Paris, 1893: it’s all la Belle-Epoque, le Moulin-Rouge and holalas for Lady Penelope and her new travelling companion Miranda/Dorian (née Eric) as they explore a world of ingénues, enfants terribles and true artistes. But behind the joie de vivre of the boulevards and the laissez-faire of the blasé lurks a dark and menacing je-ne-sais-quoi - or is this déjà-vu?
The Mysteries of Montmartre was designed as a sequel-cum-homage to The Talons of Weng-Chiang, one of my favorite DW stories.
Its main antagonist was Magnus Greel's own sister, Ursula, (a cruel, cold-hearted ice-queen type villain from the 51st century) and the consequences of her own Zygma beam travel to the late 19th century. To make a long story short, her original plan was to join / rescue / retrieve her brother but her own time cabinet crashed a few years too late and now she was stuck in this primitive century, facing the same genetic decay problems and entertaining the same insane dreams of revenge and power...
I deliberately took some of the essential elements of the story and replaced them with different equivalents, resulting in Something That Felt Completely Different In Play, while still retaining the echoes and déjà-vu effects I was aiming for. Here is a quick list of the substitutions I made:
Talons of Weng-Chiang Mysteries of Montmartre
Setting: London, lates 1880s / early 1890s Paris, 1893
The East End Montmartre
Typical Victorian mystery atmosphere Parisian bohemian atmosphere
Main apparent villain: Li H'sen Chang Count Kuryakin, a russian noble
Real hidden villain : Magnus Greel Ursula Greel
The Peking Homunculus A superstrong cyber-golem
Jago's theatrical world Parisian cabarets and cafés
Lost time cabinet Wrecked time cabinet
Catalytic chamber / life-energy Catalytic chamber / life-energy
The Time Agent never came A Time Agent did arrive
Of course, some Talons elements had no real counterpart - such as, for instance, the involvement of professor Litefoot or the presence of giant rats in the sewers.
I also added some uniquely Parisian characters to the story, allowing Penelope (and her player) to indulge in memorable encounters with artists Toulouse-Lautrec and Suzanne Valadon, as well as with the composer Erik Satie, who all operated at the periphery of the mystery (but were not involved in its resolution), plus a few cameos by Paul Verlaine, Claude Debussy and Aristide Bruant - historical characters whose very presence gave Mysteries of Montmartre the distinctively Parisian feel I was aiming for. In Lady Penelope's adventures, art and culture often play a very important part - we could even say that our Time Lady is as artistically-inclined as the Doctor is scientifically-minded, so she was really at home here.
As usual, we had a great time playing - and this episode was also highlighted by the first steps of Penelope's new travelling companion, "Miranda / Dorian / Eric", a crossdressing young man from 1980s London she met during the last "Everett Special" we did. Miranda's embarking on the TARDIS was not pre-planned and developed as a logical consequence of what happened in actual play - and, well, Penelope and Miranda just got on as a house on fire. One of these unforeseen, delightful twists which bring instant freshness and unexpected developments to a campaign, after almost 8 years of play and more than 150 episodes...
Next stop: VENUS!