Random Aristocrats and Noble Titles, Part III: Spanish and Italian


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Goya Alba1

Italy and Spain loom large in early Gothic stories. The first Gothic novel, “The Castle of Otranto” is set in Italy (although the described setting does not resemble the actual town of Otranto, or it’s real castle). Many other English authors followed suit; both in location, and casual approach to accuracy. Spain, on the other hand, is the setting for Lewis’ “The Monk”, Potocki’s “The Manuscript Found in Saragossa”, and countless tales focused on the supposed horrors of the Catholic Church.

A branch of the House of Bourbon has reigned in Spain since 1700, when the last Habsburg King of Spain (Charles II) died without an heir. The continued existence of the Spanish Inquisition gave 18th century Spain a reputation (in Britain and France at least) for being culturally backward, and out of step with the Enlightenment. The question of Spaniards importing French fashion and culture was a major source of social conflict throughout the 18th century.

Italy was not a unified nation in the period from 1765 to 1820. The Italian Peninsula was occupied instead by a patchwork of rival monarchies and republics. The cultural area that could be considered “Italian” had very fuzzy borders. The republic of Venice extended along the coast of modern Croatia, and the Republic of Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik) had a culture that mixed Croatian and Venetian influences. Nonetheless, it was already common in the 18th century to see the area of the Italian Peninsula marked as “Italy” on maps, and the people who inhabited it were generally considered to be a single ethnicity that spoke different dialects of one language.

Both Spain and the states of Italy were distinguished by the strong political influence of the Catholic Church, so it was perhaps inevitable that writers from Protestant Britain would malign both regions as benighted lands of cruelty, decadence, and supernatural evil!

As with the discussions of French, English, German, and Hungarian nobility, the presentation here is greatly simplified for game purposes.

Random Spanish Aristocrats, in Ascending Precedence (d100)

1 – 25 | Hildalgo or Hildalga (Untitled Aristocracy)
26 – 30 | Infanzon (Untitled Aristocracy)
31– 35 | Escudero (Esquire)
36 – 49 | Caballero (Hereditary Knight)
40 – 41 | Orden de Calatrava (Knight of the Order of Calatrava) [Roll again for additional title]
42 – 43 | Order of Alcántara (Knight of the Order of Alcántara) [Roll again for additional title]
44 – 45 | Orde de Santiago (Knight or Dame of the Order of Santiago) (Male and Female membership) [Roll again for additional title]
46 – 47 | Real y Distinguida Orden Española de Carlos III (Knight of the Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Carlos III) [Roll again for additional title]
48 – 49 | Orden del Toisón de Oro (Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece) (Style: His Excellency) [Roll again for additional title]
50 – 59 | Don or Doña (Lord or Lady) (Style: His Lordship or Her Ladyship)
60 – 67 | Señor or Señora (Lord or Lady) (Style: His Lordship or Her Ladyship)
68 – 69 | Barón or Baronesa (Baron or Baroness) (This title is held only by Catalonian nobles) (Style: His Lordship or Her Ladyship)
70 – 74 | Vizconde or Vizcondesa (Viscount or Viscountess) (Style: His [or Her] Illustriousness)
75 – 84 | Conde or Condesa (Count or Countess) (Style: His [or Her] Illustriousness)
85 – 90 | Marqués or Marquesa (Marquis or Marquise) (Style: His [or Her] Illustriousness)
91 | Barón or Baronesa, Grandee of Spain (Baron or Baroness. Catalan only) (Style: His [or Her] Excellency)
92 | Vizconde or Vizcondesa, Grandee of Spain (Viscount or Viscountess) (Style: His [or Her] Excellency)
93 – 94 | Conde or Condesa, Grandee of Spain (Grand Count or Countess) (Style: His [or Her] Excellency)
95 – 97 | Marqués or Marquesa, Grandee of Spain (Marquis or Marquise) (Style: His [or Her] Excellency)
98 – 100 | Duque or Duquesa (Duke or Duchess) (Style: His [or Her] Excellency)

Notes about Spanish titles:

  • A distinction is made between ordinary titled nobility, and the “Grandees of Spain” (who enjoy immunity from taxation and arrest by ordinary authorities, among other privileges). A noble who is a Grandee outranks a noble of any title who is not a Grandee. All Spanish Dukes are also Grandees of Spain
  • The distinction between Grandees and other nobility was abolished under King Joseph Bonaparte, but reinstated after the re-ascension of Ferdinand VII.
    Spanish Nobility is addressed with “Don” (Lord) or “Doña” (Lady) before their given names.
  • Grandees of the 18th century use the Style “His [or Her] Excellency”. For example, “Her Excellency, Doña Maria de Aguanera y de Oscuro, Marquesa of Zondo”.
  • The system of Spanish surnames is notoriously tricky for non-Spaniards. A fictional Spanish aristocrat should have two surnames – the first being the first surname of their father, and the second being the first surname of their mother. Often, the two surnames will be distinguished from each other by the conjunction “y”. Aristocratic Spanish ladies do not change their surnames after marriage, but may indicate the first of their husband’s surnames after their own, with the conjunction “de”.
  • Eighteenth century Spanish nobility will occasionally (but not consistently) use “de” as an ennobling particle before their surnames.

Random Italian Aristocrats, in Ascending Precedence (d100)

1 – 15 | Patrizio or Patrizia (Patrician) (Otherwise untitled urban aristocracy)
16 – 20 | Cavaliere or Dama (Hereditary Knight or Dame)
21 | Knight of the Order of the Blood of Jesus Christ (Conferred by the House of Gonzaga) [Roll again for additional title]
22 – 23 | Sacro Militare Ordine di Santo Stefano Papa e Martire (Knight of the Order of Saint Stephan Pope and Martyr) (Conferred by the Duke of Tuscany) [Roll again for additional title]
24 – 25 | Ordine Supremo della Santissima Annunziata (Knight of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation) (Conferrred by the King of Sardinia) [Roll again for additional title]
26 – 27 | Insigne Reale Ordine di San Gennaro (Knight of the Illustrious Royal Order of Saint Januarius) (Conferred by the King of Naples and Sicily; King of the Two Sicilies after 1816) [Roll again for [Roll again for additional title]
28 – 29 | Sacro militare ordine costantiniano di San Giorgio (Knight of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George) (Conferred by the King of Naples and Sicily; King of the Two Sicilies after 1816) [Roll again for additional title]
30 – 31 | Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro (Knight of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus) (Conferrred by the King of Sardinia) [Roll again for additional title]
32 – 33 | Ordo Equestris Sancti Sepulcri Hierosolymitani (Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem) (Conferred by the Pope) [Roll again for additional title]
34 – 35 | Knight of Malta (The Order of Malta is a sovereign entity) [Roll again for additional title]
36– 39 | Ordine dello Speron d’Oro (Order of the Golden Spur) (Conferred by the Pope)
40 – 43 | Signore or Signora (Lord or Lady) (Minor landed aristocracy)
44 – 49 | Nobile (Untitled son or daughter of a titled nobleman. Can also be a title unto itself.)
50 – 59 | Barone or Baronessa (Baron or Baroness)
60 – 69 | Visconte or Viscontessa (Viscount or Viscountess)
70 – 79 | Conte or Contessa (Count or Countess)
80 – 89 | Marchese or Marchesa (Marquis or Marquise)
90 – 95 | Duca or Duchessa (Duke or Duchess)
96 – 100 | Princepe or Princepessa (Prince or Princess)

Notes about Italian titles:

  • Unlike French and British titles, Italian titles do not always carry a geographical signifier. One can be a Conte, for example, without being Conte of any place in particular.
  • Italian nobles are addressed with the honorific “Don” (Lord) or “Donna” (Lady) before the name.
  • Sovereign nobility (those who rule a state) also use their Style “Altezza” (Highness) before the name.
  • The titles “Princepe” and “Princepessa” are more common in Italy than elsewhere, and do not necessarily indicate familial relation to a King or Queen.
  • Italian nobles often (but not consistently) use the particles “de” (of) or “di” (from) before their surname, although neither automatically indicates aristocratic status.
  • Italian titles can originate in grants from The Pope (who reigned as King of the central Italian Papal State), the Holy Roman Empire (of which most of Northern Italy was nominally a part), and Spain (which controlled the larger part of Italy from the 16th to 18th centuries), as well as from native secular authority. Additionally, Italians who supported Napoleon may possess Napoleonic titles of nobility.
  • Napoleon was not ethnically French, but Italian. He was born “Napoleone Buonaparte” in Corsica, and his family were aristocrats of Florentine origin. Before declaring himself Emperor of the French, he bore the Italian title “Nobile”.

The Gothic Trope of the “Wicked Italian”

Italy was the required destination for affluent young Englishmen undertaking their “Grand Tour”, and the peninsula acquired a strikingly dual reputation in the British imagination. On one hand it was “Sunny Italy”, where the weather was warm and the living was (supposedly) easy. On the other hand, it was considered a decadent and haunted land thick with ghosts and banditti, where the ruins of an ancient past were always visible. To the Englishman of the late Georgian and Regency eras, it was Italy, not Transylvania, that was home to the world’s evil. For example, the high degree of sexual liberation enjoyed by wealthy wives in much of Italy was often remarked upon by English travelers, usually to demonstrate the place’s immorality relative to England. Lady Jersey may have had done the horizontal fandango with half of London, but in Italy there was a whole class of handsome young men who made their livings as live-in cicisbeos and cavalier serventes to upper class ladies. The dark reputation of the Italian aristocracy (and clergy) was not confined to England either. No less a person than the Marquis de Sade purported to be shocked by the immorality he witnessed in Italy! Furthermore, the complicated political situation of the Italian states (and the many possible sources of titles) made fraudulently claiming to be an Italian noblemen (or noblewoman) a relatively easy scam to perpetrate. The wicked Italian of dubious morality therefore became a stock character of Gothic novels, much as the Transylvanian nobleman would become after the publication of “Dracula”.

20 Creepy Churches in Isolated Places


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Kreuz im Sedlec Ossuary

In Gothic stories, the building that was meant to be a place of spiritual refuge can become a locus of terror. Here then are twenty disturbing houses of worship for the PCs to potentially encounter – whether as a unit of French soldiers lost in the desolate Spanish countryside during the Peninsula War, or as a group of English tourists wandering the lonely Italian hills. Each could simply be a bit of local color, or the seed of an entire Affair.

The most unsettling thing about this church is… (d20)

1 | The skeleton of the local Saint; dressed in bishop’s robes and suspended above the altar.
2 | The joins of the walls and floor, none of which seems to actually be at right angles to each other.
3 | The mummified bodies of a prominent local family, suspended in niches along the walls.
4 | The floor bulges from the numerous corpses buried underneath the stones, and every so often a grave beetle crawls out.
5 | The bizarre smell; a mixture of unwashed bodies, mold, incense, and a strange acrid odor otherwise impossible to identify.
6 | The way that the dust motes never settle, and actually seem to move horizontally without any discernible breeze.
7 | The grotesque frescoes depicting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse with the faces of the Player Characters.
8 | The strangely wrought iron rood screen, whose design features several sharp points covered in some dried, brown substance.
9 | A stained glass window depicting Lucifer riding in glory across the local countryside.
10 | The disturbingly large and realistic gargoyles that leer from the facade.
11 | The curious mosaic floor, depicting anguished sinners looking up from Hell.
12 | The painted ceiling, which for some reason depicts not angels and saints, but pagan gods looking down from Heaven.
13 | Several iron rings set into the walls, of the kind used to chain prisoners.
14 | The strange inscriptions still faintly visible on the stones of the building, which were apparently looted from some ancient temple.
15 | The constant and inexplicable dripping of reddish water from the ceiling.
16 | A series of bas-reliefs depicting the Stations of the Cross, but all the figures have the heads of animals.
17 | All the windows are barred, and the interior bears the scorch marks of some previous conflagration.
18 | A series of seemingly random numbers and letters prominently carved into the pillars that hold up the ceiling.
19 | The door to a side chapel, carved with images of leering demons, and bound shut with chains and padlocks.
20 | The church is entirely decorated with human bones and skulls, which are set into the walls in decorative patterns, form the candle-holders, and embellish the altar.

Character Inspirations Part III: The Libertine


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A archetype of the Libertine is the mirror image of the True Innocent. At best, he (or she) is a free spirit willing to throw aside repressive moral convention and proclaim the primacy of pleasure. At worst, the Libertine is a deceitful seducer, a profligate gambler, a shameless fraud, or even a heartless murderer. Unlike the desperate Bandit forced to exist as an outlaw, the Libertine has typically chosen to be bad. Naturally, the Libertine is fated to pursue the True Innocent (and often be redeemed by their love). The following lists will help inspire Players and Presenters when creating their own Libertine characters for Ghastly Affair.

Some Historical Libertines:
Julie d’Aubigny
Paul Barras
William Beckford
Jeanne Bécu (Madame du Barry)
Lord Byron
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
Sir Francis Dashwood
William Douglas, Duke of Queensberry (“Old Q”)
Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan
Grace Elliot (née Dalrymple)
George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV)
Lady Emma Hamilton
Gilbert Imlay
Lady Caroline Lamb
Louis-Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans
Marquis de Sade
Thérésa Tallien
Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy (Jeanne de la Motte)
John Wilkes
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

Some Literary Inspirations:
Mr. B (Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded – Samuel Richardson)
Juliette de Bertole (Juliette; or, Vice Amply Rewarded – Marquis de Sade)
Don Juan (or Don Giovanni) (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest – Tirso de Molina; Dom Juan or The Feast with the Statue – Moliere; Don Giovanni – Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte and music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Don Juan – Lord Byron; others)
Victoria de Loredani (Zofloya; or, The Moor: A Romance of the Fifteenth Century – Charlotte Dacre)
Barry Lyndon (The Luck of Barry Lyndon – William Makepeace Thackeray)
Queen Marie-Antoinette (as depicted in the French libelles)
Marquise de Merteuil (The Dangerous Liaisons – Pierre Choderlos de Laclos)
Lord Ruthven (Glenarvon – Lady Caroline Lamb, The Vampyre – Dr. John Polidori)
Becky Sharpe (Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray)
Vicomte de Valmont (The Dangerous Liaisons – Pierre Pierre Choderlos de Laclos)
Caliph Vathek (Vathek – William Beckford)
George Wickham (Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen)

Some Libertines from Movies and Television:
Edmund Blackadder (Blackadder the Third)
Lord Byron (Gothic)
Darla (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel)
Liam (Angelus) (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel)
Barry Lyndon (Barry Lyndon)
Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Dangerous Liaisons, Valmont)
John Wilmot (The Libertine)
Lord Rochester (Plunkett & Macleane)
Vicomte de Valmont (Dangerous Liaisons,Valmont)

A Few Inspirational Songs:
Big Balls – AC/DC
Chelsea Dagger – Fratellis
Cherry Bomb – The Runaways
Chick Habit – April March (also the original Laisse Tomber les Filles by France Gall)
The Duelists – Iron Maiden
Ex’s and Oh’s – Elle King
The French Song – Joan Jett
Gold Dust Woman – Fleetwood Mac (also the cover by Hole)
Lovegame – Lady Gaga
Mother – Danzig
The Only Time – Nine Inch Nails
Sadeness – Enigma
Sex on Wheels – My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult

Gallery of Images:

William Hogarth 027


Thomas Rowlandson - A Sketch from Nature


'Interrupted Supper', by Louis-Léopold Boilly, Norton Simon Museum

Pietro Longhi The Lover of a Venetian Lady.The Bowes Museum

The Influence of the Marquis de Sade on the Gothic Novel

Sade’s “Justine” (and it’s sequel “Juliette”) were enormously popular books in their day, even (and especially) in those places where they were banned. Both works were issued in lavishly illustrated editions furtively perused by men and women alike. The Marquis’ scandalous stories of perverse (and murderous) libertines also exerted a massive influence on contemporary Gothic novels. The more shocking episodes in Lewis’ “The Monk”, for example, can be seen in light of an appetite for literary savagery that had been stoked by “Justine”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sade himself disliked his books being classified as “Gothics”, because he felt the label demeaned their serious philosophical content. “Justine”, for example, seems meant to expose the absurdity of 18th century literary conventions, such as the virtuous “damsel-in-distress”, and the gallant highwayman (viciously deconstructed in the person of Ironheart). Nonetheless, Sade’s influence on the Gothic genre is undeniable, especially in light of such incidents as the unjust trial of the allusively named Justine in Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein”. Thus, despite his own protestation, Sade is inseparably part of the Gothic tradition, just as his catalogs of depravity have their modern reflections in the “slasher” and “torture-porn” movies of recent years.

Character Inspirations Part II: The True Innocent


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Like those in “Character Inspirations Part I: The Bandit”, the following lists are meant to aid Players and Presenters in creating True Innocent characters for the Ghastly Affair RPG. Since the class is intended to portray the typical heroine of a classic Gothic novel, True Innocents tend to become central to any game of Ghastly Affair. Remember that a True Innocent can be as active and strong as any other character. They need not be just damsels (or lads) to be rescued. Here then are some examples from history, literature, and the media to help inspire your portrayals of True Innocents.

If you have any additions you’d like to share, just indicate them in the comments.

Some Historical True Innocents:
Lady Anne Isabella Byron (wife of Lord Byron)
Saint Joan of Arc
Virginie de Lafayette (daughter of the Marquis de Lafayette)
Juliette Récamier

Some Literary Inspirations:
Pamela Andrews (Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded – Samuel Richardson)
Antonia (The Monk: A Romance – Matthew Lewis)
Justine de Bertole (Justine; or, The Misfortunes of Virtue – de Sade)
Candide (Candide – Voltaire)
Gulchenrouz (Vathek – William Beckford)
Mina Harker (née Murray) (Dracula – Bram Stoker)
Clarissa Harlowe (Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady – Samuel Richardson)
Immalee / Isidore de Aliaga (Melmoth the Wanderer – Charles Maturin)
Agnes de Medina (The Monk: A Romance – Matthew Lewis)
Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen)
Laura (Carmilla – Sheridan Le Fanu)
Matilda of Otranto (The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole)
Emily St. Aubert (The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe)
Charlotte Sophia (The Hapless Child – Edward Gorey)
Virginia de Villa-Franca (The Monk: A Romance – Matthew Lewis)
Isabella of Vicenza (The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole)
Cécile de Volanges (The Dangerous Liaisons – Pierre Choderlos de Laclos)

Some True Innocents from Movies and Television:
Edith Cushing (Crimson Peak)
Emma (The Vampire Lovers)
Letha Godfrey (Hemlock Grove)
Marianne de Morangias (Brotherhood of the Wolf)
Rosaleen (The Company of Wolves)
Katia Vajda (Black Sunday)

A Few Inspirational Songs:
Edge of the World – Faith No More
Enter Sandman – Metallica
Goody Two Shoes – Adam and the Ants
Little Sister – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Lullaby – The Cure
Rainbow in the Dark – Dio
Sister Christian – Night Ranger
Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
Tales of Innocence – Christian Death
You’re Lost, Little Girl – The Doors, covered by Siouxsie and the Banshees

Gallery of Images
Greuze-La prière du Matin

Radcliffe Chastenay - Les Mysteres d Udolphe frontispice T2

Pietro Longhi 027

Museo del Prado - Goya - Caprichos - No. 14 - Que sacrificio!

Fragonard, The Reader

100 Inherited Peculiarities of Inbred Noble Families


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Francesco Hayez 047

Odd-looking aristocrats were a staple of Gothic fiction because they were a reality of the 18th and 19th centuries. Inbreeding over many generations had filled the palaces of Europe with deranged families marked by physical peculiarities. The royal portraits of Goya, which look like harsh caricatures now, were actually considered to be flattering in their time! The ill-effects of inbreeding were ameliorated among the non-royal aristocrats of Britain (whose female members were known to actively refresh the bloodlines from time-to-time), and in those parts of Italy where aristocratic women were expected to openly take lovers (a practice ended in the repressive climate that followed the Napoleonic wars). In fact, the British upper class (aside from the royal family) had a reputation for being generally attractive. The astonishingly incestuous nobility of Central Europe, however, were manically obsessed with the purity of their blood (and with preventing land from leaving the family). Consequentially, they could be quite strange in appearance, and wracked with genetic disorders.

What Makes This Family Peculiar? (d100, 1d4 times)

1. Aged appearance, even when young
2. Albinism (ignore further results relating to eye or hair color)
3. Amber or yellow eyes
4. Androgynous appearance
5. Animalistic features (toad-like, lupine, aquiline, leonine, etc.)
6. Aniridic eyes (no irises; ignore further results relating to eye color)
7. Bald head
8. Bizarre taste in food
9. Bulging eyes
10. Bushy eyebrows
11. Can’t stand high-pitched sounds and voices
12. Can’t stand low-pitched sounds and voices
13. Can’t stand music
14. Cannot abide warm temperatures
15. Cannot stand bright light
16. Cannot stand cool temperatures
17. Club foot
18. Colorblindness
19. Craving for pain
20. Cruel nature
21. Cylindrical head
22. Deformed hand
23. Disproportionately long legs
24. Distinctive voice
25. Double-jointed
26. Dwarfish stature
27. Empathy with animals (horse whisperers)
28. Enlarged canine teeth
29. Extremely long-lived
30. Extremely pale complexion
31. Extremely tall
32. Farsighted
33. Flaming red hair
34. Freakish strength
35. Grotesquely prominent chin
36. Hairless body
37. Hearing problems
38. Heightened hearing (and can’t stand loud sounds)
39. Heightened sense of smell (and can’t abide bad odors)
40. Heightened sense of taste (and can only eat the finest food)
41. Hemophilia
42. Horrible body odor
43. Hunchback
44. Insensitive to cold
45. Insensitive to heat
46. Insensitive to pain
47. Intoxicating natural perfume
48. Jade green eyes
49. Large chin
50. Long arms
51. Long nose
52. Long tongue
53. Mania
54. Melancholy disposition
55. Men of the family are very well endowed (or are poorly endowed)
56. Morbid sensitivity
57. Narrow eyes
58. Nearsighted
59. Nervous twitch
60. Night-black hair
61. Noticeably small hands
62. Oddly-shaped ears
63. One eye larger than the other
64. Pear-shaped head
65. Piercing, dark blue eyes
66. Platinum blonde hair
67. Prodigious artistic talent
68. Prominent cheekbones
69. Prone to addiction
70. Protruding lower lip
71. Protruding teeth
72. Resistant to poison (and intoxication)
73. See visions / hallucinations
74. Sensitive to touch
75. Sexually insatiable
76. Sharply arched eyebrows
77. Shockingly thin
78. Short life span
79. Six fingers on each hand
80. Spheroid head
81. Squarish head
82. Staring eyes that never seem to blink
83. Sunken cheeks
84. Tail
85. Teeth tend to fall out
86. Tendency to be twins
87. Tendency to full hermaphroditism
88. Two different color eyes
89. Unable to properly pronounce a common phoneme.
90. Uncannily beautiful (all members of the family look like idealized statues come  to life; ignore any other result that indicates unattractive physical deformities)
91. Unique birthmark (shaped like a weapon, shaped like an animal, raised, etc.)
92. Unusually large hands
93. Very high hairline
94. Very weak chin
95. Very widely-spaced eyes
96. Violet eyes
97. Webbed fingers
98. Webbed toes
99. Women of the family have exceptionally large bosoms (or are without breasts entirely)
100. Youthful appearance, even when old

Of course, individual members (whose true paternity will no doubt be questioned) might not posses the peculiar qualities for which their family is known. Note also that the table excludes any supernatural Curses of the type endemic to noble houses in Gothic stories. See Table 6 of Remarkable Features of Estates and Manors for some suggestions regarding possible family Curses.

Character Inspirations Part I: The Bandit


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The following lists are meant to help Players and Presenters of the Ghastly Affair RPG conceptualize their Bandit characters, but will be useful for any game featuring brigands and outlaws. The suggested music might be used directly as Character Inspirations by Players (as per Chapter 2 of the Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual), or be played by the Presenters during scenes that focus on Bandit characters.

The fetishization of bandits in early Gothic and Romantic literature may remind many people of the prominence of outlaws of the later American Western genre. In fact, vampires and werewolves, today thought of as defining features of the Gothic, are scarce in the original stories. However, desperate bandits lurked everywhere, to terrify and arouse both the heroine and reader.

Obviously, the lists are limited by my own knowledge and preferences. If you have additional suggestions you’d like to share, indicate them in the comments. Also note that the art and entertainment on the list is not universally dark in tone, or drawn from the Horror genre. That’s because, in my opinion, a good Gothic story should feature as much beauty and joy as horror and fear. Classic Gothic novels (such as “Frankenstein” and “The Mysteries of Udolpho”) are filled with passages describing sublimely beautiful landscapes. If the whole world is only ugliness and despair, then characters have nothing to fear losing.

Some Historical Bandits:
Anne Bonny
William Brennan
Mary Bryant
Moll Cutpurse
Claude Du Vall
Lady Katherine Ferrers
Fra Diavolo
James Freney
Captain Gallagher
Charles Gibbs
Xaver Hohenleiter
Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah
Juraj Jánošík
Jean Lafitte
James MacLaine
Louis Mandrin
William Plunkett
John Rann
Sándor Rózsa
Mary Read
Dick Turpin
Eugène François Vidocq

Some Literary Inspirations:
Baptiste (The Monk – Matthew Lewis)
Captain Macheath (The Beggar’s Opera, Polly – John Gay)
Conrad (The Corsair – Lord Byron)
Ironheart (Justine; or, the Misfortunes of Virtue – Marquis de Sade)
Montoni (The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe)
Karl Moor (The Robbers – Friedrich Schiller)
Zoto (The Manuscipt Found in Saragossa – Jan Potocki)

Some Bandits from Movies and Television:
Captain James Macleane (Plunkett and Macleane)
Will Plunkett (Plunkett and Macleane)
The Shadow (Blackadder the Third)
Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)

A Few Inspirational Songs:
Bad Company – Bad Company, covered by Five Finger Death Punch
Blaze of Glory – Jon Bon Jovi
Breaking the Law – Judas Priest
Desperado – The Eagles
Gallow’s Pole – Led Zeppelin (also the original The Gallis Pole by Leadbelly)
I Fought the Law – Bobby Fuller, covered by The Clash
Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan, covered by Guns n’ Roses
Mack the Knife (Die Moritat von Mackie Messer) – From The Threepenny Opera. Versions by Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Elle Fitzgerald, Bobby Darin, Dee Snyder etc.
Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers band
Renegade – Styx
Robbers – The 1975
Scum of the Earth – Rob Zombie
Stand and Deliver – Adam Ant
Whiskey in the Jar – Traditional. Versions by Thin Lizzy, The Dubliners, Metallica, & many, many more.

(Remember, if you like a song you can support the artist by buying a copy)

Gallery of Images:
Asalto al coche

Pflug - Schwarzer Veri

Gibbs shooting a comrade

General History of the Pyrates - Ann Bonny and Mary Read (coloured)

Dr. Syntax stopped by highwaymen Engraving

A Note on Using Modern Music in Historical Games

Some people might consider it jarring to hear modern music used as the soundtrack for entertainment set in the past. However, the music of the past was heard differently by its contemporary audiences than modern people hear the same music. What modern people contextualize as stuffy “classical music”, audiences of the time simply regarded as “modern” music. They had a whole different set of associations than modern people about the same sounds. Their emotional reaction to the music of their time was the same as our reaction to contemporary songs. The same music that today demands that its listeners sit down and be quiet in an auditorium, often made its original audiences want to get up and dance. In fact, the original performances of most symphonies of the period where as loud and rowdy as any rock n’ roll concert. The idea that music was supposed to be enjoyed in a quiet and restrained atmosphere (along with the concept of “classical” music itself) is a much later innovation of the 19th century. The music that a time-traveler would hear if he was transported to the the 1790s does not usually produce the same response in modern brains as it did during the 1790s. For that, you will often have to use more modern songs.

Happenings in the Ghastly Affair Community


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Creative things are happening in the nascent Ghastly Affair community!

Watch members of the Facebook Tabletop RPG One Shot Group discover Ghastly Affair aboard “The Lady Lovibond”. Thank you to all the players, and to the members of the One Shot Group in general, for your embrace and support of the game. Naturally, the video is marked as age-restricted, and you will need to sign in with your Google account to watch it.

New author William Rutter has put up an excerpt from his novel “Hunter’s Song” on Kindle Scout. If you have an Amazon account you can nominate “Hunter’s Song” to be published by Kindle Press. His novel tells the story of Lila Davenport, an heiress in Georgian England whose world is turned upside down when supernatural evil intrudes into her life. William is a player in the Ghastly Affair forum of the Play@YSDC boards.

Leave a comment if you’re doing something with Ghastly Affair that you’d like to share. I’d love to hear about it!

The Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual – Now Available on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow!


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ga-players-manual-cover-illustrated-pdf-300The long-awaited Illustrated PDF Version of the Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual is now available for download on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. Designed for on-screen viewing and usability, it’s fully bookmarked, indexed, and extensively hyperlinked throughout. The Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual (Illustrated PDF Version) includes the historical sidebars and illustrations of the print edition, including the full-page images by artist Stacey Kaelin. Now you can have the FULL Ghastly Affair experience in PDF!

Coming Soon: The Illustrated PDF Version of the Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual.

Purchase on DriveThuRPG:

Purchase on RPGNow:

Coming Soon for the Ghastly Affair RPG: Illustrated PDFs and More!


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Both the “Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual” and “Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual” are now being prepared for commercial release as illustrated PDFs. These will NOT simply be PDFs of the print books, but fully bookmarked, hyperlinked, and indexed versions designed for on-screen readability and use. Both PDFs will include the pictures from their print versions, including the gorgeous full-page illustrations by Stacey Kaelin!

But the news doesn’t stop there! TWO new releases for Ghastly Affair are also currently in the works:

“The Ghastly Companion to High Society”
Your guide to life, love, and horror among the powerful, rich, and wicked.

“The Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, and Estates”
A complete guide to grand homes and ancient fortresses – their structure, contents, and terrible secrets.

Keep checking the The Engine of Oracles for more Ghastly Affair news and previews!

Random Aristocrats and Noble Titles, Part II: German and Hungarian


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Wenceslaus Werlin 001

See also “Random Aristocrats and Noble Titles, Part I: French and British”.

There was technically no nation called “Germany” during the Ghastly Age (1765 – 1820). The area of modern Germany very roughly corresponds to that of the Holy Roman Empire, a feudal patchwork of some 1,800 (!) states nominally subject to an Emperor elected by the most powerful nobility. However, it had already become common by the end of the 18th century to refer to the Holy Roman Empire as Germany, or the German Empire, even though portions of it were neither German-speaking, nor ethnically German. Because there were so many small states (many of which could be walked across in an afternoon or less), the Holy Roman Empire makes a particularly good place to situate fictional countries created by the Presenter. Therefore, the table of Random German Aristocrats includes some sovereign, as well as non-sovereign titles. Because of the unique setup of the Empire, the German system of nobility is especially complicated, with holders of nominally lower titles often outranking holders of seemingly higher titles.

The territories that constituted the German-speaking Kingdom of Prussia were situated both inside and outside the formal borders of the Holy Roman Empire. The great rival to Prussia for leadership of the German-speaking states was the House of Habsburg (later Habsburg-Lorraine), who ruled a vast network of territories including the Archduchy of Austria. The Archdukes of Austria had also been elected Emperors since the 15th Century, and it was the Habsburg Emperor Francis II who formally dissolved the Holy Roman Empire as a political entity in 1806. Prussia eventually became the state that would impress its culture and values upon the future nation of Germany.

The 18th century Kingdom of Hungary was a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual state that includes the area corresponding to the modern Magyar-speaking nation of Hungary, but also Transylvania, and parts of modern Croatia, Slovakia, and Serbia. It was a possession of the Austrian Habsburgs, and the Archduke of Austria was also the King of Hungary (as well as being Holy Roman Emperor). The official language of State was Latin, but German was widely spoken in the towns. The higher titled nobility, like their fellow titled aristocrats elsewhere in Europe, spoke French as their preferred language. The lesser nobility spoke Magyar (Hungarian). The Habsburg royalty (who generally stayed in Vienna) spoke German. While the Archduchy of Austria was a part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary was not. The Kingdom was incorporated as a constituent part of the Austrian Empire in 1804.

Random German Aristocrats, in Ascending Precedence (d100)

1 – 20 | Junker (Otherwise untitled aristocrat)
21 – 30 | Edler (Lowest hereditary title) (Style: “High Well-Born”)
31 – 40 | Ritter (Hereditary Knighthood) (Niederer Adel) (Style: “High Well-Born”)
41 – 45| Reichsritter (Imperial Knight) (Niederer Adel) (Style: “High Well-Born”)
46 | Knight of the Royal Order of Saint George for the Defense of the Immaculate Conception (Conferred by the Elector of Bavaria)
47 | Knight of the Order of the Red Eagle (Conferred by the King of Prussia) [Roll again for additional title, if any]
48 | Knight of the Order of the Black Eagle (Conferred by the King of Prussia)[Roll again for additional title]
49 | Knight of the Order of Saint John (Protestant Bailiwick) [Roll again for additional title]
50 – 51| Teutonic Knight (Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem)
52 – 53 | Knight of the Golden Spur (Non-hereditary, conferred by the Emperor)[Roll again for additional title]
54 – 56 | Herr (Lord) (Niederer Adel) (Style: “High Well-Born”)
57 – 62 | Freiherr or Freifrau (Baron or Baroness) (Non-sovereign, and/or “Niederer Adel”) (Style: “High Well-Born”)
63 – 64 | Burggraf or Burggräfin (Viscount or Viscountess) (Non-sovereign, and/or “Niederer Adel”) (Style: “High-Born”)
65 – 66 | Graf or Gräfin (Count or Countess) (Non-sovereign, and/or “Niederer Adel”) (Style: “High-Born”)
67 – 68 | Landgraf or Landgräfin (Landgrave or Landgravine) (Non-sovereign, and/or “Niederer Adel”) (Style: “High-Born”)
69 – 70 | Markgraf or Markgräfin (Marquis or Marquise) (Non-sovereign, and/or “Niederer Adel”) (Style: “High-Born”)
71 – 72 | Prinz or Prinzessin (Son or Daughter of a reigning Prince) (Hochedel or “Niederer Adel”) (Style: “High-Born”)
73 – 74 | Fürst or Fürstin (Prince or Princess) (Non-sovereign, and/or “Niederer Adel”) (Style: “Princely Grace”)
75 – 76 | Herzog or Herzogin (Duke or Duchess) (Non-sovereign, and/or “Niederer Adel”) (Style: “Ducal Grace”)
77 – 78 | Herr (Lord) (Lord) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Illustrious Highness”)
79 – 80 | Reichsfreiherr or Reichsfreifrau (Imperial Baron or Imperial Baroness) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Illustrious Highness”)
81 – 82 | Reichsgraf or Reichsgräfin (Imperial Count or Imperial Countess) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Illustrious Highness”)
83 – 84 | Landgraf or Landgräfin (Landgrave or Landgravine) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Illustrious Highness”)
85 – 86 | Markgraf or Markgräfin (Marquis or Marquise) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Illustrious Highness”)
87 – 88 | Pfalzgraf or Pfalzgräfin (Count Palantine or Countess Palantine) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Illustrious Highness”)
89 – 90 | Reichsfürst or Reichsfürstin (Prince or Princess) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Illustrious Highness”)
91 – 92 | Herzog or Herzogin (Duke or Duchess) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Serene Highness”)
93 – 94 | Grossfürst or Grossfürstin (Grand Prince or Grand Princess) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Serene Highness”)
95 – 96 | Grossherzog or Grossherzogin (Grand Duke or Grand Duchess) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Ducal Serene Highness”)
97 – 98 | Erzherzog or Erzherzogin (Archduke or Archduchess) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Most Serene Highness”)
99 – 100 | Kurfürst or Kurfürin (Prince-elector or Princess-elector) (Sovereign “Hochadel”) (Style: “Most Serene Highness”)

Notes about German titles:

  • The particles “von” (“of” [a family name]) and “zu” (“at” [a castle or territory possessed by the family]) generally indicate nobility. When the family name is the same as their castle or territory, the form is “von und zu”.
  • The term “Hochedel” indicates high nobility that rules a state of the Empire, or that formerly ruled a state subsequently incorporated into another. “Niederer Adel” indicates lesser nobility that never ruled a state in their own right. A Reichsfreiherr (Imperial Baron) who rules a sovereign state of the Empire is Hochedel, and outranks an ordinary Graf (Count) who is Niederer Adel.
  • The children of a titled noblemen are both noble and titled. The titles borne by non-reigning members of noble families are always the lesser equivalent titles employed by the Niederer Adel, even if their family is Hochedel. For example, the sons of a Pfalzgraf (Count Palatine) bear the lesser title Graf (Count). The son or daughter of a reigning Fürst or Reichsfürst bears the special title Prinz or Prinzessin.
  • Some titles (such as “Graf”) can be either Hochedel or Niederer Adel, depending on whether or not the holder is also sovereign over a state of the Empire.
  • Around the time of the French Revolution the German nobility begins to further distinguish between the “Uradel” (families ennobled before the 14th century) and the “Briefadel” (families ennobled by letters-patent after the 14th century). The former naturally look down upon the latter.
  • Both the Uradel and Briefedel look down on everyone else. The least-important Junker is considered the social superior of the wealthiest non-noble financier.
  • King George III of Great Britain is also the hereditary Prince-Elector of Hanover.
  • The Holy Roman Empire is dissolved by Emperor Francis II in 1806, after the western states succeed to form the pro-French “Confederation of the Rhine”.
  • The sheer number of German states and titles invites the assumption of false titles by impostors; for all the average person outside the Empire knows, there might actually be a “Fürst of Stierscheisseland”!

Random Hungarian Aristocrats, in Ascending Precedence

1 – 5 | Impoverished, or “Sandalled”nobility
6 – 10 | “Bene Possessionati” (Wealthy, but otherwise untitled nobility)
11 | Knight of the Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary [Roll again for additional title]
12 | Báró or Báróné (Baron or Baroness. German equivalent: Freiherr or Freifrau) (Magnate)
13 | Vicomte or Vicomtessz (Viscount or Viscountess. German equivalent: Vizegraf or Vizegräfin) (Magnate)
14 | Alispán (Viscount; hereditary deputy-administrator of a megye, or County. German equivalent: Vizegespan) (Magnate)
15 | Gróf or Grófnő (Count or Countess. German equivalent: Graf or Gräfin) (Magnate)
16 | Ispán (Count; hereditary administrator of a megye, or County. German equivalent: Gespan) (Magnate)
17 | Marki or Márkiné (Marquis or Marquise. German equivalent: Markgraf or Markgräfin) (Magnate)
18 | Herceg or Hercegnő (Duke or Duchess. German equivalent: Herzog or Herzogin) (Magnate)
19 | Ban (Croatian and Serbian title) (Magnate)
20 | Fürst or Fürstin (Prince or Princess. German title)

Notes about Hungarian titles:

  • About 5% of the population of the Kingdom of Hungary is considered noble, a relatively high number. Most of those are untitled and relatively poor, however.
  • Theoretically all nobles have the same rights and legal status. In practice, a distinction is made between the poor (or “sandalled”) nobility, the middle nobility (or “Bene Possessionati”), and the Magnates (titled nobility).
  • Magnates have seats in the Upper House of the Hungarian Diet. They tend to not be Magyar in origin, and were mostly granted their titles by the reigning Habsburgs. The titles “Ispán” and “Alispán”, however, date from before the Habsburg period.
  • Ispán and Alispán are also the titles of government officials responsible for the administration of the various Counties of the Kingdom. The two terms are only noble titles in Counties where the positions are hereditary.
  • Many Magnates have German rather than Magyar titles. Since the Magyar word “Herceg” means both Duke and Prince, those who claim the title of “Prince” may bear the German title “Fürst”. Note also that most Magnates are likely to use the French equivalent of their titles at social events.
  • The Magyar (Hungarian) language does not employ an “ennobling particle” between the given and family names. The title is is given first, then the family name, and lastly the given name.
  • Nobles of German descent (or who have German titles) may give their name in the Western manner, however, with “von”, “zu”, or “von und zu” before their family name. Some Magnates may employ the French ennobling particle “de”.
  • The “Bene Possessionati” tend to speak Magyar, wear Hungarian clothing, and otherwise eschew both French and German culture.
  • The title “Voivode” (the title born by Vlad Tepes, or Dracula) is no longer used in the Kingdom of Hungary. Nonetheless, it might still be claimed by an individual whose memories seem to stretch over a longer period than seems logically possible…
  • The historical “Order of the Dragon” (whose most famous member was Vlad Dracula) is extinct. Nobody should claim to still be a member…

Incest and the  House of Habsburg

Much of Europe was once ruled by the House of Habsburg, which maintained a hold in its territories through consanguineous marriages. While the royalty of Europe was inbred in general, the early modern Habsburgs were incest enthusiasts. Marrying your cousin was usual for aristocracy, but the Habsburgs also specialized in such innovations as marrying uncles to nieces. All that breeding from their own stock resulted in the inevitable rise of birth defects and mental retardation. It was easy to discern a pure Habsburg; they tended to have a distinctively long face, and often suffered from a protruding lower jaw that produced the infamous “Habsburg lip”. It’s little wonder that the original male-line Habsburgs died out in the 18th century, victims of their own polluted gene pool. Only the branches of the family that had become amalgamated with other noble houses (such as the House of Habsburg-Lorraine) survived.