Knout is Russian for a type of scourge or whip. Often they had multiple rawhide thongs attached to a stout and long handle (like a cat o’ nine tails), but could also be a single, whip body that was less flexible than a bullwhip; these were more like oversized saps. These were used to punish criminals and political offenders until their use was abolished in 1845, and replaced with that of the pletti.

A variation, known as the great knout, consisted of a handle about 60 cm (24 in) long, to which was fastened a flat leather thong about twice the length of the handle, terminating with a large copper or brass ring to which was affixed a strip of hide about 5 cm (2 in) broad at the ring, and terminating at the end of 60 cm (24 in) in a point. This was soaked in milk and dried in the sun to make it harder. some versions replaced the lead shot or iron rings at the ends with fish hooks.

cossack knout

The pletti was a shorter, triple thonged knot that usually had lead balls woven into the ends.

knout

Knout or pletti:   Damage: 1N   Range: 6′   Str: 1   Spd: A

Great knout:   Damage: 1N (1L hooks version)   Range: 10′   Str: 1   Spd: A

 

This car was spotted in the garage of the man fixing their plane. It started with a toss off line about a beautiful Alfa with a Zagato body…little did I know that a few of these existed. And they’re gorgeous. So here it is, presented for the Ubiquity system:

1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Zagato Spyder

This 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport is from the fifth series of production and wears coachwork by Zagato, and is equipped with a superchanged 1750cc six-cylinder engine that provided 85 horsepower at 4400 rpm. In reality, it was first registered on August 10th of 1931 in the village of Saint Varent in Southwest France to Baron Phillipe de Gunzbourg and he owned it until about 1935. He used it for racing and hill climbing events.

31-Alfa-6C-1750_GS_DV-12-PBC_020

31-Alfa-6C-1750_GS_DV-12-PBC_025

31-Alfa-6C-1750_GS_DV-12-PBC_a05

Size: 2   Def: 6   Str: 6   Spd: 100 mph   Rng: 180 mi. Han: +2   Crew: 1   Pass: 1   Cost: $5000

This week’s play centered on the player that had been absent last week, and the introduction of a new player into the group. Most of the evening was character interaction, with the leader of the crew — Zara — going to a swanky jazz club, Maxim, for the evening with an old boyfriend. She encounters the new character, John Hunter, an agent of Terra Arcanum who has been tasked with keeping Dr. Gould safe and out of the wrong hands…

Maxim was a popular jazz joint near the embassies in the Pera District (Pera Palace was the most ritzy of the hotels, at the time), a section of Istabul that was also known for being a bit “rough”, much like the International Settlement of Shanghai. In many ways, the two cities parallel each other at this time: high levels of new immigration, with those populations being refugees from Russia (and after 1933, Germany and Eastern Europe.) The big players in the underground are White Russians, and Jewish refugees from various places. Maxim was run by an American black man, the son of Mississippi slaves who had emigrated to Russia, then fled to Turkey, where he wound up running the club.

We had it as the cynosure of jazz and expatriate culture — American and German performers, the infamous Greek opuim kings — the Eliopoulous brothers, Jewish academics recently arrived from Germany… During the course of the evening, Zara encounters Pavel Rabinowitz, the head of the ring that aided the other players last week, and Olga, the knout-weilding Ukrainian girl. He was doing her the courtesy of letting her know the boys were alive and well, and what they were up to.

Eventually, during the course of play, Hunter was able to gain enough trust to be invited along for the ride, and to my surprise, they also decided to enlist Olga in their exploits.

Next up — plane trips, India, and Tibet!

One of the NPCs introduced last time that seems to have caught the players’ attention. They have recruited her into their company…

Olga Markova

olgaOlga Markov was born in Kiev in 1909. Her father and mother ran a tailor’s shop and were solidly middle-class for the Russian Empire. Her father dabbled in socialism, and he was active in helping to fund legal aid for Jews that were targeted by the legal system, but never got into trouble himself. During the Great War, the family was able to avoid terrible hardship until the October Revolution in 1917. The Ukrainian  People’s Republic was formed and her father was a member of the Ministry for Jewish Affairs. When the Soviets came, he quickly joined the Yevsektsiya — the Bolshevik organization designed to eradicate Jewish culture and Zionist movements — to protect his family.

Her father was a traitor in many Russian Jews’ eyes, and despite his best efforts, when the Yevsektsiya was disbanded in 1929, he fell afoul of the NKVD for having been a supporter of Trotsky. He and his wife were executed, and Olga’s older brother David was sent to Siberia. She, on the other hand, had attracted the attention of Mikhail Ruslan — one of the local NKVD officers, who “rescued” her, making her his consort for several years, and it is rumored, worked on turning her into an agent of the state.

She was able to escape Ruslan’s clutches by setting him up for a squad of Jewish assassins from the Rabinowitz Group during a trip to the Crimean seaside. They were not successful in killing him, but Olga finished the job for them, and thus gained her ride to Istanbul with the few surviving assassins in 1931. She is one of the most effective killers the group has…very few see her coming.

She is tall at 5’8″, with a cold, unemotional demeanor. She rarely, if ever, lets her guard drop. The aloofness seems to make her highly attractive and often men underestimate her talent for violence. Those that know her reputation find her terrifying, partl for her preference for the knout — a kind of whip that was popular with tsarist landowners, and now with some NKVD agents.

Archetype: Spy     Motivation: Revenge     Health: 5     Style: 4

Body: 2, Dexterity: 3, Strength: 2, Charisma: 3, Intelligence: 2, Willpower: 3

Size: 0, Move: 5, Perception: 5, Initiative: 5, Defense: 5, Stun: 2

Resources: Rank 1 — Rabinowitz Group

Talents: Finesse Attack, Systema and Melee

Flaws: Callous, Criminal, Hunted, NKVD

Languages: Russian & Yiddish (native), German, Hebrew

Skills: Acrobatics 1/4, Athletics 2/4, Con 2/5, Diplomacy 1/4, Firearms 2/5, Investigation 2/4, Linguistics 2/4, Martial Arts (Systema) 2/5, Melee 2/5, Performance, Acting 1/4, Stealth 2/5, Survival 2/4

Weapons: Knout     Damage: 1N   Attack Rating: 6N   Rng: 8’   Rate: 1   Spd: A

cossack knout

 

We had a new player join us this evening, so I had whipped up a character that could drop in quick and easy with the existing group…

John Hunter

Born in 1901 as Giovanni Cacciatore, he is the son of Genoese immigrants to Philadelphia, PA. His family chose to change their names to something more “American” when they arrived in 1908. His father, Frank, is a shipping clerk in the South Philadelphia Docks and is the “go-to man” for getting things in and out of the country quietly. John grew up on Carpenter Street, getting into trouble and running wild. He quickly picked up various talents — pickpocketing, lockpicking, and smuggling among them. Caught red handed in 1917, he was given the choice of joining the military or jail time. He joined the US Marine Corps and served in France. After the war, he remained in Paris where his sticky-fingered skills were appreciated. He had a reputation for specializing in antiquities. After a strange incident involving an ancient and esoteric object, and a mysterious “lost island” in the Indian Ocean, he was recruited by the Terra Arcanum as an agent in 1927 and rose to “overseer” in 1930.

Archetype: Spy     Motivation: Mystery     Health: 5     Style: 5

Body: 2, Dexterity: 3, Strength: 2, Charisma; 3, Intelligence: 3, Willpower: 3

Size: 0, Move: 5, Perception: 6, Initiative: 6, Defense: 5, Stun: 2

Resources: Contacts 1: smugglers, Mentor 2: Douglas VanMeer, PhD (and Master in Terra Arcanum), Rank: Overseer, Terra Arcanum

Traits: Agile, Atlanean Language

Flaws: Curious, Hunted, Secret (member of the Terra Arcanum), Vow (same)

Languages: Italian (native); English, Greek, Spanish

Skills: Academics, History 1/4, Acrobatics 2/5, Athletics 2/4, Brawl 2/4, Bureaucracy 2/5, Con 2/5, Craft, Mechanics 1/4, Diplomacy 1/4, Drive 1/4, Firearms 2/5, Investigation 2/5, Larceny 3/6, Linguistics 2/5, Melee 2/4, Ride 1/4, Stealth 2/5, Streetwise 2/5, Survival 1/4

Weapon: Colt Detective .38 special, knife

Recently, Runeslinger (aka Anthony Boyd) — a regular commenter here at Black Campbell did a nice video interview with Jeff Combos, the grand panjandrum at Exile Games and creator of Hollow Earth Expedition and the Ubiquity system. Here’s the interview for those interested…

Some of the comments I found interesting were in regard to the notion of a Ubiquity 2.0. At the time Hollow Earth Expedition released, Fate hadn’t quite taken off, as Spirit of the Century was released about the same time. When it came out, Ubiquity felt very streamlined and unique. Even though it is a dice pool system, it avoids some of the traps of the ’90s dice pool games with the “take the average” mechanic, fitting the goal of less dice, less often. Still, as it has aged, the system feels…old school, and I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly what it is that has been bothering me about the game mechanics.

The first thing is combat. Where the rest of the game has a nice stripped down sort of feel — roll the dice or take the average and beat a target number of successes — combat has a very late ’80s/early ’90s “crunchiness” that is anachronistic, but also overly punitive to the players. Special maneuvers, aimed shots, off-hand use of something, ranges all incur — inevitably — a -2 penalty that stacks. Partly, this is to keep the math looking clean, but it’s also unnecessary for a pulp game.

One of the things that would make combat move faster is to have the GM set the difficult differently, instead of mucking with the number of dice you roll. Longer range? Add a difficulty level. Maybe shooting at a longer range in the rain…add two difficulty. Keep it simple. The rules system is roughly 10 pages long. Combat adds another seventeen. Much of that is dealing with the modifiers discussed above. I would suggest a good house rule is to set the difficulty at an appropriate level, or in the case of beating something’s Defense, maybe add a die or two based on conditions. Keep it simple, instead of having modifiers for every manner of blow, grapple, etc.

The second thing that stood out: Resources and Talents are very expensive, in relation to skills. For a genre where “having a schtick” is important, I think lowering the cost of these from 15 points to something like 7 or 8 would be appropriate. However, I think a reworking of the R&T rules, and a strengthening of the Flaws rules might be in order — maybe something closer to how Fate works with their Aspects. A flat benefit or penalty under certain circumstances, instead of having the player be able to stack multiple levels of, say, Knockout Blow; make them cheaper and the benefits fixed at +1 or +2.

Third, the Size rules are interesting, and designed to make large creatures easy to deal with, but the logarithmic nature, where the Size number doubles within certain ranges makes for some confusion for those who want to make new vehicles and the like. (An issue recently illustrated by our guest post on the Aerial flyers in Space: 1889.) Again, the size rules look to be part of the goal of keeping the die numbers regular, aiding the take the average notion, but it’s always been one of the stickier parts of the rules, in my opinion.

So there were a few quick thoughts on where Ubiquity might need a bit of attention in the event of a second edition. The ideas not fully formed, but those seemed to be the most obvious points of systemic weakness, in my opinion.

Born in 1894 to a line of very log-lived and accomplished Sephardic Jews in Barcelona, he was the first of three sons. His father was a surgeon, and his mother a concert pianist. He followed his father into medicine, training as a doctor and surgeon at the Universidid de Madrid in 1912 and graduating in 1916. He was one of the first doctors to be required to have a residency, which he did under his father’s tutelage at the Hospital del Mar.

He had several strikes against him in his early life: Jewish, socialist, and most damning, he “seduced” the daughter of the Marquise de Azaña, Inez. H met her at a performance of Don Giovanni in 1924, and the coupe fell madly in love. Their tryst was discovered by her brother, Manuel Azaña y Vega — a highly-placed member of the Civil Guard, who brought him up on false charges. He was given the option of exile or trial, and he has been on the move ever since, plying his services in various places.

After the collapse of the military junta in 1931, he thought he might be able to return home, only to be nearly murdered by the police. He fled to Equatorial Guinea as a company doctor for the Empressa Maderera Ecuatorial, a mining company in the mountains.

He is exceptionally well-read and educated, an excellent and experienced trauma surgeon, and is very well traveled.

Archetype: Doctor   Motivation: Escape   Style: 5   Health: 5

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

Size: 0, Move: 5, Perception: 7, Initiative: 7, Defense: 5, Stun: 2

Resources:

Traits: Agile, Atlantean Blood, Intelligent, Skill Mastery (Academics and Science), Weird Science (Biology)

Flaws: Addiction (alcohol), Condescending, Hunted, Weirdness Magnet

Languages: Spanish and Hebrew (native); Arabic, English, French, German, Portuguese

Skills: Academics 2/6, Art, Music 1/4, Athletics 2/4, Bureaucracy 2/6, Con 2/5, Diplomacy 2/5, Drive 1/4, Firearms 1/4, Larceny 1/4, Linguistics 4/8, Medicine 3/7, Performance, Piano 1/4, ride 1/4, Science 2/6, Stealth 1/4, Streetwise 3/6, Survival 1/5

Weapon: Colt Detective Special .38 special 2″ barrel — Damage 2L   Rng: 50′   Cap: 6 (r)   Rate: M   Spd: A; Mauser M1898 7mm bolt-action rifle — Damage: 3L   Rng: 100′   Cap: 5(c)   Rate: M   Spd: A

 

Born in 1903 in Strasbourg to a doctor and Lutheran missionary, Carl Hassenfeldt, and his wife, Maria, Gustav is an only child. The family moved to German East Africa in 1907 and had a farm on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. During the Great War, his father was conscripted into the schutztruppen as a medical officer. Maria and Gustav were placed under house arrest, and a company of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps occupied the farm. After the end of the war, the family were allowed to remain in the colony until they were expelled by the colonial governor in 1922.

The family moved to Germany during the height of the political and economic instability. Their home was now in French hands, and they lived in Berlin for a few years before his parents left for America, settling in New Braunfels, Texas in 1926. Gustav did not go with them, but instead struck out as a guide and hunter, eventually returning to Africa.

For the last six years, he has developed a reputation as an excellent guide, an impeccably honest man, and a tremendous shot. He has climbed mountains and hunted on four continents, but is best known for his work in Africa.

Archetype: Hunter   Motivation: Fame   Style: 4   Health: 6

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

Size: 0   Move: 5   Perception: 5   Initiative: 5   Defense: 5   Stun: 3

Resources: Contacts 1: +2 social tests with hunting community; Fame 1: +2 social tests adventuring communities

Talents: Long Shot, Rapid Shot, Robust

Flaws: Cautious, Danger Magnet, Honorable

Languages: German (native); English, Swahili

Skills: Animal Handling 3/5, Athletics 3/5, Brawl 3/5, Bureaucracy 2/4, Diplomacy 2/4, Drive 1/4, Firearms 3/6 (Rifle +1), Linguistics 3/5, Ride 2/5, Stealth 2/5, Streetwise 2/4, Survival 3/5 (Hunting +1)

Weaponry: Westley-Richards .452 Double Rifle — Damage 5L   Rng: 250′   Cap: 2   Rate: M   Spd: A; Griffin & Howe .375 Magnum Mauser w/ 5x Heinsoldt scope — Damage 5L Rng: 400′   Cap: 5(c)   Rate: M   Spd: A; Winchester M1912 12 gauge pump shotgun cut to 15″ barrel — Damage: 4L   Rng: 25′   Cap: 5(i)   Rate: M   Spd: A

 

While similar to its successor, the S-38, the Sikorsky S-36 is featured in our current campaign, so here it is in all its subdued glory…

Bernadette, a 1927 Sikorsky S-36 Air Yacht

The S-36 is an eight-seat flying boat first debuted in 1927, and produced for Pan American Airlines. The S-36 improved on the S-34 with room for two more passengers, double the range (with a typical range of about 750 miles, although this can be extended with extra gas tanks lashed under the wings, on top of the cabin), and Wright Whirlwind J-5 radial motors producing a total of 400hp. Like the S-34 and its successor, the S-38, these airplanes featured a boat hull fuselage that was connected to the wing and tail structure by a trellis frame. The S-36 features retractable wheels for ground landings.

Only six of these craft were built before the improved S-38 entered service in 1928.

817-1

Passengers face each other in bench seats, which face fore and aft. Bernadette began life as a Pan Am short hop airplane — she is #5 of six built, and has registry number G-AAER. Her owner, Lady Ansom-Bose, has pulled one of the bench seats to make room for a drinks cabinet near the back of the cabin, so the aircraft can only hold four passengers, now.

Size: 8   Def: 4   Str: 8   Speed: 120mph   Ceiling: 15,000′   Range: 750mi.**   Han: -2   Crew: 2   Pass: 4   Cost: $5,000 (used)

** With the external tanks for fuel, Bernadette has a range of 900mi. and a ceiling of 14,500′.

The daughter of Colonel Lord Athlestan Ansom of the Survey Corps of the Indian Army,  and his wife Emma neé Devon, Margaret was born in 1905 and raided in India until 1918, with end of the Great War. Her father had served in the war in the Palestinian Campaign and was killed in action. Her mother died a few months after they arrived in England from the Spanish Influenza. She was send to live with her eccentric uncle, Lord Trevor Ansom, a lecturer in antiquities at Oxford, and a veteran of the Great War (he served in France.) She was a student of Miss Wimplecote’s School for Girls.

Trevor dragged her all over the world looking into folklore, rumors, and myths — Egypt, India, Mexico, and South America. As a result, Margaret — who styles herself “Zara” — is a woman of action and independence, often given to wanderlust. She is a “modern woman” — a product of the ’20s flapper era: sex, drugs, booze, and music. In 1925, she learned to fly from a handsome Italian chap while living in Africa. She began her career as an aviatrix with the purchase of a used, surplus Sopwith Pup until she crashed it in 1929 during a bad landing at Croydon Airfield.

All this came to an end with the Crash of 1929, which cleaned out the Ansom fortunes. To preserve their lifestyle, Zara married American oil tycoon George Bose of Texas in 1930. He bought her a used Sikorsky S-36 “air yacht” she calls Bernadette. The marriage quickly came apart between her constant traveling and carousing, and his intense work schedules and philandering. They recently divorced (amicably) and are still friendly. (She especially appreciates that alimony check every month!)

Archetype: Adventuress     Motivation: Escape     Style: 6     Health: 5

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

Size: 0   Move: 5   Perception: 6   Initiative: 5   Defense: 4   Stun: 2

Resources: Artifact 2: Bernadette, a Sikorsky S-36; Follower 0: Rigoletto, a capuchin monkey; Refuge: Higgsdown House, Sussex; Status 1: +2 social tests in English society; Wealth: $400 [£80]/mo.

Traits: Attractive

Flaws: Curious, Deep Sleeper, Loyal, Scandalous, Thrillseeker

Languages: English (native); French, German, Hindi, and Spanish

Vehicle: Bernadette, Sikorsky S-36 — Size: 8   Def: 4   Str: 8   Speed: 120   Han: -2   Crew: 2   Pass: 6   Ceiling: 16,000′ Rng: 750 mi.;

Austin Seven — Size: 2   Def: 4   Str: 6   Speed: 50   Han: 0   Crew: 1   Pass: 3   Cost: $500 [£100]

Weapon: Astra “Ruby” .32 — Damage: 2L   Rng; 25′   Cap: 7 (m)   Rate: M   Spd: A

Rigoletto

Archetype: 3 yr. old Capuchin monkey   Motivation: Survival

Body: 1   Dexterity: 3   Strength: 1   Charisma: 0   Intelligence: 1   Willpower: 3

Size: -1   Move: 4   Perception: 4   Initiative: 4   Defense: 6   Stun: 1   Health: 2

Style — Zara can use style points for Rigoletto

Skills: Acrobatics 2/5, Brawl 2/3, Larceny 1/4, Stealth 2/6, Survival 3/4

Flaws: Near Human — cannot communicate, but can use tools

Weapons: Bite 2L, Claws 1N