The Fire King – A Literary Demon

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About 120 years before H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard collaboratively created what has become known as the “Cthulhu Mythos”, Matthew Lewis (author of “The Monk”) and Walter Scott (who went on to write such books as “Ivanhoe” and “Rob Roy”) made an abortive attempt at a shared mythology based off Germanic stories of the elemental Fairy Kings. Snobbish critics have historically tended to downplay, or even completely ignore, Scott’s involvement with Gothic literature, but he contributed poems to Lewis’ popular anthology “Tales of Wonder”. Scott’s “The Fire-King” (which also appears in his collection “Translations and Imitations from German Ballads”) stands as a great and influential contribution to the literature of the weird. Those familiar with 20th century fantasy may no doubt recognize a precursor of Tolkien’s “Balrog” here.

The following depiction of the Fire King combines both Scott’s and Lewis’s ideas.

Fire King

A powerful ruler among the Fire Demons, sought out by the bloodthirsty.

Creature Class: Spirit (Demon)
Number Appearing: 1
Initial Impression: An enormous naked man wreathed in flames, exhaling smoke from his mouth and nostrils, and wielding a bloody falcion of blue steel.
Size: Large (12’ high)

Perversity: 30
Disposition: Aggressive
Charisma: 18 Intelligence: 15 Wisdom: 15
Strength: 50 Dexterity: 18 Constitution: 22
Speed: 13 walking, 20 Flying

Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 10
Attacks: 1 (Demoniac Falcion, or punch)
Special Abilities: Demonic Characteristics, Burning Hot to the Touch, Sage of Fire, Summon Fire Demon
Weaknesses: Demonic Weaknesses, Vulnerable to Water
Assets: Intimidating
Afflictions: Easily Angered
Preternatural Powers: Ball Lightning; Combust; Darkness; Detect Evil; Fireball; Flame Strike (1 time a day); Fog (Smoke) Cloud; Ghost Lights; Invisibility; Light; Lightning Bolt; Transform Self into Snake, Scorpion, Lion, Lizard, Salamander, or Jackal; Pyrotechnics; Stinking Cloud; Wall of Fire

Natural Habitat: The Outer Darkness, the court of the Elemental Fairy Kings, the upper atmosphere of Earth, volcanoes and lava fields
Level: 10

Fire Kings are the nominal rulers of the Fire Demons that inhabit the upper atmosphere of the Earth. Thankfully for the human race, even the powerful Fire Kings cannot keep the rebellious demons focused on their goals. Otherwise, all life on Earth might have been incinerated long ago.

The Fire King’s muscled body is always wreathed in flame, yet (like all Demons) they actually cause the environment around themselves to become colder, rather than warmer. Anyone who actually touches a Fire King, however, will be horrifically burned. A Fire King’s voice roars like an out of control conflagrations, and lightning will flash from his mouth. His eyes glow like white-hot metal, and despite the fire around him, the blade he carries is always covered in liquid blood. Although he lacks apparent wings, he can fly through the air at great speed. A Fire King is also 50% likely to be riding a Dragon when he appears.

A Fire King’s Falcion is actually a Demoniac Object inhabited by a Possessor Demon (with 3 Hit Die). Consequentially, the weapon does an addition 3 points of damage whenever it strikes, and can harm any supernatural creature. As is the case with any Demoniac Object, however, the Demon within the blade can be exorcised, or forced to flee with a successful show of Faith. If that happens, the blade will become an ordinary (if oversized) weapon. If the Fire King is destroyed, the Demon within the blade may agree to stay within the weapon and serve a new owner, if the weapon will be often bathed in gore.

Although they are Demons, each Fire King is also part of a regional Fairy court consisting of itself, an Earlking, a Cloud King, and a Water King. Together they conspire to inflict pain, suffering, and death upon humanity. The Fire King’s role is to rain burning meteors on the ground, cause the eruptions of volcanoes, and ensure that travelers are misdirected by roving lights. They are opposed in this work of malevolence, however, by the Good Fairies and Angels who watch over the world.

Only the most foolish or powerful Magician would dare try to Summon a Fire King. Nonetheless, their total knowledge of all subjects relating to fire, and ability to wreak destruction, can cause the unwise (or daring) to attempt their command. Likewise, Fire Kings have been sought out by desperate warriors, for the Demons are known to lend their Demoniac Falcions to those who wish to commit acts of slaughter.

Fire King Special Abilities

Demonic Characteristics: Fire Kings are immune to all weapons, except those which are made of iron, blessed, or otherwise enchanted. They cannot be harmed by cold, fire, acid, disease, or any Special Ability or Preternatural Effect which targets minds or emotions (except those that specifically target Spirits, of course). They can see perfectly regardless of illumination, are immune to blindness or any other debility caused by extremely bright light, retain the ability to distinguish colors in conditions of total darkness, and do not need time to adjust their eyes to changing light. Fire Kings can speak, write, and understand all languages and forms of communication.

Burning Hot to the Touch: A character that deliberately touches a Fire King with their hand (or other body part) will be burned for 1d6 points of Lethal Damage.

Sage of Fire: Fire Kings have perfect knowledge of all arts, sciences, and crafts involving fire – metallurgy, glassblowing, blacksmithing, artillery use, etc. They are sometimes Summoned expressly for their knowledge, but preternatural means such as Bind Spirit are usually required to force the Demons to answer truthfully.

Summon Fire Demon: Once during any fight a Fire King may Summon a Fire Demon to his aid. The Demon that responds to the Summon will appear the next Round, and can be anywhere from 1 – 8 HD in strength.

Fire King Weaknesses

Vulnerable to Water: Water-based attacks against a Fire King grant the aggressor a +2 Bonus on the Attack Check, and inflict an additional 2 point of Lethal Damage. Holy Water does double normal damage to Fire Kings. Fire Kings must Check Morale whenever they are damaged by water-based attacks.

Demonic Weaknesses: Fire Kings are burned by holy water as if it was acid, cannot enter holy ground or touch blessed objects, and are subject to the power of Faith. Like all Demons, they are Vulnerable to Iron, will not voluntarily touch it, and must Check Morale if damaged by it. Additionally, they are repelled by pure crystalline salt. As Spirits, they are susceptible to all Preternatural Effects that target spiritual entities. Strangely, they cause the entire Nearby Area to become discernibly cold rather than hot.

The Fire King’s Falcion

A Fire King is willing to give his Falcion to anyone who has murder in their heart, and who will use the weapon to cause suffering and bloodshed. Naturally, the Possessor Demon inhabiting the weapon will will not tolerate any expressions of piety or tenderness on the part of its owner. If the blade’s wielder shows any evidence of deviating from the path of destruction, it will fly from his hands and return to the Fire King (no matter where the demon currently is in the Universe). The Falcion is over five feet long, and requires a normal-sized person to use both hands when using it. Despite its size, the Demon within it causes the weapon to be as light as a feather.

Fire King (for OSR games)

Number Appearing: 1
Size: Large
Alignment: Chaotic (Evil)
Morale: 11 (or 17)
Intelligence: 10
Move: 240′ (or 24”, or 50 ft), Flying: 450′ (or 45”, or 85 ft.)
Armor Class: 1 (or 19)
Hit Dice: 10
Attacks & Damage: Falcion+3 (1d8 +10 total)
* Magic Resistance: 75%, or +7 on Saves vs. Magic.
* Immune to all weapons not Magical, Blessed, or Iron.
* Immune to Cold.
* Immune to Fire.
* Immune to Acid.
* Immune to Disease.
* Immune to mind-affecting magic (except that which targets Spirits)
* Perfect vision under all conditions.
* Can speak, write, and understand all languages.
* Strong as a Hill Giant
* Burning Hot: Take 1d6 Damage if deliberately contacted.
* Perfect knowledge of all arts and sciences relating to fire.
* Summon a Fire Demon of d8 Hit Dice (once per day).
* Cannot enter holy ground.
* +2 Damage from Iron
* +2 Damage from Holy Water (1d8+2)
* 50% likely to ride a small Red Dragon.
* Spell Like Abilities: Dancing Lights; Darkness; Detect Evil; Fireball (three times a day), Fog Cloud; Flame Strike (once a day), Lightning Bolt (three times a day); Invisibility; Polymorph Self {Snake, Scorpion, Lion, Lizard, Salamander, or Jackal}; Pyrotechnics; Stinking Cloud; Wall of Fire (three times a day)
Saves: As Magic User 10
Treasure: 50,000 gp value of coins, gems, and magic items, plus its magical Falcion.
Challenge: Four characters of at least 10th Level.

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Now through Cyber Monday, all individual Ghastly Affair PDFs are 33% off at DriveThruRPG! This includes the “Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual”, the “Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual”, the supplement “A Ghastly Potpourri”, and the “Highdark Hall” setting. Plus, the Ghastly Affair novel “Hunter’s Song”, by William Rutter!

100 Notable Features of 18th Century Country Estates

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John Constable Arundel Mill and Castle

A typical country estate of the late 18th century (such as that surrounding Highdark Hall) might incorporate 1.5 to 2 square miles of land, containing a mix of farmland, cultivated woods (for lumber, firewood, and tree crops), and forest (for hunting). An aristocratic family of the period would often draw most (or even all) of its income from rents and fees paid by their tenants, as well as direct sales of agricultural products and extracted minerals. There will almost always be a body of water present on the property, whether a stream, river, or lake. At the nucleus of the estate will be a Grand House of some kind, and its parkland gardens. Besides any cottages inhabited by the grounds servants, there will typically also be a village (or two) located on the greater estate. It is common everywhere during the period for the holder of an estate to also have some legal authority over their tenants, and in Russia (and many other parts of Eastern Europe) may even actually own them as serfs. Of course, almost all such privileges were abolished in France during the Revolution.

Use the following table to add color (and sow the seeds for future scenarios) when the PCs first visit an Estate House.

d100

As you travel across the greater estate, you notice…

1

the evidence of recent fires.

2

evidence of recent hail damage on plants.

3

that it seems strangely under-populated.

4

it seems to be perfectly laid out for equestrianism, with many small ditches and low walls to jump.

5

the shocking poverty of the tenants.

6

the incredible prosperity of the tenants.

7

the livestock seems to be wasting away.

8

the odd architecture of the tenants’ cottages.

9

a Megalithic stone circle (NW. Europe) / a ruined Roman temple (S. Europe) / human-sized stone idols (C. and E. Europe).

10

ancient barrows (Northwestern Europe) / Roman tombs (Southern Europe) / kurgans (Central and Eastern Europe).

11

many flattened Fairy circles in the grass and grain.

12

the numerous stone crosses that dot the area.

13

a bizarre fungal growth on many of the trees and stone walls.

14

orchards growing a fruit variety you’ve seen nowhere else.

15

the corpses of many animals that have died violently.

16

a whole abandoned village in ruins.

17

a strange species of flower that you have seen nowhere else.

18

a unique breed of cow found nowhere else.

19

a unique breed of sheep found nowhere else.

20

a strange precession for a saint (or local hero) that you can’t identify.

21

masked dancers wildly cavorting along the paths.

22

another Great House, apparently abandoned and in ruins.

23

a ruined castle.

24

a ruined windmill.

25

a ruined watchtower.

26

a ruined monastery (or convent)

27

the evidence of an ancient battlefield.

28

there are murders of crows everywhere.

29

the area seems oddly cool for the climatic region.

30

the area seems oddly warm for its climatic region.

31

the land is wrapped in mists.

32

there are numerous roadside shrines (even in a Protestant area).

33

packs of wild dogs seem to roam freely.

34

the tenants of the estate are rude and unfriendly.

35

the tenants are notably warm and friendly.

36

the tenants seem to all be foreigners.

37

the tenants are especially well-dressed, although nothing else about them indicates wealth.

38

numerous cottages that seem empty, yet are kept in good repair.

39

the tenants tend to speak and dress in an oddly archaic manner.

40

the path seems to bustle with activity.

41

there are numerous gypsy encampments.

42

numerous fallen trees.

43

that you feel as if you are always being watched.

44

that the land seems swampy, and poorly drained.

45

that the land seems drier than normal for the climate.

46

that the trees and other plant life seems overgrown.

47

every bird and wild animal seems aggressive.

48

a strange lack of men among the tenants.

49

a strange lack of women among the tenants.

50

a strange lack of children among the tenants.

51

the faint sounds of singing choirs, even when there are no apparent people in the vicinity.

52

an oddly colorful mushroom which you cannot identify, but which seems common here.

53

numerous animal skulls and skeletons left in the fields.

54

a body left to rot in a gibbet.

55

a crossroads with an apparent grave in its center, protruding from which is the top of a iron spike.

56

that parts of the estate seems have been setup to echo locations in the Odyssey.

57

statues of Greek and Roman gods standing in the fields.

58

the early stages of some massive construction project.

59

numerous caves and/or sinkholes.

60

a ubiquitous and delightful smell that eludes easy description.

61

a vile but ubiquitous smell that you hope does not extend into the House.

62

numerous colorful rocks and pebbles – evidence, perhaps of mineral wealth underground.

63

a scream in the distance, which is suddenly silenced.

64

the numerous picaresque landscapes.

65

the trees seem diseased.

66

the insect life seems especially numerous, and the air resounds with their buzzing.

67

the birdsong seems strangely harsh.

68

tenants being forcibly evicted.

69

many new tenants seem to be moving into the cottages.

70

several cottages whose construction had been abandoned.

71

the tenants seem oddly indolent.

72

the tenants seem especially industrious.

73

fish appear to have recently fallen from the sky onto one of the fields.

74

scarecrows dressed in antique armor.

75

a sudden wind that carries the smell of a charnel house.

76

the wildflowers are exceptionally profuse in the fallow fields.

77

numerous trees that seem have been blasted by lightning.

78

many inexplicable bare patches in the otherwise fertile land.

79

a profusion of snakes. (Roll again in Ireland)

80

there is an antiquarian excavation occurring.

81

the hedgerows look especially ragged and overgrown.

82

the hedgerows are kept exceptionally neat and clipped.

83

there is a noticeably high amount of children playing in the fields.

84

the image of a horse has been cut into the side of a hill.

85

the image of a man has been cut into the side of a hill.

86

the numerous wayfaring signs.

87

the numerous wayfaring signs, which seem to bear no relationship with actual landmarks and distances.

88

there are several especially dense and dark patches of woodland.

89

the local church is oddly ornate for a country parish.

90

an especially large burial ground attached to the church.

91

the local church is a ruin.

92

a striking profusion of spiderwebs, and many tree limbs wrapped in cocoons.

93

the paths are deeply rutted, with no recent attempts at repair.

94

the paths and roads are exceptionally well-maintained.

95

pilgrims evidently visiting some holy site.

96

notices posted on trees, offering a bounty for the apprehension of a local bandit.

97

the area is teeming with large, seemingly fearless rabbits.

98

there seem to be an especially high number of badger setts left undisturbed.

99

the numerous mine entrances

100

the presence of a Roman road.

Pets and Vermin in a Grand House

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The Cat's Lunch

The effect of supernatural events on household pets is a recurring motif of Gothic and horror novels that can be used to great effect in a game. Sometimes the pet is itself the locus of the supernatural events, perhaps being actually a demon in disguise. Although the general treatment of animals during the Ghastly Age (1765 – 1820) was… ghastly, many aristocrats were in fact animal lovers who kept numerous pets. Lord Byron, for example, was renowned for his love of animals, and the Villa Diodati (where Mary Shelley conceived the idea for “Frankenstein”) was crawling with tame (and semi-tame) animals. The English eccentric John Mytton famously kept thousands of pets, let his horse live in his house, and once rode a pet bear to dinner! In the fictional Highdark Hall setting, Georgina Altumber’s calico cat Artemis is often to be found sleeping on her owner’s bed.

Pets Living in the House

Roll as many times as there are family members living in the house, but stop when you roll a 69 or higher. Add repeated results together.

Remember that there will almost always be a semi-feral cat kept in the kitchens (for killing vermin), and possibly a turnspit dog (or two).

d100 The family keeps… NOTES
1 – 4 an angora cat.
5 – 6 a barbet (hunting dog). Barbets actually used for hunting will usually be kept in exterior kennels.
7 – 8 a beagle (lapdog) Beagles actually used for hunting will usually be kept in exterior kennels.
9 – 10 a bichon (lapdog).
11 – 12 a bullfinch.
13 – 14 a canary.
15 – 16 a capuchin monkey. Often dressed in a footman’s livery, or exotic costume.
17– 18 a chihuahua (lapdog).
19 – 20 a corgi (lapdog). According to Welsh legend, corgis are the mounts of Fairies.
21 – 22 a crow or raven.
23 – 24 a fox Tame animal kept as a pet, although foxes are also considered vermin.
25– 26 1d8 goldfish. Fishbowl will be located in a family member’s bedchamber, boudoir, or cabinet.
27 – 28 a green (or sabaeus) monkey. Often dressed in an outfit.
29 – 30 a hedgehog. Tame animal kept as a pet, although hedgehogs are also considered parkland vermin.
31 – 35 a long-haired cat. A semi-feral ratter will usually be kept in the kitchen.
36 – 37 a pair of lovebirds.
38 – 39 a macaque (or Barbary ape).
40 – 41 a mastiff (guard dog). Guard Mastiffs will usually be kept in exterior kennels.
42 – 43 a nightingale.
44 – 45 a papillon (lapdog).
46 – 47 a parrot.
48 – 52 a Persian cat. Original breed, without the pug face characteristic of modern examples.
53 – 54 a poodle (hunting dog). Poodles actually used for hunting will usually be kept in exterior kennels.
55 – 56 a pug (lapdog). The 18th century breed has a short, but noticeable muzzle.
57 a serval.
58 – 59 a short-haired cat A semi-feral ratter will usually be kept in the kitchen.
60 – 61 a spaniel (hunting dog). Spaniels actually used for hunting will usually be kept in exterior kennels.
62 – 63 a spitz (hunting dog). Spitzes actually used for hunting will usually be kept in exterior kennels.
64 – 65 a terrier (hunting dog). Terriers actually used for hunting animals other than rats will usually be kept in exterior kennels.
66– 68 a toy poodle (lapdog).
69 – 100 No more pets.

Jan van Kessel (I) - Insects and reptiles

Grand Houses (such as Highdark Hall) were almost always infested with some kind of vermin, and an attempt to finally eliminate them can make a nice setup for a scenario. As with the family pets, there is always the possibility that the house vermin are not at all what they seem…

Vermin in the House

Roll 1d4 times.

d100 The house is infested with… NOTES
1 – 2 ants.
3 – 7 barn owls. Only seen in attic.
8 – 9 barn swallows. Only seen in attic.
10 – 15 bats Only seen in attic.
15 – 16 bedbugs. An infestation creates a noticeable smell like coriander (cilantro).
17 – 18 carpet beetles.
19 – 20 centipedes.
21 – 24 clothes moths.
25 – 26 cockroaches. Most active at night. Will flee bright lights.
27 – 28 crickets
29 dangerous spiders.
30 – 31 death’s head moths.
32 – 33 deathwatch beetles.
34 – 35 fleas.
36 – 40 flies.
41 – 42 grave beetles.
43 – 44 harmless house spiders.
45 – 46 harmless snakes. Only seen in basement or on ground floor.
47 – 48 house moths.
49 – 50 larder beetles.
51 – 52 lizards. Warm areas only.
53 – 63 mice. Almost all Grand Houses have some mice and/or rats. A result here indicates a noticeably large amount.
64 – 75 millipedes.
76 – 77 paper wasps. Only seen in attic.
78 – 90 rats. Almost all Grand Houses have some rats and/or mice. A result here indicates a noticeably large amount.
91 – 92 silverfish.
93 – 95 termites
96 toads. Only seen in basement or on ground floor.
97 venomous snakes. Only seen in basement or on ground floor.
98 woodwasps
99 – 100 woodworms.

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Now through Halloween 2018, the PDF versions of the “Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual”, “Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual”, a “A Ghastly Potpourri”, and the Ghastly Affair novel “Hunter’s Song”, are all 31% off on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow!

Random Landscape Paintings in Grand Houses

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Caspar David Friedrich - Das Eismeer - Hamburger Kunsthalle - 02

The 18th century saw the tremendous growth of Landscape painting as a popular genre, especially in Britain. Although contemporary critics ranked it as a “lesser” type of painting (similar to the still-life), there were many more landscapes actually hanging on walls than the more prestigious historical images preferred by the intelligentsia. The early years of the 19th century also saw the emergence of great Romantic landscape artists like Caspar David Friedrich (known for his moody images that often include figures looking into the scene with the viewer) and J.M.W. Turner (whose visionary work prefigured Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism).

Besides its use to add atmosphere to a setting, a landscape painting can also be a great clue to finding a location significant to the resolution of some in-game mystery. If you are running a game set in Highdark Hall, use the following tables to define the landscape paintings found in the Governess’ Bedroom.

d100

The painting depicts a landscape scene of…

1 – 2

a gnarled forest…

3 – 4

a pine forest…

5 – 6

a ruined castle…

7 – 8

a ruined cathedral…

9 – 10

a classical ruin…

11 – 12

a circle of standing stones…

13 – 14

an overgrown churchyard…

15 – 16

a lake…

17 – 18

a field of grain…

19 – 20

an orchard…

21 – 22

a snowy field…

23 – 24

jagged mountain peaks…

25 – 26

rolling hills…

27 – 28

rocky shore…

29 – 30

Venice…

31 –32

the Bay of Naples…

33 – 34

London…

35 – 36

Paris…

37 – 38

Vienna…

39 – 40

the ruins of Pompeii…

41 – 42

the arctic…

43 – 44

a house on the moors…

45 – 46

a ship on a calm sea…

47 – 48

a ship on a stormy sea…

49 – 50

a great chasm…

51 – 52

a formal French garden…

53 – 54

an English landscape garden…

55 – 56

a castle atop a mountain…

57 – 58

Chinese pagodas…

59 – 60

Egyptian ruins…

61 – 62

a cave entrance…

63 – 64

a natural arch of rock…

65 – 66

a monumental building in India…

67 – 68

a Turkish palace…

69 – 70

a mosque…

71 – 72

a lonely tomb…

73 – 74

a grand Gothic cathedral…

75 – 76

a mighty river…

77 – 78

an island in the South Seas…

79 – 80

a forest, with hunters chasing game…

81 – 82

a gathering storm on the shoreline…

83 – 84

a storm raining down on a field…

85 – 86

a beacon on the shore…

87 – 88

a South Seas island…

89 – 90

sandy desert dunes…

91 – 92

a ruined Hindu temple…

93 – 94

Ancient American ruins (Aztec, Mayan, Inca, etc.)…

95 – 96

a volcanic eruption…

97 – 98

a river ford…

99 – 100

a partially-ruined farmhouse…

d4

in the…

1

spring,

2

summer,

3

autumn,

4

winter,

d4

during the hours of…

1

the morning.

2

the day.

3

the evening.

4

the night.

d20

The notable thing about the painting is…

1

the out of place animal(s).

2

the out of place plant(s).

3

the inclusion of an unidentifiable creature.

4

the powerfully moving depiction that fills you with a sense of sublime melancholy (or terror).

5

the strange lights depicted in the sky.

6

the heavy use of impasto techniques that add surface texture to the depictions of features like rocks and trees.

7

the strange use of perspective.

8

that no attempt has been made to follow the rules of perspective.

9

it appears to be an unknown work from a well-known master.

10

it is incompetently rendered, and must have some kind of sentimental value to its owners.

11

the places and objects depicted form a visual pun.

12

the complete lack of apparent brush-strokes.

13

the virtuoso, trompe l’oeil depiction that looks like seeing the actual landscape through a window.

14

it seems to have been painted on a black ground, rather than white.

15

it was apparently painted alla prima, in one sitting with no under-painting.

16

there seems to be another, faintly visible image underneath the current image.

17

it has a heavily crackled surface.

18

although an oil, it is completely painted in translucent glazes that make it resemble a watercolor.

19

it appears to be the work of an unknown master.

20

the semi-abstract rendering, more concerned with color and shape than an accurate depiction of reality.

Highdark Hall Now Available on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow!

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Here’s a surprise Halloween treat for you all – the complete Highdark Hall is now available for download on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow!

Experience a place of hauntings and High Society, where good manners are veils for murderous intentions. Welcome to Highdark Hall! Horrors beyond belief, and romances beyond reason, have played out within its walls. Designed as a backdrop that would support the creative visions of individual Game Masters, Highdark Hall is intended as a setting where shocking stories of love, death, and the supernatural can emerge spontaneously from interacting with its colorful inhabitants and strange locations. What further catastrophes befall its occupants and their guests, are for you to decide.

This PDF collects the Highdark Hall material you may already know, and also reveals many previously hidden secrets. It includes:

    • Detailed, historically plausible floor-plans for an 18th century Stately Home on five floors.
    • An overview of the enigmatic Altumber family and their (in)famous residence.
    • Over 100 interior locations, from the opulent Lunar Ballroom, to the secret Hellfire Chapel.
    • A fully mapped parkland filled with dramatic (and potentially dangerous) locations.
    • Over 50 unique NPCs, from the vile to the virtuous, in a tangle of conflicting desires set to explode.
    • Extensive rumors and legends, ripe for investigation by the brave (and foolish).
    • Schedules of the entertainments and activities enjoyed by visitors, with descriptions of typical meals.
    • An in-depth description of the legendary (and possibly haunted) Hedge Maze of Highdark Hall.
    • A description of the annual Autumnal Masque, with tables to generate the costumes of attendees.

Plus, printable versions of all maps.

Highdark Hall was created especially for use with Ghastly Affair, the Gothic Game of Romantic Horror, but it has potential for any game set in Georgian, Napoleonic, Regency, or early Victorian times. It could even be explored by modern paranormal investigators, come to uncover its disturbing past. How will its spirits speak to you?

Note: Highdark Hall contains some mature subject matter. Reader discretion is advised.

Random “Genre” Paintings in Grand Houses

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El entierro de la sardina, Francisco de Goya

In the jargon of art history a “genre” painting is one that depicts a scene of people engaged in ordinary life, without being a portrait of anyone specific, or a depiction of a historical event. Such paintings were very popular in the 18th century, and occupied a middle place in the accepted hierarchy of subjects.

d100

The painting depicts…

1

Gypsies in their encampment.

2

the preparation of a grand feast.

3

a portrait being painted.

4

lovers walking down a street in Paris.

5

a formal dinner.

6

a lady at her toilette, with visitors

7

a woman washing herself astride her bidet.

8

a masquerade ball.

9

a country dance.

10

peasants dancing.

11

a shepherdess and her flock.

12

a pretty milkmaid and her cows.

13

a fox hunt.

14

a stag hunt.

15

a boar hunt.

16

soldiers carousing in a tavern.

17

a peasant wedding.

18

a peasant woman nursing a child.

19

a peddler with a lemonade tank on his back.

20

a peasant family eating dinner.

21

a silhouette portrait being made.

22

several well-dressed young ladies giving a recital.

23

a farmer bringing produce to market in a wagon.

24

a small group of well-dressed people having luncheon in a small, but nicely-appointed room.

25

a modiste visiting a fashionable young lady

26

a water carrier.

27

a seamstress sewing a dress.

28

an operatic performance.

29

a ballet performance.

30

a performance of the Commedia dell’Arte.

31

a group of well-dressed people having a picnic.

32

laundresses washing clothes in a stream.

33

a young lady having a music lesson.

34

a young woman writing a letter.

35

grapes being harvested.

36

a butcher at his work.

37

the interior of a gaming hall.

38

an old washerwoman at work.

39

a group of men and women playing billiards.

40

a horse-race.

41

a cock-fight.

42

a dog fight.

43

a peasant mother dressing her child.

44

fishermen hauling in their catch.

45

a boy building a house of cards.

46

a Gypsy telling a fortune.

47

a governess admonishing a young child.

48

a man spying on a lady during the early part of her toilette.

49

stiltwalkers giving a public show.

50

a procession of pilgrims down a city street.

51

several monks making merry.

52

a young girl eavesdropping on a pair of lovers conversing.

53

a dance master giving lessons.

54

a drawing master giving lessons.

55

a group of men and women playing “blind-man’s bluff”.

56

a public hanging.

57

a public beheading.

58

a debate in an opulent salon.

59

the interior of a shop selling home furnishings.

60

children receiving gifts on Saint Nicholas’ Day.

61

a group of drunken singers at Christmastime.

62

a lady being carried in a sedan chair.

63

a carriage rolling through the countryside.

64

a woman (or man) in the sickbed, attended by their family.

65

a marriage contract being signed.

66

a group of masked Venetians gambling at The Ridotto.

67

a group of English Morris Dancers.

68

a couple visiting a menagerie.

69

a mountebank before a crowd.

70

a group of soldiers performing drills.

71

the crew aboard a ship, hoisting sails.

72

a group of ladies playing cards.

73

soldiers playing dice.

74

a chemist giving a demonstration to a small crowd.

75

a group of actors applying makeup.

76

an elegant salon in a lady’s bedchamber.

77

a patient being bled by a doctor.

78

a woman giving birth, with the family watching.

79

a girl crying over a dead pet.

80

a funeral procession.

81

a tennis match

82

a small group playing battledore and shuttlecock.

83

a group of aristocratic men shooting pigeons.

84

a grand house being constructed

85

a peasant home being built.

86

a group of street musicians.

87

a group of men and women telling ghost stories in a dimly-lit drawing room.

88

a peasant fishing.

89

a group of well-dressed men and women watching a regatta.

90

a dentist pulling teeth.

91

a maid carrying a chocolate pot and cups on a tray.

92

a baker removing loaves from the oven.

93

a woman visiting a fishmonger.

94

women making lace.

95

a sturdy peasant woman at a spinning wheel.

96

a group of well-dressed ladies embroidering.

97

a Spanish bullfight.

98

a group of children playing at being soldiers.

99

a knife-sharpener at work.

100

a money-lender’s office.

Random Titles for 18th Century Gothic Romances

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Tales of wonder by James Gillray

The following tables will create the wonderfully florid, two-part titles characteristic of late 18th and early 19th century Gothic Romances. The kind that followed the general format of “Something Something; or, The Something Something of the Something Something”. Use them to define the “horrid novel” hidden under a young lady’s pillow, or even to title your next Gothic gaming scenario!

d20, twice

This book is entitled…

1

“The Cursed… Monk;

2

“The Haunted… Castle;

3

“The Curious… Abbey;

4

“The Spectral… Count;

5

“The Lost… Maiden;

6

“The Uncanny… Prisoner;

7

“The Hidden… Steed;

8

“The Ruined… Seat;

9

“The Disputed… Manor;

10

“The Stolen (or Abducted)… Heir(ess);

11

“The Secret… Tomb;

12

“The Infamous… Turk;

13

“The Terrible… Staircase;

14

“The Mysterious… Vault;

15

“The Bewitched… Image;

16

“The Deadly… Idol;

17

“The Fateful… Book;

18

“The Ancient… Chamber;

19

“The Disappearing… Cavern;

20

“The Miserable… Bandit;

d12, five times

or, …

1

The… Thrilling… Tale… of the… Fortress”.

2

A(n)… Dolorous… Novel… of the Horrid… Tower”.

3

A Most… Forbidden… Story… of the Damned… Cloister”.

4

Another… Wondrous… Account… of the Blessed… Lovers of Italy”.

5

The First… Sworn… Recounting… of the Doomed … Forest”.

6

The Second… Gothic… Fable… of the Fated… Mountains”.

7

The Celebrated and… Terrifying… Poem… of the Forbidden… Orient”.

8

A Terrible and… Sublime… Epic… of the Mysterious… Family”.

9

The Collected and… Entire… Testament… of the Mad… Sodality”.

10

A Queer and… Philosophical… Romance… of the Strange… Crypt”.

11

The Famous and… Shocking… Relation… of the Weird… Chapel”.

12

The Whole and… Curious… Dialogue… of the Infamous… Spaniard”.

d100

As you page through the book, you notice…

1 – 2

it promotes itself as an account of true events.

3 – 4

the shocking illustrations, unfit for the eyes of “respectable” women.

5 – 6

its strong moral voice that upholds virtue at every turn.

7 – 8

the author’s apparent sympathy with the ostensible villain of the story.

9 – 10

the author’s ability to inspire genuine fright.

11 – 12

that the title seems to have nothing at all to do with the plot.

13 – 14

it’s an obvious rewrite of a better-known book.

15 – 16

the author has plagiarized whole sections from other novels, and strung them together with a flimsy narrative.

17 – 18

its blasphemous and impious nature.

19 – 20

its graphic depiction of sex.

21 – 22

its subversive political stance.

23 – 24

the scenes are beautifully described, but the characters are completely unconvincing.

25 – 26

the plot meanders aimlessly.

27 – 28

the thrilling and masterfully-structured plot.

29 – 30

the plot is completely predictable.

31 – 32

the story is full of contradictory episodes.

33 – 34

it appears to be little more than a catalog of horrors suffered by its heroine.

35 – 36

the numerous poems inserted into the story.

37 – 38

the characters are obvious stand-ins for well-known people.

39 – 40

the whole book is an extended allegory.

41 – 42

it takes every opportunity to defame the Roman Catholic church.

43 – 44

it is extremely antisemitic.

45 – 46

it is filled with slanders against Muslims.

47 – 48

it ascribes every possible crime to the Romany.

49 – 50

every aristocrat is portrayed as a depraved monster, except the virtuous heroine (of course).

51 – 52

it actually promotes tolerance of widely-disliked groups.

53 – 54

it constantly belittles the minds and morals of women.

55 – 56

the author’s obvious support for the education and emancipation of women.

57 – 58

it actually supports the institution of slavery.

59 – 60

the author’s obvious support for the abolition of slavery.

61 – 62

the author has obviously never been to any of the real-world locations described.

63 – 64

the inclusion of authentic details about the places and kinds of people described.

65 – 66

the depictions of witchcraft seem a little too authentic.

67 – 68

the author’s obsession with blood.

69 – 70

the author’s obsession with torture.

71 – 72

the author’s obsession with incest.

73 – 74

the author’s obsession with death and decay.

75 – 76

the author’s obsession with outré sexual practices.

77 – 78

the heroine seems to endure an amount of abuse that should have killed her in the first chapter!

79 – 80

its strong opposition to arranged marriages.

81 – 82

its surprising sympathy with arranged marriages.

83 – 84

the plot focuses on the “romantic friendship” between two people of the same sex.

85 – 86

it was carelessly typeset, and whole pages seem to be missing.

87 – 88

the credited author appears to be a pseudonym for a well-known writer who perhaps didn’t want to be associated with this book.

89 – 90

you can’t shake the feeling that there is another text somehow encoded within this one.

91 – 92

the surprising weakness of the male characters in the face of danger.

93 – 94

the absurdly high number of times the heroine faints.

95 – 96

there are several recipes included in the text!

97 – 98

it reads like a primer for budding young criminals!

99 – 100

it shamelessly glorifies suicide.

Random Allegorical and Emblematic Paintings

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Splendor Solis 10 severing head of king

Pre-20th century art was filled with allegorical and emblematic images bizarre to modern eyes. “Allegorical” images were usually conventionalized depictions that would be easily recognizable to anyone who had a classical education. They were considered among the “higher” forms of art in the hierarchy of subjects, on par with Historical painting. Of course, many times Allegorical images (particularly subjects such as the “Three Graces”) were simply an excuse to portray beautiful nude women. The type of images referred to as “Emblems”, on the other hand, could be quite startling, and utterly baffling to anyone who lacked the keys to their decipherment. Such an Emblematic image might represent anything from a moral lesson to a coded occult instruction. Reconnaissance art was particularly obsessed with such emblems, the most recognizable example of which to modern people are the twenty-two Trump cards of the Tarot. The twenty-two illustrations of the “Splendor Solis”, a sixteenth century alchemical treatise, are another well-known set of Emblems.

Both Allegorical and Emblematic paintings are great ways for the Presenter (or GM) to hide clues to some great mystery. Allegorical paintings are also a good narrative device for declaring the mood (or to foreshadow the intended moral) of a scenario. The lodges or chapter-houses of secret societies are particularly likely to be filled with Emblematic paintings, and successfully decoding them may reveal the secrets of such groups. Likewise, the only recorded form of a powerful Magical Ritual might be a series of Emblems whose interpretation has eluded the uninitiated for centuries.

Allegorical Images

d100

This painting depicts an allegorical image of…

1 – 5

Death and the Maiden, depicted as a skeletal figure embracing a young woman.

6

Calliope, the Muse of Eloquent Speaking, holding a writing tablet.

7

Clio, the Muse of History, holding a scroll.

8

Euterpe, the Muse of Music, holding a flute.

9

Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, holding the comedic mask.

10

Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy, holding the tragic mask,

11

Terpsichore, the Muse of Dancing, holding a lyre

12

Erato, the Muse of Love Poetry, wreathed with myrtle, and holding a lyre.

13

Polyhymnia, the Muse of Sacred Poetry, with her elbow resting on a pillar.

14

Urania, the Muse of Astronomy, holding a globe and stylus.

15 – 16

The Nine Muses together.

17 – 22

The Three Graces, depicted as nude women embracing each other.

23 – 24

The Dance of Death, depicting a skeletal figure dancing with people from various stations in society.

25 – 26

The Triumph of Death, depicting a mounted skeleton with a scythe cutting down armies of the living.

27 – 28

The Golden Age of Man, depicting naked people cavorting in an idyllic landscape.

29 – 30

The Ages of Man, showing a man at 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, 50 years, 60 years, 70 years, 80 years, and 90 years of age.

31

Spring, represented as a young woman crowned with flowers.

32

Summer, represented as a woman holding wheat.

33

Autumn, represented as a mature woman holding grapes.

34

Winter, represented as an aged women (or man) in furs.

35 – 38

The Four Seasons together.

39

the Element of Air, represented by a mass of birds and sylphs.

40

the Element of Water, represented by marine life sporting alongside mermaids and nereids.

41

the Element of Fire, represented by a volcanic landscape with dragons.

42

the Element of Earth, represented by gardens, forests, and farmers laboring in their fields.

43

the Four Winds, represented as four men with puffed out cheeks, atop clouds.

44

the River Nile, depicted as man reclining on a sculpture of the sphinx.

45 – 46

the Rhine River, depicted as a man with two horns and a crown of grape leaves.

47 – 48

the Danube River, depicted as a man with weeds growing from his hair.

49 – 50

the Liberal Arts, depicted as seven women. The first holds a book and key, the second a scroll and caduceus, the third a small dragon, the fourth a compass, the fifth a ledger and coins, the sixth a harp, and the seventh an armillary sphere.

51 – 53

the Wheel of Fortune, with figures ascending, riding atop, and descending.

54

the Virtue of Justice, depicted as a woman holding scales and a sword.

55

the Virtue of Fortitude, depicted as a young woman holding open the jaws of a lion.

56

the Virtue of Temperance, depicted as a women pouring water from one jug into another.

57

the Virtue of Prudence, depicted as a woman with a mirror, menaced by a serpentine dragon.

58 – 62

The Four Cardinal Virtues (Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, and Prudence) together.

63

the Virtue of Faith, depicted as a woman with a cup, and a book.

64

the Virtue of Hope, depicted as a woman with upcast eyes, and an anchor, at her feet.

65

the Virtue of Charity, depicted as a bare-breasted woman nursing many children.

66 – 70

The Three Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity) together.

71

the Continent of Europe, depicted as a crowned woman in a Classical breastplate.

72

the Continent of Asia, depicted as a woman wearing a turban.

73

the Continent of Africa, depicted as a dark-skinned woman wearing a head-wrap with ostrich feathers.

74

the Continent of America, depicted as a woman with a headdress comprised completely of feathers.

75 – 78

the Four Continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, and America)

79

the Deadly Sin of Sloth, depicted as a sloppily-dressed woman asleep.

80

the Deadly Sin of Gluttony, depicted as a woman with a wolf’s head eating a vast amount of food.

81

the Deadly Sin of Wrath, depicted as an angry woman with a bloody sword.

82

the Deadly Sin of Pride, depicted a woman in finery looking into a mirror.

83

the Deadly Sin of Lust, depicted as a naked woman lasciviously holding her breasts and genitals.

84

the Deadly Sin of Greed, depicted as a woman clutching various treasures.

85

the Deadly Sin of Envy, depicted as an old woman with a snake protruding from her mouth, and a dog by her side.

86 – 88

The Seven Deadly Sins in a group.

89 – 90

Vanity, represented by a beautiful woman staring into a hand mirror.

91 – 92

Sacred and Profane Love, depicted as clothed and nude women.

93 – 94

War and Peace, depicted armored Mars embraced by nude Venus.

95 – 96

Peace, depicted as a woman dressed in diaphanous white vestment, and holding an olive branch,

97 – 100

Father Time, depicted with his scythe and hourglass.

d20

Notably,

1

there are several putti also depicted.

2

a main figure has the face of a family member (or ancestor).

3

a main figure has the face of a royal ancestor (or family member).

4

a famous artists’ model obviously posed for the picture.

5

the picture appears to be a work of genius from an unknown master.

6

everything is so realistically rendered it seems completely three-dimensional.

7

the colors are quite garish.

8

the colors are so subdued the painting seems almost monochrome.

9

the perspective seems off.

10

the picture is painted in a flat, medieval style that ignores perspective.

11

the Grand House itself appears in the background.

12

the background depicts an easily recognizable cityscape (Rome, Venice, Paris, Naples, London, etc.)

13

the background is a field of gold leaf.

14

the background is a field of silver leaf.

15

the surface of the painting is badly cracked.

16

sections appear to have been altered and re-painted.

17

the figures are rendered in a way that seems more calculate to titillate than instruct.

18

the shadows seem to be all wrong (or there are no shadows).

19

the composition seems to change slightly with each viewing.

20

it seems impossible to ascertain what medium was used.

 

Enigmatic Emblems

d100

The main subject of this strange painting is…

1 – 5

a young man…

6 – 10

an old man…

11 – 15

a young woman…

16 – 20

an old woman…

21 – 25

a pregnant woman…

26 – 30

a nursing woman…

31 – 35

a male child…

36 – 40

a female child…

41 – 45

an androgyne…

46 – 57

a demonic figure…

58 – 59

a skeletal figure…

60 – 61

a satyr…

62 – 63

a centaur…

64 – 65

a dog…

66 – 67

a cat…

68 – 69

a lion…

70 – 71

a serpent…

72 – 73

a dragon…

74 – 75

an eagle…

76 – 77

a raven…

78 – 79

a mermaid…

80 – 81

a stag…

82 – 83

a ram…

84 – 85

a bull…

86 – 87

a peacock…

88 – 98

a crab…

90 – 91

a fish…

92 – 93

a scorpion…

94 – 95

a swan…

96 – 97

a rooster…

98 – 99

a griffin…

100

a hippogriff…

d100

with…

1 – 4

two heads,

5 – 8

four arms,

9 – 12

one eye,

13 – 16

2d4 eyes,

17 – 20

a strange coloration,

21 – 24

the sun, moon, or a star, instead of a head.

25 – 28

bird wings, (if the figure is a bird, it has the wings of a different bird)

29 – 32

bat wings,

33 – 36

a burning tail,

37 – 40

sigils (or letters) on their (or its) body,

41 – 44

a crown,

45 – 48

a sword (held, or nearby),

49 – 52

a burst of glory emanating from their (or its) body,

53 – 56

a lamp burning atop their (or its) head,

57 – 60

antlers,

61 – 64

a halo of stars,

65 – 68

a chain wrapped around their (or its) body,

69 – 72

various bladed weapons stuck into their (or its) body,

73 – 76

a lance (held, or nearby),

77 – 80

a whip (held, or nearby),

81 – 84

a rose (held, or nearby),

85 – 88

a shovel (held, or nearby),

89 – 95

a horn (blowing, held, or nearby),

93 – 96

an enormous gem in their head,

97 – 100

a human face on its body,

d100

who is…

1 – 4

seated on a throne.

5 – 8

standing in a pool.

9 – 12

being crucified.

13 – 16

being struck with weapons.

17 – 20

spitting a stream of water (or blood) from their (or its) mouth.

21 – 24

breathing fire.

25 – 28

emerging from a grave.

29 – 32

emerging from a pool.

33 – 36

being dressed in a royal mantle.

37 – 40

being disrobed of a royal mantle.

41 – 44

being worshiped by a nude man and woman.

45 – 48

floating in the air.

49 – 52

dancing.

53 – 56

posed between two pillars.

57 – 60

inside a bubble.

61 – 64

hung from a tree.

65 – 68

holding (or standing near) a flowerpot.

69 – 72

menaced by dogs.

73 – 76

being cut into pieces by a man with a sword.

77 – 80

being bathed in a cauldron.

81 – 82

being put through a winepress.

83 – 87

being picked at by birds.

88 – 92

swallowing a snake.

93 – 95

blowing a horn.

96 – 98

contained within a giant glass flask.

99 – 100

chained to the Devil.

d100

In the background is…

1 – 5

the sun and moon.

6 – 10

a smiling sun.

11 – 15

a frowning moon.

16 – 20

a field of 1d20 stars.

21 – 25

1d6 cherubs or putti.

26 – 30

a castle.

31 – 35

a battle.

36 – 40

a river.

41 – 42

a placid ocean.

43 – 44

a forest.

45 – 46

a group of women washing clothes.

47 – 48

a group of peasants working their fields.

49 – 50

an unidentifiable plant.

51 – 52

a chimeric animal.

53 – 54

a hill being excavated.

55 – 56

a group of archers.

57 – 58

a stag hunt.

59 – 60

a vineyard.

61 – 62

the interior of a dungeon.

63 – 64

a barren field full of skulls.

65 – 66

an unfinished pyramid.

67 – 68

a hand projecting from a cloud.

69 – 70

an alchemical furnace.

71 – 72

two towers.

73 – 74

two obelisks.

75 – 76

two classical pillars.

77 – 78

a cliff.

79 – 80

the damned being tortured in hell.

81 – 82

an erupting volcano.

83 – 84

a rain of fire.

85 – 86

a pleasant landscape of rolling hills.

87 – 88

a rocky shore.

89 – 90

a windmill.

91 – 92

two armies about to clash.

93 – 94

a battlefield filled with corpses.

95 – 96

a Chinese landscape with pagodas.

97 – 98

a castle under construction.

99 – 100

the Crucifixion.