1879: You May Hiss the Villain
I’ve been doing some developing in public lately, for an indie side project, and it’s been a good experience for me. This is part of why I’ve been rolling out ideas on Discord – I get to try out my material in front of a studio audience before I take it on the road. I’ve got comments open on this post. Without further ado, let’s throw out some notes on the next run of Personalities, Book 2: You May Hiss the Villain. GMs love a good NPC book, and a steamweird world needs its villains, doesn’t it? So these are the Personalities I’m currently considering for the next run, which would be starting sometime close to GenCon, and would again go a year, with a new one each month as a $1.99 PDF, with the intent to do a book at the end with a 13th Personality in it. We’ve also considered doing a Personalities 3: Figures From History, or something like that, in which we do backstory and character sheets on actual historical people as they are in the game world. For example, Heinrich Hertz was born ten years earlier, to a barrister and the daughter of a rabbi, his father having met a nice Jewish girl instead of, in our world, converting to Christianity and marrying much later in life. This puts him earlier enough in the timeline (with a reason for the shift of more than five years) to be a proper part of the von Helmholtz Circle, and work with Max Planck and Wilhelm Wundt to create the Galvanic Order.
Our current contenders:
The Brother of Shadow – a Warden Mage who’s an expelled Theosophist. He’s been careful not to reveal anything he learned as a Theosophist, so as not to breach his oath and incur massive arcane penalties, instead carefully guiding the Brothers’ research so that they discover these things for themselves, slowly opening up the topics he can discuss with his current Lodge. This ties into the Theosophical Society being a Secret Society in the 1879 Players Companion, and their magic being some very bleeding edge stuff, enough to worry Mr. Fairchild.
Dr Tropy McTroperson (working title), not so much a mad scientist as a really angry Engineer, has grown his moustache out specifically so he can twirl it, taken to wearing a black opera cloak and abusing his servants, and has generally patterned himself on the penny-dreadful comic-opera villain in order to get people to underestimate him. It worked for a little while, but he’s starting to get a reputation as someone to take seriously even if he does look and act faintly ridiculous.
Tsukomogami Summoner – A Medium who’s trying to find homes for all the wandering spirits, whether they want them or not, and keeps summoning them into inanimate objects, resulting in chaos. That grandfather clock is actually someone’s grandfather. More of a dangerous loon than anything really deliberately evil.
Mercenary Commander – a former Military Officer who now runs a mercenary unit known for ruthlessness and skirting the edge of the Geneva Accords, and doing very nasty things when plausible deniability exists.
Airship Pilot – Let’s be honest here, this is a Sky Pirate. We’re debating how far to lean into this. Abney Park’s Captain Robert has pretty much defined this schtick, and we’ve already done a tribute to him (you missed it? It’s in the London book), but this is such a classic of steampunk we have to take a swag at it.
Feckless Sociopath – using the new Dilettante Variant of the Aristocrat Profession, this is a person with too much money, self centred, pursuing whatever feckless scheme might amuse them regardless of who gets hurt.
Librarian of Secrets – This is a woman, a priestess of the ancient Hellenic tradition, an elven Vestal, who is holding some volumes that really are bloody dangerous. Her ancestor left her these tomes, as her ancestor did before, back an absurdly long time ago and you’d think it was fiction except they have the entire line documented in their holdings. This has convinced her that people are not able to handle the truth, and to create Restricted and Special Access sections for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of information regarded as problematic. She’s using library acquisitions funds to collect volumes they deem as dangerous and locking them away. She’s got connections with the White Countess, and represents the more sinister side of that woman’s plans. We’re counting a Russian revolutionary as a hero – holy crap, what are we going to find in the villain? And yes, we could put her being from the isle of Lesbos if we really wanted to be all anvilicious and stuff. I mean, we do love our queer content.
Genocidal Mana Researcher – Scientist studying mana, who’s been testing mana deprivation on Boojums, killing them in horrid ways, and doing experiments that have caused fluctuations in the mana field, at one point breaking every protective charm in a two block radius. They’ve been conflicting with the Galvanics in the literature and possibly directly. They’re very well funded, with a couple of black budgets feeding to them, and can afford to set up disposable labs with remote data transmission in realtime, run by flunkies to do the louder work. If not stopped, they just might be able to reverse engineer the Naptam-napishtu, which would be Bad as nobody on Earth would exercise the moderation in its use that the Samsut observe. Earth First may be one of the founding sources, as they see the possibility of committing genocide against the Boojums.
Karla – The Russian spymaster who was George Smiley’s arch-foe through three novels will be our initial model for a Spy Profession villain
Outlaw – As we kind of want to use Jesse James for the Historicals, we’ll make this one a former jayhawker to put them on the other side of the War, as the Union didn’t come off all that better.
Radical Anti-Opioid Crusader – A Doctor who’s Temperance and is fighting against the new pain medications because they cause addiction and should not exist. Pain toughens the moral fibre. Opioids weaken people. The Bible says that man is meant to suffer, and women doubly so in childbirth, bringing new life forth in pain and blood. He’s been fined for street corner harangues that condemned the Queen as a dope fiend for using ether during childbirth, and advocating the execution of Dr. Snow as a drug pusher.
Exposer of Secrets – A Byron who uses a Finnish handle seems to have a serious hatred of royalty. At one point, they introduced code into a widely used compositing package, resulting in the names of several royals including the British and Russian crowns being substituted with profanity in the newspapers. (Most of it got caught in the galley proofing. And then there was the Express. Alas.) The Byron has also been exposing intelligence operations, and hasn’t been selective about the nature of the covert organizations they reveal, attacking the Levellers as readily as the GRU. This one is done as a report on the Byron prepared by an organization hunting them. The organization does not know the Byron’s race or gender, and have considered the possibility the name might represent a team of some sort. They’re very good at what they do, which makes it bloody difficult to track them. The organization has to use paper records for everything as a safety precaution, which makes modern information processing useless. They tried doing a few associational linkage runs with an air-gapped Engine, but part way through the run it spat out a series of profanities on the printer and deadlocked its Store, corrupting the data set irretrievably. They still haven’t figured out how the bomb code got into the machine.
Our telegraph lines are open and ready for your transmissions. As always, spammers and the rude will be moderated with an axe.