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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… (d20)

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.


    • 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).