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The Complete Canal Priests Of Mars is now available!

The original publication of Canal Priests Of Mars cut slightly over a third of author Marcus L. Rowland's manuscript to fit GDW's adventure format. The Complete Canal Priests Of Mars restores the cut material, features all new artwork by Paul Daly, and adds many useful player handouts. Enjoy the "author's cut" of a classic Space 1889 adventure, or experience it for the first time!

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Danger In The Skies!

A Short Adventure For Space: 1889

by John Gannon


This short adventure is ideally suited for use as an insert during a lull in a larger adventure or campaign, when the players are in transit to a far destination, or are simply cruising about the skies looking for trouble. This adventure can be used when the players have their own airship, or if they are simply taking passage on someone else's vessel. The adventure usually takes about an hour to play, from the opening salvo to the final handshake, though the after effects of this adventure can affect the remainder of the campaign. This adventure works best inside or near the British Colonies, though it can be used anywhere. If used well outside the radius of British influence, Game Masters will have to adjust locations and possibly alter the NPCs as well.

A Grim Situation

The PCs encounter trouble while sailing from Point A to Point B in their aerial vessel when this encounter occurs. Specifically, they will be attacked by a Cloud Pirate or Oenotrian Raider that will have their own vessel or the one they are travelling upon in serious danger of destruction or defeat. The Game Master should ensure that the players' vessel takes two or three good hits (A hull hit from the 9 inch smoothbore, a Gun Hit from one Rod Gun and a Crew Hit from the second Rod Gun should do it) that will put their vessel at a disadvantage against their attacker. Naturally, the Players will personally fight bravely and with great skill, but they should still find themselves about to be overwhelmed by their attackers.

If the players do not have a ship of their own, the following vessel is offered as a possible form of transportation:

Swift Bird Small Merchant Screw Galley Swift Bird Diagram
Armour: 0
Hull: 3
Speed: 4
Altitude: VH (85 Tons Cargo) H (86-135 Tons Cargo) M (136-210 Tons Cargo)
Tonnage: 165
Price: 16,800
Crew: 2 + 2 + 17 (Bridge: C,H,T,O; Deck: 3; Manoeuvre: 12 Gunners: 2; Passengers: 10)
Armament: 2 Sweepers (1 port, 1 starboard)

Designed with an eye to the short-haul city route, the Swift-Bird is a moderate sized hull built to move a small number of passengers and a moderate amount of cargo quickly. Ideally used on such runs as Syrtis Major-Parhoon, or on the city routes within the Tossian or Oenotrian Empires, the Swift-Bird is an ideal small cargo hauler/passenger liner for established routes.

The Raider

If the players have a recurring enemy who would suit the role of the raider, Game Masters are encouraged to use that character in this setting. If not, the following villain should acquit himself well:

Kalthoric Barcomas (Canal Martian/Male) (1 X Cloud Sailor Career/1 X Cloud Captain Career)
Captain of the Skywraith
(ST 4 / AG 2 / EN 3 / IN 4 / CH 4 / SO 2)
(Trimsman 2 / Marksmanship 2 / Gunnery 1 / Piloting 2 / Leadership 2)

Kalthoric Barcomas is a native of the city of Karkarham, and one of the better known Cloud Captains of the Shistomik Mountains in recent years. Barcomas is a typical Martian free-booter: unmoved by politics, yet resentful of the intrusion of the Humans (especially the Red Captains) into the skies of Mars. Barcomas strikes targets of opportunity - be they human or martian. The Players were simply unfortunate enough to be his "catch of the day". Captain Barcomas' ship is detailed below:

Skywraith (Custom Built War Kite - 10 Prizes) Sky Wraith Diagram
Armour: 0
Hull: 3
Speed: K
Altitude: VH
Tonnage: 245
Price: 20,900
Crew: 3 + 2 + 28 (Bridge: C,H,T,S,O Deck: 3; Topmen: 3 Gunners: 12; Marines: 10)
Armament 1 X 9 Inch Smoothbore (Forward);
2 X Rod Guns (Forward/Port, Forward/Starboard)
2 X Light Guns (Aft/Port, Aft/Starboard)
1 X Liquid Fire Rack
2 X Spike Droppers


Suddenly, in the midst of the fighting, a third vessel descends out of skies with the sun blazing behind it! Its weapons rain devastating fire upon the raider, catching the pirate crew unawares and inflicting severe damage with a single volley (A gun hit, and a one altitude Loss Of Trim Critical should suffice). The attack on the players' ship falters, and then ceases altogether as the raider turns to face this new threat. As the two ships manoeuvre, a great bear of a man can be spotted on the flying bridge of this new ship. Surprisingly, this vessel flies the regimental colours of the Guards Regiment as it's pennant. It can only be one man and one ship - Burnaby aboard the Penelope! As the raider tries to gain position, Penelope looses another withering volley, which scores telling damage against the raider (Inflict two crew hits on the raider, making one of them an officer). The morale of the raider breaks at this time, and his ship begins to break away to the East. The raider is able to slip away without further damage at this time, as Burnaby stops to render assistance to the players stricken vessel. If necessary, Penelope will tow the players ship, otherwise, it will simply escort it to the nearest friendly port (or to Karkarham) where it will be repaired.

Social Introductions

This provides the PCs with an opportunity to meet first hand one of the Human Heroes of Mars - The Elder Statesman of the Red Captains, Frederick Gustavus Burnaby. Burnaby will be happy to take tea (or something stronger) with the players and engage them in conversation for a couple of hours. After an interesting visit with the Players, Burnaby will announce that he must return to his ship and prepare to depart. He will wish them well and leave for the docks.

Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (Elite NPC)
(ST 6 / AG 2 / EN 1 / IN 3 / CH 4 / SO 5)

A physical giant of a man (6'4" tall) with a love for adventure and good jokes, Burnaby is unswervingly loyal to Britain, even while living as a free-booter. Burnaby is the epitome of what all Human Adventurers to Mars should be. Quick-witted, fearless, with a high respect for the Martians themselves and their culture.

Penelope (Custom Built Steam Ram)
Armour: 0
Hull: 2 (Steel)
Speed: 6
Altitude: VH
Tonnage: 165
Price: 24,920
Crew: 3 + 3 + 20 (Bridge: C,H,T,S,O Deck: 3; Maneouver: 3 Gunners: 6; Marines: 10)
Armament 1 X Nordenfelt (Forward);
&nbs p; 2 X 3-pdr HRC (Port and Starboard Wing Mounts)
&nbs p; 2 X Nordenfelts (Port and Starboard)
&nbs p; 1 X 6-pdr HRC (On Stern Tower)


During the time they are in port awaiting repairs, the Players will have the opportunity to again cross paths with Burnaby. Unbeknownst to either the players or to Burnaby, Barcomas, the raider they have recently battled, is also in this area, though keeping a low profile. When Barcomas learns that the players and Burnaby have been seen together in port, he will move quickly to take his revenge on all of them.

The Bomb Plot

While Penelope lays over taking on provisions and repairing any minor damage it may have received in the battle, Barcomas will arrange for a treacherous working party to place a special explosive device aboard the Penelope. The bomb will be set so that it will not detonate until such time as the ship reaches VH altitude. This will be accomplished by connecting the bomb trigger to the Trimsman's controller. At this time, an acid will be released which will eat through several layers of wax paper before triggering the explosive device, which will completely disable the Trim, bringing Penelope crashing down. Optionally, the bomb could be triggered by something as simple as a mechanical timer. This is a decision left to the Game Master, based upon his knowledge of the PCs. If they are a bright and inventive lot, complicate the matter. If they are more of a straight on, fire-and-forget type of player, then you may want to use the simpler bomb. Regardless of the device used, it will ensure that Penelope would be well out of the city and enroute to its next destination before the bomb went off.

How the PCs Learn of The Bomb

After arranging to place the bomb aboard the Penelope, Barcomas moves to complete his revenge by setting his men upon the players. Either they will be attacked on the street or in their rooms, depending upon the players acitons. Again, the nature and exact details of this attack is left to the Game Master and his/her knowledge of the players. Ideally, it should consist of a fairly simple ambush/assault with the PCs outnumbered 1.5/1 by the attackers. The thugs would be under orders not to kill the players (they must be brought back to face the wrath of the raider). With such restrictions imposed upon the attackers, the PCs should be able to overcome them.

NPC Type - Raider Thugs
Experience - Trn/Exp
Marskman - 2
Attribute - Physical
Arms - Knives, clubs, flintlock pistols

Once the PCs have defeated the henchmen, it will be a simple matter for them to trace the attack back to Barcomas either by questioning one of the assailants (if they took any prisoners) or by searching the bodies. In either case, they should be able to determine where Barcomas is holed up, as well as the knowledge that he has some sort of plot brewing (don't let them find out too soon the details or the victim). If the PCs move quickly, they should be able to turn the tables and surprise Barcomas. Run a second combat involving the players and an equal number of thugs, plus Barcomas.

When Barcomas is cornered, he will offer to exchange information about the bomb as a bargaining chip to ensure his safe escape. His departing boast that Burnaby is a dead man once the bomb goes off should make it clear to the players just what this fiend has done. The players should now find themselves with a choice - either continue to pursue Barcomas, or break off and go warn Burnaby. The choice should be obvious - the bomb onboard Penelope will certainly cripple the ship, if not destroy is outright. As well, it is certain that many of the crew will be killed, possibly even Burnaby himself. The players will have to act quickly if this "Lion of the Empire" is to be saved from such a fate! Thus, while the villain escapes to fight another day, the players will hurry across the port in an effort to reach the Penelope before Burnaby can depart with the lethal package aboard.

The Pursuit

Once they arrive at the landing grounds, they will find the Penelope has just departed (perhaps they can make out her smoke on the distant horizon). It is obvious that the ship is starting to ascend. The players must stop them! The climax of this chase should have the players chasing Burnaby down (via whatever form of airship that they can find - there should be a Fleetfoot available in the port if nothing else) and overtaking Penelope (travelling at a leisurely Speed 3) at High Altitude just as she is preparing to ascend to Very High. Once the players explain why they are chasing him across the skies, Burnaby will immediately order his vessel back down to Low Altitude (staying away from populated areas) and ordering a search for the bomb. Depending upon just how detailed the players information is, they may be able to assist in the locating and disarming of the device. The bomb can be removed and deactivated without danger of explosion (but don't tell the players - it adds to the suspense!).


While there will be little financial or material reward to be received from this adventure, the players will gain something even more important than money - the friendship and respect of Frederick Gustavus Burnaby. Burnaby's support and patronage cannot be understated. His friendship will open government doors that were previously closed. Do the players wish to become Cloud Captains? Burnaby will aid them in acquiring a ship from the Government. Do the players need crew? Ship weapons? Once again, Burnaby will be able to get them headed in the right direction. Are the players more interested in legitimate trade and travel? Burnaby will be able to give them the latest in trade news and advice on where and what to trade, based on what he has seen and heard in Karkarham. Do the players want to get set up in Karkarham? Once again, Burnaby will be able to help them establish themselves. Please note that Burnaby's aid is mostly of a secondary nature and his greatest contribution will be as a reference source (He can certainly attest to their courage and their daring). Game Masters should note that there is an unseen negative in all this that the players will never consider. Those people who do not like Burnaby (they exist, and they are powerful) will automatically transfer such feelings to the players as well, once it is known that they are friends of Burnabys'! Naturally, there is a limit to just how much Burnaby will do for the players and how often he will do it. The Game Master will know when the players have reached that limit......

Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:53:54 EDT

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