25% Off Ghastly Affair PDFs for Christmas in July!

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Both “Ghastly Affair” Illustrated PDFs are now 25% OFF for DriveThruRPG’s Christmas in July Sale!

NOW is the time to get your digital copy of the acclaimed “Ghastly Affair” books, specially designed for on-screen viewing and usability. Each is fully bookmarked, indexed, and extensively hyperlinked throughout. There’s never been a better time to discover the dark romance and shocking horror of Ghastly Affair!

Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual (Illustrated PDF Version)
Regularly: $12.95.
NOW just: $9.71!

Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual (Illustrated PDF Version)
Regularly: $9.95.
NOW just $7.46!

Now until the end of July!

Note: Because Ghastly Affair is intended for mature gamers, you’ll need to sign in to DriveThruRPG to see the listings.

Three Monstrous New Preternatural Effects For the Ghastly Affair RPG

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Antoine Wiertz - Faim, folie et crime

Ghoulish Appetite (Transmutation)

Level: Preternatural Power 1
Affected Area: User
Duration: Until dawn
Saving Throw: None

This power allows a Vampyre to consume human flesh instead of drinking blood. Two ounces of human flesh is equal to one pint of blood. For example, a 5th Level Vampyre who otherwise need 5 pints of blood a night can instead consume 10 ounces of human flesh. The flesh must be human, but need not be fresh. It can in fact be in an advanced state of decomposition.

The Vampyric Form of one with this power will have facial features vaguely reminiscent of a jackal, hyena, or vulture.

Monstrous Offspring (Transmutation)

Level: Incantation 3, Ceremony 2, Pact 3, Mad Invention 2, Preternatural Power 3
Affected Area: 1 Nearby Recipient or User
Duration: Permanent
Saving Throw: Negates

The User curses the next child of the Subject (male or female) to be born a Monster. If the User employs this effect upon their own unborn child, the resulting Monster will regard the User with the same affection as any other child, willingly obeying directions.

The Monster so created could be anything from an Ogre to a Lake Serpent, but will never be higher Level than the User. Naturally, it will be born small, with only 1 Hit Die. It will grow at the rate of 1 HD per month, until it reaches its final size. The Monster could also be a chimeric blend of creatures. For example, a witch in the British colony of New Jersey once gave birth to a Monstrous Offspring that resembled some kind of devil, with the head of a horse, the body of a dog, the hooves of a goat, and the wings of a bat.

Each use of this effect automatically raises the User’s Perversity by 1 point.

Steal Breath (Malediction)

Level: Incantation 2, Pact 2, Mad Invention 3, Preternatural Power 2
Affected Area: 1 Nearby Recipient
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Negates

The User causes a living being to lose their breath, inflicting 1d6 points of Lethal Damage, plus 1d6 points of Nonlethal Damage. Nonliving, naturally incorporeal, or non-breathing Creatures (including most Spirits, but not Fairies) are immune to a Steal Breath effect.

Vampyres can use this Effect to feed. Each point of Lethal Damage inflicted is equivalent to drinking 1 pint of blood. Those who feed this way can choose to only inflict 1 point of Lethal Damage to a victim, but the Nonlethal Damage is still 1d6. The face of such a Vampyre in their Vampyric Form will often have a vaguely feline cast.

Random Generation of Aristocratic Families

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Jean-Bernard Duvivier - Portrait of the Villers Family - WGA06900

This draft excerpt from  “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, and Estates” will assist you in creating the family inhabiting a grand house of the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Naturally, the tables are weighted to produce results appropriate for a Gothic Game of Romantic Horror! Remember also that while household arrangements involving live-in mistresses and lovers were well-known among the titled aristocracy of Europe, they were still considered scandalous among the lower gentry, haute bourgeoisie, and lower classes (outside Italy).

The household consists of a… (d20)

1 – 7 | husband and wife,
8 – 9 | widowed man and his new wife,
10 | widowed man,
11 | widowed woman and her new husband,
12 | widowed woman,
13 | husband, wife, and the husband’s mistress;
14 | widowed man, his new wife, and the man’s mistress;
15 | widowed man and his mistress,
16 | widowed woman, her new husband, and his mistress;
17 | husband, wife, and the wife’s lover (cicisbeo, or cavalier servente);
18 | widowed woman, her new husband, and the wife’s lover;
19 | husband, wife, the husband’s mistress, and the wife’s lover;
20 | widowed woman, her new husband, the wife’s lover, and the husband’s mistress;

with… (d20)

1 – 5 | no sons,
6 – 10 | one son,
11 – 15 | two sons,
16 | three sons,
17 | four sons,
18 | five sons,
19 | six sons,
20 | seven sons,

and.. (d20)

1 – 5 | no daughters,
6 – 10 | one daughter,
11 – 15 | two daughters,
16 | three daughters,
17 | four daughters,
18 | five daughters,
19 | six daughters,
20 | seven daughters,

along with… (d12)

1 | 1d4 of the children’s grandparents.
2 | 1d4 of the parents’ siblings.
3 | 1d4 cousins.
4 | an adopted foundling boy or girl.
5 | 1d4 of the grandparents, and an adopted foundling boy or girl.
6 | 1d4 of the grandparents, and 1d4 of the parents’ siblings.
7 | 1d4 of the grandparents, and 1d4 cousins.
8 | 1d4 of the grandparents, 1d4 of the parents’ siblings, and 1d8 cousins.
9 | 1d4 of the grandparents, 1d4 of the parents’ siblings, 1d8 cousins, and an adopted foundling.
10 | the wife’s “romantic friend”. [Roll again on this subtable, ignoring a second result of “10”.]
11 – 12 | no other relations.

The married couple are… (d12)

1 – 2| first cousins.
3| double first cousins.
4 – 6| second cousins.
7 – 9| third cousins.
10 – 13| fourth (or further) cousins.
14| unknowingly brother and sister (or half-siblings).
15 – 20| completely unrelated to each other.

Notes

    • Roll d20 to determine the ages of sons and daughters in the household. Two offspring the same age are twins.
    • Aristocrats from titled families are generally 13+d6 years old at the time of their first marriage. Gentry will be married at age 15+d6. Haute bourgeoisie are usually 17+d6 years years old when they marry. In all cases, husbands can be significantly older than wives.
    • A married son may still be living in the household with his new wife.
    • A man can publicly flaunt his mistress, and his wife will be expected to accept the situation. Any children born to the mistress are not legitimate, however, and cannot inherit.
    • A wife’s relationship with her live-in lover will usually be kept very discreet, except in southeastern Provence and Italy (where the Cicisbeo, Cavalier Servente, or Chevalier Servant is understood to be part of the household). In other places, the lover may be officially employed as the “Estate Manager” or husband’s Secretary. One or more of the wife’s children could have been actually fathered by the lover, but the oldest son is probably the husband’s.
    • A wife with no sons will experience constant pressure to produce at least one who looks passably like her husband.
    • The seventh son of a seventh son, or seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, may be born with the powers of an initiated Magician!
    • If a paternal grandfather is living with the family, he will be insane, senile, or an invalid.
    • If cousins are living with the family, one will be the “toad eater” – a dependent spinster singled out for abuse by the rest of the household.
    • When a widowed man adopts a foundling girl, he may intend on eventually marrying her.
    • A woman’s “romantic friend” will be in addition to any male lover discreetly living in the household. The “friend” will generally occupy a bedchamber (or apartment) adjoining the wife’s. The relationship may or may not be physically intimate. Among the aristocracy, female “romantic friends” are permitted to be publicly affectionate without reproach. Two men, however, will usually need to keep their relationship completely secret, or else risk severe legal penalties.
    • Usually, aristocratic spouses are only completely unrelated when one spouse is a foreigner, or the marriage is morganatic (between spouses of unequal social rank, where the children are excluded from inheritance).

An Update on Work in Progress for the Ghastly Affair RPG

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London-Woolwich, Royal Arsenal, 18th c

As you may have noticed, the pace of posts on this blog has slowed down somewhat. That’s because I’ve been concurrently working on three (3!) supplements to Ghastly Affair: “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, and Estates”, “A Ghastly Companion to High Society”, and “A Ghastly Companion to Gothic Icons”. Drafts of some of the material have already premiered here on the blog. Naturally, other material will be exclusive to the books! My plan is to have at least one of them out before the end of the year.

Right now, I am primarily focused on “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, and Estates”, and its system for quickly generating plausible estates of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in whatever level of detail the Presenter desires. You will be able to sketch a location out in broad strokes, but also be ready to detail what a character finds if they search any room of the house. Most of all, it will be possible to run Affairs in stately homes and castles of 100 rooms or more with only minimal, or even no, preparation! I want to give you the tools to run a “Gothic sandbox”, where characters are allowed to freely wander Europe from estate to estate (as aristocrats of the time often did), finding new horrors and intrigues wherever they go. And the system is designed to create structures and properties that feel real, and facilitate immersive role-playing. Naturally, a full method for generating estate-focused Gothic scenarios will be included! Plus, the “Companion” will include discussions of the various kinds of grand houses; the differences between estates in various countries; pointers on creating plausible floorplans; information on the lives and duties of servants; and example maps. Highdark Hall may even find its way in!

Of course, “A Ghastly Companion to High Society” will compliment “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, and Estates”, but both books will offer plenty of stand-alone value. The goal is to allow modern Players and Presenters to mentally inhabit the opulently horrible world of 18th century aristocrats, without months of research. The Presenter will be able to confidently run historically-accurate scenarios set at extravagant dinner parties, in the luxurious boxes of the opera, at the gambling tables of spa towns, or on the dance floors of romantic masquerade balls. Experience the exhausting parties of the London Season, or try to survive a sojourn at Versailles, where arcane rules of etiquette are wielded like swords. Maybe you’ll meet Catherine the Great, or have an audience with Pope Pius VI! Plus, it will include a High Society chronology, with the dates of important parties, balls, coronations, Parliaments, musical premieres, scandals, and crimes in High Society.

“A Ghastly Companion to Gothic Icons” will allow you to bring the classic characters and authors of Gothic (and dark Romantic) literature into your game. Some of them have already premiered on this blog. Other figures planned for inclusion are the Marquis de Sade (and his literary daughters Justine and Juliette); characters from the writings of Matthew Lewis; the original Baron Vordenberg (who loved the young Countess Mircalla Karnstein); the infamous William Beckford (author of “Vathek”); Samuel Coleridge (along with his Ancient Mariner, and the revenant Geraldine), the entire party from the famous “Geneva Summer” that produced both “Frankenstein” and “The Vampyre”; and more. There may even be an appearance from a certain vampyre who studied necromancy at the fabled Scholomance!

Interview: Ghastly Affair’s Daniel James Hanley

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Dreadpunk

GhastlyAffairHallway Art by Stacey Kaelin

Although I haven’t been an active gamer in years, I’ve maintained an interest in role-playing game world-building. What intrigued me about Ghastly Affair — The Gothic Game of Romantic Horror was its pre-Victorian setting. While my personal tastes run more towards the era of Stoker and Stevenson, it was cool to see a game that embraced the roots of Gothic literature.

What follows is an interview with writer and designer Daniel James Hanley where he discusses his interest in Gothic fiction and how it relates to RPGs. Even if you aren’t interested in gaming, I recommend checking out his website Engine of Oracles. It’s loaded with facts and trivia that might be of special interest to new authors looking to explore the Gothic genre.

Derek Tatum: How would you describe Ghastly Affair to newcomers?

Daniel James Hanley:Ghastly Affair is a game where players assume the roles…

View original post 1,399 more words

20 Unusual Customs and Superstitions of Grand Houses

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Carlton House, Grand Staircase, by Charles Wild, 1819 - royal coll 922173 257092 ORI 0

Besides having an individual name, a stately home of the Ghastly Age (1765 -1820) might also have its own customs observed nowhere else. They could be evidence of a suppressed and tragic history, be related to a supernatural haunting, indicate the existence of a secret society, or even be the remnants of some clandestine cult. Of course, the following list can be useful not just to Ghastly Affair Presenters, but also for GMs of Horror, Georgian, Napoleonic, Victorian-era, Mannerpunk, or Steampunk games, whenever characters are guests (or investigators) in old mansions, châteaux, or estate houses.

For some curious reason… (d20)

1 | Guests are expected to participate in a unique trick-taking card game played only here. The trump suit depicts the nobility of Hell.
2 | Nobody is supposed to wear a certain color, because it is associated with a family ancestor who died tragically.
3 | The coffee is always served in a cup with a braid of grass twined around the handle. If asked why, the answer will be “to remember her, when it was May”.
4 | Every guest must adopt a different name for the duration of their stay.
5 | Men and women must eat at separate tables. They change tables in-between each “stage” or course, of the dinner.
6 | When the women retire to the drawing room to play cards after a meal, they must don masks.
7 | A small glass of cordial is left on the billiards table at all times.
8 | An extra setting is always left at the table. When asked why, the answer will be “for the Queen, of course”. If the questioner assumes that the current Queen is meant, the person questioned will explain that that the setting is intended for “the Queen who has never reigned”.
9 | A unique toast is always made between the first and second courses at dinner, to the glory of “Our patron, Old Man B”. Participation I mandatory, but nobody can (or will) explain who is being toasted.
10 | Guests of the house must attend services in the strange chapel every night. The service is evidently Christian, but of no known denomination. Likewise, the saintly figures depicted on the walls of the chapel are unidentifiable.
11 | All the windows of the house are barred shut at sundown on a particular night, and are not to be opened for any reason.
12 | One kind of flesh (pork, beef, fish, or poultry) is never served. When asked why, the hosts will only remark that “some things remain forbidden, even now”.
13 | The door to a certain room is never opened without a short prayer first being uttered.
14 | There is always served at dinner a dish that no one is supposed to eat.
15 | When returning from shooting or a hunt, all guns must be discharged before passing by a certain tree
16 | Every afternoon a glass of wine (or beer) is poured out on a certain spot on the lawn, which is marked by a large stone.
17 | Small mirrors are tucked behind the furniture in certain places throughout the house. They are inscribed with strange sigils. The servants will become extremely agitated if a mirror is moved, but will only say that “now you’ve made it angry”.
18 | There is a step on the grand staircase that is different color than the rest. One must not place a foot on that step, but always stride over it. If a guest asks why, they’ll be told that “he will you catch you, if you do”.
19 | An antique child’s toy is always left in one corner of an otherwise elegantly appointed salon, and must never be removed. Nobody can remember why.
20 | The skull of the house’s architect is under a glass dome on the mantle of the front vestibule. If asked, the family and servants both insist that if the skull is ever moved, it will scream, and ruin will fall upon the house.

Mary Shelley: a Historical NPC for Ghastly Affair

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The early adulthood of 19th century wild-child Mary Shelley was the stuff of romance novels, culminating in the creation of English-language Science Fiction genre with her classic “Frankenstein”. She would later go on to be the driving force behind the popularization of her husband Percy’s poetry, as well as being a pioneer of post-apocalyptic fiction (through her 1826 novel “The Last Man”). The following write-up is for Mary at age 18, when she is just about to create the now iconic figures of Victor Frankenstein and his Creature.

Shelley Easton

Mary Shelley (June 16, 1816)

Scandalous daughter of radical authors, and future creator of “Frankenstein”

Full Name: Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin
Aliases: Mary Godwin, Mary Shelley (often used, although she is not yet Percy Shelley’s legal wife), Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (future)
Class: Everywoman
Level: 2
Appearance/Most Memorable Characteristic(s): An exceptionally pale young woman with light brown hair and hazel eyes. She prefers loose clothing in light colors. Her emotions are very restrained. Those who knew Mary Wollstonecraft will note how much young Mary’s manner reminds them of her mother.
Age: 18

Charisma: 10 Intelligence: 14 Wisdom: 12
Strength: 9 Dexterity: 10 Constitution: 9
Perversity: 10
Assets: Occult Knowledge, Historical Knowledge, True Love (Percy Shelley)
Afflictions: Scandalous, Prone to Melancholy

Speed: 9
Hit Points: 12
Attacks: 1 improvised weapon
Damage Bonus: +1

Special Abilities: Profession: Writer | Avocation: Writer  | Affection (+1): William Godwin (her father, although the two are currently estranged) | Social Contacts: William Godwin (father, radical author); Samuel Coleridge (author, family friend); Charles Lamb (author, family friend); Lady Margaret King, Countess of Mount Cashell (family friend, former pupil of Mary’s mother); Percy Shelley (poet, lover); Jane “Claire” Clairmont (step-sister); Thomas Jefferson Hogg (barrister, Percy’s friend, and briefly a secondary lover); Thomas Love Peacock (author); Lord Byron (poet, recent acquaintance; Doctor John Polidori (physician, recent acquaintance) (Note that because her Profession and Avocation are both “Writer”, Mary gets a special +3 Bonus on relevant Ability Checks).
Weaknesses: Phobia: Ridicule | Prejudice: High Society (despite the fact that Percy was born an aristocrat!)

Typical Equipment Carried: Loose white dress, reticule (with journal and pencil)
Residence: A cottage near the Villa Diodati, the house rented by Lord Byron on the shore of Lake Geneva.

Background:

  • August 30, 1797: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born to Mary Wollstonecraft and radical author William Godwin, in Somers Town of north London. Mary Wollstonecraft was operated upon by a surgeon due to complications from the delivery, and developed a serious infection.
  • September 10, 1797: Mary Wollstonecraft died from septicemia.
  • December 21, 1801: William Godwin married Mary Jane Clairmont, who became Mary’s stepmother. Mary Jane’s illegitimate children, Charles and Jane, joined the household with Mary and her half-sister Fanny (Mary Wollstonecraft’s daughter by her lover Gilbert Imlay). Young Mary grew to intensely dislike her stepmother.
  • November 11, 1812: Mary first met poet, atheist, and anti-monarchist Percy Shelley, who had come to her house to meet his political idol, William Godwin.
  • May 5, 1814: Mary met Percy Shelley again. Percy, whose father was a wealthy Baronet, had come to finalize a loan to cover William Godwins’ extensive debts. Mary and Percy fell in love, and contrived regular meeting thereafter. Unfortunately, Percy was already married.
  • June 26, 1814: Mary and Percy made love for the first time at her mother’s grave.
  • July 28, 1814: Forbidden from seeing each other any more by Mary’s father, Mary and Percy ran away together to France. Mary’s stepsister Jane asked to accompany them. Since neither Mary or Percy spoke French (but Jane did), they agreed to take her. Percy eventually wrote to his wife and asked her to join him and Mary in a ménage à trois, but she refused. Rapidly burning through their money, Mary and Percy traveled through France to Switzerland, and took a boat-ride up the Rhine.
  • September 2, 1814: During their Rhine journey Mary and Percy spent a night in Gernsheim, close to the ruined Castle Frankenstein.
  • September 13, 1814: Completely broke, Mary and Percy arrived back in London. Mary’s stepsister Jane continued living with them, and began using the name “Clara”, or “Claire”. Mary experienced social ostracism due to living openly with Percy.
  • November, 1815: Percy began encouraging Mary and his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg to become lovers.
  • February 22, 1815: Mary gave birth to a daughter, two-months premature.
  • March 6, 1815: Mary found her baby daughter dead in her crib.
  • March 13, 1815: Mary recorded in her journal that she dreamed her dead baby had been revived.
  • January 24, 1816: Mary gave birth to a son, William.
  • May 2, 1816: Claiming to have become Lord’s Byron‘s mistress, Claire convinced Mary and Percy to accompany her to Switzerland to meet the famous poet. Unbeknownst to the couple, she had also told Byron that she and Percy were lovers, and had insinuated in a letter that Mary might be sexually available as well.
  • May 27, 1816: Mary, Percy, William, and Claire met up with Lord Byron at a hotel outside Geneva. Byron was initially displeased that Claire had followed him to Switzerland, but later took advantage of the situation in his usual manner.
  • June 1, 1816: Mary and Percy rented a small cottage on the shore of Lake Geneva, where they resided with William and Claire.
  • June 10, 1816: Lord Byron and his physician John Polidori moved into a villa ten minutes away from Mary and Percy’s cottage. The group began spending their days together.
  • June 16, 1816: After a sudden storm forced them all inside the Byron’s Villa Diodati, the group began reading aloud from a collection of ghost stories. Byron proposed that each create their own ghost story to tell the group.

Personality and Role-Playing Notes:

Contrary to her scandalous reputation in England as a shameless slut and enthusiastic home-wrecker, Mary’s demeanor is strikingly controlled and intellectual. She can even come across as “cold”. In fact she often suffers from deep melancholy that she does her best to hide. Mary still grieves the death of her first child, although she will not speak of her. Although she often seems overly serious, and fears being personally ridiculed, Mary actually possesses a good sense of humor. She is always conscious of being the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, and feels an obligation to live up to what she thinks would have been her mother’s expectations for her. At the same time, she feels guilty for having been indirectly the cause of her mother’s death. Mary is also deeply troubled by her current estrangement from her father. Mary will be vocal in her support of Free Love, the overthrow of monarchies, reforming the criminal justice system, educating the lower class, abolishing slavery, and equality for women. She (and Percy) make a point of never using sugar, because it is produced by slaves in the Caribbean. Above all, Mary will never let any statement supporting the existing social order go unanswered!

Mary Shelley in Your Game:

The Player Characters might be among the guests caught up in the intrigues, debates, and antics at the Villa Diodati during the stormy week of June 16th. With her obvious occult interests, Mary will be particularly keen to speak any Magicians or Mad Scientists she might encounter! It is possible that one of the PCs tells a story, or makes a remark, that inspires Mary’s future literary output. The Presenter should always explore themes of “Frankenstein” whenever PCs interact with Mary – death, immortality, responsibility towards one’s creations, guilt, rejection, social justice, and the limits of science. Mary might be encouraged by Percy to take a Player Character as a lover, just as he had encouraged Mary and his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg. It should be remembered that Mary’s five-month-old son William is with her, and she will not be able to go off on an adventure by herself, unless she leaves the boy with Claire, or one of Byron‘s servants.

Note: Different sources give conflicting dates for the chronology of events around the writing of “Frankenstein”, and disagree about how licentious the activities of that summer were. You should naturally present them in whatever way makes the best Gothic story!

More Great Stuff From Other People

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At the “Wine and Savages” blog, Sean Bircher is converting Ghastly Affair’s character classes (and the typical Adversaries listed in the Presenter’s Manual) for use with the Savage Worlds rules. I mentioned Bircher’s “The King is Dead” setting in an earlier post, and I recommend checking out his work.

As previously mentioned on this blog, William Rutter’s debut novel “Hunter’s Song” is now available on Amazon. The protagonist Lila Davenport is no helpless damsel awaiting rescue, but a heroic woman who defiantly faces the evil that invades her life. The fast-paced book is beautifully written, and supremely readable. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in the themes and historical era of Ghastly Affair!

Kubla Khan and the Prison-Paradise Xanadu

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Samuel Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” is one of the greatest works of English literature, but the writer famously insisted it was simply a fragment of a far larger vision that came to him in an opium dream. Kubla Khan (and his realm of Xanadu) are perfect vehicles for the “Ghastly Affair” Presenter to explore themes of addiction, retreat into delusion, and Western misconceptions of the “exotic East”. I have emphasized the implied darkness in the poem to create an insidious enemy who aspires to total control of nothing less than the imagination. Like all the Incarnations of spiritual powers in “Ghastly Affair”, Kubla Khan is a plot device to drive several Affairs (or an entire Saga), and not just another monster to be faced in combat.

Kubla Khan

The terrible master of Xanadu, and would-be Emperor of the Dream Worlds

Signs & Portents: The weather turns suddenly calm, sunny, and warm. The smell of flowers and incense wafts in the wind, even in winter. People are overcome with bittersweet memories of lost loves and times long past.
Initial Impression: An man of apparently Asian descent with a long drooping mustache, an arrogant bearing, and fierce eyes. His long hair seems to float in some otherwise imperceptible wind. He is dressed in an exquisitely embroidered robe of yellow silk, with an intricate crown of similar material. Sometimes he appears instead in ornate lamellar armor. The mingled scent of vanilla, musk, sandalwood, and jasmine suffuses the air around him. At his waist he wears a long dagger.
Size: Human-sized

Perversity: 15
Disposition: Aggressive
Charisma: 20 Intelligence: 20 Wisdom: 20
Strength: 20 Dexterity: 20 Constitution: 20
Speed: 9

Armor Class: 10
Hit Dice: 20 (120 Hit Points)
Attacks: 1 dagger
Special Abilities: Mythical Abilities, Transpose Minds
Weaknesses: Limited Power Over Spirits, Defeated by Encirclement.
Assets: Imposing Presence, Connoisseur of all Pleasures, Brilliant Strategist
Afflictions: Arrogant
Preternatural Powers: All Glamors; all 0 – 3rd Level Divinations, Evocations, Fascinations, Glamors Maledictions, and Transmutations; but no Blessings.
Favored Preternatural Powers: Augury, Disguise Self, Read Minds, Charm Person, Confusion, Hypnotism, Ignore Pain, Enhanced Hearing, Mirage Arcane, Phantasmagoria V, Programmed Phantasmagoria, Speak with Dead, Sleep.

Usual Surroundings: The Pleasure Dome of Xanadu; High Society parties with an “Oriental” theme; Chinoiserie Gardens and Pavilions; wherever opium is smoked, or laudanum consumed.
Level: 10

From his Pleasure Dome in the paradise-prison of Xanadu, Kubla Khan schemes to dominate all the Worlds of Dream. He is not the historical Kublai Khan, but instead walking nightmare born from distorted and half-remembered tales knit together in fevered opium dreams.

Closely studying Kubla Khans’s visage (and a successful Wisdom Check) will reveal that his facial features are not actually those of an East Asian, but a Caucasian wearing makeup to make him appear “Oriental”. Likewise, anybody familiar with Asian cultures will be able to tell that the designs on his robes are an amalgamation of psuedo-Chinese, Turkish, Hindu, and Persian motifs – beautiful, but inauthentic in every detail. The apparent Chinese characters on his clothing do not actually have any meaning. Everything about his attire, manners, and speech patterns will seem wrong to someone actually raised in Chinese culture.

The personality of Kubla Khan’s is imperious and imposing. Always, he pursues his ultimate plan of conquest. To that end he will offer whatever pleasure is most tempting to his future pawns. He might pass a jeweled opium pipe, hand off a goblet filled with sweet wine and an orchid, or present a perfumed concubine trained in every art of love.

Kubla Khan’s paradisaical realm of Xanadu is a valley ten miles in diameter, surrounded by high hills, and encompassed by a wall studded with towers. The sacred river Alph meanders through the land, erupting in a tumult from a chasm at one end, and running five miles before tumbling into caverns that lead to a Sunless Sea. On the banks of the Alph is a grand and movable Pleasure Dome of gilded wood and bamboo, whose exact location is constantly changed according to the whims of Kubla Khan. Within wait courtiers and courtesans who may assume whatever body the seeker of pleasure desires. Underneath Xanadu are the fabled Caves of Ice, providing cool drinks and frozen sweets. The land surrounding the Alph is a patchwork of gardens, fields, and ancient woods, cut through by sinuous streams. Tall pagodas dot a landscape patrolled by men with the heads of white horses, some ridden by simian archers in plumed helmets. The fields are thick with tall hemp and flowers – most of all opium poppies bleeding the so-called “milk of paradise”.

Xanadu might be found by anyone traversing Astral Plane to the Dream Worlds, but the most usual way to enter is directly through the ingestion of opium. Those who surrender to the sleep-visions of the drug may find their minds in the fields of Xanadu, confronted with wondrous visions of splendor far exceeding anything they have known in the mundane world. But Xanadu is the worst kind of trap for the soul. Anyone who sees it must Save versus Wisdom, or thereafter mentally revisit whenever they dream. At first this will seem a blessing, until the dreamer learns they can now dream of nothing else. The visions of loved ones and beloved places that once appeared during the night will be gone, replaced with the bewildering opulence of Xanadu. And as souls spend more time there, they gradually come to know its true darkness. They will see the pagodas where every variety and implication of pleasure and pain are explored for the amusement of Kubla Khan. They will wander the hidden gardens watered with the blood of tortured bodies. They will witness naked slaves hunted by Kubla Khan and his tigers. Eventually, they will discover the mutilated corpses frozen in the Caves of Ice. And after have succumbed fully to the poisonous pleasures of the realm, they will be be imprisoned in gilded cages for all eternity.

Kubla Khan’s Special Abilities:

Mythical Characteristics: Kubla Khan is immune to all mundane weapons, all poisons, all diseases, any effect of an electrical nature, and all Fascination effects. He can see perfectly regardless of illumination, is immune to blindness or any other debility caused by extremely bright light, retains the ability to distinguish colors in conditions of total darkness, and does not need time to adjust his eyes to changing light. Kubla Khan can speak, write, and understand all languages and forms of communication.

Transpose Minds: By looking into the eyes of another, Kubla Khan can Transpose Minds with them. The victim must save versus Charisma, or swoon into unconsciousness. When they awaken, they will find themselves in Kubla Khan’s body, sitting on his throne in the middle of the Pleasure Dome. The victim gains all the powers of Kubla Khan, and every inhabitant of Xanadu will address and treat them as such. They will be fed on honeydew, and generously given the “milk of paradise”. They will feel exhilarated, overcome with the splendor of their surroundings, and convinced that they have transcended the mundane world. Meanwhile, the mind of Kubla Khan will inhabit the earthly body of his victim, temporarily losing his own Abilities and Preternatural powers, but gaining those of the victim instead.

Time passes more quickly in Xanadu than on Earth (but inhabitants neither sleep nor age). For the first earthly day of the Transposition, the victim will live a full day in the Dream World, but only an hour will have passed on Earth. For every day that passes in the Mundane World thereafter, the amount of time the minds of Kubla Khan and his victim spend transposed increases by one earthly hour, and one day in Xanadu.

If the Transposition occurred while the victim was awake on Earth, the Incarnation of Kubla Khan will suddenly disappear from sight. Now inhabiting his victim’s body, Kubla Khan will proceed to to ruin their life. Friends, family, and lovers will be betrayed and abused, and the victim’s fortune will be wasted on every variety of vice. If the Transposition occurred while the victim’s mind was already in Xanadu, Kubla Khan will proceed to hide in the forests, gardens, and caverns of his realm. When the period of Transposition ends for that day, the victim will suddenly become aware of being back in their own body again, with no knowledge of what Kubla Khan did while wearing their form.

On the 25th earthly day, after the experience of 24 uninterrupted days ruling Xanadu, the victim will awaken in their own dream-body. They will be imprisoned inside one of the towers of Xanadu, however. Forever after they will be tended by courtiers and courtesans who will alternate between indulging the prisoner’s every sensual desire, and subjecting them to fiendishly inventive tortures witnessed by the true Kubla Khan. Meanwhile on Earth, their fleshy body will have fallen into a stupor from which it cannot be roused.

To undo the Transposition before their inevitable imprisonment, the victim must find and capture Kubla Khan and force him to look into their eyes again. Then their minds will switch back into the proper bodies, and the victim of the Transposition will thereafter be immune to the effects of Kubla Khan’s baleful gaze.

Kubla Khan’s Weaknesses:

Limited Power Over Spirits: Kubla Khan can only target other Mythical spirits of the Dream Worlds when he employs the Preternatural Powers Banish Spirit, Bind Spirit, and Summon Spirit.

Defeated by Encirclement: The Incarnation of Kubla Khan can be defeated by winding a length of specially-prepared cloth around his body three times. The cloth must first have been inscribed with the names of everyone the writer loves, and who loves them in return. The Master of Xanadu must first be be somehow held or restrained. Then the writer must close their eyes, and make three successive Dexterity Checks (with a -4 Penalty due to blindness) to successfully wind the cloth. If any of the Dexterity Checks are failed, the attempt will be wasted, and the cloth shredded. If they succeed, Kubla Khan is banished to his throne room in the Pleasure Dome, and all his current prisoners are released (either back to Earth, or on to their proper afterlife). If the Encirclement is performed on a willing victim with whom Kubla Khan has Transposed Minds, or on Kubla Khan while he inhabits a victim’s body, the Dexterity Checks do not need to be made. Kubla Khan would then be automatically banished back to his throne room, while the victim’s mind returns to their own body.

Concerning Astral and Dream Bodies

The Astral or Dream Body of a character possesses all of their characteristics and Hit Points, as well as copies of all the items they were wearing when they entered the Astral Plane (or Dream Worlds). Death on the Astral plane (or in a Dream World) does not usually kill the dreamer’s real body, however. If they were using Astral Projection the effect suddenly ends, and if they had been in slumber (natural or drug-induced) they awaken. This experience can be traumatic, however, inflicting the Affliction “Fatigued” until the subject experiences a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

Songs for Kubla Khan and Xanadu

Oriental Masquerade – Celtic Frost
Sweetleaf – Black Sabbath
Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles
Over the Mountain – Ozzy Osbourne
Xanadu – Rush
Shambala – Three Dog Night
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs like Me) – Marilyn Manson
Snowblind – Black Sabbath
Heroin – The Velvet Underground
Sober – Tool
Master of Puppets – Metallica

20 Dubious Statements by Questionable Occultists

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Each claim on the list that follows could certainly be the beginning of a larger plot. Some of them presuppose particular genders and preferences, but the Presenter (or GM) should naturally alter them as appropriate. Some of the claimants may have genuine powers – others will undoubtedly prove to be frauds. It could be a mistake to assume that the more outrageous claims are necessarily the false ones…

They look you in the eyes and say… (d20)

  1. “Indeed, I have learned the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone, a mystery held close by the Magi of Persia from time immemorial. I require only the dung of a completely white goat from a litter of four, raised by a girl who has never heard a human voice raised in anger. The girl must have been born on a Wednesday in the sign of Virgo, and must have had her head shaved every day of her life from birth. After that, everything required is perfectly ordinary. Besides a flawless twenty carat diamond, which I will also need. Soon.”

  2. “I have extracted the fabled Carbuncle from the head of a toad that once lived in my garden. Unfortunately, if not kept in complete darkness the gem will collapse into dust. Therefore, while priceless, it must be kept in this unopened box. I am willing to part with it for only a small compensation of, perhaps, 5,000 livres”.

  3. “I can restore you to perfect health by running my magnetized hands across your body. You will need to be nude, of course, but how else can I be sure that the magnetic power is unimpeded?”

  4. “Using the ancient art taught to me in distant Cathay, I can measure your destiny by the shape of your ears. You, for example, are fated to become famous as the generous patron of an extraordinary man.”

  5. “You cannot see them, but you are followed by an army of fiery elementals, eager to immolate the next place where you sleep. Due to my pacts with their King, I empowered to prevent their assaults. For a modest fee, of course.”

  6. “Tremble, for the Antichrist has been born. But, only I know where. I can tell you, but only if you commit to sponsoring my quest to destroy him. It will take us across Europe, to many picturesque places and spa towns.”

  7. “I hold in my hands the lost Grimoire of Quaestius. It contains a powerful ritual that will reduce the mighty Lucifer to little more than a personal valet. The required components can generally be acquired without undue effort. Except perhaps for the heart of a reigning sovereign, which may prove somewhat more troublesome.”

  8. “You stand in the presence of an ambassador from the Rosicrucian Brotherhood itself, which has now decided to admit as members the daughters of Eve. However, I am bound to first administer the test of love, to insure that you can truly become one with the Brotherhood in spirit, soul and body. It is a duty which by sacred oath I must perform, though be assured that I personally find it most distasteful.”

  9. “The secret method of distilling the sacred Aqua Aurae has been taught from mother to daughter in an unbroken line since the days of ancient Egypt. You must pour it over your head to attain the worldly success you desire. I understand that its color and smell may have distressing implications, but if I was simply handing you hand you a bottle of that, surely the price would be less?”

  10. “Concealed within my walking stick is the sacred horn of the unicorn, which grants me the power to remove any poison. No, I cannot profane it by exposing it to your sight. Yes, I can be induced to use its magic for a token fee. Such as 10 guineas.”

  11. “Do you swear on your honor to hold secret what I am about to impart? Good. I have possession of the Ring of Solomon itself, but the sacrifices necessary to employ its holy might are too expensive for me to afford without your patronage. Naturally, I will gladly use the powers of the Ring on your behalf.”

  12. “In truth, I can no longer remember how old I am. I know I stopped counting sometime after nine hundred.”

  13. “During the term of my service with the East India Company, I found opportunity to be initiated into the mysteries of the Hindu Gymnosophists. Among the many esoteric doctrines imparted to me was the secret of flight. Once, I flew clear across the tall Himalayas, and saw with my own eyes the mystic land of Shambhala. That was truly an adventure! Unfortunately, I have found upon my return that the food of Europe is excessively heavy, and therefore prevents my becoming airborne. Nor can I use the other powers of my light-body while so encumbered. However, if you you were pay for my passage back to Madras, I could certainly demonstrate my abilities for you there.”

  14. “The celestial alignment that will occur within a month’s time presages the end of the world. Unless, I can obtain a certain gem that I can use to focus the sun’s rays to repel the malign influence of the stars. Such a gem exists in the jewelers on the Rue de N- , and can be had for a trifle of 10,000 francs. Unfortunately, the gem will be ruined by the ritual, and I will not be able to return it to you. It is but a small annoyance compared to being the world’s savior, no?”

  15. “I have developed the recipe for a miraculous healing salve, whose effectiveness I will happily demonstrate to you. I will merely need to whip my housekeeper, and apply it to her wounds. Yes, she must be completely disrobed, as must I to avoid staining my clothes. Naturally, I will derive no inappropriate satisfaction from this necessary display, but the progress of spiritual science must go on!”

  16. “We Illuminated ones hold the keys to true power in every sphere worldly and spiritual. Of course, it is a rule of our Order that no member may know the identity of any other member, save the one who initiated him, and the one he initiates. But you can trust me that the Order is both vast and mighty. And the dues are thoroughly reasonable.”

  17. “By means of the ancient Druidic arts I can speak to the plants of your garden, and determine how best to tend them. Right now they are expressing excitement and eagerness to grow, if only the master of the estate would employ someone who understood their language.”

  18. “During my sojourn in Egypt I acquired a book which taught me a foolproof method of finding treasure. Help me obtain the necessary materials, and I will split the proceeds with you. Unfortunately, some of the required items cannot currently be obtained from any merchant. Fortunately, I could with your aid obtain them surreptitiously from the collection of a certain Duke. Did I mention I already possess mystical means to prevent our discovery?”

  19. “We of Astarte’s sisterhood do not normally admit males into our mysteries, but I am certain an exception could be made for a young man such as yourself, truly created in the image of Adonis. And such a specimen of obvious, even prodigious, intelligence you are! If at midnight next Tuesday you were to appear at my chateau, my lackeys would certainly admit you to my boudoir, excuse me, chamber of mystic initiation. There I shall explain in particular how to transform your mouth from a vehicle of mere speech, into a wonderful instrument of rapturous enchantment. Selflessly, I shall even allow you to practice your new ability on my person. I must advise you that before I can instruct you in this and other arts, you must have recently communed with the Undines through total immersion in a bath. Afterwards, you will admit that your initiation will have been thoroughly accomplished. I promise.”

  20. “It is required of every warlock that he eventually pass on his magic through the exchange of clothing with a new student. For you to complete your initiation and receive your power, you must appear in the marketplace tomorrow morning wearing my distinctive attire. There you must wait until you are approached by men who you will no doubt assume to be the legal authorities. In fact, they are members of my coven, come to lead you away to the ceremony where you will acquire the secret of sorcery! No, you won’t see me again, since I am bound by tradition to leave this area and never return.”