Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Seven Assassins of Dr. Fu Manchu

Several years ago, I struck upon the idea of running a series of games in seasons, much like television shows.  The idea was that I would pick a game and run a dedicated story arc of ten to twelve sessions duration with a definite conclusion, but also enough hooks to pick the game back up an run a new season later.  I ran two such games, a Legend of the Five Rings campaign in which entailed a single Winter Court at Kyuden Bayushi, and a James Bond RPG based spy game.  The limited scope allowed me to really pull out the stops and create some of what I consider the best material I have ever produced. Both of them were really successful, but circumstances prevented the second seasons from ever happening.  The L5R game did have a couple of one shots run since then.  The spy game ended on a bit of a cliff hanger and it has never been revisited.

Clive Reston in
 younger days.
It had been years since I ran a spy game and I really wanted to draw in a lot of my own personal pop cultural influences.  In order to do that, the I incorporated a number of decidedly pulpy elements, but played them absolutely straight.  In perhaps any other medium, this would have likely been a disaster.  For my game, though, it worked!  The players were all MI-6 agents called together initially to thwart a plot of suspected Chinese origin.  The PC's section chief was Clive Reston, a character from the 1970s comic book Master of Kung Fu (who was heavily hinted to be the descendant of both Sherlock Holmes and James Bond).  Over the course of the adventure, the players eventually uncovered a plot by none other than Fu Manchu himself!  Long thought dead, the players determined that the insidious doctor has graduated from reliance on the Elixer Vitae and moved on to full blown cloning.  With a clone army at his disposal, Manchu's plot revolved around the construction of an orbital laser with which to hold the governments of the world hostage.

Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee).  A great actor and
 a great character sadly misserved by five movies
 of dubious quality.
Over the course of the game, other elements from both popular culture and spy games past made their way into the narrative.  The PCs worked frequently with CIA agent Samantha Steele, the very efficient daughter of a much maligned character from our 1980s era Top Secret/James Bond games.  The investigation led the characters to locate alcoholic adult Jonny Quest and his long suffering friend/caretaker Hadji Singh in order to find out more information about the 60s cloning research of Jonny's father, Dr. Benton Quest.  The investigations eventually led to Thailand where the players had to enlist the aid of Bill Phillips, my most infamous PC from the old days.  Mr. Phillips had married a local, retired, and spent his days travelling the Thai countryside in his offroad modified Dodge Omni beating the stuffing out of child sex traffickers with his aluminum baseball bat.  Eventually, the players tracked the final piece of the orbital laser puzzle to the island of Dr. Han, and wrangled invitations to his secret martial arts death match tournament (torn straight from Enter the Dragon without a bit or remorse or shame).  The campaign ended on a bitter note as Han escaped from the island with the last piece of technology needed for the orbital laser.  The captured agents escaped, but not before one was shot to death in the attempt.

 Since the original season ended in at least partial defeat (as the middle act of most pulp-styled adventures do I must point out) and death, it falls to a new team of agents to complete the mission and defeat Manchu.  An orbital laser is not the sort of technology that can be constructed overnight.  And Dr. Manchu must still arrange for the transport of the laser platform into orbit.  As such, MI-6 still has a chance to stop the undying madman!  With their covers blown, the surviving members of the original team will need to be replaced.  Clive Reston brings together a new set of agents to deal with the threat. While Manchu prepares his space launch, it seems, he has decided to settle some old scores. Using the deadliest of his cloned army, he is sending teams of assassins out to destroy those who have thwarted his plans in the past and to obtain the aerospace technology needed to launch his laser.  Can these new agents stop THE SEVEN ASSASSINS OF FU MANCHU?

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