The TARDIS had returned to Roanoke but a few miles and several hundred years from where it had left. Still, it was enough for the TARDIS to regain its bearings. While it did so the Inspector and Phillipa took the time to explore the small town of Haymaker.
I decided to give them this little quiet period to show that they aren’t constantly stepping out of the TARDIS straight into trouble. A check of wikipedia had provided me with information about 1933 so the time travellers were able to enjoy seeing King Kong in the local cinema.
Phillipa was enjoying the chance to relax in a time period see remembered from her youth (hailing from the 1940s herself). As night fell they headed back to the suburban street where the TARDIS had landed.
At the far end of the street they saw a house enveloped by green gas, a young woman in her night clothes stumbling towards them. She managed to tell the time travellers that her family were still in the house before collapsing.
Phillipa started to perform first aid, identifying that the woman had been poisoned while the Inspector rushed into the TARDIS to retrieve gas masks (in return for a story point). He left Phillipa looking after the woman while he rushed into the house.
Inside he found a man, a woman, a small boy, a dog and lots of dead house insects. It took several trips (and strength+athletics rolls) but the Inspector was able to pull the whole family and the dog out of the house.
Thanks to Phillipa’s medical training and experience with gas attacks the family soon recovered and introduced themselves as the Cartrights.. They explained that they’d been settling in for the night when gas had filled the house. Only Mrs Cartright had seen a figure at the window as she collapsed. The daughter had been upstairs when the attack occurred, being the last to be exposed to the gas which allowed her to get outside before she collapsed.
The events at the house hadn’t gone unnoticed and someone had summoned the police. Deputy Miller arrived and began taking statements, thanking the out of towners for saving the Cartright family.
The Inspector re-entered the house, gathering samples that remained of the rapidly dispersing gas and collecting up some of the dead insects. While he took them into the TARDIS lab to be tested Phillipa remained with Deputy Miller as a neighbour let the Cartright family recover in their house.
Phillipa learnt that Mr Cartright was a baker and the only possible suspect was Farmer Scaggs. The town council had restricted the use of chemicals on crops which had upset Scaggs. Mr Cartright was on the town council so this could have made him a target.
In the lab the Inspector identified that the gas was alien in origin. This led to the player asking if the components of the gas would tell them where the aliens originated from. Considering the size of the universe and that hundreds of alien planets would share chemical components I explained that he couldn’t single it out to any particular world.
His examination of the dead insects could have revealed early on the presence of the Roaches but the Inspector rolled low. All he learnt was that the gas was particularly effective as an insecticide.
The Inspector re-joined the others and wanted to go and visit farmer Scaggs straight away. Deputy Miller pointed out that it was now late at night and Scaggs was likely to shot at them with his shotgun if they turned up unannounced. The deputy agreed to drive them there himself in the morning.
In the mean time he took them to a small bed and breakfast run by Miss Heartwell, who insisted that two had separate rooms, as they weren’t married. They reassured her that she needn’t be concerned for her respectability. They weren’t a couple, only companions.
In the morning I provided further historical flavour. Phillipa was asked to go to the general store to get some milk for breakfast. While there she overheard a Jewish customer trying to persuade the owner, Mr Snyder, to boycott German goods due to the way the recently elected National party had been treating the Jewish people.
Snyder was unconvinced but Phillipa reassured him that Hitler was bad news, having foreknowledge of the second world war. She also urged the customer to get any family he had in Germany out of the country.
It was only after the game that I realised the parallels of one race using gas to wipe out another. I’m not sure I would have used it if I had but what this scene did do is to make a history an active part of the game, not just window dressing. In her own way Phillipa is using her limited knowledge of the future to save people in the past.
Back at the bed and breakfast Miss Heartwell was complaining about the end of prohibition. The Inspector, being as subtle as always, decided to tell her about his encounters with John Lennon and Jimmy Hendrix, names that meant nothing to her.
Phillipa and the Inspector had just finished their breakfast when the deputy arrived to take them to the farm. As they drove they noted that the only way in and out of the town was the bridge that crossed the river.
I should say that the geographical details of the Haymaker weren’t based on historical fact. The details were simply to suit the game, with a few facts such as the average population figures gathered from looking at similar small towns.
I also choose not to use the names of the actual victims of the gassing attack or any of the specific details. For instance the first gas attack occurred in a house containing 8 people. Far to many for the player characters to drag out, one by one, and too much of a headache to roleplay each of the people.
Ignoring historical fact for the benefit of the game allowed me the freedom to adjust things on the fly. I’d only introduced farmer Scaggs because the players were demanding a lead to follow. In reality the gas attacks occurred days apart, far to much time for the player characters to sit around waiting.
So it was, as they approached farmer Scaggs property surrounded by farm land, they saw that his house was also surrounded by the same gas cloud they’d seen at the Cartright’s house.
The mad gasser had struck again!
To be continued….