The Complete Canal Priests Of Mars is now available!The original publication of Canal Priests Of Mars cut slightly over a third of author Marcus L. Rowland's manuscript to fit GDW's adventure format. The Complete Canal Priests Of Mars restores the cut material, features all new artwork by Paul Daly, and adds many useful player handouts. Enjoy the "author's cut" of a classic Space 1889 adventure, or experience it for the first time!
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"...Above the portico, a flag-staff, bearing the Union Jack, remained fluttering in the flames for some time, but ultimately when it fell the crowds rent the air with shouts, and seemed to see significance in it."
Rudyard Kipling reporting on the Fall of the Shastapsh Residency in the Syrtis Times 1889.
The Shastapsh Uprising of September 1888, created for the British a festering sore within their Martian Colonies, just at the moment the storm of events with Oenotria broke into full-blown war. Consequently, military resources that might have marched on the city and restored British control were diverted to other fronts, most notably the Defence of Avenel, and to positions along the canals leading to Syrtis Major. In the ensuing months since then, General Newdgate, the local commander, has carefully built up his forces around Moeris Lacus, unwilling to commit them to extended campaigns in the Shastapsh region before the question of the Oenotrians is settled. Thus the Uprising has been able to solidify into a defacto separation. But, though the British Army may not be prepared to march against Shastapsh, there are other forces within the Colonial Government that are....
"...the two riders dismounted and waited in the shade of a small clump of Sakaris Trees, the outline of the city visible in the distance . It was several hours later before the lone Martian appeared, warily approaching the two riders. 'Is it you, Huuman?' the harsh, guttural voice whispered. 'Yes, I'm here.' was the slightly nasal and bored reply. 'Did you get the information I needed?' The Martian looked sideways at the human, then grinned an unpleasant smile. 'Yes, and more, too. I found one of my people who worked at the Residency. It seems your commissioner was a man of courage. He did not lose your precious papers, nor did he destroy them either. They are safe and waiting for you if you should ever come back.' The Martian looked pleased with himself and was genuinely surprised when the Red Man became shocked and angered. 'Hid them?!?! Damn, Damn, Damn, Damn, Damn... Why couldn't the bloody fool just burn them like everyone else?' The Human tossed a small sack to the Martian figure and mounted his Gashant. Looking down at the Martian again, he spoke. 'Meet me at the Red Devil in 10 days. If I'm not there...find yourself a new employer.' The human and his companion rode off into the dark, leaving the Martian to wonder, not for the first time, how the Red Men had ever managed to become such a power on Mars they were so silly. Papers...who would ever care about papers, except a Red Man..."
For several months, the Colonial Government has striven to glean as much information regarding conditions within the rebel city as possible. Recently, the Colonial Office has come into possession of reliable information concerning the situation at the former Residency of Shastapsh. This new information has caused many a late night meeting and heated debate within the offices of the Colonial Governor. HM Government has learned that important documents that were assumed to have been destroyed before the Residency fell, appear to have survived instead. These papers detail the names of various Martian Tribal Leaders who have agreed to support British Colonial aims in the local area, as well as lists of paid informers within the local Martian administration who have aided the British before and could again. The contents of these papers would cause irreparable harm to British Colonial Policy if revealed to the wrong persons (Oenotrians, Germans, etc), and could also lead to the death of several pro-British Martian Leaders. The Viceroy's Council is unanimous in their decision the papers must either be recovered or destroyed!
"...the door to the office opened and Mick was ushered inside by his Green-jacketed Major. Mick strode smartly into the room, noting the presence of his battalion commander, a Navy Officer and several civilians. Hesitating only a moment, Mick snapped properly to attention and reported. 'Sergeant- I mean Corporal O'Boylan! Michael Joseph;, Royal Irish Rifles! Regimental Number 628, reporting as ordered, Sir!' Mick stood ram-rod straight, unsure of what he was doing here, but hoping it had nothing to do with that missing Navy grog. A tall, lanky civilian standing next to the window looked at him carefully, all the while stroking his chin. After a moment he said. 'Thank you Major, I think this fellow will do nicely.' The civilian leaned towards Mick, and with and spoke in a bored, nasally voice. 'Sergeant O'Boylan, Her Majesty wishes you to desert and join the Fenians'..."
The Player Characters will be approached to undertake a secret mission for the Crown travel into the rebel city and recover or destroy the papers before the Martians recover them. Military, Foreign Office Agents, and other Government Service careers are naturals for this sort of mission, and will quickly find themselves "assigned". Canal and Hill Martian Characters could be hired to act as guides, interpreters, front men, etc and also fit in well as members of the party. Lower Class characters such as Criminals, Smugglers, Poachers, etc would be "convinced" by whatever means necessary to undertake this mission, thus bringing their special skills into play. Non-British characters would be "appealed" to "to act in the best interests of "mankind", with Her Majesty's spokesman pointing out the danger that such uprisings could place other Human Communities in. For skills, Disguise, Theatrics, and assorted "criminal" abilities will enable the Characters to pass themselves amongst the assorted rogues and rebels within Shastapsh. Accompanying the players will be Sean Boland, a Foreign Office agent with contacts inside the rebel city.
Sean Boland is a career case officer with the Foreign Office. Irish by birth, Boland is nonetheless loyal to the Crown, and opposed such groups as the Fenians and Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), seeing them as destructive and hurtful to the cause of Irish Rights and independence. Boland has been with the Foreign Office for 10 years, and on Mar's for three, making him an "Old Mars Hand" in the eyes of his peers and superiors. This is not his first mission, nor will it be his last.....
Since the papers are hidden somewhere within the former Shastapsh Residency, the players will need to find a way to enter Shastapsh and search the ruins to locate the papers. Then of course, they must leave the city and return to Moeris Lacus with the documents.
The Characters will travel to the city either from a southerly or northerly direction via airship, posing as deserters, mercenaries, blockade runners or other types of merchants trying to make a profit out of the war. If the PCs have no airship of their own, passage will be arranged for them on a "private" vessel employed by the British (see below). From the north, the PCs story would have them travelling from Thoth to Shastapsh, while from the south they would be coming in from Karkarham or some such city. If an airship is made available to the players it will be:
Arm: 0 Hull: 2 Spd: 3 Alt: VH Tonnage: 95 Price: 12,000 Crew: 1+4+12
Armament : 1 6-pounder Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon, Forward, 2 Sweepers, wing mounts
Captain of the Skrill (ST 4 / AG 6 / EN 2 / IN 6 / CH 4 / SO 3)
Paa'Uun is a Canal Martian from Syrtis Minor who works for the British from time to time, when it is convenient to both parties. One payment "for services" involved a 6-pounder HRC and an unspecified amount of ammunition for it, which now serves as the primary armament for the Skrill. Paa'Uun will be competent, business-like, friendly, but totally disinterested in the players. He is a taxi nothing more. He and Boland have met before...
From whatever direction, upon approaching the city, the players will be stopped by an air vessel of the Shastapsh military. While the Shastapsh's are looking for British soldiers or others, they will allow non-British Humans through to the city (of course a character calling himself O'Rourke with a Cockney accent would probably be able to slip through all Human look and sound alike to most Martians anyway). Cover stories of smugglers, mercenaries, etc will be grudgingly accepted by the soldiers and the characters will be passed through. Of note, German characters, or those posing as Germans, will be passed quickly and politely through by the soldiers (though the arrival of more "Germans" will be reported to the German Liaison by the end of the day.)
At odds with the British ever since their arrival on Mars (mainly over Moeris Lacus and tariffs for canal barges), Shastapsh was eventually captured by the British Colonial Army in 1887 and added to their colonial holdings. It has remained an open sore in the side of the colony ever since. Finally, in September of 1888, the city rose in rebellion (covertly supported by the Germans) and overthrew the British Administration, killing all British citizens and soldiers they could find, and burning the residency to the ground. Since then, the city has been is a state of perpetual war as it hastily raises a land and sky force with which to battle the British. The Anwaak, Salensus Kajakoll of Shastapsh (recently returned from exile in Osorma) hopes that the present war with Oenotria will keep the British occupied long enough for him to properly organize a large enough military so as to make the prospect of further conflict with Shastapsh unappealing to the, hopefully, war-weary British. To this end, Prince Salensus is in almost daily contact with the Oenotrians requesting assistance, and the Could Captains of Karkarham offering them "The Prince's Sword" (the Martian Equivalent of a Letter of Marque) to aid in the defence of his city.
Population 90,000 (plus 200-400 Humans)
Government Type Strong Prince (Despot)
Corruption Level Corrupt
Economic Status Mixed/Prosperous
Army Quality Fair (20 Inf/10 Cavalry/20 Guns)
Mercenary Quality Good (7 Inf/3 Cav/10 Guns)
Air Fleet Trained / 9 / 270,000
Attitude Towards Humans Very Hostile
3 Skyrunner; 3 Endtime; 4 Clearsight; 2 Smallbird
(Note that all ships conform to standard ships writeup).
While the number of vessels serving Shastapsh appears impressive on paper, the Anwaak is well aware of the limitations of his fleet. No modern weapons, hastily-raised crews, and vessels such as the Clearsights and the Smallbirds which would be of limited effectiveness against the British Gunboats. In addition to these ships, there are half a dozen or so cloud pirates who could be/would be pressed into service to defend the city, should the need arise (Game Masters are encouraged to use the 'Typical Pirate Kite' from Cloud Captains Of Mars to represent these ships).
Once inside the city, the players will have to find themselves somewhere to settle in and begin their mission. Though most of the human-related facilities within the city were destroyed in the uprising, several sites have re-opened due to the presence of the German "Volunteers" and the Fenian Battalion. As well, the city government has accepted the presence of a small community of human rogues and renegades as part of the price one pays when doing business with smugglers and gun-runners. Consequently, while the presence of Humans within the city will draw some notice, most citizens will be willing to deal and interact with Humans, though they will probably be abrupt and surly in their dealings.
Moving through the city, the players will encounter signs of the struggle that was, and of the struggle that is anticipated. All new Human constructions (excepting the German Legation) have been burned or otherwise destroyed; streets still show signs of old barricades and pitched battles; while other areas show signs of new defences. Martian buildings that were once occupied by Humans have been looted and/or reclaimed by the locals. Many of the local Martians troops wear British webbing (looted from the dead), carry British swords or bayonets, and even wear plundered medals and tunics like some sort of macabre badge of honour. It is past and through such scenes that the PCs, under Boland's directions, will make their way to the "Red Devil", the only tavern in town that offers rooms and services to the local Human community. At this tavern, it will be s simple matter for the PC's to acquire rooms, meals, and listen to the latest gossip before setting out to examine the Residency.
Located in the NE section of the city, it was once a shabby little tavern that catered to the crews of Martian dock-workers and 'rope-gangs' from the nearby skyport. As a primarily, Martian establishment, it was essentially spared the riots and destruction that followed the overthrow of the Humans. With the arrival of the Fenian Volunteers, however, the tavern owner, Jerrak Kalluum quickly realized the potential profit to be made by catering to the few humans that were left in Shastapsh. Thus, while most other merchants were removing Human signs, and human amenities from their shops, Jerrak added to his, even changing the name to reflect his new business focus.
Tavern owner and profiteer, Jerrak is also one of the last Foreign Office contacts within Shastapsh. It was Jerrak that got the information to Boland regarding the documents, and it is Jerrak that will assist the players while they are in Shastapsh. Jerrak is not motivated by love of the British though he is a simple pragmatist who sees that the British (and humans in general) are on Mars to stay. For Jerrak, the current uprising is a win-win situation. If Shastapsh succeeds in holding on to it's independence, he will continue to be valuable to the British as a source of information. If the British retake the city, Jerrak knows he will be rewarded for his "loyalty".
Originally located on the West Island of the city, two blocks south of the Royal Palace the Residency once stood alone; a medium-walled compound from which British Rule was exercised. Today, the gates are shattered, the walls breached in several places, the grounds despoiled, and the buildings gutted. Strangely three area of the Residency have survived relatively intact the kitchens, the chapel, and the Resident's Office (the smells from the Kitchen offended the Martians to the point they avoid it, the chapel was spared out of unspoken superstition, and the Resident's office by order of the Anwaak). All other areas show signs of bloody struggle followed by unrestrained mayhem and desecration.
First and foremost the players will no doubt try to scout the ruins of the Residency. A slight complication here is that the former Residency is located quite close to the seat of government within the city, which is on the West Island. This means the site is under regular though by no means constant, observation. Groups of PCs wandering about the ruined buildings obviously searching for something are bound to draw the attentions of the authorities. Complicating the matter further, Jerrak will inform the players that the Germans have shown an interest in the residency. Although the Germans are not looking for anything in particular, the Chief Agent for the Germans is hoping that he might find something that could be considered a "bonus" amongst the ruins of the former residency. Thus, while the German search will be able to take place during the day and with full government support, it will be less specific and slower paced than that of the PCs. Therefore, the PCs will be advised to get down to business right away and save the sight-seeing for later!
Herr Major Roehler is by training and professional assignment, and Engineer, however, his natural intelligence and bent have made him a competent and capable Intelligence Officer. His "Official" status is currently on inactive duty undergoing "Medical Leave" from the Landswehr, while in practice, he is attached to the Tripod Squadron advising the Anwaak of Shastapsh on practical fieldworks. Roehler finds the Martian attitude difficult, their treatment of Humans as barbaric and cruel, and feels unusual sympathy towards the British victims within Shastapsh. This does not, and will not, prevent him from carrying out his assignments to his fullest ability.
"...the line of bedraggled, beaten men shuffled by, urged on by the curses of the crowd and the brutish treatment of their overseers. O'Boylan tightened his hands into fists as he saw the men, their uniforms reduced to rags, pushed along the street. He turned to Boland, a nasty threat building in his throat when he looked into Boland's eyes. The Foriegn Office man was silent but grim looking, and his eyes burned a warning to O'Boylan..."
As the players conduct their search, it will become evident that contrary to press reports and British Intelligence, there were indeed survivors from the Shastapsh Residency. These poor unfortunates, slaves in all but name, will be seen chained and manacled around the city, the object of scorn and abuse by their Martian Captors. Several victims have already been "put to the crank" aboard one or two of the cloudships that guard the skies around the city, while others are employed as slave-labour to build defences and rebuild those areas destroyed by British bombardment. Most distressing for the players will be the news that several of the survivors have been sent south to the Slave Markets of Tyrrhenia! Once this distressing news skinks in, it will be learned from bar gossip that two British ladies are among the prisoners, though they are being held separately in the compound of the Germans. Only God knows what indignities they are being subjected to!!
[Note: The Germans are in a sticky situation they do not make war on women, and they have no intention of allowing the Martians to subject the ladies (Mrs Susan Byng-Clarke and Mrs Margaret Barton, both now widowed) to the same sort of hardship that the male prisoners suffer, yet they cannot release them as they will reveal all that they know of German/Fenian involvement in the city, as well as relating information concerning the city's defences. Consequently, the Germans are holding the two ladies within their own compound, safe from the mobs, but prisoners nonetheless.]
Finding the documents will depend upon the players deciphering two major clues. The first clue will be in the Resident's office proper, and consists of 5x9 inch wax stain outline in the middle of the Resident's desk. The second important clue will be the information that the Resident's final stand took place by a well in the garden. Popular rumour claims that the Resident was caught trying to hide himself in the well when the end came. As is the case with most rumours, it is based on wishful thinking and perception rather than any truth. In actuality, knowing the end was near, the Resident had determined to save several of the more important documents in the hopes that when British forces returned to the city (as he firmly believed they would), these documents could be recovered by the Crown. Thus, he and one of his aides secreted several files away in the most unlikely place. They dropped them down one of the wells within the residency grounds. The documents were placed in an oilskin packet which has been sealed along the edges in wax and weighted down with two pistols. The papers are 30 feet down, about 12 feet underwater.
Learning the location of the papers is not as impossible as it might seem. In addition to the desk stain and the location of the body, the Resident scrawled a message on the inside of the filebox. Knowing that others would read the message before a Britisher did, he wrote "Ding, Dong, Dell; Pussy's in the well. Who put her in? Little Jimmy Thin. Who pulled her out? Little Tommy Stout". The major clue here is that the Resident's first name was James, while in the nursery rhyme, the name of the boy who 'put her in' was Johnny! Thus, the Resident left a clue that (he hoped) would point to the location of the files!
"...Oy! Didn't we meet in Syrtis Major?' The speaker was a rat-faced little squint in a green tunic with Sergeant Stripes. The Fenian Volunteers were acting as police up in the NE quarters it seemed. 'Uh, not me Sergeant, but it might have been me cousin Seamus. He's in Red Newgate for passing pamphlets he is.' O'Boylan lied swiftly while the others moved unobstrusively away, trying to disassociate themselves from him. After a moment, the Fenian shrugged and moved on....."
As clever and as resourceful as the players may be, at some point in time, the facade of their identities will begin to unravel. For the first seven days they are inside Shastapsh, the PC's should be able to avoid exposure (unless they do something truly inept that makes it obvious who they are). However, starting the eight day, the chance of discovering will begin to rise. Possibly an Irish volunteer will turn out to be from the same hometown as one of the PC's is claiming to be from and will start to question the PC about their mutual hometown. Naturally, as the PCs fails question after question, or attempt to evade the answer, the Fenian will become suspicious. Likewise, an American soldier of fortune might recognize one or more of the PCs as British soldiers from a visit he made to Syrtis Major. Perhaps one of the German Officers in the city will become suspicious when the new "German" visitors make no effort to introduce themselves to the German Representative in the city. Start with a 10% chance of exposure (plus 2% for every member of the party over three). To this chance add 5% each day (thus, 21% chance of discovery of six players on the ninth day, 26% chance on the 10th day, 31% on the 11th, etc). By the end of two weeks, the chance of discovery will be nearly 50/50. It is important therefore, that the PCs carry out their mission quickly.
When the PCs have finally recovered the documents it will be time for them to leave. If they have accomplished their mission with subtlety, they should be able to reboard the vessel in which they arrived and depart the city before anyone realizes what they have done. If the alarm was raised, then the PCs will have much more difficult time in getting away. They may have to flee the city via canal with the forces of the Rebellion in hot pursuit. Perhaps the PzKpFd will try to sink their canal vessel as it departs the city docks (See below for statistics on the Tripod). At the edge of the city, PCs will have to run the blockade and gauntlet of rebel patrol boats, possibly even attacks by aerial ships (though this is not recommended unless GMs own a copy of Ironclads And Etherflyers). By air, their ship would be pursued by the cloudships of the Shastapsh rebels, possibly even one of the brutal High Martian Glorysleds or a Cloud Pirate from Karkarham. Kindly GMs could provide escape assistance by the sudden appearance of British cavalry, equipped with machine guns, along the canal to help drive off the attacking boats, or perhaps one of the British aerial gunboats will happen along at this particular time to save the PCs airship from whatever fate it may be about to suffer.
Hull 1; Move 5; Armour H 1; Armour RG 0; Crew 2; 1 X 2-pounder gun, Bow
Armour 2; Hull 2; Spd 6; Alt VH; Crew 1+3+11; one 4" S, two 1-p HRC, two NF
Bingham is one of the new-breed of naval officers, having served the majority of his 11 years of service aboard aerial vessels. He is well-versed in the realities of aerial warfare, and he knows the limits of both his ship and his crew. If encountered, Hornet will be conducting long-range reconnaissance and anti-piracy sweeps out of Moeris Lacus. He will assist any British, or neutral-flagged vessel that is being attacked by vessels belonging to Shastapsh or Oenotria.
"...Mick walked out of the Headquarters, his sleeve looking crisp and fresh with the new Sergeant's straps sewn on. Ahh, it's good to be back, he thought looking around. Rubbing his hands he started for the tavern. 'Sergeant O'Boylan!' He turned to see Major Tremayne and two Provosts coming out fo the Headquarters behind him. 'Sergeant, these men need to ask you some questions...concerning some Navy Rum.' Mick looked at the Provosts and then at Major Tremayne. With a sigh, he began to tear the Sergeant's stripes from his sleeve....."
Monetarily, the PCs will receive little from the government, though all the newspapers would be prepared to pay up to 100 Pounds for exclusive rights to the story. In respect to government reward, PCs in the military could reasonably expect to be Mentioned In Despatches or to receive a medal. Truly heroic characters who discovered more information than they were sent for may also receive additional renown points. Bringing back one of the prisoners, especially one or both of the ladies, or capturing one of the Germans would easily net a major reward, possibly even a knighthood.
Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:53:32 EDT