If the players already have characters made, but have not yet played with them, you and the players must come up with an explanation as to how they know each other, or an explanation as to how they know Dr. Grant. If the players have already have been playing with these characters for some time, then naturally the party will all know each other; only one character need know Dr. Grant. The key thing is that the players must have knowledge of the expedition and an invitation to participate, and likewise need a reason to be able to get along with each other. Often players who attempt to roleplay a "first meeting" will find that playing in character causes friction between characters and prevents parties from forming. Naturally this should be avoided.
If the party is particularily large, you can allow one of the players to play the role of Dr. Grant. Remember, however, that this character will not necessarily be available for adventuring in the future, so the player should be comfortable with this or be happy to play characters who are normally NPC's.
Allow characters to purchase equipment from the SPACE:1889 book, but do not give them too long to look over the list of items. Remember that these items are being purchased at the local store in Arizona where the adventure is taking place; exotic items will not be available, nor will theplayers be allowed to bring large items or vehicles. Give the players about ten minutes to look over the list.
Once characters have been assigned and players know how they have come to be involved with the expedition, you can present them with the following document, which represents the beginning of the adventure. Have the players read it aloud to each other, one paragraph at a time, until the document is finished. After this is done, the adventure may begin.
Note: Two characters from the pre-generated character list are included in the narrative: Lt. Cmdr. Julian Leybourne and Dr. Franklin Turquoine. If these characters are not being used then Leybourne may be replaced by another character with piloting skill, while Turquoine can be replaced by someone with a high Observation skill.
You all sit in the quaint but comfortable parlour of Doctor Cyrus Grant, an inventor, and acquaintance of yours. The attempts at small-talk and pleasantries have dwindled away, and you all feel the tension and anticipation mounting. Soon Dr. Grant should arrive, and then the promised expedition to the Moon will get underway.
TO THE MOON
"Dr. Grant, if you would inflate the gas bag, please," Leybourne comments, trying to restrain his enthusiasm.
"Of course, of course," Dr. Grant mutters, and twists a knob on his control panel. A hissing sound can be heard and the large baloon on top of the craft begins to swell. Soon, the flyer lifts from the wheeled carriage is sat on and begins to drift idly upwards. The leisurely speed of ascent increases, and before you know it the flyer is up among the clouds, with a spectacular view of the Arizona landscape below.
The colour of the sky begins to darken, and the clouds are now below the ship. "We're approaching the critical altitude," Leybourne comments, after looking at one of his gauges. "Is the ether propeller ready?"
"Yes, ready as she'll ever be," Dr. Grant jibes.
Leybourne looks intently at his console for a moment, and then flips a switch. Another vibration shakes the ship, this time accompanied by a low hum. Suddenly, there is a jolt, and the flyer seems to be rushing forward at an incredible speed. "It works!" Dr. Grant shouts gleefully, not able to restrain his enthusiasm. "I knew it would..."
The sky darkens quickly, and soon stars are visible. The Earth below soon is visible as a sphere, a beautiful glassy marble far below. And ahead of you lies the Moon, in it's half phase, looking incredibly clear and sharp, a view that is impossible from Earth. "Steady as she goes, Mr. Leybourne," Dr. Grant says with a grin. Leyburne smiles as well.
APPROACH FROM THE FAR SIDE
Grant announces, "I've been gathering eyewitness accounts of this mysterious glow for five years now. According to my calculations we should be approaching its exact position." You are cruising at an altitude of about a mile. The Lunar surface stretches out below you, jagged, gray, and dead. In the distance you can see a soft smudge of light in the blackness. It seems to have a faint greenish tint.
A SLIGHT MISCALCULATION
Dr. Franklin Turquoine notices that the rate of descent is gradually increasing, and the flyer is drifting dangerously close to one of the walls of the gorge. Leybourne begins adjusting the controls.
"Suddenly this thing isn't handling right," Leybourne says, as he begins struggling with the controls. The flyer lurches drunkenly away from the approaching gorge wall, but then nearly hits the opposite wall, pulling away just in time. It begins bobbing up and down as well. Grant hurriedly exclaims, "Something's interfering with the propeller's operation, lowering its efficiency."
"Listen!" exclaims Turqouine. "Hear that whistling on the hull? Good God, there's an atmosphere out there!"
"The Ether Propeller won't work in an atmosphere!" Excaims Leybourne. "We'll have to inflate the hydrogen gas bag!"
Grant lurches for the gas generator controls, but too late. The flyer snags on the gorge wall, nearly tips over, and begins plummeting into the gorge. Grant exclaims hastily, "Damn! Gas bag's ripped!"
"Hang on," Leybourne replies, "I'll try to hit a ledge to break our fall. Otherwise we're goners!"
The flyer finally smashes into a ledge, and all of the characters are thrown to one end of the cabin in a heap, along with all of the loose furniture and equipment. The flyer totters for a moment, then rolls off the ledge and falls again, but this time for only a short distance. It hits the next ledge with a solid, bone-jarring finality. People are thrown to the floor, sustaining minor injuries.
ASSESSING THE DAMAGE
The flyer's hull is severely damaged , but reparable. However, though undamaged, the ether propeller will not budge the ship from down here, as the atmosphere is too dense. The hydrogen bag is torn, but temporary repairs would probably be sufficient for a quick ascent up the gorge to where the atmosphere is thin enough for the ether propeller to take hold. But then comes the final blow; Grant's Ether Propeller Governor is disabled, the large diamond used as an ether lens having shattered when the flyer hit the ledge. (If questioned, Grant will explain that the diamond was badly flawed, nearly worthless for jewelry, which is why he could afford it for his governor.)
All the while the greenish-yellow glow from within Luna bathes the ship in a curious light, mysteriously compelling and repulsive at the same time.
THE EXPEDITION CONTINUES
At this point the actual adventure begins. If any characters are mentioned in the narrative but are not played by player-characters, these characters have become too injured and decide to wait at the flyer while the rest of the party continues into the Moon.