Weird Books for Gamers II: Dr. Eckener’s Dream Machine

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ng76

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If you’re running any RPG set in the early 20th century, it’s only a matter of time before a Zeppelin or other airship shows up. There aren’t a lot of living people who have actually traveled on an airship, so it’d be helpful to have some idea what traveling in one was actually like.

Dr. Eckener’s Dream Machine: The Great Zeppelin and the Dawn of Air Travel (Goodreads)

This book is the story of Dr. Hugo Eckener, who started out as a reporter covering the airship industry, then eventually became an airship captain himself and ended up as the head of the Zeppelin company.

In his time, he was world famous. He commanded the Graf Zeppelin in the first (and only) airship flight around the world.

The best parts of this book are the detailed descriptions of the voyages of the Graf Zeppelin. Here’s some highlights easily usable in games:

  • The dramatic list of passengers on the 1929 round-the-world flight: American reporters, Japanese naval officers, Soviet scientists, Australian explorers. Every one a perfect pulp character.
  • Crewmen on the airship desperately clinging to outside of the airship during a raging storm, making emergency repairs in an attempt to keep the Graf Zeppelin from plunging into the Atlantic.
  • Siberian peasants, who likely had never seen an airplane or train, fleeing in terror at the sight of the giant silver airship.
  • Reporters on board sending their missives via carrier pigeon.
  • There’s a lot of detail about the luxury accommodations for the passengers, which could be useful for establishing a scene. Apparently the dining hall had its own custom Graf Zeppelin porcelain, glassware, and cutlery.
  • There was a parachute on board, so that if a stowaway was found, he or she could be thrown overboard.

This is the second of my Weird Books for Gamers series.

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