An Adventure for the 20th Century Young Centurions
“Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! McNash and Sullivan Circus and Shows is proud to present you the most charming and fun show, that will make you laugh, cry, hold your breath, hold yourself in you chair, and above all, enthrall you in magic, fantasy and glamour. By just 5 cents, you’ll see things that even The Biggest Show on Earth would not show. Come everyone, the circus is in New York, at the Washington State Garden’s bandshell!”
This adventure is written to be a introductory one for 2 to 6 20th Century Young Centurions, US-established, although this is not obligatory.
PS: I want to say a warm Thank You to Tricia “Pricilla Mooseburger” Manuel, for the tips about circuses and clowning in the 1910s US, via Twitter. She was very kind and helpful with my questions.
- McNash and Sullivan Circus Shows
- The Circus is in the Town!
- Vaudeville-style show
- Crazy People Attacks!!
New York, 1911. Next to a big building where the New York HQ for the international philanthropic institution called The Century Club, in the Washington Square Park bandshell, the McNash & Sullivan Circus and Shows company is holding one of their winter presentations, in a Vaudeville-style show, with juggling and tumbling, clowning and comedy, mentalism and magic, and some singing and operettas in the acts of the matinee presentation. The rest of the circus, like the animals and so, are into the show’s winter’s HQ, at Newark, NJ.
As in all times McNash & Sullivan Circus and Shows presented in NYC, many orphanages, schools and boarding houses had been cleared for free shows, and they sold some tickets with low cost for people from some of the poorest regions. That is because, of course, some of the biggest stars in the show, like Don Cagliostro, Master of Mentalism, Hypnosis and Mystics, and even Mr. Alvin McNash, the circus owner, have links with the Century Club. Also, the circus’ NY season is sponsored by Pendrik Press, from the Press Tycoon Jonah Pendrik, a jolly rolly, but very strong and focused in business, man.
Near the bandshell Mr. Alvin McNash put a cordon, but there’s no impediment for people get near and see the show further those cordon. The Circus’ alleys are installed behind the bandshell as a backstage, and many people nearby try to peek some look in the circus’ people, that stays there while not in the stage.
Newsies can be seen selling their newspapers or bartering some of them with the artists and circus crew for tickets. Mr. McNash is not against this, as far the newsies respects the cordon and doesn’t mess with audience’s entertainment. The tickets for the circus are very cheap and, specially in this matinee, is very affordable for any PC.
The matinee is a very polite, clean, elegant show, with no dirty jokes and obscenities at all: the main acts are Don Cagliostro’s mentalism act, and the McNash’s newest kid star: Lil’nico, stage name for little Nicola Castrogiovanni, an angel boy that presents himself as singer and Vaudeville comedy artiste.
However, during Lil’nico show, a group of people came and start to attack everyone in the bandshell and the crowd in it. Those Crazy People has no play other than cause the biggest mess possible, just because. Those on them armed, are with metal bars, crowbars, broken glasses and other kind of Improvised Weapons. Some could even have baseball bats and knives.
Some will try to wreck everything amok, including the canvas-covered backstage. Treat this as a Contest: if the Crazy People wins, they’ll break amok everything, complicating PCs’ life.
In the moment the attack starts, the circus’ band will attack on Stars and Stripes Forever. A Clever roll with Good (+3) difficult will be enough to remember that it is called the Disaster March in circus lingo, being played only in the most dire situations, so the clowns and other artists could help the audience to remain calm and get out the circus. This can be the sign PCs needs to see something is wrong.
The PCs will need to deal, sooner or later, with some of the Crazy People. Remember: this is Young Centurions and rating G/PG. No guns, at least the biggest part of time, and even when they shows up, they could be the intimidation and violence apex in the adventure. Anyway, even they being Centurions, they are still kids that will need to deal with adults out of their mind.
Describe them and show they are people they know: one could be the butcher, another the shoemaker, another a teacher, a baker, even the local Church priest/preacher. This description should be enough to show the PCs they are not evil people, but people out of their mind.
They don’t look able to put two words together or look sane, but anyway the PCs should not go for a kill or hurt those people: the looks like took by the Spirits, in fact, had gone mad by the excess of booze. Which, in fact, is not that away from truth.
Remember them they are Spirits of the Century to avoid them to go hard on the Crazy people: it sounds tempting to go all out and justify using the self-defense card, but this is not a hero, even more a Centurion, behavior, to be that harsh with innocent people.
Something they may want to do (or you can make their acquaintances force them to do) is to protect people that are running away from the park: treat this as a Contest or Challenge, were the PCs will try to avoid the Crazy people from get near and attack innocent people. Remember that any Attack action make things goes into a Conflict.
There’s one Crazy person each PC and NPC (if you’re counting them). They are treated as mooks, without Stress: one hit take them out. Try to make them think into creative ways to take them out without hurt them, like using the protection net to catch them, or even bring them back the backstage and undo the canvas’ cords, or try to lasso them.
Anyway, as soon they are all taken out, the Police will take them all to jail. Next the bandshell, if the PCs wants to investigate, they’ll see some empty bottles of cod liver oil (YUCK!!!!) without labels. If they look for the contents, they’ll see that it has some kind of liquid on each other: orange juice, water, root-beer, Ginger Ale, and so on. They will not be able to prove the contents by the adults in the place, like the policemen, Don Cagliostro, Jonah Pendrik or Madam Esther Sheridan. The police will take the clues with them.
Now, the PCs will need to go back home: time to do their homework and go to bed. Pip pip.
- Madam Sheridan is really severe
- The new kid
- Any Shadow on all this?
- The bullies are more aggressive than ever
Next day, the PCs wake up and get themselves ready for the school. Everyone lives or are living now in the Clinton neighborhood in NY. If there’s newsies on them, they (if want) could read in the newspapers about a thing called Fortivitus, that is claimed as responsible for some kind of disturbance in many cultural and sports events. Not only at the circus: some New York Highlanders (in 1913 called New York Yankees) supporters were took out Hilltop Park because they where disturbing things and messing with not only other fans, but with the players, in the game against Boston Red Sox. Similar things happened into the Giants vs Chicago Cubs game and in other events.
Anyway, when they go to the school, they are stopped, surprise surprise, by the local bullies, with his leader, Niels Olufssen, a spoiled brat that, because his family is in a little better situation, believes that everyone should do all his whims. The problem is, that time, they look meaner than normal.
Without previous calling, they go against the PCs, 1 group for each 2 PCs. And Niels will try to take advantage on the fight to take the smaller ones and, after beating them out, take everything he could. If the PCs are in advantage, he’ll take a bottle of Ginger Ale and gulp his content down, getting Stronger and Meaner than normal. Appendix 1 - Fortivitus will show how to adjust his stats.
Normally, the bullies will be unarmed (if you want, Niels will have a baseball bat or broom’s stick) and would not be a good idea for the PCs to hurt the bullies, even they being what they are (although, in a PG situation, you can let them give a good one-two on some of them). Give the PCs a chance to Take them Out by pushing them to the ground and running the hell out to Madam Sheridan’s Boarding School. If sounds they would not be able to deal with them (what would not be a surprise: they are kids, after all), make Madam Sheridan getting into the fight with some Constables to stop the bullies. This could be a good Take Out or Give In situation for the PCs.
If they have time, they will be able to see the bottle Niels have(d) with him: in the Ginger Ale label there’s a handwritten scratching saying Fortivitus . If they had not brought Niels out, they could asks him where he bought this, and he’ll say he bought the bottle with a guy in a bar called the Green Pint, in the East Side, where Hudson River get into the sea.
As soon they get into the room, they’ll be presented to a temp student: Nicola Castrogiovanni, a.k.a. Lil’nico.
This is a good time for the PCs to exchange gossip between them (thinking they knew each other previously or they accept to help each other).
Anyway, they don’t know, but soon their mentors or acquaintances in the Century Club will go for them, because it’s time for them to do something about this. The reason: the explosion in Fortivitus Consumption and the link between it and the violence growing in NY.
- Fortivitus is a risk for the city;
- Criminals are going out of control
- It’s 20th Century Spirit’s showtime
The PCs will be asked to go to the Century Club and/or contact they mentors or acquaintances. They’ll explain that their parents already had received an excuse so they could spend some days in the Club. Of course their parents thinks that the Club is just a philanthropic organization that take kids time after time for some trips, special extra-school activities and so on, trying to get the kids knowledge and wisdom to another threshold, preparing them for the century just recently started… Which, in fact, is somewhat true.
The PCs will be asked about what they know about Fortivitus and how they’ll deal with this. The mentors and acquaintances will give them a new information: Fortivitus can be mixed with any kind of drink, even water, with could make all the NY goes back to barbarism. The Club is working to discover how much Fortivitus could be addictive and his drawbacks, and then find where the drug is being made and by whom.
With the PCs’ mentors and acquaintance, there’s another NPC in the Club: Warren McLaggen, a Century Club Retainer, born into a non-century decade-turning January 1st. In his case, January 1st, 1881. So, he’s 30 years old. Many seem him just as a very competent police officer, one very efficient and well-succeeded NY Police Lieutenant and Commander of the local PD, and a rich person, that helps as he can with the Club. However, he also could feel instinctively Centurions and Shadows (and other kinds of potentials) in people.
He will say that the Police is on alert with the exponential growing into Fortivitus usage and the violence events related. Originally, it was a beverage took by some of the workers in the docks, so they could avoid pain and tireness, being ready for work sooner and for longer time, and that the excesses involved its users were left behind by the police as part of the common behavior of that hoodlums.
However, with the time and growing in the number of addicted, they started to grew more dangerous and violent. And more: Fortivitus started to be more used outside the docks, first by hobos and tramps, and growing even more, including into some high society circles.
Obviously, this drug can make a big mess in the NYC society. Not only, or even mainly, in the high circles: the first and biggest victims would be the poor, where Fortivitus was circulating more openly, its use even being stimulated.
At the same time, they could ask the adults about Fortivitus effects. With good rolls on Create Advantage tests, the PCs could discover all the info in the Appendix 1 - Fortivitus, EXCEPT about the Atavic Effect: there was (until now) any case of Fortivitus overdose that could justify the Atavic Effect.
If the PCs had not taken this clue with Niels in the last scene, Warren will say that the police is investigating a certain bar in the more hardened neighborhood in the East Side, next Hudson River docks, called Green Pint
- A Ruffian’s bar
- East River’s docks
- Newsies are welcome… Preferably with some newspapers
- “Josh is the law here”
- Lawrence (Lórcan Ó Buachalla) - a sneaky guy
The Green Pint
- A Ruffians and Hoodlums’ point; East River Piers; Newsies are welcome; Josh is the law here; The best and cheapest grub in the neighborhood
The Green Pint in fact is located in part of a great warehouse in one of the East Side docks, sub-located by a certain Joshua Pelgrane, nicknamed Josh. PCs with low level background, or that works and/or lives between them, with a Fair (2) Clever roll will know that, beside the clientele, Joshua make everyone be nice there, no matter the kind of riffraff and ruffians on it. This is because the norms they put on the bar:
- What happen here, stays here, and vice versa;
- You broke it, you pay it;
- Don’t like it? Get out, but pay first;
- The first that mess things is the first to put out;
- Newsies are welcomed… Specially with some free newspapers;
The Green Pint is a restaurant mixed with a bar: some gangly desks, an old wood balcony with a old painting, some rum and gin bottles in a shelf, and lots of beer. In a corner could be seen a big stove with a big cauldron full on the day’s grub. Joshua is a big and strong black man, with an easy smile, that turns into a grunt very fast if people says that he is on drug dealing business, specially Fortivitus.
If the PCs can’t understand Joshua’s reactions on the drug thing, Fair (+2) Sneaky rolls in the clientele could show the reason: Joshua lost his mother for the opium some time ago and he’s still shaken with any drug talk.
Otherwise, Joshua is a sympathetic, communicative guy, specially on information exchanging. As any barman, Joshua is a accomplished gossip guy. With some good rolls, he could say that the new guy Lawrence (is the name he knows) came recently from Limerick, Ireland, to NYC. He’s in the bar, with a big ferret smile and fire red hair. Joshua will say that his making big bucks with some kind of business.
Lawrence, or Lórcan, as is his name, really came recently from Limerick. However, while other Irish people came to avoid the Great Famine that came in Ireland and just now is waning off, he came with sneaky business. Lórcan involved, via some shady contacts, into Fortivitus, and (without Joshua’s knowledge and consentment) is using Green Pint as a negotiation point for Fortivitus.
In fact, in the moment, there’s some Dock riffraff in the bar, some of them Fortivitus Addicts. If the PCs go too pushy on Lórcan, there’s a chance of an all-out fight get out in the Green pint. And there’s a problem: Joshua don’t want the bar to be destroyed, but Lórcan will try to get the PCs out.
The PCs will be circled and attacked by a Dock riffraff for each PC, plus some extra from Lórcan’s Stunt Friends in the riffraff. To turn things worse, one in two of them will have a dose of Fortivitus. If the conflict goes easy for the PCs, make Lórcan or some of the riffraffs goes and use Fortivitus. If, even with this, they’re having an easy time, it’s a good moment to do a big scare and may one of the ruffians goes through a Fortivitus overdose and turning into an Atavic Mutant.
Anyway, if the PCs can’t take Lórcan out, he’ll give in, running away. Joshua (if alive) will say that he worked into one of the warehouses in the East Side. If Lórcan was captured by the PCs, he’ll very easily gives he’s working for the Fortivitus producers and he came from Ireland with some of the raw materials for it.
Anyway, it’s time to the PCs discover who is back Fortivitus.
- Fortifying drug production
- The Secrets of a Shadow
- Le Monstre aux Yuex Verts is involved?
The PCs arrive in some warehouses in the East Side, where they can see some trucks being filled. Warren choose to stay behind, so he Call Reinforcements and block the ways out.
In the warehouse, they’ll see some Armed Goons, some sub-nourished people and a kid the same age of them. The sub-nourished people are working with strength, even looking in a brink to get out exhausted and famished, operating machines that are mixing some chemicals and putting the resultant substance into little capsules. The substance in question is, in fact, Fortivitus. All the people that are operating the machines are using contention masks to avoid them to consume the Fortivitus, as the are all Addicted on it.
The kid in question is Lemont Fitzlefebvre. He’s in NYC trying to make some easy money via his drugs, inspired by the Modus Operandi of the famous Monstre aux Yuex Verts, the Monster of Green Eyes that attacks in the pre-Great War Paris. With his Alchemical Knowledge, that he obtained via old tomes in his family, he has a simple objective: make loads of money and bring his family back to the position (he thinks) they should never being cast off.
The truth is, Characters with good education enough to do a Superb (+5) Clever roll will discover, the Fitzlefebvre lost loads of money during the Agadir Crisis, and are recovering themselves very well. Lemont, however, can’t understand how his father do this and be a good employer for their employees. This is not strange, as Lemont is the 20th Century Noblesse Obligue Shadow, so he could not see the world as the democratic and egalitarian place he is (or will be): in fact, if he could, he would throw the History’s hourglass back to before the Magna Carta time. Create and distribute Fortivitus is a practical way to either fill his pockets with money and warrant his own loyal serfs (he thinks so).
The players will need to be very cautious: all the Lemont’s Goons are armed and are trigger-happy. Lemont himself is also armed, although with a rapier. To turn things worse, the worker’s addiction on Fortivitus will make them do anything for a dose. In a desperate measure, Lemont will open the silos with raw Fortivitus (not the capsulised one) and the addicts will hog their way into it as much they’ll go into the Overdose and Atavism, turning into Atavic Mutants, dangerous and crazy.
GM, the only reason that this not be a excuse for you to go a bloodsport is that the Mutants are so crazy they’ll try to destroy everything near, including other ones of them: at each Mutant Attack, roll a dice. On a
- result, they’ll try to hurt another Mutant or the installations. On a
0 result, they’ll attack the Goons or Lemont. On a
+ result, they’ll the PCs.
Anyway, if the PCs are clever enough, they’ll get their skin out of this, and if they are really good, they’ll do this by capturing Lemont. The surprise will be when he says his birthday: December 31th, 1900.
- Highly addictive; More Strength, Less Self-Control; In-City made
- Potency: Good (+3)
- Abstinence: Superb (+5)
- Effects Great (+4)
- Jekyll & Hyde: +1 on Forceful and Quick tests for the user while under effect; -1 in Careful, Clever, and Sneaky
- The Spirits make me stronger: +2 in Potency if consumed on booze
Fortivitus is provided as capsules that contains a kind of powder that can be mixed into any liquid and taken. It’s more powerful when consumed with alcohol, and this make the people who use it that way grow addicted faster. All the users goes under the Jekyll & Hyde Stunt while under the effect of it. A dose goes out into a scene.
A Fortivitus overdose can go into:
A character that had (or provoke on yourself intentionally) a Fortivitus overdose, can undergo an Atavic process, going back into some primitive characteristics and behavior. As a summary, he’ll go back into a Caveman, an Atavic Mutant, very strong, powerful, but utterly out of control. This stays as much the GM wants and, under this time, the character is treated as a NPC.
|High Concept:||A Police Lieutenant from a police men family|
|Trouble:||“Son, don’t get into fights you don’t want to .”|
|Worried with the city|
|“Opium… The Indian cigars… And now this thing.”|
|Extremely precise intuition for people - Century Club Retainer|
|High Concept:||Heir from a broken french noble house|
|Trouble:||Machiavellian sage beyond age|
|A Brilliant, although arrogant, mind|
|“Common people are resource”|
|Le Monstre aux Yuex Verts, an Inspiration|
|High Concept||Over-Optimistic, almost naïve, Circus Boy Orphan|
|Trouble||Second, Third, Fourth… As many chances as needed|
|Don Cagliostro looks for me|
|Lil’nico - A Circus Life for me|
|The Scapulary of My Mother and the Casquette of my Father|
|High Concept||Mentalist Spirit of Literacy|
|Trouble||A Good-Hearted Charlatan|
|“If you know the right thing, you always have the right win”|
|My Time is over, it’s a Century for Nicola|
|Gladly looks like Doctor Methuselah cast himself in the shadows|
|High Concept||Pendrik Press owner, a investigative journalist in the past|
|Trouble||A candle in the last burning|
|A Philosophical Mind|
|The pen is as powerful than the sword, and two times sharper|
|High Concept||Philanthropist from England and Century Club retainer|
|Trouble||Only with the Madam Sheridan’s Orphan House and Boarding School|
|Maxima potentia persona, Educatio est (Education is a person’s supreme weapon)|
|No effort is great enough to provide everyone good education|
|“The Century Club is all about courtesy, respect and human evolution”|
|High Concept||A old woman who just wants to live his last days with his community|
|Trouble||“I’m crazy? Do you think I’m crazy? You don’t know half the truth!”|
|Lived a life and a half, fought for three lives, and had a bitter payment for this|
|Follower from the traditional Irish religion|
|High Concept||Millennium Spirit that registers the history|
|Trouble||In the shadows|
|Each one should know only his history|
|In the end of his time|
|The last Millennium Spirit?|
As a destined observer, someone that works in the shadows, Aesop can, at any time, take a completely common appearance and behavior in the place he is, no matter human or animal, mingling in the crowd. This works even in forests and farms, by assuming the most common animal’s form.
|High Concept||McNash & Sullivan Circus and Shows’ Seer|
|**Trouble **||Motherly instinct, specially with Nicola|
|Century Club Retainer|
|“Fred can lean on me”|
McNash & Sullivan Circus and Shows’ Owner and ringmaster, Everything in its place, No patience with hoodlums, Century Club Retainer
McNash & Sullivan Circus and Shows’ master clown, A nonchalantly midget, Jack of all trades, A dedicated tutor