Forgotten Futures VI

Victorian Villainy

The World of Melodrama and Melodramatic Fiction, 1820-1914

Written and edited by Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 1998, portions Copyright © 1993-7

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0.0 - Introduction
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Previous Forgotten Futures collections have concentrated on scientific romances, the Victorian and Edwardian equivalent of science fiction. This collection moves to another literary field, adventures in the world of Victorian (and earlier and later) melodramatic fiction. It describes a style of role-playing that is especially suitable for a Victorian or Edwardian campaign, but may also suit campaigns based on material written in this period but set in earlier or later eras.

Melodrama is defined as [1] a play, film, etc. of a crudely emotional or sensational style, [2] the dramatic genre embodied by such works, and [3] a real-life situation comprising sensational elements.

Definition [1] could easily be applied to most role-playing adventures; the exceptions are scarce. Most RPG rules (including Forgotten Futures) devote a disproportionate amount of space to combat and other forms of violence. Despite this, very few adventures are deliberately written in the genre, as defined in [2] above.

The essence of period melodrama can be spelled out in a few words; stories in which good triumphs, evil always gets what it deserves, and love conquers all. Every scene must be full of action, pathos, or romance, and must advance the plot to some degree. Sometimes these ideas were taken to ridiculous extremes as in this example, a review of a story with a naval setting:


[Review, by George Bernard Shaw, March 1896, of True Blue by Leonard Outram and Stewart Gordon]

"First there is the lady matador who loves the captain and hates the heroine, whom the captain loves. Then there is the heroine who also loves the captain. And there is the heroine's maid who loves the comic sailor, who loves the bottle. Suddenly the cruiser is ordered to up anchors and sweep England's enemies from the sea. The women resolve not to desert the men they love in the hour of danger. The matadoress, a comparatively experienced and sensible woman, slips quietly down into the pantry adjoining the captain's cabin. The maid gets into one of those setee music boxes which are, it appears, common objects on the decks of cruisers, and is presently carried into the captain's cabin. The heroine, taught by love to devise a surer hiding-place, gets into one of the ship's boilers. Here the hand of the idiot is apparent, striking out a situation which would never have occurred to Shakespeare. Once fairly at sea, the matadoress gives way to an inveterate habit of smoking and is smelt out by the captain. She throws her arms boldly about him, and declares he is hers forever. Enter, inopportunely, the navigating officer. He is scandalised, but retires. When he thinks it is safe to return, it is only to find the maid emerging from the setee to dispute possession of the captain, on behalf of the heroine, with the matadoress. Hereupon he describes the ship as the captain's harem, and is placed under arrest. Then comes the great dramatic opportunity of the matadoress. Becoming acquainted, heaven knows how, with the hiding place of the heroine, she takes the stage alone, and draws a thrilling picture of her rival's impending doom. She describes her in the clammy darkness of the boiler, listening to the wild beats of her own heart. Then the sensation of wet feet, the water rising to her ankles, her knees, her waist, her neck and only by standing on tip toe, with frantic upturned face, can she breathe. One mercy alone seems vouchsafed to her: the water has lost its deadly chill. Nay, it is getting distinctly warm, even hot -- hotter -- scalding! Immortal powers, it is BOILING; and what was a moment ago a beautiful English girl in the exquisite budding of her beautiful womanhood, is now but a boilerful of soup, and in a moment will be but a condenser full of low-pressure steam. I must congratulate Mrs Raleigh on the courage with which she hurled this terrible word-picture at a house half white with its purgation by pity and terror, and half red with voiceless, apoplectic laughter. Need I describe the following scene in the stoke-hold -- how the order comes to fill the boiler; how the comic sailor, in shutting the manhole thereof, catches sight of the white finger of the captain's young lady; how the matadoress in disguise comes in, and has all but turned on the boiling water when the comic sailor disables the tap, by a mighty blow from the sledge-hammer; how he rushes away to tell the captain of his discovery; how in his absence the fires are lighted and the cold water turned on; and how at the last moment the captain dashes in shouting 'Draw the fires from No 7' (the heroine is in No 7), rushes up the ladder to the manhole and drags out the heroine safe and sound, without a smudge on her face or a crumple in her pretty white frock, amid delirious cheers from the audience..."

The most famous melodrama was probably The Bells (Leopold Lewis 1871), a tragedy which is excellent as an example of melodramatic acting and characterisation. The plot is simple; on the eve of his daughter's betrothal the Burgomaster of an Alsace village is overcome by remorse as he remembers his one evil deed, the murder of a Jewish merchant many years earlier. Much of the play consists of monologues, unheard by the rest of the cast, in which the Burgomeister wrestles with his conscience, flashbacks in which he re-enacts the crime, and a dream sequence in which he is tried and found guilty. It ends with his death, a stroke occurring as he imagines himself hung. A recurring theme is the noise of sleigh bells, unheard by the rest of the cast, heralding another vision or memory of the crime. Subplots involve the future son-in-law, a gendarme, slowly working out how the murder was committed without realising who the criminal must be, the preparations for the wedding, and the family's concern for his health, but the focus is always on the Burgomaster.

The play was written for Henry Irving, and was designed to confirm him as the premier melodramatic actor of his day, so the other parts are comparatively minor, but it nevertheless shows some of the basic themes of melodrama; a villain who is apparently respectable but hides a shocking secret, an innocent heiress, and a dashing suitor. Guilt leads the criminal to his death, even though his guilt is never really suspected. The wicked flee where nobody pursues. It was an enormous success, and toured frequently until Irving's death in 1906.

If The Bells were run as an adventure, the Burgomaster would probably be an NPC, with the players looking for the murderer and gradually finding reasons to suspect him. They might realise that he had a morbid fear of bells, and use them to frighten him into telling the truth. They might fake the appearance of a ghost, or mesmerise him to unearth the truth. Trickery of this type kept the TV series Mission Impossible in business for several years.

Although a "crisis of guilt" can't sustain many adventures, some of the other "givens" of melodrama, and especially of "shockers", the action sub-genre of melodrama, can easily be adapted to any RPG.

Two other melodramas, from the first half of the 19th century, have been included to illustrate these aspects of the genre. Both are based on horror stories written during an Italian holiday in 1816; one by Byron's doctor (and possibly his lover) John Polidori, the other by their friend and house-guest Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

The Vampire, or The Bride of the Isles (J.R. Planche 1820) is based on Polidori's novel The Vampyre (1819), one of the sources for Stoker's Dracula. Polidori "lifted" the name of the main character, Lord Ruthven, from the novel Glenarvon by Lady Caroline Lamb. In both novels the Ruthven character is an unflattering caricature of Lord Byron; an odd repayment since Byron wrote the story outline on which The Vampire was based.

Frankenstein; or The Man And The Monster (H.M. Milner 1826) was one of several plays based on Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (1818).

Naturally the melodramas miss many of the nuances of the original stories; they were the direct ancestors of today's Hammer Horror productions, with the same pseudo-gothic atmosphere and vagueness of period and geography, and are an excellent introduction to the most sensational style of melodrama.

This collection also includes some melodramatic fiction:

A Bid For Fortune (Guy Boothby 1895) is a full-length novel that introduced Doctor Nikola, one of the great villains of melodramatic fiction. Although he only appeared in five novels, he is evidently the source for several characters including Carl Peterson (Sapper's Bulldog Drummond stories), Blofeld (the James Bond stories; Nikola even carried a cat...), and is acknowledged as a source for Doctor Doom (Marvel Comics). Boothby's influence is most obvious in Sapper's novels; Bulldog Drummond begins with a scene modelled on the opening of A Bid For Fortune, and the heroines of both books had the same name. The second book of the series, Dr. Nikola, is on the new release of the Forgotten Futures CD-Rom, launched at the same time as this collection; there wasn't room to include both books on a floppy disk. A few relevant details from this book are mentioned at various points below.

The Amateur Cracksman is a collection of the first eight Raffles stories by E.W. Hornung. Raffles, the "gentleman cracksman", a cricketer turned to crime, appeared in three short story collections and one novel, as well as many stories by later authors. He was undoubtedly an influence on The Saint and other later characters, although he seems to have much less of a conscience; his robberies are mostly motivated by greed and a love of danger, but the stories often show more complex facets of his character. All of Hornung's Raffles stories, including the rare novel, are on the CD-Rom.

A Bubble Burst (Fred M. White, 1902) is one of the "Doom of London" series published in Pearson's Magazine; the others were included with Forgotten Futures 5. It describes a financial fraud that comes close to destroying the Bank of England and the stock market.

Note: For space reasons A Bubble Burst could not be included with FF V as originally distributed, but was added to the expanded version on the FF CD-Rom. Since some registered users don't yet own the CD-Rom, and it's a crime story that completes this series, I've repeated it here.

Melodrama can be used in several ways in a role-playing campaign. Any adventure may have melodramatic elements added; this usually works, although there is a danger of taking them to the point of self-parody. The Ganymedan Menace (FF II) is in this genre.

A more fundamental shift in style is to run an adventure as a melodrama, using all the conventions of the genre; elaborate death traps, characters speaking in "asides" to an imaginary audience, mesmerism, sudden bursts of song and music, and so forth. Much of this file relates to this style of play. It should be mentioned that there may be problems with a long-term campaign in this genre; unless you favour a serial "Perils of Pauline" style, with new villainy threatening the Hero and Romantic Lead each adventure, any problem that initially confronts them will eventually be defeated. For this reason section 3.6 outlines a type of campaign in which the characters go from one role to another, as actors go from one role to another; even if characters are killed in one adventure, they will return in the next. Section 3.7 explores an extension of this idea, in which characters take on multiple roles in the same adventure.

If neither of these approaches appeal, characters in an otherwise "normal" campaign might be given reasons to act on stage; perhaps to unmask a spy or a murderer amongst the cast, or for some other purpose. In this case one or another of the scripts could be an excellent resource for the adventure.

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

In the rest of this document the following abbreviations are sometimes used to refer to these plays and stories:

[B]The Bells
[V]The Vampire
[BFF]A Bid For Fortune
[RAF]The Raffles Stories
[BUB]A Bubble Burst

0.1 - Language And Units
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The author of Forgotten Futures is British, as were 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.

0.2 - 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 are included, 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 the stories is the end of the Victorian era, circa 1890-1900. Campaigns based on the melodramas could be set much earlier.

Several other RPGs have presented rules or settings which are particularly appropriate to this genre; GURPS Swashbucklers (Steve Jackson Games), Castle Falkenstein (R. Talsorian Games), and Lace and Steel (Australian Games Group) all favour a melodramatic style of play, while GURPS Goblins is a comic game set in the heyday of melodrama, late Georgian Britain, and includes a scenario with a theatrical background and short play. All of the superhero RPGs feature larger-than-life heroes and villains; GURPS Supers and Champions (Hero Games) are especially recommended.

0.3 - Weird Science And The Supernatural
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Much of the fiction accompanying this collection involves the supernatural. In Frankenstein we see creation of human life, possibly by scientific or magical reanimation of the dead; the means are never spelled out in detail. The Vampire shows an undead creature that must drink the blood of virgins to survive; some of the details differ from the "conventional" vampire, as seen in Dracula and other stories, but its supernatural origin is clear. The Bells involves Mesmerism, the early name for hypnotism. Dr. Nikola, the villain of A Bid For Fortune, is obviously a powerful magician and mesmerist.

The Forgotten Futures rules do not include a magic system, but in all of these cases the powers used are either "special effects" which do not affect player characters directly, or can be seen as attacks on the MIND or SOUL of their victims. This worldbook does not attempt to explain magic in more concrete terms; it is simply a "given" in the background of some stories, and should not normally be usable by player characters. See later sections for more details.

Weird science is a common feature of melodramatic fiction. Many authors described strange weapons and devices, absurdly complicated scientific death traps, and other mechanisms. Unfortunately the stories in this collection are largely gadget-free; the real heyday of the gadget story began in the 1920s, and many of the most interesting stories from this period are still covered by copyright.

0.4 - Omissions
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For copyright reasons many entertaining stories could not be included. Readers are especially referred to the tales of Fu Manchu (Sax Rohmer), and to the many novels of Dornford Yates, Sapper and William Le Queaux.

0.5 - Technical notes
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This document was mostly typed using Borland's Sprint word processor, a DOS program so old that it would probably run on a Babbage engine if I owned one. It was occasionally assisted by Windows Wordpad or Notepad. HTML was hand coded, and tested using Internet Explorer 4, Opera, and Netscape Navigator Gold.

The stories and plays were scanned with an HP Scanjet 5P scanner, using Caere Omnipage software for OCR and HP Paperport for graphics. PC Paintbrush, Micrografyx Photomagic and Corel Paint were used for graphics editing and file conversion.

0.6 - Acknowledgements
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The "Forgotten Futures Theatre" cutout figures accompanying this collection were suggested by several people, most recently Paolo Marino, and are in a format originally developed by Steve Jackson Games for their "Cardboard Heroes" range, recently reprinted. Many thanks to Steve Jackson for allowing me to base them on this format.

Debbie Gallagher kindly gave me permission to borrow ideas from her article Getting The Laugh Right, in Valkyrie Issue 10; see section 3.3 below.

Some of the ideas in section 3.3 were suggested by Peter Anspach's Evil Overlord List, and are being used here with his permission. Peter invites you to stop by for a look.

Another influence was Diana Wynne Jones' "The Tough Guide To Fantasyland" (1996), whose style has in some ways rubbed off on this document.

I am immensely indebted to Mike Cule, a professional actor, who suggested many of the ideas throughout this worldbook and gave me copies of the Shaw review (above) and The Bells. Without his influence this would be shorter and a lot less entertaining.

Finally, I have taken the liberty of quoting or paraphrasing earlier Forgotten Futures material where it helps to clarify material in this collection. Readers who are familiar with the game will hopefully forgive me.

1.0 - Glossary
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Staging of Plays
The staging directions in the melodramas may be confusing to any readers lacking experience of scripts. Briefly, all stage directions are given from the viewpoint of a performer on the stage; left and right are thus the reverse of what the audience sees. The following abbreviations are used for positions on stage.

Right of centre
Left of centre
Flat (rear scenery)
Prompt side (to actor's left)
Opposite prompt (to actor's right)

The audience sees:

Right Centre
Left Centre
Opposite PromptPrompt side

Exits and Entrances:

Door in flat
Right door
Left door
Centre door
Second entrance
Upper entrance

Stage vocabulary:

Talking to one or more characters, with other characters on stage but unable to hear.
Talking to the audience, not to other characters, as though the audience were hearing the character's thoughts. Especially popular with villains (see section 2). A "Half Aside" is a remark made half to the audience and half to characters on-stage, as though the character is thinking out loud and might be overheard, or is trying to talk to one character without the others hearing.
Stage direction: exit from stage.
Exeunt omnes:
all exit from stage.
Half Aside:
see Aside.
'Hurry' Music:
Music written to imply the rapid passage of time and hurry the play towards the next important event.
Pantomimic [F]:
In the context of this play, the term probably referred to the use of gestures etc. to replace words; its secondary meaning, a form of farce or burlesque, was probably not intended.
Spangles [V]:
Glittering discs etc. sewn or glued to clothing.

General Vocabulary:

Ariel [V]:
Allegorical Spirit of the Air.
Barrister [B]:
Lawyer at a trial.
Beadle [F]:
Parish or court constable; the term was often regarded as a synonym for stupid officiousness.
Bogle [V]:
Hobgoblin, spectre, etc. (esp. Scots).
Booby [V]:
Idiot or dunce (esp. Scots).
Bottines [F]:
Light boots, especially worn by women and children.
Doublet [F]:
Close-fitting garment covering the body from the neck to just below the waist.
Falernian [F]:
Wine from grapes grown on Mount Falernus in Italy.
Fingal [V]:
Gaelic legendary hero, father of Ossian. Fingal's Cave is a sea cavern on Staffa (see below).
Flagelot (flageolet) [F]:
Shrill wind instrument resembling a piccolo, but having a softer note; the term is also used for a toy tin whistle.
Flaggon (flagon) [F]:
flat spouted bottle holding the equivalent of two normal bottles of wine.
Hob-and-nob (hob-a-nob, hob-nob) [F]:
Drink familiarly with someone.
Hymeneal [V]:
Related to marriage.
Kelt [V]:
Old-fashioned Scots kilt; made of black or plaid cloth with a frieze border, covering most of the body and worn like a belted toga.
Latchet [V]:
Life-Preserver [RAF]:
Cosh (US sap).
Mesmerist [B]:
Hypnotist, especially in fairs etc.
Philibeg (Filibeg) [V]:
A modern kilt (worn like a skirt), as opposed to a kelt (see above).
Pho [V]:
Expression of disgust.
Point-lace [V]:
Lace made with the point of a needle.
Poniard [V]:
Pshaw [F]:
Expression of disgust.
Punchinello [B]:
A clown or comedy show such as Punch & Judy.
Rouleaux [B]:
A small roll of coins wrapped in paper.
Russet [V]:
Reddish-brown cloth, esp. homespun cloth.
Sacerdotal [V]:
Pertaining to priests or the priesthood.
Sepulchre [V]:
Tomb hewn in rock.
Staffa [V]:
Island of the Inner Hebrides, 1.5 miles wide, 7 miles W of Mull, 6 M NE of Iona. Notable for numerous basalt caves in which the rock is formed as regular columns and prisms.
Swell Mobsman [RAF]:
Criminal posing as an aristocrat or wealthy person to avoid suspicion.
Terrific [V]:
Inspiring terror (use as a term of approval is a recent change to its meaning).
Topers, Toping [B,V]:
Drinkers, drinking.
Tyrolienne [B]:
Austrian dance from the Tyrol.
Unda [V]:
Allegorical Spirit of the Flood.
Vassals [V]:
Tenants or underlings of a feudal lord.

2.0 - The Game World
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Melodrama flourished throughout the nineteenth century, but most of the source material accompanying this collection was written in the latter half of the century. Events important in this period include the Great Exhibition of 1851, which showcased Britain's manufacturing capabilities, the final expansion of the British Empire (which was only known by that name after the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58, when the British government took over most of the functions of the East India Company, and the Queen was crowned as Empress of India), its consolidation under the Queen's rule, and the start of its fragmentation. It's a time of rapid technological change, but society is slow to adapt. Although social stratification is starting to crumble as the balance of power moves from the aristocracy to the middle classes, few realise the extent of the changes being made, and they won't be fully apparent until the twentieth century. With steam replacing horse power and the sail, balloons and the first primitive airships suggesting the future of aviation, and the telegraph and telephone revolutionising communications, scientists and engineers see no obvious limit to man's ingenuity.

Unfortunately the development of technology is bringing new problems which threaten the stability of society. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 was a warning of things to come; both sides used railways to move troops and supplies, telegraphed orders to their troops, issued their soldiers with rifles, and used breech-loading rifled artillery. This war was more "advanced" than the American Civil War a few years earlier, both sides having learned from observers with the Union and Confederate forces, but ended quickly, with the collapse of the French government, capitulation and huge payments to Germany. This unfortunately preserved the illusion that wars could be won profitably, and with acceptable losses on both sides, if they were sufficiently well armed.

The war led to the alliance of Prussia and the German states as the German Empire, which quickly became a focus of Britain's military fears; The Battle of Dorking (1871, Sir George T. Chesney), published as the war ended, showed Britain virtually defenceless against a modern opponent, and was an important influence on many aspects of military planning. An unintended consequence was the abandonment of the first serious attempt to build a Channel Tunnel, killed by a government defence committee in 1875; the fortifications the committee insisted were needed to stop an invasion via the tunnel would have added millions to its cost. Chesney also opened the floodgates for melodramatic stories in this genre, and for stories describing other disasters, natural and man-made, culminating in Wells' The War of the Worlds in 1897. See Forgotten Futures V for more on the world of disaster stories.

The war also speeded the expansion of Europe's armament industries. Krupp, Nobel, and dozens of other companies came to prominence in this period, all of them selling weapons to any governemnent that could afford them. Fiction of the period often showed these companies stirring up trouble to boost their sales, and there was probably some truth in the stories, although often exaggerated. An obvious consequence was the use of dynamite in crime, also a staple of melodramatic fiction. While British fiction usually showed the arms trade as a foreign menace, it should be remembered that British companies were also involved. It's also the period in which "secret weapons" and "secret treaties" are first prominent in the news and in fiction, and melodramatic spy fiction first becomes popular. These trends naturally led to an escalation of arms and tension in Europe, laying the seeds of the Great War.

Another important influence at this time is the gradual discovery of the age of the Earth and the size of the universe. Astronomy, geology, and palaeontology developed new visions of the immensity of space and time, and stories dealing with their discoveries became popular. Verne is the most obvious early example of an author inspired by the new knowledge, but there were many others. Darwin's publication of his theory of evolution in 1859, expanded to cover mankind in 1871, was as important. Least accurate, but just as influential, was the (mis)interpretation of Schiaparelli's 1877 sighting of canali ("channels") on Mars; by this he meant natural valleys, but it was widely misinterpreted as meaning artificial canals. In 1894 the American astronomer Percival Lowell built a new telescope specifically to map them, and a detailed (if wholly imaginary) picture of life on a dying alien world soon evolved. This "evidence" of life in space was another powerful boost to scientific romance, and later became a staple of melodramatic science fiction.

Scenario Idea - Now Hear The Word of the Lord
Many discoveries lead to business opportunities; are there any possibilities in the "discovery" of intelligent life on Mars? The Reverend Jacob Witherspoon earnestly seeks funds to build a giant heliograph in the Sahara, to signal Mars and send the Gospel to the Martians; is he (and the project) genuine, or is it all a cunning plot to separate pious suckers from their money?

At the beginning of the century Britain was primarily an agricultural nation, although starting to industrialise. By the end most of the economy was based on industry and trade. There was a railway boom, which led to a huge proliferation of lines and stations; every town and most villages acquired a railway station, obviously of vital importance for any traditional melodrama (there has to be a railway handy, or you have nowhere for the Villain to tie his victims). British locomotives were exported world-wide. Britain built the engines for most of America's early rail network, and provided machinery and engineering skills for railways in Russia, the Empire, and China, but this success came at a cost of pollution and widespread destruction of the countryside. Due to this loss of country land, the enclosure of former common land (which put many smallholders out of business), and a drift from agriculture to industry, Britain gradually became a net importer of food, and as early as 1870 cheap American wheat depressed British farm prices, resulting in calls for protectionism. By 1900 most of Britain would soon starve without imported food.

As a result of this industrial expansion, the nineteenth century saw the rise of the British middle class, from a small and relatively insignificant portion of the population to effective control of the country and government. British society had been rigidly structured by class; the established landowning nobility (renting land and other property to hundreds or thousands of tenants) at the top, followed by the "gentry"; recently-ennobled land-owning aristocrats, baronets, knights, squires, lords of the manor (an obsolete but still-used inherited title), and clergy. Below them came those who did not own land (or at least did not do so on any large scale); the upper ranks of the clergy, physicians (far superior to surgeons, who were little more than butchers), barristers, and other professionals. Below again were farmers and other untitled land-owners, then the lower classes. While this system seemed stable, problems were already appearing in 1800; industry and trade provided new routes to wealth, and it became possible for a "nobody" under the old system to acquire more land and tenants than any Duke. Gradually status became less stable, and more a matter of wealth, influence and appearance. If you had some sort of title, owned a coach and pair, talked like a gentleman, and employed a few servants, it was possible to gloss over humble origins; this wasn't going to make you an aristocrat, since you wouldn't have the right ancestry, but after a generation or two, if the taint of commerce wasn't too strong and your children went to the right schools and moved in the right circles their wealth might help them marry into suitable families. But the first step was to get a title, and with an expanding and increasingly wealthy middle class, and a political system that rewarded almost anyone who was prepared to donate money to party funds or make a conspicuous donation to charity, the lesser honours began to seem less exalted. By the end of the nineteenth century the non-hereditary titles, and some of the lesser hereditary peerages, were more an indication of wealth than of quality; while knighthoods were still awarded for bravery, it was more likely that they were "earned" by being mayor of a town during a royal visit, by donating money to party funds, for charitable work, for owning a newspaper supporting the government, or anything else that appealed to the ruling party. Despite these changes, most melodrama portrayed the aristocracy as they had been in the eighteenth century or earlier, and the old hierarchy of master and man.

Home life in this period is best described as cluttered, especially in the 1850s to 1880s. The Great Exhibition showcased British design and mass-produced furniture, and homes rapidly filled with these products, often more notable for gross over-ornamentation than real quality. Middle-class houses tended to be decorated with hundreds of small mass-produced ornaments and pictures, small ornamental tables and shelves, hanging baskets (in Kipling's Stalky and Co. a teacher is described contemptuously as a "basket-hanger"), huge plants, and elaborately embroidered fabrics, making it difficult to move without breaking something. The critic John Ruskin led a backlash calling for a return to simplicity and craftsmanship, but this call went largely unnoticed until the formation of the Arts and Craft Movement in 1888. Most middle-class homes employed servants; typically a maid (and possibly a cook-housekeeper) in less prosperous homes, with more servants a necessary ingredient of any show of wealth. In the latter half of the century domestic "conveniences" usually included indoor lavatories and piped cold water, but hot water was usually carried by hand, and wood and coal stoves were usually used for cooking. In the larger towns gas was the preferred form of lighting, but gas mantles, which gave a clear white light, were only invented in the 1890s; until then gas lighting tended to produce a flickering yellow flame little better than oil and candles. Electric illumination starting to appear in public buildings towards the end of the 1880s. Telephones arrived in Britain at about the same time, but were rare outside the largest businesses and a few wealthy homes. Outside the towns oil lamps and candles were the only lighting available, and the telephone was unknown. The railways apart, transport was mostly horse-drawn; bicycles were only just coming into fashion, and the first cars (automobiles) only appeared in the 1890s. To make up for it, there were efficient telegraph, postal, pneumatic tube, and messenger services; in London it was routine to send a letter and receive a reply before lunch.

Entertainment was often home-made, almost always live; the phonograph was still more of a curiosity than a serious rival to live music, and moving pictures didn't arrive until 1895. Most middle-class families owned musical instruments, with pianos and harmoniums very popular. Common hobbies included photography, various forms of collecting, handicrafts, and gardening. There were also many amateur scientists, especially naturalists and fossil-hunters. Another common interest was spiritualism; reports of psychic phenomena swept across America in the 1850s and soon reached Europe, and, almost uniquely, attained the status of a religion and an area of scientific study simultaneously. To an extent the fashion waned as some of the most prominent American and European mediums were unmasked as fakes, but organisations such as the Psychic Research Society and the Spiritualist Church were founded in this era and still exist today.

Fashions tend to extreme conservatism and multiple layers of clothing; with the death of Prince Albert in 1861 Queen Victoria went into mourning, and this sobered fashions even more. For men waistcoats and stiff collars were the norm, anything else was considered eccentric at best. For women heavy fabrics and floor-length skirts were obligatory, although some daring leaders of fashion ventured into slightly more revealing designs towards the end of the century. Children were mostly expected to dress in imitation of their parents.

The customs of the period place men firmly as the head of the family. Property was often entailed (passed on from generation to generation with the condition that it could not be sold), especially amongst the aristocracy, and usually passed along the male line. A wife's property almost always became the husband's, and divorce was extremely difficult; there is good reason to believe that this led to several murders. Most sexual matters were considered taboo; the trial of Oscar Wilde in 1897 was by far the most public discussion of male homosexuality of this period - female homosexuality wasn't even mentioned in British law, allegedly because Queen Victoria refused to believe that it could exist. Mental illness was another taboo subject.

Education (in reading, writing, and arithmetic) became very common in this period, even amongst the lower classes who were often aided by educational charities and scholarships. It was compulsory from 1870 onwards. This growth in literacy led to an insatiable demand for popular fiction, especially the most lurid and melodramatic forms.

The world of melodrama takes the world of the 19th century and portrays it in the starkest shades of black and white. Good struggles with evil, and while evil often seems to have the upper hand, an Englishman's word is his bond and a stiff uppercut to the jaw beats any strange Oriental wrestling trick (unless, of course, it's used by a true Hero). Baritsu (or to be more accurate, Bartitsu) can be very useful here; it's a thoroughly British martial art (albeit based on Ju Jitsu), Anglicised by a Mr. Barton-Wright, and is just right for putting foreigners into their place. Details are on the FF CD-ROM.

This world consists of a series of stage sets, designed for maximum dramatic impact. The rest of the world might just as well not exist. There is rarely news of politics or current affairs, except for events that directly affect the story, although the Queen (God Bless Her) or King (Hip-Hip-Hurrah) might be the target of some Fiendish Plot, possibly instigated by agents of the Kaiser or some other foreign notable. There may also be occasional topical jokes. For these reasons the most important world leaders and events are listed in later sections.

Cities are dens of iniquity, where a poor match girl might be left to starve on the streets, children are abducted and sold to white slavers or Fagin-like master thieves, and any country maiden is likely to come to a sordid end. Foreign cities are worse; dens of vice where gambling is rife and visiting Britons are likely to be caught up in riots or kidnapped and held prisoner as part of some villainous scheme [BFF].

London is a special case, a British city large enough to have various foreign quarters. Whitechapel is haunted by Jews, Limehouse by Chinese and other orientals. To the prejudiced eye of a British Hero, the whole place is full of d**n foreigners. A few other ports, such as Liverpool, are similarly suspect.

The country is generally clean and pretty, with beautiful natural vistas around every corner, but sometimes sinister events are hidden beneath this surface beauty. The wild outdoors is also close at hand. For instance, it's possible to leave a prince's palace and within minutes become lost in a forest or reach the summit of a volcano [F]. Country mansions and castles are often located near the wilds; on cliffs overlooking the sea [V], in desolate mountains (most Hammer horror), or near swamps, bogs, and other unpleasant natural features (The Hound of the Baskervilles, Cold Comfort Farm). Even the most pleasant village can hide some sinister secret ([B], most of the Miss Marple stories), while isolated farms can conceal anything from incest and murder to mass graves and prison camps secretly set up by quasi-fascist organisations (The Black Gang - Sapper). Inns can also hide sinister secrets; isolated inns with murderous innkeepers and beds with built-in death traps were common in fiction of the period, especially in adventures with foreign settings.

Anywhere containing dangerous machinery is likely to be the lair, or under the control, of some Villain; various plays showed them using the equipment of sawmills, wind- and water-mills, foundries, boiler houses and railway switching yards as sinister death traps for Heroes and the Romantic Lead. The boiler rooms of ships are also very useful locations.

Transport usually seems to be fast, and has an uncanny knack of arriving with perfect timing; the hero may gallop a hundred miles on horseback, but he will invariably arrive after the heroine has been strapped to the conveyor belt, but before she reaches the saw blades. Unfortunately other forms of communication are almost always out of action, or controlled by Villains; for instance, in a late example, The Avenging Saint (Leslie Charteris 1930) all telephone and telegraph lines to an isolated village have been cut, and the only way to stop the Royal train in time to avert its destruction is to fly thirty or forty miles and jump from the aircraft to the roof of the train; the train stops less than a hundred yards from the bombs that would otherwise destroy it. It somehow never occurs to anyone to fly to the nearest village with a working telegraph office and send a warning from there...

Questions of time and distance should be glossed over if at all possible; provided that the Hero is in the right place at the right time, does the exact speed of the journey really matter? Unless some action is to take place during a journey, it should be dismissed in a few words:
"Well, the journey from Vienna to London takes several days, and at every stop you hope to receive a telegram telling you that Helen is safe. But nothing comes...."

If the action does move aboard a vehicle, do it with style! Don't just take a train, take the Flying Scotsman or the Oriental Express. Better yet, take the action onto the roof of the train. No ocean voyage is complete without a storm, and a desperate death trap in the bilges or boiler room of a steam ship, or a fight to the death in the rigging of a sailing vessel. Balloons should be blown hundreds of miles off course or struck by lightning, coaches should lose wheels or run into highwaymen, horses should bolt. If automobiles are available they should crash or catch fire, or lose tyres at top speed. Planes encounter storms or crash - see The Horror of the Heights (FF III) for an unusual but extremely melodramatic alternative.

Turning to the social life of characters, status and rank are all-important; the tiniest difference in position can be a bar to romance or the springboard for an envy-driven plot. Although the "hero" is primarily driven by revenge, the film Kind Hearts and Coronets is largely a tale of rank, prestige, and privilege. Gascoigne D'Ascoigne rises from a nobody to a dukedom, incidentally killing most of his relatives along the way. His rank suddenly makes him an eligible bachelor, to the extent that two women compete for his affection. As late as the 1930s this was still considered a matter of great importance; in Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novels, Wimsey's sister is felt to have married "below her station" when she weds a police inspector, as is a school-teacher who marries a farm-hand. In melodramatic fiction, especially that of the 19th century, it is likely that the parents of anyone proposing such an unsuitable marriage would try to stop it, even if it meant confining her to a locked room.

The clothing of characters should of course be appropriate to their status. In melodrama no lord would dream of slopping around in old carpet slippers; Saville Row fashions are the norm, and any ceremony or special occasion is likely to see the use of ermine robes and coronets, with a strong possibility of their theft. Similarly, the poor will always dress appropriately to their status, in the peasant fashions described earlier, or in wretched rags if it seems more appropriate to the plot. Earlier FF collections have mentioned the importance of hats as a means of determining status and rank; briefly, no Englishman of the period would dream of going out in public without one, and to any expert eye the style and quality of this garment is an infallible indicator of rank. The same might be said of shoes, trousers, and other garments; clothing makes the man, and is often an indication of his character. Only a bounder wears patent leather boots with evening dress, only a gentleman would wear a cap garnished with fishing flies. Women, especially the proteges and mistresses of the rich, can be more deceptive, but the style and poise of the true aristocracy can rarely be imitated properly by their inferiors.

To summarise, the world of melodrama is our own world, especially the late Victorian and early Edwardian period, exaggerated and with contrasts emphasised, and obsessed with class and position. You are either good or bad, poor or rich, British or a d****d foreigner; the shades of grey in between are largely ignored. Your status is clearly defined, and rarely changes. There are sinister undercurrents everywhere, but nothing a Hero can't handle. Evil is close and personal; few Villains can resist a chance to confront a Hero, even when it might seem to be totally unnecessary, even if the Hero has little or nothing to do with the Villain's fiendish plot, and would remain totally unaware of it without the Villain's intervention. Appearances are everything, and are very often a good guide to character.

Given this artificial setting, the details that follow might seem a little unnecessary. But even in melodrama it's occasionally useful to refer to the outside world, go shopping, and otherwise add the odd touch of mundane reality. Never fear, these everyday touches are a useful contrast to the drama that characters will encounter at other times.

2.1 - Timeline, 1890-1914
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Forth Railway Bridge opened. Van Gogh commits suicide. Wounded Knee massacre.
American Express introduces traveler's cheques. Homo erectus remains found on Java. Wilde publishes The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Mary Baker Eddy reforms Christian Science movement. Le Libre Parole (French anti-Semitic newspaper) founded. Depression in Australia. Mechanical voting in USA. Borden family murdered in USA.
Gladstone's second Irish Home Rule Bill is vetoed by the House of Lords. Art Nouveau movement.
Arrest of Dreyfus. Percival Lowell builds an observatory to study Martian canals (see FF II). Aubrey Beardsley illustrates Oscar Wilde's Salome. The Jungle Book.
Lenin exiled to Siberia. X rays. Motion pictures. Wilde writes The Importance of Being Ernest.
First modern Olympics. Becquerel discovers radioactivity.
Stanislavsky founds method acting technique. Chekhov writes Uncle Vanya. Pearson's Magazine serialises Kipling's Captains Courageous and Wells' The War Of The Worlds.
Spanish-American War. Britain leases Hong Kong from the Chinese. Boxer Uprising in China.
Boer war. Siege of Mafeking. Elgar writes The Enigma Variations. Boxer uprising (to 1901), Siege of Peking.
Boer war becomes guerilla war. Electrocardiograph. Quantum theory. Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams.
Queen Victoria dies, succeeded by Edward VII. Marconi tests transatlantic radio transmission (see FF II). Frozen mammoth found in Russia (see FF III adventures). Picasso's Blue Period. Beatrix Potter publishes The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
Coronation of Edward VII. Boer war ends. Caruso makes his first phonographic recording. Conrad publishes Heart of Darkness. Melies produces A Trip to the Moon. Doyle publishes The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Lenin organizes the Bolshevik revolutionary group. Britain invades Tibet (see FF III adventures). Emmeline Pankhurst founds the Women's Social and Political Union. Rolls-Royce founded. Wright brothers fly (see FF II adventures). Curies win the Nobel Prize for work on radioactivity. Jack London publishes The Call of the Wild. Russo-Japanese War (see FF III adventures). Pavlov wins Nobel Prize.
Madame Butterfly. Peter Pan. The Cherry Orchard. First intelligence tests.
Russian fleet destroyed by the Japanese. General strike and failed revolution in Russia (see FF III adventures). Sinn Fein (Irish nationalist movement) founded. Thermionic valve. Special Theory of Relativity.
Dreyfus pardoned. H.M.S. Dreadnought launched. San Francisco earthquake kills 700. The Forsyte Saga.
Rasputin gains influence at the court of Nicholas II. Triode valve. Tungsten light bulbs.
Earthquake kills 80,000 in Italy. Tunguska fireball. Model T Ford. Boy Scout movement. First newsreel. The Wind in the Willows.
Peary reaches the North Pole. Bleriot flies the Channel.
Cure for syphilis. Rodin casts The Thinker. Edward VII dies, George V crowned. Most of the Carnacki stories (FF II) published. Anarchist crimes in London (FFV).
Siege of Sidney Street (FFV). Tibet declares its independence from China. Admundsen reaches the South Pole ahead of Robert Scott. Rutherford formulates theory of atomic structure. Geiger counter. Gyrocompass. Seaplane. Chinese revolution. Mona Lisa stolen.
Scott reaches the South Pole. Titanic sinks. Continental drift. Piltdown man discovered. Tarzan of the Apes.
Bohr publishes his atomic theory. Lawrence publishes Sons and Lovers.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated in Sarajevo; First World War (Known as the Great War until WW2) begins.

2.2 - World Leaders 1890-1914
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1865-1909 - Leopold II
1909-1934 - Albert
1875-1908 - Kuang-hsu (Emperor)
1908-1912 - Hsuan-T'ung
1912-1912 - Sun Yat-Sen (President)
1912-1916 - Yuan Shih-k'ai
1863-1906 - Christian IX
1906-1912 - Frederick VIII
1912-1947 - Christian X
France - Presidents
1887-1894 - Marie Carnot (assassinated)
1894-1899 - Francois Faure
1899-1906 - Emile Loubet
1906-1913 - Armand Fallières
1913-1920 - Raymond Poincaré
1888-1918 - William II
1863-1913 - George I (of Denmark)
1913-1917 - Constantine I
1878-1900 - Humbert I
1900-1946 - Victor-Emanuel III
1867-1912 - Meiji
1912-1926 - Taisho
1890-1905 - Adolf of Nassau
1905-1912 - William
1912-1919 - Marie-Adelaide
1890-1948 - Wilhelmina
1878-1903 - Leo XIII
1903-1914 - Pius X
1889-1908 - Charles
1908-1910 - Manuel II (deposed; Portugal became a republic)
1910-1911 - Teofilo Braga (president)
1911-1915 - Manuel Jose de Arriaga
1881-1894 - Alexander III
1894-1917 - Nicholas II
1886-1931 - Alfonso XIII
United Kingdom - Monarchs
1837-1901 - Victoria
1901-1910 - Edward VII
1910-1936 - George V
United Kingdom - Prime Ministers
1886-1892 - Marquess of Salisbury (Con.)
1892-1894 - William Ewart Gladstone (Lib.)
1894-1895 - Earl of Rosebery (Lib.)
1895-1902 - Marquess of Salisbury (Con.)
1902-1905 - Arthur James Balfour (Con.)
1905-1908 - Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Lib.)
1908-1915 - Herbert Henry Asquith (Lib.)
United States of America
1889-1893 - Benjamin Harrison (Rep.)
1893-1897 - Grover Cleveland (Dem.)
1897-1901 - William McKinley (Rep.)
1901-1909 - Theodore Roosevelt (Rep)
1909-1913 - William Howard Taft (Rep.)
1913-1921 - Woodrow Wilson (Dem.)

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

3.0 - Characters
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There are several stereotyped roles in a melodramatic thriller; most typical are the Hero, the Romantic Lead, and the Villain. Note the use of capitals! In an RPG the Hero is usually a player character, the Villain is typically an NPC, and the Romantic Lead may be run as either but is most often an NPC. All other characters (including the other player characters) are there to reflect the personalities of the main characters, or to fulfil the needs of the plot; to lend the main characters money or aid, to carry out their instructions or get in the way, and (occasionally) to die horribly. After these dominant figures, the most common character types are henchmen (serving the Villain, less often the Hero), trusty servants (for the Hero or Romantic Lead) who often act as alcoholic or cowardly comic relief, friends of the Hero or Romantic Lead, and the Romantic Lead's siblings and/or parents (often destined to be turned out of their home and into the snow if she doesn't succumb to the Villain's demands).

For example, in the novel Dracula (written by Bram Stoker, an actor and theatrical director, and probably heavily influenced by The Vampire) the Villain is Dracula himself, the Hero is Jonathan Harker, and the Romantic Lead is Mina Harker. Everyone else in the story is a henchman (Renfield and various vampires, gypsies and wolves), friend (John Seward, Van Helsing, Quincy Morris, etc.), or relative (Lucy), and usually comes to a sticky end.

Most melodramatic fiction continues this tradition; there is usually a principal Villain, with a few subsidiary henchmen (henchwomen, henchpersons), a Romantic Lead (who is often held prisoner or under threat by the Villain), and a Hero of epic proportions. This isn't just a Victorian convention; it continues in many of today's thrillers, and several of the examples that follow were written in the 20th century.

Naturally there are variants; most notably, stories in which a Heroine takes the dynamic role normally allocated to the Hero, an apparent Romantic Lead is actually a Villainess, a Hero has tragic flaws (Frankenstein and A.J. Raffles are obvious examples) and should best be regarded as an Antihero, or an apparent henchman or servant is actually the Hero or Villain. An extreme case is Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in which the Hero and Villain occupy the same body. For examples of two variants see The Ganymedan Menace (FF II) and Folly of the Wise (FF IV).

If players are able to work within these conventions, it can be a lot of fun for one of the players to be the Villain, possibly aided by some of the players as Henchmen. They'll probably die horribly, but they'll get the best lines. For large groups of players a Hero team and a Villain team can work well, with the referee acting as intermediary and throwing in occasional surprises.

Since the melodramatic approach favours one-off adventures rather than prolonged campaigns, section 3.6 describes a style of play in which continuing characters take on new roles for each adventure; the character can even earn Bonus points for a spectacular death! Section 3.7 extends this idea further, for adventures in which characters take on multiple roles.

Note that melodrama differentiates the roles and capabilities of the sexes in many ways; while either sex may conceivably take on any of the three principal roles, their abilities and limitations will differ. This may seem very sexist, but is true to the genre. Note, too, that characters are unusually two-dimensional in this genre, one reason why the cardboard figures are provided.

3.1 - Heroes and Heroines
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He came down the gangway... ...with a light step in the summer sunlight, with a soft grey hat canted rakishly over one eye, and a raincoat slung carelessly over his shoulder. There was death in his pocket, and peril of an even deadlier kind under his arm...
Leslie Charteris: The Simon Templar Foundation
First, some examples: Note that not all of these examples are faithful to all of the stereotypes below.

Generate Heroes on 25 points, with BODY of at least 4 (3 for Heroines), but give the character 10 extra Bonus Points after generation is complete. These points may NOT be used to purchase skills - they must be used in play, to improve skill rolls and/or luck. Heroes are always competent, and may improve rolls even if they are attempting to use a skill they do not actually possess.

Heroes have several limitations and advantages; if Heroines differ, the modified data is in square brackets [like this] at the end of paragraphs.

Heroes should also adopt one or more of the following traits:

In any melodramatic campaign the Hero should be the focus of the adventuring group. This does not mean that the other characters are unimportant; it simply means that NPCs and the focus of the plot will always tend to concentrate upon the Hero, often to a ridiculous extent. For example, a villain may order eighteen thugs to attack the Hero, while trying to cover four other adventurers with a single-shot pistol. The adventurers may possibly find ways to take advantage of the situation.

Under exceptional circumstances there may be more than one Hero in an adventure; if so, they will almost always be rivals in love. This should not stop them cooperating to defeat the Villain, but they should always try to out-perform each other when the Romantic Lead is around.

Optionally, referees might prepare a theme tune for Heroes, to be played whenever they go into action. Try especially various Gilbert & Sullivan themes, and Sousa marches such as Liberty Bell (the Monty Python theme) and Hail To The Spirit of Liberty (the Doc Savage theme). Many other tunes are appropriate; for example, in a Royal Shakespeare Company version of Gillette's Sherlock Holmes, the great detective first appeared playing the James Bond theme as a slow violin piece. Trailers for the BBC's recent Scarlet Pimpernel series used a version of a more recent James Bond theme.

Scenario Idea - Facing The Music
As the adventurers (and especially the Hero) go about their business they gradually become aware that they are hearing amazingly appropriate music at unusually tense or exciting moments. It seems to be pure chance - there is always a phonograph, music box, player piano, street musician or brass band around at these crucial moments - but it always happens. Mention it occasionally; for example, when the adventurers are sneaking up on the Villain, comment on the fact that his henchmen seem to be distracted by a brass band in the street outside. Encourage the players to use the music as a hint of trouble ahead, and treat it as a running gag. Soon they will probably take it for granted.

One day, preferably when they have done something less noble and heroic than usual, the music stops... and the adventurers' luck seems to go with it. Their plans start to fail more often, opponents are tougher and harder to surprise. Don't explain, don't give the players any way to find out what's going on.

Continue the silence until the adventurers succeed in some unusually daring or noble feat - then start the music again. Never explain.

Obviously this works best in a campaign with weird elements; but some excellent melodramatic fiction has self-referential jokes along these lines.

3.1.1 - Anti-Heroes
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My blood froze. My heart sickened. My brain whirled. How I had liked this villain! How I had admired him! How my liking and admiration must turn to loathing and disgust. I waited for the change. I longed to feel it in my heart. But -- I longed and I waited in vain!
The Ides of March - E.W. Hornung

Anti-Heroes are less common than Heroes or Villains, but may be an interesting alternative to both. They commit crimes but do it in the style of a Hero. The most heroic Anti-Heroes would never build a death trap, or plot the destruction of Britain, but might target those who do such things, even if it means going well outside the law. Less scrupulous Anti-Heroes are more interested in profit, or set up as judge, jury and executioner of those they regard as undesirables, which in many cases includes cabinet ministers (The Four Just Men - Edgar Wallace), plutocrats (The Assassination Bureau Ltd. - Jack London), or royalty (The Angel of the Revolution - George Griffith). Where a hero might see a feud developing and try to defuse the situation, an Anti-Hero would try to make things worst and take advantage of the situation (A Fistful of Dollars) to earn more money or eliminate its participants.

For various reasons several characters who might be counted as Anti-Heroes have instead been listed as Heroes in the previous section. The Saint is the most obvious; he is listed as a Hero because most of his crimes targeted far nastier criminals, he never hurt the innocent, and he usually gave a share of his profits to charity. More typical examples include:

Generate Anti-Heroes as Heroes. Most of the same limitations and advantages apply, but chivalrous conduct is less common; Anti-Heroes MAY strike the first blow, fire the first shot, etc., sometimes harm women, and often choose to use extremely powerful weapons. They can lie to their heart's content, and won't hesitate to cheat or steal, or even murder to further their schemes. They are often cads; female Anti-Heroes also have interesting love lives. While British Anti-Heroes may share the usual prejudices about foreigners, it is NOT mandatory. Some may instead have wily foreign accomplices.

Scenario Idea - A Message From Home
An adventurer's wily foreign accomplice (WFA) receives an urgent telegram from his (foreign) home; his sister has been kidnapped by members of a rival tribe (or Tong, clan, Mafia family, whatever is appropriate) and is being held for an exorbitant ransom; they have been given a few days to find the money. Naturally his family doesn't have the money, even the adventurer would have trouble finding that much. In any case the WFA believes that his sister will be murdered if the ransom is paid; only the hope of getting the money is preventing it.

If the WFA takes the first ship / train / whatever he should get home a day or two before the deadline; this might give him a slim chance of rescuing his sister, since he knows roughly where her captors are based. If not he plans to avenge her.

Is the adventurer going to stay out of this? If not, will the WFA ever return, and can the adventurer manage without him? And is there any possibility of profiting from the situation...?

This is a good way to get the adventurer into action on unfamiliar ground, and with time pressures and extreme penalties for failure.

Anti-Heroes can adopt most of the same traits as heroes; they are often illegitimate, often wealthy, frequently disguised, and sometimes rich. They can be swashbuckling, but sneakiness is often more useful. Impersonations and disguises are common; A.J. Raffles committed his first crime while impersonating a bank manager [RAF], and spent much of his later career posing as an elderly invalid, while The Saint posed as Sebastian Tombs so often that he had to open a bank account under that name. They are very rarely amnesiac. They are often doomed, or take on missions that are certain to result in their death (The Assassination Bureau Ltd.). Three additional traits are common amongst Anti-Heroes:

See Villains, below, for traits that may be appropriate to some Anti-Heroes.

It may seem that there is no down-side to being an Anti-Hero, but referees should try to ensure that there are disadvantages. Anti-Heroes are rarely trusted, and are usually disliked by both sides of the law. Raffles spent most of his career on the run from the police, but was also targeted by various criminals. They should encounter violence at least as often as heroes, and can't call on the police and other authorities for help.

Anti-Heroes are rarely a good choice for players if there will be several other characters in a game, but work well if there are only one or two other players. Remember that Anti-Heroes often work alone, or at cross purposes to other players, and that it may be necessary to develop separate plot strands for them.

Any theme tune for an Anti-Hero should emphasise these qualities; lonely saxophone or double-bass themes are good, strident marches or anthems should be avoided.

3.2 - Romantic Leads
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"Oh, it did me good to see the way that these brave men worked. How can women help loving men when they are so earnest, so true, and so brave! And, too, it made me think of the wonderful power of money!"
Bram Stoker: Dracula

"Oh, no! my father; the enthusiasm of knowledge, the applauses of the powerful, may for a time, have weaned him from us but my own kind, gentle, Frankenstein, can never be inhuman."
Frankenstein (1826 play)


Romantic Leads are built on 18 points with no special requirements. They are best run as NPCs, since players may find the role somewhat limiting. Male characters cannot easily take on the attributes of a Romantic Lead, but male NPCs may take a similar role in adventures with a Heroine; naturally comments related to attractiveness etc. are reversed.

Most Romantic Leads have four special attributes:

There are some exceptions to these general rules, with some Romantic Leads showing moderate to high levels of competence. Patricia Holme, a character in many of Leslie Charteris' Saint stories, is a good example. Another is Patricia Savage, cousin of Doc Savage.

Additionally, all Romantic Leads may have one or more of the following problems [all available, with suitable modifications, for male characters]:

Romantic Leads should also have a theme tune; regardless of the instrument, it must be played romantically. Violin and piano pieces are appropriate; there should be sad overtones.

3.3 - Villains
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"...He has had reason to know that I am pitting my wits against his, and he flatters himself that so far he has got the better of me. That is because I am drawing him on. I am maturing a plan that will make him a poor and a very miserable man at one and the same time..."
A Bid for Fortune [Guy Boothby 1895]

"...Presently, when all is complete I shall press the lever, the machinery will be set in motion, and you will find yourself being slowly and surely ground into powder. Then you will hand over what I want, and be sorry you ever thought to baulk Dr. Nikola!"
ibid; later in the same speech

"There are foolish criminals who are discovered, and wise criminals who escape. The hiding of a crime, or the detection of a crime, what is it? A trial of skill between the police on one side, and the individual on the other. When the criminal is a brutal, ignorant fool, the police, in nine cases out of ten, win. When the criminal is a resolute, educated, highly-educated man, the police, in nine cases out of ten, lose."
The Woman In White [Wilkie Collins 1860]

The world is full of villains. A few obvious examples include

It's important to distinguish between mere thugs, everyday petty Villains such as crooked lawyers or murderous husbands, and the Masters of Villainy found in the most far-fetched melodrama. Petty Villains may suffer pangs of conscience, or have incompetent hirelings; they may kill someone with their fists, or break into a shop to steal a few pounds. Masters of Villainy rarely have a conscience, and since their henchmen can make mincemeat of most opponents, seldom need to get their own hands dirty. If they need cash, they'll break into the Bank of England and steal a few million.

This section largely deals with the more extreme forms of evil, with an occasional nod towards petty Villains. Thugs are usually the henchmen and hirelings of Masters of Villainy.

Villains are usually run by the referee, and there may be problems if they are run by players; most notably, it is rarely possible to run the same Villain for more than one adventure. If generated by players, start off with 28 points, but no Bonus Points may be kept back, and MIND must be at least 4. Up to 4 points may be added to skills, not the usual 3. Players running Villains should remember that in most melodramatic plots they are probably fated to lose.

Petty Villains are generated on 21 points, with no special rules.

Most Villains need henchmen. Player-run Villains must find and recruit their own underlings, always running the risk that they may inadvertently take on a disguised Hero, an incompetent, an informer, or someone who aspires to Villainhood over the adventurer's dead body. No rules are provided for this recruitment process, since it should occur in play. For example, a Villain hoping to recruit some Henchmen might encourage petty thieves to attempt to pick his pocket, catch them in the act, and "persuade" them to take him to meet more competent members of the profession. Once one or two competent Henchmen have been recruited, the Villain may leave them to carry on finding additional personnel. Optionally a character may be assumed to have gone through this process before play begins. The quality of recruits should be related to the rewards offered; for instance, in a Victorian campaign ten shillings a week will hire an average thug, a thousand a year and a chance of participating in the subjugation of Britain should attract someone exceptional - but there will be several unsuitable applicants, who must be eliminated (with extreme prejudice if necessary) before a final choice is made. Common flaws in the best Henchmen may include impulsiveness, sadism, too much ambition, greed, the faint stirrings of a conscience, lecherousness, and a desire to take on the Hero on his own terms, rather than using the Villain's elaborate methods. Some flawed Henchmen may even think it's a good idea to shoot the Hero instantly, rather than messing around with traps and alligators. Naturally any self-respecting Villain will soon get rid of such riff-raff.

A typical NPC Villain has one or more highly competent Henchmen (e.g. Oddjob, Colonel Sebastian Moran) who act as his Lieutenants, several competent underlings, and a pool of lesser personnel appropriate to the needs of the scenario. For example, a Villain planning a massive forgery operation would recruit forgers, chemists, and printers to prepare plates and inks and print the money, and would need a distribution network to handle it once printed, plus a few "minders" to ensure that nothing goes astray. For a protection racket violence is probably the most important qualification, and most of the personnel will be thugs of various degrees of sophistication, but there might also be a place for skilled technicians such as arsonists and locksmiths. A petty Villain will have a few thugs or servants available; usually they are no real threat to a determined Hero.

As a rough guide, give NPC Villains a pool of personnel built on around 150-200 points (30 points for petty Villains); give players around 50 points in their first round of recruitment, adding more as they expand their evil empires. For example, Professor Moriarty's gang might include

Plus various beggars etc. on 1-2 points, with low characteristics and no skills, acting as informants, look-outs, etc. Note that all of these personnel will want paying, and must be monitored for loose lips, ambition, treachery, replacement by disguised Heroes, etc. The larger the gang, the less controllable it becomes. While Moriarty's organisation was never described in much detail by Doyle, several books by later authors have gone into it in depth; see especially the "Moriarty" novels by John Gardner, and Michael Kurland's "The Infernal Device" and sequels.

The Black Hand is an organisation that often appears in melodrama of this period; it's an exaggerated precursor of the Mafia, generally described as employing most of the Italians in Britain. Ice cream sellers, street musicians, waiters, even Italian Counts may belong to the sinister gang, and their ruthlessness and codes of silence and vendetta make them formidable enemies. Raffles takes on the Black Hand in two of the later stories; The Fate of Faustina and The Last Laugh. Count Fosco (in The Woman In White) is obviously a renegade member of this gang, and is ultimately killed by his former associates.

Advantages of the Black Hand include its ubiquitous nature - any Italian is potentially a member, and its influence may stretch much wider - and the fact that it is a larger organisation than any one Villain could realistically control. It is thus possible for a Villain to be defeated, but turn out to belong to the Black Hand, leaving the adventurers hunted by a large ruthless organisation.

On the downside, the Black Hand is very much a cliche of the genre, and may be expected by players who are familiar with melodrama. They may start to assume that all Italians are automatically suspect, and responsible for every crime, ignoring clues that point in other directions. There are also unpleasant racist overtones to this organisation's use in the genre.

Alternatives to the Black Hand include the Sai Fan (Doctor Fu Manchu's organisation, similarly employing most Chinese in Europe), Anarchists (see FF V for more on this "organisation"), agencies of the Tsar and Kaiser, and sprawling "international arms cartels" (often presented as run by Jews) prepared to sell any weapon to the highest bidder. All have similar uses and disadvantages.

While organisations are useful, they are not compulsory. For instance, in The Woman In White Count Fosco is called in as a "Consulting Villain", to help organise Sir Percival Glide's persecution of Laura Fairlie and secure her £20,000 inheritance, hiring local help as needed rather than setting up an elaborate organisation.

Obviously the needs of a particular adventure may change things considerably; a Villain might act alone, or have the resources of an army or a nation under his control. Sometimes one or more underlings will have some special ability or skill (such as psychic powers) needed for the particular crime in progress. Various criminal organisations described in the Modesty Blaise novels by Peter O'Donnell are excellent examples for the referee; Modesty Blaise and I, Lucifer are particularly recommended, the latter offering an imaginative Villainous use for psychic powers.

Villains have several special limitations and abilities:

All of these conventions may be broken at the referee's whim:

"... Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome?"
"I did it thirty-five minutes ago."

The Watchmen (Alan Moore 1987)

A well-rounded Villain should also have at least one of the following motives; some are not suitable for petty Villains or Villains run as adventurers:

Villains should also have one or more distinguishing characteristics:

Finally, most villains need some interesting possessions:

Theme music for Villains should always be dramatic but somehow menacing; while the Jaws theme is probably slightly excessive, deep organ music is usually appropriate (Professor Fate), as are strange Oriental melodies (Dr. Fu Manchu) and brisk military marches (Darth Vader, any foreign officer or nobleman).

3.4 - Everybody Else
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As already mentioned, most of the other characters in a melodrama are there in a supporting role, or as comic relief. Adventurers taking any of these roles are generated normally. With the exception of henchmen and dogs, any of the following may be required to sing or dance if it will enhance the "atmosphere" of the melodrama.

3.5 - Asides, Soliloquies, Songs and Overacting
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To establish the mood of melodramatic adventures, characters should use Asides (see glossary in section 1.0 above) to convey information about the plot and their nature (especially Villains), and Soliloquies and Songs to establish their personalities.

Most players find "Asides" the most difficult concept to grasp. They usually expect to act on every clue or careless word dropped by the referee and other players, and may have trouble coping with information that they can't use directly. Players may use Asides as often as they like, but they must be in character, true and relevant to the current events of the adventure; if an Aside is a lie or irrelevant, the referee should consider reducing bonus points at the end of the adventure. Asides are most typical of Villains, but may be used by anyone.

Nobody else can hear what is said in an Aside or act on it directly. However, there is nothing to stop characters taking steps that arise from the situation and "happen" to relate to what is said less directly. It happens all the time in melodrama. Optionally the referee may also choose to let the characters have "feelings" or "hunches" about what they've heard, on a roll of SOUL (or any appropriate skill, eg. Medium or Psychology) versus the speaker's MIND, Actor skill, or whatever else seems appropriate.

Players and the referee should agree a signal which makes it clear that a remark is an Aside; the easiest is probably to hold a hand in front of the mouth and look to one side, and begin with a phrase such as "Pah! Little do they know that..." or "How can I tell her...". Combining this with standing and bending slightly, as though performing a bad Richard III imitation, will also put the idea across but may lead to gales of laughter. Optionally, give each player a card saying "Aside", to be held up while speaking.

While it might seem that there is nothing to be gained by using an Aside, they are powerful tools for manipulating players; it's almost impossible to avoid being influenced by something that you know is true, even if you suspect that it is not the whole truth.

In the example that follows the Villain's underlings have shackled the Romantic Lead, bound and gagged, to the rudder of a ship; currently her head is just above water, but as soon as the engines start she will be submerged and drown. More thugs are waiting to attack the Hero if he ventures below decks, but the Hero has unfortunately chosen to stay where he can keep an eye on the Villain, whom he already suspects. Accordingly, the Villain decides to risk an Aside:

Villain[Aside] "Little does he know that the lovely Helen will die as the ship sails. Muh-hah-hah-hah!"
Hero"What changes when the ship sails? Umm - I'm going to check the anchor hoist and the engine room."
Referee"Sorry, that was an Aside. What are you going to do?"
Hero"I'm worried about Helen, I think I'll organise a search of the ship."
Referee"OK, I'll allow that"
Villain"Don't worry old boy, I'm sure she's all right"
[Aside] "Muh-hah-hah-hah-hah"

These Asides will hopefully lure the Hero below decks, without giving too much away.

Two other forms of dialogue can be important in a melodrama; Soliloquy and Song. Both represent a statement of a character's viewpoint or aspirations, preferably in a form that has some artistic merit. For example, the opening speech of Richard III ("Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York...") and Rorschach's analysis of the meaning of life (The Watchmen part VI) are excellent Soliloquies. "I'm gonna kill everyone who stands between me and a Dukedom...", sung to a rap beat, might be a somewhat less edifying Song. Gilbert and Sullivan offer dozens of useful tunes, more can be found in the folk music of most nations. Both Soliloquy and Song can be combined with an Aside. For example:
Villain[Aside] "Aha - little do they know that...
[Sings] "A cunning villain I,
A man of lethal habits,
I'll slay my foe like rabbits,
Without any pity or shame.
Before the night is out
I'll bump off all my cousins,
kill sundry other persons,
And pass to the Hero the blame,
Oh, and pass to the Hero the blame..."
Hero"Should I feel uneasy?"
Referee"Roll your SOUL versus Difficulty 5, if you succeed you distrust him, but have no idea why."
Villain"Feeling all right, old chap?"
Hero[fails roll] "Felt dashed odd for a moment. Uneasy."
Villain"Well, we all get odd feelings now and again. Probably something you ate. Have I introduced you to my cousin Helen...?"

If a Song or Soliloquy is used straight, not as an Aside, everyone who is present naturally hears it, but should treat it as normal speech unless the character is supposed to be singing. Unless combat or some other life-or-death situation is in progress, time and the action stop until it's over. Songs and Soliloquies are used mainly to add atmosphere and drama, and to distinguish this genre from normal role playing.

To encourage their use referees should consider awarding bonus points for best Soliloquy, Song and Aside at the end of the adventure. Optionally this can be decided by vote.

Finally, a word about overacting. While it could be argued that it is impossible to overact in this genre, excessive ranting and displays of extreme emotion can eventually become a little wearing, and may slow the game considerably. Players will have ample opportunities to display the gamut of their acting skills in asides and soliloquies, and in the climactic scenes of adventures. At other times it's advisable to be a little more restrained.

3.6 - Recurring Roles
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While one-off melodramatic adventures are fun, there can be problems with a long campaign featuring continuing characters. Most notably Villains (especially player characters) are usually unmasked early on, making continued interaction with the other characters difficult or impossible.

One solution is for the characters to be treated as roles taken on by a repertory company of "actors" whose statistics and skills continue from one adventure to the next, with the name and motive of the role changing in each adventure. Some of the recurring roles in Hammer horror and other film series show this idea in action. For example, evil Sir George might be unmasked as a Villain and killed at the end of one adventure, but the same "actor" takes on the role of the treacherous Lawyer Perkins in the next. Skills are retained, and Bonus points acquired in one role continue to the next, and may be used to improve continuing skills. All of the other players know that this "actor" is the Villain, but their characters do not.

For more variety, allocate roles to all of the characters and forget about type casting. Evil Sir George becomes kindly Lawyer Perkins, whilst brave Captain Strongheart becomes wicked Uncle Henry, or poor defenceless Cousin Helen becomes the murderous Nanny Sweet. If you use this idea don't generate characters using the special rules in earlier sections; simply allocate a few appropriate skills to each character for the duration of the adventure. For example, evil Sir George might be a skilled horseman while Lawyer Perkins knows nothing of horses but is immensely skilled at business and the law. It would be unfair to expect the player concerned to buy appropriate skills, so the referee simply says that the character has them. In this example Sir George might be given four points to add to his Marksmanship and Riding skills, Lawyer Perkins is instead given four points to split between Business and Scholar (Law).

One advantage of this style of play is that characters survive death; they return for the next adventure, and may even gain Bonus points by dying well (or amusingly). Award points for self-sacrifice ("I'll throw myself on the grenade to save the others"), dying speeches ("You go on and complete the mission chaps, I'll be all right, it's only a flesh uurrggghhhhhh"), or whatever else seems appropriate.

This style of adventure needs slightly more preparation than a normal game. Briefly, the referee needs to be sure that all of the player characters have suitable roles and are happy with the genre. This is best done by giving them a simple briefing that summarises the situation and their role in it, much as is often done for freeform and live action RPGs. For example, for a low-key rural melodrama:

Captain Nathaniel Winston VC - Hero
You are a gallant officer in Her Majesty's Northumberland Fusiliers, recently returned home for a well-earned leave after the Zulu wars. You are in love with your third cousin Eleanor, who lives with her parents in a bleak farm on the Northumberland moors. You intend to propose during your leave, but you must make sure that your love is reciprocated first; after all, you haven't seen her in nearly four years, and it's possible that she might love another. It would be horribly embarrassing if you proposed and were rejected. You have been back for a few days, staying at the village inn and trying to work up the courage to see her. You are moderately wealthy, having been lucky with your investments in the Imperial Opium Company and other worthy corporations.

What you know about the other characters:

  • Eleanor is the sweetest girl in the world; her voice could charm the birds out of the trees, the angels love her darling face, etc. etc.
  • Doctor Fergusson is doctor to Eleanor's family; when you were a child he set your broken arm, and seemed to do a good job of it. He's quite elderly.
  • Parson Hillyard is a newcomer to the village; you've met him only twice, and he seems to have sound ideas on the virtues of sport and boxing in forming the character of boys. He wants you to address the scouts next week.
  • Lawyer Fitzroy has been around for several years. You don't know him very well, but he seems a nice enough chap.
  • Eli Sharp owns the farm adjoining Eleanor's; you think that he may also have eyes for her. When you were children you fought whenever you met; you can't remember why.


Naturally the referee needs to prepare some additional resources that will help to resolve the plot. For example, a letter from Fitzroy's London wife, threatening a visit to Northumberland if he doesn't sort out his "business" there quickly. This gives Fitzroy a reason to press matters; also, the letter or his reply (or the blotting table from his desk) might fall into Hillyard's hands, directly or via Higgins.

3.7 - Double, Double...
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Another way to extend the idea of adventurers as a repertory troupe is an old stand-by of small theatrical companies; doubling up roles. Some of the actors play a major part, but also fill in with minor characters when the main one is off-stage. For example, the referee might decide that it's unlikely that the Romantic Lead and Effie the kitchen maid would appear in the same scenes, and ask a player to take on both roles. This sounds simple, but once these two roles are taken on, the characters must never appear on stage simultaneously. In this example, if an errand takes the Romantic Lead down to the kitchen, Effie has just gone out to pick some herbs from the kitchen garden; if Effie has to light the fires in the dining room, the Romantic Lead is out riding. The player running the characters must make this plausible without making it obvious that they are never seen together; the other players know, of course, but as characters they should notice nothing odd. Both characters should normally be the same age and sex, but cross-dressing is entirely appropriate to the genre; see Mrs. Doubtfire and Charley's Aunt for two obvious examples. In Shakespeare girls often pose as young men; in the theatre of his time most of the female roles would have been played by men, so cross-dressing either way is plausible.

To make things more interesting, characters who are doubling up can say that they have met each other "off-stage", or one can be on stage and talk to the other character, provided that the second character is "off-stage" and can't be seen or heard by anyone else. Telephone and speaking tube conversations work well, as does talking to someone unseen through a door or window. The player should not conduct both sides of the conversation. For example:

Romantic Lead"If it's lamb we'll need some mint."
[opens kitchen window]
"Oh Effie, pick some more mint please"
"How much of it has the cat spoiled?"
"Well, you'll just have to wash what's left really well"
[shuts window]
"Honestly, that girl is so impractical..."

If characters are in double roles, and you are using the continuing character system described in the previous section, the main character should be the continuing character, the "doubled" role has whatever statistics and skills are appropriate. Bonus points earned by both characters go to the continuing character. If one character is killed, the other carries on for the remainer of the adventure (except as below).

Once players have taken this idea on board, it's possible to use it in various interesting ways. For example, someone might be living a double life; pretending to be two people, but actually one. There are numerous examples in fiction and on the stage, especially in farce. Perhaps the character can't decide between two sisters, and is courting both of them under different names (Two Much - Donald E. Westlake). Perhaps a meek mild-mannered disguise hides a dashing Hero; it's worked for Superman for more than sixty years. Or perhaps there is a more sinister motive...

Example: Two of the guests at a country house party are twin brothers Alex and Alec, who dislike each other intensely and won't willingly stay in the same room. This is played as though they are doubling up. In fact Alex has murdered Alec before the party, and is arranging an alibi for himself by pretending that he is still alive. This involves occupying two bedrooms, eating two breakfasts at different times, finding excuses for one or another of the "brothers" to skip different meals, and so forth. In a day or two "Alec" will argue with the host and leave the party (with plenty of witnesses to say that he went off alone in a hired cab), board a train and duck off again while nobody is looking, then change his clothing in a convenient public lavatory, and return "from a walk" as Alex and rejoin the social whirl. When Alec's decaying body is found, a few days later, it will be assumed that he was killed after the house party, when Alex will have a perfect alibi; he's going on to a yachting holiday with friends including the Prince of Wales!

This may sound implausible, but it should be remembered that fingerprints were not used for identification in Britain until 1901 (one of many reasons why a Victorian campaign is preferable), and that forensic techniques of the period would find it very difficult to distinguish between two twins in any other respect.

This idea can be reversed; have the doubled up player pretend that the two roles are actually a single person, by being deliberately clumsy about the change from one role to the other. Set the other characters up to think that they are in fact a single person. Wait for the other characters to confront one of the two with their suspicions... then have the second person walk in as an NPC and ask what's going on! This may optionally come as a surprise to everyone, including the player who has played both roles; for instance, in the murder example above, the real Alec may have escaped from his brother's death trap, and arrived to blackmail him - or may even be a ghost!

4.0 - Elements of Melodrama
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So far this worldbook has described melodramatic characters and the world in which their adventures take place. This section expands on some of these elements, especially their game effects, and is intended primarily for referees.

Any modern physicist will tell you that the strongest forces in the universe bind the atomic nucleus (a Victorian physicist would probably choose magnetism). Any dramatist will tell you that the strongest forces in melodrama are Love, which binds human souls, and Hate, which tears them apart. Almost as important are Luck, which often ensures the triumph of good, and the ineluctable workings of Fate. Life and Death are also important, of course; it can be surprisingly difficult to kill a Hero or Villain within this genre, and infallible death traps and infernal devices are seldom reliable. The final ingredient of any melodrama is Justice; good must be rewarded and evil punished.

4.1 - Love and Hate
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As mentioned earlier, Heroes will usually love the Romantic Lead, and vice versa, although they may be torn apart by circumstances. This has the following game effects:

Hate is common as a motivating force, again for the Villain, most often manifested as a desire for revenge. This also has strange psychic effects, even if none of the characters involved normally has any psychic powers.

4.2 - Luck and Fate
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After love, the strongest force in the melodramatic universe is luck. It protects the Hero and makes the Romantic Lead virtually unkillable, causes unfortunate coincidences for the Villain at dramatically appropriate moments, and ensures that characters will usually be at the right place at the right time.

To simulate the less than blind workings of fate roll a dice whenever a lucky accident will help the Hero and/or allies, or harm the Villain and his henchmen. On a 1-3 an accident or coincidence will help the forces of Good or hinder Evil. On a 4-6 nothing happens. Both sides may spend Bonus points to modify the result BEFORE the dice is rolled. This dice roll is additional to any meddling with reality needed to keep the Romantic Lead alive etc.

Players should be encouraged to suggest ways for the Villain's scheme to go wrong. In games where the Villain is run by a player sympathetic to the genre, the Villain may even help to arrange them!

Coincidences are often an easy way to put a spoke in the Villain's wheels; for example, someone the Villain is impersonating may arrive unexpectedly, or a letter may be opened accidentally and its contents reported to the police. Unfortunately simple coincidences may leave the players feeling cheated; it's better if the workings of chance, or a mistake by the Villain, gives them a helping hand but still leave them a lot to do. For example:

The Hero and friends have been left bound in a windmill which the Villain has doused with paraffin and set alight.
Obvious possibilities are the arrival of the local fire brigade on a training exercise, or a sudden downpour as the mill starts to burn, drowning the flames.
The referee realises that both would be a disappointing anticlimax. It's much more satisfactory if some circumstance frees one of the adventurers, but leaves the players the job of escaping from a burning building. Accordingly:
Convection currents from the fire start the windmill turning, and the villain has left one of the adventurers close enough to the grindstone to use it on the ropes around her wrist, then free the other adventurers, allowing them to use one of the mill timbers as a battering ram to break out.

4.3 - Life and Death
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One of the ways in which a melodramatic campaign differs from a more realistic game is the question of death. Basically, the death of major characters should only take place when it is dramatically appropriate. Minor characters, such as henchmen, can drop like flies, but Heroes, Villains, and their Romantic Leads should live on, at least to the final act, and usually the Hero and Romantic Lead should survive to live happily ever afterwards - or at least until the next adventure. Villains should also have ample opportunities to escape, if it is dramatically appropriate.

Villains (and their headquarters) should always be provided with an escape route, several if possible. Adventurers should always be left convinced that the Villain has been killed without actually having proof. For example, the Hero might throw the Villain into a pool of piranha. The water bubbles and turns red, and later the tank is drained to reveal a skeleton bearing the Villain's ring.

What really happens, of course, is that the villain's clothing conceals sachets of a special foaming piranha-repellent dye, cunningly formulated to turn the water opaquely red. He screams and goes under, then swims down to a secret hatch and escape tunnel. The skeleton is that of an earlier victim, wearing a duplicate of the Villain's ring without its mystic powers. While the Hero is busy trashing the Villain's base and some expendable underlings (and incidentally setting off a few booby-traps designed to cover the Villain's tracks) the Villain is relaxing aboard his steam-powered submarine and planning his next onslaught on society.

Heroes also need to survive, but can't take advantage of such bizarrely paranoid planning. Usually they are forced to work on the Villain's home ground, not their own, and need a few tricks up their sleeves to gain the advantage. Luck can often help, as described above, but a few simple and suitably disguised tools and weapons are worth their weight in gold, since Henchmen and thugs never seem to spot them.

Villains also need their fair share of tricks. Simply shooting the Hero is, of course, too fast and easy; a slow lingering death is preferable. Any Villain worthy of the name will have much "better" answers to unwanted interference. Unfortunately they seldom realise that often the easy answers are the best, and that the well-known phrase "keep it simple, stupid" is entirely applicable to their profession...

4.3.1 - Nothing Up My Sleeve
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Most Heroes tend to fall into the job unexpectedly. One day they are retired soldiers (Bulldog Drummond), sportsmen, servants [V], or colonial entrepreneurs [BFF], the next they are framed for murder, shot at with air rifles, chased across the Yorkshire Moors by tracker dogs, and otherwise thrown into unusually dangerous situations. A minority of Heroes, and most Anti-Heroes, are prepared for this sort of work, by training or prior experience, and are equipped for trouble; theoretically most new Heroes have no reason to expect it, but the referee should be reasonably liberal in allowing them to own suitable equipment.

Most Heroes probably own some sort of firearm, if only a hunting rifle or shotgun, or a trusty service revolver. Cavalry sabres and other melee weapons are also possible, although less likely to be carried on an everyday basis. Unfortunately Villains with any forethought will undoubtedly be ready for normal weapons; their thugs will confiscate them if they capture the Hero, especially if he is to be taken to the Villain's lair. Fortunately small easily-concealed weapons were readily available in the 19th century, and many other useful devices can be tucked into odd corners of a Hero's clothing. If they aren't obvious they should pass unnoticed in a quick search. Two examples from the 1920s (but readily usable much earlier):

The Saint carried a cigarette case. The edge of the lid, covered when the case was closed, was razor sharp and easily used to cut through bonds. While the cigarettes in one side of the case were normal, those in the other concealed magnesium flares and smoke pellets. He also wore a small throwing knife christened "Anna" (later replaced by "Belle"), usually strapped to his wrist, and was adept at drawing it and cutting his bonds without any obvious movement. He frequently carried lockpicks, pen torches, and other tools. In one adventure he was able to enter a South American prison (as a prisoner) while concealing a knife and several gold coins.

Lord Peter Wimsey sometimes used a walking stick (nicknamed the "gentleman-scout's vade mecum") which contained a compass and a sword, and was marked in inches for measurement. He also had a monacle which was actually a powerful magnifying glass, and a small torch disguised as a silver matchbox.

A. J. Raffles carried an assortment of burglary tools, listed in one of the later stories, The Raffles Relics, including:

The other stories mention more tools and a watch whose face was covered in luminous radium paint; the dim light of the paint could be used as an alternative to a lantern. The full kit of tools used by burglars, and especially by safe-breakers, could run to dozens of items.

Some other weapon possibilities include knives concealed in belts or the heels of shoes, books hollowed out to contain small pistols, hip flasks and other pocket items that are actually disguised guns, crucifixes containing daggers, hats designed as throwing weapons (The Avengers, Goldfinger), garrottes disguised as watch chains and ties, gloves weighted with strips of thin lead sheet for use as knuckle dusters, and stilettos used as hat or tie pins. All of these should be used as any equivalent non-concealed weapon.

Other devices that might be carried concealed by Heroes include lock picks, vials of acid to dissolve chains (Doc Savage), vials of an anaesthetic drug (Doc Savage, Modesty Blaise), hacksaw blades or files, a whistle for summoning help, lengths of rope or strong cord (especially concealed by a dress, cummerbund or wide belt), phosphorescent paint for blazing a trail in the dark, invisible ink, and simple disguises. More possibilities include pocket telescopes or opera glasses, magnetic compasses on watch fobs (or in the back of a pocket watch), and books used as keys for code messages. Anyone prepared for serious snooping might also carry the following devices, both available in the late 19th century:

Naturally no true lady or gentleman would use such devices, and it should be remembered that the "romance" of espionage is largely an invention of late 19th and 20th-century fiction. Until comparatively recently spies were regarded as scum, and no respectable person would have anything to do with them or the tools of their trade. Referees should also remember the limitations of period technology and refuse to allow anachronisms such as ridiculously small electromagnets and other Bond-style trickery. These limits apart, almost anything that can plausibly be owned by the character should be allowed in the game.

4.3.2 - Durance Vile
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"By Jove, I have it!" I said, taking care to whisper lest any one might be listening at the door. "We must manage by hook or crook to catch a mouse and let him carry our appeal for help to the outside world."
[A Bid For Fortune]

One of the oddest escape plans in the history of adventure fiction is outlined in the quote above. It works, after a fashion.

At some point in most melodramatic adventures someone will probably be taken prisoner, interrogated, possibly tortured, and forced to escape at thousand-to-one odds.

Capture of the Hero is usually relatively simple; the Villain's henchmen find him and either drug him or beat him to a pulp. Coming round with a pounding headache, handcuffed to a rusty steel bed in a dimly-lit cell, is a cliche of the genre; certain secret agents tend to wake in mink-lined cells with every modern comfort and convenience, but that's another story.

Abduction of the Romantic Lead (in this context almost invariably female) should be accomplished with more style. Two of the best cinematic examples come from James Bond films; Casino Royale and From A View To A Kill. In the first the lady in question is plucked from Downing Street by a Henchman disguised as a mounted member of the Household Cavalry, who gallops towards Trafalgar Square and a waiting getaway vehicle. In the second she is siezed from a cliff-top by one of the Villain's henchmen, leaning out of a small dirigible. Less spectacular Villains usually find that a Hanson cab and a rag soaked in chloroform are reasonably effective. However the abduction takes place, the Romantic Lead won't usually be tortured; it's more usual for her to be plied with wine and made an offer that no respectable maiden could possibly accept, in terms that can't easily be refused. Sometimes, of course, the Villain may regretfully find it necessary to strap her to a plank in a sawmill, tie her to a railway line, or dangle her over a convenient cliff, but this isn't torture as such, it's simply a way to engage the Hero's attention.

Captivity and subsequent escape is so much a cliche of the genre that referees should allow and encourage escape and rescue plans that rely on implausible luck, extreme gullibility (of guards etc.), the ability to hide vast quantities of contraband, the seduction of a guard, daughter or slave-girl who has previously been entirely loyal to the Villain, or whatever else is needed to get the Hero or Romantic Lead out of durance vile. This doesn't mean that schemes which are flatly impossible should succeed; it simply means that any plan that has any chance of working will probably do so, if it is dramatically appropriate. Naturally there should be problems, but nothing a Hero can't handle.

Not all escapes are all that they seem; Villains may choose to allow an escape, in order to gain some later advantage. For instance, the Hero may have helped the Romantic Lead to escape before he was captured; by allowing him to escape the Villain may hope to track him to her hiding place. Similarly, the Villain might want something else that the Hero has, a secret or vital document, and can only find it if the Hero leads him there. If this occurs the Hero should be given a few chances to realise the truth, but the referee should remember that any self-respecting Villain will do these things with style; letting the Hero shake off a few obvious thugs while his real pursuers lurk in the shadows, or even offer to help the Hero.

For Heroes some torture, physical or mental, is almost obligatory before the escape. Since there is no game mechanism for feeling pain, physical torture should be handled as bruises, flesh wounds, and injuries, with consequent effects on the ability to fight or move quickly. In extreme cases one or more characteristics may be reduced temporarily; for example, after a severe beating the Hero is groggy with pain, and MIND and BODY are temporarily used at -2. Note that torturers are rarely the smartest people in the world, and a resourceful Hero may be able to use their tools against them to escape; the film True Lies shows an excellent example. Heroes who fail to take advantage of such opportunities may live to regret their slowness; permanent mutilation is entirely possible, though rare in the genre. For example, after several severe beatings the Hero might lose the sight in one eye, with permanent effects on various skills.

The most usual forms of mental torture are revelation of some horrible secret that will cause the Hero anguish ("I am your father, Luke..."), threats to someone that the Hero holds dear ("Even now acid is slowly burning through the rope that holds your mother above the tank of crocodiles..."), and the use of mesmerism and strange powers or machines to bend the Hero's will to the Villain's plans. Traditionally these attempts should fail, or should be interrupted just as the Villain is about to succeed; by an accident or mechanical breakdown, by the arrival of a message, by some disturbance, or by the Hero somehow finding a way to resist the insidious influence. See The Ipcress File for an example. Ideally the Hero should learn something useful from these attempts, the secret of the Villain's powers or a way to combat them.

Once the Hero has been tortured, it's time for a daring escape. The gadgetry listed in the previous section can be useful, but resourcefulness and skill are equally important. Some of the most successful methods seen in melodrama rely entirely on audacity. For example, a common trick is to leave a dummy made of folded blankets in a cell bed, hide beside the door, and sneak out while a guard investigates the "sleeping prisoner". Overcoming a guard and wearing his uniform to escape is also a good move. But the method selected is less important than style and panache. A Hero who spends hours sneaking slowly through the Villain's headquarters should run into problems, booby traps and guards who will be alert for unusual activities. A Hero who walks out whistling and nodding to the guards as he passes them might go entirely unnoticed, as everyone assumes that he has a right to be there. In practice most escapes will probably fall somewhere between these extremes.

4.3.3 - Death Traps and Infernal Devices
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Melodrama wouldn't be melodrama without an element of danger. The most characteristic forms are the Death Trap, a staple of the genre on stage as well as in print, and the Infernal Device, most often found in melodramatic fiction.

Death Traps range from the basic routine of tying a victim to a plank in a sawmill and letting the machinery take its course, to elaborate and fallible mechanical contrivances, with no other purpose than the destruction of the Hero. Why anyone would bother to build such devices is rarely explained; a gun would presumably be more cost-effective, but most Villains seem to prefer to push the Hero into elaborate mazes full of electrified wires and razor blades, or trap them in chambers modelled after car crushers. Often the Hero emerges intact and armed with an array of improvised weapons ripped from the mechanism, which surely isn't the idea.

A full guide to death traps would require an inordinate amount of space, and since there are already many examples in fiction and in role playing games it seems a little unnecessary. Remember that in melodrama traps must always have at least one weakness; this may be as simple as an accessible "Off" switch (in a Victorian setting this will probably be a large lever or steam control valve), but something a little more complicated is better. Ideally the weakness should be a design flaw which will stop it working if the victim spots it in time. For example, a trap which floods a room via several vents at floor level needs a way for air to escape at ceiling level; if the air vent is blocked, the air in the room will be compressed into the top of the room, but won't go away completely. It ought to be possible to stay afloat and breathe near the ceiling, if the Hero can release himself from the large lead weights manacled to his legs. Alternatively, the weight and pressure of this much water is going to put a lot of strain on the door; with a little help from the Hero, who could use those large lead weights as hammers, it might be persuaded to give way. There is a version of this trap (and others) in one of the FF II adventures, The Ganymedan Menace.

If Villainous PCs wish to build death traps the referee should assign a Difficulty rating, as for any other project. A simple trap such as a trap-door over a pit with a few spikes might be Difficulty 4, a room with moving walls designed to crush intruders might be Difficulty 8 or 10. Once the trap is built it must still be used, which may require a roll using an appropriate skill (such as Mechanic) to activate the mechanism, or the use of skills such as Artist to disguise it until the victim is caught. The trap may also need to overcome the victim's BODY in some way; if it fails, the mechanism jams in some way which will require intervention by a mechanic or some other specialist. On a 12, on any of these rolls, the mechanism breaks down completely; for example, the trap door jams or the hydraulic system behind the moving walls springs a catastrophic leak.

A brief search of some period fiction found the following traps, often in several stories:

Infernal Devices are typically bombs, but there are many other possibilities. Some are targeted at an individual, others are simple engines of indiscriminate destruction. Villains tend to prefer the more personal approach, especially when dealing with a Hero, since it is more elegant to kill one man than a hundred; however, a minority are happy to kill hundreds if it's the only way to be sure of reaching a difficult target. Infernal Devices are usually a means to an end - the destruction of the Hero - but sometimes they are the lynch-pin of the Villain's schemes. Devices which can kill most of the human race generally fall into this category. A good example is the Nemor disintegration machine (see FF III), which was supposed to be capable of destroying cities.

There is some overlap between Death Traps and Infernal Devices, especially those using venomous spiders etc. as the execution method; for the purposes of this worldbook a Death Trap is a fixed installation, usually in the Villain's lair, while an Infernal Device is more portable and tends to be used on the victim's home ground. The sources mentioned above suggested a wide repertoire of Infernal Devices, as well as numerous weapons with some element of the Infernal Device about them:

Remember that these devices very rarely work, at least as far as killing the Hero or Romantic Lead is concerned, and should only succeed against other adventurers if they are very careless; they may accidentally kill a servant or an innocent bystander, but that's what NPCs are for. Adventurers exposed to Infernal Devices should always be given some clue; faint scratching or ticking noises or a smell of burning from a parcel, scratches around the lock of the room they are about to enter, something furtive about the behaviour of the stranger who offers them a cigar, and so forth.

If PC Villains want to build Infernal Devices the Difficulty should be at least 4 or 5, more if the trap is unusually fiendish, has anti-handling devices, or needs to withstand rough handling. For example, a bomb fused to explode after an hour, with no other mechanisms, might be Difficulty 4; if it is also fused to explode if its box is opened, Difficulty rises to 6; if it is designed to go through the post without detonating, it rises to 8. The person arming the Device must use relevant skills to overcome the Device's Difficulty; if the roll is failed the Device won't work (but this won't immediately be apparent); on a 12 the Device activates immediately, an "own goal" accident. This is one of many reasons why Villains have underlings to perform these tasks.

Methods used to deal with suspicious packages typically include immersion in a bucket of water, cutting open the package from an odd direction to bypass a booby trap linked to the string, and other simple stratagems; referees should try to resist the temptation to have NPC Villains send adventurers parcels that spontaneously explode on contact with water, that are fused on all six faces, or detonate if exposed to X-Rays...

4.4 - Justice
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To be true to this genre Good must eventually triumph over Evil. Justice must eventually prevail, even if it seems remarkably unlikely, but this often follows prolonged injustice.

Accordingly, the police, courts, and other authorities will not necessarily help the Hero at first; misunderstandings, money and perjury may often distort the truth, and leave the Hero or a friend or loved one imprisoned [F] or on the run. This is often a good starting point for an adventure, giving characters an excellent motive to uncover the truth. See The 39 Steps, The Fugitive, or the novels Clouds of Witness and Strong Poison (Dorothy L. Sayers) for good examples.

Once the adventurers have the truth, they need to prove it. Villains should always admit their evil, once unmasked - after all, it's no fun being a Villain if you can't gloat about it - but won't necessarily do so when the police are around. The adventurers need to trick the Villain into confessing in the presence of the authorities; this might involve concealing a policeman behind a curtain, arranging a microphone to allow a conversation to be overheard, or hiding a recording phonograph in a cupboard.

Once the Villain is unmasked long formalities should be avoided; this is the ideal moment for a fight on the lip of a volcano, for the Villain to plummet to (apparent) doom, or some other circumstance which brings the adventure to a rapid close. All wrongs should be righted, the Romantic Lead reunited with the Hero, and plot threads otherwise bought to a close. End on a high note - the marriage of Hero and Romantic Lead is ideal, if players are prepared to co-operate - and leave the players to take their bows and Bonus points. Optionally have a piece of card prepared, reading "The End"; you may wish to add the words "Or is it..?", and end the adventure with the Villain's hideous laugh as the adventurers discover that he has somehow escaped them yet again...

5.0 - The Supernatural
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Supernatural events are common in melodrama, but tend to take over a campaign if they are used repeatedly. Mostly supernatural entities are present as a warning of trouble ahead or to act as commentator in the fight between Good and Evil [V], to accuse someone [B], or to serve as a picturesque addition to the plot. Occasionally they may play a more active role, but for the most part the referee should treat them as special effects, not NPCs.

Fake supernatural events may be used by Villains as cover for their plans; the most obvious example is The Hound of the Baskervilles, others can be found in some of the FF IV stories. This should occur much more often than real supernatural events.

Other supernatural entities should be described by referees as needed; for example, fairies are tiny, mischievous, and incredibly agile, so the chances of anyone swatting one are negligible, and their magic should be a special effect with nuisance value, not harmful.

6.0 - Weird Science & Scientific Romances
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In scientific romance science serves as the motivating force behind most plots; in "pure" melodrama it tends to serve primarily as stage dressing, substituted for more familiar weapons and devices. A modern example is the use of lasers in spy films; they appear almost entirely as destructive weapons, generally aimed at the Hero, and most of their other applications are ignored. The best instance comes from the film Goldfinger, which took a typical melodramatic scene from the novel (James Bond strapped to a steel bench, with a circular saw moving towards him) and simply substituted a laser. For the purposes of melodrama, science needs to be as flashy and weird as possible; machines don't just go "ping", they roar, emit gigantic sparks and have hundreds of moving parts.

Obviously it is possible to base a melodramatic plot on a scientific idea; for example, a stolen invention or secret weapon, or mysterious events that seem to be impossible or can only be explained by hitherto-unknown science. A world based on scientific romance can be a good background for melodrama; many of the adventures in previous Forgotten Futures collections have been highly melodramatic.

The list that follows is a necessarily brief account of a few ideas that were at the weirdest and most speculative end of science at the end of the nineteenth century, and some ideas for their use in melodramatic adventures and campaigns. Some have previously been discussed, in somewhat different form, in FF III.

7.0 - The Cast
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What follows is a list of some of the main characters in the stories and plays on which this collection is based. Many others are mentioned but are not listed below; they are average people with characteristics of 2-3 and no unusual skills. The character's name is a link to an illustration if there is one available.



Romantic Leads


Appendix 1: About the Authors
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James Robinson Planché [V] (1796-1880) was an innovative and prolific playwright and designer who wrote the English translations of many operas, campaigned successfully for copyright protection for playwrights, and was largely responsible for the introduction of period costume to the British stage; in 1823 he designed costumes and sets for a revival of Shakespeare's King John, and broke with earlier practice by using authentic costume instead of modern dress. The Vampire also shows his attention to period detail, although his use of song may not seem entirely appropriate to the theme of the play. His History of British Costume was for many years the standard text on the subject.

I have been unable to learn anything about the career of H. M. Milner [F]; it is even unclear from the title page if he is the author of the play, or of the French play on which it is based! The various title changes at different points in this play suggest that the publishers may have amalgamated the scripts of two or more productions. Further information would be greatly appreciated.

Leopold Lewis [B] (1828-90) was a solicitor and playwright, best known for his adaptation of Le juif polonais by Erckmann and Chatrian as The Bells; it succeeded largely because the role of Mathias was superbly played by Sir Henry Irving. Three later plays were unsuccessful.

Guy Boothby [BFF] (1867-1905) was an Australian-born writer, resident in the UK from 1894, best known for the Dr Nikola sequence: A Bid for Fortune (1895), Doctor Nikola (1896), The Lust of Hate (1898), Dr Nikola's Experiment (1899) and Farewell, Nikola (1901). He wrote nearly fifty other novels, mostly crime and adventure, although some do have elements of fantasy and the scientific romance. The Nikola novels were originally published in illustrated editions, with art mainly by Stanley Wood; Wood was a prolific artist for Pearson's Magazine and other Pearson publications.

Fred M. White [BUB] (1859-19??) wrote scientific romances and general fiction for several British magazines in the early 20th century. These included a series of stories showing some of the dangers facing modern society, collectively known as the "Doom of London" series (the others were included in FF V). His only SF novel, The White Battalions (1900) shows Britain gaining a military advantage from a shift in the Gulf Stream which freezes most of Europe.

White dropped out of sight in the 1920s; late in the preparation of FF V I learned that his last (non-SF) novel was dated 1930, but it may have been published posthumously. I am still unable to trace the date of his death, or locate the owner of copyright if it has not yet lapsed. Any reader with information on this point is asked to contact me.

E. W. Hornung [RAF] (1866-1921) is best known for the Raffles stories, collected as The Amateur Cracksman (1899), The Black Mask (1901), and A Thief In The Night (1905); the new release of the Forgotten Futures CD-Rom includes all three collections. There was also one Raffles novel, Mr. Justice Raffles (1909), also on the CD-Rom. Hornung wrote two Raffles plays; Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman (with E.W. Presbury 1903) and A Visit From Raffles (with Charles Sanson, 1909).

There have also been Raffles novels and stories by many other authors, as well as plays, radio and TV series, and films written or adapted by other hands.

His other works include A Bride from the Bush (1890), The Boss of Taroomba (1894), Stingaree (1903), No Hero (1903), The Crime Doctor (1904), and Notes of a Camp Follower on the Western Front (war memoir, 1919).

During the First World War he served with the Y.M.C.A. in France and Flanders. He was Conan Doyle's brother-in-law.

Appendix 2: Forgotten Futures Theatre Figures
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Cardboard theatres were a staple of Victorian family life; toy theatres could be found in most nurseries, and replicas are still available today. See especially the range published by Pollock's Toy Museum of London. In role-playing games Cardboard Heroes, published by Steve Jackson Games, were promoted as a substitute for lead figures; the idea was later used for many other RPGs, such as supplements for Golden Heroes, the James Bond RPG, Marvel Superheroes, and Paranoia.

Since Forgotten Futures first appeared several users have suggested producing similar figures for the game. The most recent was Paolo Marino. This suggestion came in when I was thinking of writing a melodramatic game, and led to my asking Steve Jackson for permission to use the Cardboard Heroes layout; the "figures" accompanying this collection are the result. I'm not sure who suggested making figures for the adventures, rather than providing generic characters; whoever you are, many thanks! Since they are based on period illustrations they are monochrome, not colour; since I'm not much of an artist I've left the back of each figure as a silhouette, rather than trying to draw a proper rear view.

If printed out from a web browser on a 600 DPI printer these images should be roughly the size of lead miniatures; at 300 DPI they will probably be larger. You may need to use image manipulation software to adjust the size to get the best results with your printer.

These figures are assembled by folding them in half and splaying out the base. Use glue or tape under the base to keep them folded, or stick them to small coins as a weighted base.

Some of the figures are based on pictures from the FF CD-ROM, others have been scanned for this collection. Most are intended for use with the adventures provided with this collection. The main sources are Pearson's Magazine and the Strand Magazine.

Appendix 3: Recommended Reading
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