YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER, PART 1

boston_1816In 1816 the Earth experienced a miniature ice age. This is thought to have been brought about by a series of volcanic eruptions, the resulting ash clouds enshrouding the Earth and preventing the Sun, already at the weakest point of solar activity, from warming the planet.

The result was unusually cold weather on most of the eastern hemisphere. Thick snow feel in many places, harvests failed in the cold, the sun blazed blood red at dawn and sunset. In some places even the snow was turned red by the ash.

Reading about this event it seemed like a nightmarish scenario that you might encounter in Doctor Who. Certainly New Who has shown planet wide incidents such as ‘The Army of Ghosts,’ ‘Poison Sky’ an ‘Journey’s End.’

When it came to writing my next Doctor Who adventure I knew that I’d want to base it around this odd year. The drastically different weather and the panic it had caused would suggest something unnatural and it had the advantage of actually having happened.

I briefly considered setting it in Switzerland, where Mary Shelly and Lord Byron were busy writing, their holiday having been ruined by the rain. It had the appeal of historical celebrities but I was aware that there had recently been 8th Doctor adventures involving Mary Shelly and since I’m trying to include all sources as canon I didn’t want the player characters getting involved with someone who had contact with the Doctor.

Instead I decided to focus on the snow aspect. It had visual appeal and conveyed the concept of a new ice age. The snow would have been the ideal environment for the Cold from the book ‘Time and Relative’ or the ice creature from ‘Drift’ but neither were suited for being the cause of the climate change.

The best candidates were the Ice Warriors. They had an established history of trying to alter the planet to better suit them and could have been active during this period. It wasn’t hard to imagine that they could use their technology to cause volcanoes to erupt, taking advantage of the weak solar activity to cement their hold over the planet.

So when the player characters become involved the Ice Warriors have just one more volcano to activate to ensure that the planet’s temperature was permanently altered. They would need to find out who was behind the climate change, find them and then stop them before history was permanently effected. 

I wanted to set the adventure outside of the normal UK territory the Doctor usually inhabited. New York had been greatly effected by the unseasonal weather, finding settlers forced to head there as their crops failed before moving west. The rapid development of the city is often thought to have been related to this sudden flood of settlers.

The Ice Warriors would need a base of operations and preferably a human associate, someone who could help them hide. The question was who would want to help alien invaders?

Reading about New York in the early 19th century I learned that many of the big businesses were owned by Southern business men. I decided that the Ice Warriors would be working with Colonel White, a cotton plantation owner with a cotton mill in New York.

He’d seen profit to be made in the Ice Warriors plan to enslave humanity once the Ice age had been brought about. Colonel White was a man who’d made his money from the blood and sweat of other men.

The name Colonel White fit with the white snow and gave a verbal short hand to the fact that he wore white cotton suits and resembled Colonel Sanders. He would also help establish that slavery was still very much a part of life in the US .

with a plan in place I needed a way to have the player characters find all this out. I decided to take a page out of ‘The Beast Below’ book and use a crying girl. I decided that two Irish orphans, searching for food in the cold weather, stumble across across the Ice Warriors. They kill the girl’s brother with their sonic weapon, leading her to believe they are banshees.

After searching for good Irish girl names I picked Caitlin and named her brother Nicholas. Caitlin would act as the hook. Who could resist helping a clearly upset orphan, huddling in the snow.

The Ice Warriors would move their operations from the warehouse to the cotton mill where Nicholas’s body would be dumped outside at Collect Pond. There would be several clues left behind, including disturbed ground, imprints of advanced technology and coach tracks leading to the cotton mill.

To insure that the player characters did find Nicholas’s body, which would give them clues about what killed him and put suspicion on the cotton mill, I introduced the character of Charlie, a teenage pick pocket.

He could roam the city and flash the fop watch that he had taken from Nicholas’s body, which Caitlin could identify as being inherited by her brother from their dead father. Charlie would flee if approached, allowing us to use the chase rules for the first time.

When designing an adventure its always a good idea to work out both outcomes. If they caught Charlie he could lead them to the body. If he got away they could track him down to a Faggin type crime lord who could also provide information about the city in return for compensation.

Once they were led to the cotton mill, they’d find that armed guards prevented anyone from getting in. The guards would tell them that only Colonel White could give them permission to enter and he was throwing a big social gathering that night so he’d be too busy to speak with them.

Knowing my players I anticipated that they’d go to his mansion any way. They’d have the option of either bluffing their way in, pretending that they were guests or they could sneak in, blending in with the other people there.

The mansion was important because the number of rich people and their extravagant party would contrast with the poverty of the rest of the city and especially the conditions that Caitlin had been reduced to.

It would also be where Lord Kizack, the leader of this Ice Warrior group, would be staying at the mansion, hidden away in one of the rooms upstairs. The open windows, despite the cold weather, would tip off the player characters about his presence.

A visit to the mansion would move the plot forward in two ways. Firstly they could speak with Colonel White, learning about his involvement and either steal his keys to the mill or persuade him to abandon his venture with the aliens.

Secondly they could locate Lord Kizack and over hear his communications with the Ice Warriors at the mill, learning about their operation. Although well armed he would be a single alien opponent that the player characters had a chance of defeating.

Going to the mansion first would give the player characters a better idea about what was happening in the mill but wasn’t a necessary step. They could attempt to sneak into the building or even use the hungry people outside to break in, maybe by telling them that there was food in the mill, leading to a riot.

A team of five Ice warriors would be located within the mill. Stealth and cunning would be the order of the day. The aliens would have created a deep shaft, their technology would control the path of a Plasma inducer, heading towards a dormant volcano. As it neared its target New York would experience tremors.

The important part would be to sabotage this equipment or shut it down. A  ‘good and’ would have the plasma inducer return to the mill, burning it to the ground and eliminating the Ice Warriors.

I didn’t want to have Caitlin forgotten in all of this. I decided to use the Red Death, used by the Ice Warriors in the 8th Doctor book ‘Dying Days.’ A floating red cloud, it would be programmed to track her DNA and suffocate her, to eliminate the only witness to their operation.

They’d be able to learn that Caitlin was in danger either when spying on Lord Kizack or from the Ice Warriors at the mill. It would be likely that they wouldn’t take her to either of those two locations and they’d have to rush to save her, from where ever they had left her.

They could do this either by shutting down the Red Death using technology stored at the mansion by Lord Kizack, place her in a safe location like the TARDIS or even trick the Red Death by making it think Caitlin was dead, maybe by using the snow to lower her body temperature and heart rate.

I had all the important pieces of the adventure in place. In the next part we’ll see how the player characters performed, who they saved and who they let die.

To be continued…

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1 Response to YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER, PART 1

  1. Sounds like an excellent adventure. Like how you’re weaving real historical events into the narrative. Nicely done.

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