One of the best examples of our gaming style was the Roxy Smothers and the Lost Treasure of the Kurgans campaign I ran a few years back.
We used Howard Whitehouse's Astounding Tales! rules which are simple and flexible and very fun. Roxy is one of Howard's creations along with her director, the egomaniacal Eric von Schnitzel. I've had the honor of playing as von Schnitzel at several of Howard's mass chaos games at Historicon. I decided to build a whole campaign around their visit to Ruritania at the beginning of World War II
To get things started, here's the characters from the campaign:
Name: Roxy Smothers
Story: She’s a star, darling! She’s had her background changed so many times by the studio’s publicity department that even she can’t remember where she originally came from - she just remembers that it was flat and boring. Its been said, “It'd take a very brave man to 'sort out' Roxy -- she's like a combination of Jean Harlow and Mae West, but without the high class and the ladylike manners.”
She’s agreed to do von Schnitzel’s little picture since it gives her an excuse to visit Ruritania where her 5th (or was it 6th?) ex-husband is the son of the king. The conniving rat, Prince Bronislav, has not paid a cent in alimony and Roxy is getting a little short on champagne and jewelry money. Beside, its been a while since she’d been to Europe. She always love Europe, it was so …European.
Of course, the possibility of war never should never get in the way of a good time.
Name: Zoya Bupkis
Story: Born in a small village near Hcentzov (Henztau), her widowed mother slaved to pay for a good education, first at a convent school, then with one of the best ballet instructors in Ruritania. She became a member of the Royal Ballet but soon met Prince Bronislav Radziwill, 6th in line to the throne. He swept her off her feet and they began an amour. To have her near him, he got her a job at the Ministry of the Arts. However, now that war is near, her office has been militarized into the Ministry of Propaganda. She has been ordered by the Minister on a special mission to help a famous American movie director to get into Ruritania from Graustark. It’s very exciting, she feels like a real spy!
Name: Eric Von Schnitzel
Story: Born Emile Schniztelman in Berlin to Jewish parents. He served in the German Signal Corps in the Great War, twice decorated. After the war, after toying briefly with being a Communist, he worked in the heady atmosphere of the Weimar cinema world. With the rise of the Nazis in Germany, he realized it was time to get out. The huge gambling debts he had didn’t help either. He immigrated to America, creating a false, aristocratic identity to get around the U.S. restrictions on Jewish immigration. He has since tried to hit it big in Hollywood, getting some support from Hannibal Hecuba Studios but more often trying to get his projects funded himself. His only asset is his association with the luminous actress, Roxy Smothers. His latest idea is for a film based on a novel, Passion’s Epitaph by the Duchess of Hentzau about the tragic story of King Sigismund and Barbara Radziwill. The problem is that he has no money, no script, and doesn’t even have the right to the novel. But why quibble about details, Art will find an answer to such mundane details!
Name: Janusz Tura
Story: Born in Warsaw, trained as a tenor in the opera. Never successful, he got work in operettas in the minor stage. Due to his striking good looks, he got a job as a male model and occasional movie actor, always playing the role of a gigolo, one which he relished in real life. After a terrible fight with his actor brother, Jozef, he left Poland and sought work in the West. The offer to star in an American movie, even one being made in Ruritania and not Hollywood, has lured him to accept von Schnitzel’s invitation to star in Passion’s Epitaph.
Name: Prof. Wagmore Barqueless
Story: Born Neville Bastable in the slums of East London. His father was a cracksman who taught the young boy the trade. After his father’s numerous arrests, he realized he needed a new line of work and so falsified a degree in archeology at the University of Ingolstadt and changed his name. He uses this as a cover to steal antiquities and as an entre into Society where he occasionally steals jewels from wealth patrons. But his father was recently arrested by British authorities. British Intelligence has given Barqueless a choice, either assist them or his aged father will spend the rest of his life in prison. They have said that the Germans want something big in Ruritania, something to do with antiquities that will help them in the coming war. With his reputation and connections, he should be able to find out what they are after and keep it from them. A team from the Ahnenerbe Section of the SS is in Graustark, preparing to go into Ruritania to get this artifact. He's arrived in the capital of Grauheim and will go to the one place said to be where anything may be had for a price, including the most secret of information, a café named Emeric’s
Name: Bravello Chicolini
Story: One time ice cream salesman, Minister of War, and war hero in Freedonia. He has had to leave the country to avoid prosecution on any one of a number of charges, espionage, embezzlement, jaywalking. He has taken a job as a camera man with the American director, von Schnitzel, although he does no have the least experience with cameras.
Name: Ernest Hummingbird
Story: Son of a mid-Western Doctor, ran away from home at 17 in search of adventure, ended up as an ambulance driver on the Ruritanian Front in the Great War. After the war, hoping to write the Great American Novel, he became part of the expatriate community in Paris where he hobnobbed with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound. Worked as a war correspondent in every conflict he could get to, often getting involved as gun-runner and partisan, usually for the losing side. He has come to Graustark in the hopes of being in at the beginning of the coming war.
Yosh and Stash Shmengy
Story: Born in Nimitsoran, Leutonia Province, Ruritania, Stash Shmengy and his younger brother Yosh were the child prodigy polka kings of Ruritania, touring extensively as The Happy Wanderers” in the early 1930s. After serving their compulsory period of conscription in the Ruritanian Army, they tried to break into the cut-throat world of the American polka scene. Working in Chicago, the two fell afoul of gangsters when they mistakenly took the gangster weapons, which were hidden in musical instrument cases. Although they prevented a murder and got their own instruments back, they knew they had to leave America. The pair is trying to return to their homeland, working small gigs to pay their travel expenses home. They have managed to reach neighboring Graustark where they were hired to work in the famous night club and gambling casino, Emeric’s. They had almost earned their passage home when the border was closed due to the war scare. Knowing that if war breaks out, they will be arrested as enemy nationals, they are desperate to get home.