In June 1900 the Boxers made a determined effort to repulse the foreigners who were living in the their land. Rightly or wrongly they felt that Europeans were corrupting their country through politics, religion, economics and even through the opium trade.
In Beijing foreigners were forced to flee into the walled legation quarter of the city. The siege lasted from the 20th of June to the 14 of August. British, Austrian, German, French, Japanese, Italian, Russian and Americans had to work together to survive until they were rescued by the Eight Nation Army.
This was an actual base under siege story and so was perfectly suited to be the centre piece of a Doctor Who adventure. It wasn’t hard to imagine that the time travellers might end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and have to escape into the Legation quarter, cut off from their TARDIS and caught up in historical events.
I briefly contemplated have the game start with the characters sight seeing before being swept in the panic. I decided against this because I was worried they would stubbornly try to make it to the TARDIS, even if it meant facing hordes of lethal Boxers.
Far better to start with them already running towards the gates of the Legation quarter. It would also be a good excuse to use the chase rules, the Boxers hot on their heels. It would be an exciting way to begin and not give them time to think about whether they wanted to go into the quarter or not.
Upon reading further about the Boxers I learnt that they believed they had the mystically ability to become invulnerable to weapons and even fly. To give the adventure an extra twist this belief would be real.
I decided that in the caves near a village to the north of Beijing there would be an alien prison, a race of energy beings trapped within. Over time the confinement field would have weakened, allowing the aliens to project themselves outside and bond with a living host, while their bodies were still trapped in the prison. For a long time they were simply a new race of aliens but then I remembered the Vardans from ‘The Invasion of Time’ and decided they fitted the bill.
While bonded with a Vardan the Boxers would have invulnerability, flight and the ability to throw lighting. It was a Wuxia film made real. Since the Boxers had withdrawn shortly after the siege had begun, replaced by the Chinese army. I decided that they would have discovered the player’s TARDIS and taken it back to the village to examine, in the hopes of using the advanced technology to be free of the prison.
With the basic story in place I did far more research than I really needed to. I made a note of the important figures during the siege, mostly who represented each of the countries, and made out a list of the major events that occurred.
In the first few days of the siege fire started, neither side can agree who did it, but one of the buildings set alight was the national library of china. I decided that this was done by the possessed Boxers who were trying to eliminate a book that contained an incantation, actually an alien password, to banish them back to the alien prison.
If the players were on hand they could save the book and learn about the mysterious ‘Ghost Stone’ whose evil spirits could give men great power. From the book they could learn the stones location.
The Japanese chancellor, Sugiyama Akira, attempted to reach the railway in order to contact allies but was caught and killed before he could do so. His attempt would be an opportunity for the player characters to join him, so that they could escape the siege for their own purposes.
There was a chance that the player characters would miss this opportunity or return to the siege at a later point so I made sure that I had something for the player characters to do at each major point in the siege, whether it was offering tactical advice, medical aide or just dealing with the social tension of having so many cultures working together in hellish conditions.
If need be I would have leapt forward in time so we could run through the whole siege. If they did stay that long I wanted them to feel the great relief when they heard machine gun fire at 2am in the morning as the Eight Nation army entered the city.
I was aware that players are often impatient and don’t like to give up control, so the prospect of being unable to control their every action for all two months of the siege probably wouldn’t have sat well with them. I’d hoped that the action and relations they’d make with the NPCs would compensate for that.
Whether they left early or waited until after the siege the main goal would be to stop the Vardans using the Boxers. They’d have no hope of fighting the Boxers directly so they’d have to rely on stealth to enter the caves and forcing them back into their prison.
They’d then be able to recover their TARDIS and leave. The capture of the TARDIS meant that the player characters couldn’t just ignore what was happening and it also provided a reason for the villains not to immediately kill the time travellers. Instead they could be forced to reveal the secrets of the time machine.
To Be Continued…