Forgotten Futures V

Goodbye Piccadilly

A Role Playing Sourcebook for The Destruction, Modification, and Transformation of London, as Depicted by Various Eminent Authors and Learned Men in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

By Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 1998, portions Copyright © 1993-7

This document is copyright, but you are encouraged to make copies and print-outs as needed. You may make modifications for your own use, but modified versions MUST NOT be distributed. If you find any of these files useful you are asked to register.


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0.0 Introduction

1.0 Glossary
2.0 London 3.0 Catastrophe Theory 4.0 Ideal London 5.0 Game Worlds APPENDIX A - About the Authors
APPENDIX B - Recommended Reading And Viewing
APPENDIX C - London (From Nuttal's Encyclopaedia, 1906)

0.0 Introduction

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This is the fifth of a series of source packs, aimed mainly at users of table-top role playing games, but also of interest to SF and fantasy fans and scholars. It is not a computer game; I am simply using shareware distribution as an alternative to printed publication. If you have obtained it thinking that it is software, PLEASE inform the supplier of this mistake.

The Forgotten Futures collections try to 'rescue' fiction that seems to be in danger of disappearing; stories and novels that nobody is interested in reprinting, which seem to be heading for oblivion. Previous collections have concentrated on the work of single authors; this time, I have chosen to look at a theme used by many British authors - the destruction of London, its transformation by various other means, and a glimpse of the End of the World.

Disaster stories have always been a speciality of British science fiction, and of the scientific romance before it. American authors are predominantly optimistic, the British pessimistic. This was especially true at the end of the nineteenth century, when most of these stories were written. There are several elaborate theories to explain this divide; some cultural, some based on literary principles. See in particular the Science Fiction Encyclopaedia (Clute, Nicholls 1993) for a detailed examination of these trends. My personal theory is rather more cynical: once a story of a given type is published, and is reasonably popular with readers, many other authors try to repeat its success. When editors see such stories succeed they try to cash in on the boom, and encourage their authors to submit appropriate work. It's a self-fuelling cycle that easily explains most genre fiction.

The cycle that led to these stories began with the publication of The Battle of Dorking (George Chesney 1871), a story in which British military incompetence allows a successful German invasion. It was extremely popular, and other authors began to write their own versions, with varying enemies and means of attack. Disaster stories were an inevitable spin-off, once it was realised that readers were not put off by the idea of British defeat and humiliation. By far the most important successor was The War of the Worlds (H.G. Wells 1897), which combined the motifs of seemingly irresistible force, invasion, and an all-encompassing disaster, but there were many others.

This type of story is often called the "cosy catastrophe", a term coined by Brian W. Aldiss; in the typical plot thousands or millions die, but the narrator and those important to him always survive, inheritors of a transformed world. This tendency is most obvious in the work of a later author, John Wyndham, whose most famous novels deal with London as a city of the blind (The Day of the Triffids), and as a city slowly drowning (The Kraken Wakes). In this collection the theme is most apparent in the works of Fred M. White, whose stories sometimes kill hundreds or thousands of the 'lower' classes, but leave the aristocracy and principal characters more or less intact.

There was one real taboo in these stories; the Royal Family invariably escapes unscathed or is never mentioned. It was apparently acceptable to destroy London, but destroying the Queen (or King) was far beyond the boundaries of good taste.

With one exception I've concentrated on stories and articles about the destruction and modification of London, because it's where I live and work, and because it's a theme that was particularly popular. In its day London was the city to end all cities, and symbolic of Britain and the British Empire. Its destruction would be a tragedy, on a par with the destruction of Atlantis. When these stories succeed, it is because they make us realise what such destruction would mean.

Before looking at the rest of this document, read at least one story or article. The Thames Valley Catastrophe by Grant Allen is an excellent introduction to this genre.

Several excellent stories could not be included for copyright reasons; most notably, The War of the Worlds is covered by copyright until well into the next century. While I am unable to include this work, its events are mentioned at various points below. Since it has never been out of print since its original publication, I do not consider this to be a serious omission. The original magazine illustrations now appear to be out of copyright, and two are reproduced with this collection.

Please note that the information below and in later sections mentions some of the events of these stories and may reduce your enjoyment; the obvious answer is to read them before continuing with this worldbook.

Because of the diverse nature of these stories, and the impossibility of setting them all in the same world, the approach used in this collection is different to that of earlier Forgotten Futures material. It is primarily a guide to creating game worlds set against a catastrophic background, with source material for London; the "history" and "science" of each story is handled relatively briefly, mainly to suggest ways of using the disaster in a campaign. An optional multi-world campaign background is also described, based on parallel worlds and a form of psychic time travel. It can be used or ignored as the reader prefers.

One final point: racial stereotypes used in some of the source material might be considered offensive today, but would not have been unusual at the turn of the century. The opinions and attitudes expressed are not those of the author.

0.1 Publishing history

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These stories and articles originally appeared in various British magazines around the turn of the century. They have been scanned in from the magazines in which they originally appeared, or from photocopies, with the art that accompanied them. The codes shown below are used to refer to them in the remainder of this document.

0.2 Language And Units

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The author of Forgotten Futures is British, as were most of the authors featured in this collection. American readers will occasionally notice that there are differences in spelling and use of language between our 'common' tongues. If that worries you, you are welcome to run documents through a spell checker, but please DON'T distribute modified versions.

The stories use Imperial measurements of length and power; feet and inches, ounces and pounds, miles and horsepower. To retain their flavour these units have mostly been used in the worldbook and adventures. Readers who are unfamiliar with the British (and American) system of weights, or with pre-decimal British currency, will find the awful details in Appendix A of the rules; CURRENCY.WK1 is a currency conversion template.

0.3 Role Playing Games

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This collection is a source for game referees, and most sections contain notes for their use. A few sections are written mainly for games. The Forgotten Futures rules can be found in RULES.TXT, but you are welcome to use the game of your choice and add game statistics to fit its rules. No one will complain, provided you don't distribute a modified version of these files, but if you like the game setting and adventures please register.

The recommended time frame for a campaign based on these stories is the end of the Victorian era, circa 1890-1900, although some of the source material was published a little later.

Chaosium's Cthulhu By Gaslight (William A. Barton) covers late 19th century Britain in detail, as does Steve Jackson Games' GURPS Horror (Scott Haring). Both these games can provide additional background details, mostly from an American viewpoint. GDW's Space 1889 (Frank Chadwick) is set in a world in which space travel is already a reality; unfortunately none of the adventures are set in London, but it may be useful for background data. Castle Falkenstein (Michael Pondsmith, R. Talsorian Games) and For Faerie, Queen, and Country (Cook, Sargent, and Boomgarden; TSR, for The Amazing Engine) both use variant Victorian backgrounds incorporating magic and weird science; much of this worldbook could easily be adapted to these settings.

While there have been many post-apocalyptic role playing games, most are set against the aftermath of nuclear war or some other modern catastrophe. Typical examples include Aftermath (FGU), Twilight 2000 (GDW), GURPS Autoduel and GURPS Atomic Horror (Steve Jackson Games), Cadillacs And Dinosaurs (GDW), and Gamma World (TSR). Some of these games offer interesting ideas on survivalist techniques and the reconstruction (or collapse) of civilisation. Only the GURPS material is currently in print.

Games in several other genres involve attempts to cause or forestall disasters of one sort or another, or to minimise their effects and maximise any beneficial fall-out. Time travel games (such as Timemaster and GURPS Time Travel) often use this theme. The reasons for disasters are often linked to elaborate conspiracies; GURPS Illuminati, Over The Edge (Atlas Games), and Tabloid (TSR, for The Amazing Engine) are all excellent for complex conspiracy theories. Finally, almost all superhero games assume that characters deal with such problems on a daily basis; GURPS Supers and Champions (Hero Games) are the current leaders in this field, DC Heroes (Mayfair Games) and Marvel Super Heroes (TSR) were games linked to particular comic publishers which have now been discontinued.

Into The Deserted City (Magellanica Company, by Jo Walton), a story-telling card game with cards for most of the standard themes of disaster fiction, should be published by the time this collection appears.

Three of the previous Forgotten Futures collections have some relevance to disaster stories:

0.4 Writing Between The Lines

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At various points this worldbook makes assumptions about things that aren't specifically described in the stories, or are mentioned in an ambiguous way. Various campaign ideas discussed in Sections 3 onwards have been invented specifically for this collection, and provide a convenient means to allow adventurers to experience (and possibly cause or prevent) these disasters. Readers should clearly understand that these ideas are my own, and may be very different from what the authors originally intended.

It should also be emphasised that the long-term aftermaths described for these stories have been invented for the purposes of this collection; again, they may be very different from what the authors intended, and obviously draw on modern scientific and historical knowledge.

0.5 Weird Science

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Some of the disasters described depend on extremely strange science; in particular, the geology of the London Volcano [TVC] and the sinking of the city [VEN] are highly suspect, medicinal use of electricity is not usually as effective as was believed in 1903 [DOD], and electricity "on the loose" is relatively self-limiting [INV]. Some of these problems can be covered if unusual circumstances prevail, others require some suspension of disbelief. For the purposes of this collection, it is assumed that everything works exactly as the authors describe; high explosives really will destroy fog, electricity can be used to kill bacteria, and so forth. My explanations for these phenomena, and their consequences, may not suit all tastes; you are entirely free to change things.

0.6 Omissions

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During the period in which I was assembling this collection there were several terrorist incidents in Britain and Northern Ireland, including the discovery of a plot allegedly aimed at London's infrastructure of water and electrical supplies. Other events included the bombing of the Olympic games. I have not covered "realistic" terrorism out of respect for the dead and injured, and because I would prefer to avoid publishing anything which might give terrorists ideas. Several other games have covered this topic; GURPS Special Ops is especially recommended for counter-terrorist operations.

Several useful stories could not be included for copyright or space reasons, and in one case because I could not obtain a copy; see Appendices A and B below.

0.7 Technical notes

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Documents were typed using Borland's Sprint word processor, then exported to ASCII format and converted to HTML. OCR was mostly via Omnipage 7.

Graphics came from a variety of sources, most notably period magazines; diagrams and maps were mostly scanned from historical sources and edited for clarity, or drawn for this collection.

Most of the magazine art was originally scanned at 180 DPI, 16 grey scales, then reduced in size to allow inclusion of all the stories plus game material within a reasonable total file size. Larger versions of many of these illustrations have been added to this CD-Rom release. The program "Planets" by Larry Puhl was used to find the dates of the opposition of Mars and establish the chronology of the Martian invasion. NextBase's "Autoroute" was used to calculate distances and directions in the gazeteer.

0.8 Acknowledgements

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Thanks to Ken and Jo Walton, who generously gave me collected volumes of Harmsworth's Magazine (later the London Magazine) for parts of the years 1899 to 1902. Christopher Beiting obtained copies of some of the stories for me. Matt Goodman found River of Death and scanned and converted it to HTML for me. Brian Ameringen found me fifteen volumes of the Strand magazine. Bridget Wilkinson, Christopher Beiting, Brian Stapleford and Arthur C. Clarke suggested material which for one reason or another I was unable to include. Tim Illingworth provided railway information. The Society of Authors very kindly sent me information on copyright law, and on procedures to be followed if a copyright holder could not be traced. The publishers of the fanzine Plokta gave money to charity to name a character after their "editor", Doctor Plokta. Numerous members of conferences on CIX and Usenet's newsgroup suggested ideas on the "Thunderbirds School of Engineering"; I got similar help with alternative history from Cix's what-if conference and the alt.history.what-if and soc.history.what-if newsgroups. My thanks to everyone involved.

Sources include:

	About Britain 3: The Home Counties (RSR Fitter 1951)
	Autoroute (NextBase Ltd.)
	The Book of the Thames (Alan Jenkins 1983)
	A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking 1988)
	The Cassel Encyclopaedia Dictionary
	The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction (Clute & Nicholls)
	Geographers A-Z London Street Atlas and Index
	England Invaded (Michael Moorcock ed.)
	The Godfrey Edition of Old Ordnance Survey Maps (Alan Godfrey)
	The Grolier Electronic Encyclopaedia
	London As It Might Have Been (Barker & Hyde, reprinted 1995)
	The Making of Modern London (London Weekend Television 1985)
	Microsoft Encarta 95
	Nicholson's Guide to the Thames (ed Paul Atterbury)
	The Nuttal Encyclopaedia (1908)
	Pannell's Reference Book (1906)
	Pearson's Magazine, issues from 1897 to 1904
	Return To Paradise (Laura Spinney, New Scientist July 1996)
	Rhyming Cockney Slang (ed Jack Jones, 1974)
	Science Fiction by The Rivals of H.G. Wells (Alan K. Russell ed)
	The Shape of Futures Past (Chris Morgan 1980)
	The Victorian Household Album (E. Drury & P. Lewis, 1995)
	Victorian Inventions (Leonard de Vries, 1971)
	What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (Daniel Pool, 1993)
	Wonderful London (ed St. John Adcock, c. 1928-30)
	Yesterday's Motorcycles (Bob Karolevitz 1987)

1.0 Glossary

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Carter Paterson: Noted delivery firm whose vehicles are a common sight throughout London. After the flooding of London the company uses barges [VEN]
Cimmerian: Related to the ancient legend of Cimmeria, a country where it was always dark [4DN]
Columbia: American bicycle manufactured by the Pope Manufacturing Co. Several models are available, including a "chainless" model which drives the rear wheel by a bevelled wheel rubbing directly against the tyre, with a low "gear" ratio that gives poor top speed but makes it easy to cycle uphill. Later a manufacturer of motorcycles [TVC]
Funnel: Vertical shaft leading from the surface parts of a tube (see below) station to the lower platforms, containing lifts, a spiral staircase, ventilation ducts, etc. [INV]
Gas: In this era the gas used for lighting etc. is coal gas, an impure mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and other flammable gasses. It is smelly, toxic, and explosive [INV]
Hundredweight: Unit of weight with several values. The British version is 112 lb, equivalent to 8 stone (1 stone = 14 lb) or 50.8 kg; the American hundredweight is 100 lb (45.45 kg). To add extra confusion there is also a "metric hundredweight", 50 kg (110 lb), very rarely used [4WD]
Irving: Sir Henry Irving (1808-1905), a famous actor [4DN]
LCC: London County Council, responsible for municipal services and education within the county of London
Loop: Circuit of railway track, taking in several stations before returning to its origin. London's second underground railway, the Circle Line, was built to this pattern [INV]
M.P.: Member of Parliament
Opposition (of Mars): Time at which Mars is in the sky in the middle of the night, and is at its closest to the Earth. Due to the motion of the Earth and Mars this occurs at intervals of about two years [WOW]
Shew: Show (old spelling) [NY]
The Rage: Fashionable [NY]
Spread Eagle: American exaggeration; "you are trying to astonish me with the familiar spread eagle" [TVC]
Tube: Deep underground railway. The term is not usually used in connection with the early "cut and cover" lines, such as the Metropolitan Railway and Circle Line, but is reserved for circular tunnels excavated at depth by the "moving shield" method. The first, the Central Line running from East to West across London, opened in 1900 [INV]

2.0 London

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When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
(Dr. Johnson)

Open any book of quotations and you'll find plenty of references to London. Some seem to like the place, others hate it, or hate what it has become:

Hell is a city much like London
(Shelley; Peter Bell The Third)

Forget six counties overhung with smoke,
Forget the snorting steam and piston stroke,
Forget the spreading of the hideous town;
Think rather of the pack-horse on the down,
And dream of London, small and white and clean,
The clear Thames bordered by its gardens green.

(William Morris; The Earthly Paradise)

Morris was looking back to a past that vanished in the eighteenth century, and was probably less than idyllic even then; historically, London has always been an industrial and commercial town, whether the industry is powered by hand, by steam, or by electricity. Even encyclopaedias have trouble grappling with a city of this size:

London (population 5,633,000) on the Thames, 50 m. from the sea, the capital of the British Empire, is the most populous and wealthiest city in the world...
... often devastated by plague and fire, its progress has never been stayed; its population has more than quadrupled itself this century and more than doubled since 1850...
... the centre of the English literary and artistic world, and of scientific interest and research; here are the largest publishing houses, the chief libraries and art galleries and museums...
... a grand emporium of commerce, and the banking centre of the world...
... The control of traffic, the lighting, and water-supply of so large a city are causing yearly more serious problems.
(The Nuttall Encyclopaedia, 1909 - several hundred words omitted)

See Appendix C for the full text of the article.

London was built on trade; first in food and other raw materials, later in manufactured goods, and indirectly by investment in commerce and industry. Its role as the main seat of government followed on from its size, and its importance as a financial centre and port; it was always the biggest and richest city in Britain, so it was natural and traditional for the machinery of taxation and government to be based there. Later it was simply too big and cumbersome to move elsewhere; this seemed unchangeable until communications (especially the telephone system) improved, and various departments were evacuated from London during the Second World War.

To a large extent London ran on a service economy even in the nineteenth century; it flourished on the flow of goods and money, and catered to the needs of those who managed the system, especially the well-to-do middle and upper classes, at the expense of the working classes and poorer middle classes.

By 1890 London already had an elaborate transport infrastructure, which was rapidly expanding. On the surface horse-drawn vehicles still dominated, including horse-drawn trams and omnibuses, but electric and petrol-driven vehicles were starting to replace them, although private cars were still very rare. Underground the "cut and cover" railways were mostly completed, and the deep "tubes" were gradually coming into service. Nevertheless transport was expensive, in comparison to wages; most people worked six days a week, and with fares of at least 2d per journey, public transport could easily take 10% of a clerk's wages. Clerks and labourers usually "commuted" to work on foot; clerks in the City of London often walked three to five miles to homes in Holloway, Camberwell, Paddington, and other outlying districts. The Diary of a Nobody (George & Weedon Grossmith, 1892) describes this way of life very well, showing how the poorer middle classes were expected to dress well and keep up the appearance of gentility on a tiny income.

Further out, those who could afford to use public transport lived in exclusive suburbs like Hampstead, Brixton and Streatham, while the truly wealthy travelled by carriage from homes in the West End, Chelsea, or Piccadilly, if they worked at all. An important factor was the crowding of London's streets, already a problem in the 1870s; for shorter journeys in the City or surrounding areas it was often quicker to walk. With so much traffic on the road, mostly horse-drawn, street sweepers were essential; before crossing the road it was often advisable to bribe one to clear a path.

On the domestic scene, running a home was an exhausting business, with little in the way of labour-saving machinery or household products available, and was a full-time job for women if their husbands could not afford servants. All but the poorest middle-class homes employed maids, most also employed a cook-housekeeper, and often other servants. Today it's tempting to believe that this represents an absurd degree of luxury, but the woman of the house was rarely idle, and management of servants could often be a real headache for their employers. The phrase "the servant problem" was coined in this era. Upper-class homes could easily employ twenty servants or more, often for much less useful purposes; for example, female members of an aristocratic family would routinely take footmen to accompany them on shopping trips and protect them from harm.

Servants from the country were regarded as more trustworthy than native Londoners, and rich employers (especially those who could afford to provide accommodation for servants) often recruited staff to work many miles from home. Sometimes they found that the job ended with the end of the fashionable London season, and their employer's return to a country home. Sometimes they were treated even more harshly; a cliche of the period was the innocent country girl hired as a servant to a London household, seduced by her employer, then thrown onto the streets when she became pregnant; more than a third of the thousands of prostitutes on London's streets claimed that they had originally been servants.

Often lower-class employees were treated as servants, even if their job was nominally of "higher" status; for example, staff in London's department stores at the end of the nineteenth century were required to live in comfortless hostels and obey an elaborate set of rules, and could be dismissed at a moment's notice. Even those in steady employment were typically expected to work a twelve hour day. Jobs, especially in and around the West End of London, were often related to the season; laundries, tailors, seamstresses, florists, and dozens of other trades laid off most of their staff when the aristocracy were out of town. Automation and "sweated" assembly-line labour also affected these jobs. For instance, in the tailoring industry poorly-paid unskilled workers working sixteen hours a day could outproduce skilled tailors for a fraction of the cost. The East End was full of "sweat-shops", usually run by immigrant families. At the end of the nineteenth century the cheapest workers, and the bulk of sweat-shop employees, were mostly Jewish immigrants, leading to anti-Semitic riots in 1888 (sparked by the "Jack the Ripper" killings), and to many later incidents.

To summarise, in the period in which these stories were written London was the largest city in the world, and expanding by the day. It had some of the richest homes in the world, and some of the poorest. It has communities from every nation on Earth, many of them wretchedly poor. Its economy was vulnerable to fluctuations in trade and fashion. Pollution and crime were on the increase, and many believed that some form of collapse was likely. It was inevitable that the fiction of the time should try to show how disaster might occur.

2.1 Gazeteer

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In 1900 "London" can be defined in several ways. The definitions are often confused, especially by foreigners:

The "East End" and "West End" of London are often mentioned in this collection; they are simply the areas of London to the immediate East and West of the City of London. The East End, especially Whitechapel, Stepney, and the other districts around the London docks, are the homes of the poor and "criminal" classes. The West End consists of parts of Mayfair, Bayswater, Belgravia, Westminster, Holborn, Kensington, and Chelsea; it is most notable for entertainment, expensive shops, and upper-class homes. This division was a response to water pollution; as London expanded, the most desirable land was upstream of the City, the least desirable downstream.

The East End suffered most from this divide, but by the time London had an adequate water and sewage system it was too late to change things; attempts to improve the economy of the area by building factories around the docks came to nothing, since free trade with the Empire ensured that there was too much competition from cheaper overseas manufacturers. The inevitable result was the collapse of these industries, leaving the area littered with bankrupt businesses and unemployed workers. Gradually ships got bigger and the main business of the area moved downstream, and to Liverpool and other deep-water docks. As the port declined, and housing deteriorated, those who could afford to move out did so, and were replaced by the poor; the area grew progressively poorer and more crowded, housing countless thousands who had been evicted by office developments in the City and the spread of the railways elsewhere, and a large immigrant community that couldn't afford to live anywhere else.

By comparison, the West End was largely built much later, on estates owned by the aristocracy, who developed the area on a grandiose and luxurious scale not seen elsewhere; typically West End squares were designed to a unified architectural style, with a large formal garden in the centre, and often had titled residents. The shops and theatres were an afterthought, a service industry that was largely dependent on the aristocracy. Gradually they adapted to serve the needs of the affluent middle classes, and avoided some of the seasonal variations described in section 2.0 above.

This gazeteer describes areas and important public places, mostly those named in the articles and stories, as they were in 1900; many of the areas noted as villages and towns on the outskirts of London have now been engulfed. Each listing begins with the name of the area and the county in which it is found; if the county is London or the City, it is already part of the town in 1900. It is unfortunately impossible to include a comprehensively detailed street map of London at any useful scale; readers are strongly advised to look for other sources. The Godfrey Edition of large-scale Ordnance Survey maps is especially useful; see the rules for details.

If a location's distance from London is stated, it is measured from the ancient site of Tyburn gallows, the traditional datum point for such calculations (see 03_LINKS.GIF). This is about two miles West of the City of London. Directions are to the nearest mile and the nearest point of the compass. American readers may be surprised by the smallness of most of the distances shown, but should remember that these stories were written in an era when most travellers walked or used horse-drawn vehicles, when it was still possible for a village to have its own identity just a few miles from the centre of London.

Unless stated otherwise, all parts of London and the City were destroyed by the Thames Valley volcano [TVC]; even some of those areas mentioned as surviving [eg Hampstead] may have subsequently been engulfed, or left as isolated hill-tops surrounded by white-hot lava and bathed in scorching air and toxic fumes.

2.2 A Timeline for London

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This timeline covers the history of London up to 1900, as it was understood in the early twentieth century, adding some later events described in the articles and stories. Some details may be considered inaccurate in the light of modern knowledge. The first bronze or iron-age origins of London was a British or Celtic settlement named Llyn-din, probably near the mouth of the Fleet river. The first records of the settlement begin much later:

 61 AD     First contemporary record of London (Londinium) by Tacitus,
           who noted that it was "greatly celebrated for the number of
           its merchants. Sacked by queen Boudicca (Boadicea).
 297       Londinium raided by Frankish mercenaries.
 c. 367    Walls of Londinium built by Theodosius (father of the
           Emperor Theodosius The Great)
 457       Britons defeated by Saxons at Crayford, and flee to
 c. 607    King Ethelbert builds St. Pauls for the first Bishop of
           London, Mellitus.
 851       London stormed by Danes.
 886       Alfred recaptures London from Danes, repairs walls.
 925-40    King Aethelstan builds a residence in London and organises a
           city "frith-guild" (police force)
 994       Danish attacks on London are repelled.
 1014      Ethelred retakes London from Cnut (Canute).
 1016      Cnut attacks London but is repelled. Ethelred dies, buried
           in St. Pauls
 1016-35   Danes settle in suburbs of Southwark and near Aldwych.
 1065      Edward the Confessor finishes Westminster Abbey and Palace.
 1066      William The Conqueror elected King in Westminster Abbey.
 1085      William begins stone Tower of London
 1087      Fire destroys St. Paul's Cathedral.
 1118      Thomas a Becket born in Cheapside.
 1123      St. Bartholomew's hospital founded.
 1136      Fire destroys (wooden) London Bridge, construction of a
           stone bridge begins.
 1157      Hanseatic merchants settle in London.
 1184      Knights Templar settle in Temple (Holburn)
 1188      First recorded Mayor, Henry Fitz-Eylwin.
 1200      First record of court of Aldermen (Councillors).
 1209      Stone London Bridge completed.
 1213      St. Thomas's Hospital founded in Southawk.
 1120-69   Henry III rebuilds Westminster Abbey.
 1221-53   Friars of various sects settle in London.
 1260      Henry III takes refuge in London from Prince Edward.
 1263      Prince Edward raids bank in Temple.
 1265-70   Londoners loyal to Henry take oath of fealty to him; he
           promptly removes the mayor from office and imposes direct
           rule on London. Londoners welcome rebel Earl of Gloucester.
           Henry restores mayoralty.
 1285-98   Edward I governs London via his own wardens.
 1326      Edward III grants charter to Merchant Taylor's Guild.
 1328      25 guilds exist by this date.
 1347      Edward III's procession through London after Crecy.
 1348      Black Death reaches London, November, continuing until
           Whitsun 1349.
 1357      Black Prince leads King of France through London in triumph
           after the battle of Poitiers.
 1381      Wat Tyler's peasant army enters and burns parts of London.
           Tyler is killed at Smithfield.
 1398      Richard Whittington made mayor.
 1415      Henry V progresses through city after Agincourt.
 1450      Jack Cade and his rebel army enter London.
 1471      Men of Kent make failed attack on city. Henry VI murdered in
 1483      Richard proclaimed King at Guildhall. Princes murdered in
 1494      Apprentices attack foreign merchants.
 1497      Cornish rebels defeated at Blackheath.
 1517      May Day riot against foreigners.
 1522      Emperor Charles V lives in City.
 1535-38   Carthusian monks executed at Tyburn. Executions of Sir
           Thomas More and other clerics. Dissolution of London
 1554      Sir Thomas Wyatt attacks city, defeated.
 1555      Protestant martyrs burned by Catholics at Smithfield.
 1576-99   Several theatres built: 'The Theatre' (1576) outside
           Bishopsgate, 'Rose Theatre' (1592) in Southwark, 'Globe
           Theatre' (1597) in Southwark, 'Fortune Theatre' (1599) at
 1603      Plague in London. James I arrives from Scotland.
 1605      Gunpowder plot to blow up Parliament.
 1640-49   Riots etc. culminating in victory of Parliament and
           execution of Charles I.
 1660      Restoration of Charles II.
 1665      Great Plague
 1666      Great fire destroys much of City of London.
 1675      New St. Paul's begun by Wren.
 1683-4    Thames freezes, carnival and ox roasted on ice.
 1693      Bank of England founded.
 1727      Admiralty built.
 1739-40   Thames freezes, fair held on ice.
 1752      Mansion House (official residence of Mayor) completed.
 1753      British Museum founded.
 1758      Houses on London Bridge demolished.
 1760      City gates and walls largely demolished.
 1775      City petitions King to stop American war.
 1780      Gordon Riots paralyse City, June 2-7.
 1800      Bread riots in City.
 1806      Gas lights in Pall Mall
 1813      Nash begins building Regents St. and Regents Park.
 1814      Duke of Wellington given freedom of City.
 1817      Waterloo Bridge opened.
 1823      New British Museum buildings begun.
 1826      University College built.
 1829      First omnibuses. Kings College opens.
 1831      New London Bridge opened.
 1843      Thames Tunnel (foot tunnel, later railway) opened.
 1851      Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, featuring Crystal Palace.
 1854      Crystal Palace re-erected at Sydenham (see FF1).
 1860      Underground railway begun.
 1862-82   Much important construction including Thames Embankment
           (1862-70), Charing Cross Bridge (1866), Holborn Viaduct
           (1867), Albert Embankment (1870), Albert Hall (1871), Law
           Courts (1882).
 1888      London County Council established.
 1892      Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show tours Britain, stays in London
           for several weeks.
 1894      Tower Bridge opened. Lights on Mars during opposition [WOW].
 1895      Gas explosions ignited by electrical supply faults cause
           concern [INV].
 1896-99   Strange patterns seen on Mars during opposition [WOW].
 1900      London Municipal Boroughs established.
 1901      Explosions on Mars during opposition, Martian invasion [WOW]
 1902-7    London Americanised following US financial coup [NY].
 1910      Central London flooded and Italianised [VEN].
 1912      Newspapers sealed in cornerstone of Lyons restaurant [NZ]
 5607 SC   Ruins of London investigated by archaeologists from Old
           Zealand. The date AD is uncertain since Zealanders may not
           use the Christian calendar (but it seems possible that SC
           is short for Since Christ). By this date several other
           planets have been colonised [NZ].
 ????      World ends [END]

2.3 Prices

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Prices are shown in pounds, shillings and pence. Prices were reasonably stable from 1890 to 1910; where this is not the case prices at the beginning and end of the period are shown if known. If there is a wide range of prices throughout the period the spread is indicated by a hyphen. Unusually cheap or expensive products have not been included in the ranges shown. Examples:

£3 6s 2d is three pounds, six shillings, and tuppence.
2s 6d is two shillings and six pence
3½d is threepence ha'penny
3d rising to 7d indicates a price rise from 3d to 7d
5s - 8s indicates a stable range of prices from 5s to 8s
Clothing, Female
 Blouse, silk        £1 5s 11d    Camisole            3s
 Chemise             7s           Combinations        5s 6d
 Knickers            2s 6d        Nightdress          6s
 Long skirt          10s          Stockings           2s 6d
 Boots               7s           Walking shoes       12s - £1 8s

Clothing, Male
 Suit                £1 8s        Trousers            7s 6d
 Undervest           4s           Overcoat            £2
 Gloves, calf        2s 8d        Handkerchiefs, 12   8s
 Hat, soft felt      7s 6d        Hat case            15s
 Linen collars, 12   6s 5d        Cuffs, pair         1s
 Shirt front         10d          Boots               11s
 Heavy nailed boots  19s          Walking shoes       14s

Food & Drink
 Bacon, lb           7d           Bananas, each       1d
 Beef, leg           10d          Biscuits, 1 lb      6d
 Bovril, 4 oz        1s 7d        Bread, 4lb loaf     5d
 Butter, lb          1s 2d        Cake, lb            8d
 Cheese, lb          10d          Chocolates, lb      1s 3d
 Cocoa, lb           2s 6d        Cod, lb             3d
 Coffee beans, lb    10d          Eggs, 12            11d
 Flour, 7lb          10d          Haddock, 12         7d
 Halibut, lb         7d           Herrings, 6         4d
 Hams, York, per lb  1s 6d        Ice cream, quart    3s 6d
 Milk, pint          1½d          Mutton / lamb, leg  10d
 Orange              1d           Oysters, 12         3s 6d *
                                  * restaurant price
 Pork, leg           8d           Potatoes, stone     7d
 Sardines, 18oz      7d           Sugar, lb           2d
 Tea, lb             2s 5d

Alcoholic drinks, per bottle
 Creme de Menthe     4s 6d
 Champagne           5s rising to 8s 2d *
 Claret              11d rising to 4s 2d *
 Brandy              4s 7d        Gin                 2s 2d
 Ginger wine         1s *         Port                3s *
 Rum                 3s 7d        Sherry              3s 6d *
 Whisky              3s 5d        * based on price per dozen

Alcoholic drinks, per pint
 Beer                1d           Porter              1s
 Stout               1s 5d

Tobacco Products
 Cigarettes, 20      5d           Tobacco, oz.        5d

 Postage, letter     1d            Telegram, 12 words 6d
                                   per extra word     ½d
 The Times           3d            Daily Mail         ½d
 Book, novel         3s - 7s       Book, textbook     18s
 Alarm clock         4s 6d         Watch, steel cased £3 15s
 Cufflinks, gold     18s           Fountain pen       10s 6d
 Soap, 3lb bar       7d            Spectacles, gold   18s
 Spectacles, steel   2s 6d         Camera, Kodak roll £1
 Camera, half plate  £8 7s 6d      Cricket bat        12s 11d
 Golf clubs (each)   6s            Golf balls, 12     10s
 Violin              £2 10s

 Train, 150 miles    15s           Omnibus, per mile  1d
 Underground railway 2d - any distance
 Bicycle             £10           Family car, 8 hp   £200
 Harness, goat cart  £2            Roller skates      7s

 2-bedroom house     £300          2-bedroom cottage  £190
 4-bedroom house     £650
 Rents, per week, working class:
 House               7s            1-room tenement    3s 2d
 2-room tenement     4s 7d         3-room tenement    6s

 Labourer, wk        18s - £1 2s rising to £2
 Skilled, wk.        £1 18s
 Clerk, wk.          £1 rising to £1 10s
 Miner, per wk.      15s rising to £1 15s

 Salaries, per year:
 Butler              £100          Footman            £50
 Cook / housekeeper  £80           Governess          £75
 Head housemaid      £30           Nanny              £40

 Income tax          3.5% rising to 5.5%

 Double bed          £2 15s - includes mattress
 Blankets, pair dbl. 6s            Double quilt       £1 10s
 Sheets, pair dbl.   6s            Dining table       £8 10s
 Chairs              7s 6d         Oil fired stove    £2 2s 6d
 Piano, Bechstein    £210          Piano, upright     £105

 Electricity, unit   6d            Gas, 1000 cu. ft.  4s
 Coal, ton           18s           Candles, lb        10d
 Matches, 12 boxes   8d - Non-safety before 1900
 Water filter 1 gln. 13s 6d, refills 9½d

2.4 London Slang

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Most middle- and upper-class Londoners speak standard English, possibly adding slang appropriate to their background; for example, an aristocrat might use terms related to hunting, shooting, and fishing. Generally this will be a relatively small part of their vocabulary.

Members of the lower and poorer classes tend to speak English with a distinctive accent, often laced heavily with slang. London slang is largely that of the East End, the so-called Cockney dialect, adding a form of rhyming slang. The term "Cockney" (derived from a Middle Ages word for "townsman") has changed its meaning many times; strictly speaking it should mean a resident of the City of London, not of the East End, but somehow it migrated East with the poorest residents of London. Most of the "lovable Cockney" image presented today is synthetic, a product of the music hall and stage, which was just beginning to emerge at the end of the nineteenth century. Throughout the period covered by this collections, most outsiders saw the East End as a place to fear, the haunt of foreigners, anarchists, and the "criminal classes."

A fake Cockney accent is easily mastered; drop the letter "H" from words that would normally begin with it, and occasionally use some or all of the following substitutions:

Pronounce "th" at the start of words as "f"
Pronounce "ith" at the end of words as "iv"
Pronounce "off" at the end of words as "orf"
Pronounce "ou" as "ah"
Pronounce "one" at the end of words as "orn"
Pronounce "own" at the end of words as "ahn"
for example:
"Where's my 'at?"
"Dinner's waiting at 'ome."
"Somefing's gorn wrong"
"E's gorn aht"
"E's gorn orf wiv 'er"
"E's goin' to snuff it" ("Snuff it" = die)
"I fink e's gorn orf dahn the pub" ("pub" = public house = bar)
You won't fool a real Cockney, in the unlikely event that you can find one, but it's good enough for the purposes of an RPG. An excellent example of a Cockney trying to use a more refined accent is the character "Parker", in the TV series Thunderbirds.

Rhyming slang is easy to explain, hard to understand and use if you aren't familiar with it. Typically, it takes a short phrase, part of which rhymes with a word, and uses the phrase, or just the part of the phrase that doesn't rhyme, instead of the original word. For example, the word "Whistle" might be used instead of "Suit", derived from the phrase "Whistle and flute." The word "Apples" is used instead of stairs, from "Apples and pears." There are many other examples, ranging from the innocuous to the obscene. Many are based on place names (eg. "Hampstead Heath" for "teeth") or the names of famous people. Often there are two or three possible meanings for the same word, depending on the context in which it is used.

Other sources of London slang include various foreign languages, Indian dialects brought back by servicemen, criminal argot, and other working class slang. The list that follows also includes some common phrases which are no longer in use or may be unfamiliar to foreign readers. It is by no means a comprehensive list of slang; it just includes some of the better-known phrases. The following abbreviations are used to show the origin of words and phrases:

CK = Cockney dialect
CS = Criminal slang
RS = Rhyming slang
WK = Working class slang

Adam (& Eve)            Believe (RS)
Apples (& pears)        Stairs (RS)
Airs (& graces)         Faces (RS)
Alleiluia lass          Salvation Army girl (WK)
Artful dodger           Lodger (RS)
Away                    In prison (CS)
Awful                   Offal (CK)

Babbling brook          (a) Cook (RS)
Ball of Chalk           Walk (RS)
Band of Hope            Soap (RS)
Barnet (fair)           Hair (RS; Barnet is a village near London)
Beak                    Magistrate
Bird                    Woman
(Do) bird               Spend time in prison
Black                   Blackmail (CS)
Bleeding, Bloody        Used to add intensity, eg "He's bleeding run off"
                        Generally regarded as offensive.
Blister                 Sister (RS; from "Skin and blister")
Bloke                   Man
Blue-bottle             Policeman
Bobby                   Policeman (very mild term; derives from the name
                        of Robert Peel, who founded London's police force)
Bonce                   Head (CK)
Boozer                  Public house
Boracic (lint)          Skint (broke; RS)
Bottle (and glass)      Arse (RS)
Bottle (of water)       Daughter (RS)
Bread and butter        Gutter (RS)
Bread and jam           Tram (RS)
Bubble and squeak       Speak (RS)
Bucket and pail         Jail (RS)
Bull and cow            Row (argument; RS)
Butcher's (hook)        Look (RS)

Cain and Abel           Table (RS)
Cat and mouse           House (RS)
The Chapel              Whitechapel (CK)
Charley Pope            Soap (RS)
Chokey (or Choky)       Prison (CS, from Indian dialect)
Civilian                A non-criminal (CS)
Clink                   Prison (CS)
Coal and coke           Broke, penniless (RS)
Cobbler's (awls)        Balls (Testicles; RS)
(I should) Cocoa        I should say so (RS)
College                 Prison, especially Newgate prison (CS)
Colney Hatch            Match (RS; Colney Hatch was a lunatic asylum)
Coffin nail             Cigarette
Cock and hen            Ten (especially ten pounds; RS, mainly CS)
College                 Prison (CS)
Conan Doyle             Boil - (RS, from 1895 onwards)
Copper                  Policeman
(Cor) blimey            Corruption of "(God) blind me" (CK)
Cosh                    Short heavy truncheon (CS)
Crust (of bread)        Head (RS)

Daisy Roots             Boots (RS)
Darbies                 Handcuffs (CS)
The Dials               Seven Dials district of London
Dickey                  Shirt (CS, from "Dickey dirt")
Dickory Dock            Clock (RS)
Dinah                   Favourite girl (CK)
Dog and Bone            'Phone (RS; probably not in use before 1920s)
Dolly mop               Prostitute, especially an "amateur" (CK)
Doxy                    Mistress, prostitute
the Drop                The gallows
Duke of Kent            Rent (RS)
Duke of York            Talk (RS; also used for walk, cork, or fork!)
Dutch                   Wife (CS, especially "my old Dutch")
Dynamiter               Any violent political criminal especially
                        Anarchists, Fenians, etc.

Elevenses               Mid-morning tea

Fag                     Cigarette
Fanny Adams             F*** all (RS, obscene; Fanny Adams was the victim
                        of a notorious murder in 1812)
Fine and dandy          Brandy (RS)
Fist                    Handwriting
Fleet Street            Journalism, the press; the street where most
                        London newspapers were based.
Flowery Dell            (prison) Cell (RS)
Four-by-two             Jew (RS)
Fourpenny one           A blow (RS, from "Fourpenny bit" = "hit")
France and Spain        Pain (RS)
Frog and Toad           Road (RS)

Gamp                    Umbrella
The Garden              Covent Garden Market, in the East End
Gasper                  Cigarette
Gay and Frisky          Whisky (RS)
German bands            Hands (RS)
Gig-lamps               Spectacles (mainly 19th century)
Ginger beer             Queer (Homosexual; RS)
Gob                     Mouth (vulgar)
The Gorblimies          The Seven Dials district (police slang)
Graft                   Work, especially if illegal, eg "hard graft"
Grampus                 A fat man
The Great Smoke         London (later "The Smoke")
Growler                 Four-wheeled cab
Growler-shover          Cab driver
Grub                    Food
Grub Street             The gutter press (see Fleet Street); also a real
                        street, but renamed in the early 19th century.

Half a bar              Ten shillings (CK)
Hampstead Heath         Teeth (RS)
Hampton (Wick)          Penis (RS, from "prick"; The real HW is a village)
Hokey-Pokey             Ice cream sold in the streets by Italian vendors
Hot stuff               Promiscuous

Ikey                    Jew, especially a receiver of stolen goods (CS)

Jack and Jill           Hill; sometimes a bill or a cash till (RS)
Jerry-Built             Badly built (possibly from jury-built or -rigged)
Jew                     Drive a hard bargain
Joanna                  Piano (RS - from Cockney pronunciation "pianner")
Johnny Horner           Corner (RS)

Leg it!                 Run for it!
Life-preserver          Weighted stick or cosh
Loaf (of bread)         Head (RS)

Mince Pies, Minces      Eyes (RS)
Mother Hubbard          Cupboard (RS)
Mother's Ruin           Gin

Needle and Pin          Gin (RS)
North and South         Mouth (RS)

On the floor            Poor (RS)
Orchestras              Balls (testicles; from "orchestra stalls" RS)

Peeler                  Policeman (rare; replaced by Bobby, above)
Pen and ink             Stink (RS)
Pew                     Seat, eg. "take a pew"
The Pink 'un            The Sporting Times newspaper.
Plates (of meat)        Feet (RS)
Pop                     Pawn
Pop off                 Die
Pub                     Public house

Rabbit (and pork)       Talk (RS)
Rosy (Lee)              Tea (RS)
Rot-gut                 Cheap spirits
Rub-a-Dub-Dub           Pub (RS)
Rozzer                  Policeman, especially detective (CS)

Scarper                 Run away (CS)
Skin and Blister        Sister (RS)
Snuff it                Die
Stretch                 A term in prison
Strike a light!         Expression of surprise, eg "Cor! Strike a light!"
Sweet Fanny Adams       See Fanny Adams, above.

Tea leaf                Thief (RS)
Tiffin                  A light lunch (Indian service slang)
Tin                     Money (upper class slang)
Titfer                  Hat (RS, from "tit for tat")
Toff                    A gentleman
Tomfoolery              Jewellery (RS especially CS)
Tommy Tucker            Supper (RS)
Trouble and strife      Wife (RS)
Two and eight           State (upset; "in a real Two and Eight"; RS)

Uncle                   A pawnbroker

Warning                 Notice (of resignation)
Weasel and Stoat        Coat (RS)
Whistle (and flute)     Suit (RS)
Wick                    Penis (RS; see "Hampton Wick")

2.5 Transport

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By 1900 London is already the nexus of elaborate transport systems; roads and canals linking every part of Britain, with railways carrying most passengers and an increasing portion of London's freight. The Thames is navigable by ship past Tower Bridge, and although the docks are declining in importance, they are still busy.

03_LINKS.GIF shows some of the principal routes; the Thames itself, the Grand Union Canal, a network of rivers and canals which links most cities in Britain, and some of the most important railway termini. Dozens of smaller stations have been omitted. The list which follows shows these stations, the companies that own them, and the areas they serve, going approximately clockwise around central London. All lines are standard gauge, 4' 8.5".

All of the main termini are served by trams, omnibus routes, and cabs, and the new underground and tube routes are rapidly expanding to link them. Eventually all will be part of a fast, modern, and reliable tube service [INV]

3.0 Catastrophe Theory

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It is impossible to cover every type of disaster story, and every aspect of each genre, without going to ridiculous lengths. What follows are some general ideas which may be useful in any disaster campaign; fine tuning the details must be left to the referee.

Disasters can come from many directions. It's useful to draw up a few broad classifications, but there is plenty of overlap between them; most notably, once one type of disaster occurs, it may well trigger others.

The first class of disasters are genuinely natural events; volcanoes [TVC] and earthquakes, tidal waves, blizzards [4WD], giant meteor impacts, ice ages [END], and the like. These are undoubtedly spectacular, but offer some problems as background for an RPG; generally speaking there is very little that characters can do in such a disaster, apart from attempting to survive and/or rebuild.

The next class consists of "pseudo-natural" disasters, natural events which are triggered or accelerated by human action. For instance, the sinking of London [VEN] is partly natural, partly a result of widespread excavation below the city. The smog of [4DN] is caused by a combination of weather conditions and pollution, while the plague of [DOD] is a naturally-occurring bacterium bred in, or mutated by, sewage and rubbish used as landfill, spread when the ground is excavated. The plague of [RIV] is also natural, but spreads due to criminal carelessness. Sometimes it may be possible to put things right, sometimes there is little to be done, apart from enduring the catastrophe. Most modern eco-thrillers fall into this general category. An obvious variant is the "naturally-triggered" disaster, where a natural event causes a human disaster. Good examples here are the films "The China Syndrome", in which a small earthquake triggers a reactor meltdown, and "The Poseidon Adventure", in which a ship hit by a tidal wave turns turtle.

Disasters may be "accidents"; fires, explosions [INV], train crashes, and other man-made disasters which are genuinely due to miscalculation or misfortune. [VEN] could also be considered a member of this group. Often they are preventable, or cause damage that can be limited by the correct use of skills and resources. [VEN] is a good example here, showing a situation that could have been disastrous which actually becomes an improvement, although it glosses over many of the problems that must accompany such a major change. They are discussed in more detail below.

Next come deliberate disasters; acts of vandalism or terrorism with catastrophic consequences. The possibilities include riot [4WD], economic sabotage or takeover [NY], and of course arson and other forms of mass destruction. Again, they are preventable, or may be limited, if the right actions are taken.

The final class of events are best described as all-out enemy action; invasion, by human troops (The Battle of Dorking) or aliens [WOW].

While the stories and articles discuss a wide variety of disasters and changes, it isn't likely that any real city could withstand many. Certain fictional cities (such as Superman's Metropolis) routinely shrug off earthquakes and mind control rays every few weeks, but real cities are generally a few days away from catastrophic failure; disrupt supplies and services for any length of time, and it may be impossible to repair the damage. Cities rarely experience more than one or two disasters per century; their survival depends on how well they handle the emergencies, or turn them to their advantage. As an extreme example, the Great Fire of London, in 1666, was a disaster in itself, but had the side effect of wiping out most of the rats that spread the Great Plague of 1665, and inspired some real architectural improvements.

An extended campaign set against a single disaster can be broken down into several phases; normal life before the disaster, with faint hints of the crisis to come; surviving the disaster; and the immediate aftermath and long-term consequences. These stages are covered in sections 3.1 to 3.3 below.

For example, in a campaign based on [WOW] the 'normal life' phase would be covered by chapters 1 to 4 of Book 1. Once the Martians actually attack the problem is mainly one of survival, as covered in the rest of Book 1 and chapters 1 to 7 of Book 2. The immediate aftermath and long-term consequences are covered very briefly in the last chapters. Obviously a campaign based on the novel would work best if the referee devoted most attention to the actual attack and the Martian occupation, but the referee might well decide to make the outcome dependent on the adventurers' actions; in this case, they might be scientists who develop and release the disease that kills the Martians. Alternatively, the referee might let the Martians win and run a campaign based on an extended guerrilla war; a campaign of this type is described in the Forgotten Futures rules.

A campaign based on John Wyndam's The Day of the Triffids would have a very different structure. By the end of the first chapter the disaster has occurred, with very little warning, and most of the human race is blind or dead. The rest of the book deals with attempts to pick up the pieces. The referee needs to explain how the adventurers retain their eyesight (blind characters are unlikely to be viable in a catastrophe campaign), motivate them to find a suitable refuge, and make the resumption of civilisation as difficult as possible.

For one-off adventures it can sometimes be best to focus on the disaster itself. Can the adventurers prevent it? If not, can they survive it? Can they profit from it? As a simple example, a one-off adventure based on [TVC] might start with the characters riding their bicycles through Cookham, with a few minute's warning of the wall of lava that's heading towards them. If they head for the high ground they'll survive, but there are obstacles in the way; a village fete, sheep on the road, innocent children unaware of the doom to come...

An alternative is to set the adventure long after the disaster or change, and work out how it has affected everyday life. For instance, adventurers in the London of [VEN] would speak a strange Anglo-Italian patois, travel everywhere by boat, and eat pasta, garlic, and other strange foods. How would this affect a bank robbery, or the everyday life of a vampire?

A campaign that takes in multiple worlds and lets players experience every possible disaster, at any point before, during, and after the emergency, is described in section 4.

3.1 Countdown to Disaster

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The prelude to a disaster should be marked by a sense of unease and hidden danger; characters may know that something is wrong, but they may miss some of the implications, or there may be reasons why they can do little to stop it. One obvious reason is lack of authority or influence; if the adventurers are unknown scientists, are notorious cranks, or have already sounded several false alarms, they are unlikely to be listened to. Good examples of this idea can be found in [DOD] and [4DN]. There may genuinely be nothing to be done, apart from evacuation; for example, the volcano of [TVC] would be unstoppable, even if it was predicted.

For a campaign which stresses politics and resource management, rather than action, give the adventurers all the authority they could possibly want, drop hints of the impending crisis, let them make their plans, then ensure that there will still be problems.

In London in 1900 disaster control is largely the responsibility of the local boroughs, with the help of the police, the London Fire Brigade (probably the most efficient in the world, staffed almost entirely by former Navy seamen with stations run under Naval rules and discipline), and ambulances from local hospitals. Troops are available, under the command of their officers and at the request of the local authorities, to help the police deal with riots and other disturbances. The LCC has just been given overall authority over the Fire Brigade and borough services, but is still feeling its way into its role. Against this setting the adventurers might be members of the LCC committee assigned to make sense of these organisations and draw up contingency plans, plus experts they consult, friends, etc. It's a role that will give them daily contact with the relevant authorities, and an early warning of trouble ahead. They might be able to make plans for several of the crises described in this collection, but would of course be held responsible for any omission from their plans. For example:

In [4WD] the adventurers might have advance warning of approaching weather conditions, and could arrange for extra stocks of food and fuel to be stored in the capital, and organise an emergency fixed-price coal distribution scheme. This would cover the main civil disorder aspects of the incident, but regardless of their actions water mains would still freeze, and catastrophic fires would still be likely to occur.

The characters of [4DN] know that a deadly smog is likely, although they cannot predict its severity. If adventurers were in authority, and could predict the problem, they might be able to enforce a ban on the use of raw coal in London (which happened, after lengthy legislation, a few years after the story was written). If the adventurers couldn't change the law, intelligent anticipation of the problem might include stockpiling of oxygen cylinders or filter masks at key points. It is unlikely that they would anticipate the need for high-intensity lights. Whatever they did, there would probably still be a high death-toll.

For an action-oriented campaign it's best to give characters knowledge without power. Again [4DN] is an excellent example; the hero knows that a smog is coming, but can only do something about it because he has a rich friend who has built an "aerophane" (airship) and has the authority needed to obtain explosives. How would he fare without his friend, or if his friend were less well-connected? The situation in [4DN] could involve several interesting missions; for example, a raid on an arsenal to steal the explosives needed for fog dispersal, "borrowing" enough acid and scrap zinc to make hydrogen to fill the aerophane, and so forth, then avoiding discovery until the disaster actually occurred. And of course it might never happen, leaving the adventurers with some very embarrassing supplies on their hands.

The situation in [4WD] is another good example; it's resolved reasonably well because a member of Parliament is prepared to organise the poor and illegally commandeer coal supplies. If this character were missing, it's likely that the situation would turn to violence, and possibly to outright anarchy. How would the adventurers fare if they were workers, desperate for fuel, or goons hired to protect the interests of its owners?

Similar examples might be prepared for many of the stories and articles in this collection.

The final type of "prelude to disaster" story is the detective adventure. The characters know that something strange is happening, but have no idea what. All they know is that someone is behaving oddly. Maybe it's a mad scientist about to cause some unimaginable catastrophe with a new device; maybe it's someone who knows that the disaster is coming, and plans to take advantage of the situation (or at least survive it) when it occurs. Maybe it's the government, scared to cause a panic, or anxious to ensure that "important" people survive, even if thousands of others must die. It might even be a foreign government, preparing some dastardly plan against Britain and the Empire. None of the stories in this collection fall into this detective category, but there are many modern examples, especially eco-thrillers. Examples include the novels "Stark" by Ben Elton, "Zodiac" by Neal Stephenson, "Sold - For A Spaceship" by Phillip E. High, "The Holmes-Dracula File" by Fred Saberhagen, and "The Great Wash" by Gerald Kersh, and the films "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker". British readers may also remember a spoof TV documentary, "Solution Three", which used fake film footage and recordings to support a claim that most of the world's major governments were secretly preparing to evacuate to Mars (really an inhabitable planet with life) in anticipation of an ecological collapse.

3.2 Don't Panic

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The moment at which the disaster actually occurs is the focus of most of these stories, but adventures involving an ongoing disaster tend to fall into a few simple moulds which may not suit every taste.

The most common is the "How do we survive" adventure, in which the characters are confronted with the disaster and simply have to live through it. In [TVC], for instance, the problem is simply one of getting to high enough ground at the edges of the disaster area. Films such as "The Poseidon Adventure", "Earthquake", "Meteor", "Daylight", and "The Towering Inferno" are very firmly in this mould; the disaster occurs, then the characters have to get out through a tunnel, sinking liner, sewers or fire and reach safety. There is an assumption that 'safety' and the 'normal world' are still around outside the disaster area.

A good alternative is a 'rescuers' adventure, where the disaster is occurring and the adventurers choose, or are forced, to help people escape or deal with the problem. All of the films above are in this mould, as are the stories [4DN], [DOD], and [INV]; [TVC] also uses the theme, in the hero's attempts to reach his family. Films and TV series dealing with the emergency services are a marvellous source of useful ideas; I especially recommend the TV series 'London's Burning' (Carlton TV), 'Casualty' (BBC TV), and 'Thunderbirds'. A campaign set in one of the conventional emergency services would be very limiting, but a one-off adventure (using, for example, the dimensional travel system in a later section to temporarily put the adventurers in this situation) could be an interesting exercise. It's also possible, of course, to imagine an Edwardian equivalent of the 'Thunderbirds' concept; a rescue organisation funded by a wealthy individual, using the latest high technology (steam-powered mechanical moles, airships, and the mighty force of electricity) to tackle crises that nobody else can handle. Possibly starring Nikola Tesla in the role of Brains..? This is somewhat beyond the scope of this collection, although the description of 'Engineering to Fail' in section 3.5 could be useful in such a campaign.

Criminal characters have another option, of course; they can take advantage of the disaster (or possibly even cause it), looting and/or killing and hoping that their crimes will be overlooked. They may even try to seize power in the confusion following the disaster. None of the stories in this collection deals with this theme, but there are plenty of examples in fiction; usually their protagonists are depicted as coming to sticky ends, but the adventurers might get lucky. See especially most disaster movies, episodes of 'The Avengers' and 'The New Avengers', the film 'Superman', etc. Interesting SF sources are the stories 'Flash Crowd' and 'The Last Days of the Permanent Floating Riot Club', both by Larry Niven, and the novel 'Lucifer's Hammer' by Niven and Pournelle.

The basic problem in criminal adventures is that they must give characters reasons to expect the disaster, and to be ready with the right equipment when it occurs. FF3 includes one scenario outline, The Man Who Broke The Bank..., set against the global disaster described in Doyle's novelette 'The Poison Belt', which might be relevant. Criminals must also assume that things will return to normal, so that loot will eventually have some value. For example, looters in [WOW] would have to believe that the Martians would eventually be destroyed, and that the money etc. they stole would eventually be worth something again. While it is now realised that a genuinely all-encompassing disaster might change values, leading to a situation in which food or warmth is much more important than gold or diamonds, this attitude wasn't common at the end of the 19th century.

Slowly developing disasters, such as the sinking of London described in [VEN], are likely to cause less panic, but more long-term disruption. In this example characters probably wouldn't have to perform daring feats of rescue, but might occasionally be inconvenienced when a favourite club closes because the lowest floors are flooded, the tube system is shut down in favour of a fleet of gondolas, etc. They are best used as background colouring, not as the main focus of a campaign. For instance, the worldbook for FF2 mentions floods caused by global warming as the nova Lila-Zaidie moves through the solar system. While the floods themselves would rarely be important in an adventure, the overcrowding and warfare they eventually cause might easily be the springboard for a scenario; the plot of one of the FF2 adventures revolves around the nova's effect on the natives of Ganymede.

3.3 Breakfast in the Ruins

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The aftermath of a disaster is probably the most rewarding setting for a long-term campaign; the period of weeks, months, or even years when life is slowly getting back to normal - or it is becoming obvious that it can never be the same again. As with the slow-moving disasters mentioned above, the disaster may serve best as the background for an adventure, not as its focus.

[NY] and [VEN] are all aftermath; they describe stable situations which will never revert to the former state of affairs. [VEN], particularly, suggests that the change is a major improvement, [NY] is far less certain. [TVC] is narrated from a viewpoint several years after the disaster, although it largely describes the disaster itself; the aftermath and subsequent events are unfortunately given little attention, except by inference.

Most of the other stories end with the disaster, rather than showing its long-term results, or with a return to normality. At best there are occasional hints (usually a character making an "I told you so" remark) to suggest that there will be an attempt to learn from the mistake. Most of the stories by Fred M. White suggest that the best response to a disaster is to rebuild, but do it better. Unfortunately real-life experience shows that this sometimes works, but more often the result is either complete indifference to the causes of the disaster, or 'improvements' that cause a bigger and better disaster the next time around!

As already mentioned, the incidental events following a disaster may often be a fruitful source of plot ideas. For example, [TVC] happens to mention the flooding of Oxford in the weeks after the disaster. If there wasn't time for a full evacuation that stripped every library and art gallery in the city, some treasures could be left underwater. An enterprising team of salvage experts might have an interesting time recovering them; or a group of criminals might be interested in hijacking the salvage.

3.4 Survivor's Syndrome

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If adventures are set in the aftermath of a major disaster, one possible complication is so-called 'survivor's syndrome'; a form of depression that sometimes occurs amongst survivors of 'plane crashes, hijackings, and hostage situations. Thousands of people may have lost loved ones in the disaster; many will be depressed, to varying degrees, or will turn to religion, spiritualism, or alcohol to raise their spirits. Traces of this attitude can be seen in [TVC], where there is a sudden vogue for frivolous entertainment after London is destroyed. In our world the deaths of the Great War led to a revival of spiritualism (see FF3 for more information) and the alcoholic excesses of the "roaring twenties".

Depicting this syndrome is best done via NPCs; widows mourning lost husbands and children, street-corner revivalists pushing Hellfire and damnation, encounters with alcoholics and the homeless, pointless wild parties hiding an inner emptiness, and occasional suicides. Referees may wish to suggest that characters who were involved in the disaster must suffer one or another form of this syndrome; while the FF rules don't have a mechanism for enforcing such behaviour, it's easy to act it out. Some manifestations of the syndrome do have game effects, as follows:

Players may expect some reward (such as extra points) as compensation for these problems, but referees should not feel obliged to cooperate; if there are complaints, tell them that life simply isn't fair, and that some suffering is natural after a disaster.

3.5 Engineering to Fail

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Many disaster adventures involve man-made structures; bridges, ocean liners, factories, power stations, and trains are some of the most obvious possibilities, but there are many others.

Modern engineers go to great trouble to ensure that the systems they design fail "gracefully"; boilers are fitted with escape valves and backup 'blowout' patches, generators have fuses and speed regulators, trains are built to stop automatically if the driver releases a lever or the brakes lose their vacuum. But things can still go wrong. Even in 1900 safety considerations were vital in engineering - but in a disaster campaign they should be ignored, or make things worse. Structures are built with no safety margins, controls tend to jam "on", and Murphy's law is always obeyed. Almost any example that can be imagined has probably occurred somewhere; for instance, the Chernobyl disaster was caused by a safety test that went wrong, the recent Channel Tunnel fire was made worse by a decision to keep the train moving and get it out of the tunnel. The Titanic showed how overconfidence can cause disasters; it sailed into danger, and carried insufficient life boats, because it was supposedly unsinkable, while other ships stayed out of the area or reduced speed to a crawl when they were near ice.

The extreme form of unsafe engineering, typified by the TV series "Thunderbirds" and the film "The China Syndrome", consists of systems which seem reliable until something goes wrong, then fail catastrophically. Usually they are certified as especially safe. As an example, one Thunderbirds episode showed a building designed with several fundamental flaws. Large quantities of fuel were kept in a corner of the basement car park; inevitably a car crashed into it, caught fire and exploded. The ventilator ducts were designed to close automatically if the building caught fire; the wiring to this system burned out before they operated. Fireproof doors slammed shut in the event of a fire; because the wiring wasn't protected against fire, they could not be opened to rescue anyone trapped behind them. Routes and exits weren't signposted; a family was trapped in the building, and eventually under its wreckage, because they got lost in a maze of corridors. Only an unlikely rescue saved them.

Most episodes of Thunderbirds showed similar problems; viewers will remember countdown timers that couldn't be stopped once they were started, immensely destructive vehicles without external shutdown controls, and (in the first episode) a nuclear aircraft with reactor shielding that started to fail if a flight ran slightly behind schedule!

In the context of this worldbook the best example of "engineering to fail" can be found in [INV]; here we see a gas main that can leak so much gas that it floods London's entire tube system without the gas company noticing, and an electrified railway that can apparently short-circuit repeatedly without fuses blowing. Most of the other stories see technology as a saviour, not a cause of problems, although [VEN] does mention that the sinking of London was hastened by mining, and the smog of [4DN] is largely composed of smoke from a burning oil storage depot.

Rather than taking a detailed look at every aspect of engineering, I looked for broad causes of trouble that have led to major accidents. Users of various conferences on CIX and Usenet helped immensely, suggesting many ideas I'd missed. Even after I'd cut some that only worked in a modern setting, there were still too many contributors to name, with some ideas coming from multiple sources (including several variants on the "flammable powders" idea). My thanks to everyone concerned!

4.0 Ideal London

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It is impossible for all the versions of London described in this collection to exist in the same world. For instance, London couldn't be destroyed by a volcano in 1901 [TVC] then converted to a replica of Venice [VEN] or New York [NY] a few years later. A fast efficient tube system [INV] is incompatible with a flooded city [VEN].

If referees want characters to visit the worlds of more than one of these stories, a means of travelling between them is needed. Ideally it should be flexible without letting the players become omnipotent, giving the referee a reasonable amount of control over their destination. Such a device is the Psychic Idealiser, invented by the eccentric philosopher, phrenologist and scientist Dr. Pyotr Plokta (of Utrecht, the Sorbonne, and Imperial College, London) in 1898. His portrait is part of IDEAL.GIF

Doctor Plokta believed in Platonic Ideals; the idea that every object is in fact a crude reflection of an idealised concept, which is perfect in every way. For example, every chair is in some way a reflection of the perfect chair, but falls short in some detail of comfort, function, or style. All arts and crafts strive towards a dimly-perceived Ideal, but always fall short.

Plokta first experimented with calculating engines, thinking that it might be possible to deduce the nature of the Ideal by pure logic, but a lengthy digression into this technology was ultimately a waste of time. Something beyond logic was needed, and Plokta sought the answer in psychic phenomena and the unknown nature of thought. He reasoned that the human brain must have an imperfect psychic link to the Ideal, which is at its best in some artists and craftsmen. Although the precise nature of thought was unknown, he decided that brain waves might be the key.

At this point it was known that brain waves were electrical, and that it was possible to detect faint electrical waves by various means; certain materials (most notably fine metal powders) were known to adhere in response to weak signals, as in the first radio receivers. Plokta put these facts together to create the Psychic Idealiser, a device which was supposed to amplify brain waves and use them to create momentary images of the Ideal.

The principle was somewhat complex. Basically, a hypnotised volunteer wore a special helmet consisting of hundreds of fine wire coils arranged around the appropriate "faculties" of the head, mapped by careful phrenological probing. The coils were connected to a bank of transformers leading to antennae arranged around a circular glass cylinder with a flexible diaphragm at its base, containing a quantity of fine powdered magnesium, an extremely light metal, electrified to several thousand volts by a Wimshurst machine. The volunteer was instructed to meditate upon some common object, such as a chair, and try to visualise its Ideal form. As he did so a clockwork mechanism vibrated under the diaphragm, throwing the dust into the air of the cylinder.

Plokta believed that the dust would be controlled by the amplified brain waves of the subject, momentarily adhering to form a crude replica of the Ideal object. He rigged a camera to take an "instantaneous" flash photograph of the result; after several explosions and redesigns of the equipment, he obtained a fuzzy image of Wren's original design for St. Paul's Cathedral, which differed in many details from the version eventually built. His subject couldn't remember seeing a picture of the design, so Plokta assumed that he had successfully visualised the building's Idealised form.

Plokta decided that the machine needed more power, and used a larger Wimshurst machine in the next model. While an assistant operated the equipment, Plokta tried to visualise the cathedral more clearly; as it reached full power, he and his assistant suddenly found themselves standing in the plaza in front of the revised cathedral, wearing strangely old-fashioned clothing and with blurry double memories of two lives; their lives in the world where Plokta invented the machine, and in this new world, which they rapidly realised had two extremely nasty features; Britain was at war with France (with a French invasion force occupying much of Sussex and the Channel coast, after a treacherous attack through an early Channel Tunnel), and medicine was still waiting for the discovery of germ theory. It was obvious that their personalities had somehow transferred to the bodies of their equivalents in the new world; none of their possessions went with them, and his assistant's new body had a finger he had lost in an accident several years earlier.

Plokta hoped that they might return to their original world if they tried the machine again; fortunately he remembered how to build it, and had the money needed to buy its components. Assembly took several weeks, mostly the time needed to wind the coils.

Eventually they were ready to try again. Both were anxious to escape before the French reached London, so they rushed to an early test - and found themselves in a world where it was 1907, St. Paul's Cathedral was much as they remembered, but London was criss-crossed with elevated railways and everyone spoke an Americanised form of English [NY]. Neither could stand the pace of this new society, so they built another machine and tried again. And again... Now, a score of worlds later, Plokta has established the basic principles of dimensional travel.

  1. You can't take material things with you; knowledge is another matter. In the fifth world they visited nobody had invented photography; Plokta's assistant knew enough of the chemistry to take out patents, and soon had several very lucrative contracts. He settled there and refused to participate in further experiments. Plokta has noticed that he sometimes gains new skills as he moves to a new world; for instance, he has picked up several languages his alter egos learned before he took over.
  2. You can't go back. Plokta has repeatedly tried to return to his original world, or any of the other worlds he has visited. It doesn't work. He believes that the body he leaves behind dies when he transfers to a new world, making it impossible for him to return. He has no proof of this, and tries to avoid thinking about it.
  3. You can only travel to a world where you already exist; on one occasion one of the "guinea-pigs" didn't make contact with Plokta after an experiment, and it subsequently emerged that he had died as a child. Plokta has no idea what happened to his personality; he may have been left behind, or may simply have vanished into nothingness. There seems to be no way to find out.
  4. The more people involved, the better it works; with one or two people using the equipment, it may take a dozen tries; with several, it usually works the first or second time. Everyone within a few feet of the equipment transfers to the new world. Occasionally those who transfer seem to forget their change of world within a few minutes; the only thing they remember of their previous lives seems to be a desire to have nothing to do with Plokta! Generally speaking, those who arrive in a better situation than they left are most likely to forget their origins; for example, one subject was a poor clerk with an unhappy marriage in the world he left, a happily married banker in his new identity, and soon forgot his "original" past.
  5. Time is variable between worlds; Plokta often notices that the date and time differ by hours, weeks, or even years when he arrives in a new world. He often arrives months earlier than he left - but the history of the worlds involved has been so different that he has rarely been able to take advantage of his knowledge of the future. He is aged appropriately for the date; 40 in 1898, 49 in 1907, and so forth.
  6. Practice makes perfect. As Plokta travels he finds it easier to visualise features of the world he desires; but anything he doesn't imagine seems to be entirely random. Generally speaking, he seems no closer to any Ideal.
  7. Simple changes work best. If a complicated feature is imagined, it tends to be incomplete. A simple feature is most likely to work as planned.
Plokta has now perfected the technique of settling in a new world, raising funds to buy the equipment for another jump, recruiting a few "colleagues" for his next experiment, and travelling on again. Often those he recruits have little idea of the full scope of his device; in various worlds he has presented himself as the inventor of electrical telepathy, of a means of communicating with the dead, and of a device for recording dreams, whatever seems most appropriate to the world he is in.

Doctor Pyotr Plokta (eccentric genius)
BODY [4], MIND [6], SOUL [3], Babbage Engine [8], Brawling [5], Doctor [4], Linguist (English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Greek) [7], Mechanic (electrical engineering) [8], Psychology [6], Scholar (Philosophy, Logic, Classical studies, History) [7], Scientist (Neurology, Phrenology) [8]
Equipment: varies, generally unarmed
Quote: "So Britain was conquered by France in this world? Interesting..."
Notes: See above

4.1 Campaign Use

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Dimensional travel is an easy way to let characters visit the worlds described in this collection; it also lets them visit any other world, such as those described in previous Forgotten Futures collections.

Plokta's machine is a good framing device for an episodic dimension-hopping campaign. Because nothing physical is transferred from one world to another, the referee has complete control of the adventurers' equipment, physical state, health, wealth, and status. A millionaire in one world can be a tramp in the next. There are limits, of course; a character who is a member of a noble family will still be a member of that family in all worlds, but it's still possible for the family fortune to be lost, an older brother (who died in the original world) might inherit it, or a revolution might condemn all aristocrats to death. Alternatively, a "poor relation" might now hold the family title following several unlikely accidents - and gradually realise that his alter ego has murdered everyone who stood between him and the title, and that the police are closing in.

The date and time may differ from one world to the next, with the age of the adventurers varying accordingly; if someone is 25 in 1900, and travels to a world where it is 1920, his new body will be 45 years old. If it is 1880 he will be 5 years old. Adventurers travelling to worlds where they are dead, or have not yet been conceived, do not arrive with their colleagues. If the adventurers later travel to another world where the time is closer to their origin, the missing characters may be present, but it is not guaranteed. If adventurers travel to the past there is nothing to stop them taking advantage of their knowledge of forthcoming events; equally, there is no guarantee that events will unfold as expected.

Once the adventurers are aware that dimensional travel is possible, they are likely to find reasons to continue, if only in the hope that they might one day find something vaguely like their original world. But the referee should gradually reveal the murderous implications of the process; the fact that with each leap the possessing mind absorbs the new body's personality and memories, and leaves a mindless body behind. Religious implications may also deserve some attention.

Initially adventurers might be sucked in by one of Plokta's deceptions, encouraged to observe his experiment and transferred to the next world he visits, or might cross his trail as he tries to obtain the components for the next "jump". They might even come across his path after he has left a world; the discovery of some comatose (and apparently mindless) bodies in a laboratory could lead to experiments with his device, although it is likely that adventurers will try to prevent harmful effects. Characters need not all originate in the same world; there is nothing to stop Plokta (or anyone else) recruiting new companions as they travel.

Remember that Plokta, and everyone else involved, do not suddenly appear from nowhere in a new world; they have always existed there, all that is transferred is the parasitic personality of the invading psyche. They will not necessarily appear in the same place; there is no real reason why they should know each other in the new world. Possibly one or more of the adventurers doesn't exist in the new world; their parents never married, or they died in childhood. Possibly they are in Australia or some other remote location, and will have to find a way to rejoin the party (or follow them afterwards). This is a good excuse to omit absent players from the campaign. Optionally such characters are reunited with the team on the next jump. Versions of adventurers or important NPCs who have been killed may possibly be found in a new world - one possible reason for dimensional travel is a desire to find a loved one - but naturally the new version of the adventurer knows nothing of any previous lives.

Because the knowledge of the invading personality is generally similar but not identical to that of the invaded mind, each transition adds a chance of improving skills. If players wish to attempt to add or improve ONE skill on entering a new world, reduce the Difficulty of all rolls by 2 and the cost in Bonus Points by 1. Further skills are improved normally.

Example: Basil has MIND 3 and the skill Marksman 5 as he transfers to another world. He decides that he wants to improve the skill to 6; it costs 5 Bonus points, not 6, and is Difficulty 4.
Optionally the referee can allow transfer of points from one skill to another to meet the needs of a new world, but this is not recommended.

While the new life is generally similar to the old, there may sometimes be radical changes; the new version of a character might be male instead of female, rich not poor, idle rather than industrious.

One disadvantage of this type of campaign is a belief that adventurers can always leave their problems behind; that no matter how bad the situation might be, the next world will be better or at least different. A jump to a body that is terminally ill, in prison, or in a lunatic asylum, and thus unable to rendezvous with the other adventurers to jump to another timeline, should cure this delusion.

Example: After a jump all of the adventurers are in new bodies, and find that in this timeline [TVC] London was recently destroyed by a volcano. They are widely separated across Britain, and two are hospitalised, seriously injured escaping from the volcano. They have no easy way to make contact; nobody is living at the usual addresses, thousands of refugees are trying to find friends and relatives, and communications are chaotic at best. There aren't even any regular newspapers in the London area, so a cryptic advertisement in the personal column isn't possible. Transformers are in short supply, as are most of the other components of Plokta's device. It may take weeks for all the adventurers to meet and get the machine working again.
Optionally, for a game that may become somewhat schizophrenic, each jump may involve an attempt to subjugate the personality of the new body, by rolling SOUL versus the SOUL of the new body: For example, one of the adventurers might jump into a paranoid mind but fail to take control. The paranoid is now the dominant personality, and knows all about multiple worlds and the machine. He seeks out the other adventurers and helps them to build the device, intending to betray them and leave them behind when he escapes to a new world.

For a campaign with a greater range in time, referees may allow the Idealiser to transport the adventurers to the bodies of their alternate selves' ancestors or descendents. The obvious drawback is the fact that it would be very difficult to build an Idealiser before the mid-19th century. One interesting idea; if the alter egos of two of the adventurers happened to marry, there might be only one suitable descendent, which both adventurers might jump into simultaneously. This creates a totally schizophrenic character, one of whose personalities will be in a body that's the wrong sex...

If adventurers seem reluctant to move on from a world that they've reached the referee should try to respect their wishes. If this isn't possible - for instance, if the referee has prepared adventures set in another world - it may be necessary to change the way the Idealiser works. The easy option is to assume that the Idealiser loosens their "grip" on the world, and that another dimensional journey will start if anyone uses such a machine anywhere in the world. Then make sure that someone else invents it, but give the adventurers at least a slim chance of preventing the discovery. Sooner or later someone will succeed, and "inadvertently" send them on to a new adventure.

One option for an Idealiser campaign, suggested by Ken Walton, is the use of player ideas to determine the nature of the game world. The referee gives each player one fact (such as the name of the King or Queen, a popular song, a domestic product, etc.), and uses their discussion of this data to finalise the details of the world.

4.2 Adventure Ideas

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Since there is little or no continuity between adventures with this background, the characters can be plunged into the following situations with little warning:

The Man With Two Minds

Shortly after arriving in a new world which has several undesirable features, the adventurers are individually approached by a total stranger who introduces himself as "Eric, Eric Swanson" and seems to think that they should know him. If they deny it he seems confused and makes an excuse (along the lines of "I'm sorry, I must have got the name wrong, and I always did have a bad memory for faces...") and leaves without explaining further. If they play along with him he soon makes it clear that he believes that he is has accompanied the adventurers through several worlds; he can't understand why nobody has been in touch about getting away from "this awful place", and is worried that he'll be left behind.

If you want to introduce a new adventurer or regular NPC, Swanson (use the character's name instead) is exactly what he says he is; a dimensional traveller from a parallel world that is almost identical to one the adventurers visited, who has accompanied equivalents of them to several worlds. Somehow he has become separated from his companions; or possibly the companions have become separated from him. Swanson's memories of the last world visited tally almost exactly with those of the adventurers. It seems possible that both groups tried to enter the same world at the same time, but only one group could succeed. Since a version of Swanson didn't accompany them, the way was clear for this version. The alternate adventurers have vanished - or maybe they'll arrive later and try to take over the brains the existing adventurers already occupy. This could get very confusing...

For a one-off adventure, Swanson is a scientist studying the nature of space and time who has detected the "arrival" of the adventurers and seeks to learn the secrets of dimensional travel. His equipment (a bulky electrical device in his home) can detect the arrival of a dimensional traveller and approximate location, but isn't portable. He has tried several NPCs before finding the real travellers. In this case his story is less coherent; he explains this by saying that he has confused memories, possibly a result of the fluke that left him accompanying the adventurers, and he knows little more than that they aren't from this world. Swanson poses as a mathematician, and pretends to take an intelligent layman's interest in the construction of the Idealiser. Unfortunately he is extremely ruthless, and hopes to steal the secret and find a world he can conquer; a good role model is "The Master", from Doctor Who. He can be introduced as a recurring villain.

Another possibility is that Swanson is a psychic or telepath, using his abilities to discover the adventurers and join them. His motives might be innocent (love of adventure, an urge to travel), with the story just a white lie to ingratiate himself with the team, or they may be as base as those above. Given that psychic dimensional travel exists, other psychic powers must also be possible. Whether they will work in all worlds is another matter.

Child's Play

The adventurers transfer to a world with an early date (eg the 1870s) where they are mostly small children; try to adjust this so that they can all walk and talk, but even the oldest is still under parental control, at boarding school, or otherwise restrained. This may need some preliminary planning, to avoid the presence of older characters who will be adult in this setting.

Despite their childish forms they still retain all their knowledge, but their parents (or teachers if they are at school) won't understand why they are suddenly acting so strangely, and communicating with each other and putting an Idealiser together will be a nightmare. Possibly some of the adventurers will like the idea of living life all over again; time to introduce them to the wonderful world of childhood diseases, smacked bottoms, school bullies, and arbitrary parental control.

There's no real need to have any other plot, but if you want one, Free Nessie (in FF III) could be adapted to a 19th century setting relatively easily. Phil Masters' RPG The Skool Rules, included with FF III, has some interesting ideas on adventure with a school setting.

Thunder Child

This scenario should not be run as the first adventure of a campaign. Familiarity with [WOW] is advisable. The illustration THUNDER.GIF may be useful.

1901. The Martian invasion is in full swing, and the adventurers emerge in the minds of officers and men serving aboard the torpedo-ram Thunder Child, anchored off the port of Tillingham, Essex. If necessary appropriate skills, such as Military Weapons, are added without cost. Any female characters or children are refugees who have been taken aboard from an overloaded fishing smack that has just sunk near the Thunder Child. The adventurers know that in their previous lives the Invasion was fiction; here it is cold deadly fact.

The players may be aware that in [WOW] the Thunder Child is destroyed gloriously, destroying two Martian fighting machines as it defends a convoy of refugees, then is finally overcome by a third; if so, the adventurers also remember this aspect of the story. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any obvious escape route; there certainly isn't time to build a Psychic Idealiser from scratch.

As the adventure begins Captain Jason Standish of the Thunder Child (an NPC) has called a brief officer's meeting - he plans to set sail for France with the next tide, and wants all departments to be ready for sea in thirty minutes. His orders were to stay on station as long as possible, but recent signals say that the Martians are coming towards the coast; it's time to save the ship. If anyone mentions the refugees, he says "Well, of course we'll stay with them, in case of accidents, but we'll have to cut and run if the Martians turn up. By all accounts guns hardly scratch the blighters."

Is Standish really going to desert the convoy - or will he rise to the challenge when the Martians appear? If he tries to run, will the adventurers do anything to stop him? Are the Martians even as close to the coast as he fears? Will they arrive today? And are the adventurers really ready to die heroically, or can they somehow change events to let the Thunder Child survive the battle?

For the purposes of this scenario exact game data for the ship and Martian war machines isn't needed. The events described in [WOW] are predestined if nothing is changed; Standish will indeed defend the convoy at the cost of the ship. To change this the adventurers might stage a mutiny to get the ship clear of the Martians, or devise a cunning plan to increase the effectiveness of the Thunder Child's weapons. For instance, the ship could fire a spread of torpedoes in addition to using its guns and ram; while they are very short-ranged weapons in 1901, an exploding torpedo could upset the first or second Martian before it fires on the Thunder Child, leaving the ship in better shape to attack the third. In [WOW] the destruction of the Thunder Child is followed by an attack by a Martian flying machine, which sprays Black Smoke onto the sea near the wreck. If the war machines are destroyed this attack is made from greater altitude, giving the Thunder Child more time to get clear; if the Thunder Child is damaged but not destroyed the steam venting from various parts of the ship, and fire hoses wielded by damage control parties, dissolve the Black Smoke before it is inhaled by most of the crew, although a few NPCs will die.

If all goes well the ship will eventually limp from the cloud and reach a safe harbour in France; Standish is awarded the VC, his officers and men are heroes. If things go really badly everyone will die, or the adventurers will be branded as mutineers or deserters.

Once the invasion ends the adventurers should be able to build an Idealiser and carry on to another world, or they may wish to stay around and help with the post-Invasion reconstruction.

The Best Of All Possible Worlds

This adventure is best run towards the end of a campaign that uses the option in section 4.2, whereby anyone who experiences the idealiser is permanently sensitised to it. It is an exploration of the consequences of an infinite number of worlds and this form of travel.

As the adventurers travel from world to world they realise that they are being swept along in someone else's wake more and more frequently; initially once every couple of months, then every couple of weeks, then several times a day. Eventually they abruptly stop travelling in a world that seems to be everything that they could possibly want - except that everyone in that world is "occupied" by a dimensional traveller!

The explanation is simple; given an infinite number of universes, there must be an infinite number containing Dr. Plokta and his machine, or some other inventor with a similar machine. For each inventor there must be an infinite variety of circumstances in which the machine is used; enough to give everyone in the world some chance, however small, of experiencing its effects. Somehow all of the travellers from all of these worldlines have converged as one world. It's a very nice world, with beautiful art, architecture, and music, where illness, poverty, and ugliness are unknown. It's also just a little boring for the average adventurer, but most people are very happy.

Since everyone knows that if anyone builds an Idealiser and jumps out they will all be affected, the Idealiser is naturally highly illegal, and the police closely monitor all purchases of materials that could possibly be used to build one. The adventurers might try to leave, and discover the hard way that this is forbidden, or might be involved in the hunt for someone stealing the components.

Even if the adventurers don't leave, and succeed in stopping all others from leaving, the harmony of this perfect society gradually starts to break down, since nobody is really quite at home in it. Crime, vandalism, and other problems mar the facade of perfection; eventually so many people want to leave that there is no hope of keeping a lid on the problem. The next world that the adventurers experience isn't nearly as nice, but somehow they feel much more at home.

4.3 More Multidimensional Campaigns

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Campaigns might be based on any of the other Forgotten Futures sourcebooks. For instance:

Several other RPGs are based on the idea of dimensional travel. You are especially referred to GURPS Time Travel (Steve Jackson Games) and its supplement GURPS Alternate Earths, Champions In 3D (Hero Games), The Adventures of Luther Arkwright RPG (23rd Parallel Games, now out of print) and Fringeworthy (Tri-Tac Games). Two examples follow:

For the Luther Arkwright RPG all of the worlds described are amongst those detected in W.O.T.A.N.'s 1889 scan of parallel worlds. Adventures will have to be set from 1925 onwards, when ZeroZero's empathically-linked agents in other dimensions are first encountering evidence of Disruptor activity. The events of the stories, which are part of these worlds' historical background, may be a result of Disruptor intervention. For example, the smog that afflicts London [4DN] could be artificially generated, its removal part of a Disruptor plan to put Grimfern into a position of authority; he will run for Parliament as "The man who saved London", become an important figure in the Cabinet, and use his influence to sway the government towards policies which benefit the Disruptors.

For Fringeworthy nine worlds were apparently linked for an experiment in divergent history. All gates on all worlds are warps:

Prime: the world of [TVC] a year after the eruption. Its strange geology is the result of some form of tectonic tampering in the distant past. Locations:

  1. London (OFF, Dh, Dt); the gate was in the sewers, but is now under molten lava!
  2. Australia (ON); gate near Ayers Rock, aborigines are camped nearby and are hostile to whites.
  3. Amazon jungle (OFF); in the middle of rain forest, nowhere near any human habitation.
  4. India (ON); a cave in the hills a few miles from Simla, the British headquarters. Several kraits (venomous snakes) live in the cave.
  5. Surrey, England (ON); the gate entrance is in a tower on Leith Hill, about forty miles from London. The volcanic plain around London is visible from the hill. The tower is locked and barred from the outside except when opened for occasional visitors, getting out isn't easy.
  6. Galapagos Islands (ON); A small uninhabited island, an unspoilt tropical paradise. Which is occasionally hit by hurricanes, tidal waves, etc.
  7. Iceland (OFF, Lt); a ledge halfway up an otherwise undistinguished mountain, it has a nice view of the sea, but there is no way down without climbing gear.
  8. Belgium (ON, Damaged); the gate is in woods a few miles from Brussels. Timed transfer, duration 3 hours 25 minutes. The woods have a reputation for being haunted.
All Alternates have gates in the sewers of London; nobody can understand why the Tehrmelern chose to use the same location in every alternate, and the Tehrmelern refuse to comment.
  1. (OFF Hp) [VEN] in 1910, the gate is under water.
  2. (ON) [4DN] a few days before the fog
  3. (ON Lt) [4WD] during the blizzard.
  4. (OFF) [INV] a few days after the destruction of the tubes.
  5. (ON) [DOD] during the epidemic; sewage is contaminated.
  6. (OFF) [NY] in 1926, London has American-style gangsters.
  7. (OFF) [NZ] the sewers have been excavated by archaeologists.
  8. (ON, Lt) [END] man is extinct, monsters roam the glaciers.
Optionally one of these gates leads instead to a pocket universe containing gigantic terraforming machines. One of them is programmed to create the underground hot spots which cause fissure volcanoes.

Fictional sources for alternate worlds include the "Paratime" series (H. Beam Piper), the "Chronoplane Wars" books (Crawford Killian), the novels "Alternities" (Michael P. Kube-McDowell) and "Worlds of the Imperium" (Keith Laumer), Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius novels and related fiction, the TV series "Sliders", and numerous other stories. An excellent web site lists alternate history fiction.

5.0 Game Worlds

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This section consists of short summaries of the history of London and Britain, as modified by the events described in most of the stories in this collection. Readers are strongly advised to look at the source material before reading the summaries. The War of the Worlds is omitted for copyright reasons, [END] because the article presents a number of options rather than a single history. [DOD] and [RIV] have such similar themes that their histories have been combined.

Special thanks to the users of the soc.history.what-if newsgroup for their thoughts on these stories; in particular, "The Kedamono Dragon" and others for comments on mad scientists, Chris A. Williams for ideas on the financial implications of the destruction of London, and the many contributors to the "Britain as a US State" thread.

5.1 The Thames Valley Catastrophe

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While most volcanoes occur at plate boundaries, mantle plumes can cause them elsewhere. The mechanism is simple; convection currents in the mantle combine to draw material from deep below the surface. This material is often heated by radioactivity, creating a localised hot spot or plumule which can melt through the crust towards the surface. Usually this takes place at sites where volcanic activity has previously occurred, and is seen as the reactivation of an "extinct" volcano, but sometimes there is no warning. A classic case, notable mainly for its abrupt violence, scale, and loss of life, was the destruction of London on Friday August 22nd 1902...
[Aspects of Geology: Rowena Dell, New Oxford University Press 1994]

Even in the 1990s nobody is entirely sure of the exact sequence of events that caused the destruction of London and the villages and towns of the Thames Valley, but geologists agree that there was little or no warning. One day the Thames Valley was entirely peaceful; the next it was a lake of molten lava, stretching nearly to the sea.

Fortunately the new King survived the disaster, as did most of Parliament; even the Members who lived in London were generally out of town for the weekend and Parliament's Summer Recess. Important exceptions were the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, who were probably attending a meeting at the War Office when London was destroyed. In the aftermath there was widespread confusion; the survivors of the disaster were mostly homeless, while millions of relatives of Londoners were bereaved. Not surprisingly, the civil service was in total disarray, leaving charities and the general public to take care of the refugees. In this chaos certain matters were overlooked; for example, the flooding of Oxford might have been delayed for several months if various canals and tributaries had been deepened and used to divert water around the lava, or avoided altogether if a proposed tunnel through the Downs had been built, but the will to organise major engineering works was absent. The money needed for such schemes was also in short supply; much of Britain's gold was in the vaults of the London clearing banks, and remained buried until the excavations of the late 1930s. Britain's 1908 abandonment of the gold standard, and resumption of it in 1940, were amongst the many consequences.

Most of Britain's "invisible exports" were also irreparably damaged. With the destruction of Lloyds a large proportion of the world's insurance market was left uncovered, causing the collapse of at least forty other companies in Britain, the Empire and the United States over the next four years, and leaving thousands of claimants penniless. Another economic blow came with the realisation that all records of many debts were lost, not just in Britain but throughout the world. The effects on the Argentine were an extreme example; most of the country's economic and industrial infrastructure was owned by London-based banks, with records filed in London for safety. In the legal chaos that followed the eruption it was virtually impossible to prove their ownership, and most were tied up in prolonged court cases and eventually nationalised by the Argentine government. Today the Argentine is by far the wealthiest and most influential nation of the South American Confederation, largely as a result of the boost this early windfall gave to its economy, and the political leverage of this wealth was evident in the 1967 purchase of the Malvinas, the former Falkland Islands, and their use as a base for the Argentine's current deep sea manganese mining programme.

As noted above, despite the Parliamentary recess the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury) and most of the Cabinet were in London; all were killed. Their deaths, and the Tory inability to agree on a successor, made an election essential. A narrow Liberal victory followed, but their majority in the Commons was too small for effective government, and the Lords did little to help; their opposition even hampered the relocation of Parliament itself. In 1902-3 a public subscription raised funds for the construction of new buildings, but interminable arguments about their location and layout delayed the start of building until 1905. The temporary accommodation in Birmingham, used until the 1907 summer recess, was wholly inadequate for the needs of government. The new Houses were opened by the King on the fifth anniversary of the disaster.

Much has been written about the international politics of this period; Germany, France, and Belgium all began "adventures" into British colonial territory, assuming that there would be little organised opposition, and were unpleasantly surprised. While the London-based regiments were decimated by the volcano, and two frigates and a cruiser were overwhelmed by lava in the Pool of London, Britain's colonial armies and the bulk of the Fleet were unharmed. Centralised control was sketchy at best for several months, but the colonial forces had always enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy; in fact, there is reason to believe that these external threats held the Empire together in the aftermath of the disaster. If the military and foreign service had time to brood on events, it is likely that poor morale would have followed; when foreign powers intervened the result was anger which overrode other feelings.

An important effect of the gold shortage was a freeze on new Naval construction which kept Britain out of the 1914-15 European war. With control of the oceans, Britain might have been tempted to field its armies and enter the war before the Triple Alliance's conquest of France was complete; as it was, the relative weakness of the Fleet delayed intervention until it was obviously too late to take effective action. Britain's role in the 1921-25 Russo-German war and the final defeat of the Triple Alliance was a direct result of this earlier neutrality, and of intensive ship and submarine construction in the years 1914-22. Fortunately the just and equitable settlement that followed has subsequently kept Britain, Europe and the Russian Empire at peace, and it seems likely that stability will continue into the 21st century.

An unusual effect of the disaster was a peculiar change in public taste. Whereas the late Victorian period saw Britain at its most repressed, Edward's age was positively liberated. Theatres across Britain began to show farces of all types, some far more daring than those of Paris or Vienna, and there was a corresponding loosening of many other restraints. It is estimated that the birth rate rose by 20% in the two years after the disaster, with illegitimate births accounting for nearly half the increase. Nude bathing returned to most beaches, and there was a new and daring mood in fashion and the arts. Where once Britain looked to Paris for its styles, Paris now found inspiration in Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Britain's other new fashion centres. It was widely believed that this would be a short-lived phenomenon, but the European war confirmed the spirit of liberation; while Germany and France were locked in their struggle, neutral Britain was a comparative island of hedonism. Even today, after the puritanical youth backlash of the 1960s and 1970s, Britain is still widely perceived as the "sexual capital of Europe", and it is likely to be many more years before memories fade. Since this reputation brings in a substantial income from tourism, especially from the more puritanical areas of the USSA (United Socialist States of America), Britons have no real reason to complain.

Since 1902 there have been two more eruptions, in 1927 and 1954. Both were comparatively minor, re-opening cracks in the basalt covering the original fissure and spreading lava a few miles East of the fissure. The shores of Lake Newbury and Lake Oxford were evacuated, and there was some property damage, but there was no loss of life. There were also several earthquakes, the last in the late 1930s, causing widespread property damage and some deaths. Further eruptions and earthquakes are widely considered to be overdue.

Today the Thames fissure is possibly the most intensively monitored volcano in the world, with sensors buried in hundreds of locations for many miles around. Its importance as a geothermal power source cannot be overstated; steam turbines on the Lambourne Downs, to the West of the fissure, are currently responsible for 18% of Britain's electricity generation. It has been suggested that the water released into the rock by the network of bore holes and conduits is in part responsible for the reduction in volcanic and seismic activity (an early theory that water running into the lava was causing earthquakes is now generally discredited), but there is little firm evidence to back up this claim.

With the benefit of hindsight all of these effects are obvious, and the course of events was inevitable; guessing how things might have gone without the volcano is a common (but ultimately futile) topic for scientific romances and speculative historians.


George ??? (the narrator; post office clerk and cyclist)
BODY [5], MIND [4], SOUL [3], Athlete (long-distance cyclist) [7], Brawling [6], Business [6], Mechanic (bicycles) [5]
Equipment: Bicycle, clips, pump, puncture kit, etc.
Quote: "Run, run, to the downs! A flood of lava is rushing up the valley! To the hills, for your lives! All the Thames bank is blazing!"
Notes: George (no last name is given) is a clerk in the General Post Office, on holiday when the story begins. He will eventually rise to the post of Secretary, a position of enormous responsibility in an organisation as vast as the post office. He has a wife (Ethel) and two children, Albert (Bertie) and an unnamed baby.

George W. Ward (American geologist and tourist)
BODY [4], MIND [4], SOUL [2], Athlete (cyclist) [5], Scientist (Geology, volcanology) [7]
Equipment: Bicycle etc., sketch pad, geological hammer, various rock samples.
Quote: "Yes; just what I told you. A fissure-eruption!"
Notes: Ward is an American geologist, in Britain for a six-week vacation studying the rocks of the Southern counties of England. He is a former employee of the US Geological Service, now an independent consultant for various oil companies. Ward is a patriotic American who believes that even American geology is more grandiose than that of Europe. He meets the narrator by chance (the coincidence of their common name must have caused some amusement), and fortuitously gives him the information he will need to survive the eruption. Unfortunately Ward is one of the first victims; his lack of mechanical expertise is ultimately the cause of his death.

Adventure Outline: Raiders of the Lost Cathedral

1910. Solidified lava covers London, but conditions below the surface are unknown. Scientists need more information, and have come up with a dangerous plan. The dome of St. Paul's Cathedral still protrudes above the crust; if the building somehow stayed intact and didn't fill with lava, it might be possible to break in through the dome and place electrical thermometers and other instruments at various depths. It's an extremely risky undertaking; for all anyone knows the building might be ready to collapse, if it hasn't already filled. But the alternative is drilling through basalt, a major undertaking in this era.

The mission, should the adventurers decide to accept, is simple; get in, go as deep as possible, drill through the cathedral wall to plant thermocouples (electrical thermometers), and get out again safely, doing the minimum of damage since it's hoped that it might one day be possible to excavate the cathedral. Heavy machinery cannot be used; experts who have studied the situation think that the cathedral's condition is very precarious, and excessive weight on the crust in its immediate vicinity will probably trigger a final collapse. Lightweight scaffolding probably won't cause problems. The Church of England insists that the mission team should include at least one clergyman, who will ensure that there is no desecration or theft.

The referee should obtain a plan of the cathedral, decide on its condition, and arrange a few hazards. The adventurers must get through the roof, then either descend more than 300 ft by rope, or find a way to the stairs. Part of the dome might collapse if the team break in carelessly, leaving a hemispherical bubble in the lava but burying the lower parts of the cathedral in debris. Walls and stairs might be weakened. As the adventurers get deeper they should find the temperature rising, and may eventually encounter molten lava. Even if the building is intact, looters might be waiting for the adventurers to clear the way.

Depending on the attitude of the adventurers, this might be done as a quick high-risk raid on the cathedral, or cautiously, with the help of a team of workmen and elaborate precautions against collapse.

Optional complications include looters, unseasonable rain leading to flash floods (all the water that falls on the impervious basalt plain has to go somewhere), religious opposition, etc.

For a campaign involving Dr. Plokta's invention, all of the adventurers have lost homes or had relatives or loved ones killed by the volcano, and will probably want to try another world. St. Paul's Cathedral is of course one of the most important archetypes of the Ideal, at least in London. Knowledge of Plokta's theory should suggest that using the device in the cathedral may improve the odds on reaching a world that is exactly what the adventurers desire.

5.2 The Four White Days

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Hampden, Baron John Arthur Ba.(Econ.) (1870-1943); Labour MP for East Battersea 1899-1932, Leader of Labour Party 1914-28, Prime Minister 1914-20, 1922-27. Created peer 1933. Publications "The Climactic Crisis" 1908, "Towards a New Socialism" 1912, "Economics of Food Production and Rationing" 1916, "Winter of Discontent" (biog.) 1936, "The Balkanisation of Germany" 1941.
[Who Was Who, 1955]

On Monday January 25th 1904 a gale and blizzard of unprecedented ferocity swept across Britain, a country which has always placed rather too much faith in the moderating effects of the Gulf Stream. It lasted for 36 hours, and left ten feet or more of snow in most parts of the capital, brought down telephone and telegraph wires, damaged street lighting, and disrupted the gas supply to much of the capital. The continued cold that followed froze water mains, leading to several uncontrollable fires; the most famous was the destruction of the Hotel Cecil on the Strand, but several slum blocks were destroyed in the East End, with at least fifty dead and hundreds more injured.

During the emergency, London experienced what has often been described as a socialist uprising; thousands of workers, led by the charismatic John Hampden, M.P. for East Battersea, stormed coal yards and food warehouses to "liberate" essential supplies hoarded by speculators who were holding out for higher prices. In other circumstances this might have led to wholesale arrests, martial law, and long prison terms; in the light of events, the few who were arrested were eventually released without charge, and Hampden was eventually pardoned, and (despite opposition from some members of the Conservative party) allowed to continue his career as an MP.

With this victory behind him Hampden spearheaded the 1905 Control of Essential Supplies Act, which gave the government greater powers to set price ceilings on basic foods, animal foodstuffs, coal, gas, and electricity, both routinely and in an emergency. A provision of the Act required local authorities to compile a register of suppliers, and plan for fair distribution and rationing if normal deliveries could not be maintained.

In the light of the warm winters of 1904-5 and 1905-6 these precautions seemed unnecessary and alarmist, but 1906 saw its first snow in November, and Arctic conditions in much of Northern England and Scotland through to March 1907. The successive winters were colder still, until by 1912 much of Northern Scotland remained icebound until late May, and London experienced several severe blizzards each winter. Conditions in other Northern countries were no better, and it was becoming clear that the warm weather of the late 19th century was over.

London and the other Northern European cities were forced to adapt to the new conditions, importing and stockpiling supplies before the snow came each year, and spending millions on snow clearing equipment, specially equipped trains, icebreakers for the Thames and the other major ports, and steam heating equipment for essential water mains. The supply system sketched out by the 1905 act became the blueprint for an elaborate publicly-owned distribution system, and the model for similar organisations in Northern Germany and France. The countries that had routinely experienced severe winters were already organised, of course, but as the weather worsened harvests failed, and food imports became a major concern. Canadian winter-hardened grains were planted in Britain and proved moderately successful, and battery-feeding of livestock became the norm. Some schemes tried at this time seem bizarre; mushroom cultivation in worked-out mines and caves, chemical production of "milk" from soya beans and other unlikely raw materials, and unusual foods including whale meat, buffalo, and moose (introduced by Scott shortly before her famous Arctic expedition). Some of these products were popular and eventually became British staples - the Savoy carvery is still renowned for its roast moose and mushrooms; others were universally detested - British pressure in support of the international ban on whaling probably owes much to the legendary unpopularity of whale meat.

The summer of 1912 was cold and damp; the French and German wheat crops failed, as did the Irish potato crop, and Britain was largely fed on imported Australian lamb and beef. But this stretched the capacity of Britain's refrigerated ships to the limit, and even Australia and New Zealand were starting to feel the change in climate; the wet season was unusually cold and prolonged, with floods washing out farmlands in many areas, and Melbourne and Wellington experienced short flurrys of sleet in mid-July. Most of that year's cricket, in Britain and the colonies, was rained off or stopped due to poor light.

By now scientists seeking the cause of the disastrous climactic shift were beginning to suspect that it was a delayed result of the explosion of Krakatoa in 1885, abetted by industrial smoke. Sampling balloons launched to extreme altitudes returned with evidence of a fine mist of microscopic dust particles, including carbon compounds and volcanic ash, and it was guessed that they reflected a portion of the sun's heat back into space. If this theory was correct, the dust should eventually settle out and end the cold spell; there was little to be done to speed up the process. Since coal and oil were vital to the survival of civilisation, they continued to be used, although various techniques were used to reduce the level of fine smoke given off at major factories; water sprays proved the most successful, filters caused more problems than they solved.

It is now believed that the dust particles served as nuclei for the formation of tiny ice crystals, which were the main cause of reflection; the ice melted before the balloons were recovered, so its role was not suspected. As the dust and ice particles settled back into the lower atmosphere they gathered more moisture and formed clouds, which also reflected heat and lowered the temperature even more.

In 1912-13 the Channel froze nearly a mile out to sea, and only the icebreakers and the flow of food from Africa and India kept Britain alive. Britons emigrated by tens of thousands, finding new homes nearer the equator, and Ireland was virtually depopulated. New industries sprang up in India and South Africa, staffed largely by displaced workers from Britain. Similar population movements were seen in other parts of the world; the USA closed its borders with Canada, and Mexico considered closing its borders with the USA. Russian interest in Northern Europe was becoming obvious, and there were fears that this could only end in war.

In 1914 Hampden became leader of the Labour Party, and campaigned for office on a policy of nationalisation of the remaining independent food producers and importers, subsidised emigration, and free heating for the elderly and infirm. The election campaign was bitter, but eventually Labour came to office with a majority of 75, and a mandate to take any steps which would improve the situation.

One obvious step was the construction of a link across the Channel, which would be less affected by ice, and more reliable than shipping in the winter storms. France proved difficult at first, but Hampden eventually persuaded the President that France would also benefit from a link; more food shipments would travel through French ports, and a portion of the cargo space could be reserved for shipments to the French. Meanwhile engineers lobbied for a tunnel, but a bridge could be built much more quickly, since it would be possible to work on all the supports and bridge sections simultaneously; while there was a greater risk of accidents to shipping, or damage to the bridge itself, speed was more important than safety. The final design was a series of trapezoidal girder structures supported on 52 concrete islands, with an average span of around 800 yards. Construction began in July 1914, and continued with frequent interruptions until completion in May 1917. 88 workmen were killed in accidents during its construction.

With the bridge finished, shipping from South Africa to Britain began to travel via the Suez Canal and Mediterranean, then the cargo was loaded onto trains in the South of France for final delivery to Britain. In later years the rail network was extended further south, and more bridges and tunnels were dug. Treaties were signed between Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium, and eventually the other European nations, allowing the tracks to pass through their colonies. Eventually it became possible to travel the full length of Africa and continue to Europe and Britain without even changing trains. For the fourteen years it existed the bridge handled an average of 90 trains a day, with only four serious accidents. It was badly damaged by storms in 1921 and 1924, but continued to give excellent service until the first tunnel opened in 1930; by then the weather was considerably better, and the bridge could be phased out of service. It was closed in 1931 and demolished for scrap in 1931-2. Today only three of the larger supports remain, converted for use as lighthouses.

In 1918 Russia finally invaded Turkey, the Balkans and Poland, and pressed hard towards Germany. Retaliation was swift; aided by France, Belgium, and Britain's armament industry, the Germans and Poles quickly drove the Russians back over the Polish border, then settled down to a long slogging match in Romania. The Turks refused help, and were soon overcome by the Russians, giving the Tsar the Mediterranean ports he had long sought. The war might have lasted several years, but at this point an influenza epidemic of unparalleled severity spread across most of the world, causing millions of death in Russia and Germany, several hundred thousands in the rest of Europe. Russia tried to fight on, only to suffer a German-backed mutiny that swept the Tsar from power and into exile in Sweden; the socialist government that took his place was based on the British model, and immediately sued for peace and began a program of agricultural and social reform that has made today's Russia one of the foremost industrial nations.

Germany's later experiment with socialism was, of course, less successful; after the agitator Ulyanov (alias Lenin) returned from Moscow and became a German citizen, he organised a socialist party on strict Marxist lines, whose policy included the incorporation of all sources of wealth into the State's control. This was viewed unsympathetically by Krupp and Germany's other major industrialists. Kaiser Wilhelm's 1920 assassination, blamed on socialist sympathisers, was the signal for suppression of Ulyanov's "Communist" party, and decades of extremist factional politics which even today make the German states a hotbed of unrest. Recently discovered documents implying that the Kaiser's assassination was in fact engineered by agents of the Krupp industrial empire are almost certainly Portuguese forgeries. But all this is tangential to Britain's history in the early twentieth century.

Hampden's 1918 re-election, with an increased majority, capitalised on the success of the Channel Bridge. Winter 1917-18 was again harsh, but the steady stream of imports did much to aleviate its effects. What was left of British industry had been stimulated by the construction of the bridge, and was stimulated further by the need to export goods to pay for food and other imports. By the time the election was called unemployment was falling, and Hampden naturally took advantage of the worker's vote.

But already questions were being asked about Hampden's increasingly arbitrary style of government, most notably the use of troops to keep coal mines open during strikes in 1917. The emergency powers granted the Government in 1905 were to be reviewed by Parliament shortly after the election. The government expected this to be a formality, and allowed a few hours for discussion; instead every point was debated, in sessions lasting more than a week, and some of the most vocal opposition came from the Labour Party itself. Hampden staggered on with a narrow majority until 1920, when an election was called following a vote of confidence and Labour was defeated by Lloyd-George's Liberal-Conservative Coalition.

Lloyd-George's government lasted barely two years, destroyed by his disastrous decision to abolish retail price control and rationing of food, a decision based on the assumption of a steady supply of meat and produce from Australia and New Zealand. He forgot that ending this scheme opened the door for entrepreneurs of the type who had held Britain to ransom in 1904. Within months the prices of beef and lamb had tripled, and this price rise, plus the inevitable inflation that resulted from spending more on imported goods, raised the real price of meat more than ten-fold by 1922. It was the downfall of the government, which disintegrated as a steady stream of back-benchers crossed the house to Labour. Hampden returned to office with a majority of 126, and a clear mandate to continue his original policies.

By 1927 it was clear that the climate was slowly returning to normal, and Hampden began to phase out rationing, while maintaining price controls, in the run-up to the next election. With hindsight this was a correct if over-cautious decision for Britain at that moment, but the worst possible decision for the Labour party; it alienated marginal voters in many agricultural constituencies, who saw cheap imported meat displace their own goods. Miners also saw their livelihood threatened by imported goods. Labour was narrowly defeated, and a Conservative government led by Stanley Baldwin took office.

Hampden resigned from the leadership of the Labour party in 1928, aged 58, but continued as MP for Battersea East until 1932, when ill-health prompted his decision to stand down at the next election. He was raised to the peerage in Ramsay MacDonald's Honours list in 1933, and was a frequent speaker in the House of Lords until his death in 1943. His political career encompassed the rise of the welfare state to the meticulously high standards we take for granted today, and the construction of a global transportation system that today links the economies of the entire world, and makes war almost unthinkable.


Fisher, editor of the Daily Chat
BODY [3], MIND [4], SOUL [3], Artist (Journalist) [6], Brawling [4], Business [7], Detective [5], Psychology [5]
Equipment: Notebook, pencil, etc., the resources of a large newspaper.
Quote: "I say, sir, are you mad?"
Notes: Fisher was once an energetic journalist but now largely leaves that to his subordinates, concentrating on the overall management of the paper's news coverage. He would sooner stay in a warm armchair than go out in search of a story, but if he knows that a story exists he will usually rise to the occasion. No first name is given.

Gough, sub-editor of the Daily Chat
BODY [4], MIND [3], SOUL [2], Artist (Journalist) [5], Athlete (rugby football) [6], Brawling [7], Business [5], Detective [6], Psychology [6]
Equipment: As Fisher, above
Quote: "It's a real godsend, Mr. Fisher. I've got enough here to make three columns. Brett's committed suicide."
Notes: Gough is a thrusting slightly callous young journalist who sees every disaster as a wonderful story. He has covered earthquakes, volcanoes, arctic expeditions, and wars. Now he is assigned as sub-editor, and chafes slightly at the limitations of the job, and the shortcomings of Fisher. No first name is given.

John Hampden MP (MP for East Battersea)
BODY [5], MIND [5], SOUL [5], Actor (Oratory) [7], Athlete (Rugby football) [7], Brawling (Boxing) [6], Business [6], Linguist (French, German, Italian) [6], Scholar (Economics, Politics, Socialism, History) [8]
Equipment: None relevant
Quote: "I am going to show the world what a few thousands of resolute men can accomplish."
Notes: Hampden is a "fine athletic figure", but is of course most notable as a pioneering socialist. Although he is genuinely concerned about the well-being of his constituents, and prepared to take risks on their behalf, the advancement of his party and his own political career and agenda is never entirely forgotten.

Adventure Outline: A Day's Shooting

1918. The adventurers are staying at a stately home near the Channel Bridge shortly before Christmas. There are several feet of snow on the ground, but none has fallen in several days, and temperatures are only a little below freezing.

One morning the owner of the mansion receives word that railway workers have seen at least four dogs running from the bridge; it's believed that they may have crossed from France during the comparatively mild spell.

Currently rabies is widespread in France, and guards should have shot the dogs as they crossed, but somehow the system has broken down. Everyone with a gun in the area has been asked to look for the animals, and shoot to kill.

In fact there are six animals; they are wolves, which have spread into France from Germany and Poland as the climate changed. All were bitten by a fox they caught several days ago, and are in the early stages of rabies; they are not yet foaming at the mouth or behaving unusually, but their bite is infectious. They are heading in the general direction of the manor. Their tracks are easily spotted on the bridge, and in snow, but criss-cross other trails and occasionally disappear when the wolves move along recently-ploughed roads and railway lines. The tracks are not easily distinguished from those of large dogs. The adventure simply consists of tracking them down and ending the threat, preferably without anyone being infected.

BODY [5], MIND [1], SOUL [1]
Brawling [8]; Bite, Effect 7, Damage A:F, B:I, C:C
Wounds: B[ ] F[ ] I[ ] I[ ] C[ ]

Wolves are actually a timid species, and will try to avoid humans; they will only fight humans if cornered.

Any wound inflicted by a rabid animal must be cleaned immediately with alcohol, burned with a hot iron, or otherwise sterilised to kill the virus; this requires a Difficulty 5 First Aid or Doctor skill roll. If this is not done within a few minutes the victim must receive a full course of anti-rabies injections (taking 30 days) or will suffer the disease and eventually die. Most major hospitals have the vaccine, or can get it shipped from the Pasteur Institute in France; administering it successfully is a specialised medical skill, Difficulty 8 (Doctor skill only) if a player-character doctor wishes to treat the patient.

Rabies is a notifiable disease under British law; the government must be informed of suspected cases, and anyone who might be infected must be quarantined, animals suspected of contact with the disease must be killed and incinerated.

For an interesting variation on this idea, one or more of the adventurers might be dogs (see the final appendix of the rules) and threatened with death under the quarantine regulations.

For campaigns involving Plokta, there is no evidence whatever that the weather is going to improve, and one of the London newspapers is running scare stories about an ice age, which should be an adequate reason to move on. The adventurers should simply be staying in a house that one of them owns in this world, waiting while their technical experts try to build an Idealiser. Time hangs heavy on their hands, and a little shooting is at least a change of pace.

5.3 The Four Days' Night

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The London Pneumatic Company Ltd.
63 New Oxford St., London WC1
12th February 1926

Dear Sir,
I write to inform you that your account is now 30 days in arrears. Unless you pay the balance due by the 20th inst. we will be reluctantly forced to discontinue the air supply to your premises...
[Quoted in "Cleaning The Air" by Margaret H. Roberts PhD, 1990]

The fogs that began in November 1903 were at first thought to be a short-lived phenomenon, caused by an oil-tank fire in the Thames Estuary and eventually cleared by high-altitude explosions. The events of this incident have been thoroughly documented elsewhere; in four days nearly two thousand people died from respiratory illnesses and accidents resulting from fog-induced blindness, with the death toll rising to at least ten thousand in the months that followed.

As a result the LCC's clean air regulations of 1904 and 1906 required London's industry to switch from oil and coal to gas and electrical power, to be supplied entirely by power stations and gas works outside London, and for all new houses to be lit electrically, with heating and cooking by gas or electricity only. Battersea and the other London power stations were closed in 1908-10, replaced by stations in and around the outer suburbs. Gas works were also moved out of London. Unfortunately this policy was well-meant but fundamentally mistaken without other measures to control overall pollution, and the results were inevitable. While moving pollution out of town is possible in a small town like Brighton, the inspiration for this scheme, it was misguided for a city the size of London.

As electricity and gas production moved to the outskirts of London, mostly down-river towards the Thames Estuary, the efficiency of both systems declined, and the amount of pollution produced rose. The reasons for this change included the hasty construction of the new power stations and gas works, often to inferior designs; the increased distance to the consumer, which led to energy losses in cables and more leakage from pipes; and the simple fact that direct use of coal in factories is inherently more efficient than the laborious process of converting it to electricity or gas, and converting them back to heat and other forms of energy. The pollution produced by these plants had to go somewhere; although it was being released further from Central London, there was no particular reason for it to stay out of town, and the hills that surround the Thames Valley tended to confine it to the general area. Another cause of problems was the lack of overall control; while the energy producers were in London they could be regulated by the LCC, but outside London they fell under the control of a dozen different local authorities, all welcoming new sources of employment.

The winters of 1904-5 and 1905-6 both included several days of dense fog, christened "foke" (fog-smoke) by the popular press; it was somewhat lighter than the black gas of the Four Day's Night, but still caused many deaths. Explosives broke up some of the clouds, clearing the air a little, but on several occasions conditions were wrong for rain, and the explosions had little effect. In 1906 an aerophane exploded over Whitechapel, dropping four bombs which detonated at ground level; amazingly the aerophane's crew were the only fatalities, although several buildings were damaged. After this incident there was little support for further bombing, and the last mission was flown in 1907.

It was generally believed that moving energy producers out of London would improve the situation, and in 1906-7 there was indeed a decline in the number of foggy days. But 1907-8 was as bad as 1904-5, and 1908-1909 was worse. The LCC claimed that it had done everything possible to reduce smoke; it was still generally believed that this was true, and much wrath was directed at the railway companies, owners of older homes that were still heated by coal, and other obvious polluters. New street lighting was installed, which could shine through anything short of the intense fog produced by the 1903 oil fire; this also raised London's electricity consumption. By 1912 most Londoners expected to spend days on end under these appalling conditions, especially in Autumn and early Winter, and looked for any palliative that would improve their lives. The era of the air entrepreneurs had arrived.

In 1912 the London Oxygen Company Ltd. began to advertise oxygen aspirators (low-pressure glass gas cylinders resembling soda siphons) in the Evening Star. They had previously only been available via medical suppliers. The London Pneumatic Company Ltd., formerly the promoters of an unsuccessful pneumatic mail system, offered to link homes in certain areas to its system and began pumping air from the country into London. Many other companies flocked to meet the demand, some by pipeline and others by delivery of aspirators, high-pressure cylinders, inflated gas bags, or chemical oxygen sources. Charcoal filter masks became commonplace. But the fogs continued, and hundreds died in the poorer areas where these remedies were unattainable luxuries.

By 1914 penny-a-minute oxygen machines, and ha'penny a minute filtered air machines, were commonplace in shops and street-corner booths. The most luxurious new houses and flats were built with unopenable windows and filtered air supplies, from piped sources, electrical compressors (which of course added to London's electricity consumption), or gas cylinders.

LCC Fire Brigade records for the period show at least fifty fires caused, or intensified, by the domestic use of oxygen cylinders, and another eighteen blamed on chemical oxygen sources (which usually involve oxidising chemicals which accelerate the spread of fire). Compressed and piped air supplies caused fewer problems, although at least four homes were damaged by cylinder accidents; if the valve of a cylinder is broken, the compressed gas propels the cylinder like a rocket. There was also one case of multiple murder by gas cylinder; Eric Shaw, an embittered worker at the United Oxygen Company's plant, filled eight cylinders with carbon dioxide instead of oxygen, and attempted to blackmail the directors of the company; unfortunately two of the cylinders were shipped before he was caught, and eleven victims suffocated. It seems likely that other murders went unnoticed; low-pressure oxygen aspirators with face masks were commonly used by the frail and elderly, and could easily be refilled with other gasses (or simply with unfiltered air, which would not have any beneficial effect). Close investigation was unlikely if such persons were found dead with an empty aspirator nearby. This murder method was widely rumoured in several deaths of the period, and used in novels by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, but there was no authenticated case.

A Royal Commission set up to investigate London's fogs in 1914 was unfortunately overtaken by the start of the Great War; its recommendations on reducing pollution from power stations would probably have done much to improve the situation in London, and several other cities which were beginning to show similar problems, most notably Birmingham and Manchester. The needs of wartime industry stopped all non-essential work, and made any real improvement impossible. By the end of the war the Commission's recommendations were too little, too late.

The influenza epidemic of 1918-19 caused deaths in all parts of Britain, and took a frightful toll in all three cities. It was easy to correlate the statistics with air quality, and obvious that deaths were fewer in less polluted slums in other cities, even where crowding and other conditions were otherwise comparable. The LCC and various charities took this to heart, and all new housing these organisations built for the poor had piped air and sealed windows. It was obviously cheaper to supply these facilities to a single large building than to a number of houses, so most low-income housing in this era took the form of large barrack-like apartment blocks, with small windows and thin internal walls. Internal corridors and galleries replaced streets. These buildings soon became notorious for the grinding poverty of their occupants, their crowding, their crime, disease, fleas, smell, and the omnipresent ducts, which carried sound as well as air. Privacy was a joke, and it is not surprising that many of London's criminals of the 1930s and onwards were born in this environment, which soon had a reputation resembling 18th century criminal "rookeries" like Seven Dials. These large sealed apartment buildings were death traps in the event of fire, and several tragedies in the 1920s and early 1930s led to improved building codes which made new structures safer, but did nothing for those that already existed. The best that could be said for them was that they were marginally preferable to life without a pure air supply. Terry Gilliam's film "London" shows what life might be like if this type of structure continued to be built today.

Wealthier homes were fitted out to a much higher standard, of course, but even the best were still at the mercy of their air providers. The London Pneumatic Company's main pumping station near Reading was working far beyond its designed capacity in the late 1920s, and was notorious for breakdowns until new facilities opened near Windsor in 1932. The capacity of the air pipelines also gave cause for concern; the pressure used was raised (in several steps) from 2.5 to 7.5 atmospheres by the end of the 1920s, but at this pressure leakage was so severe that no further improvement was possible, and there was damage to many of the valves and meters used to regulate the supply. The most exclusive mansions had their own compressors and filters, of course, and suffered only if the electrical supply was interrupted. Some had backup generators, which added to the pollution when they were used.

The 1920s saw the gradual death of many of London's trees; few had thrived in the years since the original Four Day's Night, and the omnipresent pollution was simply too much for them. Plants survived in the hastily-sealed glasshouses of Kew and the other parks, and ambitious new glasshouses and domes were built to conserve as much vegetation as possible; marquees with celluloid windows were erected over many private parks and gardens, and supplied with compressed air to keep them at a slight overpressure and exclude pollution. Supplemented by artificial light they proved successful, although they required constant cleaning and repair. But only a small proportion of trees and other plants could be protected this way, and most of the rest died, removing one of London's major sources of oxygen.

Naturally steps to remedy the pollution continued, but the region around London is particularly poor in alternatives to fossil fuels. The Southend Barrage across the mouth of the Thames was a brave effort in this direction, but the generators installed in 1926 could only produce a small fraction of the power needed by London. It also impeded sea traffic into the Port of London, and hastened the silting of the estuary, although these problems could be overcome. More power was obtained from windmills on the Sussex Downs, and eventually via long-distance power lines from hydroelectric sources in Scotland.

By 1933 there was reason to believe that the problem was being overcome; most sources of smoke had been eliminated in the Thames Valley, and chemical scrubbers were used universally in power stations and gas works. Disposing of the power station waste products was a complex problem, but was gradually being solved. Domestic fires (including gas cookers) were replaced by electricity, and the universal electrification of the railways removed another source of pollution. Improved public transport, especially the new tubes, trams, and monorail lines, made it unnecessary to use cars in London, and high taxes on internal combustion and steam engines made them unpopular; today they are virtually forgotten, replaced by the electric cars and bicycles that are now in universal use. Although there were still days of choking fog, it was less severe than before the Great War. Similar progress was made in the other affected cities.

By the second world war the "foke" was almost forgotten, although the air supply system was kept in good repair in case it recurred. Trees were transplanted from rural areas, and London was cleaner than it had been before the industrial revolution. The last use of the air system was a series of tests during the Blitz, when it was feared that the Luftwaffe might drop gas bombs on London; after the war it was discovered that Germany's contingency plans had included a feint attack on London, followed by a gas attack on the air pumping stations around the capital, so that the gas would be pumped directly into thousands of homes. Fortunately the Germans feared reprisals and never tried such a mission.

After WW2 the introduction of nuclear power allowed the gradual abolition of gas, coal, and oil-fired power stations; the last closed in 1975. Although nuclear power brings problems of its own, they are so far greatly preferable to the toxic nightmare they have replaced.

This necessarily brief account omits many events of the period, and completely fails to discuss similar problems in other countries, which eventually led to the universal adoption of pollution-free power sources and electric vehicles. The proceedings of the League of Nations Pollution Committee from 1920 to 1960 are probably the best source for a detailed account, but run to several hundred thousand pages. "Cleaning The Air", by Margaret H. Roberts PhD, is a useful popularisation and considerably shorter.

The Aerophane

"Along the whole floor of the workshop lay a queer, cigar-shaped instrument with grotesque wings and a tail like that of a fish, but capable of being turned in any direction."

The Aerophane is an early semi-rigid airship design, consisting of a large fish-shaped canvas "envelope" filled with several ballonets of hydrogen. There is a skeletal metal "car" or gondola below the gas bag, which carries three passengers, a small petrol engine, and up to a ton of cargo. It literally swims through the air, using two rippling wings of canvas and metal struts for forward (or backward) motion, several steerable sails, and a fishlike tail to steer. The design has several defects; it is slow, with a maximum speed of 20 MPH, it handles very poorly (especially in wind), and it is unsteady in turbulent conditions. Fortunately these problems are rarely a factor when it is used; the dense smoky fogs that require its attention only occur if there is no wind.

The Aerophane carries 25 5lb charges of a new (and highly secret) explosive compound which seems to have a side effect of precipitating rain. Charges are lowered into the clouds on a wire, and detonated electrically. They are generally stable, but may be set off by fire or strong impacts.

Maximum Width
Maximum Speed
150 ft
30 ft
1.2 tons
20 MPH
Gasbag 10, gondola 6
1 x 5 HP
Notes: Add 2 to the Difficulty of Pilot skill rolls while flying an aerophane.

The explosive charges are concussion devices, optimised to produce the loudest possible explosion and shock wave.

Rain Bombs, Effect 12, Radius 10 ft, A:B B:KO+F C:KO+I


Martin Hackness, B.Sc., London (Meteorologist)
BODY [3], MIND [4], SOUL [3], Mechanic [6], Military Arms (explosives) [5], Pilot [5], Scientist (Meteorology) [8]
Equipment: A university's meteorological equipment.
Quote: "a recent examination of my instruments merely confirms my opinion."
Notes: Hackness is an enthusiast, eager to develop techniques for accurate fog prediction and dispersal. He has feared the possibility of a killing fog for many years, and worked with Eldred and Grimfern to perfect the Aerophane and special bombs it carries.

Eldred (A fellow-meteorologist)
BODY [4], MIND [4], SOUL [2], Mechanic [5], Pilot [5], Scientist (Meteorology) [6]
Equipment: A university's meteorological equipment.
Quote: "Pray Heaven, your fog doesn't settle down on the top of the smoke."
Notes: Eldred is a competent meteorologist, but not in Hackness' league. Caught up by his friends enthusiasm, and the prospect of making a genuine contribution to science, he is a keen supporter of the project. No first name is given.

Sir Edgar Grimfern (Industrialist and Inventor)
BODY [3], MIND [5], SOUL [3], Business [7], Marksman [7], Mechanic [8], Pilot [6], Scientist (aeronautical engineering) [7]
Equipment: The resources of a rich inventor; a well-equipped workshop; the Aerophane; big-game rifles.
Quote: "With that 1000-volt generator of yours I can get a light equal to 40,000 candles."
Notes: Sir Edgar is a wealthy scientist who has made contributions to many areas of engineering, but his main loves are adventure and big-game hunting. He sees flight as the ultimate adventure. He has a moderately good grasp of meteorology, although it is not his main field of interest, having initially contacted Hackness for information on the likely behaviour of the upper atmosphere, and how it might affect the Aerophane. He is a widower; his wife died in childbirth.

Miss Cynthia Grimfern
BODY [2], MIND [4], SOUL [5], Actor (singer) [7], Business [6], First Aid [5], Linguist (German, Italian, Urdu, Afrikaans) [7], Marksman [6], Riding [6]
Equipment: None relevant
Quote: "Will this never end, Martin?"
Notes: Miss Grimfern is very much the Edwardian young lady. She is demure, inclined to blush prettily, and has learned little that is useful from an education that is supposed to produce perfect young ladies. Fortunately she has picked up good business sense and marksmanship from her father, and has a natural talent for languages that has been broadened by safaris in India and Africa. She is mildly attracted to Hackness, but is not in love with him.

Kim (Fox terrier)
BODY [1], MIND [3], SOUL [2], Athlete [3], Brawling [1], Detective (scent) [4], Linguist [2], Medium [1], Stealth [2] *
* See Appendix E of the rules for details of how these skills apply to animals.
Wounds: B[ ] F[ ] I[ ] C[ ]
Quote: "Woof!"
Notes: Kim is a smart little terrier who can easily lead people around by scent in impenetrable fog.

Inspector Williamson (of Scotland Yard)
BODY [4], MIND [3], SOUL [1], Brawling [6], Business [5], Detective [5], Marksman [6], Melee weapon (truncheon) [6], Riding [4]
Equipment: Handcuffs, truncheon, notebook, pencil
Quote: "I want my memory refreshed over that scheme of yours... ...I didn't pay very much attention to it at the time."
Notes: Williamson is a typical senior police officer, no better or worse than many others. He has a natural dislike of the use of explosives over London, and is a little out of his depth discussing scientific matters. He isn't a Scotland Yard bungler, but he is someone who prefers a stable daily routine and has problems dealing with unprecedented emergencies.

Adventure Outline: Air Pirates

It's often forgotten that the major air supply companies started out in the pneumatic mail business. The expansion of the air business made this aspect less important, but it is still a useful source of revenue. The tubes are used for small urgent packages, often of great value; for example, packets of gems are often tubed between importers and cutters in the Hatton Garden area, and the fashionable jewellers of Knightsbridge and Bond Street. These tubes are often carried in the same service tunnels as the pipes that supply air to homes. Each customer has two tubes, one incoming and the other outgoing, linked to a local sorting office, which feed to district sorting offices throughout London. Security at the sorting offices is very tight.

All of the adventurers should be active criminals; it is preferable that they already know each other, but this is not essential. They are contacted by an associate, Arthur Hurley, a wealthy criminal who is in the air theft business.

With the spread of air pipelines a new criminal enterprise has emerged, the theft of air from the compressed mains. Most of this theft is small-scale, simple tampering with meters and pipes for domestic use, but occasionally someone interferes with a major main, sometimes cutting the supply to legitimate users as they divert the air elsewhere. Hurley is one of the leaders in this field, employing a small army of plumbers and fitters who are expert at breaking into the service tunnels, adding extra connections to the pipes, and camouflaging them so that they look like legitimate parts of the system. He would never sink to cutting off someone's air; business is better if everyone (apart from the supply company) is satisfied.

Hurley wants to diversify; air theft is hard work, and the profits are small, a few pounds a week per pipe. He would like to rob the mail tubes, but needs intelligence on which pipes to hit, when to hit them, and related matters. He hopes that the adventurers have, or can develop, the contacts needed for this operation. This can probably only work once, so he wants to hit as many targets as possible simultaneously, then take the stolen goods to fences abroad; if the adventurers don't know of one, Hurley does. He has information sources at the London Pneumatic Company and three other air suppliers, and can obtain lists of clients for the pneumatic mail services, but after that he isn't sure how to proceed.

The adventurers must come up with a plan which will lead to a large number of valuable capsules being sent through the system simultaneously; for example, they could fake orders to, or from, the De Beers diamond corporation, Harrods, Aspreys, or some other organisation with an interest in high-quality gems. They might want to take over one of the sorting offices; Knightsbridge, Bond Street, or Holborn (which handles capsules for the jewellers of Hatton Garden) are probably the best choices. Hurley will fund the operation and can provide manpower and technical expertise. He isn't obviously a violent criminal, but if the adventurers double-cross him they'll get a nasty surprise; the stolen air business largely operates on credit, and Hurley employs several ruthlessly efficient enforcers. A useful role model is 'Mister Bridger' in The Italian Job.

The exact development of this scheme and subsequent events is left to the referee, who should always remember that in Victorian and Edwardian fiction crime rarely pays.

For a parallel worlds campaign all of the adventurers are relatively poor (if they were rich they wouldn't need to steal), all have persistent coughs from the pollution, and some vital component of the Idealiser, such as magnesium powder, is in very short supply in this world. Hurley has the black market contacts needed to get the amount that the adventurers need, provided they will do him a little favour...

5.4 The Dust of Death and River of Death

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100th Birthday Telegrams To Be Discontinued
Buckingham Palace has announced that at the end of this year the King's practice of sending telegrams to centenarians will be discontinued; telegrams will be sent on the 125th and 150th birthdays instead. A spokesman said "With normal life expectancy rising rapidly, the King feels that a hundredth birthday is no longer an unusual event." The move has been anticipated for some time; last year the King sent nearly 5,000 birthday telegrams, and the number is rising steadily, causing administrative problems. The new age limits should reduce them to a few hundred a year, almost all of them on the 125th birthday...

[The Times, July 1957]

"Broom Cupboard" Flat Sells For A Million
A Bayswater studio flat measuring approximately 12 ft x 8 ft was today sold for a sum "in excess of a million pounds", more confirmation of the spectacular rise in property prices in overcrowded Central London...

[The London Evening Star, September 1997]

The epidemic which raged across London's Devonshire Park suburb in 1905, and the threat of Bubonic plague later that year, are now mainly remembered today for their dramatic ends.

Both diseases were defeated by new medical developments; Label's electrical treatment, initially denounced as a quack remedy, then regarded as a triumph of medical science, but today often considered a threat to the future of the human race, and Darbyshire's sterilising process, a powerful chemical treatment for bacteria in water.

Label's treatment used electricity to destroy bacteria. The prototypes tried in the London epidemic used simple resistors to reduce household electricity (at that time supplied as direct current) to 30 volts and a few milliwatts; later models used higher voltages, with Label's massive soil sterilisers drawing 9600 volts and several kilowatts.

Darbyshire's process was based on a form of catalysis, a complex organic chemical which triggered the breakdown of the cell walls of bacteria; since the catalyst was stable for several hours when added to water, even a tiny amount could disinfect thousands of gallons. A gallon could disinfect a river.

It was soon realised that Label's treatment could be extended to a wide range of bacterial diseases with near 100% success, and its use in soil sterilisation was a milestone in public health, complemented very well by Darbyshire's process. Between them they effectively eliminated soil and water-borne diseases such as tetanus, cholera and typhus. Neither could eliminate viral diseases, such as measles. Label's treatment was rapidly adopted throughout the world, and he received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1912. Darbyshire shared the prize with Richet (who had made fundamental advances in the study of allergies) the following year.

Label's treatment went through another major test in the Great War, when both sides used battery-powered equipment for battlefield electrification of infected wounds. It was generally successful, although there were many cases of electrical burns when it was applied by poorly-trained personnel. Darbyshire's process was also used in the field, of course, and probably saved more lives, but was generally ignored by the public.

In 1920, shortly after Label's death, doctors at St. Bartholemew's Hospital in London studied long-term records of patients treated in the Devonshire Park epidemic. They noticed that a surprisingly small proportion had fallen ill in the influenza epidemic that followed the war, and that most of those affected by the influenza had recovered. Only six members of the Metropolitan Police (who were treated en masse for Label's Diphtheria) fell ill during the influenza epidemic. A full analysis of the data, and of many subsequent cases, took three more years, but in 1923 it was revealed that those who had received Label's treatment for infections of the lymph glands, thyroid glands, or spleen subsequently became unusually resistant to diseases of all types, including viral infections and cancer. This had gone unnoticed in early experiments because it took several weeks for resistance to develop, and because it was masked by a general improvement in public health. Ironically it was Darbyshire who discovered this anomaly, while accumulating data for a study of the effectiveness of his own process.

By 1927 experiments on animals and human volunteers had conclusively proved that Label's treatment "supercharged" the immune system indefinitely, and was virtually free of side effects. The treatment also had the advantage of being extremely cheap; a few shillings per patient, mainly the cost of a doctor's time and the sterilisation of the electrodes. Confirmation came from Africa and India, where the colonial administration had been treating natives since the Great War, since the treatment was simpler than the normal remedies for infection; statistics showed that many common diseases were declining in both continents. In 1929 Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government was elected on a platform which included free Label treatment for all children under 16.

At this point the Label treatment was in general use in almost all advanced nations and their colonies; the most important exception was Russia, which still enforced a pre-revolutionary law banning the treatment, generally believed to have been enacted because of the haemophilia of members of the Tsar's family. Only Communist Party members were exempt. Treatment for all was supposedly a goal of successive five-year plans, but did not become available until after the Second World War. Darbyshire's treatment was even more widely used, and the chemicals were manufactured in at least a dozen countries. When Darbyshire died in 1944 he was a multi-millionaire.

The 1931 British census included questions on the Label treatment, revealing that a staggering 87% of the population had undergone the process, as a result of disease or in hope of preventing it. At this point a review of census figures may be in order:

Date   Population (millions)
       England and Wales
1801   8.89
1811   10.16
1821   12.00
1831   13.89
1841   15.91
1851   17.93
1861   20.07
1871   22.70
1881   25.97
1891   29.00
1901   32.53
1911   36.44
1921   38.45
1931   40.75
1941   43.12 *
* Estimated; wartime conditions made a census impossible. Population figures after 1941 are unavailable.

A graph of these figures shows a slight rise between 1901 and 1911, followed by steady growth in 1921 to 1941. Since the number of births was falling in the same period, the increase could only be explained by improved health, reduced child mortality, and longer life, largely the effects of Label's and Darbyshire's discoveries. A statistical analysis of these figures suggests that as early as 1931 the population was 4% higher than it would have been without these treatments. British figures post 1941 are not available, having been classified by the government in 1945. Unofficial estimates put the current figure at 66.8 million, for a population density of 710 per square mile, with global population around ten billion.

By the early 1970s it was obvious that this increase in life expectancy, and the population increase that followed, would lead to immense problems. Famine in India and Africa became commonplace, and rationing was introduced in many European nations. But rationing helped to reduce another cause of death; heart disease and related illnesses. With the traditional illnesses no longer common, most deaths in Britain are now a result of the late stages of age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease. Life expectancy may exceed 110, but the quality of life has definitely deteriorated.

Attempts to reduce the population have included the Vatican's approval of contraception (1968) and of mercy killing (1977), both endorsed in most nations. The Label treatment is now generally unobtainable, banned in many countries; in Britain it is not illegal, but has not been offered by the National Health Service since 1985, and is only available privately and at enormous expense. In the long term these changes may slow the increase in population, but it has already surpassed the levels expected for the mid-21st century, and the outlook for the future is grim. Darbyshire's process is still universally used, since nobody wants to see a return to the epidemics of the 19th century; in today's crowded conditions an epidemic could be far more devastating than overpopulation.

Note: This worldbook was originally written without River of Death; a copy became available only weeks before publication. Given its similarity to The Dust of Death it seemed a good idea to combine them as one timeline to avoid unnecessary duplication. The locations outside London in this story appear to be fictional.

The Label Treatment

This process is essentially very simple, although it does require expert placement of the electrodes used to stimulate the immune system. Before the population problem becomes obvious all doctors are trained to apply the treatment; it gives a +3 modifier to the skill of doctors when treating a microbial infection, and +1 to treatment of wounds. The Label process does not initially give any protection against viruses, but patients who have been treated at least a month earlier should have their BODY doubled in all rolls made to resist disease (including viruses etc.); the effect is permanent.

Unskilled persons attempting to apply the Label treatment must add +2 to the Difficulty of first aid etc.; if the roll fails, the patient suffers electrical damage: A: F, B: KO+F, C: I/C

Darbyshire's Process

This is about as simple as water treatment gets; pour a bottle of the catalyst into fresh water, and within minutes all bacteria are dead. A bottle costs 12/- and treats several hundred thousand gallons. But the process also kills benign organisms such as single-celled plants and diatoms, the base layer of the food chain; if the whole volume of a river was treated with sufficient catalyst, its fish and other multi-cellular organisms would eventually die. The catalyst persists for 12 hours of daylight - it persists indefinitely if there is no light, but breaks down rapidly in very bright sunlight, under UV lamps, and in salt water. It is usually mixed with water by powerful pumps, to maximise its spread.


Dr. Alan Hubert (Physician)
BODY [3], MIND [4], SOUL [4], Doctor [6], First Aid [6], Scientist (Bacteriology) [6]
Equipment: Medical kit, surgery, physician's supplies, etc.
Quote: "Diphtheria! Label's type unless I am greatly mistaken.
Notes: Dr. Hubert is a dedicated young recently-qualified physician. He studied bacteriology under Dr. Label, and is familiar with the symptoms of Label's Diphtheria and the electrical treatment of the disease.

Dr. Label (Medical scientist)
BODY [5], MIND [6], SOUL [5], Actor (lecturing, oratory) [7], Doctor [8], First Aid [8], Linguist (English, Latin, French, Russian) [7], Scientist (Bacteriology) [9]
Equipment: Medical kit, private laboratory, surgery, physician's supplies, etc.
Quote: "I inoculate five dogs with the virus and I save two by the electric current."
Notes: Label, the "great German savant" is one of the finest bacteriologists in the world. The disease that bears his name was discovered in the late 19th century, during an epidemic in the North of England; Label identified the bacterium and traced it to contaminated soil, and later discovered a way of destroying it electrically. His foreignness, frequent predictions of a recurrence, and enthusiasm for this unorthodox treatment mean that he is regarded as a crank prior to the London epidemic.

Professor Owen Darbyshire (Epidemiologist, Biochemist)
BODY [4], MIND [5], SOUL [3], Doctor [7], Linguist (German, French, Flemish) [6], Scientist (Bacteriology, Biochemistry) [8]
Equipment: Private laboratory etc.
Quote: "That deadly poison is hourly drawing nearer to the metropolis..."
Notes: Darbyshire is an expert on public health and epidemiology. He has worked on his process for many years, and the plague epidemic is his chance to prove that it is effective. Unfortunately his desire to make a dramatic announcement nearly has unfortunate consequences. In his later life he will bitterly resent Label's fame, never dreaming that Label's treatment will eventually be regarded as a disaster.

Doctor Longdale (Epidemiologist)
BODY [3], MIND [4], SOUL [4], Doctor [6], Science (Bacteriology, Public Health) [7]
Equipment: Hospital laboratories
Quote: "Bubonic! The water reeks with the bacillus!"
Notes: Longdale (no first name is given) is an epidemiologist based at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, and a consultant to the LCC's borough councils. He has the authority to shut down water supplies and issue public health warnings if the need arises.

Adventure Outline: Vacant Possession

1906. During the epidemic of Label's Diptheria many residents of Devonshire Park fled, leaving hundreds of homes empty for weeks on end. Many of these houses were taken over by squatters from the East End. In most cases the rightful owners could arrange for them to be evicted by the police, but a few of the houses were new homes, taken over before their first owners moved in, or otherwise affected by legal complications which left the police unable to act. In such cases it has usually been possible to bluff or bribe the squatters into leaving. Unfortunately some squatters are just very stubborn...

The North side of Cherry Avenue is a row of eight large houses that were completed just before the epidemic. The middle six were taken over by sixteen members of the extremely large Potter family, their in-laws, and some friends during the epidemic. They know their rights - they are in court so often that they are on first-name terms with several lawyers - and have no intention of leaving for less than five hundred pounds, a fortune by the standards of the period. They are pretending that they have no intention of leaving, while making life as unbearable as possible for neighbours across the road and in adjoining streets. In the months since the end of the epidemic they have filled the gardens with junk, and are running a thriving scrap metal, waste paper, and "rag and bones" business. Strange odours drift across the lawns, ugly mongrel dogs and ragged cats roam the streets, two donkeys are tethered to a tree, and the evenings are made hideous by the noise of raucous parties.

Meanwhile the adventurers have problems of their own. A few weeks before the epidemic they (or a suitable contact) had reason to hide something extremely valuable under the floor of one of the houses while it was still being built. This might be money, documents, gems, a small black statue of a falcon, whatever seems most appropriate for your campaign. Unfortunately they did this in the dark, and now aren't entirely sure which house they used. It's probably number 8, the fourth house on the block, but might be 6 or 10; they look very different now that they are complete. For whatever reason seems appropriate, the adventurers can't involve the police or let the Potters know what they are after. The object is unlikely to survive anything that causes serious damage to the house.

The adventurers will need a minimum of an hour in each house to find what they are looking for. They must find a reason to get the Potters out of the houses; anything other than the bribe they want is going to have to be extraordinarily convincing, and the Potters don't intend to admit that they are bribable unless the price is right. Meanwhile the builder of the houses wants to get rid of the Potters, and is recruiting thugs for a midnight eviction; the Potters know this (one of the thugs is a cousin) and are preparing to resist the attack. The police have their eye on the situation, suspecting the Potters of stealing from houses in the area. The rightful tenants of the houses are living in hotels and want to get into their dream homes. The Borough Council wants to sterilise the soil around the houses, but the Potters won't let them in. And so on...

If possible this should be a broad farce, not a violent confrontation. The Potters have all of the houses thoroughly protected against intrusion (think of the films Home Alone and The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery), but won't be violent except in self defence. The landlord, neighbours, and rightful tenants are self-important snobs, the police typical Scotland Yard bunglers, the Council officials suitably officious. And the object, whatever it is, should turn out to be worth slightly less trouble than it causes....

For a cross-dimensional campaign there is no obvious reason to leave this world; the population problem won't become obvious for many years. Unfortunately none of the adventurers happen to have lived particularly successful lives in this timeline. The only adventurer with any money should be the builder of the houses, and all his assets are tied up by the Potters' squat. The components for an Idealiser cost enough to make things very difficult if the houses can't be sold. The effects of the Label treatment do not persist in another body after dimensional travel. Anyone who has learned Label's technique or studied the complex chemistry of Darbyshire's Process can probably reinvent them in a new world; they will work if used correctly.

5.5 The Invisible Force

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Vigilant about Voltage?
Cautious of Current?
Troubled by the Tubes?

London needs these essential arteries, but many passengers fear the awful invisible force that powers them. But there's no need to be apprehensive! Just treat yourself to Electri-Safe boots and gloves, and you need never worry again!

[Advertisement, the British Rubber Trading Co. Ltd., 1914]

It is difficult to imagine a disaster more unlikely than the tube explosion of 1912. In the space of one night some of the most important areas of London were devastated, not by natural forces or some unimaginable enemy attack, but by a combination of bad luck and stupidity that seems almost beyond belief.

The background history is simple. Towards the end of the nineteenth century a huge program of underground railway construction was begun; most of the earlier tube lines ran 50 ft or more underground, to avoid sewers and other obstructions. As the network stretched South and became more complex corners were cut, and at many points there were two or three levels of tunnels, some running only five or ten feet below the streets, with sewers, pipes, and gas lines diverted to make way for them. Often the pipes and cables were simply carried inside the tunnels, which were built with raised roofs to accommodate them. Although such cost-cutting seems absurd today, at the time it was considered an effective way to maximise the profitability of the tunnels. In the end it led to disaster.

On Tuesday May 14th 1912 drivers on the new Central and South London Line, running South under Bond Street towards St. James Street, reported debris on the line, and water dripping through the tunnel roof; fortunately the debris fell between the rails, and did not cause any hazard. That night an inspection team checked the tunnel and discovered that part of the lining had rusted through, damaged by a water main fracture several weeks earlier. Although there was obviously damage to the roof it was decided to run a normal service on the Wednesday, and make repairs in the early hours of Thursday morning, when a work crew would be available.

Since the tunnels were only shut down for four hours a night, there was barely time to set up scaffolding, remove the remaining debris caught between the roof and various cables and pipes, and inspect the damage more thoroughly. It was soon determined that it could not be repaired in the time available; some timbers were placed as temporary shoring, and the scaffolding was then removed, the workmen leaving the damaged roof to await proper repairs the following night.

An hour later a larger section of the tunnel roof collapsed, shattering a gas main and cutting several electrical mains. The immediate effect was to black out the district West of Bond Street, up to the edge of Hyde Park and South towards Buckingham Palace and the Thames, while gas started to flood the tunnel.

At this point there should have been alarms at both the electrical and gas companies, but by a cruel mischance both services were supplied from the same source; the Gas, Light, and Coke Company plant in Battersea, whose duty manager was ill that evening, leaving a less experienced deputy in charge. Within minutes of the roof fall the electrical problem was reported by Buckingham Palace and dozens of other customers, and all of the experienced technicians were sent to deal with it, leaving apprentices and other workers to deal with the routine running of the plant. Almost unbelievably, an apprentice noticed that gas pressure in the mains was dropping and dealt with the problem, without reporting it, by increasing the supply from the gasometer. By 3.30 AM an estimated 200,000 cubic feet of gas had flooded into the tunnel, rapidly spreading from the initial site of the leak to the adjacent tunnels and stations. But these were unmanned at night, and in this part of London were closed by flood gates in case the Thames overflowed. Nobody noticed the smell.

At 3.40 AM the duty controller for the line arrived at Bond Street Station, a few minutes before the station staff, and switched on the power to the track. At this time the system ran at 800 volts DC, the power provided largely by huge lead-acid accumulators. The accumulators were needed because the generators of the day could not cope with the load as the railway came up to full voltage, or the voltage surges as trains started and stopped; they maintained the track at operating voltage, with recharging power supplied from generators once the system was up to full power.

Within seconds of the line being switched on there was a spark somewhere in the system, and the gas exploded. A shock wave of exploding gas shot down the tunnels, cracking open more pipes as it travelled; these additional leaks were ignited by the pressure wave and added to the destruction. The wave of explosions spread rapidly through the tunnels, causing immense harm wherever it was obstructed, and soon tore apart the multiple tube loops that served London. In many areas the damage was so severe that the tubes were blown open, and the ground around them shattered, giving the impression that the entire tunnel had somehow ripped from the ground. Gas pipes around the tubes were also cracked, so that gas spread into the surrounding sewers and eventually detonated. Even if the tube did not reach the surface, the force of the multiple explosions was sufficient to smash foundations and bring buildings down.

By dawn the entire system was wrecked, as were many houses and shops along the routes of the tubes. To make matters worst many parts of the tube's electrical system, and of the electricity mains that ran through the tunnels, remained live, a mesh of deadly cables that were ripped out and festooned over the surrounding streets. In some places there were freakish accidents; manhole covers and tram lines became electrified, a deadly trap for anyone who incautiously touched them, and there was at least one incident in which a burst water main was electrified, the escaping water carrying lethal voltage.

It seems amazing that power continued to flow in these circumstances, but the total load imposed by these momentary accidents was far less than the power consumed by trains, easily supplied by the great accumulators at Holborn and other important stations. Unfortunately these remained inaccessible for several hours, until engineers were able to clear their way to the control centres and shut down the system.

The final toll for the incident was more than 450 million pounds in property damage, 5240 deaths, and at least 40,000 injured. Buildings seriously damaged included Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral, the Bank of England, and dozens of other landmarks. Nelson fell from his column. It took several weeks to recover the last known bodies at the time, and more were found in subsequent excavations; the most recent in 1995, during expansion of the third level of Waterloo Station.

The enquiry into the explosion took nearly a year, and ended inconclusively; no one person or organisation could be blamed, and no laws had been broken in the construction or operation of the tubes. Mr. Alton Rossiter, the LCC electrical expert, received great praise for his role in rescue operations, and was subsequently knighted; Fergusson, manager of the associated tubes, also played a heroic role, and was expected to receive similar honours, but his name was withdrawn from consideration when it was realised that he had been one of those responsible for the decision to build shallow tubes. He subsequently resigned and is believed to have emigrated to Canada. Dozens of others received awards from the Royal Humane Society and similar charities. The oddest was probably the reward given to Pebbles, a mongrel stray which led rescuers to four trapped children; the Federation of Master Butchers found him a home and gave him a bone a day for life, and paid to have him stuffed after his death. His remains are still displayed in their offices.

The building boom that followed was probably inevitable; London was too important to abandon, and the only alternative was to reconstruct the city and the tubes. The deeper tubes were repairable; fortunately none of the Thames tunnels had burst, so there was little flooding and in general the structure remained sound. Rails and cables had to be replaced, and most of the stations rebuilt, but most were back in business in a matter of months. The shallower tubes were generally wrecked; it was easier to abandon them than to restore them to working order. New deep construction was commissioned, under a revised LCC code which forbade the use of these tunnels for the other services which had taken advantage of the tubes. The gas and electricity mains were rebuilt, of course, as were the sewers and water mains; henceforth all would run separately, since common tunnels were completely prohibited. This regulation remained in force until the mid 1980s, when the water and gas suppliers were allowed to carry fibre optics cables in their tunnels; this is still the only exception. Most of the historic buildings damaged by the explosions were repaired; Nelson's figure was replaced by public subscription.

Since the ground remained unsafe in some areas, some of the new transport links ran overhead instead. The elevated tracks over Regent Street and Oxford Street, later replaced by a monorail system, date from this period, and the general refurbishment of the tram system, which even today remains the best in the world, was also a result of these tragic events.

A monument to the Londoners killed in this disaster was erected at Piccadilly Circus, replacing the statue of Eros (another victim of the explosion). Wreaths are still placed there on every anniversary, and memorial services held in most London churches.

The most bizarre result of the incident was a fashion for rubber overshoes and clothing, initially advertised as protection against the (now ridiculously remote) danger of electrocution, later as rainwear, which began with strictly utilitarian styles but by the early 1920s exhibited obvious fetishistic tendencies. In 1923 the British Rubber Trading Co. Ltd. (originally best known for contraceptives) was prosecuted for pornography following the publication of its 1924 catalogue; a copy was recently auctioned for £4,500. Several other manufacturers were raided by the police, and the style became unfashionable, but remained a staple of erotic fiction. An attempted revival in the 1990s was unsuccessful.

In the long term the lessons learned from this incident made London a safer place, and improved fire services and monitoring and control of gas, electricity, and water supplies was immensely important during the Blitz. But it was a lesson learned at a hideous price.

Note: The precise cause of the disaster is given slightly differently at various points in the story. I have chosen to use the version which seems most plausible, adding details which supplement the original account.


Sir George Egerton (Diplomat)
Lord Barcombe (Gentleman)

Both BODY [3], MIND [3], SOUL [3], Business [6], Linguist (Latin, Greek, French) [5], Marksman [6], Riding [6], Scholar (Protocol, The Aristocracy, Court Etiquette) [5]. Barcombe adds Scientist (Natural history) [4].
Equipment: None
Quote: (Egerton) "Some ghastly electric catastrophe"
(Barcombe) "...we're in danger here. The air is full of electricity."
Notes: Both are rich young men of excellent family; they are often found at Palace receptions and other aristocratic functions. Sir George is a member of the Diplomatic Corps, awaiting assignment to a suitably fashionable embassy. Lord Barcombe has no profession, as such, he simply administers his family estates and fortune. He is the more resourceful of the pair, and a little better informed on scientific matters.

Alton Rossiter (LCC Electrical Expert)
BODY [4], MIND [5], SOUL [4], Martial Arts (boxing) [6], Mechanic (electrical) [7], Riding [6], Scholar (London's geography, geology, infrastructure, and transport systems) [7], Scientist (Electrical engineering) [8].
Equipment: Various tools, notebook, stylographic pen, rubber boots and gloves.
Quote: "Is--is it very bad?"
Notes: Rossiter is extremely well informed on the layout of the capital and its underground supply and transport systems. More importantly, he has official powers to order the disconnection of gas and other supplies, and will stretch them to the limit to ensure that there are no additional casualties after the disaster.

Fergusson (Manager of the Associated Tubes)
BODY [3], MIND [4], SOUL [3], Business [7], Mechanic (ventilation systems) [6], Scientist (engineering) [8].
Equipment: Electrical torch, rubber boots, gloves.
Quote: "When the inflowing gas met the cross currents of air, it would be diverted, or pocketed, so to speak."
Notes: Fergusson (no first name is given) began as an apprentice fitter, installing ventilation ducts and fans when the early lines were built, and has worked his way up to his present post. He has a detailed knowledge of tunnels and stations, and is reasonably well informed on the trains themselves and their electrical supplies.

Adventure Outline: A Grand Day Out

The adventurers are amongst those aboard an early train from Deptford to Paddington, part of a works outing to Windsor. Maybe they are workers, management, or wealthy shareholders and directors along for the ride as a show of paternalistic capitalism. All survive the wreck, but there is a strong smell of gas, and occasional sparks outside the wrecked carriage.

If they do nothing it seems likely that there will eventually be a fire or explosion, but the risks of an escape attempt are immense. To make matters worse, many of the survivors seen to be seriously wounded, but there is no way to tell exactly what is wrong without striking a light, unless someone is carrying an electric torch.

Unknown to the adventurers help will eventually arrive, and if they do nothing, and nobody else does anything stupid, they will survive. But others will die, or crack up under the strain and do something that makes matters worse. There are live wires near the carriage, and anyone trying to get out will probably be electrocuted. Anyone lighting a match could trigger another explosion.

This is basically a test of endurance and common sense. The referee may wish to consider running it in the dark (switch off the lights without warning as the train is blown off the track), with appropriate sound effects; noisily opening a box of matches and pretending to try to strike them should get a good reaction. Any good disaster movie or novel will suggest endless possibilities for dangerous actions by NPCs.

For a cross-dimensional campaign the adventurers have been in this world for several days, and have noticed nothing wrong with it until the explosions start. They should be at widely different locations; one might be aboard the train, another in Buckingham Palace, or even at home in bed (in a house that is on a tube route) when things start to go wrong. All should be endangered to some degree, or should have an opportunity to behave heroically. Afterwards obtaining the components of an idealiser will take a few weeks, due to the disruption of most services, but there should be no other unusual complications.

5.6 If London Were Like Venice

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"It's all very simple" said Eustace. "We're so used to thinking about London in terms of boats and gondolas that the idea of someone swimming about the place seems positively alien. But Who's Who shows that Morris swam for Oxford, and has a medal for life-saving."
"As soon as the gondola left him at the Plaza del Portland he went inside, undressed, slipped the body out of the bedroom window, and eased it into the water. It must have been a long uncomfortable swim to the Canale del Regente, but the night was warm and the current would have been with him. At that time of night nobody was around to see him. Once he reached Burbank's house he forced the bathroom window open, using the wire he'd left on the sill a few hours earlier, climbed in, and hoisted the body straight into the bath. With the shower running and the plug out there was soon nothing to say that the body had ever been in the canal. Meanwhile Morris put on the clothes that were waiting in the dressing room..."

[Harriet Vane - Death Twixt Wind And Water, 1937]

London sank between 1900 and 1910. Fortunately it was a slow process, and few were hurt after the initial flooding, which drowned a few dozen people in the East End. Although it was initially seen as a devastating disaster, Londoners soon learned to live with the situation, and even to thrive on the city's transformation.

A full account of the geology of this event would run to several volumes. One initial cause was the slow shift of the entire British Isles, which are gradually tilting to immerse the South-East of England. Another was a decision, in 1900, to mine rich coal strata under London. Extraction of subterranean water also played a major part, as did general warming.

Very briefly, as the mines were extended under London they tended to follow the richest coal seams, which were mostly under the highest land. Hasty work and massive-over exploitation meant that collapses were inevitable, and that these tended to have a levelling effect, reducing the higher parts of London while leaving the rest generally unaffected. A second effect of these disturbances was to crush the water bearing strata, which were rapidly being pumped dry, causing the whole town to settle. This was always a slow process, a fraction of an inch a day in most areas, but it soon added up. Meanwhile a slight change in the climate had thawed large areas of the Poles, and water levels rose generally.

In 1910 the Thames burst its banks repeatedly, and it was realised that it could no longer be confined. At high tide large parts of Central London were flooded by up to three feet of water; as it poured into the sewers, tubes and tunnels under London they began to collapse, causing further settlement which ensured that London was soon permanently submerged to a depth of at least 3-6 feet. Most areas within 3-4 miles of the Thames were affected; all of inner London, apart from hilly areas like Hampstead, along with the suburbs East to Greenwich and West past Slough.

At first it was feared that the process would continue, and all of South-East England would drown, but scientists established that it was gradually stopping as the last mines and tunnels collapsed. By 1912 no further movement could be detected. Meanwhile there was a surprisingly pragmatic process of adaptation and modification, a massive boon to the building industry, as the lower storeys of buildings were filled with rubble and concrete, and floors and extra balconies added to make up for the lost space. Naturally many thousands preferred to move elsewhere, especially those who could not afford to have their homes rebuilt, but they were a minority. Millions stayed, and seemed to regard staying put and adapting to the novel circumstances as a point of pride; moving out would be running away. The full story of this transformation requires many volumes (see Ballard's "The Drowned Metropolis", 1970, for an interesting overview), and can't be more than summarised in this space. Nearly all of London's infrastructure had to be modified for the new circumstances; gas, water, electricity, telephone and telegraph services were all disrupted, the sewage system had to be replaced in its entirity, the postal system completely redesigned, new stations built in some areas (fortunately most railways ran sufficiently far above sea level that they were unaffected), and so forth. Large parts of the city went without essential services for weeks on end, which was one of the main causes of the 1911-12 typhus epidemic which claimed several hundred lives.

The great problem of the day was transport; with the tubes and all surface transport out of action, the millions who had walked or commuted to work were left stranded. Some of the shallower streets were filled in to make piazzas, but most had to be left as canals, so it was rarely possible to walk (or even wade) to work. Wealthy homes soon purchased steam or petrol launches, poorer families used punts and rowing boats, and there was a craze for small pedal-driven boats, canoes, kayaks, and other exotic craft. Ridiculously unstable water skates and bicycles were also introduced, and have been intermittently popular throughout the century, but they were only usable by the agile, and were never a serious replacement for their land equivalents. Steam and petrol-driven barges were already in use on the river and canals, and it was easy to extend their use to the former streets, replacing omnibuses and vans. An enterprising East End taxi firm imported gondolas, which rapidly became the preferred replacement for the cab. The initial boats came with gondoliers, who helped to train cabbies to operate their new craft, and there was a startling process of cultural assimilation, in which the Cockney cabbies learned Venetian ways and the Italians picked up rhyming slang, swearing, and other traditional Cockney practices. Many more Venetians and their families subsequently moved to London, joining an already sizeable Italian community.

During the Great War London's importance as a port was substantially increased by the extra deep water the flooding had added. Ships could moor further up-river, and tributaries of the Thames such as the Fleet (formerly Fleet Street, and originally the valley of the river Fleet) became important in their own right. As a result the Germans made several abortive attempts to get past the defences at Southend and Greenwich, and send raiding parties into the canals of London. Fortunately they failed, although there were persistent rumours of U-boats in the deeper canals. Naturally they were nonsense; only one German craft is known to have got past the defences, and that was a rowing boat containing three spies who had the misfortune to choose the Scotland Yard jetty as their landing point. The canals were extremely useful during Zeppelin raids; most of the German bombs fell in water, fires almost always stopped when they reached a canal, and fire boats could easily reach any blaze, and had a near-infinite water supply. Unfortunately Hitler's advisers learned from the earlier mistakes, and many of the Blitz attacks of the Second World War dropped weapons (such as small magnetic mines) targeted specifically at fire boats, and sodium-fused oil bombs which set the surface of the canals ablaze.

After the Great War most of London's adaptations to watery life were completed. Numerous pedestrian bridges were installed, making life a little easier for poorer commuters, and a licensing scheme ensured that all public passenger boats were operated by appropriately trained and tested crew. "The Knowledge", the London gondolier's ability to find any address, however obscure, was the eventual result; the unlicensed gondola boom of the 1930s was a reaction to the difficulty of passing these tests. At first, though, allowances had to be made for the fact that English was a foreign language to many gondoliers, and Italianised answers were allowed.

By the mid-twenties most Londoners were familiar with the gondoliers' names for London's landmarks, and with the remarkable extent to which the Italian ways they imported had influenced London, so much so that it was often suggested that the names should be adopted officially. Unwary tourists were often led to believe that it was a fait accompli, and that (for example) Tower Bridge was now called the Bridge of Sighs, that the Lord Mayor was now called the Syndic, that licences and muzzles were needed for vicious fish, and so forth. It was all nonsense, but meant in a spirit of fun. The lions of Trafalgar Square were fitted with wings during renovation in 1922, as a light-hearted tribute to Venice and its gondoliers, and some shops, theatres, and restaurants Italianised their names, but these were the only substantial changes.

The Italian craze slowly ebbed in the 1930s, although the continuing warm weather meant that parts of London did still bear a striking resemblance to Venice, at least in the Summer. But in Winter London was cold and now extremely damp, with frequent freezing fogs; the death rates for influenza and pneumonia doubled after London flooded, and stayed high until antibiotics were introduced after World War Two. Even today they are still higher than in other parts of England.

During WW2 London was frequently bombed, as described above; the gleaming water of the canals was an unmissable target on any moonlit night, and the Luftwaffe could easily identify important buildings. The bombing of Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, the Admiralty, and the major museums and churches could probably not have been avoided by anything short of a permanent smoke screen, but the area to be protected was simply too large. Flak boats proved a moderately effective defence, and could be moved much more readily than the land-based AA guns used to defend other major cities, but only the development of effective night fighters and the virtual elimination of the Luftwaffe could end the threat. The later V1 and V2 campaigns were comparatively ineffective when directed at Central London; most of the missiles landed in canals, and either exploded underwater or broke up before the detonators triggered. Outer London and the suburbs suffered serious damage, of course.

Post-war reconstruction saw the creation of many skyscrapers, some bridging several canals, roofed over in the relentless search for space. Proposals to bring more roads into London were fortunately defeated, since there is little or no room to park cars, and most Londoners who own them accept the need to rent garage space in the suburbs. In the nineties such "improvements" are generally regarded as vandalism, as are the frequent proposals for the construction of a barrier across the Thames Valley and the draining of London. Given today's technology such a scheme might succeed, at enormous cost, but consider the consequences; London's colourful boats confined to the Thames and a few narrow canals, its most notable tourist attraction a thing of the past, and the quiet canals reduced to mundane streets, made noisy by the roar of cars. This scheme also has an obvious danger; large parts of the city would be below sea level, and vulnerable to flooding (and even tidal waves!) if the barrier were ever breached, and such a barrier would be an obvious target for terrorism.

Admittedly there are problems; commuting is more complicated than in other parts of Britain, and the haphazard nature of London's sudden conversion means that it is less "user-friendly" than Venice or Amsterdam. Nevertheless few Londoners would welcome a return to previous conditions. The fact that the prices of homes on the canals are typically 200-300% higher than those in the outskirts of London suggests that this opinion is shared by many.



Typical Gondoliers
BODY [5], MIND [2], SOUL [4], Actor (singing) [4], Athlete (rowing) [7], Brawling [6], Driving (boat) [5], Linguist (see below) [3], Scholar (London's canals, London landmarks).
Equipment: Gondola, money belt, knife.
Quote: "'Ave ye bought the whole canal, Marco Giovanni? Not so much splashing, Corpo Paolo, or I'll smash yer bulkheads."
Notes: These statistics are for generic gondoliers; British gondoliers should have Italian as their only foreign language, Italian gondoliers have English as their only foreign language. All speak fluent Anglo-Italian slang.

Adventure Outline: The Wet Look

Spring 1913. Much of London is in the hands of builders and engineers, and there is a frantic race to salvage everything of value before the city's heritage is lost. But all of that is irrelevant to the adventurers, who have somehow become embroiled in the peculiar antics of the fashion trade.

Two of the major Paris fashion houses (choose two or invent your own) have decided that London is "Tres chic", and plan to photograph their spring collections against a background of half-submerged buildings, dredgers, gondolas, and other daily London scenes. Unfortunately their presiding geniuses are deadly rivals, and each would love to see something unfortunate happen to the other. They have also chosen to visit London at the same time. As usual gossip has spread, and there is word on the canals that either couturier will pay well for any accident to his or her rival - nothing violent, of course, just anything embarrassing, such as a model or two falling in the mud, or a trunk of expensive clothing getting soaked - and for advance details of the other's new designs.

There are many ways for the adventurers to become involved. They might know or work for one or another of the designers, or might be employed as interpreters or photographers. They could be gentleman criminals, discreetly informed of the situation and offered suitable rewards. They could be mercenaries, playing one side against the other as the bids for their services slowly mount. They might be (female) models or their gentleman friends, imported from Paris or recruited locally by one of the rivals. Or they could be detectives or Scotland Yard bunglers, hired or assigned to protect one or another faction. There is no need for all the adventurers to be on the same side, since nobody should really get hurt.

Keep things moving fast, make it difficult (but not impossible) for the adventurers to achieve their goals, and try to inject an element of farce. This is a silly situation, so rev up your outrageous French and Italian accents and have fun. Essential sources are the Pink Panther films, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and of course Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars. Gavin Lyall's novel Midnight Plus One contains some interesting ideas on couturier rivalries.

In a campaign incorporating Plokta's device the London floods are inconvenient, and the adventurers arrive to find that their new lives are all involved in this situation, preferably on more than one side. At least one adventurer should arrive in a body that is using water skates, and make an immediate roll or fall over. If the adventurers wish to use the Idealiser to move on there should be no particular problem.

As an optional alternative, the story describing this world ends with the revelation that it was all an anaesthetic-induced dream; perhaps the Idealiser accidentally transports the adventurers to that dream, set in an imaginary London where the Lord Mayor really is called the Syndic, Italian names have been adopted officially, and there really are fish licences and sinister black gondolas (possibly steered by Gondoliers In Black armed with poisoned rapiers). The plot should be essentially the same, but the intrigue is more violent and people will get hurt. Eventually the dreamer, one of the adventurers or an important NPC, wakes or is killed; this disrupts the dream, and the adventurers finally arrive in their real new bodies, wherever they may be.

5.7 If London Were Like New York

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It is a cold Wednesday afternoon, and I am sitting in my office sipping a little tea when there is a knock on the door. I hide the tea, not wishing to be thought a pansy, and shout "Come in".
Standing there is Piccadilly Henry, and he is looking annoyed. Henry is a bookie, with a sideline selling the statue of Nelson to tourists a few times a year. Incidentally, if you are ever offered this statue, which has been on the market ever since it was replaced by Washington, the real owners are now a consortium based in Dallas. But I digress.
Henry says "Burt, I am needing a little favour", much as I had expected. Lots of people are needing little favours, especially people in Henry's line of business, and organising such things is what a solicitor is for....

[P.G. Wodehouse - Chaps and Dolls, 1932]

Britain's financial collapse at the turn of the century was an extraordinary example of the dangers of speculation. A succession of disastrous investments by the Bank of England and the other major financial institutions, coupled with the heavy cost of the 1902 Boer war debacle and the consequent loss of South Africa's mineral wealth, left Britain virtually bankrupt. The pound dropped to an all time low, well under a dollar, and American investors took full advantage; they bought controlling interests in Britain's railways and other industries, and speculated heavily in British tobacco, coffee, and leather futures, while using their economic leverage to force the pound even lower. Despite the wealth of the rest of the Empire, in a matter of weeks Britain was an American economic dependency, a colony in all but name.

The Americanisation of Britain inevitably began in London, where American capital and personnel were concentrated and exerted an enormous influence. It wasn't long before American-style restaurants and clubs were built, along with apartment blocks and the other "conveniences" of modern American life. Fast street cars replaced the old slow trams, and a new elevated railway system was built at enormous speed and cost. Parts blighted London until the 1950s. America was the "in" thing, and Londoners learned to admire and imitate all aspects of Yankee culture.

In the 1902 General Election the traditional British parties were opposed by American-funded Democratic and Republican candidates. The British parties were generally bankrupt, ruined in the financial crash, and unused to the American style of politics, while the new parties could afford to advertise and bought in their own "ward heelers", led by Robert Croker (an associate of "Boss" Tweed, who controlled the New York vote in the late 19th century), to "organise" the voters. The Republicans (led by Balfour, who had defected from the Conservative party) gained 35% of seats, the Democrats 30%, and the remainder were split between Liberal, Tory, and a few Labour MPs. Croker was rewarded with a knighthood, and his machinations in the next decade resulted in several attempts to change the law and introduce an American-style presidency.

There was considerable resistance to this move, even amongst some of the Americanised politicians, since it was feared that the role of the King would be eroded, and every attempt was countered by long filibuster speeches, intense lobbying, and rare displays of unity by the traditional parties. Croker's henchmen also gained control of the LCC from 1904-8, and this period saw many of the least desirable changes to London; the replacement of the statue of Nelson by a statue of Washington, and wholesale demolition of ancient buildings to construct new apartment blocks. Fortunately these excesses upset sufficient voters to ensure a marginal Labour victory at the next LCC elections, with a majority just large enough to block many of the proposals which might have otherwise blighted the city.

By 1910 a major portion of Britain's debts were paid off, but American companies still controlled many industries. London was still largely American owned and heavily American-influenced, and the frantic pace of life there amazed visitors from other areas. Britain's financiers started to look further afield for investments, and from 1910 onwards India and the other colonies were industrialised on a massive scale. The cross-fertilisation of technological ideas that followed led to many innovations; monorail railways in India and the Cameroons, shipyards in Ceylon, and the electrification of much of the Middle East. Transport was a special priority, and speed records on land and sea were repeatedly shattered, with British airships holding speed and distance records from the 1920s onward.

Meanwhile the loss of so much of Britain's income to overseas owners meant that there was little investment in the armed forces. Britain was prepared to defend the Empire, but was outmatched by the Germans and French, making a European land war something to be avoided at all costs. It was made clear that Britain would remain neutral unless attacked.

This policy continued through three changes of government but in 1916, with France and Germany at war, and the conflict seeming likely to spread further afield, the Prime Minister (Churchill, Dem.) surprised America by initiating talks aimed at an eventual application for US statehood.

There were several obvious problems. Parliament wished to retain the Monarchy, which was expressly forbidden by the US Constitution. The UK would have been by far the most populous state, and would have needed proportional representation in the US Congress. A quarter of the Congressional vote would then have been British, and this would have completely upset the balance of power, giving British politicians virtual control of the US Government. At the same time Britain would only have one or two representatives in the Senate if it had become a single state, which would be completely out of proportion to its population. Plans to subdivide Britain into several states were aired; the most common suggestion was statehood for Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and several subdivisions of England. These plans would have given Britain more Senators, but the imbalance of Congress would have remained, and the idea of separate states in Britain was generally unpopular. American cartoons of the period suggested that the "tail" of Britain would end up wagging the "dog", America, while Jerome K. Jerome and G.K. Chesterton both wrote satires of war between the British states. President Wilson believed that such a move would entangle America in a European war, something he had always feared, and made it known that he would veto it if it were somehow approved by Congress and the Senate. There were also many objections from Britain; Irish Catholics, for example, feared that if Ireland became a separate state it would be dominated by the Protestant minority, who controlled Ireland's equivalent of Croker's organisation. The Church of England was sure that it would lose its influence as the official British religion, since American laws guaranteed the separation of Church and State.

Debate on the issue continued well into 1917, but these sticking points seemed insoluble, and once France had defeated Germany much of the urgency was gone. Nevertheless there were fears that France would look for further conquests, and that Britain would slip from its already shaky position as a world leader if nothing was done. Growing unrest in the Empire was also a cause for concern, as was the Russian military coup of 1918.

At this point Churchill was approached by a group of concerned citizens led by the author Rudyard Kipling, and presented with plans for a radical scheme which would revitalise British democracy along American lines while preserving the monarchy and adding the financial and industrial stability needed for the defence of the realm. Much of Britain's remaining commercial wealth was now invested in the Empire; it was time to give the Empire's citizens more of a say in their government.

The British Empire would become the United British States (UBS), a democratic republic along American lines; early documents name it as the United States of Britannia, but this was felt to be too close an imitation of the USA. The nations of the Empire would become its states, sending Senators and Congressmen to London. Even the Boers would be invited to join, as would the former colonies such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The Monarch would be titular head of state, but real power would lie with an elected President. Taxes would be used for the mutual benefit of all states, most notably to finance the army, navy, and air force, which would recruit from all the states and would be used for their neutral benefit. Each state would elect Senators and congressmen to reflect its population; this still gave Britain a considerable say, but it would be a better arrangement than would have resulted from Britain joining the USA. Ireland would become a separate state, but the UK would not otherwise be subdivided except as electoral districts.

Obviously there was considerable opposition to this plan, not least on racist and religious grounds, but Churchill's majority, the essential fairness of the scheme, and the fact that some reductions in taxation seemed likely ensured his eventual success. By 1925 the first draft of the UBS constitution was complete, and the first Senators and Congressmen were elected, with Churchill the first President; Australia and New Zealand were already negotiating for admission (both joined in 1932), while Canada was expressing cautious interest. The Boers refused to join, and maintain their isolation even today. Under the new scheme the former Empire flourished, and by the late 1930s most of London had reverted to British ownership, although American styles were still very influential. In 1938 London's Britannia Building, the largest skyscraper in the world until the 1950s, was built entirely with British capital, and the restoration of Nelson to Trafalgar Square the following year was widely seen as a vindication of Churchill's and Kipling's vision. Reports that Washington's statue was dropped deliberately during removal are almost certainly groundless; there is ample evidence that the crane driver was drunk, and simply pulled the wrong lever.

America cautiously welcomed the formation of the UBS, but there were worries that a Canadian decision to join would leave the USA at a disadvantage. Eventually a compromise was reached; Canada would remain an independent state affiliated to both the USA and UBS, but part of neither. Both states were allowed to use Canadian ports and airship docks, under treaty terms that ensured that Canada retained overall control and prospered greatly from the arrangement. To counter the size and power of the rapidly-expanding UBS the USA sought alliances to the South, and encouraged the eventual formation of the USSA, the United States of South America. Mexico, Cuba, and Panama became the buffer states between the USA and USSA, in roles analogous to Canada, while the Falkland Islands were the interface between the USSA and USB.

Meanwhile France organised the European Union, a similar alliance of states intended include Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. But the terms of union were less favourable to independent nations, and Germany and France and their colonies were initially the only members. Later expansion took in Belgium, Holland, and their colonies, but the power of the central government was comparatively limited, and the costs far outweighed the benefits. The Union fought one war (1935-8, following the Russian invasion of Poland), but this was seen as benefiting Germany at the expense of the other member states, came close to bankrupting them, and failed to dislodge the Russians. Fortunately the effect of this war ultimately included the collapse of Russia's military dictatorship in 1940, and the restoration of the Czar from his exile in Monaco. Reports that the British Secret Service was involved in this transition have never been confirmed, but the loyalists who swept the junta from power certainly received help from some outside source. Once in power the Czar began organising the Russian Confederation, an orderly dismantling of the unwieldy Empire and reassembly as another democratic republic closely modelled on the UBS. In later years reforms to the EU made it generally more useful, and it now incorporates most of Europe and the Baltic states.

At almost the same time the UBS faced its first major military challenge, the 1942 Japanese invasion of China, then a protectorate jointly managed by the USA and UBS. With hindsight it is hard to imagine how Japan expected to win; within days of the outbreak of war most of the Japanese fleet had been sunk by American submarines and RAF bombers flying from airfields leased from the Russian Confederation, the Royal Navy's Indian Squadron under Admiral Singh was enforcing a strict blockade, and Gurkhas were deploying to meet the threat on land. With such overwhelming force the Allies were able to overcome the Japanese with minimal casualties on both sides, and negotiate a peaceful withdrawal. Within five years negotiation had established the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, yet another large political grouping taking in China, Japan, Korea, and most of Indonesia.

Today these five superpowers continue to represent most of the world's population, and in general are regarded as a force for good. All continue to expand by the addition of non-aligned nations, and there is obviously some friction when two or more of the super-states converge; for example, the long-running guerrilla wars in Tibet and Nepal are undoubtedly fuelled by rivalry between the Co-Prosperity Sphere and UBS, for several years the Russian Confederacy has been manoeuvring for rights to use Canadian ports and docks, and the EU and UBS have numerous disagreements about former colonies in Africa and elsewhere. Most disputes are handled peacefully, through the World Court in Geneva, or settled by economic means, not military force. Cooperative ventures such as the Western Siberia / Alaska fusion power grid mean that large-scale war will never be desirable. However, despite frequent predictions in scientific romances, it is unlikely that there will ever be a single global government; the present state of affairs seems to work well, but a single global economy would remove the competitive element that is so essential to our commerce-driven society.

Note: This section, more than any other, has benefited from discussion on the soc.history.what-if newsgroup, which raised nearly all of the objections to Britain's joining the USA. My thanks to all of the contributors to this discussion.


The Narrator (a Londoner)
BODY [3], MIND [3], SOUL [2], Athlete (running) [4], Business [7]
Equipment: Fountain pen, pocket pouch containing indigestion tablets, bromide tablets (mild tranquillisers), aspirin, quinine tablets, etc., cigarettes, matches.
Quote: "Why my dear boy, only back-number people do that sort of thing now-a-days."
Notes: The narrator (no name is stated) is a typical Londoner of his day, adapted to the high-pressure pace of life in the fast-moving metropolis. He is a hypochondriac, and "pops" a tablet of some sort whenever he feels uneasy or stressed. He has American relatives and feels superior to other Britons.

Dave (a country cousin)
BODY [4], MIND [3], SOUL [4], Athlete (cricket) [7], Brawling [5], Driving (carriage) [5], Linguist (Afrikaans, Swahili, French) [5], Marksman [7], Riding [6]
Equipment: Elephant gun, brace shotguns, brace revolvers (all in luggage), pipe, tobacco, matches
Quote: "Is it a crime to drink tea in Americanised London?"
Notes: Dave (no last name is given) is visiting Britain (and especially London) for the first time since its Americanisation, after several years in Africa. He is shocked by the changes, especially in the pace of life, and will eventually be unable to cope.

Adventure Outline: Independence Day

June 1906; with the installation of George Washington in Trafalgar Square many Britons feel that the American influence has gone much too far. Something must be done to counter it, and the eccentric playwright George Bernard Shaw thinks he has the answer. In a few days, on July 4th, the statue will finally be unveiled by Sir Robert Croker. Shaw and various friends plan a mass rally of patriotic Londoners, all to wear their best suits and carry umbrellas and bowlers or top hats, flasks of tea, and other patriotic symbols. They are to slowly move to the square, ignoring all attempts to hurry them, and peacefully protest by singing patriotic songs, drinking tea, and playing cricket if the weather permits. Dame Nellie Melba, the opera star, happens to be in London; she will lead the singing, while Shaw's other theatrical friends mingle with the crowd to try to prevent any disruption by Croker's underlings.

Croker has heard all about the plan (it's impossible to keep something like that secret), and wants it stopped. He intends to have a large contingent of thugs in the crowd, ready to break up the demonstration as it starts. They will be armed with blackjacks, brass knuckles, and other non-lethal weapons.

Mrs. Pankhurst and her suffragettes plan their own demonstration at the ceremony; they intend to chain themselves to the scaffolding around Nelson's (now Washington's) column and throw rotten fruit and eggs at Croker and any other notables who attend the ceremony.

The police are aware that these factions are going to meet at Trafalgar Square, and several wagons of constables and a squad of mounted police are ready to move in if there is violence. They are generally sympathetic to the Americanised viewpoint, and many of them are American police imported from New York, but their main interest is in upholding the law.

Hearing news of the impending clash, a group of criminals plan to rob the nearby National Gallery, stealing old masters of immense value, when the museum guards are distracted by the violence and noise outside.

Meanwhile a Fenian faction has its own plans. They have heard that the American millionaire J.P. Morgan will make a rare public appearance at the ceremony; they intend to kidnap him and demand the release of prisoners in Ireland. They will be heavily armed and shoot anyone who gets in their way.

The adventurers should belong to one or another of these factions (but not to the Fenians); if the referee can handle it they could belong to several of the factions. For example, one adventurer might be a member of Shaw's faction, another a suffragette, and so forth. All should be affected by the Fenian plot; suffragettes might be taken as additional hostages, police will be shot at, as will any members of the crowd who get in their way. The escaping Fenians might easily flee through the museum and disrupt a robbery. If Morgan can be rescued he will be appropriately grateful, within reason; this could be good news for anyone facing trouble with the police or looking for funds to build a Psychic Idealiser. The plot should be dangerous, but gives scope for humour; a huge chase scene in which Croker's thugs, suffragettes, police, and patriots wielding cricket bats and umbrellas all pursue the Fenians (and possibly the robbers and/or each other).

For a campaign involving the Idealiser none of the adventurers feel at home in this world, and none are especially rich or famous. There seems to be no immediate need to leave, but after a few days all should be suffering from severe culture shock, and desperate for a nice cup of tea and the more leisured pace of their home timelines.

5.8 "When The New Zealander Comes"

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It seems incredible that a desolate island like Wallia (also known as Britain or Angleland) could create an empire spanning the globe, but the examples of Greece, Rome, and Syrtis Minor show that great nations often have tiny beginnings. Like these nations, Wallia fell into eclipse, an obscurity so profound that little is now known of its daily life and historical personages. Moreover, it did so without war, pestilence, or other disasters; all evidence suggests that the Wallish tribes simply abandoned their bleak nation and emigrated to more salubrious climes.
Professor Bray, the eminent climatologist, suggests that the main motive for this mass emigration was a change in the weather, part of the global warming that occurred around s.c. 2000 to 2300, which raised water levels up to 10-15 peda in many areas. Wallia was badly affected by these changes; most coastal regions were subject to frequent storms, and the climate would have been cloudy and cold for months on end. There is archaeological evidence of frequent floods in this period, which would have affected most low-lying areas including Lun-dun and other cities. The climates of many of the Wallish colonies such as Zealand, Australis, Krugerland, and Mapleland were improved by the changes, but large areas of Wallia were rendered virtually uninhabitable for much of the year. When water levels fell again the damage was done; Wallia's cities were crumbling, and largely buried in several peda of silt....

[Dr. Kimball Slovak-Bagster: A Brief History of Wallia]

More than three thousand years later nobody is entirely sure what happened to Wallia, and very few care; all the evidence suggests that the nation simply disintegrated, with isolated villages increasingly thrown on their own resources and an ageing population declining as most of the younger generation left for sunnier lands. Anyone who was fit and active got out while there were still regular transport links with the European mainland and the rest of the world; those who remained were the weak and the timid, the halt and the lame, and the bandits who preyed on their villages. There may have been wars as civilisation collapsed, but no reliable records survive.

This pattern wasn't unique to Wallia; it happened in most of Northern Europe, and there was a "dark age" of a few hundred years as civilisation collapsed without the skilled workers needed to maintain it. In other areas outsiders moved in as the climate improved. Wallia's isolation and lack of land links left it cut off, and the insular villagers were disinclined to welcome any strangers that did cross the Channel.

Meanwhile the dynamic civilisations of the Equatorial regions and South were looking elsewhere; flight was finally perfected around s.c. 2400, giving air speeds of more than a hundred miles per hour in the antiquated system of measurements then used. Unfortunately the basis of these units has in part been lost; it is believed that an hour was 1/24th of a day, but nobody is entirely sure what a mile was. Modern units whose ancient values are known include the mulla (about 2.6 pounds), the peda (0.76 ft), etc. ZEALAND.WK1 is a spreadsheet template covering these conversions.

With the conquest of the air the most isolated areas of Africa, India, and Antarctica were accessible, and were rapidly colonised and exploited. New discoveries rapidly increased the speed of transport, and the conquest of gravity around s.c. 2750 allowed mankind to reach the moon, and later the other planets of the solar system. Unfortunately the Martian war of s.c. 3200 to 3230 (believed to have been a disastrous mistake caused by a translation error) and the subsequent epidemics caused another long dark age. In all three major civilisations rose and fell between the collapse of Wallia and the foundation of modern Zealand.

Today much of what is "known" about Wallia verges on the apocryphal; many records do survive, and scholars have some familiarity with them, but the context of the material is suspect and many words are untranslatable. There is currently a fad for the styles discovered by Wallish archaeology, and enough scholastic interest to fund a wide-ranging programme of excavations; in summer tourists with an interest in ancient cultures flock to Wallia and tend to get in the way of serious scholars.

Meanwhile the quiet natives of South Wallia grow their cabbages; there is a cottage industry in forged antiquities, and some of the more enterprising locals have started to work as guides and in the new hotels that are springing up on the southern coast. Further North the natives are barely aware of the rediscovery of their little island, and want nothing to do with "damned Southerners" of all persuasions.

The rest of the world and most of the solar system are very civilised and a little dull. There are human colonies on Mars, the Moon, Venus, and Ganymede, mines on Mercury and several other moons. Mars, Venus, and Ganymede also have native races, who are friendly to humanity; optionally they are so close to human that cross-breeds are possible.

Note: A convenient source for the larger global setting is Forgotten Futures II, which describes a more primitive solar system with intelligent life on several worlds; just assume that thousands of years later the initial difficulties of interplanetary contact have been overcome.

Zealand Vocabulary

Angleland     England
Australis     Australia
Cockni        Cockney, eg any tribesman living around London.
Dai-Nippon    Greater Nippon, a nation taking in China, Korea, etc.
Francish      French
Gace          French (possibly derived from Gallic)
Germ          German
Krugerland    South Africa
Lun-Dun       London
Lloydville    Port on south coast of Wallia, possibly Portsmouth.
Mapleland     Canada
Mulla         Unit of weight, approximately 2.5881 lb.
Old Zealand   The country once known as New Zealand; the current
              New Zealand is on Venus.
Peda          Unit of distance, approximately 0.76 ft.
Punda         Unit of currency (may be derived from "pound")
Sheenies      Germans (originally offensive slang meaning "Jews")
Solar prints  Photographs
Suthuk        Part of Lun-Dun, originally Southwark
Via Oxford    Part of Lun-Dun, originally Oxford Street
Wallia        England (may be derived from "Wales")
Wallish       English (may be derived from "Welsh")


Colonel Binns Smoodle, P.D., S.R. (soldier and archaeologist)
BODY [5], MIND [3], SOUL [3], Athlete (athletics) [8], Brawling [7], Business [5], Linguist (Martian, Wallish) [4], Mechanic [7], Military Arms [6], Morse code [4], Scientist (Engineering) [5], Scholar (Archaeology, Antiquities) [4]
Equipment: Surveying poles, transit, tape measure, etc.
Quote: "I say there, you wallish-fellah, dig-um here, savvy!"
Notes: Smoodle is a retired engineering officer who feels that it is essential to run the expedition on proper military lines. He is good at organising the natives - they are good at following anyone who shouts loudly enough - and knows enough about engineering to design safe excavations that won't collapse on the diggers. He is responsible for logistics, hiring and firing of workmen, etc.

Dr. Tite Opkins, R.O. (architect and draughtsman)
BODY [3], MIND [4], SOUL [5], Artist (sketching, painting) [7], First Aid [6], Linguist (Francish, Germ, Wallish) [6], Scholar (Archaeology, architecture, art, antiquities) [7]
Equipment: Sketch pad, pencils, paints, etc.
Quote: "Just here I think, the shadows will just offset the reflections from the water nicely."
Notes: Opkins is an enthusiastic archaeological artist, specialising in the sketching of old buildings and other ruins. His work is good, but he holds various odd theories about the migrations of the ancient Wallish and Gace races (for instance, he believes that the word Gace was originally "Gallic") and sometimes changes small details to strengthen his case, without even noticing that he is doing so. He has previously worked on sites in France and Germany. He is also a gifted restorer of broken china and ceramic artefacts.

Fellow Mustard Snip (Solarist [photographer])
BODY [2], MIND [3], SOUL [4], Artist (photography) [8], Scholar (Antiques, art, architecture) [5]
Equipment: Several cameras, plates, portable darkroom, etc.
Quote: "Move the lights about four peda to the left and keep your damned head down!"
Notes: Snip is an enthusiastic photographer, and sees everything in terms of composition, shade, and colour. He has a mild interest in the goals of the expedition, but only as a means to an end; freshly-excavated picturesque ruins are excellent subjects for solar prints.

Prof. Blyde Muddersnook, P.O.Z.A.S. (The narrator)
BODY [3], MIND [5], SOUL [3], Artist (author) [6], Business [6], Linguist (Wallish, Francish, Germ) [6], Scholar (ceramics, sculpture, metalwork, antiques restoration) [7], Scientist (Archaeology) [8]
Equipment: Several tons of tools, from spades and picks to a pneumatic drill and compressor.
Quote: "Mhmm... Wallish of the late sedimentary period, I think"
Notes: Muddersnook is a dedicated scientific archaeologist and is largely responsible for selection of sites, reconstruction of artefacts, etc. He is often distracted from his work by worries about funding. He is frequently obsessed with details, such as the volume and weight of soil removed from various excavations.

The expedition apparently includes some other (unnamed) participants, whose presence can be inferred at the points where the team splits to excavate multiple sites. They are probably students.

Adventure Outline: Handle With Care

Many natives of Wallia have begun to cash in on the excavations by working as guides or porters, and there is a cottage industry in fake antiques, which are generally sold to less knowledgeable tourists. Unfortunately some ruthless natives have begun to think that there might be easier ways to earn a living at the expense of tourists and archaeologists. By banditry, for example. Their first experiments will be a nasty surprise for the team...

The adventurers are archaeologists and/or students working on a dig believed to be the site of the ancient city of Ox-Ford. It's winter, and in a few days it will be the ancient pagan festival of Ex-Mus. Already the natives are frequently drunk on lethal cabbage-based poteen, and disinclined to work for a living. Which is bad news for the adventurers, because their next batch of supplies, including trade goods, some badly-needed explosives, a box of high-speed solar plates, and luxuries like toilet paper and chemical heaters, is waiting at Lloydville, 60 miles South as the crow flies, but more like 80 miles away on the twisting Wallish roads. They can get there by horse in a day or two, but the return trip will need heavy transport, something this benighted country singularly lacks. At best some ox carts and wagons may be available, at worse the adventurers will have to hire a large team of porters. The problem isn't new - they face it every time supplies arrive - but the weather conditions are unusually poor, and the natives unusually unhelpful. It isn't even possible to make the journey by river; it's frozen.

Eventually the adventurers should set out for the coast. They will have to pay at least four times the normal rate for native help; fortunately this is still less than a punda a day per employee. The journey is uneventful, apart from four encounters with deep snowdrifts, a section of road which has been washed out by flooding, and a collapsed bridge. Riders on horseback can bypass these problems easily enough, but they will cause problems for wagons. Clearing a path through the snowdrifts takes D6/2 man-hours per blockage, each of the repairs will take 2D6+6 man-hours; a minor problem if the adventurers have bought some workers, a major delay if they are unaccompanied. Road clearing and repairs can optionally be left for the return journey.

At Lloydville the warehouse is closed, and it will take several hours to find the manager, get the goods released, hire wagons or ox carts, and prepare to set out for Ox-Ford. Unless the adventurers wait until the morning they won't be on the road until the afternoon, with night falling four hours later. The wagons move at 5mph or less, at least four are needed for the quantity of supplies the adventurers have received. Chartering one, with driver and beasts, costs three pundas. If less than four are used the wagons are overloaded and one will break a wheel during the trip.

The return journey will be enlivened by a bandit attack; there should be three bandits, armed with knives and heavy single-shot muskets, per adventurer. They are on foot. They will shoot at outriders before attaking; fortunately they are not particularly good shots, and it takes two rounds to reload a musket. Their goal is simply to steal a wagon and escape with it. The explosives are an additional complication; unless the adventurers have made a point of specifying where they are to travel, they are in a randomly selected wagon. The bitter cold has made them slightly unstable; the normal jolts of the journey won't detonate them, but fire or a musket ball or bullet will. Each case is equivalent to ten sticks of dynamite. The chemical heaters have flammable fuel, which ignites spontaneously five rounds after contact with air. Each can is equivalent to a Molotov cocktail.

If the adventurers beat off the attack the bandits won't return; if the bandits capture a wagon it should contain the most urgently needed supplies, such as medicines or booze. The bandits will only take it a mile or so before stopping to loot, so recapturing it is entirely possible. Optionally one or more of the native porters is working with the bandits, and will betray the adventurers at an opportune moment.

If the bandits can be captured and interrogated, or tracked back to their lair, the adventurers will discover that they are based in an important ruin; the library of the University of Reading, which has never been looted and still has several sealed rooms containing ancient books. It's in dense woods a few miles from the route, roughly 20 miles from Oxford, and its contents can reveal more about Wallish life and culture than anything found at Oxford.

This adventure cannot fit into a campaign based on the Psychic Idealiser, unless the adventurers are allowed considerable mobility in time and take over the minds of extremely remote descendants. If this occurs this may be a good opportunity for them to finally catch up with Dr. Plokta, who has also reached this era and is trying to build an Idealiser to return to the 20th century, but is running into problems because he wants to use incredibly primitive components by current Zealand standards. He'll claim that he has a way to materialise images of the distant past, and wants to use his machine to visualise Lon-Dun as it was in its heyday. Anyone who participates in the experiment will indeed be catapulted back into the past; it won't be the past that they originally came from, but that's nothing new to anyone with experience of the Idealiser. Alternatively, the adventurers may decide to try to stop Plokta and stay in the future.

APPENDIX A - About the Authors

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I believe that the material included in this collection is out of copyright, but in many cases I have been unable to discover details of authors and artists to confirm this. If I am mistaken, I would be grateful for any information that would help me to contact the current copyright holders and arrange payment.

APPENDIX B - Recommended Reading And Viewing

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APPENDIX C - London (From Nuttal's Encyclopaedia, 1906)

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London (5,633)1, on the Thames, 50 m from the sea, the capital of the British Empire, is the most populous and wealthiest city in the world. An important place in Roman times, it was the cap. of the East Saxons, and has been the metropolis of England since the Norman Conquest; it possesses, therefore, innumerable historic buildings and associations.
Often devastated by plague and fire, its progress has never been stayed, its population has more than quadrupled itself this century2 and more than doubled since 1850.
The City of London proper occupies one square mile in the centre, is wholly a commercial part, and is governed by an annually elected mayor and aldermen; is the seat of a bishopric, with St. Paul's for cathedral. The City of Westminster is also a bishopric under a high steward and high bailiff chosen by the dean and chapter. These two cities with twenty-five boroughs under local officers, constitute the metropolis, and since 1888 the county of the city of London, and send 59 members to Parliament.
Streets in the older parts are narrow, but newer districts are well built; the level ground and density of building detracts from the effect of innumerable magnificent edifices. Buckingham, Kensington, and St. James's are royal residences; the Houses of Parliament are the biggest Gothic building in the world; St. Paul's, built by Sir Christopher Wren, contains the remains of Nelson and Wellington, Reynolds, Turner, and Wren himself. Westminster, consecrated 1269, is the burial-place of England's greatest poets and statesmen, and of many kings; the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand were opened in 1882.
London has a University (an examining body), 700 colleges and endowed schools, among which Westminster, Christ's Hospital and the Charterhouse are famous, many medical hospitals, and schools and charitable institutions of all kinds.
London is the centre of the English literary and artistic world, and of scientific interest and research; here are the largest publishing houses, the chief libraries and art-galleries, and museums; the British Museum and Library, the National Galleries, &c., and magnificent botanical and Zoological gardens.
London is also a grand emporium of commerce, and the banking centre of the world. It has nine principal docks; its shipping trade is unrivalled, 55,000 vessels enter and clear annually; it pays more than half the custom duties of the kingdom, and handles more than a quarter of the total exports; its warehouse trade is second only to that of Manchester; it manufactures everything, chiefly watches, jewellery leather goods, cycles, pianos, and glass.
The control of traffic, the lighting, and water-supply of so large a city are causing yearly more serious problems.

This was originally published as a solid block of text; breaks have been added to make it easier to read
1 The population is 5,633 thousand, or 5.633 million.
2 This presumably refers to the 19th century

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