Wikipedia Surfing: from Houdini to a Whist-Playing Automaton

So, Harry Houdini is Willard Angeline’s arch-rival. I’m surfing Wikipedia and click from Harry Houdini to his mentor, Harry Kellar and stumble on this crazy bit:

In 1878, Kellar returned to England and invested $12,000 in new equipment, one of them being a version Maskelyne’s whist-playing automaton “Psycho”.

Whist-playing automaton?

Picture from the Museum of London:

From the Victorian Dictionary:

Psycho is the figure of a small and melancholy Turk, with lack-lustre eyes, and hands having a peculiarly unnatural appearance, even for an automaton, about the nails. He is seated cross-legged on a box, and he has small boxes near him. On the whole, he rather resembles a Turkish gentleman who, having determined upon travelling, had begun to pack up, and having suddenly tired of the occupation had sat down on a trunk, and rested his left arm on a couple of small boxes. However, Psycho is an independent gentleman, for he and his trunk are raised above the floor on a glass pedestal, quite transparent, and he most certainly appears to have no connection with anybody either on, or off, the stage. He does a sum in arithmetic; he takes a hand at whist, and plays (I was told this, not being a whist-player myself) a very fair game. Some clever people say there’s a dwarf concealed inside. If so, the dwarf himself would be a fortune in a separate entertainment; but, again, if so, Heaven help that unfortunate dwarf! Where the poor creature can possibly conceal himself is, to my mind, a greater wonder than that Psycho should be worked by electricity, as was, I believe (for I dare not say I know) the plain clock face of transparent glass shown in MR. ROBIN’S entertainment.

Punch, February 20, 1875

You can be damned sure that psycho will be in the Spirit of the Century game and when he does, he’ll do a bit more than just play whist, I reckon.

Unrealized Zeppelin

Pete made up a pulp version of Mister Miracle, Scott Free – if he was a Canadian veteran who was dating a Welsh lady who was the incarnation of Lady Scotia because every Scott needs his Barda. Willard Angeline’s bitter rival is Harry Houdini.

We are trying something a little different, going with only five aspects, making consequences come a little bit faster in the coming.

Let me see if I can remember his aspects off of the top of my head:

1) Glory Seeker
2) The Air Up There
3) Rivals with Harry Houdini
4) “I hate magic!”
5) Lady Scotia

Good, juicy stuff.

The opening scene of the game will be, as written on Pete’s facebook page:

Willard Angeline is running across the top of a Zeppelin, both pistols drawn, shouting, “We can bring this thing down before it causes any more damage! It doesn’t have to end like this!”

But if you worst problem of the weekend so far is that you and your buddy enjoy talking to one another too much to buckle down and game…well, that isn’t so bad and we’ll get to it. Willard Angeline will demand it. I have to know who exactly he is chasing and what they took from him.

But we already know where the zeppelin is going; it is heading to Cog.

SotC Idea: Change the Century

From this thread.

Okay, characters don’t get better over time. That is fine with me. We did some suggestions in the book for character advancement and they felt flat to me when we played. I suggest we ditch ’em.

You don’t change your character, you change the world.

After every game (or after each arc, if you don’t finish a pulp novel’s worth of adventure per session), you see who spent the most Fate Points in the course of play. That player gets to add an aspect to the world or change the wording of an existing aspect

This means that world aspects will quickly add up. But only a few are used in each game. At the beginning of each game, each player (GM included) can choose one world aspect that is in play in order to avoid ten world aspects just kind of falling on top of one another in a clutter.

World Aspects can be anything that is inspired from the game’s play, from anti-vigilante laws in Gotham to flying cars become affordable to Gorilla City’s first ambassador greets U.S. president. They work just like aspects.

Pulp characters do not change but dammit, at the gaming table, they should change the world.

So, here’s how I’d picture it working.

You have been playing for a while, a dozen adventures, a dozen different aspects.

Let’s say they are:

Flying cars
Ape City Embassy in NYC
Tyrian Deathlord Spies are EVERYWHERE!
Dracula’s Children want revenge
Cthulhu is no longer dreaming
Century Club has the Queen’s ear
The Hellfire Club controls the U.S. Government
Colonized Mars
Rocket-Packs for every Boy Scout
Vigilante-ism illegal in U.S.
Americans love science heroes!
Zeppelin City draws the finest scientists in the world

Okay, when you start play, you do not play with every single one of those Aspects in play. That’d be nuts.

Let’s say you are playing with four people, three PC’s and a GM. Each player (GM INCLUDED) chooses an aspect to go with the adventure. Hopefully, the players know the pitch.

The aspects might or might not play into the adventure but they are there to be tagged and such if it comes up.

So I tell the players, they will be playing Zombie Kong and the Lightning Zombies attack New York City.

They choose:

Dracula’s Children want revenge
Rocket-Packs for every Boy Scout
Ape City Embassy in NYC
Americans love science heroes!

See, they didn’t pick Vigilanteism Illegal in U.S., so it won’t be an issue in this game. Sure, it still exists but the cops look the other way, especially as Zombie Kong is rampaging through their city, on his way to the Empire State Building during a thunderstorm that could make him nigh invulnerable, plus, the guy who plays the Shadow-inspired character couldn’t make it that week.

Also, I’d want the players to be able to zone in on an Aspect and ask that it be the center of an adventure, resolving it somehow.

Kid Pulp Heroes

I have a hankering to make up half a dozen or so kid pulp heroes.

Here are my first thoughts:

Sherlock Holmes II, son of the sleuth

Born from the dalliances of his father during one of the famous detective’s cocaine benders, raised by his uncles Mycroft and Watson, moved to the U.S. in order to gain distance from his father’s enemies, can he solve the case-files his father left behind?

Aspects: Father’s enemies plague me, A letter from Uncle Mycroft, Father’s Strengths and his Weaknesses, Terrible Violinist

Rosie Riveter, strongest kid in the world

Before she was the WWII icon, she was the strongest kid in the world, able to life a Model T clear over her head or punch a charging bull.

Aspects: “I’m the strongest!”, Inspiring, “I’m always ready to do my part.”, “You can do it!”

Buck Bradley, Boy Scout Supreme

The finest Boy Scout in the United States with every merit badge imaginable and the ear of the President of the United States.

Aspects: Always Prepared, The Real World Ain’t a Merit Badge, Order of the Arrow, Bowie Knife

Nancy Atom, girl scientist!

Haunted by Madame Curie, the ghost from the future, this little girl is as brilliant as she is dangerous, using her acute knowledge of anatomy and sociology to decimate her foes when the need arises.

Aspect: Haunted by a Ghost from the Future, Stand Back – I’m going to do SCIENCE!, Anatomy Lessons

Kid Shadow, two-gun teen

When he picked up his father’s mystical .45’s, Crane Junior found himself in the body of a grown-up vigilante with a kid’s sense of justice and revenge.

Aspect: Kids’ Sense of Right and Wrong, Villains Deserve Bullets, My Father will be Avenged

Son of Khan

The talking gorilla son of the dastardly villain, Gorilla Khan, he has come to the man’s world due to the love of an anthropologist but is love enough to thwart his father’s cruel upbringing?

Aspects: Stronger than any man!, Law of the Jungle, My Father’s Son, In Love with Anthropologist


I forgot one

Jonesy, Captain of the Newsboy Legion

The kid on the street, ears to the tracks, fingers smudged with newsprint, unearthing the stories just beneath the busy sidewalks and just above the impossibly high skyscrapers.

Aspects: Ear to the Streets, “WUXTREE! WUXTREE! Read ALL ABOUT IT!”, “Who doesn’t this kid know?”, Not afraid to skin knuckles for the story.

Harry Kane, The Trench-Scarred Demon Vigilante

Link to Harry’s hospital room.

And my pulp reading switches from G-8 and his Battle Aces to the Spider: Master of Men. This is some dark stuff. The Spider will whack a motherfucker stone-cold dead and laugh about it.

He shot a guy who was running away from him. He shot him in the back of the head. This was the third chapter, a nobody, a mook.

Yeah, Harry Kane’s dark but this pulp stuff ain’t all talking monkeys and shiney zeppelins. There are some mad mofos in the alleys and some of them put on masks and beat people up for breaking the law.