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Heathcliff (1782)

The brooding and vengeful antihero of “Wuthering Heights”.

Full Name: Heathcliff (both given name and surname)
Aliases: Mister Heathcliff
Class: Gypsy
Level: 3
Appearance/Most Memorable Characteristic: A tall, powerfully-built man dressed in dark colors. He is of evident Romany descent, with a dark complexion, and black hair which he wears long and un-powdered. His sideburns extend down his cheeks, and his eyebrows are thick. His deeply set eyes are such dark brown as to be almost black. His teeth seem unusually sharp.
Age: 18

Charisma: 16 Intelligence: 10 Wisdom: 15
Strength: 18 Dexterity: 18 Constitution: 18
Perversity: 14
Assets: Seductive, Resistant to Pain, True Love (Catherine Earnshaw)
Afflictions: No Family, Obsessed with Vengeance

Speed: 9
Hit Points: 18
Attacks: 1 (punch, kick, or pistol)
Damage Bonus: +1

Special Abilities: Animal Husbandry (+1), Boxing (+1), Entertainment (+1) [Acting], Gypsy Curse, Sleight of Hand (+1)
Weaknesses: Desired by the Dead, Social Discrimination

Typical Equipment Carried: A set of fine clothes in black, maroon, and indigo blue. A pair of dice. A deck of cards. A severed rabbit’s foot (Talisman of Gambler’s Luck). A small pistol. A walking stick or horse-whip. If outdoors, Heathcliff is very likely to be riding a horse when first encountered, and have one or more hunting (or guard) dogs with him as well. Such dogs will be trained to attack at the slightest provocation.
Residence: Currently, no fixed abode.

Background:

  • 1764: Heathcliff was born, in an unknown place, to a Romany woman.
  • Late Summer, 1771: Mister Earnshaw, an affluent yeoman farmer in Yorkshire, announced to his family that he has decided to walk 60 miles to Liverpool, and would return in three days. Late on the third day he reappeared at his family home, “Wuthering Heights”, with a Romany boy in tow. Mister Earnshaw claimed that he found the child wandering around Liverpool, and was moved by pity to bring him home. Mr. Earnshaw named the boy “Heathcliff”, after a son who had died young. Heathcliff and Mr. Earshaw’s six-year old daughter Catherine quickly grew close, but Catherine’s older brother Hindley instantly hated the young foundling – and beat him at every opportunity thereafter. Nobody pressed Mister Earnshaw on how he managed to cover 40 miles a day on foot across bad moorland roads, or why he was instantly so partial to Heathcliff.
  • 1773: Mrs. Earnshaw died, leaving the Earnshaw children without a mother. Hindley Earnshaw was sent away to college. Heathcliff and Catherine became inseparable, spending long hours playing on the moors around Wuthering Heights.
  • October, 1777: Mr. Earnshaw died in the presence of Catherine and Heathcliff. Sixteen-year old Hindley returned to Wuthering Heights with his new wife, Frances. He spitefully condemned Heathcliff to be a servant at the house, and deprived him of any education. He also frequently ordered the boy to be flogged. None of this stopped Catherine and Heathcliff from secretly seeing each other at every opportunity.
  • November 1777: Catherine and Heathcliff ran to “Thrushcross Grange”, the estate house of the wealthy Linton family. There they were were attacked by guard dogs while spying through a window at young Edgar and Isabella Linton. Catherine was injured, and forced to stay at Thrushcross Grange while she recovered.
  • December 24, 1777: Twelve-year old Catherine Earnshaw returned to Wuthering Heights in the Linton’s carriage, made up and dressed like a young gentlewoman.
  • Christmas Day, 1777: Fifteen-year old Edgar Linton, and eleven-year old Isabella Linton, visited Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff tried to dress up so he can be present at the gathering with Catherine. After being insulted by both Hindley and Edgar, Heathcliff hit Edgar with a tureen of apple sauce. Hindley flogged Heathcliff, who vowed revenge against the young man.
  • June 1778: Hareton Earnshaw was born. Some weeks later his mother Frances died of consumption. Hindley descended into alcoholism after his wife’s death, and eventually all but two servants deserted the house. Edgar Linton began surreptitiously courting Catherine.
  • 1780: Sixteen-year old Heathcliff saved the life of young Hareton Earnshaw, by catching the child when his drunken father Hindley dropped him over an upstairs banister. Later that night, Heathcliff overheard Catherine saying she could never marry him, because it would degrade her. He then ran away from Wuthering Heights to seek his fortune.

Personality and Role-Playing Notes: Heathcliff is fierce, domineering, and easily angered. He is impious to the point of blasphemy – and will even openly implore the aid of Satan. When he pleases he can be extremely charming and glib, but if insulted or thwarted his face can suddenly assume a frightful, almost demonic aspect. He is vengeful beyond all reason, quite willing to stretch his revenge over years, and generations. His cruel mistreatment by Hindley has turned Heathcliff into a sadist who enjoys hurting those who fall under his power.

At this point in Heathcliff’s life he is focused on become wealthy by any means necessary – both so he might marry and possess his beloved Catherine, and have the power to ultimately destroy her brother Hindley. Heathcliff loves Catherine Earnshaw with a fierce, mad passion that will allow no rivals. He will have mere sex with another woman of course, but it is impossible for anyone to replace Cathy in his heart. He is well aware that their love can only end in pain, but would rather suffer in Hell with her than be in Heaven alone. His True Love for Catherine means he enjoys a +3 Bonus whenever he is gambling, or otherwise doing anything to make him wealthy enough for her to accept him as a suitable husband.

Note that while Heathcliff himself may talk about Catherine Earnshaw’s capricious, histrionic, and selfish behavior, anybody else who dares to speak of her in anything less than the most glowing terms should be prepared for a savage beating. Even agreeing with him when he complains of her inconstancy will provoke a violent reaction.

When role-playing Heathcliff, remember that he is one of the great Byronic Heroes of English literature. He should project an intensely magnetic sexuality, combined with the constant underlying threat of imminent violence.

Heathcliff in Your Game: Heathcliff is here depicted in the middle of the three-year period between when he fled Wuthering Heights as a barely literate servant, and his eventual return as a wealthy gentleman. Explaining how Heathcliff becomes rich makes a great premise for an Affair. Did he discover treasure while serving in the military, have adventures in America, or perhaps become a highway robber? When he reappears at Wuthering Heights he will evidence great skill at gambling, and will eventually also show himself to be an accomplished actor (able to craftily play the part of a long-suffering uncle to the young and naive Cathy Linton, for example). That suggests he has been using Sleight of Hand to cheat at cards and dice, while perhaps pursuing a career in theater. A suitably Gothic possibility, however, is that his wealth comes from a Pact with Satan, or a dark Fairy Lord.

However the Presenter decides Heathcliff eventually becomes rich, he will devote himself to developing his mind. Whenever Heathcliff gains a Level, increase his Intelligence by 1. By the time he returns to Wuthering Heights in 1783, he will be a 5th Level character with an Intelligence of 12. By 1800 (when he fulfills his cunning plan to become master of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange) he will be a 10th Level character with an Intelligence of 17. In addition, his Perversity should also rise after Catherine’s death, to 18 by 1800.

Heathcliff suspects that he may actually be Catherine’s half-brother, but if anything the possibility of such a transgression delights rather than horrifies him.

Heathcliff”s physical appearance closely matches traditional depictions of lycanthropes, and the Presenter might decide to give him a Level of Werewolf. Perhaps the Curse was inflicted on him as the Preternatural price for his acquisition for wealth. Similarly, if Heathcliff is killed before returning to Wuthering Heights, he will, of course, rise again as a Vampyre (with the Vampyric Power Ghoulish Appetite). In any case, Heathcliff and Catherine are damned to eventually roam the moors together in restless death, a fate which they would freely choose in preference to Paradise.

Source: “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë

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