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QUEEN & COUNTRY: Ruffians & Revolvers

Background of a briefly ran Victorian spy game…may revisit one day.

The Diogenes Club is a peculiar club in central London for unsocialable gentlemen. Within its book lined walls shelter a silent club when only the rustle of newspapers, the turning of pages and the slosh fine beverages in refilled glasses disturb the piece as the silent staff tend to the members needs.

Most members enter through its portal and hats, umbrellas, cloaks or coats are taken by the mute doorman and placed in the right hand cloak room for recovery when they exit the club. But a few choice gentlemen enter the left hand cloak room by their own volition, placing garments on hooks, they tweak the nose of the bust of Wellington that shelters there and a secret portal opens to a lift they conveys them to the bowels of the building.

Equally choice ladies and the lower classes may enter via the tradesman’s entrance and may, once exchanging the necessary password with the doormen be shown a secret entrance with stairs to a very different organisation deep below the foundations of the Club.

Such entrants, further screened in a secure room by burly fellows with revolvers and shotguns, enter the thriving control room. A giant brass globe of the Earth, tiny lights identifying capitals and current operations dominates the centre of the gas lit room. The air is thick with cigarette & pipe smoke and the clack-clack-clack of telegraphy machines operated by sober suited tense clerks. Corridors spoke off this central room with many doors to offices where the analysts of the Intelligence branch assess information or Operations staff draft orders to Her Majesty’s Secret Service stations.

At the head of one corridor is a door beyond which lies the fearsome secretary to ‘C’ Mr Cashpound. A further door has a pair of bulbs above it – red and green. When red no one may disturb ‘C’ – the Chief of Staff.

Just before this suite on the left hand side of the corridor is a portal marked by a brass plate ‘Extraordinary Section.’ It is here that those gentlemen, ladies and ‘players’ who provide HMSS with the ingenuity, ruthlessness, bravado and élan for special operations, reside when within Headquarters.

Equipped by ‘Q’ branch, trained in all manner of subterfuge and killing it is these men (and occasionally women) to whom the Crown turns for the most dangerous, bizarre and deadly forms of secret service.
Directed by the mysterious M day to day operations of HMSS are ran by the Chief of Staff, Admiral Horatio Cunningfold. He has a number of special sections under his direct command – the ‘ruffians’ of the Extraordinary Section, boffins of the Quartermaster Section, Audit – the internal security people and the liaison with the Home Office.

Running the day to day operations of agents in field is left to ‘O’ the Director of Operations, Colonel Archibald Wakely. It is he who masterminds the spying by Parthan tribesmen on Afghan mountains, the recruitment of indolent Russian Generals, swamped by their gambling habits, to report to our embassy in St. Petersburg, besotted French naval officers to spill all to charming courtesans who note their reports for the benefit of the British crown and the like. In certain situations like a foreign agent being uncovered and needing rescue he has cause to call upon the Extraordinary Section.

Analysing information, including what Operations produces is the duty of the Intelligence branch headed by ‘I’, Professor Ignatius Velvet. Big brained clerks review intelligence from a thousand sources from the society columns of Italian newspapers to smuggled plans of nefarious criminal masterminds. When ‘I’ discovers evidence of something big but too dangerous or out of the way for ordinary operations staff to uncover further he to has to call upon the Extraordinary Section.

Rude Mechanicals We will be using GURPS for 175pt characters and will allow some more unusual skills but no psychic powers or outright magic.

The Matter of Character Characters can be British or foreign, male or female but must have a reason why they have been recruited by HMSS and are loyal to the crown. Ideally they will have some foreign languages and if you can think up a ‘parole’ (cover identity,) for the characters in a state which speaks those languages. I.e. a French speaker may have a ‘parole’ as a French, Swiss or Belgium which should fit in with their other skills. No good a burly ex-guardsman pretending to be a perfumer, unless he can do a passable impression.

Previously…Each scenario will start with a short action sequence featuring one of the player characters at the end of their previous, solo scenario. In the best tradition of Bond films this may/may not be related to the feature scenario with all the player characters which follows.

A bit of history A brief note on the nature of the world, Britain regards itself as ‘top nation’ and while the Empire has no extended to it’s full size it’s worldwide the key component being India, the Jewel in the Crown. Ireland is a unhappy part of the United Kingdom with Nationalists sitting in parliament after home rule and terrorists (Fenians) campaigning for outright independence. Only property owners have the vote. Four other powers dominate Europe.

Britain’s main rival is autocratic Russia, a hereditary Dictatorship advancing in Central and East Asia and suspected of having designs on India. Russia also has sympathy for its fellow Slavs in the Balkans who are ruled over by the Turkish Ottoman Empire which Britain has traditionally defended.

Germany recently united in a war with France is another nominally democratic power and many in Britain are sympathetic to it. Unification has altered the balance of power forever however and many wonder if its creation has permanently destabilised Europe. It is also starting to take an interest in Africa much of which is as yet unclaimed by European powers.

France on it’s 3rd Republic, is still smarting from its defeat by Germany and is expanding into Africa and Asia to try and restore some pride. These adventures often bring it into conflict with the United Kingdom.

Finally, Austria-Hungary, the Dual Monarchy is a ramshackle autocracy with both Austrian and Hungarian parliaments. It alternates between desire on Ottoman territory in the Balkans and wanting to sure it up against Russian aggression. Sometimes it is Britain’s friend and sometimes not. It has a close alliance with Germany and problems with its own Slavs wanting independence.

Other powers with potential influence are a newly united Italy (unfriendly to Austria,) the growing USA, Japan which is rapidly modernising and China which is collapsing into Anarchy as Europeans grab concession ports from her stricken corpse.

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