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Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is one of the classics of Gothic literature, adapted and re-imagined in countless ways since its writing. Stevenson’s good doctor had a likely model, however – a man named William Brodie. By day, Brodie was the Deacon of the Wrights and a respected Town Councillor of Edinburgh, but by night he was a dissolute gambler and house-breaker! Here he is, statted for use with the Ghastly Affair rpg.

Deacon Brodie (January, 1788)

The real-life inspiration for “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.

Full Name: William Brodie
Aliases: Deacon Brodie, Sir Lluyd (to be pronounced “lewd” – used when attending the Cape Club)
Class: Libertine
Level: 9
Appearance/Most Memorable Characteristic: A short, dark complexioned man of slender build, with large bushy eyebrows and sideburns. His eyes are deep-set, and dark brown. He is is very well-dressed, and walks with an arrogant swagger. If encountered during the day, he wears a white-powdered wig.
Age: 46

Charisma: 12 Intelligence: 14 Wisdom: 9
Strength: 11 Dexterity: 18 Constitution: 9
Perversity: 14
Assets: Profession: Wright (fine carpenter, cabinet-maker, and builder). Good Reputation.
Afflictions: Obsessive Gambler. Short.

Speed: 9
Hit Points: 54
Attacks: 1 pistol, walking stick, or pry-bar (+1 Bonus if fighting unaided, +3 if a desired lover is watching)
Damage Bonus: +3

Special Abilities: Disguise (+1) | Dueling (+1/+3) | Fraud (+1) | Sneak (+1) | Seduction (+1)
Weaknesses: Faithless Lover | Fascinated By Innocence

Typical Equipment Carried: A set of fine clothes (white during the day, but black at night). A fine-quality walking stick. A pair of small and concealable “muff” pistols. A pair of loaded dice. A mask of black crepe. A set of lockpicks. A small wooden case filled with putty, for taking impressions of keys. A small ivory whistle. A “dark” lantern, with a hood to obscure the light.
Residence: The mansion at Brodie’s Close, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Background:

  • Monday, September 28, 1741: William Brodie was born in Edinburgh. His father was a prosperous wright (fine carpenter and cabinet-maker) and Burgess (recognized property-owning citizen, with the right to vote and freely conduct business).
  • February 9th, 1763: William became a Guild Brother of Edinburgh, and was made a Burgess.
  • August, 1768: Brodie committed his first major crime – the theft of £800 from the counting-house of Johnston & Smith. He entered the premises by means of a duplicate key, which he made after being employed to do repairs to the building. Two night later, he anonymously returned £225 of the money. William will continue the practice of duplicating his customer’s house keys for the remainder of his life.
  • February 25th, 1775: William was admitted as a member of the “Cape Club”, a fun-loving gentleman’s society that met at James Mann’s tavern in Craig’s Close. All member of the club assumed a comical (or ribald) pseudonym at meetings, and William was known as “Sir Lluyd”. Among his fellow Club members was inventor James Watt. William also played dice obsessively at James Clark’s tavern at Fleshmarket Close, and frequented the cock-fighting pits of the city – particularly the one at Michael Henderson’s inn in the Grassmarket.
  • 1776: William’s mistress Anne Grant bore him a daughter named Cecil (named for his mother). Anne will eventually give birth to two more of William’s children. Throughout that time Anne remained ignorant of William’s other mistress, Jean Watt – who became mother to another two of his children.
  • September, 1781: As newly elected “Deacon” (presiding head) of the Incorporation of Wrights, William also became a member of the Town Council of Edinburgh. He will be a Town Councillor for all his remaining years, except for 1785. The other Councillors employed his services as a wright, and William made duplicate keys of their properties whenever possible.
  • June 1, 1782: William’s father Francis died. William inherited the mansion in Brodie’s Close, £10,000, a second house in Old Bank Close, a tenement in Horse Wynd, another tenement in World’s End Close, and a third tenement at Netherbow.
  • July 1786: While attending the cockfights at Michael Henderson’s inn, Deacon Brodie met a locksmith named George Smith, a shoemaker named Andrew Ainslie, and John Brown (a convicted thief on the run). The four decided to become buglers together, as soon as Smith recovered from the illness currently afflicting him.
  • October 9, 1786: The shop of a Goldsmith near the Council Chambers was burgled by Deacon Brodie, and the now healthy George Smith.
  • Winter 1786 – 1787: Poet Robert “Bobbie” Burns moved into lodgings across the street from Deacon Brodie’s home. The two became acquaintances. By this point, rumors were already circulating that Deacon Brodie had somehow helped a local murderer escape from justice. Likewise, William had been seen at least twice by people unable to believe – and convinced they would not be believed – that the bugler in their home was none other than the respected Deacon of the Wrights!
  • November 1786: Using duplicate keys, Deacon Brodie and George Smith burgled Davidson McKain’s hardware shop in Bridge Street. They did not obtain much except a finely-bound notebook, which William subsequently gave to Michael Henderson’s daughter.
  • December 24, 1786 (Christmas Eve): Around 4 AM, George Smith broke into the jeweler’s shop of John & Andrew Bruce, on Bridge Street. The job had originally been Deacon Brodie’s idea, but William refused to stop playing dice at James Clark’s tavern long enough to join in the crime. George nonetheless carried away a rich haul of watches and jewelry. The next morning, George allowed William to select some stolen items to keep for himself.
  • August 16, 1787: Deacon Brodie, George Smith, and Andrew Ainslie robbed the grocery shop of John Carnegie in the port of Leith, making off with a large quantity of tea.
  • October 29, 1787: Deacon Brodie, George Smith, Andrew Ainslie, and John Brown broke into the University of Edinburgh, and stole the institution’s ceremonial silver mace.
  • Christmastime, 1787: John Brown stole the house key of a shopkeeper named John Tapp, which had been left hanging in the man’s shop. Deacon Brodie made a duplicate, and the original was surreptitiously returned. Brown later revisited John Tapp in his shop, and plied him with a bottle of liquor. While the shopkeeper was distracted, Deacon Brodie and the remainder of his gang used the duplicate key to burgle John Tapp’s home above the shop. Among the times they stole was a miniature portrait secretly kept by John’s Tapp’s wife, evidently of her gentleman lover.

Personality and Role-Playing Notes: Deacon Brodie’s obsessive, thrill-seeking nature is belied by his slow and deliberate manner of speaking. He is a “macaroni” – extremely fashion conscious and vain. Heir to a considerable amount of money and property, he commits crimes to fund his gambling, and for the perverse thrill of being a secret criminal. Above all, Deacon Brodie is a shameless liar who enjoys fooling and manipulating everyone in his life. He maintains two separate households of illegitimate children, with two women who know nothing of each other. By day he is a “pillar of the community”, but spends his nights indulging his sordid whims. He cannot resist a chance to gamble or take a pointless risk – a fact that can be used against him by clever adversaries. He also likes to dupe people into becoming unwitting accomplices, by presenting them with stolen gifts.

Deacon Brodie in Your Game: Deacon Brodie is presented at the point just before he and his gang will commit their disastrous break-in of the General Excise Office for Scotland, in March of 1788 – the crime for which he and George Smith eventually be caught and executed. His secret life reflects the dual nature of Edinburgh itself – simultaneously the rising “Athens of the North”, and an overcrowded criminal playground of thieves and prostitutes. The medical students of Edinburgh demand a steady supply of fresh corpses for dissection, readily supplied by Grave Robbers. The city itself is split into the medieval warren of the Old Town, and the rising New Town of neoclassical buildings. An Affair featuring Deacon Brodie could focus on exploring the motifs of secret identities, duality, hypocrisy, and the disconnect between the ideal and actual.

Player Characters can be drawn into Deacon Brodie’s sphere in many ways. Bandit, Grave Robber, and Libertine PCs might simply find themselves recruited to take part in a crime unrecorded by official history. A Demon Hunter stalking his quarry in the night might run into William and his gang. A True Innocent might be publicly courted by the respectable William Brodie, and thereby be the unwitting recipient of stolen jewelry. If any PCs are property owners in Edinburgh, their houses could be targeted by Deacon Brodie – especially if they also know him socially as a Town Councillor. One of the male PCs may even be Mrs Tapp’s lover, implored by her to find the miniature portrait of himself that was stolen from her home ! In two weeks Deacon Brodie is going to be gambling in James Clark’s tavern at Fleshmarket Close, where an outraged victim of the Deacon’s loaded dice will leave William with a noticeable scar under his right eye. The PCs may be there, and witness the event.

There were sightings of Deacon Brodie after his supposed execution on October 1, 1788. If your Saga is set after that date, the Presenter can explore the possibility that Deacon Brodie wore a steel collar to his hanging, and bribed his would be-executioner to ignore it – or that the Deacon’s dead body was reanimated through Mad Science by that fiendishly cunning Frenchman, Doctor Pierre Degravers! Deacon Brodie had fled Scotland before his trial, and was supposedly caught in Amsterdam. Perhaps the man sent back to Scotland to die wasn’t actually Deacon Brodie at all, but a hapless victim of William’s ultimate scam.