Let's see, the last episode of the campaign saw Carlotta Wynn struggling with self doubt and confusion over the secrecy of her recently deceased lover and partner.
In fact, at the end of the last gripping episode, our intrepid bad girl turned heroine discovers that her now dead client is carrying valuable papers which apparently prove the ownership rights to a large territory of land in Jiangsu province, East China. Reading further, Carlotta is shocked to discover the signature of her long dead lover on the documents. The notorious street mobster known as 'Mort' was obviously once tied up with the plot in some way, and Carlotta is determined to get to the bottom of it all.
Reading long in to the night, Carlotta manages to ascertain three valuable clues:
Why hadn't Mort spoken of this to Carlotta?
Mort shared everything with his woman... or so she thought.
This is all too much, and Carlotta who finds herself weeping openly with grief, frustration and bitter disappointment that the man she had loved so dearly would have kept such a devastating secret from her - even taking the mystery to the grave with him.
But Carlotta is no sap. Quickly pulling herself together, she formulates a bold and daring plan.
She will purchase the ticket to China originally intended for her client Mrs Winslow - using the initial half payment originally given Carlotta only hours earlier. But she will not take the next boat to China. Oh no. Her ticket will be pre-purchased for a passage one month from now. First she will go to ground in Angel City... something she is good at doing... and then she will dig up as much dirt as she can uncover on the mysterious upper crust mob working the fine boulevards of Cash Side; the same white gloved rods Mort had been so heavily embroiled with.
Once Carlotta manages to fit the pieces together, she will tear this city slicker gang apart and smile as she sets the match herself and watches everything burn up. One month from now, the fireworks will light the sky, the shit will hit the proverbial fan, and heads will roll.... Just one month for Carlotta to scheme, and plan, and insinuate her way into position, so that when she is ready, she will uncoil like an elegant spider... and her bite will be very poisonous.
Then she will vanish into the smoke, and arise like a mythical phoenix rising from the ashes of her own destruction. Carlotta will BECOME Mrs Darlina Winslow in name... for a while at least, using the alias as a cover while she seeks further truth about this strange and dangerous mystery - in China.
A part of Carlotta... deep inside... rejoices at the opportunity she will soon have, to get away from A.C. and to start again some place new; just as it seems the real Mrs Darlina Winslow had originally intended to do.
In the Jiangsu province: intrepid adventurer Dr. Justin Fabien Johannes... unaware of events transpiring on the other side of the globe back in Angel City USA... oblivious to the fact he is now the last remaining living member of the Winslow estate... has an entirely different set of problems of his own to deal with.
South African born Dr Johannes is a remarkable man. With a doctorate in Palaeontology; post graduate degrees in Ancient Languages and Lost Civilisations, World Religions, Tropical Botany, and another in Exotic Zoology, he is a man totally in tune with his chosen surroundings, and 'a man of the times' in his professional endeavors. Though he shuns the glamour, the bright lights, and his well deserved celebrity status, he is never-the-less, very much aware of his expertise in his field, and is not one to suffer fools gladly... though it has been remarked by some (mostly jealous of his success), that his weakness for the ladies will one day be his downfall.
Presently, Dr Johannes is engrossed on finding the legendary ancient tomb of Qui Chi Men, rumored, but never substantiated by fact, to exist somewhere deep within the Yangzi Jungle...somewhere amidst the vast masses of wilderness between Wuhan and Xi'an.
Dr. Johannes is fortunate, and the scraps of old maps, and clues buried elusively in ancient Chinese manuscripts have led him faithfully, and he feels sure the culmination of his quest lies nearby. But the closer the doctor comes to attaining confirmation of the tomb's existence, the more certain he is that he is not alone in his search.... Recently used camp fires, discarded stubs of cigarette, and the occasional muddy footprint in the soft soil of the jungle floor, all indicate he has been 'beaten to it' by some other mysterious interloper.
So, having set the scene for our story, we come to the game itself.
As a change of pace, I decided to play this solo affair using my new (and very simple) IN-RADIC (In Game Random Action Decision Indicative Calculator) rules; which in turn is heavily influenced by Tom Pigeons Mythic RPG and Wargames system.
First of all, I decided to use the Uncovered Wilderness Plot Deck to determine a few factors surrounding the story line... to flesh out the imminent encounter I was about to play, and to add an additional layer of depth to the whole episode. So I drew three times from a pack of ordinary playing cards, and read the descriptions carefully to help me formulate a few sub-plots to the weave.
So, putting on my thinking cap for a moment, I quickly determined our hero Dr. Justin Johannes was soon to meet an attractive woman who would win his trust and possibly even capture his heart.
Obviously, the SELF card was telling me the intrepid doctor was on the verge of finding his ancient lost tomb... good, this fitted my plans nicely.
The Jack of Clubs was the cherry on top of the cake. Our hero was about to make a new friend and ally. Again, this fitted nicely with my plot line, and so perusing my shelves for female miniatures, I soon found the perfect model to use; the blonde haired beauty Lady Jane Milktoast, daughter of the famous Big Game Hunter Milo Piecrust.
Lady Jane Milktoast
Good! The stage was set. Now I could concentrate on the 'film set' (playing area) and my 'actors' (the miniatures themselves).
I decided the playing area didn't need to be very big at all, and so a 26'' by 24'' table would suffice nicely. Mid way, along the far (north) edge of the board I would place my home made Chinese Pyramid/Tomb model, and the rest of the battle board would see my newly constructed Jungle trees make their debut appearance in a game I've been waiting to use these for a long time.
Along the bottom... of the table from one of the southern edge corners... our brave hero plus a couple of hired Chinese baggage carriers and a native rifleman scout would enter play crossing an old stone bridge (a fish aquarium ornament bought from my local pet store).
The objective of the game is quite simple: Dr. Johannes and his small team feel they are close to discovering a lost tomb somewhere deep in the jungles of East China, and must push onto the game board and through the trees to see what they might discover. However, unbeknownst to them they are (potentially) about to walk straight into another group of explorers, whose interest in the ancient tomb, and nefarious intents are quite different from our heroes; and utterly unfriendly. The 'bad guys' placement on the table will be guided by the following:
At the beginning of each turn before the hero & his Chinese natives take any actions throw a six sided die and read from the following table:
How to roll 1D3 on a six sided die: if the roll is 1 or 2 the actual result will be a 1. If the roll is a 3 or 4 the actual result will be a 2. If the roll is a 5 or 6 the actual result will be a 3.
Like Dr Justin Johannes, Baron Luger Von Kiel is a renowned archaeologist adventurer. But unlike our intrepid hero, Von Kiel has an evil dark master who funds his explorations and supplies him with the 'muscle' he needs to protect his (often nefarious) dealings. Quite what Von Kiel's interest is in the lost tomb of Qui Chi Men, as of yet - is totally unknown.
German Seebataillon - 1st Strafkolinie (Penal Colony Battalion): In total, the bad guys can muster 16 German (henchman) soldiers and the big boss himself Das Baron Luger Von Kiel. Incidentally, this arch villain will only enter play when/if our hero moves within 4 inches of the prisoner; at which point place the Von Kiel miniature anywhere on the board within 4 inches of Dr. Johannes.
Justin stands in the middle of the ancient stone bridge, and then for the first time, he spots a large pyramid shaped stone... smooth, gray, and obviously very large, jutting out above the tree line like a shark's fin rising up out of the water. Has he finally found the lost tomb of Qui Chi Men? Over the bridge, an old and overgrown trail winds its way towards his goal, and the conclusion of months of hard work.
But then, suddenly! From along the path on the far side of the bridge, several shots ring out and bullets ping off the stones all around the doctor like jumping jacks striking the ground.
Peering through the gloomy canopy of trees, Justin can vaguely make out the figure of a pale green uniform clad rifleman standing in the middle of the path ahead of them.
Drawing his trusty pistol from his side holster, the brave doctor fires a rapid succession of shots towards the unknown enemy. The range is extreme, yet his aim is good, and he is rewarded by seeing the distant figure spin and drop to the forest floor. The figure lies unmoving where he falls.
Rule Mechanics: Our Hero's team pulled two cards from the pack, using the highest number (which is a 7) to determine both move initiative and action points for the turn. The enemy only draws a 5, so goes second during this game segment.
However, the enemy throws a 3 at the beginning of the turn before our hero even has a chance to do anything... followed by a 2, which means he can place a single German Seebataillon soldier eight inches away. The figure is placed on the path ahead of the hero party; and immediately un-slings his rifle and takes a few snap shots at the intruders approaching over the bridge.
He draws three cards from the deck for firing a rifle, but the cards are hearts and diamonds, and he needs a clubs card to achieve a hit. He would have been better to have run back through the trees to sound "alarm" at the top of his lungs. As it is, the thick trees swallow the sound of gunfire entirely; and when the lead most figure on the bridge (Dr. Johannes) returns fire.... the German soldier is hit and drops to the ground like a stone.
Using 2 action points (7 total this move, due to drawing a seven at the start of the turn), Dr. Johannes fires then darts over the bridge and takes cover amongst the trees on the far side. The rest of his team move up and onto the bridge, bravely following their intrepid leader. I make no morale roll this turn as they have just seen their 'boss' dispatch the lone enemy with relative ease.
Draws a King and a Queen (save cards), but the 1 of Diamonds is lower than the 'to hit' card, so the German takes a wound. As he is only a secondary (minion) character, this is enough to remove him from play.
Our heroes move over the bridge and into the jungle on the far side.
As Justin slips quietly into the undergrowth, he sees two move uniformed soldiers creeping forward along the path. Over his shoulder he spots his own team moving up over the bridge and realizes they will be sitting ducks to second the enemy notices them. Doing what any true hero would do under the circumstances, he charges towards the enemy with pistol blazing as he goes.... and misses with all three shots!
As the distance between them closes, Justin notices the enemy he is bearing down upon are wearing colours which bear a striking resemblance to the legendary German Sea Battalions, but the watery hue is that of Penal colours, and suddenly our hero knows he is facing the feared and detested Colonial Expeditionary force rumored to have been lurking mysteriously in the Jiangsu Province for a while now. One of Dr.Johannes's most trusted contacts back at Wu Port, British Police Chief Inspector Mr. Hercule Jon Perry strongly believes the Germans are gun-running in the area, yet to date, is utterly unable to bear further light on his suspicions.
The two German soldiers see the stranger advancing towards them, hearing the shots buzz harmlessly over their heads... look at one another, silently raise their own rifles, and blast the trees all around their charging assailant. One bullet rips through the shoulder of their target (1 of his 6 wounds used up), but the rest fly into the jungle, skimming and ricocheting off tree trunks with dull whines of protest.
The Chinese rifleman in the employ of Dr. Johannes raises his own primitive rifle... shoots over the charging Justin's head... and drops one of the Germans where he stands.
Rule Mechanics: I decide it's about time for the last standing German to take a morale check. He has just seen one of his friends shot to the ground by enemy gun fire, and another lies a little further up the path; but these German lads are a tough lot, so I assign the soldier a fifty/fifty chance of failing his IN-RADIC morale check.
He rolls a 5, and checking along the Average column: a number which falls between a Perfect and Okay result represents a non result... or in other words this is a turn delay which is neither a success or a failure. So for this turn (and I decree the next as well) he will be rooted to the spot, unsure what to do.
Failing to roll the required number on the die for fresh reinforcements on the next turn, the lone German can do nothing except wait inert for the charging wild man to make contact with him.
The action cards drawn for the hero and team are a 3 and a 3. So their choices of actions will be somewhat limited this turn.
Our hero moves (1 card point) and makes a melee attack (another card point), and draws two hits with his four attack cards. The German soldier successfully wards off one of the hits, but fails to block the other, and falls senseless to the ground beside his companion.
The Chinese rifle bearer on the bridge moves forward into the jungle, which completes the heroes' available actions for this turn.
Doctor Justin Fabien Johannes moves through the jungle overgrowth, parting the exotic leaves of various trees and multi hued bushes, intent on reaching his goal, the lost tomb of Qui Chi Men. He can feel he is close, and a nervous excitement courses through his veins and his heart pumps loudly in his ears like a wild and erratic drum beat. Behind him, crashing through the new trail he is blazing through the foliage, his small native contingent follows closely in his footsteps...
...and suddenly, he is standing on the tree line at the edge of a clearing in the jungle. Justin allows a silent whistle to escape his lips as his eyes hungrily take in the sight before him.
Standing tall and proud in the middle of the clearing is an amazing sight to behold. An obelisk of stone jutting straight out of the ground; and even though just the tip is showing... a three-sided, tapering monument, ending in a pyramidal like top... the smooth chiseled stone still dominates the landscape, and would have been a marvel for all eyes to see if it hadn't been buried, lost to time in the deepest jungle terrain of the Jiangsu.
But the temple tomb is not the only thing Justin has spotted. All around the base of the pyramid structure are rifle armed men in pale green uniforms, all standing sentry in a porcupine line of defense.
But most noticeable to Justin is the fact that two of the men stand flanking a semi clothed blonde haired woman who has been thrown carelessly to the ground, half lying and half sitting in a cowered pose as though she fears for her very life. Through her tears even across the distance, Justin can make out her pleas for mercy, but the response is cruel laughter from the two assigned captors closest to her.
The woman does not look indigenous to the area, and her uncombed blonde hair lying straggled and wild about her face gives her the defiant air of a mythical Amazon, for although she looks beaten and dejected, the defiant slant of her head and the intelligence burning through her fiery blue eyes betrays anything other than humble defeat.
Hearing his team approaching quietly through the undergrowth behind him, Justin knows he needs to think and act fast. He counts six armed men in the clearing around the triangular stone.
Rule Mechanics: The second our hero stepped to the edge of the clearing, I threw 2 six sided dice to determine how many enemies I would place to guard the tomb... and prisoner.
Making a snap decision, Justin looks over his shoulder, sees his trusty rifle armed team member (I think we'll call him 'Woo' from now on), and nods once towards him, a slight flicker of doubt showing on his face. But comprehending of his master's thoughts, brave resolve shines clearly in the young native boy's eyes. Justin is suddenly more confident his plan might work. Justin quickly reloads his weapon, and when he is ready, he raises a hand to the boy, signaling his intent. The native, now with a clear bead on the nearest target, merely nods, but he gives his master a shiny white teeth filled smile of acknowledgement.
Then our hero makes a dash into the open and rushes towards his foes, raising his pistol as he goes. Initiative and fate are both on his side, and he covers several seconds of ground before the German soldiers ever realize they are being attacked.
But Justin fires a few rounds from his pistol... dropping one of the guards standing near the captive woman before the man even knows what hit him.
The second is preparing to raise a rifle towards the charging intruder, but the loud crack of a rifle shot from the edge of the clearing fells the soldier like a tree trunk.... Woo's aim as ever, proves to be good.
Justin charges headlong into another soldier, and after a quick interchange of blows the German is overpowered and dispatched with skilful efficiency.
"Aaah, doctor Johannes, so ve meet again!"
A high pitched and heavily accented voice appears from nowhere... and suddenly, standing in the clearing is a huge, muscular man in a white jacket, blue shirt, and mismatching purple striped trousers. Justin immediately recognizes the rogue as none other than the notorious Baron Luger Von Kiel.
Undaunted by the sudden appearance of this new foe, or the way time seems to slow to a standstill by his dominant presence, Justin decides to buy for time, allowing him to think of a plan to save them all. The remaining German guards around the pyramid grin with evil dire intent, and start to move in closer.
Our hero is aware the sudden standoff might explode into new action any second.
Rule Mechanics: I decide now is the perfect time to use the Secondary Traits Table from my Pulp Fiction rules. I already know (having pre-rolled the stats for Justin Johannes, using these rules) that our hero has at his disposal Automatic Success: and Conversation Taunt; so I decide over the next few moves to put these into operation.... hopefully at level 5 Justin can pull it off smoothly.
"I see your dress sense hasn't improved, Herr Kiel. You were wearing that suit at the World Peace Conference in Praag last year weren't you?" Justin taunts... successfully, he notices. The sudden flash of anger makes the nefarious villain's face flush red for a second, but he quickly recovers his composure, laughing off the insult with a chuckle.
"Aaah Mr Johannes, surely you jest; everyone knows your indomitable reputation for trivial banter. It might work with the ladies you so delight in making your nocturnal conquests... but not with me."
But Justin knows he has his hook into the worm, and starts expand upon his taunts; all the time aware that Von Luger and his men have advanced just far enough away from the girl to have left her unobserved and unguarded.... completely forgotten for the time being. From the corner of his eye, Justin spots Woo creeping closer round the side of the pyramid, and ever closer to the rope tied woman.
"Well at least I possess the charm and wit to entertain in that way. Must be hard for you to comprehend, dear Baron... however, you might try taking a bath every once in a while I suppose, but I can't guarantee even that would remove your notorious rank aroma."
Woo reaches the woman... puts a hand to his lips, cautioning her to stay quiet, and starts cutting the bonds around her feet.
"Mr. Johannes, I know you like to hear the sound of your own voice, but I'm afraid I don't have time to listen to this pathetic banter. I have you where I want you, and if I were you I'd be choosing my next words a little more cautiously, because they will be your last."
Woo cuts the rope binding blonde haired woman's hands.. and they begin to move away, silently melting into the jungle.
Justin knows his moment to make his own escape has come.
"I believe it's customary for a condemned man to be granted a final wish. I thought you Nazi types were big on all that honour and pride stuff ?" Justin toys with the pistol magazine clip carefully concealed in his hand.
"Quite right. Watching you cling to life for a few more seconds will be most delightful. So, what is it you van't Mr. Johannes?"
"One of those Cuban Cigars you're puffing on now, if you please."
"Really...? I didn't know you smoked." The Baron chuckles.
"Well, I try not to make it common knowledge I have any vices, but under the circumstances...." Justin lies.
Handing a cigar from his top pocket to one of his men, the soldier came forward and hands it to the prisoner, barely suppressing the sneer of contempt from his hair stubbled face. Lighting the cigar for the doctor, the soldier moved away to allow him to smoke in peace for a few seconds.
"You know, Mr Johannes, I will miss you, you know." The Baron toys.
"Oh, why's that?" Justin plays for just a little more time.
"Oh because with you gone, things will be quiet in the academic field. I've dreamed of this day for so long you see... finally dispatching the infamous doctor Johannes, without even a final epitaph or a grave to mark his passing. Best of all, you failed to find the tomb of Qui Chi Men before me, indeed you failed to recognize its importance at all. Yes, I shall miss you when you are gone, because I will have to set myself a new dream."
Justin desperately wants to taunt the Baron longer, to find out what his enemy has discovered about the tomb, but he knows he must move now, or lose everything. Luck has been with him so far, but it wouldn't last forever.
Moving in a sudden whirl of motion, Justin stubs the lighted cigar down onto the bullet filled cylinder in his hand. The heat of the burning tobacco ignites some of the powder, but before it can spread and explode, our hero throws the whole thing into the middle of the enemy... turns tail and runs as fast as he can back towards edge of the jungle where he first entered the clearing.
Behind him, there is a small explosion of flame and smoke... shards of metal fly in all directions; and there are a few screams of pain, but Justin does not have time to look around to witness his handiwork.
Diving into the trees, Justin moves as fast as he can away from the threat behind him.
The voice of the enraged Baron calls after him.
"We will meet again Mr. Johannes, that I promise you!"
© 2008, Stephen A Gilbert