The Ubiquity proofs are in and it looks great! So without further ado, The Queen of the Orient, a sourcebook for 1930s Shanghai, is now live as an ebook and (for Ubiquity) print on demand book from DriveThruRPG! The physical book is $19.99 and includes the ebook and accompanying map downloads; the ebook and map are $9.99.

The Fate proofs should be here tomorrow, and unless there is a serious issue, we should see the Fate version up for print tomorrow night.

cover small

A note on the map — there’s no print version right now because the size of the thing is not supported by DriveThruRPG’s POD service — it’s a whopping 86×55″! You could possibly find a local shop that could print the thing as a poster.

The Queen of the Orient features information on the history of the city and the three municipal entities — the International Settlement, the French Concession, and the native City Government of Greater Shanghai. There is information on the infamous Green Gang (Qing Bang) that ran much of the crime in “the most dangerous city in the world”, as well as their opponents: the yakuza, the Triads, and  the Shanghai Municipal Police.

Crime is a close cousin of espionage, and Shanghai was a hot-bed of that. Chinese communists and Soviet allies, the Nationalist government of the Republic of China, British intelligence, the Japanese kempaitai were all active in the city. Everything you need to create a living, breathing Shanghai for your 1903 pulp game is here.

Here are the links for the Fate version and the Ubiquity version.

 

 

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We’re working on the Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean, featuring the Foreign Volunteer Force we highlighted in the Queen of the Orient sourcebook. There might be a few small setting books coming for their activities during the War against the Soviets, as well as their actions in South America.

Some of the folks in our gaming group have been playing characters in the Sky Rats, and this has led to the creation of tee-shirts…

sky rat shirt.jpegOnce I’ve had a look at the test shirt — if it meets standards, we’ll have an online shop for them. I’m thinking of doing a few different ones for the FVF Shanghai, FVF HQ Gibraltar, and FVF Fiume. I’m thinking of playing cards, as well — that’s stated to be one of the merchandise the Sky Rats sell in Queen of the Orient.

It’s looking like Black Campbell’s going to need a real storefront online soon…

The characters had gotten the jump on Obersturmbahnfuhrer Werner and his Ahnenerbe goons, leaving the far Western Chinese village ad Jyekundo to find a tulku, Chudak, who was on his way to see the 9th Panchen Lama about candidates for the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. They had bought ponies and ridden out on to the barren steppes…

The next session saw them making their way along a stream, following the archeologist Zelansky’s memory of the tulku‘s itinerary. They saw a lot of tiny villages of maybe a dozen or two people living in tents and stone hovels, herding goats and sheep, or fishing the stream. Eventually, they stumbled on a village in between two high shap ridgelines that was surrounded by an abatis — a wall of interlocking spears made from the sparse trees of the region. Their tents were huddled inside, and their animals corralled alongside. Like the other people they had encountered, they were suspicious and cautious of the white men, and communication was difficult — their Mandarin not up to the task of talking with Tibetan speakers. However, they worked out that the region was in dangerous from some sort of “man-bear”, and that they should spend the night in the camp.

Over an early dinner, with the sun setting, they sussed out this “man-bear” was a creature of massive stature, smart as a person, covered in white fur. Zelansky is terribly excited — it’s a yeti! He then had to explain the notion of the “abominable snowman” to most of the party. It’s a creature of myth and he has to find it! He convinced the others to use a day or two to track down the “man-bear” with the aid of a brave native. That night, it attacks the animals of the camp only to be driven off by a volley from Zelansky’s .38 revolver. (He didn’t hit it, of course…)

They went into the wilderness to track the creature, only to be hunted by the yeti, instead. In an attack, the creature was able to knock their guide out and knock Cointreau from his horse. Pin-Lee attacked the monster, only to find it was fast and strong; his kung fu was having not effect. Cointreau used a smoke bomb to slip away from the creature, making it harder for the rest to get a clean shot at it with Pin-Lee in the way. Finally, O’Bannon the Sky Rat was able launch a burst from his mechanic’s Tommy gun, felling the yeti. They dragged it back to the native camp and arranged for the locals to do taxidermy on it so they could move it back to civilization.

Later, they made contact with the tulku and explained the Nazi’s interest. He claimed to have no knowledge of the whereabouts of the Eye of Shambala, and stressed that the object should be left alone. During talking to the monk, however, Zelansky notes a few inconsistencies — the tulku knows where the Eye is supposed to be, but he’s not saying.

They returned to Jyekundo and saw the man safely to the Panchen Lama. Werner and his party (in an attempt to upend the expectations of the characters) had remained with his party in the town. Why? They figured to let the party do all the work tracking him down and getting him here…then he’ll simply ask for an audience and try and get the information himself. He invited them to dinner — he had their plane return to the nearby Chunking and pick up supplies and fuel. Unlike their poor Douglas seaplane, the Boeing 247 is ready to go!

Meanwhile, Veitch the mechanic had inspected the plane to find subtle sabotage…they would have been able to take off, but after a while the engines would have failed. Worse, it appears someone took his coilgun in the nose apart and (expertly) reassembled it. They took apart his gun; they might have coilgun technology now!

The night ended with the group going to dinner with Werner, who tried to convince them (and failed) to team up and find the Eye. During dinner, Pin-Lee slipped away (whio would notice the missing Chinaman, anyway?) and ransacked the tent of the scientist they are sure took Veitch’s gun apart. He finds diaries, notebooks, and hand-drawn plans to the coilgun. Stealing them, he started to return to their plane, only to find himself face-to-face with the Tibetan mastiff the Germans are using as a guard dog.

We ended the night there on a cliffhanger and picked up this week at the same point. Pin-Lee tried to sweet talk the dog, but it leapt at him. And he knocked it cold with a single punch. pleased with himself, he turned to leave, only to be hit with some kind of dart by a shadowy figure. The poison in the dart knocked him out (but temporarily, thanks to a judicious use of style points.)

Seven black robed and hooded figures then attacked the German camp, leading to a massive fight between the Germans and the party, and these interlopers. Cointreau managed to avoid the worst of the battle, which started with one of the black figures jumping in and lopping the head off one of the Nazis. He then uses the chaos to rob Werner of his papers — just in case.

O’Bannon played his kung fu against their, using his tumbler glass as a weapon. Veitch surprised everyone with a successful firearms attack with his .38 Super 1911. Zelansky had forgotten his .38 revolver was empty and got struck down with a poison dart. (The player was out for the night with the flu…) Pin-Lee eventually woke and joined the fray, but not before Vetich and O’Bannon knocked some bad guys around, and Werner used his new Browning Hi-Power 9mm to good effect. At several points, the Nazis — who was perfectly happy to murder the party to get what he wants — avoids shooting to make sure his doesn’t kill the white people. Chinese? Sure, but his racism — in this instance — works for the good guys.

After the hoods are bested, they unmask them to find some of the tulku‘s monks. The nearby Chinese garrison shows up, Werner talks the party and Nazis out of trouble and gets them all medical attention. They then attempt to get the truth out of the captured monks and learn that they believe the Eye should not be found, as it could fall into the wrong hands. One monk urges Cointreau to kill Werner and Zelansky — to save the world. He also lets slip that there is another force in the mountains they are worried about, a place called Shanking.

Shanking, Pin-Lee tells them, is the birthplace of the world, a place of intense and ancient power. He doesn’t know where it is…no one does! But if Shanking is involved, this can’t be good.

Cointreau attempts to seduce (literally) information from one of the monks — the Vril that was left here after the Hollow Earth phased out of the Earth to become Atlantia. With the Vril monk now one his back side, Cointreau is ready to try and find this Shanking…but they are locked into the monks cell by another of the Tibetan contingent!

We ended there for the night…

TIBETAN MASTIFF

1024px-Zangao.jpgA breed of dog used by Western Chinese and Tibetans for shepherding duties and as a guarddog, these canines weigh in between 120-150lbs, with the largest examples running 250 lbs. They typically stand waist high.

ATTRIBUTES: Body 3, Dexterity 3, Strength 3, Charisma 0, Intelligence 1, Willpower 4 SECONDARY ATTRIBUTES: Size 0, Move 6, Perception 5 (7*), Initiative 4, Defense 6,     Stun 3, Health 6; SKILLS: Athletics 6, Brawl 6, Survival 3; TALENTS: Keen Senses (*Adds +2 to Perception); FLAWS: Bestial (It’s a dog…); WEAPONS: Bite 7L

(It’s weird — there’s no DOG listed in the bestiary in Mysteries of the Hollow Earth, so I took a Dire Wolf and stepped it down. SCR)

While they are referred to in the various books for Hollow Earth Expedition, there’s no actual write-up for the classic Tibet/Nepal monster, the yeti. So let’s rectify that:

YETI

The meh-teh (man-bear) or “yeti” is an alleged humanoid creature that haunts the Himalayas and surrounding area. In 1921, a Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury coined the name “Abominable Snowman” after sighting human-like footprints for a creature much larger than a man in the snow during his expedition to Mount Everest. The name has stuck in the West. There is some thinking that they might be related to the mythic White Ape of the Congo, or the Apemen the Ansom-Bose Expedition of 1933 encountered in the Interior World.

Archetype: Beastman     Motivation: Survival

Body: 3   Dexterity: 2   Strength: 4   Charisma: 1   Intelligence: 2   Willpower: 2

Size: 1   Move: 6   Perception: 4   Initiative: 4   Defense: 6   Stun: 3   Health: 6

Skills: Athletics 8, Brawl 8, Stealth 4 (6*), Survival 4 (Mountains 5)

Talents: Excellent Smell (+2 Perception using smell), Thick Coat (Provides a +1 Defense and gives a +2 dice to Stealth in snow)

Flaws: Primitive (-2D to all technology-related tests)

Yeti.TombOfTheDragonEmperor.jpg

Game this week saw the party in a race against the Ahnenerbe goons under Oberstrumbahnfuhrer Werner to get to Jyekundo in western China and find a tulku named Chudak. The monk was a confidant of the late 13th Dalai Lama and is on his mission to find the reincarnation. This is taking him to meet the 9th Panchen Lama, a “guest” of the Republic of China in that far-away city. The reason? Chudak may know the location of the Eye of Shambala, the mystical gate that once allowed access to the Hollow Earth, and which they assume will allow transport to the Second Earth, Atlantia (or the “Ghost World” as people in China are calling it.”

The group took off in Rudy, the Douglas RD-3 Dolphin the Sky Rats operate, but they are up against the superior Boeing 247D of one of the local cargo haulers the Nazis contracted. The Boeing is faster — with a cruise speed equal to Rudy‘s top speed of 150mph, and with another 70-80 miles in range. The plus for the Dolphin is she’s a seaplane — the chances of landing and finding fuel are better it they take a course along the Yangtse…something the Boeing can’t do.

There was some character building — Pin-Li, the martial artist and stunt man, taking care of his friend Cointreau, showing the compassion under the brazen arrogance of the fighter. Both these men had never flown, and the experience of launching and flying over Shanghai, then seeing the stars without the light pollution of the city, really gets to Pin-Li. While the Boeing pushes hard to get to Xi’an, the first real airport past Nanking, “Irish” O’Bannon is able to firewall the old seaplane for Wuhan, then Chunking. The Nazis will not be able to get to Xi’an until midnight-ish; the airfield will be closed and they won’t be able to get fuel until 0600 or so, O’Bannon knows. For the characters, they get to Wuhan by 2100, and just manage to get fuel before the port master locks the pumps. They are back in the air shortly afterward and land in Changdu (at the suggestion of the port master in Wuhan) — trimming 100 miles off their trip — by just after midnight. The tiny airfield is closed and dark, but Cointreau picks the padlock on the fuel pumps, which have to be cranked manually, and they arrive at their destination just after sunrise. They have the choice of a landing on the shallow river or the fields in the valley surrounding the monastery.

monastery.jpeg

They are met by a force of KMT soldiers under Senior Subaltern (a captain) Ma Wushan and a platoon of men on horseback, and after some difficulty in communicating — the soldiers are speaking Szechuan dialect, and the characters all have Mandarin. Finally, however, the Sky Rats’ official standing with the ROC air force allows them to settle the concerns of the local garrison of soldiers and they try to poison the well, so to speak, against the arrival of the Nazis, claiming they are interested in harming the Panchen Lama. However, the Germans are big supporters of the Chinese army, both in training and weapons, so they are unsuccessful there.

They get an audience with the lama, inform him of the German intent to find the tulku, but the monk thinks it is unlikely the Germans will kidnap the man on Chinese soil. However, the Kampu tribesmen of the area might be a danger; they were in open revolt against Lhasa a few years ago. During their meeting and discussing the Eye of Shambala, a junior monk (very tall and pale) opines that perhaps moving the Eye was a good idea and it should stay hidden…to keep both worlds safe. Look at what happened a few years ago — the expeditions to the interior world turned it inside out and make a new planet!

It turns out this monk is a Vril — a simple ship captain whose vessel was twisted by the passage of the Interior World/Atlantia through the Earth. He was dropped on the steppes nearby and rescued by the monks. He has spent three years enduring nights — he misses the every-burning sun. Maybe the Eye should remain hidden.

The Nazis show up and Werner plays his usual, “why don’t we cooperate?” schtick he used to good effect in the last campaign. The party slips away to check on the availability of fuel for the plane, which is low on juice and can barely make Chengdu in the south. The Germans are probably in the same boat, and the characters considered stealing gas from the other plane or sabotaging it, but the owner is a Chinese aviator, and the Sky Rats’ mission is the protection of Chinese air traffic…they convince the pilot to “have engine trouble” should the Nazis find the tulku first in exchange for some protection on a future smuggling run into Manchuria. There’s no extra gas — the soldiers have to crank their radios just to power them to call the main force of the 2nd Army.

The characters wound up buying Riwoche ponies to take out onto the steppes, to try and find the tulku. Zelansky has TOTAL RECALL as a trait, so he remembers the itinerary of the monk’s party. How hard could it be to find a dozen monks on the Tibetan Plateaus in “spring”..? We ended with the party heading out into the wide, barren grasslands of the China/Tibet border, with the Nazis (it is assumed) right behind them.

Riwoche_Pinterest-1024x676.jpgRiwoche ponies — the official transport of bumf**k China.

Last night we picked up our Hollow Earth Expedition game after a fantastic batch of spaghetti (seriously…) right on the heels of the Astor House Job. We opened with a rainy, foggy morning in Shaghai, with Anton Vietch — the young Serbian inventor and mechanic for the Sky Rats taking his Mk I coilgun for a test run. One of the elements of the character is that he is the total gun bunny — perpetually trying to find “the best” to over come his flaw CAN’T SHOOT (which gives his Firearms skill a -2D.) He runs through the 10 shot battery charge and absolutely destroys the old post he’s using for practice. The gunshots (the rounds break the sound barrier hard enough that strange tongues of fire and conical air disruptions are easily visible) and Vietch exultation at finally finally having hit something bring the flyers out to watch. At the end of it, Vietch gets some operating cash from Colonel “Captain Joe” Porter to develop one for their aricraft — the whole system is lighter than their .30 cals and 20mm cannons, one you add in ammo.

Cut to Edmund Zelansky, PhD and head of “The Atlanta Project” — one of the main programs for the newly-formed Office of Scientific Investigations. He had contracted for the B&E on his German competition, Obersturmbahnfuhrer George Werner of the Ahnenerbe. With the photos from the Minox Riga spy camera developed, they piece together the Nazis’ intentions in China:

Werner is here at the express orders of Reichfuhrer Heinrich Himmler of the SS to find and either abduct (or convince the Chinese to do so for the Nazis) a tulku from Tibet, Rinchen Chudak. This holy man had been one of the 13th Dalai Lama’s confidants and was the man who convinced him to allow the first team of explorers through the Eye of Shambala. The Nazis think it is the key to getting to the Second Earth, Atlantia (once the “hollow earth” or “interior world”…) Werner had tried to convince the Tibetans to let their science teams use the Eye, but it has been hidden away. Chudak most likely knows where it is, but he has not left the Potala Palace until just a few weeks ago, leading one of a dozen teams into southwest China to try and find the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Zelansky immediatley sets off to gather his team!

Cut to Marcel Cointreau, famous actor of the Shanghai cinema scene, and secretly the cat burglar known as “the Fox.” He wakes in pain, his leg and arm bandaged from his close escape from the Shanghai Municipal Police the night before. He is on a rickety boat, one of the hundreds that make up a boat town on the Whangpoo River. This is the Pin-Yun Bang — the boat people that his friend Pin-Lee Cheng belongs to. He has gotten medical care for his injuries, and Cheng is upset he almost got himself killed. The martial artist and stunt man suspects over the gold sovereign in his pocket. He stole from the Nazi last night, didn’t he?

Worse, his drop off of the spy camera and film had been mistaken by the cleaning staff for a burglary attempt. He had almost been cornered by the police, but managed to effect his escape, nearly passing out at the wheel of “the Bullet”, his stripped down Delage D8S barchetta. Now it’s all over The Shanghai Times and Le Jounal de Shanghai — he was prevented from his robbery by a Sikh policeman and is injured. Hospitals are on the look out for him, and even the French garde municipal, which ignores crimes committed in the International Settlement, are looking for “the Fox’s dark, fast escape vehicle.” (Which is currently under a tarp amongst other trade goods and boxes the boat people have along the quay.) It might be time to take a break, the martial artists suggests.

After breakfast and some opium to dull the pain, they take a rickshaw to pick up his normal Delage touring car from his hideout in the Native City and head back to his place so he can rest.

Menawhile, Zelansky takes a rickshaw to find his people only to have an unexpected guest jump in while waiting at an intersection. It’s Werner, and he’s very pleased to meet Zelansky. He makes some light small talk about looking for the Chinese Secondhand Store to buy the ladies back home some gifts from the Orient…oh, is he getting use of the information his thief stole? The man was quite good — only two mistakes, and only one really let Werner know the game was on. He stole a gold sovereign from his briefcase; a trophy, he supposes. Anyway, he just wanted to meet his opposite number and let him know the score — out of professional courtesy. He then dismounted at the next stop light and went back to the Mercedes that had been tailing them.

Zelansky’s rickshaw, meanwhile, had passed the Cathay Hotel, where he missed Flight Lieutenant Declan “Irish” O’Bannon, with Captain Joe and Ting Mai, their resident Chinese aviatrix, entering the place. they are hear to meet Madam Chiang, the wife of the generalissimo and the curent head of the Aeronautics Bureau. Their boss. The Japanese have lodged a formal complaint and are making “act of war” noises over their strafing the IJN Tokozuru. She understands their bloods were up after their comrade was killed a week ago by a Japanese naval air patrol near Tsingtao, and they did what they were hired to do: protect Chinese trade. The Republic of China has responded that the Japanese were engaged in blatant aggression and piracy against legitimate shipping in Chinese waters. They are, however, using the Sky Rat’s mercenary status to distance China from the actions of the Foreign Volunteer Force (the Sky Rats.) The FVF will be fined for their actions, and she suggests the Ting and O’Bannon lie low for a few weeks.

Zelansky can’t find Cointreau, and when he goes to the Longhwa Airfield, Irish is gone and so is Captain Joe, but Vietch returns a few minutes later from his shopping trip to pick up the materials to make a new coilgun. Intrigued by his work, Zelansky and he work out some of the issues together and build a vehicular version of the weapon with a fast-charging capacitor for full-auto fire. Now to put it on a bird and test it!

Cointreau drives hom only to find there are goons from the British gangster “Diamond Jim” Greer. Greer is upset at the large amount of money he lost to the Frenchman at Pin-Lee’s fight the day before; his henchmen are there to get “something” back.  They spot each other and the chase is on! The heavy, but supercharged straight-8 powered Delage has the serious edge on the gangsters’ Citroën 7CV Traction Avant Berline (with a four banger generating 34hp!) but Cointreau is flying high on the Royal Oil, there’s traffic, and the ground is slick from the rains which favors the front-wheel drive Citroën. They race through the streets of the International Settlement and around the Recreation Grounds, the mooks blasting a .38 special at the car. Five round go into the trunk of the Delage (only one actually penetrates), and one almost hits Cointreau through the window.

A sudden clear spot allows him to use the supercharger and dodge the thick traffic, but the Citroën isn’t so lucky, bouncing off of the electric tram in the middle of the road and doing a 360 through a manure cart and its horse. He admits, Pin-Lee’s right; time to get out of Shanghai for a few days.

Everyone finally gets together at the Sky Rats’ HQ and Zelansky lays out the next mission. they have to beat Werner to the province of Qinghai, run by a Chinese Muslim socialist general from the highly powerful “Ma Clique”, and save the tulku from the Nazis. And hopefully find out where the Eye of Shambala is. The town they need to go to is Jyekundo — about 1300 miles west. That’s a 13 hour flight (the equivalent of some of the endurance racing airplanes are doing), if they had the teams and waypoints ready. Much of the interior is like going back to the medieval period! However, Werner is supposedly going by boat. that will take him 10 days. Even with stops to fuel and rest, they can fly there in two days.

They are taking the Douglas RD-3 Dolphin seaplane for the mission. It can hold six passengers and their gear, and can land just about anywhere. they decide to big up the new Mk II coilgun to the forward hatch, just in case. By sunset, they are ready. As they are working, they realize that a large group of men, 10 or so, are loading onto the Boeing 247D that one of the local cargo haulers operates. It’s Werner and he team. This race is already shaping up to be a lot tighter than they expected!

The two teams take off at about the same time, into a clearing red sky. Who will win!?!

The first part of the adventure, the Astor House Job, took a bit longer than I’d intended the other night, but the character bits — the gambling on Pin-Lee that led to a new foil in Diamond Jim, the getting shot by the police and the feeling of the law closing in, and the having to have a prize from the break-in — allowed Cointreau’s player to build a bunch of new issues for the team. The Nazis know they are onto them and that has led to a straight up race to Qinghai. There’s a completely unrelated threat from a low-level gangster and fight promoter. We got to see Pin-Lee’s boat people and also see the usually abrasive and arrogant fighter (based on the very young and cocky Bruce Lee) acting with reverence and respect for his elders. We’ve got weird science!

For only the fourth night, the campaign is running well and has easily found its footing and pace. I’m right chuffed.

Oh — new gear:

Douglas RD-3 Dolphin

The Dolphin seaplane is being used by the US president as an air yacht, and the US Navy and Coast Guard both use them for search and rescue. The Vanderbilt family has two. The aircraft is powered by twin Pratt-Whitney R-1340-1 9-cylinder rotary engines, it can seat six passengers, and has a range of about 680 miles with a ceiling of 15,000 feet. The FVF has one for cargo and observation flights called Rudy.

Douglas_OA-3_Dolphin_in_water_1930s.jpg

Rudy, a Douglas RD-3 Dolphin: Size 4   Def 4   Str 12   Spd 150   Han 0   Crew 2   Pass 6

The Vietch MK II coilgun: See the MK I coilgun except this one is tied to a vehicular-mounted battery and alernator set-up that fast charges the coil capacitors. The stats are the same, except the Rng is 500′, Cap is 500 (a hopper of 12mm ball bearings), and the Rate is A. If unplugged from the vehicle, it’s a Mk I gun.

The Citroën 7CV Traction Avant: Size 2   Def 4   Str 8   Spd 60   Han 0   Crew 1   Pass 3

The 7CV came in a two and four door version (the Berline) and was powered by a 4-cylinder motor with a three speed (on the dash!) front wheel drive transmission. Because of this it has one of the most comfortable cabins, with no transmission channel in the center of the car.

7cv.jpg

7cv interior.jpg

Note the gear shift just right of the steering wheel.

Here’s an NPC that is featured in The Queen of the Orient sourcebook for Fate and Ubiquity. In the course of last night’s play, I threw in a bit of character development that came directly from a Facebook video, of all things. In it, she’s climbing out of her cockpit and snags her Mauser M1932 Schnellfeuer broomhandle. It’s a select-fire “carbine” where the wooden stock/holster turns the pistol into a short-barreled rifle. she leaves it in this configuration because inside the stock is another Mauser M1932 broomhandle.

I can’t embed the video, but here’s the link (https://www.facebook.com/Anthonysfirearmwarehouse/videos/1911688675513828/)