By Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 2005, portions Copyright © 1993-2002
Back to Characters and Rules
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The first release of these rules was originally converted to HTML by Stefan Matthias Aust, to whom many thanks.
This copy of the rules has been split into several separate files. A version consisting of a single large file is also provided. These documents should be accompanied by several files including larger versions of the game tables and a short summary of the main rules for the use of players.
SO far these rules have said a lot about rolling dice, but little about the real meat of a role playing game; the opportunity to take on a completely different personality in a world of the imagination. Since most scientific romances were written by Victorians and Edwardians, characters have a tendency to fall into stereotyped behaviour which isn't necessarily changed if they are set in the future. Here are a few of the principal elements of this behaviour:
People in inferior positions accept that they are underlings. They are happy to be employed; the idea of bettering their position, over and above promotion within their workplace, is somehow abhorrent. This attitude is especially prevalent amongst servants and others in intimate contact with their social "superiors". For examples see the roles played by Eric Sykes in "Monte Carlo Or Bust", Peter Falk in "The Great Race", and Gordon Jackson in "Upstairs, Downstairs".
In contradiction to the above, the Protestant Work Ethic is also very popular. This says that if you work hard, study, and save money you'll eventually reach the top. This is primarily an American ideal, but also very popular with the British middle classes and anyone else who wants to better himself. Unfortunately middle-class Britons know that however successful they may be, they will never be gentlemen...
Aristocrats are the cream of society; stern but caring, almost always wealthy and learned, always polite (especially to women and other inferiors), they are genuinely superior men, and even savages know them as such. Even if an aristocrat goes bad he remains a gentleman; if his crimes are discovered he will commit suicide rather than dishonour his family by standing trial.
Women unfortunately tend to be treated as inferiors, second class citizens who must be protected from physical and moral danger. An adventurous woman is VERY unusual, a cause for sensation and scandal. A woman exerting real authority is almost unheard of, despite the example of Queen Victoria, and suffragettes and other campaigners for women's rights are treated with great suspicion.
Chauvinism, in its original meaning, is rampant. People don't necessarily hate foreigners, but they do treat them as mental and moral inferiors. To quote a satirical treatment of this attitude, from H.M.S. Pinafore:
This disrespect for foreigners was true of most nations, especially Britain, while harsh treatment and exploitation of "savages" was typical wherever "civilised" nations were expanding into "primitive" lands; in India and Africa, the Middle East, North and South America, Australia, and the Pacific.
- For he might have been a Roosian,
- A French, or Turk, or Proosian,
Or perhaps Itali-an,
- But in spite of all temptations,
- To belong to other nations,
He remains an Englishman!
- For the true born Englishman!
Some things just aren't done. Chief amongst these is any detailed discussion of sex. Courtship is almost invariably chaperoned, any more intimate contact takes place as in this example:
* * * * *
The next morning there were kippers for breakfast....
Speech is usually fairly formal, and is of course always polite. Accents are stereotyped; in Britain members of the working classes always have lovable Cockney accents, or impenetrable country dialects, while the upper classes all have Oxford accents. Scotsmen say "Och aye", "The noo", and "Hoots mon", Welshmen "Look you" and "Boyo", Irish "Begorrah" and "Saints preserve us". America has its own stereotypes; Harvard accents for the upper classes, Brooklyn for the dregs. Only criminals and drunkards swear.
Finally, here are three examples of good and bad roleplaying in the context of these rules. Can you tell them apart?
"I say, old chap, can you direct me to the station?"
"Yo dude, where do I catch the iron horse?"
"Excuse me, my Lord, a gentleman from the police is at the door."
"Hey boss, it's the pigs."
"I'm afraid we're in a bit of a hurry. May we get by, please?"
"Out of the way, you ***ing scumbags, we're on a mission from God!"
BY now you should understand the rules. Take another look at the example of game play in the introduction, and try to imagine how you would handle things if you were a player or the referee.
This section is mainly intended for referees. It goes into more details on the running of games, backgrounds and NPCs, plotting, and the use of handouts and other aids. If you are already an experienced referee some of the concepts in this section will be old news; even so, you may find some new ideas.
Before play begins the referee needs to make a few decisions. The first is the choice of background. While each of the Forgotten Futures collections includes source material, there is no reason to feel compelled to use it. Maybe you have a better idea. For instance, several authors have set stories in worlds where the Confederacy won the American Civil War, or the war ended in a stalemate; the example of play in the introduction was set in such a world. Equally valid settings include the New York of the future, as described in 1920s pulp SF, London under the rule of Dracula and Queen Victoria (See Kim Newman's "Anno Dracula"), or Africa in a world conquered by H.G. Wells' Martians.
Players should understand the basic details of the game world: the nature of society (or at least how it appears to the characters), the way in which people are expected to behave, and important things that everyone would be aware of. How do people get to work? Do they NEED to work? If not, why not? Is money used? If not, what has replaced it? What gadgets do people use? What would they like to use? What do they like, hate, or fear?
While there's nothing to stop you giving players a long briefing, or copies of the source material, this can sometimes lead to information overload; players have too many facts to digest, and don't know where to begin. This type of briefing is reminiscent of the "balloon factory" sequence found in some of the less impressive scientific romances - if the world the book described revolved around balloon travel, there would be interminable descriptions of their construction, and of the nature of society as transformed by readily available balloons. Here's an example, set in a generic Communist Utopia:
'Ah, Comrade Reporter Langford, welcome to People's Synthetic Food Processing Plant 12B. Here we take sawdust and convert it to the finest synthetic protein...' [several pages of explanation omitted]It's more fun to establish these details in play. Tell the players about the world as they develop characters, then let characters loose in a non-threatening situation that shows them some more. Here Judy is the referee for a game set in Kipling's A.B.C. world (see FF1). The adventurers are on their way to stay at a country house:
'This is wonderful, Comrade Food Synthesis Manager Bell. Now, how does the operation of this plant fit into Comrade Glorious Leader Illingworth's five year socio-economic plan?' [several more pages of explanation omitted]
Judy The lane ahead is blocked by a surfacer, melting the road and rolling it smooth. You can see the white glare of heat under its safety covers, and smell the usual ozone. A workman with a red flag signals for you to stop. Bert I say, old chap, going to be long? Judy The workman spits towards the surfacer; the saliva sizzles into steam as it hits the road, then he says [uses appalling rural accent] "Arr, that be what I would loike to know. The trouble with these danged cheap country roads is that your molten rock turns to glass, and glass cracks as it cools. If he doesn't take it slow we'll have the whole danged job to do again in six months." He spits again, and looks gloomy. "Thing is, if he doesn't speed up a bit I'll be late for my tea." Bert But I've an important appointment, old chap. Can't you let me by? Judy [in rural voice] Well, I could, but your tyres would melt afore ye got onto the cool part of the road....
In this scene Judy wants to establish that the surfacer produces immense heat; it will be important later. She doesn't want to let the players know that the information is important. By presenting it in this way she gives the players the impression that this encounter has been used mainly to slow them. She's also mentioned the way that this setting feels to the characters; the noise and smell of the surfacer, and the light it produces, are more evidence of its vast controlled power.
If every scene appeals to two or three senses you'll find that players visualise events more clearly. This is usually good, but don't spend so long on scene setting that the players become impatient. Here's another example:
"A sombre plume of grey smoke rises sluggishly from the red brick chimney of the cottage, twisting and billowing over the slates as the breeze blows it towards you. The smoke has a strong aroma of firewood, probably cedar, but something else is added; the sickly miasma of burning flesh."As descriptions go this isn't bad, but it might be more appropriate in a Gothic novel. Paring it to its essential elements, we get something a little shorter:
"Grey smoke blows towards you from the cottage chimney; it smells of wood, but there's also the sweet aroma of burning meat."
Victorians, and to a lesser extent Edwardians, lived in an era when gadgetry was everywhere. No home was complete without knife grinders, elaborate folding tongs, magic lantern projectors, and other useful(?) devices. Although many important inventions date from this era, attics and old patent archives are full of "labour-saving" devices that can't readily be called useful; see FF IX for an article on the subject. Some were practical in their day, some virtually insane. Victorian gadgets are usually over-ornamented, bulky, and heavy. They are often designed with two or three extra functions over and above their main use. Power sources include compressed air (from bellows or pumps), hydraulic pressure, clockwork, coal gas, steam, electrostatic forces, batteries, and muscles. Components are usually made of brass, cast iron, leather, rubber, gutta-percha, whalebone, ivory, glass, or teak. This misplaced ingenuity sometimes found its way into scientific romances, and mentioning or describing these gadgets is often a good way to set the scene. For example:
"Grice-Charlesworth pumps the bellows, and the flywheel mounted above it begins to spin. A brass drive shaft with a couple of flexible joints runs up to an ivory handle which supports a rotating steel blade, a little like a miniature apple corer, mounted below a concave mirror. You can hear a thin hiss of air sucking back to the bellows through the blade. He squeezes the rubber bulb of the ether spray, and a thin jet of flame momentarily plays over the glittering surface of the steel. He smiles, and says 'At last, after all my work, the Little Wonder Nose Hair Cutter and Singer mark II (with razor grinder and anti-explosion device) is ready for testing! Which of you gentlemen would care to be the first to try it...?'"
One last point; a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words - when it's relevant. If you're an artist, consider sketching some of the scenes the players are likely to encounter, or use newspaper and magazine photographs. Maps and other plans are also very helpful. A word of warning; if you only prepare pictures of vital scenes, players will soon start to assume that nothing important is happening if they don't see a picture. A few extra pictures, produced to set the scene at less vital moments, can keep them guessing.
You'll find more examples of scene-setting in the Forgotten Futures adventures and worldbooks, and more on illustrations and handouts below.
Most people get up in the morning with a fair idea of likely events during the day ahead, and very rarely run into invading Martians, marauding dinosaurs, or deranged serial killers. It seems unlikely that anyone reading this has fought a gun battle on the wings of a biplane, or unravelled a sinister web of deceit to unmask the machinations of an ancient cult and a nameless evil from beyond the stars.
Life is different in a role playing game, and characters don't lead routine lives. They are adventurers, encountering excitement wherever they go. Sinister cultists kill victims on their doorsteps, or decide that an adventurer is the reincarnation of their god. Their airliner is the one that is hijacked, their spaceship the one that picks up a strange alien parasite. They suspect weirdness in the most mundane events, and are usually right. The snag is that the referee has to prepare all this for the players.
Sometimes plot elements are implicit in the game background. Let's take an example set in 1911, a decade after the War Of The Worlds was won by the wrong side. The Martians control the world, and are using their machines to exterminate humans, apart from a few survivors kept as food animals. There are still human enclaves, hiding places where a resistance organisation is gradually acquiring the tools needed to destroy the Martians. Think of a steam-powered version of the resistance organisation in the "Terminator" films. Here the staple plot will be commando-style raids on Martian bases, and attempts to destroy Martian war machines. The aliens aren't invulnerable; cunning booby traps might literally bring a machine to its knees. Long-term goals would be capture of Martian heat rays and other weapons, and discovery of a way to use them safely.
This is fine for one or two sessions, but it won't sustain a long campaign. You can only destroy so many tripods before the novelty wears off. Let's add another plot element; the Martians have implanted electrodes and transmitters in the brains of a few of their prisoners, and brainwashed them to wipe out knowledge of the implants. These spies have been allowed to "escape" to the resistance organisation, where they unconsciously report to the Martians. The Martians use the information to catch raiding parties; they prefer fresh-caught food, not the unhealthy blood of their ageing "cattle". The resistance base is allowed to exist, because the occupants are accomplishing little. The Martians know its exact location, but don't move in because it would cut off their most succulent food supply. Now raids will start to go wrong, and the adventurers may start to suspect a spy in their midst. Throw in more complications; a resistance commander who thinks that one of the adventurers is a spy - possibly correctly. An escapee who is behaving very strangely, but for a completely different reason. Sooner or later someone will realise that escapees knew something about every failed raid. Proving anything will be VERY difficult; the spies don't know that they are spies, and aren't doing anything unusual.
This simple example could be good for several evenings of play. By the time the spies have been dealt with another Martian ploy will be under way, or maybe the resistance leaders will have developed a new plan to destroy the invaders.
Campaigns without these implicit adventure backgrounds pose more difficulties. In an Utopia there is nothing obvious to drive the plot. This may mean that the setting is unsuitable, but a little twisted ingenuity will usually find some cause of conflict. No Utopia can possibly please everyone all the time, and there may be hidden serpents in the Garden of Eden. A good example here is the life of the Eloi in H.G.Wells' "The Time Machine"; apparently living a life of pastoral tranquillity, they were actually preyed on by the subterranean Morlocks. Look at the workers in the film "Metropolis", and contrast their life with that of the managers.
An interesting idea is the Utopia that goes wrong, where everyone is genuinely happy and contented until a flaw in the system starts to generate horrendous problems. The most common example is the revolt plot typified by R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots, by Carel Capek) and the film Westworld; a civilisation where robots do all the work until they decide to run things for themselves. Capek's War With The Newts shows another example of the revolt of an artificially created servant race. An interesting variant is the world where everything is run by machines - trains, planes, ships and cars drive themselves, factories are entirely automated, and every home has cleaning machines and other labour saving devices. Naturally everything is designed so that nothing can go wrong.. go wrong.. go wrong.. - when it does, the adventurers will have to deal with road building machines which don't notice that they are squashing cars, factories that insist on spray-enamelling all intruders, and bed-making machines that fold the occupants as well as the sheets. This example comes from numerous sources; most notably E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops, a gloomy account of the collapse of an over-mechanised civilisation.
For one-off adventures these relatively simple plots will probably satisfy your players. In long campaigns it's better to keep several plot threads on the boil, and bring one to the fore as another ends. These can be entirely separate, or different strands of a very complex design. Here's a breakdown of part of a campaign:
Plots of this complexity need a lot of preparation, but breaking them down into their component streams helps to keep things on track. Some referees also like to run adventures to a timetable, where NPCs will act at a given time unless the adventurers counter their plans; this can be fun if the adventurers are fighting a deadline (such as a bomb that will explode if it isn't found first), but the bookkeeping needed to time journeys and other activities tends to be a little more trouble than it's worth. Timed activities work best over very short periods, where combat rounds can be used; for example, if the adventurers are trying to fight their way out of a burning house before the gas mains explode.
Some groups of players run multi-referee campaigns; they take turns to run the game, but continue to use the same characters throughout - the current referee's character is sent off to the sidelines, or run as an NPC, as best fits the needs of the plot. These games do need to run to strict timetables, so that schemes involving NPCs will come to fruition when the appropriate referee is running the campaign. A simple variant is the use of several separate plot lines, set against a common game background, but with a set of characters for each referee. This method is most often used for superhero games, with each referee essentially running a separate "comic" set in a common world.
Finally, no discussion of plot would be complete without mentioning comedy. Humorous plots are occasionally fun, but a joke that falls flat is worse than no joke at all. Characters with peculiar names and behaviour aren't enough to sustain comedic interest, although the author is aware of one Mafia-based adventure that featured an NPC stool pigeon called Mr. Cream, inserted purely to allow the characters to "ice" Cream.... It's usually better if the humour is an intrinsic part of the situation you're describing. Pratfalls should be avoidable if the characters take a little care. For example, if the referee sets up a situation which should result in three or four characters getting covered with mud, players who think things through should be able to get away unblemished.
Many scientific romances are set around the year 2000, so one possible form of humour is satire of the real world and its public figures, transformed by the game setting. For example, a certain Herr Shwartzenegger appears in an unaccustomed role in the adventure accompanying the first Forgotten Futures sourcebook.
NPCs are the backbone of every game; if they aren't played well, characters move through a landscape populated by formless blobs, faceless entities that are usually treated as cannon fodder. Despite the need to keep things simple, NPCs should be described and played as though they are characters. Here's a poor referee telling players that they've walked into trouble:
'Two men step out, with guns drawn, and tell you to throw down your weapons.'The players probably respond by shooting everything in sight. Now let's see the same scene with a better referee:
'Two men step out into the road ahead of you, holding revolvers. They're wearing oilskins - odd, on a hot day like this. The older one looks very scarred; the other one looks too young to be allowed out with a gun. He's got a nasty grin and says "Kin I plug them, pa?". Dad shrugs; "Not yet, Leroy [raises voice] Maybe you boys oughta know that there are four shotguns covering you. Now drop them weapons, or Junior and ma friends will shoot your balls off."'The situation is essentially unchanged (those friends and shotguns are a bluff), but players may think a little longer before going for their own guns.
Ignore points when preparing NPCs; if you need someone with all three characteristics at 6 and a dozen high-powered skills, just assume that the character is exceptional. If you want a wimp, set characteristics and skills low. It really doesn't matter, so long as the character makes sense in the context of the adventure, and gives the adventurers a fair chance of survival.
If player characters are the stars of an RPG, NPCs are the supporting cast and extras; some are crucial to the plot, others are cannon fodder. If all are acted to the best of the referee's ability, players shouldn't automatically know who's who - someone who seems unimportant might really be the villain of the piece, while "important" NPCs can be set up as victims or red herrings.
Important NPCs should be prepared as thoroughly as player characters; extras need much less attention, but it's advisable to keep a list of their names, and have an idea of the way that they talk and act. Experienced referees often have a small "repertory company" of prepared NPCs, who can be used as they are needed; here are some examples.
First, some useful stock characters:
Mrs. Jenkins, The Little Old Lady, is always useful as an unreliable witness to unusual events. She's unhelpful, inclined to call the police at the first sign of trouble, and always complaining. Quote: "He's the one!" (points at a completely innocent character)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Detective 
This character is also useful as a telephone operator, receptionist, or librarian.
Stross, the Evil Retainer, knows at least three damning secrets about his master or mistress, and blackmails guests. An expert at oiliness, materialising just before he is called, skulking in shadows, eavesdropping, and general skulduggery. Quote: "Will that be all..." [pauses and sneers] "...sir?"
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Detective , Stealth , Thief 
With minor modifications this character is easily run as a secret policeman, sinister ventriloquist, or telephone timeshare salesman. Female variants should be based on Mrs. Danvers, from Rebecca, or Frau Blucher from Young Frankenstein. A "nicer" alternative should be based on Jeeves.
Next a group of generic bruisers, suitable for brawls, for robbery with violence, and as bouncers at rock concerts. Easily used as secret policemen (add leather coats, handguns, strange accents, and Marksman ), or as rampaging mercenaries or soldiers (add uniforms, rifles, grenades, and Marksman ):
CURLY is bald, 6ft 6in tall, and armed with a crowbar. Quote: "I want a word with you, shorty"
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Brawling , Melee Weapons 
ERIC is an ex-jockey with a switch-blade knife. Quote: "I reckon it's time I taught you some manners..."
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Brawling , Melee Weapons , Riding 
BIG CECIL is fat, bearded, and a former wrestler. Quote: "When you get out of hospital pay your bills."
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Brawling , Martial Arts , Thief 
LENNY has a deep scar across his throat, and can only talk in a rasping whisper. He uses a knife, and is a sadist. Quote: "Oh, was that your kitten... naughty me."
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Brawling , Melee Weapons , Thief 
DAVE is an unlovable Cockney, heavily tattooed, with a shotgun. Quote: "Puke on my shoes and I'll 'it you again."
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Marksman , Brawling , Thief 
The Police: Depending on the nature of your campaign, these may be corrupt Gestapo-style thugs (as above), Scotland Yard bunglers, or skilled professionals.
CONSTABLE DICKINSON is fat, near to retirement, and has never solved a serious crime in his life. He loves beer, and is armed with a truncheon, bicycle pump, and the majesty of the law. Quote: "'Ello, 'ello, wot's orl this then?"
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Brawling , Melee weapons , Acting  (comic songs)
DETECTIVE SERGEANT MONDALE is in his mid-thirties, a ruthlessly efficient professional. He doesn't take bribes or frame anyone who doesn't really deserve it. Quote: "They don't like me to hurt prisoners, it messes up the cells..."
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Detective , Brawling , Melee weapons , Marksman , Thief 
INSPECTOR CAVENDISH is in his early forties, fighting fit, and a connoisseur of the arts. He is scrupulously honest and fair. Quote: "Hmmm... I'd say that this ash was originally Turkish tobacco mixed with a small amount of Peruvian cocaine."
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Artist , Detective , Scientist , Brawling , Melee weapons , Linguist (German, French, Italian, Welsh, Flemish) 
Most NPCs are secondary characters or cannon fodder. Adventures also need a few NPC stars; powerful characters who are the driving force behind the plot. These characters fall into three main groups:
AUTHORITIES: NPCs with rank and some degree of power over the characters. Usually they need not be prepared in immense detail, since they need not become involved in the action. For example, Queen Victoria appears in several of George MacDonald Fraser's "Flashman" novels, and sometimes motivates the plot, but she is never in danger, or in a situation that makes much use of her undoubted skills. Authorities are most common in adventurers with a service background.
Another type of authority is the information source; a scientist or scholar. They are usually erudite, but rarely get involved in the action. Q, in the James Bond films, is a typical information source. Again, there is usually no need to develop characters far beyond a name and a brief description. Here are examples of both types of authority:
H.R.H. QUEEN VICTORIA (Hip, Hip, Hurrah!) is an important figure in any Victorian campaign. Characters might meet her at an official function, or save her from some dastardly plot. Always regal, she is the Empress of half the world and an inspiration to all normal men and women. She has a will of iron and is totally lacking in fear (she survived at least twenty assassination attempts, some at point-blank range), absolutely convinced that God protects the monarchy and Britain. Quote: "We are most impressed"HEROES: PCs are the heroes of most adventures, but occasionally you'll want to confront them with an NPC hero or heroine. This can be surprisingly difficult; heroes are often resented by players, or treated as crutches to rescue them from their mistakes. For example, Sherlock Holmes sometimes appears as an NPC in Victorian campaigns, but players always expect him to do all the work, or at least to throw off his disguise and rescue them at the last minute. It's more fun to use a flawed hero; someone who has fortuitously acquired a formidable reputation but doesn't really live up to it, has fallen on hard times, or is living a lie can be a lot of fun. See the "Flashman" novels for a splendid example. None of this is to say that NPC heroes should always be avoided; sometimes they have their uses, but it's usually advisable to keep their appearances and effect minimal. More examples:
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Business , Linguist  (French, German, Hindi)
X3 is a senior figure in the British Secret Service, once an active agent but now frail and confined to a wheelchair. Almost omniscient in his grasp of the "great game", he controls a vast network of spies and counter-spies. He is highly intuitive, often sensing trouble before there is evidence. Quote: "I can't order you to accept this mission..."
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Artist (miniatures) , Business , Detective , Medium , Linguist (German, French, Russian, Hindi) , Thief 
PROFESSOR FINCH is a leading expert on tropical diseases and toxins. He is preparing a definitive study of snake and insect venoms. There are usually a few jars with nasty-looking live specimens on his desk; sometimes the lids are a little loose. Quote: "Stay quite still while I get a net, it's more frightened than you are."
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Scientist , Doctor , First Aid 
SHERLOCK HOLMES should only appear in a Victorian or Edwardian campaign, and is more likely to be found on the track of adventurers (who often tend to leave a trail of corpses) than helping them. Quote: "I see that your shoes were repaired in Aberystwyth..."VILLAINS: Not all worlds need villains, and the enormity of their crimes may vary according to the nature of the world; in an Utopian setting unhappiness or ugliness may be the worst offence, in a survivalist environment the main enemies may be disease or famine. Victorian settings give villains their greatest scope; the widespread inequalities and crime of the era bred fictional criminals like Bill Sykes and Moriarty, while xenophobia led to the creation of foreign masterminds like Fu Manchu and Carl Peterson. Then there are misunderstood villains and monsters, and the looming spectre of Jack The Ripper.
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Acting (Disguise) , Detective , Marksman , Martial Arts (Bartitsu) , Scientist (Forensics) , Stealth , Melee Weapons , Thief 
JACK ROBINSON is an adventurer who subsidises his career by publishing lurid fiction based loosely on his exploits. He is NEVER around when the adventurers need him - when danger rears its ugly head in Mexico, he's believed to be somewhere in China; if evil strikes at sea, he was last seen in the desert. He's a good drinking companion, a mesmerising raconteur, and an excellent listener; several of the team's adventures have somehow found their way into his pulp novels, without acknowledgement. Quote: "There I was, with the anaconda coiled around my legs..."
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Actor  (disguise), Brawling , Detective , Marksman , Melee weapons , Scientist , Stealth , Thief 
If necessary use the thugs (above) as a team of assistants, substituting more socially acceptable behaviour and weapons.
One referee's lovable rogue is another's homicidal maniac. Usually players are reasonably relaxed about the threat of wholesale violence, such as a cunning plan to destroy London, but upset by more personal forms of assault. Here are two simple examples; you are STRONGLY advised to put some work into developing characters of your own!
PROFESSOR VOLKOFF is a misguided genius of crime. He uses mechanical juggernauts to break into banks, then tries to loot them before the police arrive. He doesn't realise that he would earn far more by selling his inventions. He is always caught, but always escapes from captivity. Quote: "They all laughed at me at Heidelberg..."Don't use these stereotypes too frequently; if every group of thugs contains a fat former wrestler, and every crowd a little old lady, players will soon start to recognise them. Above all, remember that NPCs are expendable. There's nothing worse than a referee who stubbornly refuses to admit that the players have killed his favourite character. Nearly as bad is the referee who insists that the players MUST meet a particular NPC, even if they have no intention of going near him. Plots should always be flexible enough to give the adventurers some leeway, and there should always be a way to get a scenario back on course if something goes drastically wrong.
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Scientist , Linguist  (All European and Scandinavian languages, Russian, and Polish), Mechanic 
Volkoff will give up without a fight if he is personally confronted by the adventurers. As an interesting twist on this character, consider having him reform after his second or third brush with the adventurers, and start to "help" with his strange inventions.
THE DEATH DOCTOR is the Press's nickname for a homicidal maniac. Bodies have been found partially dissected, their adrenal glands removed with great skill. The attacks occurred in the disreputable neighbourhood of your choice. The doctor has found out how to extract adrenal fluid and transform it into a potion which imbues enormous strength, at the cost of all human feelings. The potion is addictive, effects lasting a few hours. Only glands from a certain race, sex, age group, or blood group will work; one of the adventurers falls into the affected group. These crimes should take place in the background for some time (mention them as newspaper stories appearing while the adventurers are involved in other matters), gradually getting closer and closer to home. Eventually incidents occur which make it certain that someone is stalking the affected character. Catching the doctor should be very difficult; although all human emotions and sympathy are gone when he is under the influence of the drug, his MIND remains clear and he will make sure that there is always an escape route. Quote: (On a note pinned to a corpse) "Nice trap. Better luck next time."
BODY [8/4], MIND , SOUL [0/1], Brawling [9/5], Doctor , Scientist , Melee weapons [7/5], Stealth 
Numbers before and after / signs are characteristics and skills with and without the potion. When SOUL is reduced to zero this character has no sympathy or human feelings, and is immune to all forms of emotional control.
If one of the player characters is a doctor, frame her for the murders!
For considerably more on Heroes, Villains, and melodramatic plots see the appendices below and Forgotten Futures VI.
Home made maps have the advantage of being cheap and showing exactly what you want them to show. This is also their disadvantage; if a map only shows a limited number of locations, players will expect at least one of them to be significant. A map that shows an area in a reasonable amount of (mostly irrelevant) detail is usually better. Wherever possible use real maps, modifying them for the history of your game world as needed. For example, if a campaign is set in London a few years after the War Of The Worlds (the one that mankind won), it's easy to obtain a copy of a real Victorian map and add the Martian excavations on Primrose Hill, the charred remains of Imperial College, and other details. Some commercially published RPGs have included maps of Victorian London; in general the scale is too small to be useful. See below for suppliers of large-scale maps.
With a little research work it's possible to find maps and pictures of "Future cities", showing grandiose plans for architectural projects and city management that never came to pass. These are most often found in old magazines, but collections have been published.
Building plans are easily obtained; just look at a few architectural magazines or textbooks to find plenty of examples. Estate agents (realtors) also sometimes offer plans of the buildings they are selling. Plans are the most common type of handout in commercially published games - if you are involved in this hobby for any length of time, you'll soon accumulate dozens! Naturally some modification may be needed for the circumstances of your game. Needless to say there are numerous maps and plans accompanying the Forgotten Futures adventures
This cutting actually contains two important clues; the fact that the Prince Of Wales unveiled the statue suggests that the Queen might be busy elsewhere, and the last paragraph makes it clear that international rivalries have spurred intense study of Martian technology. The money raised by the Thunder Child trust isn't important in the current scenario, but might be prominent in a later adventure. The advertisement is a red herring. Some other possibilities for text handouts include extracts from books, pages from diaries, letters, business cards and other identity papers (most shopping centres now have useful card-making machines), and official reports.
As already said, pictures are an extremely useful adjunct to any adventure. One obvious source is SF illustrations of the twenties and thirties, when much of the tradition of the Scientific Romance still survived in pulp magazine SF. Work from this period can be found in numerous collections. Films of the era are also visually appealing, and stills are often available; Metropolis, Things To Come, and Just Imagine are particularly good in this respect, but there are many other excellent examples. Some referees like to show players photographs of NPCs; any pictorial magazine should contain all you need. Each of the Forgotten Futures collections is accompanied by numerous illustrations, and there are many more on the FF CD-ROM. Pictures of gadgets are also useful; the author has made good use of a collection of 19th century scientific illustrations and a 1920s scientific instrument catalogue. Material of this type is often surprisingly cheap, especially if you can find a public library selling off old books.
Figures and other models are useful but aren't essential. For most purposes a few men and women in civilian clothing should be ample. Figures made for the games Space 1889 and Call Of Cthulhu tend to be particularly good for Victorian and Edwardian settings, SF figures may be more appropriate in games with futuristic settings. RPG shops mainly sell lead or alloy figures in 25mm scale, but there are plenty of alternatives; plastic figures made for model railways can be quite useful, as can larger scale plastic soldiers and animals, or the smaller figures sold for war games. Toys are almost always cheaper and less fragile than gaming miniatures. Dinosaurs and other large animals are best purchased as plastic models; in Britain the Natural History Museum sells an especially realistic range. Cars and other vehicles are best obtained as toys, not as gaming models, since toys are generally a LOT cheaper. One word of warning; once you start buying these things, it's very hard to stop. The author has several hundred lead figures, dozens of vehicles, and a whole herd of dinosaurs, but generally uses less than a dozen figures for any game! If all of this sounds hideously expensive, there's nothing to stop you using paper cutouts instead of figures; just glue a picture or photograph to a piece of card, and add a bit of wood or a coin as the base. Commercial cardboard figures are rare but do exist, usually supplied as part of game modules; the Cardboard Heroes range formerly manufactured by Steve Jackson Games is still occasionally available, and is highly recommended. Some of the later Forgotten Futures collections include illustrations that are made to be printed and used in this way; again, there are many more on the FF CD-ROM
More exotic props can occasionally be useful, but they are often more trouble than they are worth. Full sized replica daggers and guns look good, but carrying them around most modern cities is asking for trouble. Model airships or spaceships tend to be too large for easy transportation, and you'll get some very strange looks from people who notice what you are carrying...
Some referees like to enhance the mood of a game by playing music that matches its theme. For instance, the music from Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds album might be quite effective in a post-invasion game. Ragtime might suit a campaign set in the twenties or thirties, with Gilbert and Sullivan or Souza more appropriate for Victorian adventures. Some players like this idea, others hate it; provided the music doesn't stop people hearing what's going on, it probably doesn't matter.
Finally, one last word of warning; if you need an eerie atmosphere, DON'T try to establish it by drawing the curtains and running the game by the light of a single candle. Extensive tests have revealed that three out of five referees can't read their own notes under these conditions, while one player in eight falls asleep in the dimness, and one in fifty sets fire to something...
FF I: The A.B.C. Files
A complete role playing game set in Kipling's 21st century airship utopia. Contains the complete text of With The Night Mail and As Easy As A.B.C., a worldbook, an adventure (with an operatic theme), a spreadsheet of data on historical airships, and illustrations.
FF II: The Log Of The Astronef
The exploration of the Solar System in 1900 AD. Based on George Griffith's Stories Of Other Worlds (better known as Honeymoon in Space), it contains six complete stories, all the illustrations from their original publication, a worldbook taking the story forward to 1920, a spaceship design spreadsheet, five adventures, and much more.
FF III: George E. Challenger's Mysterious World
Adventures with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's scientific hero, including the full text of The Lost World, The Poison Belt, When The World Screamed, The Land Of Mist, The Horror Of The Heights, and The Disintegration Machine, a worldbook, four adventures, a wargames scenario, etc.
FF IV: The Carnacki Cylinders
All nine stories of Carnacki the Ghost Finder, with illustrations and game material, magic rules, three long adventures and two large adventure outlines, and a story-telling card game.
FF V: Goodbye Piccadilly
A collection of game worlds based on the destruction or transformation of London as described by various authors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Includes maps, period fiction, articles, and illustrations, and all the usual game material.
FF VI: Victorian Villainy
A collection of stories and adventures showing various Victorian villains in action, with rules for melodramatic roleplaying, crime and punishment, fate, villainy, etc. Includes a novel, nine short stories, three plays, and three adventures plus several in outline form. Also includes cardboard cutout figures for the major characters in the adventures.
FF VII: Tsar Wars
A complete future history spanning 130 years, based on two epic novels by George Griffith. The birth of a Socialist Utopia in blood and war, the destruction of the Russian Empire, and its eventual resurgance form the tragic background to a story of future war and catastrophe, and the annihilation of most of the human race. Includes several adventures and adventure outlines, rules for Æronef flying machines, and much more.
FF VIII: Fables and Frolics
The world of Victorian fantasy, as described by E. Nesbit. Includes extended rules for playing Victorian children, magic, and much more. With three long adventures and numerous adventure outlines, as well as dozens of stories and three novels.
FF IX: It's My Own Invention...
The theme of this collection is weird technology, source material includes two novels by George Griffith, plus short stories and articles by a variety of authors. Four detailed game worlds describe flying hussars with a mission to fight the supernatural, a world of Babbage engines and automata, time travel by ocean liner, and a space race with big rewards for the winner. With rules for constructing automata, flying machines, etc.
All of this material, and much more, is on the FF CD-ROM; with a few exceptions all of the game material can be downloaded via either of the author's sites:
The following are only available on the FF CD-ROM
Printed versions of the Forgotten Futures rules and of some of the adventure and source material have been published by Heliograph Inc., but they are currently out of print.
WHILE most of the Forgotten Futures settings are based in fiction, the fiction is often based, or at least originates, in the real world. This section summarises some useful information about the period; of course things may be wildly different in a game world, but it's useful to know where the authors of the original stories were coming from.
Adventurers will often want to buy things, and may even want to work for a living if they can't find alternatives. Most of the Forgotten Futures worldbooks include prices for items that might come up the course of play, and construction rules for items such as flying machines, spacecraft, and automata which suggest purchase prices. This section (expanded from material in FF II) explains the complexities of British currency, and gives real-world wages and prices for everyday items from around 1900, a period of relative stability and little inflation; they should be adjusted up for later periods, down for earlier settings. For simplicity add 5% in 1906-10, 10% in 1911-15, 15% in 1916-20, and so forth.
British currency is based on a gold standard until 1914, and from 1925 to 1931. Until metrication in 1972 the Pound Sterling (£ or occasionally L) is divided into 20 shillings (s), each worth 12 pence (d). This form of currency is used in most British scientific romances. Occasional references to "LSD" in period fiction refer to money, not drugs!
Confusingly the Guinea (gn, g OR gs), worth 21 shillings, is used for legal and other professional fees, and by the most expensive shops. There were no coins or notes for this amount after 1813, but prices are often given in Guineas, and cheques can be written for Guineas. A half Guinea (worth 10s 6d) is also occasionally used for smaller fees.
The Sainsbury Museum web-site has a large illustration of Victorian coins to scale (1.2mb) which may be useful.
A very brief summary of a few interesting events from 1890 to 1914, most of which has previously appeared in some of the Forgotten Futures worldbooks.
1890 Forth Railway Bridge, the first major steel bridge, opened. Van Gogh commits suicide. Wounded Knee massacre. 1891 American Express introduces traveler's cheques. Homo erectus remains found on Java. Wilde publishes The Picture of Dorian Gray. Free primary school education in Britain. 1892 Mary Baker Eddy reforms Christian Science movement. Le Libre Parole (French anti-Semitic newspaper) founded. Depression in Australia. Mechanical voting in USA. Borden family murdered in USA. 1893 Gladstone's second Irish Home Rule Bill is vetoed by the House of Lords. Art Nouveau movement. 1894 Arrest of Dreyfus. Percival Lowell builds an observatory to study Martian canals (see FF II). Aubrey Beardsley illustrates Oscar Wilde's Salome. The Jungle Book published. Marconi demonstrates wireless telegraphy. 1895 Lenin exiled to Siberia. X rays. Motion pictures. Wilde writes The Importance of Being Ernest. 1896 First modern Olympics. Becquerel discovers radioactivity. 1897 Stanislavsky founds method acting technique. Chekhov writes Uncle Vanya. Pearson's Magazine serialises Kipling's Captains Courageous and Wells' The War Of The Worlds. 1898 Spanish-American War. Britain leases Hong Kong from the Chinese. Boxer Uprising in China. 1899 Second Boer war (the first was 1882). Siege of Mafeking. Elgar writes The Enigma Variations. Boxer uprising (to 1901), Siege of Peking. 1900 Boer war becomes guerilla war. Electrocardiograph. Quantum theory. Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams. Britain's Labour Party formed. 1901 Queen Victoria dies, succeeded by Edward VII. Marconi tests transatlantic radio transmission (see FF II). Frozen mammoth found in Russia (see FF III adventures). Picasso's Blue Period. Beatrix Potter publishes The Tale of Peter Rabbit. 1902 Coronation of Edward VII. Boer war ends. Caruso makes his first phonographic recording. Conrad publishes Heart of Darkness. Melies produces A Trip to the Moon. Doyle publishes The Hound of the Baskervilles. 1903 Lenin organizes the Bolshevik revolutionary group. Britain invades Tibet (see FF III adventures). Emmeline Pankhurst founds the Women's Social and Political Union. Rolls-Royce founded. Wright brothers fly (see FF II adventures). Curies win the Nobel Prize for work on radioactivity. Jack London publishes The Call of the Wild. Russo-Japanese War (see FF III adventures). Pavlov wins Nobel Prize. 1904 Madame Butterfly. Peter Pan. The Cherry Orchard. First intelligence tests. 1905 Russian fleet destroyed by the Japanese. General strike and failed revolution in Russia (see FF III adventures). Sinn Fein (Irish nationalist movement) founded. Thermionic valve. Special Theory of Relativity. 1906 Dreyfus pardoned. H.M.S. Dreadnought launched. San Francisco earthquake kills 700. The Forsyte Saga. 1907 Rasputin gains influence at the court of Nicholas II. Triode valve. Tungsten light bulbs. 1908 Earthquake kills 80,000 in Italy. Tunguska fireball. Model T Ford. Boy Scout movement. First newsreel. The Wind in the Willows. 1909 Peary reaches the North Pole. Bleriot flies the Channel. 1910 Cure for syphilis. Rodin casts The Thinker. Edward VII dies, George V crowned. Most of the Carnacki stories (FF II) published. Anarchist crimes in London (FFV). 1911 Siege of Sidney Street (FFV). Tibet declares its independence from China. Admundsen reaches the South Pole ahead of Robert Scott. Rutherford formulates theory of atomic structure. Geiger counter. Gyrocompass. Seaplane. Chinese revolution. Mona Lisa stolen. 1912 Scott reaches the South Pole. Titanic sinks. Continental drift. Piltdown man discovered. Tarzan of the Apes. 1913 Bohr publishes his atomic theory. Lawrence publishes Sons and Lovers. 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated in Sarajevo; First World War (Known as the Great War until WW2) begins.
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