1879 Line Developer’s Blog: Small Adventures

How does someone get started adventuring? How do you go from being handy with a cricket bat to commanding an airship against a squadron of mechanical eagles bent on raining explosive eggs across London? How does a mechanic end up being the engineer aboard the airship? What led the Weird Scientist from repairing music boxes with tiny singing birds to building mechanical avians with a thirty foot wingspan, and so outraged them that they felt explosives to be the only answer?

In short, how do people set their feet on the path? Generally, the first adventure is small, enough so that it might not even be recognised as an adventure. Your character has a reputation as a competent, clever person, not specifically outstanding in your field but with at least the potential to one day do so. You get asked for a favour. You’re such a clever old bean, can you do this one little thing for me please? You can handle yourself well in a tussle, can you run off this blackguard who’s trying to extort the local greengrocer? The Peelers have been useless. Say, I’ve got this timing mechanism that sticks every so often, not every cycle but just once in a while and I can’t see where the problem is, could you put a fresh pair of eyes on it? It’s not your usual route, I know, just a little bit out of the way, but if you could drop off this parcel at the factory, I really don’t want to entrust someone I don’t personally know with my research notes. You see where the little windup bird could be improved a bit, got the idea from an old Chinese manuscript, the Chinese were into whole windup dioramas, and all you need is a bit of funding and you could build something really impressive.

And you go off and handle the task, and it takes you a little bit out of your way, and maybe there’s a bit of a challenge to it, but you deal with it. The blackguard turns out to not be affiliated with any of the local gangs, and you run him off with your cricket bat and reputation for sixes. The greengrocer is ever so grateful, and the local gang hears about your defending the neighborhood, and they’d like a word with you about a position as an enforcer. This is their turf, after all, and someone willing to defend the neighborhood ought to be recruited and given an official position. You find the tiny eccentricity in the pinion gear, and sort out the sticking problem. Your friend is ever so pleased, and lets you know that a clever person like you could easily have a lot more work if you’re interested, it’s a bit risky but it pays in folding money. Getting the parcel to the factory did require seeing off a ruffian intent on poaching the patent, but you delivered on time and with a minimum of fuss. The lead machinist at the factory is impressed, and mentions your name to the boss, and she’s got another parcel, plans for the next phase of the product line, that need to be taken across the Channel to the facility in Nice, and she’ll pay your expenses if you’re interested. Confound it all, not only did the bank official deny your loan, he’s gone and taken your idea for the diorama to a factory, and they’re producing a cheap knockoff and making money hand over fist while you’re still toiling in your shop.

And one thing leads to another. Your reputation grows. Your connections expand. From local enforcer to tactician, and then someone from Whitehall needs a strong arm connected to a clever brain and next thing you know you’re defending the Empire, breaking kneecaps and busting up spy rings on the Queen’s shilling. You’ve designed and installed the steering gear for the airship, of course you’d like to see it in operation, and who better to be the onboard engineer than the person who built it? Your knack for getting objects and people into and out of places, and your head for the complexities of travel, has led you further afield, and now you’re leading a team into the mountains of Afghanistan to find a surveyor who’s gone missing, maybe the Russians have him and maybe he’s just fallen down a crevasse but the documents he’s carrying could shift the balance of the Great Game. Months of repairing cheap copies of your idea have gone by, but you’ve saved up, and you’ve built larger and better, and now your bird is going to drop an egg down the chimney of that bank officer and let him know just what happens to people who steal ideas and profit unfairly from the work of others. The factory will be next.

Large adventures build on the foundations of small adventures. People drift into the life, or get pulled into it, through such small things, a favour, a detour, a quick repair, an idea that could have made beer money if it hadn’t been absconded with. You could have been an ordinary mechanic, working on steam lorries and watching them make deliveries in London, but that one chance encounter, and now you’re aboard a flying warship, directing the damage control parties and seeing to the engine and advising the pilot that the enemy may have greater speed, but the wing loading on those eagles has to be terrifically high and there’s no way they can turn for another pass and climb at the same time, if you get some altitude on them quickly you can force them into a stall. The expedition leader you picked up in Afghanistan has rigged a line, and if you can maneuver just right, they believe they could put Cricket-Bat on the deck of the Weird Scientist’s airship.

And it all comes together, starting from a greengrocer and a sticky mechanism, a parcel of research notes and an unscrupulous loan officer, and ending in the skies over London. One step at a time, the diversion, the escalation, the grand and glorious finale.

What sets your character’s feet on the path? A missed tram? A dropped spanner? Run short of coin right before rent is due? From small circumstances, great adventures grow.