Once again this video comes courtesy of Side Note.
This location combines the unusual locale of a cruise ship with the happy fun times any enterprising agent might have in North Korea. For those of you who don't want to watch the whole video, a brief precis:
Once upon a time a man with more money than sense thought it would be a spiffing idea to open a grand hotel floating on the Grand Barrier Reef in Australia. In theory this is a fantastic location for a boutique hotel. You have all the beauty of nature at your disposal coupled with the luxuries a top tier hotel can offer. In practice this rapidly fell apart. Hotels, like all other service industry enterprises, operate on the basis of low cost high return. Even the Ritz scrimps. However a floating hotel was always going to be an expensive proposition, particularly given the ecologically sensitive nature of the Grand Banks. There were expensive delays which meant it didn't open when it needed to. Added to that is the less obvious problem that once you plonk it out there, there's not a lot you can do with it. Any other hotel can offer excursions, change the look up, offer deals. Operating costs being what they were, deals were off the table: you paid through the nose. If you didn't really enjoy watersports or suffered from seasickness, you weren't going to have a good time. Any local problems, like starfish eating the coral or cyclones knocking out the pool, meant the site was less desirable. Then they found discarded WWII ammo - possibly live ammo - dumped nearby.
Incidentally if any of you are suffering from an advanced case of deja vu, then you've read Chris Brookmyre's One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night. In that comic crime novel a developer puts all his eggs in one floating basket and opens a hotel in a converted oil rig off the coast of Scotland. A floating "Butlins meets ethnic cleansing", with "every modern British urban leisure activity, but without the British urban clouds and rain. A resort where all the staff didn't merely speak English, but spoke it in comfortably familiar accents … And crucially, a resort where you could be guaranteed never to see the front page of Bild staring back at you from your desired poolside spot." As a kind of fuck-you to his past he arranges a class reunion aboard his pride and joy, so he can flaunt his success in front of the people he wants most to acknowledge his greatness: the kids he knew at Catholic school St Michael's, Auchinlea. Then terrorists show up, shoot the place up, and plant a bomb in the oil rig.
Australia's pride and joy migrated to North Korea via Vietnam, and was used for a brief period as a kind of way station for reunited Koreans when NK flirted with reconciliation. The idea being that those who'd been on one side of the Bamboo Curtain could meet their relatives from the South on what seemed more or less neutral ground. As with all things designed by man this too fell apart, and for now the empty hotel floats off Mount Kumgang. Allegedly it's slated for redevelopment, a project temporarily delayed by COVID quarantine. In practice given the idiosyncrasies of NK's current government it is likely to be mothballed till it sinks.
Its timeline is:
- Inception and late opening 1988, as the John Brewer Floating Hotel off Australia's Barrier Reef. It was very briefly also known as the Four Seasons Floating Hotel, when some addled philanthropist bought it from Brewer. If further proof were needed that the average rich man's brain consists entirely of warmed-over pudding ...
- Relocated 1989 (oh dear) to Vietnam, where it had a home on the Saigon River near the Tran Hung Dao Statue.
- Relocated 1998 to North Korea.
- Closed 2008 after a shooting incident in which a NK soldier shot a South Korean visitor dead. Allegedly the tourist was entering a militarily sensitive zone and did not heed warnings. Remains closed to this day.
There is a free Night's Black Agents RPG based aboard a cruise ship, Pleasures of the Flesh, written by Alasdair Sinclair and available in Pelgrane's downloads section. With some small modification it could as easily take place aboard Brewer's seven story luxury floating hotel. Given it was only at the Barrier Reef for a year, unless you want to set the game in the 1980s - which is perfectly doable - you're better off having it a 1990s scenario, or even a North Korean getaway. What sinister secrets lurk inside North Korea's luxury resort, and why do so many NK officials want to stay there? If it's a Vietnam scenario you have other options, not least returning veterans of the Vietnam war trying to recapture their lost youth in a sparkling high-end nightclub playground. Dance the night away in the Downunder Bar, then restore your strength with one of the management's special tonics …
To close out, here's a scenario seed:
A North Korean source claims to have what Edom would describe as a Special Biological Asset - a vampire. The source wants to smuggle it out of North Korea, allegedly because the powers that be want to use it as part of a North Korean eternal life program and the source fears what might happen if Kim Jong-un lives forever. Terms include a fat payoff for the source, to be routed via casinos in the Philippines. A fixer in Macao is arranging the deal, negotiating with interested parties which include every known vampire program - so America's Find Forever, whatever's left of Germany's Unternehmen Braun, the Vatican's St Lazarus - only China's Room 452 isn't on the bidder list. That may or may not be a warning signal that something dodgy's going on, given North Korea's historic ties to China.
The deal is, pay through the nose via the casino and the buyer collects the asset at the floating Hotel Haegumgang. How the buyer gets to the hotel and retrieves the asset is entirely up to the buyer. The seller only promises to deliver the asset, as securely bound up as possible. This offer's only open for a limited time - buy now, beat the rush.
Verifying the vendor's bona fides is a chancy proposition. The only contact is the Macau fixer, Wan Kuok-koi, aka Broken Tooth, a notorious gangster affiliated with the 14K Triad. Recently released from jail and enjoying millions earned from a cryptocurrency scheme, Broken Tooth isn't the sort to cave under intimidation tactics and he knows how to keep his mouth shut. However someone able to do him political favors or wipe out a few outstanding warrants for friends of his will get him to talk. The vendor is an elder statesman, ally to Kim Jong's father and now out in the cold, politically speaking.
The asset will be in one of the hotel's most expensive suites, in five day's time. Either the agents represent the buyers, or they represent a disappointed bidder who wants to snatch the asset before the buyer takes possession. All they have to do is sneak into North Korea, take possession, and get out without being arrested and thrown into a North Korean re-education camp. Assuming the vendor's trustworthy. Assuming the asset's as securely bound as the vendor says it is. Assuming this isn't all some double-bluff on someone's part to capture a foreign vampire hunter and use that person's knowledge to kick-start North Korea's vampire program.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy ...