To decipher this, Grimmond contacted Dr. Stringham through his police work and the noted author Stephen Edwards (whose racy novels were about as intellectual as Grimmond's reading got). Edwards recommended Professor Hayward as a more thorough expert on occult beliefs and rituals.
Later, the journalist Violet Woodhull was inducted after she was exposed to a little too much of the truth.
Upon returning to London, these three were whisked away by Amelia Hawksquill, who recruited them to her side. Hawksquill apparently served as a covert advisor to many personages high in the government, and she had a certain mastery of the occult. Under her direction, they opposed various forces at work in London.
In her absence, the company have organized themselves as a group of equals. Their loyalties are divided at this point -- trying to continue Hawksquill's work without being certain of her goals. Hawksquill's compatriots in the government, known as the Diogenes Council, have asked them to take over her work.
But they also received note from Inspector Grimmond, after his murder, which implicated one of the Diogenes Council to be a mole leaking information to criminals.
When the company investigated this, though, they became trapped during a seance at the lair of Fu Manchu. They escaped, but only by the sacrifice of Edwards. When they awoke from the seance, Hawksquill had returned in Edward's body.
What she/he will do now remains unknown.
After a culprit is found, the conflict is usually played out in an self-consciously dramatic style. This frequently follows the style of ``pulp'' action. The PC's are protected from permanent harm except in extreme circumstances. In recent times, this dramatic play has been dominated by the use of Tarot cards by the players to influence the action (see below).
Most magic occurs during seances, where the characters try to concentrate and find themselves in contact with various places and forces. The strength and nature of these seances is controlled largely by tarot cards used by the players. Incidentally, the main GM (Chris Lehrich) has been doing PhD work on various magical practices in the History of Culture. The magic in the game is not quite the spiritualism of the period, drawing heavily on older traditions.
What is borrowed more from pulp is the dramatic sense. While the mysteries can meander in speculation and confusion, the action is almost always dramatically timed.
In addition, for the last few months we have been using Tarot cards similar to Whimsy Cards in the original Ars Magica . At the start of the session, the GM shuffles a Waite (standard) deck and give everyone 3 cards face-down. The players keep these secret, and can use them any time.
To use them, the player shows the card, and describes a result which should happen that is in line with the interpretation of that card's meaning. The intepretations will come straight from the Waite deck. For example, ``Victory'' is a pretty standard interpretation for 6 of Rods -- a player could use this card to succeed over an enemy. As long as everyone more-or-less agrees that the results is (1) plausible, and (2) fitting for the card, then what the player describes will happen.
The Major Arcana are more powerful, and in some confused way relate to forces actually present in the game-world. Thus when one is used, the player must make a POW roll for his character: essentially for control of the forces at work. The player then describes to the GM what is meant (as above), and the force in question enters the situation. Of course, an 01 POW roll will mean that the interpretation you put on it is almost certainly going to apply; an 00 roll is going to get you in trouble.
John H. Kim