The deerstalker cap and cape-backed overcoat. The pipe. The grace of gaslit Victoriana. The clop clop of carriage and cobblestone. The fog rolling in from England's imperial seas. Baker Street.
The Good People of London
Most people will conform to the descriptions provided in the chapter on Non-Player Characters in the Basic Game. The most commonly encountered people are civilians, shady contacts, beautiful foils and soldiers (either retired military men or serving local police).
Exceptional characters include the free woman or adventuress (such as Irene Adler), the rouge (such as Colonel Sebastian Moran or Count Negretto Sylvius), big game hunters, explorers, professional spies, rare and specialised art smugglers, master pickpockets and even sophisticated cat burglars or jewellery thieves in the mould of A. J. Raffles or The Saint.
Encounters with those trained in the martial arts are very rare, most being bare knuckle boxers of skill levels 1 through 5. Their strength will be in the order of 09 through 11. Occasionally the encounter will be with an even rarer individual skilled in the more exotic forms, such as a French spy who is a Savate master.
Street thugs and such ilk are treated as soldiers of Hood status. Usually unarmed, but the occasional clasp knife will appear.
London is a busy, teaming metropolis. Industrious docklands surrounded by dark warehouses and tall ships from across the world, smoky music halls, rowdy public houses, cobbled lanes, terrace houses, shops tucked under overhanging medieval eves, the distant rattle of subway trains. There will always be traffic during the day and through most of the night, with a minimum of twenty carts, wagons and cabs per one-block area at any given time. Out of doors during the day, there will always be 6-36 people of both sexes and assorted ages within 50' of any player characters. Naturally, some parts of London are less frequented than others, let common sense be your guide. Only late at night will the streets and parks be virtually empty.
The streets are filled with beer wagons, horse-drawn hanson cabs (2-wheel), horse-drawn growler cabs (4-wheel), horse-drawn trolley buses (some double-decker), police officers in uniform on foot, aristocrats and their followers cum hangers-on, gentlemen absorbed in their own affairs, ladies out and about, clergy ministering to their flock, tradesmen, street urchins, shoppers, peddlers, the odd pickpocket or mugger, prostitutes, vagrants, tourists (either foreign or from rural England), family groups, the occasional Scotland Yard detective and the typical English nanny with children.
Street urchins are "wild" children who live in the streets of London and are often accomplished thieves. Sometimes orphans, more often than not they are rebellious kids escaping harsh apprenticeships or bad family situations and trying to survive on their own. To best portray the majority of these children, think of Fagin's crew in Oliver Twist. Urchins are not easily identified as such; they may have slightly grubbier clothing than the children found in family groups, but that may be the only outward distinction between them.
Beer wagons are huge, wheeled vehicles, averaging 20' - 30' long and carrying a dozen or more barrels of English beer (on-the-wood), delivered daily to the local pubs. They are drawn by teams of six to ten large horses (Clydesdales or Percherons), guided by a driver who sits 10' off the ground. By law, beer wagons always have the right-of-way on London streets. If one is encountered, it is likely that the player characters will initially notice the commotion made by traffic getting (or being made to get) out of the wagon's way. Long before they sight the actual beer wagon.
Use the 'Non-Player Character Encounter System' from the 'James Bond Basic Game'. A mission is herein defined as an investigation, along the lines of the celebrated cases of Mister Sherlock Holmes. The major villain is the criminal at the heart of such a case, and the privilege henchman is his aide (such as Professor Moriarty and Colonel Sebastian Moran or Isadora Klien and the Spencer John gang with Steve Dixie).
A few changes are called for -
Alter any mention of air travel to luxury cruise liners, intercontinental trains (such as the Orient Express) and gracious carriages.
Change any and all mention of 'M.I.6' to 'Scotland Yard', and then use as outlined. The Yard can be very helpful to amateurs who show skill and daring.
Chase: Thrilling chases have occurred in the Canon by train (The Final Problem), by bicycle (The Solitary Cyclist) and by cab. Chases on foot through the winding lanes and shady areas of the docklands are highly appropriate. A rooftop sniper may be used in place of an aircraft, if so desired. Combined chases can also occur, such as the foot and cab encounter in The Hound of the Baskervilles that involved that redoubtable cab man John Clayton.
Civilian: Replace 'Sheriff J. W. Pepper' with 'Doctor John H. Watson'. Use 'Ms Bell', but have her in a dog cart. If desired, 'Ms Bell' can be replaced with a suitable Beautiful Foil.
Computer Foul Up: Simply change this to 'Misplaced Paperwork'.
Fellow Secret Agent: Roll a D6. A 1-2 result indicates an encounter with Peterson, the commissionaire. A very honest and stalwart fellow, Petersonís knowledge of the streets of London is second-to-none. Otherwise simply change this to 'Fellow Investigator', and use as detailed.
James Bond: Change 'James Bond' to 'Sherlock Holmes'. Roll a D6. A 1-2 result indicates that he's in disguise. If not in disguise there is a 3-in-6 chance that Doctor Watson is with him.
Mysterious Note: On a 5, the Shady Contact is Jack Brady. He will entertain the player characters in a bawdy docklands music hall.
Paging: Simply change this to a young lad with a telegram.
Remote Control: Roll a D6. A 1-2 result is treated as the 'Privileged Henchman' encounter, a 3 result means that the vehicle has been sabotaged and will crash in short order, a 4-5 result indicates that the driver is in league with the major villain and is leading the player characters into a trap, a 6 result indicates an encounter with Jack Brady.
Television: Replace with a railway or street corner news stand showing current magazines and newspapers from across England and including even a handful from the Continent.
The use of the encounters from the 'Thrilling Locations' book can enliven situations greatly and they add a wonderful flavour to the game. Casinos, hotels, restaurants, trains and boats are all appropriate. Just go easy on the 'Sheriff J. W. Pepper' and 'Plenty O'Toole' stuff.