Inspirations for GROOVY Ghastly Affair

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I’m in the early conceptual phase for a supplement expanding Ghastly Affair to cover the years from 1964 to 1976 – the Swinging Sixties, and Groovy Seventies. It was a period of upheaval, uncertainty, and panic, with many parallels to the decades surrounding the French Revolution. I’m envisioning games where Demon Hunters in mini-skirts and go-go boots fight supernatural evil on the streets of Swinging London, black-gloved killers stalk gorgeous models in terror-wracked Milan, and glamorous jet-setters conduct drug-fueled Black Masses in haunted mansions atop the Hollywood Hills. Naturally, I would assume that characters from the 18th century will discover passages into the 20th, and visa-versa! To that end I’ve compiled a thematic “canon” of movies from the Sixties and Seventies that feature the essential Gothic themes of Ghastly Affair – sex, death, Satanism, sorcery, addiction, ghosts, shocking crimes, and dark obsessions.

Some Inspirational Movies for GROOVY Ghastly Affair:

  • Alice, Sweet Alice
  • All the Colors of the Dark (Tutti i colori del buio)
  • Amuck! (Alla ricerca del piacere)
  • Baron Blood (Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga)
  • Beyond the Door (Chi sei?)
  • The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo)
  • Blacula
  • The Blood Spattered Bride (La Novia Ensangrentada)
  • Burnt Offerings
  • Daughters of Darkness (Le Rouge aux lèvres)
  • Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
  • Don’t Look Now
  • Dorian Gray (Il dio chiamato Dorian) (1970 film)
  • Dracula AD 1972
  • The Exorcist
  • Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (Le foto proibite di una signora per bene)
  • Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay (Morgane et ses Nymphes)
  • House of Dark Shadows
  • The Iron Rose (La Rose de Fer)
  • The Legend of Hell House
  • Lips of Blood (Lèvres de Sang)
  • The Mephisto Waltz
  • Night of Dark Shadows
  • Nude for Satan (Nuda per Satana)
  • The House That Dripped Blood
  • The Omen
  • To the Devil a Daughter
  • Requiem for a Vampire (Requiem pour un Vampire)
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • Satanic Rites of Dracula
  • Simon, King of the Witches
  • Story of O (Histoire d’O)
  • Suspiria
  • Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave)
  • Vampyres
  • Vampyros Lesbos (Las Vampiras)
  • The Wicker Man

I’ve included two movies (“Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay” and “Story of O”) not usually considered Gothic or Horror, because they are nonetheless thematic and stylistic fits for my conception of GROOVY Ghastly Affair. I’ve excluded pure horror films, like “Night of the Living Dead”, that focus on the horrific without juxtaposing it with the beautiful. For that reason I’ve also mostly excluded American-style “slasher” or gritty crime movies, other than the very Gothic “Alice, Sweet Alice”. I’ve included numerous Italian Giallo films, however, because even though most contain few to no supernatural elements, their stylish, hallucinatory quality and kinky fetishism mark them as heirs to the crime-obsessed early Gothic novels.

Of course, THE touchstone for late 60s Gothic Romance is “Dark Shadows”, but GROOVY Ghastly Affair would not be simply a “Dark Shadows” RPG. As much as I might love to create an actual “Dark Shadows” game, there’s simply no way I would ever be able to afford the license. Nonetheless, the ability to successfully handle “Dark Shadows”-type stories would be the test of any game claiming to emulate Swinging Sixties Gothic.

As for books, many of the Gothic stories of the late Sixties and early Seventies (such as “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby”) were actually turned into movies. The great Shirley Jackson novels, however, are actually a little before this time (she died in 1965). The late Sixties and Seventies were also a great time for horror comics, and the stories in the Warren publications of the Seventies – “Eerie”, “Creepy”, and “Vampirella” – were often as sexy as they were horrific.

Musically, I thinking the likes of Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Roxy Music, T Rex, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Goblin, and The Velvet Underground. The time period included the early days of Disco and Punk (and many of the aforementioned bands are in fact proto-Punk), but in my conception the Groovy Seventies ended when Punk and Disco both became prominent in 1977.

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Georgian London, the late eighteenth century: a time of social decadence and political upheaval.

Lila Davenport was born a noble heiress, but when tragedy strikes she is outcast from her inheritance. Now a hunter of the demonic forces which stalk the shadows, Lila finds herself the target of a supernatural enemy more terrible and cruel than she could have imagined.

But how will she prevail when even those closest to her are not what they seem? Her journey will take her across a Europe torn by revolution, and down into the darkest depths of her own heart…

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Some Tips for Mapping Fictional Grand Houses of the 18th Century

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Palais de Bourbon - Plan au rez-de-chaussée - Architecture françoise Tome1 Livre2 Ch23 Pl3

1
First and foremost, remember that you are creating a stage for role-playing. That fact takes precedence over historical accuracy or even architectural validity. You should include areas that exist solely to be challenging, puzzling, wonderful, and dangerous. Put high balconies directly above spiked iron fences. Run high staircase with inadequate (or absent) railings. Make roofs that are peaked like spires, simply because they look creepy. Assume that a part of the house is shoddily built and heavily-water damaged, with a floor that will inevitably collapse underneath the PCs. Consider what makes each part of the house a potentially interesting place for gaming.

2
Grand houses are organized into a main section, and one or more wings. It was not unusual in the larger houses for entire wings to go unused, or be sealed up. Already by the eighteenth century many aristocratic families found it economically impossible to properly maintain their homes. It was common for one wing of the house to be luxuriously appointed, while another was allowed to become a virtual ruin. In a game like Ghastly Affair, such a neglected area might be haunted, under a curse, or even secretly inhabited by a gang of bandits!

3
A very common layout for a grand house consisted of a central rectangular block (called the corps de logis), with two perpendicular wings projecting forward. The area in front of the central block (and flanked by the the projecting wings) is called the cour d’honneur (court of honor), and will often have a central fountain and/or garden.

4
The status of the floors in an eighteenth-century Italian or English house was, from lowest to highest: basement, attic, ground floor, second story, third story, fourth story. The ground floor would house the public and entertainment spaces – ballrooms, salons, game room, etc. The family’s quarters would almost always be on the the second story, and the rooms for important guests on the third or higher. Servants would be in the basement or attic, when they were not relegated to their own wing (or a completely separate building). In France, however, ground-level bedrooms with window doors that open directly onto gardens were considered very desirable.
(Note: The first level of a house is called the “ground floor” in Modern British English, but the “first floor” in Modern American English. The British “first floor” is the American “second floor”. To avoid confusion I use the term “ground floor”, for the floor directly above the basement, and “second story” for the level above that.

5
The rooms in British stately homes would usually be given colorful names, such as “The Rose Bedchamber” or “The Leather Salon”. In France, however, it was common for bedchambers to simply be numbered – a practiced carried over into modern hotels.

6
British stately homes tended to be significantly larger than French chateaus, and have a larger staff as well. Likewise, the country estates of British aristocrats were generally larger than their French counterparts. British grand houses were often built in conscious imitation of Italian architecture (particularly the designs of Andrea Palladio), but French-style chateaus could be found everywhere across Europe.

7
Remember that any grand house, whether urban or in the country, must have a stables and a carriage house of some kind. The two structure may be combined into the same building however.

8
If you place a fireplace in a room, remember that its chimney will rise up through every floor above. Fireplaces will usually be located exactly above and below other fireplaces, so that their flues can share a chimney. Also, remember that every chimney must be supported by a pillar, or solid wall, running directly below it to the floor of the basement. Not every room needs to have a fireplace – many grand houses used large ceramic stoves instead.

9
Because the basement must support all the weight of the house above it, the rooms there must either be separated by thick walls, or include pillars spaced about 10 – 15 feet apart.

10
A room on the ground floor that is more than 50′ in length will usually need to have its ceiling supported by pillars. There will be thick walls or pillars directly below in the basement.

11
Remember to account for the swing of doors when placing them in rooms. The doors in eighteenth century houses are often much larger than those in modern homes, despite the fact that the average person then was much much shorter than the average today.

12
Corridors were not common until the 19th century. Rooms in pre-20th century grand houses often connect directly to other rooms. People often walked through occupied bedchambers to get to other rooms (that, along with the ubiquitous chill, was the reason for the curtained beds). In a time when the Queen of France had to eat dinner every day before a crowd of spectators (and wealthy people were washed and dressed by servants), little value was placed on privacy.

13
Remember to account for the slope of the roof when figuring the size of rooms in the attic. If your roof slopes at a 30 degree angle, with an attic ceiling 15 feet high directly underneath the ridge, 10 feet away in either direction there will only be 8.75 feet of headspace.

14
You do not actually need to put in separate rooms for toilets – 18th century grand houses often didn’t have any. The inhabitants relieved themselves in chamber pots that were emptied each morning by the servants. The pots were located in the bedchambers, or even in concealed spaces in the dining rooms! When there were dedicated rooms for relieving oneself they were small closets with a bench at one end, inside of which was a chamber pot that needed to be manually emptied. Only the most advanced houses had flushing toilets. Many English stately homes did not have toilets well into the 20th century.

15
18th Century houses did not always have fixed bathtubs, because most people sponge-bathed. Full-immersion baths could be taken as infrequently as once a month (although some people, notably Marie-Antoinette and Mary Wollstonecraft, did bathe daily). In Britain, baths were more likely to be located in an exterior bath house. A bathtub in a French chateau, however, was likely to be located inside a bedchamber. Bathtubs might be filled by exterior pumps worked by servants, but just as often the tub had to be manually filled and emptied. Some tubs were situated below a fillable water tank fitted with a faucet.

16
As strange as it seems to modern eyes, the kitchens would usually be located some distance from any dining room. This was so diners would not have to smell any cooking odors. Often, the kitchens were in an entirely separate building. Food was brought to table from the kitchen in covered dishes, and was seldom very hot by the time it is eaten. The fact that the arrangement is impractical and inconvenient was not considered important by architects of the 18th century (and earlier).

17
Creating an impression of grandeur and opulence was of primary importance for the architects of grand houses. Important rooms would often have one or more anterooms, whose sole purpose was to set the stage for the even more luxurious room onto which they open. When creating fictional grand house, do not be afraid to waste floor-space in ways that would horrify a modern architect.

18
Remember that a standard ceiling in an eighteenth century grand house is 15′ high, and 20′ ceilings were not uncommon. A ceiling than is merely 10′ high was actually unusually low. Rooms such as Grand Salons and Ballrooms might have ceilings that extend upwards for two (or more stories), with balconies looking down from the upper stories.

19
Both British and French-style grand houses had secret doors, but they often had different original functions. In Britain, the secret doors and hidden chambers (called “priest holes”) often originally served to hide renegade Catholic clergy, or for smuggling contraband. In France, secret doors might be built to facilitate the secret entry and exit of lovers, or just for sheer novelty. The palace of Versailles has a famous secret passage that was once used by Marie-Antoinette to escape a besieging mob in 1789.

20
Eighteenth century French chateaux often have oval and other oddly-shaped rooms whose interior arrangement cannot be be guessed from the exterior.

21
Living quarters were often configured as apartment suites, with an antechamber leading to a bedchamber, cabinet or boudoir, and dressing room. Often the rooms will be arranged in a series, with their doors exactly aligned.

22
About half the rooms in a grand house should be bedchambers for visiting guests. That means a 100 room house may have 50 bedchambers, most of which lie unused much of the time.

23
Stone walls must always be thicker below than they are above. Assume the walls of a grand house are 2′ to 5′ thick. The walls of a residential castle (such as a 16th century tower house) are usually 5′ thick. The walls of medieval castles are anywhere from 5′ to 15′ thick. Remember to account for the thickness of walls when creating a detailed floor-plan. Also, thick walls create opportunities for you to run secret passages within them!

24
Eighteenth century rooms tend to be relatively sparsely furnished, and the furniture was usually pushed to the sides of the room to leave the center empty. The cluttered effect common in the later Victorian age was considered undesirable.

25
There would not be any large windows on the first floor of a fortified house or castle. Conversely, the windows of a stately home or chateau built in safer times and places would often be larger than those in more modern structures. Windows will have shutters – either exterior, or else interior ones that fold into the thick wall on either side of the window.

26
Very large grand houses often had interior courtyards. It was not unknown, however, for there to be completely enclosed rooms without any exterior walls at all. Such rooms would often have a window to admit light from an adjacent room that has an actual window to the outside.

27
Many grand houses will have been occupied by the same family for centuries, and might have been enlarged and remodeled several times. Thus, the same house could have features of several different architectural styles. A rococo house might stand amid the walls of a medieval castle!

28
The enclosure around the parkland gardens wasn’t just for privacy and security, but could also protect the plants from cold winds. Therefore the walls of British and Northern European estates would tend to be higher than those in France, or in the Mediterranean region.

Ghastly Affair Yuletide Sale – 20% OFF on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow

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Now through January 5th, 2018, everything Ghastly Affair is 20% OFF on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow!

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GREETINGS FROM KRAMPUS!

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Count Dracula for the Ghastly Affair RPG

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DraculaSketch

A sketch of Count Dracula, from Jonathan Harker’s description.

Presenting the most famous vampire in any media, Count Dracula himself! Since it’s no secret that Bram Stoker was deeply influenced by Le Fanu’s “Carmilla”, I’ve chosen to make Dracula and the Countess Karnstein bitter rivals. I’ve also woven in material from Stoker’s short story “Dracula’s Guest”.

Count Dracula (1801)

Necromancer, Warlord, and Master Vampyre

Full Name: Voivode Dracula
Aliases: Count de Ville, Count Wampyr
Class: Magician / Vampyre
Level: 10 / 10
Appearance/Most Memorable Characteristic: A tall and thin old man dressed completely in black. When he is undisguised he wears a long, white mustache, and the teeth within his red mouth are unusually long and sharp. His eyebrows are very bushy, and almost meet at the high bridge of his nose. His ears are notably pointed, and his forehead high and domed. Hair grows in the palms of his hands.
Apparent Age: 70 (often uses Alter Self to appear younger)

Charisma: 17 Intelligence: 17 Wisdom: 17
Strength: 22 (due to Talisman of Increase Strength. 18 Natural. 26 with Inhuman Strength) Dexterity: 18 (22 with Blazing Dexterity) Constitution: 18
Perversity: 19
Assets: Military Commander, Manservant Skills
Afflictions: Overconfident, Easily Angered

Speed: 9
Hit Points: 40
Attacks: 1 (sword, or bite and claws in Vampyric Form)
Damage Bonus: +13

Magician Special Abilities: Esoteric Knowledge (+1) | Use Incantation (only when wearing his Amulet) | Perform Ceremony | Create Talismans (Currently wearing a Talisman of Increase Strength) | Employ Pact
Vampyre Special Abilities: Assume Vampyric Form | Revenant Immunities | Rise from Death | Supernatural Combatant | Vampyric Powers: Spider Climb, Obscuring Mist, Inhuman Strength, Blazing Dexterity, Gaseous Form, Summon Dark Beasts, Transform Self Into Bat, Transform Self Into Wolf, Bond With Victim, Create Vampyre
Magician Weaknesses: Magical Implement | Power Object (A gold and ruby amulet that serves as both)
Vampyre Weaknesses: Blood-Lust | Vampyric Debilities: Affected by Holy Symbols, Cadaverous Skin Color, Cannot Enter Homes Uninvited, Cannot Cross Running Water, Cold as a Corpse, No Reflection in Mirror, Hairy Palms, Permanent Fangs, Repelled By Garlic, Must Rest in Native Soil

Spells Known:
Incantations: Alter Self, Beguile, Bind Spirit, Charm Person, Dimension Door, Enlarge Person, Hypnotism, Major Creation, Raise Storm, Read Minds, Shrink Person, Sleep, Speak With Dead, Unseen Servant
Ceremonies: Conjure Monster III, Summon Spirit III
Talismans: Increase Strength, Increase Dexterity
Pacts: Create Vampyre (must feed 8 hit points worth of his own blood to a subject and call upon Life-in-Death)

Typical Equipment Carried: A fine suit of black clothes. A black cloak. An amulet of gold and ruby on a golden chain (his Magical Implement and Power Object). A garnet ring (Talisman of Increase Strength). A dueling sword.
Residence: Castle Dracula, Transylvania. Recently, a ruined manor in an abandoned village near Munich.

Background:

Count Dracula was born in the early 15th century to an ancient noble family descended from Attila the Hun. His family’s castle was situated high atop a cliff in the eastern part of Transylvania, deep in the Carpathian mountains. In his youth he studied all the arts and sciences, culminating in a stay at the infamous Scholomance, where he was taught necromancy by Satan. After he took control of his family lands he distinguished himself by repeatedly raising armies and attacking the Ottoman Empire. He was a ruthless and calculating commander, who would not hesitate to abandon the field (and his troops) if the battle turned against him. After his death he rose again as a Vampyre, and retreated to his family castle. Over the centuries his family died out, leaving him the sole representative of the once illustrious house of Dracula.

In 1801, Count Dracula traveled to Gratz in Styria, seeking vengeance on the house of Dolingen – descendants of a knight who once deserted his cause. He began the seduction of the beautiful Countess Dolingen, with the intention of eventually transforming her into a Vampyre. While he was in Styria, however, he made the mistake of also feeding from a young woman beloved by Vampyre Countess Mircalla – better known as Carmilla. After Carmilla demanded that Dracula leave Styria, he foolishly challenged the frail-looking woman to direct combat. The foolhardy Dracula barely escaped destruction at the hands of Carmilla, and her devoted servants killed all but one of the Szgany traveling with the Count. Dracula fled with his coffin to Munich, and took residence in the ruined manor house of a cursed and abandoned village near the city. From there he employed his mental bond with the Countess Dolingen, and persuaded her to leave her husband and come to him. When she arrived, Dracula glutted himself on her blood, and transformed her into a Vampyre. Dracula took wicked satisfaction in the fact that the Countess’ disgraced family chose to erect her tomb in the same deserted village where her body was found, rather than bring her home to be buried with her kin.

Personality and Role-Playing Notes:

Count Dracula’s personality is complex and often contradictory. He is a hospitable host, and will treat guest with elaborate courtesy. He has been forced to be his own manservant, so unlike most aristocrats, he does not disdain manual labor. He will not hesitate to help porters, drive a carriage, or perform even the most menial tasks. Although he no longer bothers to consume anything other than blood, he is an excellent cook. He is no longer interested in displays of wealth, and simply keeps all his money in a large pile in the room that once was his bedchamber. On the other hand, he is easily angered, with a vengeful nature. In fact, his entire existence is centered around obtaining revenge for real and perceived slights (many of which occurred centuries ago). He will frequently engage in acts of pure spite and perversity, even when doing so needlessly exposes him to real danger. Dracula is a master of strategy, but his overconfidence can often be exploited by his enemies. He is quick to attack, but just as quick to flee when a fight turns against him.

Dracula often uses magic to change his appearance, particularly to make himself appear as he did in his youth.

Count Dracula in Your Game:

Dracula’s campaign against the Ottomans attracted the aid of many foreign knights, almost all of whom eventually deserted him on account of his ruthlessness and cruelty. Now, the Count is engaged in perpetual plots of vengeance against their descendants, among whom are the Styrian house of Dolingen, and the British Holmwood family. Dracula’s preferred method of operation is to attack the women of a family while they sleep, eventually transforming them into Vampyres. Dracula abandons most of these undead women, because the ultimate stage of his vengeance consists of forcing the men who once loved them to be the instruments of their destruction. Occasionally, however, he chooses certain of his enemies’ wives to reside with him as concubines.

Dracula is served by a clan of Szgany (Hungarian Gypsies) who fear his wrath. They arrange for the transport of his coffin (and earth from his grave) whenever he desires to travel, defend him and his castle while he slumbers, and otherwise protect him. These Szgany could be potentially powerful allies against the Count, but convincing them to betray him would require almost miraculous powers of persuasion.

Player Characters might encounter Dracula while he is hunting, or as he pursues one of his schemes of revenge. They might be forced by a storm to take shelter at his home, and initially enjoy the Count’s hospitality. Dracula might also pose as a distraught father in order to commission a Demon Hunter to destroy his rival Carmilla. Of course, one of the PCs also might be a member of a family against which Dracula has sworn vengeance. Alternately, a Magician character might seek out Count Dracula as a mentor in sorcery. Dracula might even openly ally himself with the PCs, if they are working against one of his enemies. If encountered away from Castle Dracula, remember that the Count must rest in his native earth every night. Wherever he is, he must first have established a lair, and have had soil from his grave somehow transported there.

Although it would make the events of the novel “Dracula” impossible, Player Characters should be permitted to destroy the Count if they can. In such case that Bram Stoker eventually writes “Dracula” based upon the stories he heard about the PCs. Alternately, the Presenter could follow the precedent of the numerous “Dracula” movies, and assume that the Count always finds some way to reform his body and resume his reign of terror.

Source: “Dracula” and “Dracula’s Guest” by Bram Stoker

Note: It is common to identify the Count with the historical Vlad Tepes (the Impaler), and Van Helsing himself does so in the text of “Dracula”. However, Dracula definitively claims to be ethnically Szekely, while the historical Vlad Tepes was Wallachian. I recommend treating Count Dracula as a wholly fictional character whose life story happens to echo that of the real Vlad Tepes.

17% OFF Ghastly Affair PDFs Through Cyber Monday!

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Now through Cyber Monday (11/27/17), the Illustrated PDF versions of the Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual and Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual are 17% Off on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG!

Ghastly Affair Now Available in Hardcover on RPGNow and DriveThru RPG!

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Both the Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual and Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual are now available in Hardcover Print Versions through RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. Plus, you get the Illustrated PDFs at nearly 50% off when you buy both the the Hardcover Book and PDF!

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