By Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 2005, portions Copyright © 1993-2002

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The first release of these rules was originally converted to HTML by Stefan Matthias Aust, to whom many thanks.

This copy of the rules has been split into several separate files. A version consisting of a single large file is also provided. These documents should be accompanied by several files including larger versions of the game tables and a short summary of the main rules for the use of players.


APPENDIX - Adding Melodrama

Forgotten Futures VI introduced ideas for adventures and campaigns run in the style of Victorian melodrama. The concepts discussed include the classic stereotypes of Hero, Anti-Hero, Villain, and Romantic Lead, all run as player characters, various traits that can be used to make an interestingly melodramatic character, and staging hints.

What follows is a summary of the ideas in FF VI, which may be useful for a more flamboyant campaign. Some ideas from the article Accidents of Birth (on the FF CD-ROM) are also included. Many examples of dialogue and source material and adventure ideas have been cut for brevity.

Melodrama can be used in many 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 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 section 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. One way to handle this is a campaign in which characters go from one role to another, as actors go from one role to another; even if they are killed in one adventure, they will return in the next.

Another useful ideas is "doubling"; each player runs two or more characters, not one, who are never "on stage" simultaneously, and all actions must take place on stage. For example, one player might run the Villain and the Kindly Doctor, another the Romantic Lead and the Villain's ally, the Sinister Housekeeper. The referee should organise the plot so that they are never quite in the same room at the same time in a given scene. There are several ramifications to this idea; for example, the Villain might notice a resemblence to the Kindly Doctor and use a disguise to take his place. It sounds, and is, a little complicated, but it works very well if done right. See FF VI for an adventure using this idea.

If none 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 theatrical scripts in FF VI could be an excellent resource for the adventure.


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

Heroes and Heroines (Hurrah!) are designed on 25 points, with BODY 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. They have several limitations and advantages; if Heroines differ, the modified data is bracketed.

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).


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 may include 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.

Anti-Heroes are generated as Heroes. They have the same advantages but chivalrous conduct is less common; Anti-Heroes MAY strike the first blow, fire the first shot, etc., sometimes harm women (albeit reluctantly), 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 tend to 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.

On the face of it there is no down-side, but Anti-Heroes are rarely trusted, and are usually disliked by both sides of the law. 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 a poor 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. They use the same Traits as Heroes, but three others may be especially useful:

Romantic Leads

"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 (Ahhh!) are built on 18 points with no special requirements. They are often best run as NPCs, since players may find the role somewhat limiting. Male NPCs may take a similar role in adventures with a Heroine; naturally comments related to attractiveness etc. are reversed. Most Romantic Leads some special attributes:

A few Romantic Leads are more competent, which may be preferred if they are run as player characters, but they should never be anywhere near as competent as a Hero. They should be built on 21 points.

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.


"...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

Villains (Boo! Hiss!) are almost always 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. Everything that follows relates to male and female Villains alike.

Villains are usually run by the referee, since it's 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.

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. See FF VI for examples of the complications that can arise, hiring methods, etc., and some sample organisations. They are not compulsory; it can be more expedient to hire 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.

Villains have several special limitations:

Everybody Else

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.

Acting the Part

To establish the mood of melodramatic adventures, characters (especially Villains) should use Asides to the "audience" to convey information about the plot and their nature, and Soliloquies and Songs to establish their personalities.

An Aside is a small speech reflecting the character's thoughts - the other "actors" are not supposed to know what is said. In practice the other players will hear Asides, so it's important to establish rules for their use before play begins. Players may use Asides as often as they like, but they must be (a) in character, (b) true, and (c) 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.

No other character or NPC 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, e.g. 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. For example, a Villain's Aside might be entirely truthful but worded to suggest actions that will lead the Hero into a trap.

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 foes 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...?"
[Enter Romantic Lead]

If a Song or Soliloquy isn't 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.

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Revised and converted to HTML 23/4/98, Revised and updated 1/2005 - If you have any queries or comments on these rules please contact the author.