course bicycles and moto-cycles will be travelling in both directions simultaneously; the rules of the road will be observed at all times, any rider seen causing an obstruction or riding on the right will be penalised.
Road Races                   Moto-Cycle Races
Saturday  2.00 p.m.          Saturday  4.00 p.m.
Sunday    3.00 p.m.          Sunday    5.00 p.m.
Monday    2.00 p.m.          Monday    4.00 p.m.
Penrose      Baxter          Penrose       Baxter
 1 James      2 R Smith       1 R Penrose   2 Morgan
 3 O'Malley   4 H Green       3 F Brown     4 Anthony
 5 Tucker     6 Gold          5 Oates       6 Collis
 7 Lord       8 Lippe         7 Chapman     8 Nettle
 9 Humphries 10 Hansen        9 Taylor     10 Wisby
11 De Vries  12 Oswald       11 Bloom      12 Fitton
13 Ronald    14 Peters       13 Donnelly   14 N Smith
15 Lipton    16 Trimble      15 T Smith    16 Gibson
This is the first time that Mr Penrose (younger brother of the Women's Cycle Champion) has participated in a moto-cycle event, and his performance will be watched with great interest.

Although it isn't stated in the magazine, the Penrose team consists of well-known amateur cyclists and a few unknowns, the Baxter team is mostly professional riders and a few semi-pros who race as amateurs but are heavily sponsored by Baxters. Any cycling fan can explain this to the adventurers.

There are also advertisements for hotels and restaurants in the area, and for the chains made by both companies. Baxters' advertisement is hard knocking copy, attacking "certain market leaders" for selling their chains at inflated prices; reading between the lines, it is obviously targeted at Penrose Chains Ltd. The Penrose advertisement shows a young lady on a bicycle, talking to a man who is busily trying to repair a broken chain; "Chain broken again? You really should have bought a Penrose, dear!". Underneath is the slogan "Penrose - The Chain of Champions", and an impressive list of races won by cycles using Penrose chains.

If the adventurers ask cycle fans, rather than reading the magazine, they'll be told that there are races all weekend at Loamford, and get a confused idea of the issues. Most of them support Penrose Chains against Baxters, whose aggressive tactics have caused the disappearance of several popular brands. Those who have used both strongly favour the Penrose product. A minority have been taken in by the Baxter claims, and genuinely believe that Penrose make exaggerated claims for the quality of their chains, and sell them at inflated prices, and will express this viewpoint. If the adventurers don't ask about the cycle races, don't tell them anything.

The cyclists mostly camp in fields around the route or at the side of the road outside the town, but also fill the town's hotels, pubs, and boarding houses.

If the adventurers happen to travel by motor car (they're available, but finding fuel outside the largest cities is still a major problem) they won't get a chance to talk to cyclists, but will see plenty as they near Loamford. Remind players that cars are still rare and VERY conspicuous; if the adventure is set before 1895 they must also be preceded by someone on foot carrying a red flag!

Looking For Mr. Kronfeldt
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When the adventurers arrive in Loamford they'll find that most of the hotels are close to full because of the cycle race. They should be forced to use at least two hotels, more if there is a larger party. At least one adventurer should end up staying in the Station Hotel. The Temperance Hotel is fully booked by the Baxter team, no rooms are available.

Kronfeldt isn't staying at a hotel; he has set up a base in a disused water mill (shown on both of the maps and mentioned in the description of the town) which contains his equipment and supplies. These include weapons, a bicycle, tools, food for several days, and a camp bed. He has set up one room as a kennel since he plans to steal Champion Thomas Fergusson IV, Miss Penrose's beloved dog, and threaten to kill him if she or her brother wins any race. His base is described in more detail in a later section. He has paid the receptionist of the Station Hotel a few shillings to let him have any messages or mail addressed to Oliver King, and drops in twice a day to check.

Finding him isn't unusually hard; he isn't good at disguise, and spends much of his time walking or riding around the town, playing tourist and studying the layout of the town. He pays extra attention to the cycle race routes and the headquarters of the Penrose team, some tents pitched near their factory (the Baxter team is based at the Temperance Hotel). He isn't expecting anyone to be looking for him, so makes no special effort to avoid being seen. However, he goes to a lot of trouble to avoid anyone seeing him enter or leave the old mill, and will pretend to be going somewhere else, and use all possible tricks of his trade to shake off pursuit, if he thinks anyone might be observing him.

Kronfeldt looks rather older than his photograph, and walks with the aid of a stick if he isn't on his bicycle; adventurers may guess it is a sword stick or an air rifle, but in fact it is simply a stick. He does have an outwardly identical air gun concealed in his base, modified for use in his sabotage plan, but doesn't plan to carry it before the race.

Kronfeldt should be spotted some time on Thursday, earlier if the adventurers say that they are making a special effort to look at everyone passing in the street. As a last resort one of the adventurers should be in the lobby of the hotel when he calls in to check for messages on Thursday evening, and notice that he has an accent that doesn't match the name he's using. Set this up so that the adventurers aren't able to follow him instantly; he'll leave by bicycle and they'll probably be on foot, which is a good starting point. Currently there are hundreds of cyclists in the town, and he will easily lose pursuers in the crowd if they aren't riding bicycles and close on his heels.

He will notice if he is followed or watched clumsily; have anyone doing so make a Detective or Stealth roll (whichever is greater) against Difficulty 5, any failure means that he is lost, on a roll of 11 Kronfeldt notices that someone is watching him and takes immediate steps to shake off pursuit. If he is aware that he is watched Difficulty rises to 8. On a 12 the adventurer's behaviour is so odd that it attracts the attention of the police, who think that he or she is up to no good and stop the adventurer for questioning; Kronfeldt disappears before the adventurer can get away.

The best way to get away is to be polite to the police and come up with a plausible explanation; any other course is likely to lead to a search and/or arrest. Explaining that the adventurers are working for the Secret Service is a bad idea; they have nothing to prove it, and Colonel S____ will not be pleased if they blow their cover; the Secret Service is supposed to be secret, and if the police know that the Service is active in the area they are likely to get in the way. They may also suspect Service involvement if Kronfeldt (or anyone else) is killed, or the adventurers have to break any other laws.

When Kronfeldt is spotted it may be necessary to remind adventurers that their mission is to find out what he's doing and why, not just arrest or kill him. Attempts to capture him for (illegal) interrogation should fail, if necessary because the police intervene. He won't carry anything incriminating until he's ready to start operations on Friday night. If he is interrogated he will lie fluently; he's on holiday, he's a businessman, he doesn't know anything about spies, etc. etc. He should escape (using a concealed lock pick or weapon that will somehow be overlooked), go to ground, and continue his sabotage campaign as inconspicuously as possible.

The Kronfeldt Agenda
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This section describes the actions that Krnonfeldt will take, and their results, if the adventurers do not intervene. Remember that unless they are very careful they will be spotted watching him sooner or later, and Kronfeldt will them be much more careful. He will also start to carry his gun.

On Friday morning Kronfeldt visits the hotel again and is given an envelope, containing an invitation to the Town Hall for the cycle race reception. Kronfeldt leaves, and should shake off pursuit without even noticing that the adventurers are following, if he isn't already aware that they are on his tail, vanishing until the evening.

Kronfeldt leaves his bicycle at the station on Friday evening and changes into evening dress in the station lavatory, arriving at the reception at 7.15 p.m. and mingling with an excited crowd of guests. The adventurers won't see him before he arrives unless they are watching the station. At 7.30 Lady Maureen Kincaid-Speller (see The Wages Of Sin) makes a short inane speech welcoming the "gallant contestants" to Loamshire, and introduces "My friend Miss Gloria Penrose, representing Penrose Chains Ltd., and Mr. Edward Dickens of Baxter Chains.". Dickens is an instantly-forgettable businessman. Miss Penrose is as attractive in the flesh as in her pictures, the finest bloom of English womanhood.

Miss Penrose is the first to speak. She looks around the room briefly, and says "I'm delighted to see so many familiar faces here. Many of you know me, or have raced with me, and I hope that we have always raced as friendly rivals. Similarly, my company and Baxter Chains are rivals; I hope that the races we run this weekend will help us to become friends." There is a strong round of applause.

If any of the adventurers has been generated as a Hero (see Heroes in the worldbook) and is not already attached to a Romantic Lead, he immediately feels a strong attraction to Miss Penrose. Any Heroines notice her handsome brother, sitting beside her on the stage, and feel an immediate attraction.

Looking slightly confused, Dickens comes to the stand: "Baxter Chains are pleased to participate in this event which will prove, once and for all, the superiority of our product. Thank you." This time the applause is much less audible, coming mostly from the Baxter team. Dickens looks around the room, as though memorising the faces of those who fail to clap, and leaves the platform. Anyone with the Linguist skill overcoming Dickens' Linguist [8] will realise that English isn't his native language; he has a slight guttural accent that suggests a central European origin. This alone should be enough to arouse the adventurers' suspicions ("I say - he's a bally foreigner"), but he does nothing obvious to confirm them.

As Dickens, Miss Penrose and her brother circulate they chat and shakes hands with many of the guests; Kronfeldt manoeuvres to speak with all three, offering them luck in the race. As he shakes hands with Dickens he is given a folded scrap of paper; adventurers making a MIND or Detective roll against Difficulty 6 (Difficulty 8 if Kronfeldt knows he is being observed) will notice it changing hands. Kronfeldt circulates for several more minutes before risking a look; the message is simply "proceed". After reading it he goes out on the terrace and uses it to light a cigarette from the candelabra, circulates for a few more minutes, then leaves.

Once outside he goes to Miss Penrose's carriage, which he already knows by sight, slips on lead-weighted gloves, and quietly knocks out the driver and takes the dog, leaving the driver unconscious in the back of the carriage with an envelope resting on his chest.

Kronfeldt carries the struggling dog away to his bicycle, which now has a wicker dog basket fixed to the rear carrier, and rides off into the night. He is riding with dimmed lights and making every possible attempt to avoid being spotted, and should again shake off any pursuit.

Meanwhile Gloria Penrose returns to the carriage and finds the note; it is hand-lettered in neat capitals and says:




In the early hours of the morning Kronfeldt visits the Penrose camp and sabotages several cycles; he pours acid onto the chains, puts grit into the oil cans, loosens spokes, loosens or over-tightens chains, and otherwise messes things up. He isn't seen. Some of the sabotage is spotted in the morning, some goes undetected.

As a result of this sabotage, and of the dognapping, the Penrose team gets 2nd place (Miss Penrose), 4th, 5th and 7th in the Women's track race, and 1st, 3rd, 6th and 8th in the Men's; the other Penrose entrants are eliminated. The Penrose team is penalised for a broken chain in the men's event; the Baxter team is not. With the points system used Penroses and Baxter tie on 18 points for the women's event, Penroses score 13 and Baxters 18 for the men's.

At eleven Kronfeldt cycles into town and mingles with the crowd at the Town Hall as the cyclists prepare for the cross-country event. He finds it easy to get close to the riders, and fires nails at the tyres of some of the Penrose cycles. This additional sabotage means that the Penrose team eventually places 3,4, and 7 in the event, with their other riders eliminated and two 2-point penalties for breakdowns, for 9 points, while Baxters score 23 for the other places less 7 points for a (genuine) chain fault and a puncture. This takes the total scores to Penrose 40, Baxters 52.

By the afternoon and the road race the Penrose riders and mechanics are fully aware of the sabotage, and making frantic attempts to repair the damage. They are also more careful about letting strangers near their machines. This means that the race is free of tampering; the score is Penrose in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 7th places, with the rest eliminated and no penalties for breakdowns on either side. Penrose score 27 and Baxters 9 for a total of Penrose 67, Baxters 61.

For the moto-cycle race the Penrose team fix most of Kronfeldt's sabotage, but miss the fact that he has put some sugar in the petrol. Nevertheless they place 1st, 4th, 7th and 8th, losing 6 points for non-chain breakdowns, for 10 points. Baxters have one non-chain breakdown giving a score of 18, and taking the cumulative score to Penrose 77, Baxters 79. The race officials are aware that there seems to have been some tampering with the Penrose machines, but can't prove anything against Baxters. Gamblers are suspected. The public don't know that Tommy is missing; if for any reason the adventurers don't know, give them a chance to find out (e.g., by overhearing a conversation between the Penrose twins). Remember that they will refer to him only as Tommy, eavesdroppers may get the idea that a child has been kidnapped if they don't know any better.

By now it should be clear what Kronfeldt is doing, and that he is working on behalf of the Baxter team. If he isn't stopped the Baxter team will be virtually unbeatable by the end of the following day, and the Penrose team will go down to a humiliating defeat on Monday. Baxters sales will boom, despite allegations of cheating, and within a month the Penrose family will sell out.

It's more likely that the adventurers will intervene before this point, so the later races are not described in detail.

To The Rescue!
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The adventurers need to find out what's happening before they stop it. Once they know that Kronfeldt expects mail at the Station Hotel it's easy to get a look at any post before he sees it; another bribe to the receptionist will suffice, or some form of deception might be used.

Tickets to the reception are only being issued by the Town Hall and the two chain manufacturers. There is nothing on the envelope or card to say who sent it; it was posted in a box near the hotel the previous evening. If the adventurers also want to attend the reception they can probably find some way to get tickets; possibilities include stealing them (from the manufacturers or town hall, or from someone who has been invited), or conning someone into giving them away. This won't be hard; for example, anyone posing as a member of the press or a bicycle manufacturer or distributor can probably get a few tickets for the asking. Credentials won't be checked. It's a formal event, and the guests will wear full evening dress. Anyone who doesn't will stand out from the crowd, a bad idea for representatives of the Secret Service. If a telegram is sent to Colonel S____ before noon he will be able to get hold of some invitations, which were given to one of his sporting clubs, and send them to Loamford in time for the reception.

Keeping Kronfeldt under observation at the reception should also be simple; there are so many people present that he won't easily distinguish watchers from the rest of the crowd. Spotting his rendezvous with Dickens will give the adventurers the next link in the chain; they will probably want to know more, but at least they will know who Kronfeldt is working for.

Once Kronfeldt leaves, however, he will be fully alert for pursuers, and following him undetected will be Difficulty 6 (8 if he is already aware that someone is on his trail). Difficulty also rises to 8 when he's near his base; remember that there are numerous alternate routes in the area, if he thinks he's being followed he'll slip onto a side road or a cattle track and double back to identify his pursuers, then lie low until they've gone.

Kronfeldt won't be detected sabotaging cycles at the factory unless the adventurers explicitly say that they are going there for the evening. He may be spotted amongst the crowd the following day, but with so many people around it will be difficult to catch him inconspicuously.

The adventurers may decide to take a look at the Baxter team, based at the temperance hotel; they have set up a workshop in the hotel stables, and anyone sneaking in for a closer look may notice that several chains are hanging on a line, smelling slightly of paint; they are Penrose racing chains, with black paint used to cover the green-enamelled Penrose logo (a P in a triangle) on every link. Similar chains are on the Baxter cycles. Note that there will be at least one watchman on duty, who must be evaded or defeated, more if Dickens has any reason to suspect the possibility of a search; use thugs from Adventure 1.

Proving that the Baxter team is using Penrose chains is enough to make them a laughing stock, but doesn't reveal the reasons for the deception; Baxters will lose most of their market share and eventually go out of business, but nobody will be aware of the long-term motives for the operation. Dickens will set out for revenge on the Penrose family before he is recalled to answer to his superiors.

The adventurers will probably go looking for Kronfeldt's base; one method is to follow him without being noticed, another is to put something smelly (such as aniseed) on his cycle or clothing, and use a dog to track him to his lair. If the adventurers are talking to the Penrose family, they will suggest Lady Maureen's dog Muffin (from Adventure 2), who is a good enough tracker to follow such a trail; Lady Maureen is, of course, an old friend of the Penrose family. The adventurers may also think of using Muffin to track Tommy's scent from the town hall to Kronfeldt's base; this should also work. More elaborate operations involving observation from a suitably high point (such as the town hall clock tower or the hill of the Loamford Spire, or even a balloon) should also work.

mill plan Kronfeldt's base is the upper floor of the old water mill; it looks derelict, and largely is, but he is camping out in the ruins. The ground floor entrance is choked with rubble and old timbers, carefully placed to look like the upper floor has completely collapsed but leaving room for a careful man to get from the stairs to an open space in the lower store room. The roof of the upper floor has partially collapsed, but the upper hall and mill room itself are intact. It can be reached by a bridge from the mill dam, now disused, which in turn can be reached from one of the foot paths North of the mill. The door to the bridge is padlocked, of course, with warning signs to keep out intruders, but Kronfeldt has replaced the lock with his own and made a small hole in the door, which lets him lock and unlock it from inside.

Kronfeldt has Tommy penned in a hamper in the lower store room, with some sacks piled around to muffle his barking. He keeps his bicycle and equipment in the upper hall, and sleeps in the machine room, the strongest remaining part of the building. If he is trapped he intends to throw oil lamps to start a fire, escape through a hatch above the machinery, leading to the loft, then climb down from the wrecked part of the building and get away on foot.

The confrontation between the adventurers and Kronfeldt should ideally end with the building in flames, Kronfeldt dead, and Tommy rescued; optionally Tommy should break out of his hamper in time to trip Kronfeldt and save one of the adventurers from his gun. Capturing Kronfeldt and questioning him about Dickens won't achieve anything useful; he'll deny any contact, other than shaking hands at the reception, and claim that he was sabotaging the race to win bets.

End Game
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If there is no sabotage on Sunday and Monday, but Tommy is still missing (because, for example, Kronfeldt is dead but his base has not been found), or Kronfeldt is stopped but Tommy isn't recovered until after Sunday's races, Baxters will win by a small margin on Monday; Tommy eventually digs his way out and returns home on Wednesday. The Penrose brand loses sales but retains enough of its market share to stay in business until Dickens comes up with a better plan, probably involving a fire at the Penrose factory, and finally drives them off the market.

If there is no sabotage and Tommy is recovered, the Penrose twins will lead their teams to near-total victory and Baxters will go down to a humiliating defeat; their market share will collapse, Penrose sales will boom, and Dickens will seek revenge, with the Penrose twins as his main target, if he hasn't also been stopped. Eventually he will be recalled in disgrace, and another industry will be targeted for the next attempt at economic subversion.

It's likely that the adventurers will seek a confrontation with Dickens, or try to find some way to incriminate him, before he has time to retaliate. Unlike Kronfeldt he has never been trained to resist interrogation; normal questioning still won't work, but attacks on his work (especially anything that makes Baxters a laughing-stock) will lead to an angry response, probably involving the use of thugs, and if he thinks that there are no credible witnesses he might say something indiscreet. A good way to achieve this would be to set up a meeting between Gloria Penrose and Dickens with the adventurers (and possibly the police if they are involved) eavesdropping on the conversation. Gloria will accuse Dickens of having Tommy stolen, Dickens will rant about the pettiness of the accusation; "Hah! Do you really think I would have your dog stolen just to win a race? Do you think I would do it just to gain control of your company? Your chains are nothing, compared my long-term goal, the destruction of Britain's light engineering industry..." etc. etc. Sooner or later he will try to strangle her, at which point Tommy will sink his teeth into his ankles and refuse to let go, and wise adventurers will rush in to help.

Ideally this ends with Dickens under arrest, destined for a long prison term for assault, and possibly with Gloria Penrose in a Hero's arms; less ideally, Dickens is arrested as a spy and deported, in which case he is free to bear a grudge and will probably be heard from again.

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This isn't an unusually dangerous adventure, and Bonus points should be allocated mainly for success in unravelling the mystery:

As usual points should also be awarded for good role playing, amusing the referee, and anything else that seems appropriate.

Further Adventures
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Even if Dickens was caught the Central European plot against British industry is probably continuing. The next dastardly scheme will probably be targeted elsewhere, and if the instigators have learned anything from Dickens' mistakes, it will probably be more or less legal. Flooding Britain with cheap high-quality goods is one possibility, another is the creation of a wholly artificial demand for some product which will use up British manufacturing capabilities without producing anything useful. Precision engineered yo-yos? Collectible mechanical toys? The possibilities are endless, and are a good excuse for some anachronistic fun.

Dickens will seek revenge. Perhaps he'll turn up the next time the adventurers are abroad; perhaps he'll pop up in Britain under another identity, this time trained as a Master of Disguise, and with an agenda involving the adventurers' death or dishonour.

Eventually there will be a war; if your campaign is set in a world where this scheme has succeeded, Britain may go into the war with inadequate skills and factories. This may be less damaging than Dickens and his superiors expect; many of Britain's worst weapons and aircraft in the real Great War were examples of misplaced mechanical ingenuity, ideas inherited from pre-war industries including bicycle and motor-cycle manufacture. Starting with a clean slate might actually lead to better ideas.

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More Melodrama!
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In this adventure the player characters are outsiders, coming to a town they don't know to investigate the situation and hopefully deal with it. An alternative, which should work well in a continuing melodramatic campaign, is to have the characters more intimately involved in the action as its principal actors. All are staying in the Station Hotel, which naturally has NPC staff and guests who may become involved in the story.

Suitable characters are Kronfeldt and Dickens, Gloria and Rupert Penfold, a detective (such as Thomas Fox from the second adventure), and possibly one or two other characters, each with their own agenda. For example

Put these characters together a day or two before the start of the races, and run the races etc. off-stage, with the plot revolving around their personalities and interactions.

Appendix: Cycles and Motor-Cycles
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This adventure is set at the end of the 19th century, the period when modern bicycles (generally called "safety bicycles", as opposed to the earlier penny-farthing "ordinary bicycles" were established as the most popular design, and the first commerically- produced motor cycles (often called moto-cycles) were entering service.

Exact models aren't important; it's too early for racing gears and other refinements, although cycle racing speeds of 25-35 MPH have been attained, while none of the commercial motor-cycles can manage more than 20-25 MPH on level ground.

Some bicycle models, all available throughout the period: Ariel, Britannia, Pope / Columbia (USA), Lawson, Raleigh, Rudge, Star, Triumph (and dozens of others).

Some motorcycle and motor-tricycle models: 1895 Pennignton, 1896 Leon Bollée Tricar, Wolseley tricycle, 1897 De Dion tricycle, Dion-Bouton "clip on" engine for bicycles, 1899 Raleigh motorcycle, 1901 Johnson, Indian 1902 Quadrant, Dreadnought, 1903 Rex, Rex Forecar, 1904 Ariel, 1908 Minerva, 1909 NSU, 1911 Royal Enfield V-twin, 1911 P & M, 1912 Rover, AKD Favourite, Triumph, 1913 Alldays & Onions, Douglas, Wilkinson, 1914 Alldays Matchless, Ariel, FN, Lea Francis, Flying Merkel, James V-twin, Rover, Triumph 4hp, BAT 7hp (steam-powered)