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The Transactions Campaign:
The Cathedral Plot

by Mark Clark

The Belgians, in both the Congo and the Coprates, have used a policy of terror to further their commercial ends, despite the fact that they constantly protest that they only want to bring the benefits of civilization to their subjects. This policy is not unlike that of the French, who would sooner shoot a native than talk with him, and take what they can by force. The English, on the other hand, prefer to civilize their natives as quickly as possible. Being a nation of shopkeepers, they have no objection to educating heathens in their schools and loaning them money to start a business. As long as the Wogs don't marry their daughters, they are as happy as clams.

The question arises, however, as to how the British keep the loyalty of their native peoples once they have opened their eyes to civilization. The answer is simple: the Church. By converting the most powerful and influential among the native population, the English build up bonds that go beyond the simply material. When one wants to determine how important a colony is to the British Empire, one need only determine the size of the church there. The bigger the church, the more central the colony is to Whitehall's plans. The most important churches, cathedrals of the Church of England, mark ground that an Englishman will defend to the death, no matter what his faith might be.

James Thorton Biddle, formerly Deacon of St. Swithens Avenel, now Chairman of the Anti-Colonial League, Syrtis Major Chapter.


In this adventure, third in the Transactions Campaign series, our Intrepid explorers are commissioned by the Governor General of the Martian Crown Colony to discover why a shipment of Lee Metford rifles has gone astray. In the course of their investigation, the players will uncover a nefarious plot by that well-known Fenian Colonel Ian O'Reilly to blow up the Syrtis Major Cathedral. The fate of the British Empire on Mars is in the balance can our heroes prevail?

The Story So Far

Our group came to Mars several months ago on board the etherflyer HMS Majestic. During their journey, they solved a murder case on board, and then were kidnapped by Colonel Ian O'Reilly, the notorious Fenian and leader of the Army of the Republic of Ireland on Mars (see TRMGS #1). After their release by O'Reilly, they found and later explored the Golden Pyramid of Na-AlepAkoth, finding both treasure and clues to ancient Martian mysteries. At their moment of triumph, they were again attacked by Colonel O'Reilly, who stole the treasure they recovered and mocked them as he made his escape (see TRMGS #2). As our adventure opens, the characters have just returned to Syrtis Major after barely escaping with their lives from the Martian desert.

The Summons

The first few days after the characters return is taken up by recovering from wounds and injuries suffered in the Pyramid adventure. The press will be eager to talk to them, but if the players choose to reveal what they found, they will soon become the center of controversy. Since O'Reilly stole all of their evidence (with the exception of the ancient model of the solar system they found), the players will have a hard time convincing anyone they are telling the truth. Flights in an aerial flyer over the area where they dug reveal that the pyramid has been covered up by another sandstorm. After a week or so, the players will be out of the news and thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the public. On the other hand, Lionel Tyler, the man who sponsored the expedition, is quite happy with their results. He will claim the solar system model under his agreement with the party, and he will pay them the sum he agreed on (£50 per person). He tells them he will be happy to work with them in the future, but at the moment he is busy with financial matters and is unable to suggest any further expeditions.

After these matters have been resolved, Victor Hatherly, Colonel McGrath, and Lord Herring will receive a note from the Lieutenant Governor of the Crown Colony on Mars, Sir Richard Astonberry, asking them to visit his office the following day. At the meeting, the group will be joined by the Governor General of the colony. He will explain that he has asked them here to request their help in investigating a mystery. The group's efforts in solving the murder aboard the Majestic is well known, and he hopes the group will be able to solve his problem, which has baffled the police. He explains that in the last two weeks, the price of firearms on the black market has skyrocketed, suggesting that someone is buying up weapons wholesale. There seems to be no pattern; the price of muskets and pistols is up just as much as that for modern British rifles. The police are baffled, and the Governor General has turned to the players as a last resort. He will appeal to their honor as Englishmen to take on the job, and he will hint that if they do well, he will pull strings to get them attached to the upcoming military expedition to find and destroy O'Reilly's stronghold in the Astusapes highlands. If the players ask if O'Reilly is involved in the weapons purchases, he will tell them that reliable intelligence places O'Reilly nowhere near the Crown Colony, and that, even now, he is probably buying weapons in Thymiamata from those cursed Americans.


The players no doubt will immediately go out to investigate. A trip to the Syrtis Major market will reveal the truth of what the Governor General has said. There are very few firearms for sale, and all are either in very poor condition or are very ornate and very, very expensive. Inquiries will reveal that no one person has been buying up firearms, but the people always pay cash and are very careful about being followed. The few that have tried to learn the head buyer's identity have been found the next morning with their throats cut. If the players think to ask, they will learn that the price of gunpowder and explosives has also gone up in the recent past.

After several such inquiries, the players will notice they are being followed. They will be able to double back and capture the person who is following them; any reasonable plan will succeed since he is not very bright. He is, in fact, Bob Grimes, the servant of Horace Manning (see character descriptions at the end of this article). Grimes will protest he is only trying to protect the players from the Anti-Scone Society, and he offers to lead them to his master.

Meeting Horace Manning

Grimes will take the party to 22B Butcher Street, Manning's residence. Manning will greet them civilly, and he will explain that he has uncovered the true nature of the price rises. The Anti-Scone Society is buying up the weapons in preparation for an attack on the Savoy Hotel, whose restaurant is the only one on Mars that makes a decent scone. He has discovered a warehouse in the Martian dock area that he suspects is where the purchased arms are kept. He has tried to inform the authorities, but they don't take him seriously. He will do his best to convince the players to investigate the warehouse, preferably under the cover of darkness. If pressured, Manning will go with the players on the mission, but he will prefer just to send Grimes as a token of his good faith.

The Mysterious Warehouse

Breaking into the warehouse is impossible in the daytime, since there are too many people about, but by night it's easy. The players can pick the lock on a back door or quietly cut a hole in the roof; any reasonable plan will succeed. Actually, even unreasonable plans will succeed, since someone wants them in the warehouse. Once the players are inside, make them search around a bit (there are lots of boxes in here), but eventually let them stumble on a trap door leading down. No true player character can resist a dungeon crawl, and if they want to go get the police just remind them that they have just burgled a building and will have some explaining to do if they don't find the guns.

The trap door leads down into a dark room. If the players thought to bring a light, they can easily find two doors leading out. One is unlocked and leads into a smaller room, which is filled with what Victor Hatherly will recognize as gun repair machinery, as well as equipment for re-loading rifle cartridges. The equipment is all of French manufacture.

The other door, which is locked, leads out to a corridor. The lock can be picked (a Difficult task) or the door broken down (a Formidable strength task; two characters can combine their dice). Either way, after opening the door the characters find a long (1/2 mile) corridor sloping down. It leads to a large room filled with boxes. Upon investigation, the boxes will prove to be filled with firearms.

As soon as all the characters have entered the room, a large number of Martian thugs will jump out from their hiding places and attempt to subdue the players. There are three of them for each character present, but they will attempt to capture rather than kill the players.

Resolve combat. If the players lose, they are knocked unconscious. Go directly to the next section, "The Mole Man." On the other hand, if the players win they can explore the room further. There is a large hole in one wall that looks like much newer construction than the rest of the area that they. They will hear a loud grinding noise coming from the hole, and they will see the glint of metal coming towards them. If the players wait to see what comes out of the hole, they will soon be confronted by an enormous land-mole, a mechanical device for burrowing underground. The top hatch will open up, and a small man will train a Gardner machinegun on them and demand (in English but with a heavy French accent) that they surrender. If they do, the players are tied up and escorted inside the land mole. If they flee, they will get to the top of the trap door, where they will be met by another gang of Martian thugs who this time will shoot to kill. One way or another, the players will eventually be captured and placed inside the mole machine.

The Mole Man

Inside the mole machine, the players will either be awake when they are locked in a small room or they will awaken there, depending on the circumstances of their capture. The small man they saw coming out the hatch with the machinegun will come in. In the standard way of all villains, he will explain that he is Pierre Flanchard, the French anarchist. He built this land mole with the aid of the ARI, and he has used it to collect the arms purchased in Syrtis Major. He has distributed them to select groups of Worm Cultists and other radical Martian groups in the city. The signal for the general uprising will be the explosion. "What explosion?" the players will no doubt ask. Pierre will answer "Why, the explosion of the gunpowder I have packed under the Syrtis Major Cathedral, of course. The Governor General and most of the Englishmen in the city are there tonight celebrating midnight mass in memory of those who have died in the Oenotrian War. In one fell swoop I will destroy the English government and signal the attack!" If the players ask what he intends to do with them, he replies "Why, I'm going to leave you on top of the gunpowder, you meddling fools!!" With this, he will leave, locking the door behind him.

Do or Die

The players will then hear the sound of boxes being loaded, and then the mole machine will start moving again. The machine will travel for what seems like an hour, making a number of stops. The characters will have plenty of opportunity to escape from their bonds during this time. Any reasonable attempt should succeed, but make the players sweat first. When the door is opened to let them out under the cathedral, they can attack. The room they are in has a number of items, such as steel bars and wood scrap that can be used as clubs. With the advantage of surprise, they should be able to succeed.

Once they get outside, they will find to their horror that the timer for the explosive charge has already been set (for dramatic purposes, it is best if Pierre does this as his last act before expiring). A good way to simulate this is to set a kitchen timer for several minutes and then ask the players what they want to do. The group must think fast. Disarming the device is a complicated mechanical task; Hatherly can do it but only if he makes several Difficult roles versus his engineering skill. The others can try to flee in the mole machine, but then they would be condemning those in the cathedral to their deaths. A better plan would be to point the mole machine straight up and come out in the middle of the church service, warning those present to get away.

Bring it all down to the last minute, but let the players save the day. When they have finally succeeded, serve some warm scones all around: the players deserve it.

Horace Manning  
(Doctor, Consulting Detective)
Strength: 2    Intellect: 6
Agility: 3     Charisma: 4
Endurance:1    Social Level: 5 

Skills: Fisticuffs 1, Close Combat 1 (Edged Weapon), Stealth 2, Crime 2 (Lockpick), Tracking 2, Observation 6, Science 4 (Chemistry), Eloquence 4, Theatrics 3, Linguistics 3 (French, Kholine, Parhooni), Riding 5 (Horse), Medicine 2


The third son of a wealthy hat pin manufacturer from the north of England, Horace seemed destined for a distinguished career as a surgeon. However in his final year of medical school the brutal murder of his fiance, Lucinda Tallywinkle, changed the course of his life. The authorities were baffled by her death, but Horace, by pointing out the ink smudge on her left temple and the absence of garlic in her soup, was able to conclusively prove that her butler had, in fact, done it. The shock of Lucinda's death, combined with a talent for detective work it had revealed, led Horace to change careers. He honed his powers of observation to a high pitch, and plunged into a study of the sciences related to criminal observation, in particular chemistry and toxicology. He sought to blot out the memory of Lucinda with work, and while it has made him a driven man, he is unable to forget. He carries with him at all times, attached to his watch chain, a locket that contains a miniature portrait of her.

More importantly, her death revealed to him the existence of a terrible conspiracy that seeks to destroy the whole of English society. To Horace, the pinnacle of British civilization is the scone, that seemingly trivial yet delicious "snack" cake. Destroy the making of good scones, and the British Empire will fall. Lucinda was killed by the Anti-Scone Society, he is sure, because of her skill in making scones. In fact, he has vowed to marry the woman who can make a scone as good as Lucinda's, but it seems he never will, though he has eaten more than his share of scones in his time. Much more than his share, given his 300 pound weight.

After finishing his medical training, Horace set out to practice his new trade as a detective in London, but the Anti-Scone Society fought him at every turn. No doubt they fed information to that hack Sherlock Holmes, puffing up his reputation and stealing away business from Horace. In the course of one of his few investigations, the Case of the Tiny Rat of Thailand, Horace rescued the young Bob Grimes from the clutches of a gang of second-story men who had raised Bob up from a pup. In gratitude, Grimes has become Manning's faithful servant, though his manner conveys a bit of the underworld to the careful observer (see character description following this one). Other than Grimes' services, and a certain familiarity with police procedure, Manning received no rewards or fame from his three years in London. He decided to head to Mars in the hope of improving his fortunes. In the course of his trip, he and Grimes gained some small fame in bringing Major John Pickering and his manservant Bruce to justice for their murder of Pickering's wife Judith. It seemed to be a simple case of food poisoning, but the arsenic in Mrs. Pickering (and in her scones) that Horace found with his chemical tests pointed to Pickering and Bruce. The discovery of Pickering, Bruce, and a sheep from ship's stores in Pickering's cabin, all in their birthday suits, served to provide a motive for their dastardly deed. Only what one would expect from the Anti-Scone Society!

Since his arrival on Mars two years ago, Manning has been engaged as a consulting detective. Business was good at first, due to the publicity from the Pickering Affair. However, as his views on the Anti-Scone Society have become widely known, most members of the British community in Syrtis Major have begun treating him as a figure of fun. Manning thus far is oblivious to this change in opinion, and he attributes the decline in his case load to his success at thwarting the designs of the Anti-Scone Society.


Horace Manning is about average height, but his girth is anything but average. He weighs over 300 pounds, and he is constantly red-faced and sweating. Any exertion, no matter how trivial, will exhaust him. He is surprisingly agile for such a large man, however, and his finely tailored suits make him appear large and imposing rather than simply fat. Manning normally is eating something, usually a scone, and will offer visitors a bite to eat before conversation, no matter what the hour.

As to his character, Horace is honest, open, and likes a good laugh. Other than his obsession with the Anti-Scone Society, he is very rational and intelligent, and actually knows a great deal about what is going on in the Syrtis Major underworld. Horace is tireless in his pursuit of the guilty, but he leaves violence to Grimes. Horace will fight if cornered, however, preferring his sword cane to his revolver. His great weakness is food, especially scones. For example, when he, Grimes, and their friend Sir Reginald Smyth-Hampster found John Tarkington, the American arms merchant, murdered in his room, Horace summoned a bellboy while his companions wrestled with the assassin. Horace instructed the bellboy to summon the police, get the hotel doctor, and to bring him some scones with a bit of tea.

Note: The actual nature of the Anti-Scone Society is up to the Gamemaster. In the Transactions Campaign we run here in Delaware, the players never really know if the Society exists. Is it real, or is it is just a figment of Manning's overheated imagination? Whatever the answer, whether the Anti-Scone Society really exists is immaterial as far as Manning is concerned. Manning is convinced that the Society is real, and he will not rest when he thinks that it is behind a crime (which is just about all the time).

Bob Grimes
(Thief, Personal Servant)
Strength: 6     Intellect: 2
Agility: 5     Charisma: 4
Endurance: 3     Social Level: 1 

Skills:Fisticuffs 5, Close Combat 2 (Bashing Weapon), Stealth 5, Crime 4 (Forgery), Marksmanship 4 (Rifle), Wilderness Travel 2 (Mountaineering), Swimming 2,

Observation 2, Eloquence 1, Theatrics 2, Bargaining 1, Linguistics 2 (Kohline, German), Riding 1 (Gashant), Medicine 1


An orphan raised to commit crime, Bob Grimes is an unlikely personal servant to say the least. However, there was a spark of goodness in Bob, and Horace Manning spotted it and brought it out. That Bob could go places and do things Horace could not was an unexpected side benefit of Bob's criminal career. Bob tries hard to be a model manservant, and he is very loyal. He has even learned to make a passable scone. However, his rough past, scars, and brawny arms, not to mention his Cockney accent, make him stand out. He is not afraid of violence or illegal activity, especially if Horace orders it. His one failing is a weakness for jewels: he just can't resist picking them up if they are about, even if he might get caught taking them.


Bob Grimes is short but very stocky. He is enormously strong (he has been known to lift Horace over his head more than once), and is tough as nails to boot. At home, he is normally dressed in a butler's outfit, but he always looks ill at ease, his muscles bulging out of the sleeves. On the street, Bob wears whatever is appropriate for his intended activities, most often adopting the loose black clothing of a professional second-story man. Whether he is at home or away, he is always heavily armed, normally with several revolvers, a number of knives (throwing and fighting), and a well-worn pair of brass knuckles.

Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:49:35 EDT

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