Sunday, 28 August 2016

A Path With No Ending (Spilsbury, Trail, Bookhounds)

Following on last week's discussion about Sir Bernard Spilsbury's career, I'm going to give you a short scenario idea drawn from his experiences. This idea is written from a Bookhounds of London perspective, but could easily be used in Trail or Call of Cthulhu.

The following quote is from The Life of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, by Browne and Tullett.

Pamela [aged 9 and a half] had left her home in South Romford after lunch on the 18th [January 1939] to walk back to her school in Benhurst Avenue. Her stepmother watched her going along Southend Avenue towards a street called Coronation Drive, which leads to Benhurst Avenue past Elm Park Station on the District Railway. Two school friends waited for her in vain at the corner of the Avenue. Somewhere on the way, less than a quarter-hour's walk, the little girl had disappeared, in broad daylight. When she did not return to tea, and it was learned she had not reached the school, Mrs Coventry went to the police. The body was discovered early next morning.

It was naked, except for a cotton frock tied loosely around the neck, and doubled up, the knees being under the chin, tightly bound with black and green insulated wire and tarred string. Insulating tape covered the knots. Beneath the body was a rotting mattress. Rigor mortis was advanced, and there were the usual painful symptoms of strangulation, this time by hand. When Spilsbury began his examination, and straightened the limbs, the stub of a home-made cigarette fell out from between a thigh and the chest. He found a great number of small scratches and bruises on the head and body; a large bruise on the jaw was probably, he thought, caused by a blow, and another behind the left ear might be the result of a fall on a hard surface. The child had been criminally assaulted, and had evidently struggled with her assailant. She had died within an hour of her last meal, the dinner she had eaten at about one o'clock on the 18th.

Though the police did arrest someone in connection with the crime, the evidence was circumstantial. Although he possessed many of the items found at the scene - the wire, home-made cigarettes made with the same brand of tobacco - and a raincoat spotted with blood, the prosecution couldn't make a case. The blood couldn't be proved to be the same type as Pamela's, and the items were commonly available; thousands of people used that same brand of tobacco, the same roll-up papers, and owned that kind of wire. The accused was acquitted.

The scenario opens on a cold day in March, as the aftershocks of the case are dying out. The protagonist sits in the bookshop in the early morning, browsing the newspaper in a quiet moment. Her attention is drawn by the mention of Elm Park, and a nagging realization that, somewhere in the bookshop's collection, there's mention of that part of London in connection with a megapolisomantic working. What was it?

She goes in the back to find the book only to discover that, although the cover is still on the shelf, the contents have been skillfully removed and replaced with pages from another book of the right period. Someone's been stealing, and a quick survey of the shop's collection shows this isn't the only time. There are several books and pamphlets missing, all of them to do with London and megapolisomancy.

Core clue Forgery: whoever did this had some skill, but wasn't an expert. They knew enough about books to get replacement papers from the right period, and knew how to quickly and carefully exchange the contents. However anyone with real skill would have been more careful with the binding and stitching.

Core clue Locksmith or similar: the criminal wasn't able to get at the really valuable stuff, as that's [presumably] locked away. There's some scratches on the lockplate that show someone tried, but failed. All the stolen books were interesting, but not especially valuable even to a megapolisomancer. There wasn't enough in them to teach a person Magic, but perhaps in combination with more important texts someone could have tried a Megapolisomantic working of their own. 

Core clue Assess Honesty or similar: allows the protagonist to draw up a short list of people who might have had access to the books in question. Not all of them would have been easily available to the public; some were in back rooms, out of sight. However there are several people other than the player characters who might have had access, among them:

  1. The Favored Customer: There's always one. The customer who seems a friend, who spends a lot of money, or who brings in a lot of other customers. He might have been wandering in places other people wouldn't be allowed to go, but you'd think nothing of it, because he's that good a customer.
  2. The Nuisance Customer: Not the same thing, but it has the same effect. This pest cannot be kept to the public areas. For whatever reason he keeps wandering in the back rooms looking for prizes, and you keep chasing him out.
  3. The Business Rival: Every so often you're visited by this fellow, who comes to talk shop and discuss upcoming auctions. Sometimes you work together, sometimes you're deadly enemies, but you're both in the same trade so when he visits he gets a higher level of access than the standard customer.
  4. The Contact: This may be a catalogue agent, book scout or forger who regularly does business with the shop. Naturally he doesn't mingle with the ordinary customers, and he probably knows as much about the shop's stock as you do.
  5. The Delivery Men: Theoretically these hefty workers only lift and carry, but what if they do more? They're always here each week, bringing boxes to and fro. What if one of them decided to make a little extra on the side?
Core clue Forensics, Evidence Collection or similar: The protagonist is frozen in her tracks when she notices that, where the books used to be, there's a scattering of loose tobacco. It's easy to confirm that this brand is the same brand found by Spilsbury at the crime scene. Was the book thief involved in that crime too?

From there the scenario progresses. One of the above is indeed the book thief, and may be the killer too. The method of abduction relies on magic: the megapolisomancer creates what amounts to a small pocket out of time, in which the caster can do as he likes for as long as he can keep the magic going. Nobody will interrupt him; nobody notices he's even there. Of course, bending the city's power like that carries consequences of its own, which will result in peculiar events - perhaps random summonings or disappearances - in the place where the working occurred.

That's enough for this week. Enjoy!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Person of Interest: Sir Bernard Spilsbury (Trail, Call, Bookhounds)

I thought I'd try something different and kick of what I hope will be a semi-regular column here: Person of Interest. I'll discuss the biography and gamification of important historical people, and to start us off let's have a look at the life and career of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the Scalpel of Scotland Yard.

Spilsbury was born 1877 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, to a sold, middle class family. His father was a chemist, and Bernard spent his early years watching his father in his laboratory, experimenting. However his family was trade and his grandmother, a very determined woman, saw no future in medicine or chemicals, insisting that Bernard's father go into business. He did so reluctantly, but made sure his son would be a doctor if he had anything to say about it.

Bernard was a solitary soul who best liked long walks, skating and other hobbies that he could enjoy by himself, without distractions. He was amenable to his father's wish that he become a doctor, and resisted his grandmother's insistence that he go into trade instead, as a draper. He was an older graduate, entering St Mary's Hospital Medical School at 23, and his contemporaries found him amiable but ordinary, certainly not marked out for greatness. He seems to have been one of those people who just got on with things, without drawing attention to himself, and was a born workaholic.

At St Mary's he fell in with some of the best and brightest pathologists of their day, who took Spilsbury under their wing once they saw that, in spite of his seeming plodding unimpressive nature, he was a prodigious worker. Soon he became Student Demonstrator of Pathology, eschewing competitions, prizes and fame for hour after hour after hour in the lab. In fact his dedication to his craft meant that he did not take on the other courses needed for a medical degree, so he graduated much later than many of his classmates.

He did so at just the right time. In years gone by the police force and public prosecutions had been a piecemeal operation, with different standards and practices applying in every county. Now things were being reorganized; there would be a central authority in charge of the police, and a Director of Public Prosecutions, under the supervision of the Attorney General. Scotland Yard, meanwhile, was being forced to update itself. Paris, New York, Berlin, Prague, all these had police laboratories; even some of the provincial British police forces had established ad-hoc relationships with private medical labs. Yet Scotland Yard had no police laboratory of its own. All this was to change, and quickly.

Then along came Crippen.

The 1910 Crippen case gripped the nation. He had murdered his wife, a stage performer, and taken up with his lover, stealing his wife's money and even clothes. Then, when suspected, the pair fled across the ocean, leaving the police to find the wife's remains in the cellar of his house. Not all of the corpse was recovered; head, limbs and skeleton were missing, but a piece of flesh remained. That flesh bore an old abdominal scar, which helped identify the remains as those of Cora Crippen. Spilsbury also found traces of scopolamine in the remains, which suggested that Crippen, a doctor himself, had used the drug to pacify Cora and make her easier to kill. The doctor and his lover were caught and returned to Britain, where Crippen was eventually hanged.

Yet it wasn't Spilsbury's medical ability - excellent though it was - that really made his reputation. It was his demeanor, as an expert witness. Well dressed, handsome, with a carnation in his button hole, he projected solid competence, an impression that was only reinforced by his detached yet determined attitude. Spilsbury would not be rattled by the prosecution, nor yet by the judge. "Here is a coming man," said spectators, and they were right.

From there Spilsbury went from strength to strength. He became the pathologist of choice for the prosecution, travelling across the country from murder site to murder site, gathering and recording evidence. No absent-minded professor he; Spilsbury was an avid record keeper and fastidious note taker. His index card collection eventually sold for several thousand pounds and is now in the Wellcome collection in London.

Spilsbury loved nothing better than to experiment and solve problems. After the Mahon case, for example, Spilsbury determined to carry out Mahon's autopsy himself, though this would normally be the prison's responsibility. Mahon had been double-hanged; the murderer had, at the last moment, tried to save himself, but instead fell backward rather than down, breaking his spine on the trapdoor as he fell, and then his neck. In most instances the autopsy would be fairly perfunctory, but Spilsbury insisted on a complete autopsy including examination of the brain, a portion of which he took away with him. It was the first judicial autopsy Spilsbury conducted but by no means the last, and eventually as a result of his examinations a recommendation was made to increase the drop by two inches on humanitarian grounds, the better to ensure a clean break of the neck.

Spilsbury also developed the Murder Bag, or collection of standard equipment to use in murder cases, and the Mahon case is the cause. This is what Spilsbury and his colleagues found at the murder site, a bungalow at the Crumbles, Eastbourne:

'On a rusty tenon saw, grease and a piece of flesh. Articles of female clothing, greasy and bloodstained, some with soot or coal-dust on them. On the cauldron-shaped coal-scuttle, two minute specks of blood. In the saucer near it, solidified fat. The two-gallon saucepan in the same fireplace was half-full of a reddish fluid, with a thick layer of grease on the surface; this contained a piece of boiled human flesh, the skin adhering to it. The metal fender was splashed with grease. There was more grease deposited in the second saucepan, and smeared in the bath and basin. In the hat-box, among soiled articles of clothing, were thirty-seven pieces of flesh, cut or sawn. All were human, and all apparently had been boiled. The big fiber trunk held four large pieces of human body, sawn apart, but not boiled. On one of those pieces, a left chest and shoulder, there was a bruise over the shoulder blade, the result of a blow inflicted before death, if only a few minutes before; it had been, in Spilsbury's opinion, a heavy blow. There was also in the trunk a biscuit tin containing various organs.' From The Life of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, 1952, by Douglas G Browne and E V Tullett.

Spilbury started work on the murder bag, full of equipment needed to properly collect and store remains, when he saw a detective using his bare hands to scoop the victim's boiled flesh into a bucket.

Spilsbury became Sir Bernard in 1923, one year before the Mahon case. He spent his entire career dissecting, studying, analyzing, and giving evidence in case after case. It's become fashionable now to downplay Spilsbury, to claim that his dogmatic and unyielding attitude on the stand led to miscarriages of justice. Just as in his university years, when he eschewed competitive examinations and prizes for ordinary lab work, in his working career he refused to engage in peer review, or to train students. Spilsbury preferred his own counsel.

Yet it must be remembered that Spilsbury did not get where he was through anything other than effort. He was and remained the persistent, meticulous workaholic who graduated late because, thanks to his dedication to pathology, he could not be bothered with distractions. He lived for the job, and never lied or prevaricated. He thought before he acted but, once he made his mind up, that was that.

It did not end well for him. He had three sons. Peter, the one following in his footsteps, became a house surgeon at St Thomas' in London. On the 13th September, 1940, the Hospital was bombed and Peter died, but the news didn't get to Spilsbury right away. He went to work as usual the next morning, performing post-mortems and giving evidence at the Coroner's Court. After finishing one case and while waiting for the other to start he went through the morning's post, only to discover a letter from a friend with condolences on the death of his son. Except the letter didn't say which son; Spilsbury had seen Alan earlier that day, so it might have been either Peter or Richard.

Eventually Spilsbury learned the truth. He was back at work the next day, but he was never the same again.

Alan, the eldest son, was a sickly soul, and Spilsbury was devoted to him. The two would spend each day together, at the Gower Street laboratory where Spilsbury worked. In November 1945 young Alan died of consumption.

By this point Spilsbury was in decline. A micromanager to the end he could not bear to have other people write his reports or fill in forms for him, yet he became increasingly incapable of doing the job himself. He took longer and longer to make decisions now, his tiring mind unable to do the work of former years.

His death was characteristic of the man. During Christmas 1947 he took care of his affairs, gave his staff their accustomed Christmas boxes, and completed his paperwork for the year. On December 17th he sent out his last post-mortem report, in time to catch the 530 post. He dined at his club, afterwards handing the key to his private cupboard back to the club steward because, he said, he no longer needed it. He went back to the Gower Street laboratory at 730, which he had kept exactly as it was since the death of Alan two years prior. At 830, one of his colleagues passed by the laboratory, smelt gas, and investigated. By then, Spilsbury was dead.

With all that in mind, let's talk gamification.

As his career spans several decades all of which are core for Call and Trail of Cthulhu, Spilsbury could easily appear in either setting. Some of his most famous cases are in the 1930s - Trail's favorite decade - but Spilsbury was already the most celebrated pathologist of his day long before 1930. Moreover unlike many specialists, who prefer staid laboratory work, Spilsbury travels all over the country, which means he can be encountered almost anywhere from John O'Groats to Land's End. He might even be encountered elsewhere within the Commonwealth; he's known to have worked in the Channel Islands, and a small amount of fictionalization could have him turn up, say, in Canada or further afield.

In Trail or Call, Spilsbury's most likely role is the expert, assisting in investigations without taking part himself. If the investigators have a medical background or any official standing, they might meet the great man himself. From a rules perspective Spilsbury's bound to have expert-level ratings in any medical or forensic discipline and, though his finances were relatively modest, thanks to his professional reputation his Credit Rating is very high. His library and note card collection would be a boon to any researcher, giving boosts to related medical or forensic abilities.

For investigators more likely to commit crimes than investigate them, Spilsbury is a very dangerous enemy. No matter how careful, clever, or resourceful the characters think they are, it's nearly impossible to outwit the Scalpel of Scotland Yard.

In a Bookhounds game, Spilsbury best fits a Sordid London setting. No amount of crime novel romanticism can disguise Spilsbury's grim and grisly world. Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers both based their crime fiction in part on Spilsbury's work, directly or indirectly. Yet their depictions are fairly bloodless, when compared to the gore, guts, and limbless torsos that made up Spilsbury's professional career. Spilsbury was no stranger to the variations of the human condition; suicide, accidental death, sexually motivated asphyxia, and a thousand other kinds of demise were his stock in trade.

If you wanted to go in an Esoterrorist direction, the obvious terror to link to Spilsbury is the Practice. This gestalt, described in The Book of Unremitting Horror, is a medical nightmare, a surgical team of the damned. If you were to link Spilsbury to it then one way would be to suggest that the Practice is haunting the site of Spilsbury's old lab at Gower Street. I'm guessing that the old lab is long gone, but it was probably part of what's now University Teaching Hospital. Maybe there's a cult of medical students seeking grim knowledge, or perhaps Spilsbury wants his index cards back from the Wellcome.

In any case, you've more than enough information now. I hope this was useful! Enjoy.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Stephen Leather, Spider and E Squadron (Night's Black Agents, Dracula Dossier)

A short while back I said I'd have to discuss Stephen Leather's work someday, and rather than do that as a book review corner I thought it might be more interesting to discuss it in relation to the Increment, also known as E Squadron, one of the more persistent special forces tales.

Stephen Leather's a lot of fun to read. He's a UK former journalist turned novelist, whose main line is torn-from-the-headlines espionage. For horror gamers who aren't into spies and special forces hijinks, he also writes a series of supernaturals with his hero Jack Nightingale, former cop turned occultist who deals with Satanists and witchcraft.

Having read a few in the Nightingale series, in all honesty I don't like them much. The character's too much like a squeaky clean John Constantine which in turn reminds me too much of that damn TV show and then everything goes black and I wake up next to an empty case of Bushmills. Except that where Constantine as imagined by Moore, Delano and Ennis had a lot of charm, Nightingale lacks personality, to the point where you begin to wonder if he didn't pop along from central casting for the day.

Which to be fair is also a problem with Spider Shepherd, but then few people read spy novels for the clever and intriguing characters. We read them for the action and the intrigue, and Leather does deliver when it comes time to return to the land of cloak and dagger. Leather's very good at action, and believable scenes of murder and mayhem.

I suppose it's a fundamental split between horror and spy-fi. The one depends on character; in order to really feel invested in which character survives, you need to like those characters in the first place, and that means characters need to be interesting. Whereas a spy thriller depends on situation; you need to know the stakes are high, and that the action will keep coming. It would take a huge amount of self-deception to argue that Bourne or Bond are, in themselves, interesting characters, that the audience would enjoy watching what they might do on a long bank holiday weekend. No, we only care about Bourne or Bond when he's in a high-speed chase, disarming nukes, or shooting mooks. Not when he's down the pub with his mates, then off for a curry after.

Black Ops opens on a murder scene. A former US special forces turned private contractor is waiting for his target. The client has requested a 'suicide' by hanging, so Rob Tyler's waiting patiently, dressed in full forensic gear from head to toe to minimize trace evidence. It's that kind of detail that helps paint a scene; you can imagine a man, anonymous, wrapped from head to toe in protective clothing seen a thousand times in a thousand crime TV shows, just waiting for the chance to strike. This, you instinctively feel, is how assassins work. Not flashy, smooth-talking gamblers with a Walther PPK in a shoulder holster, but patient professionals lurking in ambush, dressed not for the casino but for business.

Black Ops links in with a long-rumored special section of British special forces: E Squadron, aka The Increment. While I don't think Leather ever explicitly says Shepherd's a member, a lot about his profile and CV suggests he might be or have been. Former SAS still in peak condition, in Black Ops Shepherd works for MI5 - though by the end this is in doubt - and handles all kinds of dubious duties on behalf of his boss, Charlotte Button. In the novel, he spends much of his time pretending to be a hit man in order to fool a Dutch millionaire who's trying to recruit killers to assassinate Putin.

Whereas the actual E Squadron's duties are, at best, unclear. Assuming it exists, which is itself an open question. If it does, then it's been suggested its duties involve offering military assistance to foreign powers, clandestine insertion and extraction of intelligence agents, and covert reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. It draws personnel from all elite branches of the British military, and so has a wide range of skills at its disposal. Pilots, sailors, CQB experts, you name it, the Increment has it. As for what it's been up to, it might have assassinated Princess Diana - an event Leather refers to - or Doctor David Kelly, and may have participated in other high-level killings. Or not. It certainly has personnel deployed in hot zones all over the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan, offers close protection for high value intelligence targets, and performs a host of other clandestine services as needed.

Black Ops illustrates two ways this could be implemented. In the Spider sections of the narrative, Shepherd's objective is to discourage the Dutch millionaire. Not because anyone at MI5 is in love with Putin, but because the most likely kill zone is in London during a summit and nobody needs the fall-out that an attempted assassination - or a successful one - would bring. In order to do that, Shepherd assumes the identity of an existing killer who, MI5 happens to know, is being clandestinely held in the Emirates. Meanwhile, in a separate section of the plot, another high-profile mercenary, Lex Harper, is tasked by Button to embarrass and then kill several highly placed members of the real IRA who are trying to buy very expensive rockets so they can shower London with HE. Embarrass, because Button doesn't want the other real IRA members to follow in their footsteps. To do this Harper pretends to be an arms dealer with a sideline in munitions swiped from the former Soviet Union. Stakes couldn't be higher, and the cloak-and-dagger is skillfully deployed.

While neither Harper nor Shepherd are part of E Squadron, a lot of what the characters do fits E Squadron's alleged remit: covert surveillance, intelligence gathering, quasi-military engagements, comfortable adoption of covert identities, the ability to operate clandestinely in unfamiliar territory or foreign soil. In addition to those fun things, the Increment's also alleged to have its own air section, equipped with a Puma helicopter and a C-130, and in all probability has a small flotilla too, or at least people capable of docking a boat and tying a reef knot. Which is all to the good since, if rumor is to be believed, every SIS station has a direct line to the SAS. You never know when, where, or in what circumstances, so best to be prepared for any eventuality.

In the Dracula Dossier there's also an E Squadron, but its duties seem much less far-reaching than those ascribed to the Increment. With that in mind, I suggest:

1) a new level 5 Bureaucracy test for Elvis, Hound, Nails and Tyler, Preparing the Ground. There will be times when the agents need caches of supplies (not necessarily weapons) placed ahead of time, trackers put on ships or other large vehicles, surveillance of a military or semi-military target, assistance in tracking a target, close protection (eg. on a visit to the Red Zone in Baghdad), or something similar. When that happens, it's E Squadron that carries out the task. Note that none of these things necessarily involve combat; more logistical support. In some instances, eg the close protection detail, having E Squadron on call might confer in-game benefits, say a free 1-point pool Intimidation. The exact nature of the benefit to be agreed between Director and Players. All this basically falls under Section 2027 in the Field Manual.

2) there are various existing Bureaucracy tests, eg Oakes Difficulty 3 assistance in cleaning up a crime scene, in which the source of the assistance is nebulous. It's reasonable to assume that the assistance comes from E Squadron, or at the very least that E Squadron arranges delivery of the assistance.

3) that E Squadron draws some of its membership from services like the RAF and Navy, and those personnel have Cherry level Piloting and Mechanics abilities. It's also reasonable to assume than any vehicle assigned to E Squadron (as opposed to stolen by) is Souped Up (p102, main book).

4) that E Squadron can supply vehicles as well as caches, and that those vehicles may be specially modified, eg with extra hidden compartments for those moments when you really need somewhere to hide an assault rifle. Duke Ian probably arranges this, either at level 5 Bureaucracy or possibly level 7 if the vehicle is suitably unusual or difficult to obtain.

5) that it's reasonable to assume E Squadron has access to its own transport, which probably includes helicopters, boats, a C-130 and several kinds of ground vehicle. Those vehicles are almost certainly modified, most likely with armor and bullet-resistant glass at the very least.

That's it from me! Enjoy.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Long Con: Gentleman Jack (Trail of Cthulhu, Bookhounds of London)

My scenario, The Long Con, won a Silver Ennie at GenCon this year. As I wasn't there and didn't have the chance to speechify or thank people, let me get a few things out of the way before passing on to the meat and potatoes:

Thanks to Simon, who originally let me develop this for YSDC and then took it under Pelgrane's wing.

Thanks to Paul, who helped me bring The Long Con to life at YSDC to begin with.

Thanks to the Pelgrane team, from editors (hi Cat!) to artists, who collaborated to put all this together.

Thanks again to the original playtest team, Chris, Jillian, Jym and Mary. Much fun was had!

Thanks to a certain Shoggee, who sent me a book about Yokai for Christmas and so inadvertently kicked all this off.

Thanks especially to all of you who voted for The Long Con!

I don't have a whole lot of time today, as it's tech rehearsal for the play I've been directing - opening night's this Thursday, hope you bought a ticket - so I'm going to spend a little time talking about some movies I find inspirational, and which helped me create the character of Gentleman Jack, one of the significant antagonists in the script.

One of the main inspirations for the character's style and personality is Sir Richard Attenborough's performance as Pinky, in the 1947 movie Brighton Rock. I'm amazed, frankly, that YouTube hasn't a decent clip of his performance. It's a smasher. Graham Green, the author who wrote the novel on which the screenplay is based, wasn't convinced Attenborough could pull it off. By the end of filming, he admitted he'd been entirely wrong. Pinky, the quiet, cunning razor-killer, is Gentleman Jack, at least as far as personality goes.

However for those Keepers out there looking for other period films to help them develop a Bookhounds game, I thoroughly recommend these two gems:

Night and the City, directed by Jules Dassin, starring Richard Widmark as the scheming Harry Fabian. Nothing conveys the seamy underbelly of the city more convincingly. Those opening scenes with Fabian on the run grab your attention, and it stays grabbed from that moment to the killer ending. Apart from Widmark, who's a smasher, Googie Williams and Francis L Sullivan, as a sleazy night club owner and his scheming wife, and Herbert Lom as a crooked wrestling promoter, give standout performances. But really there isn't a bad performer in the bunch. A must-see.

The Blue Lamp. 1950, with Jack Warner, in iconic character PC George Dixon's first appearance. Dixon would go on to be a mainstay of British television, but this first film outshines anything seen on the gogglebox. Both this and Night use London's street locations to stunning effect, but the standout here is Warner's Dixon. There's a reason why this copper became the face of British policing. Another must-see.

But enough of all that. Let's take a look at Gentleman Jack for a moment, and think about what might happen after the scenario.

Whatever happens, Jack is going away disappointed. I won't spoil why, but if you've read the Long Con you know he doesn't get anything he wants, and may end up arrested. What would someone like that do to get revenge?

Probably something very nasty, with razors. But first he'd like the protagonists to have a taste of the humiliation he endured, so to that end consider the following forgery:

The Book of Vampires, Monstrous Ghosts, Sorcery and the Seven Deadly Sins. First published 1802 by a German printer, this book discusses Demonology and Occult, is written mainly in German with some Latin, and is in good condition overall with some minor damage to the leather binding. To a collector, it might be worth as much as £25 (or close to £1000 in today's money). In Bookhounds terms, it's a Windfall.

Or it would if it were real, but it's not. Jack had one of his forger pals create it, and it's a pretty good facsimile. It takes 2 points of the appropriate Craft or Forgery abilities to work this out.

Jack's plan is this: he gets someone to pretend to be a rich buyer, possibly a ghoul confederate with appropriate body-warping magic. This rich buyer spreads the word that he's on the lookout for that book. Then Jack lets it slip to the protagonists that he knows where a copy can be found, for a price. Let bygones be bygones, says Jack; why let past troubles stand in the way of present success?

Jack steers to the protagonists to the copy, and lets them make the presentation to the client. Then, horror of horrors! The 'rich buyer' discovers it to be a forgery, and threatens to sue. This definitely counts as a Reversal in the shop's fortunes, if the protagonists let this go ahead.

Then Jack steps in again, and says he can make the problem go away, if the protagonists pay him. Sure enough, if the protagonists pay, the problem goes away - because there never was a problem in the first place. Jack may siphon a hundred pounds or more from the protagonists in this way, possibly even returning to blackmail the protagonists again if he thinks there's a chance.

Of course, if the protagonists show fight or don't pay, Jack steps up his game and starts using razors and menaces to get the money he feels is his rightful due.

That's enough for today. Many thanks again to all who voted! I'll treasure this.