Random Portraits in Grand Houses


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Anna Alexandrovna Galitzin, nee Gruzinsky

Grand Houses of the 18th and 19th century (such as Highdark Hall) were crammed with paintings, especially portraits of family members. This draft excerpt from the upcoming “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, and Estates” will help you create descriptions of such paintings on the fly.

Male Portrait

d6 The subject is a…


young boy…


young man…

3 – 5

mature man…


older man…

d6 whose build is…
1 – 3 average,
4 thin,
5 athletic,
6 corpulent,
d20 and who looks….


































strangely pale.


surprisingly swarthy.





d12 He is wearing…
1 a predominantly blue outfit,
2 a predominantly red outfit,
3 a predominantly black outfit (of mourning),
4 a predominantly white outfit,
5 a predominantly yellow outfit,
6 a predominantly purple outfit,
7 an outfit of fur and velvet,
8 a multi-colored outfit,
9 a somber outfit,
10 a military uniform,
11 armor,
12 clothes that were archaic even when the painting was executed,
d10 and is… NOTES
1 standing…
2 seated..
3 atop a horse… Ignore results of 5 or below in next table.
4 hunting… Ignore results of 5 or below in next table.
5 looking at a curio
6 painting..
7 shown standing, from the chest up…
8 shown standing, from the knees up…
9 shown seated, from the chest up…
10 shown seated, from the knees up…
d20 amid….
1 a richly appointed bedchamber.
2 an opulent drawing room.
3 a salon.
4 a cabinet of curiosities.
5 a curtained interior.
6 a military encampment.
7 a village of happy peasants.
8 the facade of the house itself.
9 an unidentified castle.
10 a country lane.
11 a classical ruin.
12 a field of clouded color.
13 a ruined castle.
14 a formal French garden.
15 a ruined cathedral.
16 a forest.
17 a mountainous landscape.
18 a rolling countryside, with trees in the far distance.
19 horses (or farm animals) in the countryside.
20 a slaughtered stag (or other game animal) in the forest.
d20 A notable feature of the portrait is…
1 it looks as though the subject may once have been wearing a different outfit, which has been painted over.

the skull at his feet.


one hand is pointing to the opened text of an infamous book.


it includes another depiction of an unidentified person.


it is amateurishly executed.


it is masterwork, but from an unknown artist.


the strange use of perspective.


the bizarrely clashing colors.


its trompe l’oeil execution looks amazingly three-dimensional.


the Chinese outfit he is wearing.


he is wearing a turban.


his hands and overall body shape seem oddly feminine, as if the model was actually a woman.


he has a visible tattoo on his hand.


the strange cloud formations in the sky above (or visible through a window).


it is so highly varnished (or glazed) that you see yourself reflected on the surface.


it looks as through they may once have been a second figure who has been painted out.


the clearly identifiable talisman ring he wears.


the unidentifiable animals that are also part of the composition.


the way its eyes seem to follow you.


the presence of numerous animals, evidently pets.

Female Portrait

d8 The subject is a…


young girl…

2 – 4

young woman…

5 – 7

mature woman…


older woman…

d6 whose build is…
1 – 3 average,
4 willowy,
5 voluptuous,
6 corpulent,
d12 and who looks notably….
1 excited.
2 amused.
3 attractive.
4 fashion-conscious.
5 flirtatious.
6 placid.
7 cruel.
8 nervous.
9 haunted.
10 sad.
11 pale.
12 dark-complexioned.
d12 She is wearing…
1 a predominantly blue outfit,
2 a predominantly red outfit,
3 a predominantly black outfit (of mourning),
4 a predominantly white outfit,
5 a predominantly yellow outfit,
6 a predominantly purple outfit,
7 a multi-colored outfit,
8 a somber outfit,
9 furs and velvet,
10 a masquerade outfit,
11 the clothing of a Greek goddess,
12 clothes that were archaic even when the painting was executed,
d20 and is…
1 standing…
2 seated…
3 riding a horse… (roll again if next table indicates an interior)
4 reclining on a couch…
5 praying…
6 displaying her hand fan…
7 reading…
8 engaged in her toilette…
9 holding (or arranging) flowers…
10 sewing…
11 painting… (with watercolors or pastels)
12 drawing…
13 holding her dog (or cat)…
14 at the harpsichord or pianoforte…
15 holding an infant…
16 shown from the bust up…
17 standing, shown from the waist up…
18 standing, shown from the knees up…
19 seated, shown form the waist up…
20 seated, shown from the knees up…
d20 amid….
1 a richly appointed bedchamber.
2 an opulent drawing room.
3 a salon.
4 a dressing table, with her lady’s maid.
5 a curtained interior.
6 her art (or music) studio.
7 a forest.
8 a mountainous landscape.
9 a rolling countryside, with trees in the far distance.
10 horses (or farm animals) in the countryside.
11 a garden pool.
12 a village of happy peasants.
13 the facade of the house itself.
14 an unidentified castle.
15 a country lane.
16 a classical ruin.
17 a ruined cathedral.
18 a ruined castle.
19 a formal French garden.
20 a field of clouded color.
d20 A notable feature of the portrait is…
1 her breasts are exposed. (Roll again, of course, if subject is not an adult.)
2 she is pinching an exposed nipple. Possibly, that of another woman. (Roll again,of course, if subject is not an adult.)
3 she is holding a horsewhip.
4 she is holding a sword (or other weapon).
5 more attention appears to have been paid to her jewelry than anything else.
6 the presence of a skull.
7 the presence of one or more pets.
8 it includes another depiction of an unidentified person.
9 it is amateurishly executed.
10 it is masterwork, but from an unknown artist.
11 the Chinese outfit she is wearing.
12 her Turkish outfit.
13 the strange cloud formations in the sky above (or visible through a window).
14 it is so highly varnished (or glazed) that you see yourself reflected on the surface.
15 it looks as through they may once have been a second figure who has been painted out.
16 it’s hard to tell if the cross she wears is actually inverted, or if that is just a trick of color and perspective.
17 the unidentifiable animals that are also part of the composition.
18 she is attended by masked servants who show no visible skin.
19 it smells intensely of perfume.
20 for some reason the artist has depicted all of her imperfections.

Note that portraits of upper-class women will almost always soften and idealize their actual features, and omit any blemishes. Even if an upper-class woman actually has an athletic build she will generally not be painted that way, because it suggests that she labors like a servant. It is also common for female subjects to be depicted as younger than their actual age at the time of the sitting.

Portraits showing women with exposed breasts were not considered outrageous in aristocratic circles before the 19th century, because they emphasized the subject’s femininity and fertility. Later in the 19th century such portraits were often altered to conform to the new standards of propriety.

Dimensions of a Painting

d20 The painting is…


a tall rectangle 2′ high, and 1.5′ in width.


a tall rectangle 3′ high, and 2′ in width.


a tall rectangle 4′ high, and 2.5′ in width.


a tall rectangle 5′ high, and 3.5′ in width.


a tall rectangle 6′ high, and 4′ in width.


a tall rectangle 7′ high, and 4.5′ in width.


a wide rectangle 2′ across, and 1.5′ high. (Unusual for portraits)


a wide rectangle 3′ across, and 2′ high. (Unusual for portraits)


a wide rectangle 4′ across, and 2.5′ high. (Unusual for portraits)


a wide rectangle 5′ across, and 3.5′ high. (Unusual for portraits)


a wide rectangle 6′ across, and 4′ high. (Unusual for portraits)


a wide rectangle 7′ across, and 4.5′ high. (Unusual for portraits)


a square 2′ across.


a square 3′ across.


a square 4′ across.


a circle (tondo) 2′ in diameter.


a circle (tondo) 3′ in diameter.


a circle (tondo) 4′ in diameter.


an oval 3′ tall, and 2′ in width.


an oval 3′ in width, and 2′ high.

Age of the Painting

d8 The painting was created…
1 Recently (within the last 10 years)
2 10 to 20 years ago.
3 – 4 20 to 50 years ago.
5 100 to 150 years ago.
6 150 to 200 years ago.
7 250 to 300 years ago.
8 300 to 350 years ago.

The Frame

d100, 2d4 times The gilded design of the sculptured frame incorporates…
1 – 6 palmettes
7 – 12 rosettes
13 – 18 volutes
19 – 24 acanthus leaves
25 – 30 cartouches
31 – 37 s–shaped curves
38 – 44 c–shaped curves.
45 – 46 seashells
47 – 48 cupids
49 – 50 stags
51 – 52 rays of glory
53 – 54 a green-man’s face
55 – 56 a satyr’s face
57 – 58 nymphs
59 – 60 a dart-and-egg design
61 – 62 Corinthian columns
63 – 64 Ionic columns
65 – 66 Doric columns
67 – 68 roses
69 – 70 fleurs-de-lis
71 – 72 oak leaves
73 – 74 vines
75 – 76 scrolls
77 – 78 branches
79 – 80 curlicues
81 – 82 grapes
83 – 84 tendrils
85 – 86 birds
87 – 88 acorns
89 – 90 apples
91 – 92 pears
93 – 94 ostrich feathers
95 – 96 masks
97 – 98 marbleized polychrome accents
99 – 100 painted polychrome accents

33% OFF the Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual PDF for GM’s Day!


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Illustrated PDF Version of the Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual is now 33% OFF on RPGNow and DriveThruRpg, as part of their GM’s Day celebration!

Even if you don’t play Ghastly Affair, the Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual is filled with resources for running better Gothic, Horror, Georgian-era, Napoleonic, Regency, Austen-inspired, Mannerpunk, and Dreadpunk games. Besides extensive notes on the themes and motifs of Gothic and Romantic fiction, and clear advice on creating and running game sessions, it includes a year-by-year chronology of events in Europe between 1765 and 1820 – with an emphasis on the strange, the shocking, and the scandalous.

Get yours now!

Sale ends 3/12/18.

Notes on New Classes for GROOVY Ghastly Affair


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve previously posted about my plans for a supplement updating Ghastly Affair for the Swinging Sixties and Groovy Seventies. The following are the new Classes I’m considering for GROOVY Ghastly Affair. None of them are playtested yet, of course, so a lot is likely to change as the supplement evolves.


The Biker is something of a replacement for the Gypsy, filling the role of the abjected outsider. They would also be strong in combat, like the Bandit. I could see an entire Saga where all the PCs are Bikers traveling the roads, battling both The Man, and supernatural evil.

Ability Adjustment: Strength +1, Dexterity +1,
Special Abilities: Danger Bonus (+1), Motorcycle Riding (+1), Brawl (+1), Intimidation (+1), Build and Repair Machines (+1)
Weaknesses: Social Discrimination (as Gypsy), Rivals (enemy bikers will cause some kind of trouble for the character every Affair)
Hit Dice: d10
Experience Points to Reach 2nd Level: 6, + 4 per Level after
Damage Bonus Increases: Every Level

Advances as a Fighter in other OSR games.


The Player would choose whether their Investigator is a Police Detective (inspired by characters like Columbo and Kojak), Private Eye (inspired by characters such as John Shaft and Charlie’s Angels), or Investigative Journalist (inspired by characters like Carl Kolchak). Undercover vigilantes inspired by characters like Foxy Brown or Coffy could also be represented by this Class.

Ability Adjustment: Wisdom +2
Special Abilities: Danger Bonus (+1), Detect Lies (+1), Disguise (+1), Sneak (+1). Police Detectives can call in Police Backup, Private Eyes gain 1 Private Informant per Level, and Investigative Journalists are skilled in Investigative Research.
Weaknesses: Criminal Nemesis (as Demon Hunter, but a human criminal), Attracts Trouble (every Affair, someone involved in a crime will try to draw the Investigator in.)
Hit Dice: d8
Experience Points to Reach 2nd Level: 8, + 4 per Level after
Damage Bonus Increases: Every Level after 1st.

Advances as a Cleric if used with other OSR rules.


Basically an update of the Bandit Class. Probably needs more work to really emulate the literary/cinematic Gangsters of the late 20th century.

Ability Adjustment: Dexterity +2
Special Abilities: Capturing (+1), Danger Bonus (+1), Concealment(+1), Fame (as Bandot), Intimidation (+1)
Weaknesses: Hard Luck (as Bandit), Infamy (as Bandit)
Hit Dice: d8
Experience Points to Reach 2nd Level: 8, + 4 per Level after
Damage Bonus Increases: Every Level after 1st.

Advances as a Thief if used with other OSR rules.

Maudit (Cursed Artist)

Inspired by historical figures such as Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, and characters like Sam Evans from “Dark Shadows”. This would also work for regular Ghastly Affair.

Ability Adjustment: Wisdom +2
Special Abilities: Artistry (+1), Dark Patron (such as a powerful Vampyre, a Dark Fairy, or Satan himself), Local Haunt (their favorite bar or club, where they can get refuge and obtain information), Perception (+1), Prophetic Artwork (made toward the beginning of each Affair, and contains clues of which the artist isn’t even aware)
Weaknesses: Addiction (always an alcoholic, or addicted to some drug), Outrageous Fortune (some outrageous catastrophe will affect himself, a friend, or a family member every Affair)
Hit Dice: d6
Experience Points to Reach 2nd Level: 6, + 4 per Level after
Damage Bonus Increases: 2nd, 5th, & 8th Level

Advances as a Thief if used with other OSR rules.


Inspired by characters such as Roger Collins (from “Dark Shadows”), Gomez Addams, and Johnny Alucard (from “Dracula 1972 AD”). Replaces the Libertine, which (as written) is more suited to the 18th century than the 20th.

Ability Adjustment: Charisma +2
Special Abilities: Charm (+1), Disguise (+1), Fraud (+1), Sneak (+1), Fashion Sense
Weaknesses: Weak-willed (vulnerable to Seduction and becoming addicted) and Wastrel (compelled to gamble, and pay twice as much for everything)
Hit Dice: d6
Experience Points to Reach 2nd Level: 6, + 4 per Level after
Damage Bonus Increases: 2nd, 5th, & 8th Level

Advances as a Thief if used with other OSR rules.


The ubiquitous psychic researcher of late 60s /early 70s horror. Inspired by characters such as Dr. John Markway ( “The Haunting”), Dr. Lionel Barrett (“The Legend of Hell House”), and Dr. Peter Guthrie (“Dark Shadows”).

Ability Adjustment: Intelligence +2
Special Abilities: Academic Credentials (as Mad Scientist), Discover Secrets (+1 when trying to find hidden areas, or secret information), Esoteric Knowledge (+1), Magical Rituals (one learned per Level), Scientific Knowledge (+1)
Weaknesses: Marked by the Supernatural (supernatural beings always direct their attention towards the Parapsychologist), Obsessed with Mysteries (compelled to solve enigmas)
Hit Dice: d6
Experience Points to Reach 2nd Level: 6, + 4 per Level after
Damage Bonus Increases: 2nd, 6th, & 10th Level

Advances as a Cleric if used with other OSR rules.

Psychic (Seer)

Another Class that would also work well for regular Ghastly Affair, as the “Seer”. Inspired in the modern age by characters such as Florence Tanner (“The Legend of Hell House”), Ben Fischer (“The Legend of Hell House”), Theodora (“The Haunting”), and David Collins (“Dark Shadows”).

Ability Adjustment: Wisdom +2
Special Abilities: Choose (or randomly determine) five Psychic Powers. To use a Psychic Power, make a Wisdom Check with a Penalty equal to the Power’s Level. If successful, the User also suffers Nonlethal Damage equal to the Power’s Level. If the Check is failed, the Power can still be activated, but inflicts Lethal Hit Point damage equal to the Power’s Level.
Weaknesses: Debilitating Visions (once per Affair the Psychic will have an awful dream or vision that inflicts 1d6 points of Nonlethal Damage, but also provides a useful clue to the Affair), Unnerving Presence (Must always make Charisma Check when meeting new people, or they will initially dislike and avoid the Psychic)
Hit Dice: d4
Experience Points to Reach 2nd Level: 10, + 4 per Level after
Damage Bonus Increases: 2nd, 6th, & 10th Level

Advances as a Magic User / Wizard if used with other OSR rules.

Psychic Powers


One of the Psychic’s Powers is..
1 Astral Projection (Level 5)
2 – 4 Augury (Level 2)
5 – 6 Calm Animals (Level 1)
7 – 10 Clairvoyance (Level 4)
11 – 14 Clairaudience (Level 3)
15 – 16 Combust (Level 1) (also see “A Ghastly Potpourri”)
17 – 18 Commune With Spirit (Level 5)
10 – 20 Cure Light Wounds (Level 1)
21 Elf Stroke (Level 1)
22 – 23 Exorcism(Level 5)
24 Find Person (Level 4) (also see “A Ghastly Potpourri”)
25 – 26 Hide Thoughts (Level 2)
27 – 30 Hypnotism (Level 1)
31 Identify (Level 1)
32 Ignore Pain (Level 1)
33 – 34 Know Direction (Level 0)
35 – 36 Locate Creature (Level 5)
37 – 38 Locate Object (Level 3)
39 Major Creation (Level 5)
40 – 43 Mediumship (Voluntary mental Possession by a Spirit, which can be ended by either the Psychic or the Spirit. Probably Level 1)
44 – 45 Mesmeric Healing (Level 2)
46 Minor Creation (Level 3)
47 – 48 Nondetection (Level 3)
49 – 50 Obtain Oracle (Level 4)
51 Overwhelming Fear (Level 4)
52 Phantasmagoria I (Level 1)
53 Phantasmal Killer (Level 5)
53 – 54 Possess Beast (Level 3) (also see “A Ghastly Potpourri”)
55 – 56 Prestidigitation (Level 0)
57 – 58 Projected Double (Level 5)
59 – 60 Protection From Evil (Level 1)
61 – 62 Read Minds (Level 2)
63 – 64 Remove Disease (Level 3)
65 – 66 Remove Fear (Level 1)
67 – 68 Restoration (Level 5)
69 – 70 Scare (Level 2)
71 – 75 Scrying (Level 5)
76 – 79 See Invisibility (Level 2)
80 Shower of Stones (Level 1)
81 – 83 Sorcerer’s Hand (Level 0)
84 – 85 Speak With Animals (Level 2)
86 – 87 Speak With Dead (Level 2)
88 – 89 Speak With Plants (Level 2)
90 – 91 Suggestion (Level 3)
92 – 96 Telekinesis (Level 5)
97 – 98 Telepathic Bond (Level 5)

99 – 100

True Seeing (Level 5)


As for the existing Classes, Demon Hunter, Everyman, Magician, and Mad Scientist would be used unchanged.

The True Innocent of the Swinging Sixties and Groovy Seventies would no longer have the “Fainting” Weakness. It would be replaced with something like “Honest to a Fault”, indicating that the Innocent is a very bad liar, who shakes and stammers when they try to deceive. Even when they do lie successfully, the truth always comes out. The big inspiration here is Victoria Winters from “Dark Shadows”, of course.

The Bandit, Grave Robber, Gypsy and Libertine Classes are perhaps more suited for games set in the late 18th / early 19th century. However, since the intrusion of the past into the present is major thematic hallmark of the Gothic, characters seemingly (or even actually) from another time might indeed be present in the “modern” world of GROOVY Ghastly Affair.


The Desires of Restless Houses


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Glammis Castle 1852

The castles and grand houses of Gothic stories are not simply background settings, but characters in their own right. The first Gothic novel is titled “The Castle of Otranto”, rather than “The Dark Scheme of Manfred”. Rightful ownership of the Castle is central to the plot. Emily Brontë’s tale of mad, destructive love and its catastrophic consequences is not “Heathcliff, Catherine, and the Lintons”, but “Wuthering Heights”. The ancient home of the Earnshaw family is as much a participant in the story as any of the flesh and blood characters.

A Restless House is not just a mute witness to the dramas that unfold within its walls. Like other Gothic characters, it is obsessed with the fulfillment of its own needs, and can lash out at those who thwart its desires. A Restless House differs from a true Haunted House in that the strange events within its walls are not necessarily caused by an indwelling Ghost, Fairy, or other such entity (although an Restless House may also be Haunted by one or more Spirits). Rather, it is the house itself that hungers for satisfaction.

The unusual Preternatural means of dealing with angry Spirits (Exorcism, Summoning, Binding, etc.) are completely ineffective against an Restless House, because there is no Spirit to control. Such Effects might expel any Ghosts or spirits trapped in (or drawn to) the House, but cannot lay the House itself to rest. Likewise, Faith is ineffectual, because the House cannot flee the presence of the virtuous. There are only two things that can be done – learn and submit to the House’s desires, or discover its Heart and lull the House to sleep.

d100 The House wants…
1 – 2 to expel any family except its original owners.
3 – 4 to have new owners.
5 – 6 for its secret parts to be uncovered.
7 – 8 for its secret parts to remain unknown.
9 – 10 to reveal a crime once committed inside.
11 – 12 to conceal a crime once committed inside.
13 – 14 to be improved, or restored to its former glory.
15 – 16 to slide into ruin.
17 – 18 to be enlarged with many additions.
19 – 20 to have portions closed off.
21 –22 to be filled with guests.
23 – 24 to be empty and silent.
25 – 26 to be filled with beautiful art.
27 – 28 to be plain and unadorned.
29 – 30 for its inhabitants to be healthy
31 – 32 for its inhabitants to be stricken with disease.
33 – 34 to glorify the name of its builder.
35 – 36 to blacken the name of its builder.
37 – 38 to be crawling with animals.
39 – 40 to be free of animal inhabitants (especially vermin).
41 – 42 to always have a ball or party happening inside.
43 – 44 to never have balls or parties occur within.
45 – 46 for the family to grow.
47 – 48 for the family to be barren, and wither away.
49 – 50 for its estate to be enlarged.
51 – 52 for the tenants of its estate to be treated with fairness and generosity.
53 – 54 for its library to constantly grow.
55 – 56 for the first-born of the family to die on the estate before their 21stbirthday.
57 – 58 for the inhabiting family to die violently
59 – 60 to protect its family from all violence.
61 – 62 to be famous.
63 – 64 to be forgotten.
65 – 66 for the produce of its estate to be enjoyed.
67 – 68 for no one to eat food grown on its estate.
69 – 70 to have only beautiful servants inside.
71 – 72 to have only homely servants inside.
73 – 74 for its inhabitants to be sober.
75 – 76 for its rooms to always be warm.
77 – 78 for its rooms to always be cold.
79 – 80 for its interior to be filled with light.
81 – 82 for its interior to be dark and shadowy.
83 – 84 for its inhabitants to be pious.
85 – 86 for no religious ceremonies to be performed inside its walls.
87 – 88 for the family to stay on its estate.
89 – 90 for the family to seldom be on the estate.
91 – 92 for its owners to always be kind to gypsies, and other wanderers who seek shelter on the estate.
93 – 94 to have no strangers on the estate.
95 – 96 to have a certain language never be spoken inside.
97 – 98 for its inhabitants and guests to know love.
99 – 100 for there to be no love made inside its walls.
d100 The House communicates its desires through…
1 – 2 the words of its Lord.
3 – 4 the words of its Lady.
5 – 6 the words of the butler.
7 – 8 the words of the housekeeper.
9 – 10 the words of the youngest female servant.
11 – 12 the words of the youngest male servant.
13 – 14 the actions of a family pet.
15 – 16 the actions of the rats (or other house vermin).
17 – 18 the patterns of spiderwebs on the estate.
19 – 20 the behavior of the birds around the house.
21 –22 the behavior of the family’s horses.
23 – 24 the peculiar fungal growths on the exterior walls.
25 – 26 the growth and apparent movement of the trees.
27 – 28 the growth patterns of the grass.
29 – 30 the peculiar weather around the house.
31 – 32 the shape of the clouds above the house.
33 – 34 the sound of the wind around the estate.
35 – 36 the health of the animals on the estate.
37 – 38 dreams and other omens experienced by the young orphan governess (who is actually a descendant of the house’s original owners).
39 – 40 the dreams of house-guests.
41 – 42 the spectral apparition of the house’s architect.
43 – 44 the spectral apparition of the house’s first master.
45 – 46 the spectral apparition of the house’s first mistress.
47 – 48 the spectral apparition of a small girl.
49 – 50 the spectral apparition of a small boy.
51 – 52 the spectral apparition of an animal.
53 – 54 fleeting images seen on the surface of a pond on the estate.
55 – 56 a book that blows open to telling illustrations and passages.
57 – 58 a portrait or other painting that seems to change its colors, or luminosity.
59 – 60 the gestures of spectral, disembodied limbs.
61 – 62 patterns seen in the mist that rises off a pond or lake.
63 – 64 flashing images seen in a particular window.
65 – 66 words traced in the dust, wherever it accumulates.
67 – 68 images seen in the flames of the fireplace.
69 – 70 sudden alterations in temperature.
71 – 72 the inexplicable odor of certain perfumes.
73 – 74 messages written in chalk on the walls.
75 – 76 a disembodied male voice.
77 – 78 a disembodied female voice.
79 – 80 the words of a visiting raven, or a parrot kept as a pet.
81 – 82 the taste of the food served in the house.
83 – 84 the shapes of the shadows on the walls.
85 – 86 faces that mysteriously appear on the floors and walls.
87 – 88 images flashing in the silverware.
89 – 90 faint whispers on the wind.
91 – 92 groans from within an ancient suit of armor.
93 – 94 the mysterious appearance of certain objects.
95 – 96 certain hands repeatedly occurring in card games.
97 – 98 a silent figure shrouded completely in black.
99 – 100 the inexplicable movement of an ancient sword.

Naturally, the communication may be quite challenging to interpret correctly. Note that any apparitions created by the house are not true Ghosts, and are therefore not subject to Faith or any Preternatural effects relating to Spirits (or the Undead).

d100 If the House’s desires are repeatedly thwarted or defied…
1 – 2 valuable objects will fall down (or off the walls) and be damaged.
3 – 4 a violent storm will strike the area.
5 – 6 the animals on the estate will turn vicious.
7 – 8 the family’s horses and livestock will sicken and die.
9 – 10 sickness will strike the house’s inhabitants.
11 – 12 the house will become impossible to adequately clean, but thick dust and cobwebs wills seem to accumulate everywhere.
13 – 14 a murderous stranger will come to the house.
15 – 16 the family’s income will begin to fail.
17 – 18 threatening apparitions of all the houses former inhabitants will be seen.
19 – 20 the house will be suddenly overrun with vermin.
21 –22 a mischievous goblin will take up residence inside.
23 – 24 the plants in the kitchen garden will begin to die.
25 – 26 the crops of the estate’s tenants will begin to die.
27 – 28 murders of crows will be seen all over the estate.
29 – 30 a vampyre will be drawn to the estate.
31 – 32 inexplicable thumping and rasping sounds will be heard throughout the rooms.
33 – 34 water will begin to drip from ceilings, but an inspection of the roof will reveal no leaks.
35 – 36 a vile smell will spread throughout the rooms.
37 – 38 food stores will begin to spoil prematurely.
39 – 40 the water in the well (or other primary supply) will turn red.
41 – 42 all hunts will somehow be unsuccessful, no matter how much preparation goes into them.
43 – 44 a member of the household will apparently become possessed by the angry spirit of the house’s first master (or mistress).
45 – 46 the covers will be pulled off from anyone attempting to sleep in the house.
47 – 48 those in the house will constantly feel like they are being watched, or have an invisible presence next to them.
49 – 50 the stones in the family burial ground will be knocked over (or the coffins will be moved around in the family tomb).
51 – 52 the lord and lady of the house will be unable to produce children.
53 – 54 windows will be smashed with rocks with unseen throwers.
55 – 56 small objects (especially important ones) will constantly go missing.
57 – 58 small fires will start around the house.
59 – 60 bloodstains will appear on all the linens of the household.
61 – 62 the family’s carriages (and any mechanical devices in the house) will break down.
63 – 64 doors in the house will be alternately be stuck shut, or suddenly fly open.
65 – 66 slanderous stories about the family will begin to appear in scandal sheets and newspapers.
67 – 68 any guns fired on the estate will backfire.
69 – 70 all knives, forks, and scissors in the house will become dulled.
71 – 72 all the family’s clothing will be slashed.
73 – 74 cracks will begin to appear in all the mirrors, and get progressively worse.
75 – 76 all the wine will turn to vinegar.
77 – 78 an outbreak of lice will strike the household.
79 – 80 rocks will fall from the sky when family members use the gardens.
81 – 82 flocks of birds will begin flying into the closed windows.
83 – 84 wolves will be drawn to the estate.
85 – 86 bread will not rise, and no fermented beverages can be made.
87 – 88 no Preternatural Effects will work in the house, no matter how powerful the User.
89 – 90 the walls will start bleeding.
91 – 92 slime will appear on the sculptures in the house.
93 – 94 the tables and chairs of the house will be found moved around stacked in piles every morning.
95 – 96 any plumbing in the house, or on the estate, will burst.
97 – 98 all food served in the house will become tasteless.
99 – 100 fish or frogs will fall from the sky.

Choose (or roll) 1 to 4 times. Some house always express their displeasure the same way, while others can show their anger in multiple, different ways. All signs will suddenly stop as soon as the House’s desires are again satisfied. In the case of creatures drawn to the estate, they will suddenly decide to leave.

A Restless House has a Heart – a place or object where the building’s power is concentrated. If you consider Highdark Hall to be Restless, for example, its Heart would be the “Cave of the Ancient and Hungry One”.

d100 The Heart of the House is…
1 – 3 a natural grotto below the basement.
4 – 6 the enormous and grotesque fireplace in the grand entrance hall.
7 – 9 a foundation wall where the skeleton of a young girl is entombed.
10 – 12 the cesspit.
13 – 15 the altar of chapel.
16 – 18 the library created by the house’s first master.
19 – 21 an interior courtyard.
22 – 24 an ornate salon.
25 – 27 the ballroom.
28 – 30 a disused bedroom, in which nobody wants to sleep.
31 – 33 the boudoir of the house’s original mistress.
34 – 36 a cabinet of curiosities.
37 – 39 a dungeon / torture chamber, the site of innumerable atrocities in the past.
40 – 42 the wine cellar.
43 – 45 a secret room underneath the grand staircase.
46 – 48 an empty room in the attic.
49 – 51 the lumber room
52 – 54 the music room.
55 – 57 the house’s grand staircase.
58 – 60 the portrait of the house’s first master or mistress
61 – 63 the bust or statue of the house’s first master or mistress.
64 – 66 the gaming room
67 – 69 the state dining room.
70 – 72 a disused drawing room
73 – 75 the observatory
76 – 78 the skull of the house’s architect, which he insisted always be kept in the entrance hall.
79 – 81 a reliquary containing the actual heart of the house’s first mistress, stored in a secret niche.
82 – 84 the nursery
85 – 87 an ancient book in the library.
88 – 90 an ancient druid megalith, incorporated into the stone of the walls.
91 – 93 a cabinet house (or baby house) in the grand drawing room.
94 – 96 an ornate longcase clock.
97 – 100 a massive, centuries-old bed of ornately carved wood.

Once its Heart has been identified and found, the House can be be lain to rest. At least, for a time.

d20 The House can be lulled to sleep….
1 for a year, by spilling a pint of blood.
2 for a month, by pouring out a full bottle of costly liquor.
3 for a year, by two (or more) people making love in (or in front of) it.
4 for a week, with an offering of milk and bread.
5 for twenty years, by a suicide.
6 by leaving a horde of treasure, for as long the treasure remains.
7 for a month, by a person of low Perversity (6 or below) politely asking the house to be quiet.
8 for a month, by a issuing a bold challenge to the House, and winning a Charisma Contest. The House’s effective Charisma is 10, plus 1 for every 50 years it has stood.
9 for a year, with the blessing of a priest.
10 for a year, with the curse of a defrocked priest.
11 for a year, by the kiss of a virgin.
12 permanently, by smashing the Heart.
13 for a day, with an offering of fresh flowers.
14 by leaving a poem extolling the house, for as long as the poem remains in place.
15 for a month, by sprinkling holy water, or anointing with holy oil.
16 for a day, by engulfing the Heart in clouds of incense.
17 for as long as a flame burns in (or near) the Heart.
18 for as long as the Heart is covered in salt.
19 for twenty years, with a murder.
20 for a week, by a beautiful young woman (and/or handsome young man) performing a flawless dance.

The Heart of a Restless House will always re-form if destroyed, as long as the remainder of the house still stands. The sole exception is if smashing the Heart is the method by which the House is actually put asleep. If the House is demolished without first lulling it asleep, the builders of any new structure put on the site will feel an overwhelming urge to preserve, incorporate, or re-create the original Heart.


Valentine’s Day Sale – 25% Off Ghastly Affair PDFs


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Experience Love and Death in the time of Romance and Revolution, with the Ghastly Affair Valentine’s Day Sale. 25% Off the PDF versions of the Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual, and Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual!

Sale ends 2/15/18.



Random Names for British Country Houses


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Clandon House 1824 engraving

Roll d100, 3 times

After a long ride through the picturesque countryside, you have arrived at…

1 – 3




4 – 6




7 – 9




10 – 12




13 – 15




16 – 18




19 – 21




22 – 24




25 – 27




28 – 30




31 – 33




34 – 36




37 – 39




40 – 42




43 – 46




47 – 49




50 – 54




53 – 55




56 – 58




59 – 61




62 – 64




65 – 68




69 – 70

Saint George(‘s)



71 – 73

Saint Michael(‘s)



74 – 76




77 – 79




80 – 82



Peel (Northern England only)

83 – 85




86 – 88




89 – 91




92 – 94




95 – 97




98 – 100




Join the results of the first two rolls together in whatever way makes the most sense, and/or is the most melodious. For example, “Raven(‘s)” and “cross” can be formed into “Raven’s Cross”, “Ravenscross”, or “Ravencross”.

Ecclesiastical designations (such as Abbey, Manse, Priory, and Rectory) either indicate the former use of the building, or that such a structure once stood on the site. By the 18th century the term “Castle” was being applied to buildings that looked impressive, but had no military function whatsoever. “Lodge” and “Villa” can indicate that the house was once much smaller, but has been enlarged. A Peel would once have been a watchtower along the Scottish border. The original tower may be incorporated into the house, or have been demolished long ago.


Inspirations for GROOVY Ghastly Affair


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Some Inspirational Movies for GROOVY Ghastly Affair:

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

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

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

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

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


The Ghastly Affair Novel “Hunter’s Song” is The Deal of the Day on DriveThruFiction.com!


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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

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

TODAY ONLY get William Rutter’s tale of Gothic Horror and Romance in PDF, EPUB and MOBI (Kindle) formats, for the special low price of just $.90!
Deal ends 10AM EST, 1/16/18


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


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Happy New Year!


, , ,

Saturn eating his children

Happy New Year to all,
from The Engine of Oracles and Ghastly Affair.