Sunday, 22 November 2015

Haw Haw (Trail of Cthulhu, Bookhounds of London)

Lord Haw Haw, like Tokyo Rose, was a propaganda broadcaster during the Second World War, who each night told the people of Britain that the war was a hopeless cause, and that Nazi victory was inevitable. There were several broadcasters who wore the Haw Haw mantle, but the one I'm interested in is William Joyce, who presents a unique opportunity for a Trail or Bookhounds Keeper. Theoretically he could also show up in a Night's Black Agents game, particularly if, in your Dracula Dossier, you're running the 1940s campaign. That's the great thing about the radio; it doesn't matter where you are. You don't have to find it. It will find you.

However from a Bookhounds perspective, the bit you're interested in is Joyce's pre-war career.

Though born in New York to Irish immigrants, Joyce's parents soon returned home to Galway, Ireland, where he spent his youth, and where he is now buried. Following what he claimed was an assassination attempt when he was fifteen, Joyce and his family went to England. Though he attempted to get into the army, he had to lie about his age to do it, and was soon found out. Denied entry to the military, he went back to school, and attended Birkbeck College at the University of London, hoping to go from there into officer training. While he was there he fell in with the British Fascists, thus beginning what was to become a lifelong obsession.

He was an enthusiastic campaigner from the first, and not just as a talking head. Front-line clashes with the political opposition were common in those days, and Joyce had his face slashed open in a brawl with Communist agitators. He claimed ever afterward that his attacker was a Jew. However for all his faults one thing Joyce didn't lack was physical courage, and he soon had a reputation as a brawler.

It was an age of street battles. Cable Street is the most notorious, with Stockton-on-Tees a close second. People fought with whatever they could get their hands on; it might be a chair leg, a chamber pot, or a thrown potato with a razor blade stuck in it. Confrontations tended to be violent and bloody, but with few, if any, fatalities. Joyce was in the thick of it. It was the kind of thing he enjoyed.

His great talent was for public speaking. He could electrify an audience, and soon became one of the British Union of Fascists' leading speakers. Under Sir Oswold Mosley, Joyce soon rose to great heights in the BUF, standing for Parliament under the Fascist banner, and ran the West Sussex branch of the party. Youth groups, rallies, public events, Blackshirt marches; Joyce turned West Sussex into a Fascist stronghold.

He maintained this position until 1937. He had hoped that, come the revolution, Mosley would make him Viceroy of India, but events turned out differently. The 1937 elections had been the party's goal, and it spent time and effort grooming candidates, only for its major political supporter, Lord Rothermere, to withdraw funding. Without its most influential backer, the BUF had to tell its supporters to abstain, and fight for fascism in the next election. Little did Mosley know what was to come; war would interrupt the electoral process, and there would be no election till 1945.

Without a victory in 1937, and lacking a big-money patron, Mosley had to cut back on BUF expenditure. One of those fired in the ensuing cuts was Joyce, who found himself at a loose end. Though he tried to stay in politics, and split with his former friend Mosley, by 1939 it was very clear to him that, if he stayed in Britain, he would be arrested and interned. Joyce and his wife fled to Germany, where they stayed for the duration. At war's end Joyce was tried and hung as a traitor, for his Haw Haw broadcasts. He was 39 years old.

From a Keeper's point of view, Joyce's main use is as an antagonist, though, in a Bookhounds setting, he could conceivably also be a patron. Any campaign involving Radicals could easily have Joyce as a prime mover, and if there genuinely are Nazi agents roaming around London looking for occult tomes, Joyce is bound to be assisting them.

There's no suggestion that Joyce was superstitious in any way, or believed in the occult, but a fictionalized version could easily turn him into a kind of Svengali figure, using his (Mythos inspired) hypnotic voice to sway crowds. Theoretically he could even be an avatar, or dupe, of Nyarlathotep, since the Old One likes causing chaos and disaster and Joyce is in a prime position to do it.

On one famous occasion Sherlock Holmes himself tackled the Fascists, tracking down and defeating a fictionalized Haw Haw. That suggests a potential Dust Thing connection. Suppose the Dust Things decided to oppose Joyce and his Fascist friends, perhaps because of a book burning that Joyce organized. What better way to get the protagonists to act as their allies against Joyce, than to recruit Sherlock Holmes himself, and get Holmes to lead the protagonists into battle? Best suited to an Arabesque style game, but - particularly if one of the protagonists is deluded into thinking he or she is Holmes - it could be an excellent roleplay opportunity for gamers who enjoy a bit of Baker Street sleuthing with their Mythos madness.      

With all that in mind, William Joyce:

Athletics 10, Driving 4, Electrical Repair 6, Explosives 2, Firearms 6, Fleeing 6, Health 8, Mechanical Repair 4, Scuffling 9, Weapons 8. In a Pulp game, assuming use of Hypnosis, then Joyce has Hypnosis 5/15, the number after the slash representing the bonus he might get as a Mythos-powered Svengali figure.

Alertness Modifier: +1
Stealth Modifier: 0

Damage: -2 (fist), -1 (knife, thrown brick or razor blade), +0 (handgun)

Special: Joyce can summon Radicals (Bookhounds page 55) to do his bidding. He can command the allegiance of up to 20 Radicals at a time, perhaps sending them on missions or using them as bodyguards. Radicals tend to have few useful General abilities, but are handy to have around when you want someone beaten up or knifed. This is in addition to any forces he may have at his disposal as a Nazi spy or Mythos agent, assuming he is one. 

No comments:

Post a Comment