Thursday, December 20, 2012

Montreal Sourcebooks I: Montreal 2074

This is the first in a series of articles on sourcebooks for Montreal. Not always for Call of Cthulhu (as there for now only exists one, Horror's Heart), but for any and all games systems.

To which end, there is a new release of a sourcebook for Shadowrun, titled Montreal 2074.

I has been a long time since I played Shadowrun, and that was the old edition. It does hold some fond memories, but I always did find it a little too much of a dungeon bash rather than a real futuristic adventure game.

From the description supplied by DriveThruRPG:

Great White Shadows
Bikers and go-gangs roam the streets of Montreal in 2074. Organized crime outfits struggle for territory. And neo-anarchists add spice and danger to the streets. All this would seem to be nothing more than lawless chaos except for one thing—money. Cheap real estate and savvy moves by the megacorporations have brought some cash into town, and a new city is being built on the remains of the old. And as every runner knows, when you shine the light of money onto the darkness of a ruined city, you get one thing: shadows
Montreal 2074 gives adventurous runners the chance to take their talents to a new locale, doing business on the isle of Montreal. Whether they are dodging the gangs of the West Island or looking to bargain with the Mafiosi of Saint Leonard, runners will find plenty of opportunities in Montreal. They just need to make sure they don’t end up as part of the piles of rubble—and they also need to watch out for the fast, brutal group known as Les Frères Chasseurs.
Montreal 2074 contains information on neighborhoods, gangs, and activities that bring the city to life in the Sixth World setting. With plot hooks and NPC stats, the book provides everything players and gamemasters need to take a trip to the Great White North.
Montreal 2074 is for use with Shadowrun, Twentieth Anniversary Edition.
I can't comment any further on the contents of the book, as I have not bought nor seen it (apart from the preview available here), but it seems to have all the required background for the city in that setting, an the city seems to be recognisable as Montreal as modern day citizens would know it. Not surprising really as the game is set in the not so distant future.

Montreal Burlesque

A christmas night out, 1912 Montreal.

The Gazette, 14 December 1912

Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarter III: Istanbul and Constantinople

Hagia Sophia in the 1920s
As part of the Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarter, I recieved the following update this morning, which I copy in full, due to the link to a new blog which is included:

Greetings and Happy Holidays!

As part of the research for the reprint of Horror on the Orient Express Chaosium's Nick Nacario and Meghan Mclean will be taking a research trip to Istanbul, Turkey. There we will look up photos and ephemera from the good ole' days of the Simplon Orient Express. We want this reprint to be as authentic as possible, especially when it comes to the handouts, in order to make your gaming experience as realistic and incredible as possible.

Join us on our journey, and follow our progress on the Chaosium in Turkey blog. Here we will upload photos and post about our discoveries.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gateway drugs; first hit is free!

Like selling drugs at the schoolyard gate, DriveThru RPG is offering as it's weekly freebie, FirstFable. Not only that, but all the current character packs are available in this Bundle, which is also free for download. This is part of what is aparently 'Teach your Kid to Game Week'. As addictions go, this is one that I will not be too displeased for the sproglets to get hooked on.

The characters currently available are Pirate, Knight and Fairy Princess. I'm not sure how I feel about the fairy Princess as a character (although I know it will appeal to LP), but I haven't read the rules,and of course there's nothing to stop the girls picking the Pirate or Knight, that's just how RPGs work.

Another set of rules out there for kids is Hero Kids. This one is not free for download (but the colouring book is). Apparently, the main difference between the two is that FirstFable requires a lengthy character creation process (although I assume lengthy here is relative, and we're not talking Travelleresque), whereas Hero Kids comes with pregen characters. I haven't gamed with my kids (in terms of RPGs), but I can see that maybe some kids would like to get into what their character is all about, whereas for some they might to want to get stuck right in.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On this day, 1912

Okay, not quite today, but a couple of days ago, but hell, after a hundred years, what's a day or two?

On the 18th of November, 1912,  the 'Établissement de detention de Montréal' (Montreal detention centre) opened its doors for the first time, (before firmly closing and locking them again one assumes) for 100 prisoners. Within 6 months, it held 150. The prison is frequently refered to as Bordeaux prison, and as such it even warrants a mention in the Urban Dictionary. It was then, as it is now, the largest provincial prison in Quebec, it was built to hold 500 prisoners, and now her a capacity of 1,189 inmates (now all male). In 1915, there was a tramway built to connect it to town (as it was originally built to be out of town, although it has now been enveloped by the city).

Prison construction in 1910

As a then very modern prison, there was some outrage amongst the general population that prisoners should be treated to such 'outrageous' comfort, in that each cell was furnished with a bed, a small desk, a window and a toilet, and was supplied with electricity.

Personnel in 1933
When the prison was opened, the guards were nearly all retired soldiers, and were not necessarily trained to be prison guards. Even as late as the 1960s, most of the guards were in their early 50, and were unlikely to have been highly trained for the job. As an aside, the best friend of Louis Cyr (who also worked as a policeman), Quebec's strongest man, worked as a guard at the prison.

In the 100 year history of the prison, there have been 82 hangings (between 1914, and the end of capital punishment in Canada in 1960). The official Hangman of Canada was traditionally based at the Bordeaux, and more hangings were carried out here than at any other canadian institute. The most scandalous hanging was that of Thomasina Sarao in 1935, where a miscalculation of her weight led to her being beheaded. There have been 90 escapes from the jail in the last 100 years. The first escapee listed as being Joseph Masse, who escaped on July 8, 1916, with another that caught the popular imagination in September 1938, when 4 inmates escaped from the hospital building.

The prison was not without its riots, one in the 1950s being over the over use of Pâté Chinois (shepherds pie) on the menu.

Bars added in 1950s, post riot.

Bordeaux In Game

Prisons, along with asylums, are places that are likely to recieve a visit of one kind or another from the players eventually. Whether it is to visit NPCs for interviews or as a 'guest' of the establishment.
As visitors to the prison, they could be there to get information from criminals, or those wrongly accused of heinous crimes, that turn out to be mythos related.

People Involved (NPCs)

Father Adelard Delorme
This clergyman spent a small time in the prison in 1924, after being accused of the murder of his brother. This caused quite an outrage at the time, due to the power and influence of the clergy at the time, leading to them being though above reproof.

Arthur Ellis
Arthur Ellis was the pseudonym of Arthur B. English, a British man who became Canada's official hangman in 1913, after the death of John Radclive. Ellis worked as a hangman in Canada until the botched execution of Thomasina Sarao in Montreal in 1935, in which she was decapitated.
He died in poverty in Montreal in July, 1938 (aged 74), and lies buried in the Mount Royal Cemetery.

Camille Blanchard
Charles Amedee-Vallee
The executioner who worked as Camille Blanchard, a pseudonym, succeeded Ellis. Blanchard was on the Quebec government payroll as a hangman, and executed people elsewhere in the country on a piecework basis. Blanchard carried out many executions (for which he was not paid) in the postwar period in Canada, such as the double hanging of Leonard Jackson and Steven Suchan of the Boyd Gang at the Don Jail in 1952, and Robert Raymond Cook's execution in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, in 1960.

Charles Amedee-Vallee
The first governor of the prison, He was also the man person behind the construction of the prison.


Some of the photos available from the Securité Quebec Site linked below.

One of two facilities that served for the execution of the death penalty.

Chapel Dome, 2007

Front gate 1933

Administration Building 1933

Arial view 19X0s
Arial view 2009


(Link to an image of the prison in 1911, (can't seem to copy the image)
Securité Quebec's official history of the prison can be found here (in french).
The details of the Prison now.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

After the eathquakes... island in the South Pacific is found, then disappears!

Sandy Island, near New Caledonia, has been shown on Google maps, but scientists looking for it find water depths of 1400m.

Maybe they should have looked before the recent spate of earthquakes we had here!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On this Day: First Car in Montreal

The first "horseless-carriage" to be driven in the streets of Montreal was a Waltham Steam. It was driven by Mr Ucal-Henri Dandurand, on the 21st of November, 1899. His passenger was the then Major of Montreal, Raymond Préfontaine.

The car was bought from Massachusetts in the United States for $600, and ran on 6 water reservoirs, with a range of a whopping 24 miles before having to be refilled. It could reach a high speed of 40 mph, but had to be stopped when there was a horse-drawn carriage in view, so as not to scare the horses.

By 1903, Mr Dandurand had a total of 4 automobiles, but not everyone approved of such noisy vehicles, and he was often stopped for disrupting the peace.

Mr Ucal-Henri Dandurand and his wife in his first car. (source)

Mr Dandurand outside his house, with car and chauffeur (1915) (source)


CBC Radio Link (in french).
M. Ucal-Henri Dandurand (in french).
Maison Durand (in french).

Edit 25-11-2014

MTLblog has an article on the same subject, 1 year later.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

PBP Primeval

It's been a while since i last tried to PBM/PBP. I've been been both a player in games that are new starts (Angel) and continuation of long running tabletop games (Deadlands). I've also tried running by PBP (Call of Cthulhu). In all permutations, I have never seen a game run to completion. So, I was unsure when I read over on Craig's blog 'The Watch House' that he was running a Primeval PBP, I was both tempted, and wary. A hop over to the thread, and all of a sudden I was signed up.

I have seen the potential for a Primeval game since I watched the first season, so it came as no surprise to me when the book was finally released. I have yet to get a copy for myself, maybe a pdf will be purchased shortly. The fact that the ever prolific Gareth hanrahan-Ryder has a hand in it only makes this more likely.

The game will be a one-shot, based in the UK. Good, because I have yet to watch the new version of the series. Plus it makes it more likely you'll get scenes like this:

2x4, the best weapon you can have against a pterodactyl
 Where in the timeline? We're starting with season 1. Plenty of scope to get started. One thing I liked about Primeval was they were not scared to get rid of characters (most likely because the actors got better offers, but still), but I do have a soft spot for Cutter.

Futuristic massively evolved bat takes on T Rex

For now, it's fingers crossed and away we go!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Physics of Cthulhu

Dr. Benjamin Tippett, a physicist at the University of New Brunswick, looks at the short story, 'The Call of Cthulhu' from the viewpoint of Science! In what he calls his 'unified theory of Cthulhu' with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

He examines the 'eyewitness accounts' as written in 'The Call of Cthulhu' from a physics point of view. He then states:
In proving the Johansen wasn’t crazy I accidentally figure out that cthulhu is probably real, responsible for the island… and I also figure out what he’s doing down there. Of course, as a brave man of science, I can’t go and admit that Cthulhu exists…
Link to the pdf of the article 'Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific' here.

Via the Miskatonic Museum.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Earthquakes in Montreal

Front page of Le Soleil
after the 1925 earthquake
I felt my first earthquake this morning. I was woken up by at at 12.15am this morning. I say it is the first I felt, as there has been at least 1 other earthquake since I arrived here, but where I was at the time meant I didn't feel it (although others in the same building did). These happen from time to time, as Montreal is on a fault line of sorts. Actually, there are a couple of seismic zones in Quebec, with Montreal being situated in the Western Quebec Seismic Zone.



Historical Earthquakes in the Region

The earthquake last night was registered at 4.5. Not large enough to cause damage, but large enough to be felt in quite a large area. There have been stronger earthquakes in the region in the past, which are summarised in this article. The largest being an estimated 7 on the Richter scale, on the 5th of February, 1663 where:
Epicenter most likely in the Charlevoix-Kamouraska seismic zone, Quebec; felt in most of New France (Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres, Montreal) and parts of New England (Boston) and New Amsterdam (New York City). Some damage to masonry in Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres, and Montreal. Landslides reported in the Charlevoix region and along the St. Lawrence, Shipshaw, Betsiamites, Pentecote, Batiscan, and Saint-Maurice rivers. Numerous aftershocks felt in Quebec City during the following months.
The earthquake that falls directly into what Cthulhuites call the "Classic" Era was one that hit an estimated 6.7 on the Richter Scale (as of course the Richter scale was not invented till, 1935) on the 1st of March 1925.

Charlevoix-Kamouraska seismic zone, Quebec, near Ile aux Lievres. The earthquake was felt over most of eastern Canada and northeastern U.S. It caused damage to unreinforced masonry (chimneys, walls) in the epicentral region on both shores of the St. Lawrence, and in Quebec City (including damage to port facilities), Trois-Rivieres, and Shawinigan. Possible liquefaction near Saint-Urbain, Quebec. Numerous felt aftershocks followed.
A press release for the 1925 earthquake can be found here. Also:

In addition to homes, some very important structures were damaged by the quake: the church in Saint-Urbain, the railway terminal (Gare du Palais) and port installations in Quebec City. (source)

The newspaper, the Quebec Chronicle wrote of the event: 

Isoseismal map of the Timiskaming earthquake,
(Modified Mercalli scale, source Smith, 1966).
"In some buildings there was such a swaying motion that chandeliers rattled and dishes were moved. The effect was like the heaving of a ship at sea." (Quebec Chronicle, 1925)

The front page of Le Soleil, a Quebec based french language paper, pictured at the head of the article also deals with this event (source).
As a direct result of that earthquake, there were 6 deaths through heart attacks.

Another one hit the region in 1935 (the 1st of November), reaching a similar intensity of 6.1. As can be seen from the map adjacent, tremors from this were felt far and wide across the region, and into the U.S.

Earthquakes in Game

In Call of Cthulhu, there are a few reasons, outside of the geological norms that can account for earthquakes. The most obvious cause, being of course Chthonians. Could the earthquakes in the region be due to a Chthonian colony living under the area. If so, what threat do they pose to the inhabitants of the region? Who knows of their presence? What will they do when they are disturbed?

Another option is that the earthquake unearths something hidden beneath the earth, either from a prehistoric civilisation, or something of the extraterrestrial, fallen to earth and now lying underground. Perhaps the players are part of a surveying team who is either called in in the aftermath of an earthquake to note the damage caused, or are already in situ, maybe in a wilderness area to the north of the province, or the Laurentians when the earthquake disturbs something. They may be trapped, they may just want to explore what is unearthed.

There is also the theory that, as the tremors were felt as far as Providence, the 1925 Charlevoix-Kamouraska earthquake was an inspiration for the earthquake, on the same date, in the South Pacific, in "The Call of Cthulhu" which caused R'lyeh to rise form the Pacific, allowing Cthulhu's dreams to menace sensitive human minds across the globe. The aftershocks of this quake were felt until the crew of the Emma battled the cultists on the Alert, the day before R'lyeh again returned to the depths (source).

People involved (NPCs)

Dr. Ernest A. Hodgson
Dr Ernest A. Hodgson was the official seismologist for the Dominion of Canada at the time of the 1925 quake. He made numerous trips in 1925 and 1926 to the area, taking many still photographs, also gathering numerous scientific data, and first hand accounts of the quake. As a good plot hook, if he were to find anything out of the ordinary, or even just to help with the initial surveys, he could assemble a team of scientists/undergraduates to help with the work. Using the equipment, talking to locals etc.

Hodgson wrote up his findings for the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. These findings also include pictures taken by Hodgson on his trips. It's possible that HP himself, being an amateur astronomer, read of these findings. Or at the very least read up on the earthquake in other media.

Hodgson was also involved in the investigations of the 1935 Timiskaming earthquake.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Handbook for travellers (1922)

From the Internet Archive, via the Californai Digital Library (by way of the Yog-Sothoth forums, as per usual) I bring to you The Dominion of Canada, with Newfoundland and an excursion to Alaska. Handbook for travellers (1922) by the Karl Baedeker of the Baedeker company who then, as now, specialise on travel books. All major formats are available, including, the most useful for me, pdfs and kindle files.

There are detailed inventories and travel routes to reach Montreal from both New York, and Boston, both the main east coast U.S. headquatrers for PCs. Also, there are travel options from both New York and Boston to Quebec City, and Portland Oregan to Montreal and Quebec. There are also possible routes mentioned from Europe, with entry to the ports of Montreal and Quebec.

The section on Quebec runs to about 50 pages, but most of the details included are how to get from one place to another within the province. The pages on Montreal and it's environs reads a bit stale compared to the travel books one can buy today, but the information packed within the chapter takes some time to read through, and is worth the effort for any GM wanting to run an adventure in Montreal, Quebec, or indeed any other part of Canada.
Contents page for Quebec Chapter

Map of Montreal
The Introduction to Montreal city is really quite evocative:

Montreal (l87 ft), the largest city and chief commercial centre of the Dominion of Canada, is situated on the S.E. side of the triangular island of the same name, formed by two of the branches into which the Ottawa divides as it flows into the St. Lawrence. The island is about 30 M. long and 7-10 M. wide. The city, which covers an irregular area 13 M. long and 9 M. wide, is built upon a series of gently-sloping marine terraces, which were cut into the hill of Mont Real or Mt. Royal (p. 143), from which the town derives its name, during the post-glacial submergence. Montreal is about 400 M. from New York, 980 M. from the Straits of Belle Isle (p. 3), and 2750 M. from Liverpool (300 M. nearer than New York). Though not even the capital of its own province [Quebec), Montreal exercises great political influence, and it is the seat of the chief banks and trading corporations of Canada, and is richly endowed with churches and large charitable or educational institutions, a characteristic which made Mark Twain remark he could not throw a stone without breaking a church window. In 1921 Montreal City contained 607,063 inhab. (470,480 in 1911). More than half were of French extraction, one-sixth Irish, one-seventh English, and one-thirteenth Scottish. About three-fourths of the population are Roman Catholics. The Jewish element forms ca. 6 per cent of the population. The French mainly occupy the quarters of the city lying to the N. of the St. Lawrence Boulevard (comp. p. 134). Montreal possesses the only French City Library in N. America, opened in 1917. Montreal differs from most American towns by the number of its old buildings. In the lower part of the town the streets are irregular, narrow, and dingy, and the houses are often built with curious outside stairs at the street- fronts, while in the upper town the streets are broad and well-built. The chief business- streets, with the best shops, are Notre Dame Street, St. James Street, and St. Catherine Street, all running parallel with the River St. Lawrence; the streets immediately adjoining the river are also the scene of great bustle and activity. The handsomest residences are in the S.W. part of the city, adjoining the slopes of Mt. Royal. Most of the public edifices and many of the private residences are built of a tine grey limestone, quarried in the neighbourhood.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sunfish in the St. Lawrence

sunfish has been found washed up on the banks of the Saint Lawrence river near Sainte Flavie, Quebec. This tropical fish was far from its normal habitat.

Claude Nozères, a biologist from the region stated,
«C’est un poisson que l’on retrouve aux États-Unis. Il a dû suivre le courant chaud, et avec les températures plus élevées de l’été dernier, il s’est approché du golfe Saint-Laurent»

"It is a fish found in the United States. It had to follow the warm currents, and with higher temperatures of last summer, it made it to the Gulf of St. Lawrence"
Of course, once the fish reached the colder water of the St. Lawrence, it was unable to survive. He added, «Il aurait pu rester longtemps sur les berges sans être mangé par les goélands. C’est un poisson qui ne se mange pas. Lui-même se nourrit de méduses»

"It could have stayed long on the banks without being eaten by gulls. This is a fish that can not be eaten. They feed on jellyfish. "

The specimen that was found was a small one, measuring only 97cm and weighing only 32 kilos. These fish can grow up to 1000 kilos in weight.

The Saint-Flavie Sunfish.

The first time I saw a sunfish was in the aquarium in Barcelona. They are extremely weird fish. I'm not entirely sure why I thought of them as being particularly Lovecraftian, but I immediately started thinking how I could get them into an adventure, in fact HPL himself mentions one in none other than the Call of Cthulhu, and in reference to the Great One himself. I post the full paragraph here for reference.
But Johansen had not given out yet. Knowing that the Thing could surely overtake the Alert until steam was fully up, he resolved on a desperate chance; and, setting the engine for full speed, ran lightning-like on deck and reversed the wheel. There was a mighty eddying and foaming in the noisome brine, and as the steam mounted higher and higher the brave Norwegian drove his vessel head on against the pursuing jelly which rose above the unclean froth like the stern of a daemon galleon. The awful squid-head with writhing feelers came nearly up to the bowsprit of the sturdy yacht, but Johansen drove on relentlessly. There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler could not put on paper. For an instant the ship was befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and then there was only a venomous seething astern; where—God in heaven!—the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously recombining in its hateful original form, whilst its distance widened every second as the Alert gained impetus from its mounting steam.
So when you drive a ship at the head of Cthulhu, it bursts with the "slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish".There is some debate as to where the metaphor of a cloven sunfish came from, as it is both quite specific, and yet a relatively obscure reference.

The alien appearance of the sunfish just begs for them to be used in some capacity in an adventure, or at least an adventure hook. A larger member of the species washing up on a nearby shore is bound to get the locals talking, especially if the fish has travelled far before becoming beached, and is therefore unknown to the locals.
An enormous ocean sunfish caught by W.N. McMillan of E. Africa, at
Santa Catalina Isl., Cal. April 1st, 1910. Its weight was estimated at 3,500 pounds.
 Story in le Journal de Montréal (in french).