Sunday, 28 February 2021

Blair4 - Good Times, Bad Times

OK, the stage is set and the main actors are waiting for their cue. The opening act is about to start - but what should it be?

The first act should set up the rest of the show, and you can't have a tragedy without a little victory beforehand. Macbeth has his glorious moment in battle before his meeting with the weird women, Romeo his romance with Juliet. That taste of victory makes the tragedy to come all the more bitter. 

There's lots of options, but for my money there are two big moments that define the early years of Blair, one of which is right in the heart of London and couldn't be more iconic. 

The first is the Good Friday Agreement which put an end to the Troubles and brought about demilitarization and peace in Ireland; great for those players who really enjoy political negotiations, with potential for some high-tension moments. 

The other is the Millennium Dome project. So iconic it features (briefly) in Ultraviolet, defines the early years of the Blair premiership, and has as its capstone an honest-to-God jewel robbery complete with a high speed boat chase on the Thames. 

I know which one I'd pick. 

The Dome's one of those moments of overweening pride that, in hindsight, looks ridiculous but at the time seemed iconic. The original, relatively small-scale project conceived under the Tories as a kind of celebration of British ingenuity becomes an over-baked extravaganza as Blair pours money and optimism into the thing. 

The video keeps nattering about how it's in Greenwich, and technically it's not wrong. Speaking as someone who lived near there, it is in Greenwich. The awful, neglected bit of Greenwich. The dumpster fire end. The Greenwich everyone wants to see is further south, with the Market, the Cutty Sark, Brunel's under-river tunnel, the Meridian, the Observatory, the National Maritime Museum. The Dome is huddled on the Peninsula, like a boil on Greenwich's rump. 

The Peninsula is where the old gasworks used to be, and a whole bunch of other high-pollution industries, most of which were dead by the later 20th century. The kind of place they used as background for cop shows like the Sweeny, all empty factories and deserted streets, great for shootings and car chases. Imagine the toxic wasteland you'd find left over from a century or more of heavy industry. That's where they put the Dome. Also, some relatively cheap housing - at least, cheap by London standards.  

You couldn't even get there easily, not until the North Greenwich Jubilee station opened, and that was a late arrival. These days there are new roads, a Thames Clipper Shuttle stop, new bus routes, even a cable car over the river. Before the tube station opened in 1999 it was shank's mare or bust. 

There are all kinds of stories to be told, culminating most likely in Operation Magician to catch the jewel thieves intent on ram-raiding the DeBeers display in November 2000 - no doubt backed heavily by the Conspiracy. 

It's all new build, so something along the lines of 'we found this odd thing while digging the foundations for' [whatever it may be - the Jubilee Station seems an obvious pick] is an excellent starter. All very Quatermass, which fits any setting from Alien to Damned.


Then there's the displays, inside and out. You've got all the main events, Who We Are, What We Do, Where We Live, plus the art installations and other showpieces being set up outside the Dome ready for the big opening in 2000. Any of them could hide some Conspiracy plot, mind control device, peculiar necromantic summoning, or whatever-you-like. An Alien Stone hidden inside the Night Rain contemplation area, an over-complicated plot by Linea Dracula assigns to manipulate the Where We Live exhibit so as to effectively remove the Block that prevents vampires from entering a space if they haven't been invited, an attempt to spread the Vukodlak Plague via the many commemorative tchotchkes on sale - you can get away with almost anything inside a space designed to evoke wonder and awe by playing with what you see and hear.  

If you're wondering how far you can go, remember that we live in a world where this happened, and I defy you to invent a notion half as nutty:

Sourced from Kento Bento

So that's the start. What should the opening chapters be like?

Successful, for the most part. This is a tragedy. For a tragedy to have any impact there has to be a downfall, and you can't have a downfall without some initial, visible success. Romeo falls in love, Othello defeats all comers in court as well as on the battlefield, Macbeth is made Thane of Cawdor and Glamis, and is emboldened to murder Duncan and become King. 

So from a game perspective the agents are probably facing off against anything up to a Level 4 Node, and winning, for the most part. Not necessarily easy victories, and if some friends or allies get dusted along the way that's the cost of doing business. Still, they've yet to really come face-to-face with the Vampires at the heart of the Conspiracy. 

These are the Good Times. 

You can set the stage for the Bad Times to come with the opening shots in the Kosovo War. Blair's heavily involved in the planning and wins the 1999 Charlemagne Prize for his work. How appropriate would it be if, while Blair is taking center stage in the ceremony at Aachen, the agents are busy fending off Conspiracy plotters behind the scenes? Perhaps they're trying to steal some scientific wonder, or trying to suborn members of Blair's government or family. Skulking around the Town Hall on the day of ceremony trying not to get spotted sounds like something every NBA character ought to attempt at least once in their career.  

Shortly after that comes the General Election in June 2001, and in November planes fly into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Bad Times begin in earnest.

That's it for this week. Enjoy!

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