Forgotten Futures VI

The Cunning Fiends!

Adventures in Melodrama and Melodramatic Fiction

by Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 1999, portions Copyright © 1985-98

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The worldbook for this collection, Victorian Villainy, introduced various forms of melodrama and ways of using them in role playing games. These adventures and outlines put these ideas into practice.

The adventures are not connected, but are set in the same world, although using the same characters for all may be difficult. Each can be played in a few hours, or extended indefinitely. All are set in the late 19th century; the exact date is unimportant. The first adventure is a sequel to one originally set in 1897, but for reasons explained in the text it is preferable to ignore that date and assume a setting in the 1880s instead. They can be run in any order.

Because of the size and scope of these adventures minor NPCs are not described in great detail; they have average characteristics of 3 or 4, and skills appropriate to their jobs or ranks. All characters and organisations mentioned are imaginary, unless stated otherwise. Maps and plans are only provided for key locations; in almost all cases details are entirely imaginary or are based on limited (and possibly inaccurate) information. Referees are strongly advised to obtain suitable maps and photographs to supplement the illustrations provided, and modify details where I have made mistakes. Wherever possible sources are mentioned, but it should be remembered that they often contradict each other.

All the adventures are written for groups of 3-6 characters; more are usually more trouble than they are worth, smaller groups may lack some of the skills needed for success. It is assumed that the characters are British, and living in a world much like our own in the 1880s-90s. However, it is a world of melodrama where anyone may have a guilty secret or plan a desperate crime. Technology is a little more advanced than in the "real" world in one respect; a Channel Tunnel links Dover to Calais. A little Weird Science and Magic may also be going on.

Parts of the first adventure necessarily runs to a fairly strict timetable; the others can be played more loosely, with events happening as adventurers are ready (or least prepared) for them. In play-testing this free-wheeling approach worked well.

Referees should always remember that these scenarios can't possibly handle every contingency; players may think of plans that didn't occur to the author and play-testers, or ignore clues that seemed obvious when these adventures were written. Be prepared to think fast and abandon the plot if it isn't going well; the players may think of something much more entertaining if you let them develop their ideas!

Forgotten Futures Theatre figures are provided for all of the main characters; click on the character's name in the lists of characters to see the appropriate sheet of figures.

Steam Pirates is very loosely based on the Traveller adventure Tower Trouble, originally published in White Dwarf #71, 1985. In its current form it is a sequel to Taking The Tunnel (on the FF CD-ROM and the author's web site), which should be run first - however, it should be set in 1887, not 1897. The title was suggested by the SF film Ice Pirates. Dan Wilson, Mark Brader, and John Ray gave invaluable help with the railway details of this scenario, Tim Illingworth gave similar help with Taking The Tunnel. Various members of the Cix conference made encouraging noises and suggestions.

The Wages of Sin has an unusually complicated history; it is based on A Nice Night For Screaming, an adventure for Call of Cthulhu and other systems that originally appeared in Imagine Magazine issue #28, also in 1985. A sequel, Honeymoon In Hell, was in Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu collection Blood Brothers. I have since used the title (and a few of the same ideas) for an otherwise unrelated adventure in FF III, hence the title change. Given the age of this adventure, I hope that few readers will have seen it before; in any case the setting and many other details have been changed to protect the guilty.

Wheels of Fear has not previously been published.

Some of the adventure outlines owe their titles to books and films: Who Wants To Live Forever? is a line from a song in Highlander, The Two Hostages was suggested by John Buchan's The Three Hostages, Didn't You Kill My Father? was suggested by The Comic Strip's Didn't You Kill My Brother?, and Fate Is The Hunter was a book of aviation memoirs by Ernest K. Gann, later filmed under the same title. The Clockwork Queen was first written as part of an unfinished (and probably unplayable) Victorian adventure for Call of Cthulhu, before I ever thought of Forgotten Futures; most of the rest has been cannibalised for adventures in previous FF collections. The Servant Problem was originally conceived as extra subplots for The Wages of Sin, and can be used in that form if preferred.

Special thanks to members of the 1999 Eastercon who supported charity by bidding for the "privilege" of appearing in these adventures; Martin Smith, Maureen Kincaid-Speller, and Tommy Fergusson. Don't say you weren't warned... Apart from the names of three characters everyone in these adventures, and all references to real historical figures, are entirely imaginary.

Many thanks to Steve Jackson Games for allowing the use of their "Cardboard Heroes" format for the character figures.