Welcome

This internet site provides the full core rules to the steampunk role-playing game PAX BRITANNICA for your enjoyment.

The world of PAX BRITANNICA is one of intrigue and danger, set in an alternate present in which faeries are real, alchemists transmute lead into gold, the world runs on steam power and the sun never sets on the British Empire. To learn how the world came to be as it is, our esteemed reader may wish to peruse the timeline and world pages.

cropped-splashPageBetter-1.png

Focus and Multitasking

FORTUNA MONTHLY

The current global environment places higher demands on the situational awareness of contractors than ever before. Even non-security mercenary work has become complex, often placing contractors in the unenviable position of having to make judgment calls based on situational awareness that are entirely outside the scope of operational training. What is a mercenary to do?

Two schools of thought are emerging on the subject. Some trainers are recommending focusing narrowly on mission objectives, while others are adopting an approach encouraging flexibility and juggling multiple tasks.

Focus advocated argue that certainty is king. When you absolutely need to make a shot, bind a spirit, or disarm a security system, you can’t let the chaos of the situation cause you to fail. Senior Blue Sky training contractor Eli Sugimoto has taken the novel approach of instructing his recruit classes in Zen Buddhist meditation, claiming that the sectarian tradition helps them come through in tight spots. “When the chips are down,” Sugimoto told Fortuna, “you don’t want your operators worrying about their finances or their loved ones or incoming fire. You want them on task”.

Others, like Specialists recruiter Shelby Smith, have other ideas. “Focus is well and good, but modern contracts are complex,” she asserts. “Situations evolve. Problems occur. Even among the Specialists, with a higher degree of training and intelligence support than is typical in the industry, you can’t control all outcomes. Sometimes you have to pilot the airship AND fire the harpoon. You can’t neglect one in the interest of the other if you want the mission to succeed. Is it taking a gamble? Absolutely. But, when the chips are down, sometimes a gamble is the right choice for the objective.”

We all know the difficulties presented. We all know that sometimes the certainty of a narrow success trumps the possibility of total victory, and that sometimes it’s the other way around. Why specialize in one over the other? Is it reasonable to train recruits both to focus and to multitask? Is meta-tactic training for individual mercenaries merely a sales scheme, or is it of true value in the field? The opinion of Fortuna is that there is no answer that can always be correct, but we’re likely to see more and more mercenaries training on tactics as well as specific functional aptitudes. Expect to see more controversy on field doctrine as the market becomes more complex and more competitive.

By The Editorial Board, 16th February 2017

Focus

The ability to focus under pressure is key to surviving crisis situations. By shutting out distractions, a focused individual can increase their likelihood of success at nearly any task.

  • First Tier: +1 to any one roll per day.
  • Second Tier: +1 to all rolls to resist being disarmed, distracted, or otherwise subjected to interference. Additionally, the penalties imposed on rolls due to loss of resilience are reduced by 1.
  • Third Tier: +1 on all rolls that are not multitasking.
  • Fourth Tier: All instances of +1 in the first through third tier increase to +2.

Multitasking

In a crisis situation, there are always more things to accomplish than one person can handle. Learning to juggle multiple tasks gracefully can improve the chances of success while multitasking.

  • First Tier: Talking while taking other actions never counts as multitasking.
  • Second Tier: Multitasking penalties are reduced by 1. (-1,-3,-5,-7, etc.).
  • Third Tier: You can do two things at once without any multitasking penalty. Penalties begin when attempting to add a third action into the mix, with the first two actions counting as one action for the purposes of tabulating penalties (-0,-1,-3,-5,etc.).
  • Fourth Tier: You can now attempt two actions with the same limb (or other system) simultaneously once per round.

Illegal Automaton Fighting Ring Uncovered

STEAM AND STEEL QUARTERLY

Private investigators contracted by H.M. Bradshaw Home Robotics Corp. made a stunning discovery this past week in San Francisco, uncovering an illegal automaton fighting ring operating near that city’s historic wharf. The investigators declined an interview with this wire, but San Francisco police confirmed details of the automata deathmatch operation and its ultimate demise.

Illegally modified automata bearing weapons of varied and frightful description were pitted in battles to the death for the benefit of spectators. Adding to the indolent affront to the standards of British law and good taste, the spectators engaged in gambling at these affairs and imbibed refreshments containing unlicensed liquor.

H.M. Bradshaw Home Robotics Corp., a local automata retailer and repair shop, assigned the private detectives to discover the fate of a shoplifted manservant model BHR-M700 automaton. What happened between that time and the dramatic raid that ended in multiple arrests this past Sunday is shrouded in mystery. Regardless, let us be thankful that this controversial and indecent practice has been quashed in America’s City by the Bay.

–C. Crenley reporting

SHORT ADVENTURE SCENARIO for 2-5 Player Characters
Recommended advancement: 0 to 15

The Player Characters begin this adventure by answering an advertisement published by H.M. Bradshaw Home Robotics Corp. in San Francisco. Entering the production facility, they are greeted by an android secretary at the front desk. "Welcome to H.M. Bradshaw Home Robotics Corporation, do you have an appointment?" it inquires, a thin trail of steam rising from the boiler on its back.

After introducing themselves, the android guides the Player Characters across the factory floor and up to the office of Harvey Milton Bradshaw Jr., current CEO of H.M. Bradshaw Home Robotics Corp. and son of its founder. He is a solidly built man with pale skin, graying temples, and a bushy black mustache. He speaks quickly and with a characteristic, aimless bluster.

"So you're the private dicks? I don't care if you're licensed, but I do care about results. One of my automatons has been stolen, and it represents a significant investment. I have no idea if the thief was aware, but the unit stolen was a showroom model and my district sales manager used its clockwork mind to store inventory and finance data. If my competitors got their hands on that data, it would be a damned catastrophe!"

"As I see it, it can be tracked in one of three ways. One: you could ask around the black market and see if anyone is buying automata, and move up the chain from there until you find my unit. Two: you could head to the location of the break in and see if you can track it from there. And three: maybe you know something that I don't, it's why I'm paying you!"

After fully discussing the matter, the Player Characters set out to recover the unit.

THE SEARCH

Here, the Narrator will have to adapt to the Player Character's choices as they move through San Francisco. Regardless of which path the Player Characters choose to take, give the Player Characters at least encounter in which combat breaks out unexpectedly, one in which there is no combat and guile is required, and one that could go either way. For instance:

Moving through the black market, the Player Characters must press informants for information while defending themselves from thugs. First, they meet with a willing informant whose information they receive from Mr. Bradshaw. Following the informant's lead, they fall into an ambush. Five thugs wielding lead pipes emerge from the shadows and attempt to incapacitate the Player Characters in order to rob and kidnap them.

Returning to the informant to confront him for the apparent double-cross, they find that he used them to strike a blow against an underworld rival. If they deal with him shrewdly, he reveals the location of the ring. If they attempt to force the information out of him, he does the same but only after defending himself with a pistol and two guard dogs.

This general pattern can be modified easily to fit the Player Characters' particular skills and abilities. For instance, if the party has no investigators or smooth talkers but does have a spiritualist, the first tip could be to follow a man with an enchanted pocket watch, an ambush could take place while tailing him, and upon catching up he can be persuaded or forced into revealing the location.

AT THE FIGHTING RING

The automaton fighting ring is housed in an otherwise-abandoned warehouse near the San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. If the Narrator chooses to use real maps, the warehouse could have the address 7 North Point Street. This address is not an illegal automaton fighting ring in the real world, obviously, but use of existing maps of the modern world is a convenient way to generate a game map with minimal alteration.

Upon arriving outside of the warehouse, two guards pretending to be loitering street toughs produce knives and attempt to raise an alarm. If either guard manages to open the door and shout inside, most of the gamblers escape justice. If they are incapacitated before this action can be undertaken, the warehouse is locked up tight.

At this point, a police officer happens by and witnesses the fight. Regardless of the Player Characters' response to the police officer's questions, she manages to radio in sufficient information that the police will arrive in force shortly. However, to collect in full on their contract, the Player Characters must recover the stolen manservant, or at least its clockwork mind, before this can happen.

INSIDE

Inside, an employee of the gambling operation spots the Player Characters immediately. It is his job to take tickets for the event, greet guests, and encourage guests to drink and place bets. Security is not his concern. He can be persuaded if approached with deception or bribery, but if he feels threatened or knows that the cops are approaching he will run down the hallway behind him and into the open warehouse floor where the automaton fighting arena is located.

If either the guards managed to shout inside or the ticket taker is tipped off, the end of the hallway is barred by an illegally modified guardian manservant. If they are not tipped off, it instead begins the encounter near the ring in the center of the room.

The main room is filled with a festive crowd. A ring like that used in a boxing prize fight stands in the center. In it, two badly damaged automata are in the final round of a battle.

A pile of damaged automata sits near the side of the ring. The Player Characters can see Bradshaw's manservant on top of the heap, its clockwork mind exposed by a rent inflicted by a chainsaw.

BATTLE THE GUARDIAN

The guardian has stats as detailed in its entry in technological marvels. It has weapons welded to two of its arms: a claymore and a chainsaw.

The automaton encounter can be solved in several ways. It can be attacked until destroyed, but it is a stalwart opponent. It is slower than a human, so it can be distracted or outrun with relative ease. The mind that controls it is an electrical computer. It is susceptible to electrical shock and poorly constructed. Any engineer can discover a mechanical fault and exploit it with tools by studying it and then bringing tools to bear. The roll to study it uses intellect or perception and is taken at difficulty -3. The roll to disable it with tools uses motor skills and is also taken at difficulty -3.

AFTERMATH

Having dispatched, disabled, or avoided the guardian and recovered the clockwork mind, the Player Characters can return to Bradshaw in total victory, receiving £ 1000 each for their trouble.

If the Player Characters bust the ring but fail to recover the clockwork mind from Bradshaw's manservant, they receive only £ 150 each to stay silent.

A steam engineering trade wire reports on the bust the following day, but does not know about the Player Characters removing evidence at Bradshaw's behest. With his trade secrets safe, Bradshaw quietly circulates the Player Characters' information to other parties with similarly sensitive predicaments.

 

Kelenken Guillermoi, the Terror Bird of Patagonia

GRAND SAFARI BIG GAME DIGEST

Greetings huntsmen!

Today I wire from camp outside of Bariloche in beautiful Argentina. The wilds of Patagonia are warm at this time of year, and the going is relatively easy. Our local guide, Mariano, promised that the terror birds would be active and plentiful at this time of year, and he was not wrong.

Just last night, as I reached the summit of a small ridge, I espied a majestic gander of the species Kelenken guillermoi in the final, triumphant moments of its own hunt. The gorgeous specimen easily paced a red stag and, with a mighty swing of its two-foot hatchet beak, struck the stag down in mid stride. As the beast crowed its victory, I took the shot.

The terror bird may be flightless, but its swift foot speed is sufficient to outpace nearly any prey. Indeed, it is this speed that has encouraged certain rangers, gauchos, and long riders to adopt the terror bird as a mount, despite the creature’s ill temper and predilection for human flesh.

It is truly rare to encounter a wild animal that chooses to predate upon mankind, save in times of starvation or as an afterthought following territorial defense. Kelenken guillermoi is the exception to this rule, known to actively hunt humans in its range. It is consequently recommended that any travelers to Patagonia carry at least flares, if not firearms, as a matter of course.

For my own part, sport hunting the noble terror bird was a thrilling experience that I shall never forget.

Yours truly,

-Sir J.R. Graham, Expedition Leader for the Grand Safari

Terror Birds

The terror birds were large, flightless, predatory birds that lived from the late Paleocene to early Pliocene. One species, K. guillermoi, survived to modernity in the “Lost World” and has since repopulated in Patagonia. K. guillermoi is as tall as a man from toe to hip, with a long neck extending up to towering proportions. They are swift and vicious, but, as avians, they are also relatively slight of build for their height. The creatures are sometimes used as mounts, guards, or hunting animals, but their appetite for human flesh and notorious ill temper make them exceedingly difficult to train.

  • Body FT: 7 ST: 3 GH: 3 A: n/a
  • Spirit W: 1 DR: 5 DS: 1 S: 2
  • Mind I: 0 G: 2 P: 3 MS: 3
  • Resilience 6 damage levels -1 at 5 DL, -2 at 3 DL and enraged, -3 at 1 DL and attempts to retreat

The terror bird attacks with a hatchet-like slashing bite. This bite, if it connects, deals 4 damage per hit, manipulation 1. If it has difficulty biting small, agile prey with its beak, it attempts to shoulder or buffet its prey to the ground and pin it their with a leg.

IITN Welcomes You Back

Welcome back to the International Information Telegraph Network. Whether you are reading this directly on a viewscreen or your domestic android has transcribed the message, we apologise for the extended interruption of distribution. Here at the IITN Service Bureau, we take the security and integrity of service seriously. It is integral to the commercial and cultural interests of the Empire that communication to her citizens remain unimpeded.

… and Begs Your Patience

Separatist attacks meant to target the Royal News Agency crippled the London central switching hub. Repairs have only been completed in the past fortnight.

We took this opportunity to update the appearance and function of the service itself. Archives are available once again. However, regular updates are suspended until such time as the damage can be fully assessed and rectified.

Rest assured, the separatists shall not prevail. We expect that by Christmas of this year the IITN will be restored to its full stature. Until then, we shall remain vigilant against further treason as we progress toward that goal.

May God bless our Queen and her glorious Empire.

Postscript: a Word from Matt

In other words, dear readers, the core rules for PAX BRITANNICA are back where they belong, "free, online, forever".

Additionally, I'm planning on putting together an apparatus that will deliver regular content updates. The blog posts announcing them will be styled as narrative posts from entities in the world of PAX BRITANNICA, and the accompanying rules information will be compiled in an ever-growing archive of adventures, encounters, systems, antagonists, equipment, and abilities.

The full details will become available in late December of this year, 2016. Until then, I have some work to attend to on less visible aspects of the project while making arrangements that allow me the time to provide new content each week and ensure e.g. secure, uninterrupted hosting.

Until then I remain yours faithfully,

-Matthew Abbott

Author, PAX BRITANNICA
Founder and CEO, Abbott Games, LLC