Last week was supposed to see the final episode of the Hollow Earth Expedition serial I’ve been running. the characters had found the lost Illuminati treasure — a large (for the 1770s) library that had been sealed in a brick vault under 36 Craven Street in the middle of a pentagram of tunnels and catacombs. The interior was lined with lead glass and lead cells, hermetically sealed by Franklin, to protect them against the floods from the Thames and the ravages of time. He was about 50% successful — half the material is intact — but the lower tier is destroyed and under a layer of slime covered water.

That’s when the bad guys show up, in this case members of the British Union of Fascists. Their leader is a Richard Edwards, the head of the Phoenix Club — a 1930s descendent of the infamous Hellfire Club and the place where the Scottish lord whose journal started the journey was murdered. The requisite fight ensued which wound up with Edwards being captured and his men run off. They find out that he is in the employ of Ariel Smythe, the femme fatale of the piece, who is currently on a liner steamer her way back to Europe. Their mission was follow the characters and when they found the treasure, nick it.

I had planned on the characters either vanquishing the baddies entirely, destroying or sealing the treasure back up, but that didn’t happen. What did happen was a humorous and long sequence of screw-ups and threat/counterthreats that got increasingly more Laurel & Hardy in character. In the end, a bunch of the mooks ran off and they had their master trussed up in the underground and one of the mooks — a giant, strong, and mildly retarded fellow had switched sides after they had rescued him from the muck at the bottom of the treasure vault.

The characters decide to use the Mongo to find more workers and grab the bits of the library they can right then. they arrange to get a truck and that’s when things go from bad to worse. The BUFs show back up in force — 30 or so, led by Sir Oswald Mosley, the head of the group. There is a tense standoff broken when Mosley negotiates with Drake: they take the 1/6th or so they’ve recovered and leave the rest to his men and no one gets killed. It’s all terribly civilized and a sharp break from the fisticuffs and gunfire of the rest of the serial. Why is Mosley so cavalier? It’s not his deal, it’s Ariel’s…he doesn’t care a whit for the treasure, only that his friends in Berlin do and it will earn him credit with der fuhrer and maybe get the BUFs more German support. Ariel will be upset she was cut out of the deal, but he couldn’t care less.

And the players loved it.

After the deal, they escape to the US embassy and stow the treasure with the authorities for transport back to America via diplomatic bag. They are intercepted the next morning by Lord George Mace, the new Earl of Inversnaid and son of the killed lord. He is a high-ranking member of the Freemasons here in Britain and is out for revenge on the men that killed his father…as well as to secure the treasure from getting to Germany.

So instead of wrapping the adventure, we have another chapter in the offing that I hadn’t planned for, new NPCs I hadn’t really fleshed out, and new action sequences to dream up. These are the hazards of GMing — not everything goes to plan, even when you know your players well, and you have to be ready to roll with it. In this case I was fortunate that the curveball the players threw me was near the end of the night. I have time to plan the next session, but when this happens in the middle of the session, the GM is forced to learn how to tap dance…and fast.

The one upside here: this is now a straight “capture the flag” style mission (think the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark), where the players have to stop the transport of the McGuffin and get it to their safe zone before the bad guys can do the same. It will be essentially a series of action sequences, rather than the action/exposition/action of the other episodes.

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