The Sky Is No Limit

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of running two sessions of Leagues of Adventure for a new mix of familiar people. The set-up was based in 1895 and involved an effort to hamper an unlawful and misguided attempt to uncover the Oak Island Treasure while securing it for a third party. Designed to show off aspects of the setting and system, all sorts of hijinks ensued, ending in a cliffhanger ending that revealed one of the major schemers in all of this as the treasure’s supposed depositor, Captain Kidd – not dead but in fact travelling in time. That happily led to launching a full-on campaign, this time set in 1890 and destined, if all works out for us, to merge with those two demonstration sessions and all that that might entail.

Demonstration Game

As a demonstration game, I chose to let the character choices of the characters shape what aspects of the setting would be in focus. Working with “vanilla” Leagues of Adventure puts a staggering amount of “steampulp” on the table, leaving you free of only a very few things – two things to be precise: no magic, no horror. The characters I got were three varieties of explorer. One was a seeker after knowledge and was generally a straight shooter. One was a self-aggrandizing treasure hunter, and the third was mainly a curious thrill-seeker. From these choices I connected my personal familiarity with treasure (Oak Island) as that let me appeal to the straight arrow in the form of serving legal papers from the Crown, the treasure hunter due to the fame and fortune promised by a century of rumor and curious discoveries, and to the thrill-seeker through just about everything – but particularly the submersible.

Campaign Game

As a campaign rather than just a one-off experience, different things needed to be done. While Ubiquity is a straight-forward system in terms of presenting its setting options and character creation, each game generally does look at maximizing the points of entry into its genre and setting specifics and that openness can lead to characters which require more work to link together for efficient bouts of online play only lasting 2-3 hours. To obviate potential problems of such things as mismatched expectation, less-compatible characters, differing interpretations of setting, genre, and tone, we of course took one session to have an orientation and complete character creation openly together. In other words, we had a typical Session 0.

Session 0

The three characters that were developed brought out a more academic flavor. Each character is looking for fame and recognition, and each has a different realm in which to earn it, while choosing to earn it within a related sphere of activity – namely travel, discovery, and doing things in new ways before anyone else does them at all. As such we have an inventor, a student of the physical sciences, and a demobilized soldier turned explorer. These characters were proposed and developed according to a pitch to look at exploring a world that still had much to reveal to us. The group could have gone for nobility of purpose, or pure curiosity, or whatever blend of a hundred other things struck their fancy, but they latched on to the notion of wanting to be the first, the fastest, and the most famous. This gives a specific kind of depth and tone to play that will allow us to understand their motivations for the expeditions that they undertake, the risks that presents to them as members of society (not just to life and limb), and give us the opportunity to explore temptation and corruption in the pulp heroics context that characters of a purer motivation would be constrained by genre to ignore.

As we made our way through our Session 0, we brought up the idea of presenting the Victorian Era differently than a purely historical view might give us. After all, this is a world where the characters of fiction are real, where Victor von Frankenstein unleashed the Monster, where Captain Nemo plies the seas, and where somewhere some mad fool is making an attempt to reach the moon. With all of these changes and all the social and scientific enlightenments that are required to have them, why not have society reflect those changes on a larger scale? Toward this end, we decided to retain the social dynamics of fear for status, rank, and influence that are such hallmarks of Victorian society, but to base them on one’s ability to acquire and manage resources rather than to spawn from one genetic pool or another. With the rise of such machines as robots and difference engines, why not emancipate the poor and ‘the other’ far earlier and far cleaner than what sadly occurred in our world? Not to alleviate the responsibility of recognizing the sins of history, but rather to examine the act of the sin more directly. To look directly at the notion of what choices, what actions, and what attitudes constitute the sin in the self. That is after all where the sin lies. It is not the character of the oppressed that causes oppression, it is the character of the oppressor. What is it about them that allows them to behave in such a way – that is where we choose to look.

Our setting therefore has widespread use of different grades of robotic laborers and the growing sense that some of these have not only senses, but sentience and even sapience. One one hand, it has wondrous uses for rare, unsafe, and limited resources. It has innovation and invention without constraint, and it is sitting on the cusp of an age of exploration that is finally starting to definitively reveal to us what we should have known all along: we are one species living on one planet in a vast void that will snuff us out if we give it half a chance. On the other hand, it has brutal competitiveness, crushing social judgement, subjective and case-by-case legal and moral codes that favor skill in proving one’s point to allies more than evidence, and all the ills of the natural world still waiting cures and preventative measures. The focus is on who the characters are in the world, and what they are choosing to do to get what they want. To do the things that they know that they can do, they must gain recognition and support. In order to do that, what will they have to do?

Session 1

The first session, with each player aware of the natures of all of the characters, moved straight into the group becoming aware of an opportunity that they, at their low level of social status was appealing, but could represent a social death-sentence to those with higher status. A pair of survivors had been found who claimed to have proof that the mad theories of the disgraced scientist Dr. Challenger about a prehistoric lost world were actually true. Delirious, malnourished, and wracked by some form of virulent fever, the two were sequestered away from the public, but rumors were circulating the leagues regardless and talk of possible expeditions was spreading like wildfire. Although they lacked the funds and means to make such a journey on their own, the group was certain that they, and only they, had the drive and talents to see it through.

Quickly getting into action, the group gathered all the relevant information about the survivors’ story that they could, then without missing a beat booked a train from London to York to visit another disgraced scientist, this one an eccentric inventor, to try to secure an edge in transportation. As fellow members of the Travelers Club, they knew that Roald Ulysses Neslinger, FRS would have some method of travel that not only defied description, it would get them where they needed to be ahead of the competition.

Once this idea hit, we found that roleplay was in motion, and piece by piece things fell into place for portrayal of characters, portrayal of associates and colleagues, and the implementation of a coherent plan. That plan saw them gather information to use in order to raise funding from the Hunters Club, the Epicurean Society, and their own Travelers Club. While that research was in motion, work was already underway to get their fantastical borrowed airship into fit shape for a long and hard journey not only to spot and observe dinosaurs, but to capture and return with some as well.

With promises to do their level best to help rehabilitate the tarnished reputations of Neslinger and Challenger in the minds of the public if not the scientifically-minded Leagues, the group of Globetrotters were well on their way to launching their first expedition.


They soon discovered through their patrons, Dr. Challenger and Dr. Dr. Neslinger, however, that forces within the Royal Geographical Society were working against the success of this expedition to such an extent that they had blocked truthful reporting of details in the papers – including giving a false African destination for the trip. The survivors had been found not in Africa, but in South America. Although they were members of that League as well, they realized that they had to tread carefully lest they draw unwelcome attention.

What will this mean for the fate of the expedition? Will they have a head start, or has the RGS already launched their own?

That, dear readers, is the subject of the pending second session, next week~

3 Responses to “The Sky Is No Limit”
  1. Turbot Haddock Esq. says:

    Love to play some Ubiquity. I have Space 1889 and One for All.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] began as an opportunity to take Leagues of Adventure out for a fun spin around a mysterious treasure site […]

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