Stately homes and châteaux of the late 18th to early 19th Century (such as Highdark Hall) often contained a hundred or more rooms. Determining the exact contents of every room in such a house before game play is a daunting task for the Presenter. It is more practical to only prepare descriptions of the rooms that will be significant to the story, and then randomly determine (or select) the remarkable features of other chambers as the Player Characters enter them. Thus the Presenter can allow the PCs to wander wherever they want, without wasting valuable preparation time on places they will never see. I suggest writing the most remarkable feature of a room directly on the map, for ease of future reference.
Of course, the tables can also be used to spur your imagination while preparing scenarios. Many results will suggest strange histories and peculiar customs that can be explored in the course of a story. Also, you may wish to only define a single remarkable feature of even the significant rooms, so you don’t confuse the Players with extraneous details.
Note that the tables are intended to describe that portion of the house that would likely be seen by visiting guests. Also, common sense should always be your guide when applying the results of random rolls. For example, it seems unlikely that the maids’ dormitory would have a mosaic floor, or there would be an obscene print in the sewing room. However, there is no accounting for the perverse whimsy of 18th century aristocrats!
(d10) The Most Remarkable Feature of This Room…
| 1 | is the floor. (Roll on Table I)
| 2 | are the walls. (Roll on Table II)
| 3 | is the ceiling. (Roll on Table III)
| 4 | is a piece (or pieces) of furniture. (Roll on Table IV)
| 5 | is an exceptional painting (Roll on Table V) or sculpture (Roll on Table VI).
| 6 | is the fireplace (Roll on Table VII), or heating stove (Roll on Table VIII)
| 7 | is a door (or the doors). (Roll on Table IX)
| 8 | is an unusual object. (Roll on Table X)
| 9 | are the windows. (Roll on table XI)
| 10 | is its peculiar ambiance. (Roll on Table XII)
(d12) The floor…
| 1 | is exceptionally creaky.
| 2 | shows obvious damage and/or stains.
| 3 | is covered with particularity beautiful carpets (Medieval, Persian, Chinese).
| 4 | is a mosaic. (decorative design, or Roll on Table V)
| 5 | is made of boards that form a repeating pattern.
| 6 | features polychromatic wood inlay.
| 7 | is painted in an intricate design.
| 8 | is covered with an interesting floor cloth (design, or Roll on Table V).
| 9 | is stone.
| 10 | shows obvious signs of vermin (dead bodies, excrement, mouse/rat holes).
| 11 | is obviously meant to be raised and lowered.
| 12 | was obviously damaged, and very badly repaired.
(d20) The walls…
| 1 | are covered with murals. (Roll on Table V to determine images)
| 2 | feature brilliantly gilded designs.
| 3 | are covered in molded leather (long out of fashion).
| 4 | are painted an odd color (such as black) or particularly expensive hue (such as deep gray-green).
| 5 | are covered with with sea-shells set into mortar (rocaille).
| 6 | features particularly interesting sculptural plasterwork.
| 7 | are covered with a very interesting wallpaper (Chinese designs, strange Arabesques, etc.).
| 8 | are completely mirrored.
| 9 | are covered with tapestries, curtains or drapes. (Roll on Table V to determine images on tapestries)
| 10 | are covered with patterned velvet.
| 11 | are accented with decorative pilasters (gilded, malachite, polychrome marble).
| 12 | are badly damaged or stained (water damage, cracks, peeling paint/wallpaper, mold, a mysterious hand-print).
| 13 | are lined with shelves of curiosities.
| 14 | feature removable panels (of fabric, paintings, etc.).
| 15 | are almost completely covered with framed paintings. (Roll on Table V to determine images)
| 16 | feature many small sculptures in alcoves.
| 17 | are painted with trompe l’oeil (fool-the-eye) designs (architectural elements, an outdoor scene, etc.).
| 18 | feature intricately carved wooden paneling (boiserie).
| 19 | are accented/paneled with an unusual material (amber, polychrome marble, malachite).
| 20 | are completely découpaged.
(d6) The ceiling is…
| 1 | covered in particularly intricate sculptured plasterwork
| 2 | painted with a trompe l’oeil mural (clouds and sky overhead, a view upwards in a forest, angels and saints looking down from heaven, a night sky with stars).
| 3 | painted with a purely decorative design.
| 4 | hung with a splendid chandelier (or chandeliers).
| 5 | made of intricately carved wood.
| 6 | obviously damaged (cracked, water damaged, moldy, has a hole to the floor above).
(d12) The furniture is…
| 1 | grossly out of style.
| 2 | intricately and beautifully wrought.
| 3 | utterly tasteless.
| 4 | badly damaged.
| 5 | made of japanned (hard-varnished) papier-mâché.
| 6 | exotically styled (Chinese, Egyptian, Turkish, Hindu).
| 7 | fancifully decorated (the legs are standing figures, the back of a chair is pastoral scene, etc.)
| 8 | barbarically ostentatious.
| 9 | elegantly understated.
| 10 | very uncomfortable-looking.
| 11 | made of unusual materials (a chair made out of animal horns, etc.).
| 12 | covered with découpage.
The exact piece of furniture will of course vary with the nature of the room; a bed in a bedchamber, a couch in a boudoir or salon, a billiards table in a game room, etc. Remember that 18th century rooms will typically have less furniture in them than was common in the more cluttered homes of the later 19th century.
(d10) The image is…
| 1 | an erotic scene (a courtesan lies on her stomach to display her lovely buttocks, a woman and her absurdly well-endowed lover, three lovers, an odalisque in a harem, two nude women in bed, nude bathers, a lady lifting her skirts to a man with a magnifying glass, a man looks up the skirts of a woman on a swing, etc.) (Note: some links are NSFW historical artworks).
| 2 | a mythological figure or scene (Hades and Persephone, Danaë and the shower of gold, Perseus and Andromeda, Venus at her toilette, Theseus killing the Minotaur, Saturn eating his Children).
| 3 | a historical event (Egyptian, Roman, Medieval, Biblical).
| 4 | a portrait (a former inhabitant of the house, a historical figure, a famous poet, a mythological figure, etc.).
| 5 | a landscape (stark mountains, an ice field, Greek ruins, a graveyard at night, a forest near a waterfall, the rocky seashore with ships in the distance).
| 6 | a religious figure (an obscure saint, a heretical preacher, a grisly crucifixion scene, a saint combating the Devil, etc.).
| 7 | a monster (dragon, woodwose, sea serpent, ogre, demon, walking corpse).
| 8 | an exotic scene (Chinese courtiers, A South Seas village, African wildlife, American wilderness).
| 9 | a still life (exotic food, tropical flowers, hunting equipment, a vanitas with a skull).
| 10 | an enigmatic (or allegorical) scene with possible occult significance (masked figures holding scrolls with encrypted words, Death and the Maiden, the Four Seasons portrayed as women, The Danse Macabre, an alchemical emblem).
(d10) Image medium: 1 – 5 = Oil painting, 6= Watercolor, 7,8 = Pastel, 9 = Trois Crayons, 10 = Print
(d6) The sculpture is…
| 1 | a portrait bust (a former inhabitant of the house, a historical figure, a famous poet, a mythological figure, etc.).
| 2 | a free standing portrait figure (a former inhabitant of the house, a historical figure, a famous poet, a mythological figure, etc.).
| 3 | a mythological figure or scene.
| 4 | an animal (dog, cat, horse, lion, tiger, raven, etc.).
| 5 | a monster (satyr, demon, dragon, griffin, giant snake etc.).
| 6 | an erotic or obscene image (a suggestively posed nude, two or more lovers entwined, an aroused satyr, human genitalia, etc.).
(d12) Sculpture medium: 1 – 3 = Bronze, 4 – 6 = White Marble, 7 = Black Marble, 8 = Copper, 9 = Chryselephantine (ivory and gold), 10 = Papier-mâché, 11 = Wax (often with actual hair and clothing), 12 = Wood
(d6) The fireplace is…
| 1 | an innovative new design (such as the Rumford fireplace or Franklin stove) that is more efficient, but less charming in appearance than a traditional one.
| 2 | fashioned to resemble an open mouth.
| 3 | made of fancifully carved stone.
| 4 | made of a striking material (black marble, malachite, polychrome marble, porphyry, etc.).
| 5 | crowded with curiosities atop the mantle.
| 6 | shielded by a floor or pole screen painted with an interesting image. (Roll on Table V)
(d8) The heating stove is…
| 1 | like a large iron box.
| 2 | a ceramic neoclassical column topped with an urn.
| 3 | an asymmetrical Rococo design made of gilded ceramic.
| 4 | a ceramic cylinder taller than a person.
| 5 | intricately decorated faience, with a design like a clothes-press.
| 6 | fancifully sculpted iron (person, dragon, phoenix, sun with rays).
| 7 | fancifully sculpted ceramic (person, dragon, phoenix, sun with rays).
| 8 | covered with decorative square tiles. (Roll on Table V to determine images on tiles)
(d10) The door…
| 1 | is flanked by pilasters.
| 2 | is painted with images. (Roll on Table V)
| 3 | is flanked by statues. (Roll on Table VI)
| 4 | is carved in intricate bas-reliefs. (Roll on Table V)
| 5 | is made of an unusual wood.
| 6 | features peculiar knob.
| 7 | has a window (or is a French door).
| 8 | is made to blend with the wall, and is only noticeable for its knob.
| 9 | slides aside, rather than opens.
| 10 | is curved.
(d20) Your eyes are drawn to…
| 1 | a gilded birdcage with a nightingale (or other songbird) inside.
| 2 | an automaton (young man with a flute, singing bird, automatic orchestra, animated diorama of a historical event, dancing figures).
| 3 | a strikingly painted room screen. (Roll on Table V)
| 4 | an iron maiden.
| 5 | a taxidermied animal (mounted deer head, mounted boar head, beloved family dog, mounted birds under glass).
| 6 | a human skeleton (or skull).
| 7 | a flayed and embalmed human body, artistically posed.
| 8 | numerous curiosities arranged in artistic patterns on tables and shelves.
| 9 | a full suit of antique plate armor, standing as if someone was inside.
| 10 | a puppet or marionette on a table.
| 11 | a weapon (or weapons) mounted to the wall (sword, pistol, musket, axe, halberd).
| 12 | a pack of Tarot cards spread over a table.
| 13 | an antique book with strange diagrams and undecipherable writing on its opened pages.
| 14 | a pianoforte.
| 15 | numerous small ceramic statues. (Roll on Table VI)
| 16 | a model ship.
| 17 | a hanging witch ball.
| 18 | a large hookah.
| 19 | a peculiar clock (an intricately carved longcase, has figures that animate every hour, plays music on the hour).
| 20 | an unusual floor candelabrum (completely gilt, wrought to resemble a tree entwined with snakes, bearing black candles, etc.).
(d12) The remarkable thing about the windows is…
| 1 | there are none.
| 2 | they have been boarded up.
| 3 | they are barred with iron.
| 4 | they have badly cracked panes.
| 5 | the glass is colored (stained glass [Roll on Table V for images], solid red, solid blue, solid green).
| 6 | the peculiar curtains (change colors according to the angle they are seen from, Chinese, Turkish, painted [Roll on Table V for images], tapestries [Roll on Table V for images]).
| 7 | the gorgeously decorated window seats.
| 8 | that the curtains seem to never be drawn, even during the day.
| 9 | that curtains seem to never be closed, even at night.
| 10 | the beautiful vista they frame.
| 11 | they are obviously leaky, because there is water damage all around the frame.
| 12 | they seem to never be opened, and the room feels very stuffy.
(d20) The room…
| 1 | has a musty/moldy odor.
| 2 | is oddly sweet smelling.
| 3 | smells of exotic spices.
| 4 | stinks of sweat.
| 5 | smells of fresh wood.
| 6 | is particularly clean and fresh smelling.
| 7 | is permeated with the harsh smell of smoke (firewood, coal, tobacco).
| 8 | seems to remain dimly lit despite all attempts to illuminate it.
| 9 | is very brightly lit.
| 10 | is very dusty.
| 11 | is particularly drafty.
| 12 | is very damp and/or leaky.
| 13 | seems bare and deserted.
| 14 | is filled with inexplicable noises.
| 15 | is befouled by the rank smell of urine.
| 16 | has an unaccountably oppressive atmosphere.
| 17 | is polluted by strange fumes.
| 18 | is oddly cold.
| 19 | is strangely warm.
| 20 | is chokingly dry.